This is fifth in a series. You don't necessarily have to read each of them before you read this, but it may be a help so you know how we got to this point. If you'd rather just read this one and wait to read the rest, PM me and I'll see about catching you up on the relevant points. The series, in order, is listed as part of my profile so you don't have to go hunting through the story list to find them all.

There are no show spoilers beyond the cases. Everything in the personal lives of our favourite detectives that we've seen on the show essentially never happened.

Around the World Series

Part Five

North American Dream

Chapter 1

. . . . .

For Detective Kate Beckett, normalcy wasn't just a comfort, it was a way of life.

With all of the upheaval she'd had as a teenager, Kate craved normalcy. Comfort, pattern, routine… She lived and breathed it all. She woke up beside her fiancée – God, associating that word with Rick Castle still sent very pleasant shivers down her spine – showered and, if she was lucky and he was awake enough, breakfast was waiting for her. Otherwise, she grabbed a muffin that always seemed to be there and headed out for her shift.

Without him.

That was a routine she was still getting used to. They were training themselves, for all intents and purposes. He was heading out in a month to tour the better part of North America. He'd put his foot down about Europe, a choice that both baffled and irritated her, but it also made her giddy. He wouldn't be more than a couple of hours away by plane. In fact, the way they'd worked the schedule, he would be in the general New York area about half way through and they'd already talked about a weekend or more in some nearby town or city.

Kate knew it was part of his job and she knew she couldn't ask him not to go, but there was still a big part of her that was dreading that much upheaval in their routine. As it stood, she missed him terribly during the day.

But she was Kate Beckett and there was no way, on God's green earth she was going to let that affect her. She would pretend to her dying day that she was okay driving to a scene with Detective Mark Sookhold beside her instead. She was totally comfortable with him seeing the minute she always took before climbing out of the car. She was used to falling into step with Mark rather than Rick, nodding at the officer who held up the tape for her.

Granted, Kate had discovered she and Mark were surprisingly complementary. Where she zeroed in on her best friend and the two bodies immediately, he took a moment to stand and take in the whole scene. Sure, he didn't catch onto her thought processes like Rick and he sure as hell didn't take care of her like Rick always had, but he was an NYPD-trained officer, so he often saw things, thought of things, that Rick didn't, simply out of experience.

Still, when Lanie looked up at her, she let out a heavy sigh.

"Still not used it, huh?" the ME inquired as she jotted something down on her clipboard. She was crouched between two bodies, one male, one female. In front of her, tangled together in twisted masses of silver and red, were two cars.

"No," Kate replied, aware Lanie was referring to Rick's absence. "And he's not even gone yet."

Lanie blew out a breath. "You're going to be a terror when he is, aren't you?"

"I'm not some toddler," Kate replied with a slight smile and a bark of laughter.

Lanie smiled too. Just months ago, her friend had broken, shattered because the one thing Kate thought mattered most had been stripped away from her. The woman Lanie saw now was different. Not entirely – she still pulled too many late nights, still threw herself a little too enthusiastically into the job – but enough that it lightened Lanie's heart. Kate joked more, smiled more, seemed to stop and smell the roses more often and what kind of best friend wouldn't be happy about that?

"What do you have?" Kate asked, nodding to the two bodies and starling Lanie back to the crime scene.

"Two victims," Lanie replied. "Female vic is Sheridan Knockwood from the driver's license in her purse." Lanie held over the plastic evidence bag as Kate donned her latex gloves.

"Rochester address."

Lanie nodded. 'Tourist."

"Or she was visiting family. What else?"

"From the trauma, she died not long after the crash. Minutes, maybe even seconds. The paramedics mentioned they'd pulled her out of the Prius."

Silver, Kate noted. "And?"

"ID says he's Kelvin Reinhart. Queens."

"Two people, very far from home," Kate murmured.

"Lacerations on both of them say they were definitely the victims of the crash. Kelvin was barely alive for the paramedics. Quite obviously, they weren't able to stabilize him before he died," Lanie said. She looked up at the detective. "They could have done it."

"You think they're dirty?"

"Dear God, please no. I've had enough of dirty civil servants for a while now." She twisted Kelvin's arm around. "Track marks," she said pointing out the marks on the inside of his elbow.

"You think he OD'd."

Lanie shrugged. "I'll have to run tox to be sure. But with those marks?" The ME shook her head. "Either that or heatstroke."

The painful cold that had been New York's winter months had given way to a July heat wave that made everyone cranky. "You don't think it was an honest accident."

Lanie shook her head. "It's not like he ran a red. I'm not CSU tech, so I don't know the mechanics, but even I know a collision that looks like that?"

"He would have had to be drivin' right at her."

Both women looked up to see the final two members of their team. Detective Kevin Ryan held his ever present notebook while Detective Javier Esposito manned the walkie-talkie.

Esposito nodded at the crash. "He's lucky he survived at all, even if it was only a few minutes."

"Well," Ryan picked up and Kate watched identical grins sprout on their faces. "I would believe that. Except for one tiny problem."

Kate arched an eyebrow, as did Lanie.

Esposito dangled a small baggie, filled half way with white powder. "Found this in his glove box."

Kate stomach clenched. Her heart leaped. "Get those cars back to the lab. I want no stone unturned."

"You think there's more?" Ryan asked.

Kate exchanged a look with Esposito.

"Back in the day," the Hispanic man began. "Queens had… a bit of a reputation."

Lanie watched him carefully, taking in the set of his eyebrows, the slight frown in his mouth. She knew him, well. And she should after almost a year dating. So she didn't like the stubborn set of his jaw. There was something else. Something personal. And he was like pulling a tooth without Novocain when it came to sharing personal information.

But Kate was nodding, so Lanie kept her mouth shut. Despite the fact that she really, really wanted to know more. She knew he came from Queens, knew he'd grown up there. She knew his parents still lived there. But there was something in his eyes that despite the fact that he loved his parents – and Lanie knew that from the way he'd talked to his mother while he was off – that told her there were parts of that particular borough he found distasteful.

What was almost terrifying was that he'd steadfastly refused to take her to meet his parents, his family. And yet, she'd exposed him to the insanity that was her entire family at their annual barbeque on Memorial Day weekend. She'd been dropping hints left, right and center, but she'd gotten nothing in return. She was trying not to let it bother her, but it was starting to feel like, despite their mutual declarations of love, she was in deeper than he was.

And that was painful.

She shook herself violently. It would do her no good to think of any of that now. They had two dead bodies and a possible drug connection. So she reached out for Kate's arm, and, once she had the detective's attention said, "I'll get these guys back."

"Call me," Kate agreed with a nod.

Lanie smiled, despite the painful nature of her thoughts just moments before. "I always do."

It was well past three in the morning by the time Kate made it through the front door of the loft. The call for the car accident had come in minutes before she and Mark were off shift and so she'd had to call Rick and let him know she was going to be late. Still, she was only mildly surprised to see a light still glowing in the office. Though Naked Heat was long gone, Rick had been burning the midnight oil a lot recently.

Kate sighed in relief as she kicked off her heels, absently shoving them to the side. Aware that Alexis was home, though likely long asleep, Kate refrained from stripping her sweaty clothes off in the hallway. Instead, she picked at the buttons of her blouse as she headed towards the office and the bedroom beyond.

She got quite a shock when she found Rick with a photo album on his lap and a scotch in his hand. She let go of the blouse and made her way towards him. "Why are you up so late?"

There was a shadow in his face that dissipated when he met her eyes. "Welcome home, Detective."

Her blood sizzled at Rick's low tone as she folded herself onto the couch beside him. "You're not getting out of the question," she told him, even as she leaned in to kiss him. She wasn't surprised when he held her in for a deeper exploration of her mouth. They'd both been getting more and more desperate and clingy the less time they had before he left.

She sighed when he released her. "It's good to be home. Now. Spill."

"Couldn't sleep," he said, putting the album and alcohol aside so he could tug her across his lap.

"Well, that much is obvious," Kate quipped.

Silence reigned for a few moments as he skimmed his hand up her bare arm. "Tell me not to go."

"What?" That had definitely not been what Kate expected.

"On tour," he said, despite the fact that she didn't need the clarification. "Tell me not to go."

Kate pulled back so she could cup his cheek. She searched his eyes and found fear, desperation, worry and longing. She sighed. "I can't do that."

"But you want to."

"There is a part of me that does, yes," she agreed, resting her head back on his shoulder. "But that doesn't matter. You know that this is part of your job. I know that this is part of your job." She sucked in a deep breath. "You're going to have to keep doing this when we're married."

She knew it would brighten him, and she felt his breath catch the way it did every time they talked about the wedding.

They were getting married.

"Speaking of, I was thinking May."

Kate wrapped her arm around Rick's stomach, her legs already across his lap. "I was thinking September."

He looked down at her, caught the glimmer of mischief and growled. "You're just being difficult."

She laughed quietly. "I could do spring."

They'd only talked about the wedding in abstract terms. Colours, flowers, church versus civil… It wasn't about avoiding the planning stages, it was about simply not having the time to sit down and do the research. Especially now that he was going on tour.

He held her closer, brushing his lips against her temple. "Early May."

"It might still be too cold," she pointed out, snuggling in closer. "Who knows."

Rick laughed. The previous May had been one of the warmest on record. "Too much later and it'll be Memorial Day."

Kate considered that for a moment. "I could do Memorial Day. In the Hamptons."

"You don't want a traditional church wedding?" he inquired. He'd figured Kate would go that route, would want to walk down the aisle of a church with her dad to see him there, at the front… It was a beautiful mental picture. But then again, this was his Kate. He had a feeling it was going to be a beautiful picture regardless of the locale.

"Little church weddings always turn into big church weddings, in my experience," she replied.

"Big is out. Got it."

She laughed.

"Tell me about the case?"

"Car accident," she replied. "A druggie, and a woman."

Despite the 'druggie' designation, Rick knew Kate would do everything in her power to find out what happened. He also knew if she was still investigating, long enough to have a three-in-the-morning return time, it wasn't just a run-of-the-mill accident. "Suspicious circumstances?"

"Something like that," she agreed. "We're waiting on tox to confirm."

He sighed, then, with a strength she often forgot he had, managed to get a hand beneath her knees and a hand behind her back. She squealed slightly as he lifted. "Since we're waiting, let's go wait in bed."

"You think you can sleep?" she asked quietly, tucking her forehead into his neck.

"You're here," he said, squeezing her slightly before settling her on her side of the bed. Because it was still stifling, neither of them bothered with pajamas, just stripped down and crawled beneath light-weight blankets. Still, Kate cuddled in because despite the heat, she'd grown to the point where it was difficult to sleep without him. She closed her eyes and pulled him a little closer, thinking of the three months they had coming.

He pulled her closer in response, like usual, aware of her thoughts before she had them. "I'm going to miss you," he whispered.

She sucked in a deep breath then leaned up and kissed him. When the kiss grew deeper, hotter, almost out of control, she entertained the thought of how exhausted she'd be in the morning.

But then again, some things were more important than sleep.

Quick note here: I used Naked Heat because Summer Heat was the previous one. So now I get to use the real one. Yay!

Oh, and I'd planned to have more than the first chapter written before posting. But then I decided I didn't want to because I truly like hearing about what you guys think is going to happen. So as usual, patience is more than appreciated as I battle my way through this.

Review if you are so inclined. Thanks in advance.