Title: Tuck and Dive
Disclaimer: If I owned them, Caskett would have been together LONG ago.
Summary: Kate and Josh have broken up, and Kate and Castle have…well, they haven't anythinged. And tonight, they finally stop fighting it. Set somewhere at the end of Season Three, assuming that our shipper irritant is gone.
Author's note: This is one that's been growing slowly over a few weeks. You could look at it as a sort-of follow up to Finding her 'Perfect.' Or, you could look at it as a one-shot that stands alone. Either way, it's a something. As for setting, the Finale hasn't happened yet, so place this somewhere between 3x20 and 3x24.
I'd really like to know what you think. This one feels different from my other stuff, and I can't really put my finger on why.
Kate looked up from her paperwork and found him sitting in his chair beside her desk. The precinct was quiet. "Hey. Thought you were having dinner and writing?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Have you looked at the time lately?"
She glanced at the clock and then sighed. "That actually says 1am, doesn't it?"
"Sorry," she mumbled. "I got caught up."
"Can you get caught down?"
"Yeah," he grinned. "The opposite of caught up."
"That's not a saying."
"Says everyone," she rolled her eyes.
"I'm an author, I could change that."
"It's too late for this," she said, placing the last file into a manila folder. She reached around and shut off her computer and then looked over at him. "You came to tell me to knock off."
"Well, that and I was kind of hoping to get you a late dinner. I'm assuming you didn't eat either."
"You know, I do know how to take care of myself," she grumbled as she stood and allowed him to hold out her jacket for her. "I've been feeding myself and sleeping semi-normal hours for a while now."
He shrugged and guided her to the elevator with a hand on the small of her back. "And I'm sure you did just as mediocre a job of it then as you do whenever I'm not here to bug you about it."
She glared at him as the doors opened and they stepped inside. "You're not earning any bonus points here."
"I'm a fan of keeping you healthy, and if I have to mildly insult you to do it, then that's a burden I'll have to bare."
She narrowed her eyes but allowed him to lead her out of the elevator and across the street to Remy's, which was practically empty, but for the night staff. They took their normal booth in the corner and Castle ordered for them.
"So, how were things once I left?"
"Paperwork. Ryan and Esposito got in a tiff about who should eat the last egg roll from lunch."
"Me," she laughed.
"You took if from Esposito when he was holding it above Ryan's head, didn't you?" he asked, smiling.
"You'd think they'd have learned by now," she shook her head. "Otherwise, it was pretty uneventful."
"I'm glad we caught the guy," he said. "It was a good close."
"Good and fast too," Kate nodded. "We got really lucky."
"Or we're just that good," he countered. "I mean, seriously, we picked up on that ceiling tile pretty quick."
"I don't know if having it fall on your head counts as quick," Kate laughed. "But finding the one in the opposite apartment was very clever. You cracked that for us."
"I'm just lucky that the guy had dumped his gloves when he got up there."
Kate just smiled. "Regardless, it was an easy close and we're all very grateful for that."
"Your burgers," Jamie said as she set down the platter with their food and shakes. "Eat up, you look tired," she said to Kate.
Kate gave her a polite smile, instead of stabbing her with her fork. She didn't need anyone else giving Castle am…
"Shut up, Castle," she replied, throwing a fry at him.
"I just wish you'd sleep more, Kate."
She shrugged and took a sip of her milkshake. "I sleep."
"Yeah, about as much as is needed to function. You don't sleep."
"Some of us have jobs," she returned.
"I come with you every day, and I still manage to sleep."
She just narrowed her eyes at him and then focused on her food. She wasn't sleeping well. And it wasn't for lack of trying. Even though she and Josh had ended for the right reasons, and she hadn't even seen him much to begin with, she found that she'd started having more trouble sleeping once he was gone.
Maybe it was something about being lonely. Though, honestly, she was far from lonely. She and Castle had starting spending obscene amounts of time together since her breakup with Josh. And though they hadn't yet become a something, they certainly were a thing, even if that thing was just 'best friends.'
"People go through phases, Castle. This one will pass."
He raised an eyebrow. "So you admit it now? Did my weeks of pestering finally pay off?"
"Shut up, Castle," she laughed at his excited and self-satisfied expression.
"I mean, not that it's not cute when you fall asleep on me during movie nights, but sometimes I worry that those are the only times when you actually sleep."
"You're comfortable," she shrugged. "Now, can we please stop acting like I'm falling apart? I'm not sleeping well. There, you win. But I'm still up. I'm not sickly. I'm not dying. So please, stop mothering me; it doesn't suit you."
He considered her. "And when you force me to go home because I look tired, or I haven't gotten to see Alexis because of a case, or a case is so gruesome that you're actually worried for my psyche?"
Kate huffed. "I'm just looking out for you."
"And I let you."
"Only because you know I have stronger methods of 'persuasion,' if you don't cooperate."
Castle laughed. "Okay, yeah, sometimes I'm worried that you might actually shoot me, or rip my ear off. But mostly? I go home because you ask me to."
She stared at him. "Really?" she asked, before she could stop herself.
"Could you do the same for me, please?"
Kate glared at him. "Richard Castle, that is emotional blackmail."
"No, it's guilt. They're very separate," he grinned.
"It's still unfair."
"Yes, well, following you has taught me that life is rarely fair. So you'll just have to suck it up and let me try to take care of you."
"What if I don't want to be taken care of?" she asked. Her voice was colder than she'd meant it to be.
He smiled. "You don't really have a choice."
She didn't have a real response to that. She settled on a non-committal hum, and then busied herself with eating her burger while he watched and continued to smile. She held out for as long as she could.
"You didn't fight me," he replied, reaching over to steal one of her fries.
She glared at him. "Would it do any good?"
"I do know when to back down, on occasion, Castle."
He grinned. "Good to know. Now, do you want to watch a movie at your place or mine?"
"I thought you wanted me to sleep."
"It's almost two, and you want to watch a movie? That's contradictory, even for you," she told him.
"You fall asleep during movies."
"Not always," she evaded, reaching for her purse. He held up a hand. "You're not letting me pay either? Castle, I'm a grown woman, with a paying job; you can't treat me like a kid."
He stood, took the hand she was pointing at him and then tugged her up to stand with him. "I know you are, Kate. Strongest woman I know. Hell, strongest person I know. I'm paying because I dragged you to dinner. And I'm taking you back to your place so that you sleep. I'm not trying to control you, or belittle you, or anything of the sort." He gave her a chance to respond, but she couldn't muster the words. "Now, can we go, or do you want to pay? You really don't have to. You got us pizza yesterday."
"Fine," she sighed. He nodded and threw down a twenty while she put on her coat.
He kept a hold of her hand as he guided them out of the restaurant, waving to the staff as they went. He flagged down a cab and gestured for her to precede him into it. Any other woman would have been completely flattered to be so well taken care of. And, as Kate was a woman, part of her was touched that Castle wanted to take care of her. The other, more stubborn, independent part of her wanted to smack him.
He got in behind her and gave the cabbie her address, settling his hand on her knee. She was tired. She was tired of long days and sleepless nights. She was tired of her empty apartment. She was tired of pretending that she wasn't lonely. But mostly, she was tired of trying to fool herself into thinking that that she didn't know what was going on—what had been going on ever since she and Josh had broken up.
"So, what movie do you want to watch?" he asked, as they drove through an intersection and turned down the avenue that would eventually lead to her apartment.
She shrugged. Now, with his body warm next to hers and the motion of the cab beneath them, she was actually tired.
"Or maybe you just want me to walk you up and then crawl into bed?"
"Don't care," she admitted.
He chuckled and they spent the rest of the ride in silence. When they reached the apartment, she found the presence of mind to pay the cabbie before Castle could manage and then followed him out of the car. They walked into her building and into the elevator, nodding to the doorman as they went. They rode up to her floor, standing close together, as always.
He walked her to her door and they turned to each other while she fished her keys out of her pocket.
"So, movie?" he asked.
She considered him. She was exhausted. If they started watching something, she'd definitely fall asleep, and that would mean that he'd be stuck there all night, since she was bound to fall asleep on him.
"I'm actually really tired," she said.
He gave her a smile. "Good."
"You're annoying, Castle."
"I know," he said happily. "Now open your door so I can tuck you in."
She narrowed her eyes but put the key into the lock and opened the door, stepping through to the sound of him following her inside. Why hadn't she told him to leave? She turned and observed him as he slipped off his shoes and shucked out of his light jacket.
"Castle, what are you doing?"
"I'm getting comfortable," he replied. "You're still in your heels."
"And you're barefoot in my apartment when I said I was tired."
"You point out the obvious when you're exhausted."
"Castle," she growled. "I'm too tired for this."
"So take off your shoes, and your jacket, and then your clothes, and get into bed. I'll wait."
"Castle," she said menacingly, advancing on him so they were face to face, separated by only a few inches. "Why are you still here?"
"I'm going to tuck you in. Man, you don't listen either."
"I am not a little girl, Castle. You do not need to tuck me in, or make sure I sleep, or watch what I eat. I am a grown woman."
He reached out and cupped her cheek. "I know."
She was thrown off by the contact. They hadn't exactly been shy of physicality recently; they fell asleep on each other, leaned on each other, and constantly invaded each other's personal space. But this, his hand warm against her cheek, was a new kind of contact.
"I know you're a woman, Kate. You've teased me so much that I couldn't not know."
"Castle," she breathed.
"I just want to take care of you. You don't need me to. God knows you could do anything alone and do it better than any other human. But where's the harm in letting someone catch you once and a while?"
"I don't need to be caught."
His thumb ran over her cheek and his other hand twined its fingers through hers. "But you've let me in."
She blinked. "You barged into my apartment, Castle. I didn't let you do anything."
"You're letting me touch you," he murmured, leaning in to press a kiss to her forehead. "You've been letting me wine and dine you, and watching movies with my daughter. You've had lunch with my mother. You've spent nearly every waking minute with me for weeks."
"Ever stopped to think that maybe you're my friend?" she asked quietly. He couldn't have done this when she'd gotten more than two hours of sleep?
He leaned back and met her eyes. "I'm more than your friend."
"You can't just decide these things, Castle," she said. "You can't just barge in here and decide that I'm some damsel who needs the big, strong Richard Castle to save her."
His eyes flashed. "I'm not trying to turn you into a damsel and you know it."
"I'm trying to get you to dive into it with me Kate. Let me be here. I want to be, so much. And I know you want me to be, or you would have kicked my ass out of here minutes ago."
"Kate, come on," he implored, an emotion crossing his face that was something much more vulnerable and real than restraint and bravado.
"Castle, I…yes, you're more than my friend. But I…I haven't ever, I don't know that…"
"What?" he asked as she trailed off.
She took a deep breath, trying to recapture the scattered thoughts that were whirring around her head. His hands were soft against her skin and she could feel his breath against her face. His eyes were searching hers, and she wanted to explain, to tell him, to let him…
"You muscled your way in when I wasn't looking, and then you systematically found your way into everything. And at first, I didn't even know it was happening. Then, when I tried to stop it, you only got further. And now…"
"Now?" he asked, his voice soft as his thumb rubbed over her cheek.
"Now I couldn't get you out if I wanted to."
"And do you?"
She shook her head. "No."
She closed her eyes. "I'll be so bad at this, Rick."
His other hand gently fell away from hers and he brought it up so that he was cradling her face. "You'll be so bad at what?" he asked, his voice hoarse.
She opened her eyes and met his gaze, only to find him staring at her so adoringly that she was nearly blown away. "At…this, us, everything. I don't share. You know that. And I'm guarded, and difficult, and God knows you annoy the crap out of me all the time."
He grinned. "So I'll keep you on your toes, and you'll challenge me to listen and wait and fight you."
"Fight you to trust me, and yourself, and this, us. Because Kate, if you let it, this could be it. Don't you feel it?"
She wanted to say no. She wanted to run away and hide because the magnitude of that question terrified her. It terrified her because this was it, and she knew it. They'd danced around it for years. She'd tried a number of times to get over him, and each time had only driven her closer to him instead. And they were so close now that sometimes they barely even spoke to each other, letting their eyes and touches and body language do the talking for them, and it worked. But if they did this, and it ended, it wouldn't just end; they would combust, explode, ignite, and take everyone they cared about down in the crossfire.
"I…" she said, her heart thumping in her throat.
"We could do it, Kate."
"Rick," she tried again, summoning the words. "What if…what if it doesn't end with the picket fence and 2.3 kids?"
He smiled gently. "I'm positive that it will, but if it doesn't, we'll deal. We'll find a way to make it work."
"How?" she asked, her hands coming to grip at his waist, bunching his shirt into her fists. "We'd break Rick, and this—what we already have—is the most, the most important thing I've ever had."
"We can do it, Kate," he repeated, his voice strong with a confidence she so desperately wanted to feel. She hated being unsure of anything, and right now, she'd give everything she had to have that confidence in them, because saying no would kill her.
"I want to believe that, I really, really do," she whispered.
"So believe, Kate," he replied. "Just let go and jump with me."
"I don't believe in magic like you do, Rick. I've killed people. And I've been shot and hurt and injured. And what if I don't come back one night, or, hell, what if you don't come back one night?"
He met her gaze. "Kate, if you got shot tomorrow, I'd never get over it. I'm already in too deep. And I know you are too."
"But we could go deeper," she countered. "And then what would happen, Rick?"
"You'd have Alexis and my Mother and your Dad and the boys and Montgomery and Lanie and I'd have them too and it would hurt like hell, and I know I'd never recover all the way, but," he took a deep breath. "I know that I'd always regret it if something happened to you tomorrow and I never got the chance to tell you how much I care about you, and to show you how much I could love you."
She could barely breathe for the pounding of her heart as she met his eyes. The little resolve she'd had, the logic, the reasons, the feeble excuses, shuddered and stuttered and fell.
And then she was staring at a man who had been through more with her than anyone else—who had stood in front of a bomb with her, tried to take bullets for her, spent 100,000 dollars for her, sat with her, cried with her, laughed with her. He'd been her Partner for years and now…now here he was, asking her to do this amazing, terrifying, wonderful thing with him.
"Rick," she said, surprised at the strength of her own voice. She took a breath and then let the smile she could feel escape and spread across her face. "I want to dive in with you too."
He grinned and gently drew her closer until their lips touched, both smiling like idiots into the kiss. It was tender and soft but passionate and full of so much promise all at once. Her hands slid further around his waist and his wound into her hair, tugging her impossibly closer as their mouths opened and she tasted him for only the second time. Unlike their one previous encounter, there was no danger lurking nearby, no bouncer to strike, no Detectives to save; here they were Kate and Rick, exploring each other as they jumped off a precipice together.
When they finally came apart, it was by mere inches. They stood with their foreheads pressed together and breathed together, their hands caressing while they struggled to find themselves again.
"I think I'm frightened," he whispered.
"What, why?" she asked, feeling her heart rate speed up even more.
"If that's what happens after a kiss, I don't know what we'll be like after more."
She laughed, a full, rich, uninhibited sound ringing around the room. It barely even sounded like her to herself, and she watched his face light up. "Somehow, I think we'll survive."
"I don't know, Kate. Might be a pretty good way to go. Think about it: Beckett and Castle, taken down by the strength of their love."
So that's how they were going to play it? Love, that word that used to terrify her, and honestly still did, was just going to be their norm? He could say it with that nonchalance? Fine, two could play at that game.
"Well, it wouldn't so much be our love as our passion, would it?" she asked, tilting her head against his in question.
She watched his eyes widen slightly. Perhaps he hadn't even realized that he'd said it at all. "How 'bout the passion of our love?" he suggested after a second.
She shrugged, smiling as his hands rose and fell with her shoulders. "I suppose that fits. Though, to really test this theory, we'd have to apply it."
He grinned and leaned in to give her a chaste kiss before he pulled back and took a step away from her, taking her hands into his. "As much as I would love that, and believe me, I would," he leered, making her laugh. "It's closing in on three, and you're exhausted."
"Oh, like you're not tired."
He just smiled. "If I sleep, Kate, I'll be surprised. But that's beside the point. You, missy, need to sleep."
"Rick, just because I said I'd dive, jump, fall—whatever we're picking, with you, doesn't give you carte blanche to boss me around."
He pouted. "Really? Because I thought our whole power dynamic was about to radically shift."
She snorted. "Yeah, right."
"But really, let's get you to bed."
"Still trying to tuck me in," she grumbled as he released one of her hands and started them back toward the bedroom. She used her free hand to unholster her gun and stopped him as he tried to drag her through to the bathroom so that she could put it in her drawer.
She released his hand and shrugged out of her jacket, placing it on the hook near her door. She removed her watch and slipped out of her heels, kicking them to the side of her dresser. He stepped up behind her and reached under her hair to glide her mother's necklace over her head, lowering it into her waiting hand before he wrapped his arms around her midriff and watched over her shoulder as she gently placed the ring into the chest with the watch. He pressed a kiss to her cheek.
"Have I told you how extraordinary you are lately?"
She smiled at him in the mirror over her bureau. "Just a tad."
"Well, you are."
"Thanks," she said quietly. She leaned back against him and they just looked at each other in the mirror. "Are we going to sleep, or are we going to look at each other all night?"
"I could look at you forever," was his immediate response. Both of their eyes widened. "I mean…well…true statement, but that was more of an inside thought than an outside thought."
She laughed softly and gave his hands a squeeze. "You get a pass because it's late, or early. Come on." She shifted out of his arms and guided him into the bathroom, rummaging in the cabinet for a spare toothbrush. They stood side by side at the counter, brushing their teeth and nudging each other. Rick was done first and he wiped his mouth with her towel before leaning a hip against the counter to watch her take off her makeup.
"You're just going to stand there and watch me remove my makeup? Really?"
He just raised an eyebrow. "I've watched you do far less interesting things."
She gave him a nod for that and made short work of washing her face and tying her hair back into a low ponytail. "Now, out of the bathroom so I can change. You can…I don't know. Find a way to occupy yourself for four minutes."
"Gee, that's a challenge," he smirked as she pushed him out and shut the door. "Any parameters?" he called as she shimmed out of her work pants and hung them over the towel rack.
"Don't break anything," she called, smiling as she unbuttoned her shirt. She used the bathroom and then stood, perusing her options for sleep apparel.
She had a large tee shirt, a teddy, a tank top, and a pair of boy shorts. The teddy, while tempting, was too much. She truly was absolutely exhausted, not to mention emotionally raw, and though she couldn't wait to see just how talented Rick was—and she knew he would be—this wasn't the night for that. The tee shirt was a no-go. So that left boy shorts and a tight-fitting tank. Admittedly, he'd seen her in far less, even though he 'hadn't looked' last year. And if they were going to…ah hell, what did it matter?
She shed her underwear and bra and pulled on the tank and shorts, looking her reflection over. She looked normal, plain. There was no effort in her appearance. And the funny part was that she really didn't care. With other men, the first night, the first few nights—okay, at least the first month— she put effort into her sleep attire. Her hair was done and she sometimes even wore make-up—not a lot, but sometimes just enough to hide the bags under her eyes. With most of them, they had dated, so usually, going to sleep wasn't a process, but an after-effect of sex, and so she'd been done up to begin with. But here, with Rick poking around her bedroom (and probably sticking his curious nose into everything), she found she couldn't be bothered to do herself up, because she just assumed that he wouldn't care.
She stepped out of the bathroom and found him examining the bookshelf by the window, where she'd framed the signed photo he'd given her. He turned and stared at her, a large smile falling over his face while his eyes twinkled in the way that made her weak at the knees.
"What?" she asked a bit shyly, an emotion she didn't normally associate with him.
"You look really good," he replied easily, walking over to where she was hovering by the bathroom door. "Bedtime suits you."
She laughed. "Well, there's a worry off my chest. Use the bathroom and come join me. I'm bushed."
He chuckled. "Who says 'bushed' anymore?" he pondered as he passed her to go into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
She wandered over to the bed and pulled down the covers. Which side should she take? Since she and Josh had broken up, she'd sort of taken to sleeping in the middle of the bed. Deciding that they could duke it out when he came out of the bathroom, she sat down on the edge of the bed and picked up the phone he'd left on the bedside table. She slid the key and smiled as his messages popped up. He'd texted Alexis to let her know he wouldn't be home. And there was the Dad complex.
The door to the bathroom opened and he emerged, clad in his undershirt and boxers, jeans and button down in his arms. He set them on the dresser and then made his way over to stand in front of her.
"Scrolling through my messages, looking for misdemeanors?"
She looked up at him. "You texted Alexis."
"Can't just not show up for breakfast," he shrugged.
"You're a good Dad."
"I try," he smiled, reaching down and taking the cell from her to put it back on the bedside table. "What side of the bed do you want?"
She smiled up at him. "No preference."
"So you sleep in the middle too?"
She laughed. "Have been, yeah."
He sat down next to her and then crawled into the center of the bed, snuggling under the blankets. "Come join me?"
Kate smiled and turned off the lights before getting under the blankets and scooting over to where Rick lay. They stared at each other, heads propped up on their arms.
"So," Rick broke the silence first.
"So," she parroted back.
"Your bed is comfortable."
"Thanks," she laughed.
"And you look good in it," he added.
She smiled and then blushed as he ran a hand up and down her side. "You do know that you're stunning, right?"
"You can barely even see me."
She heard him heave a sigh and then his face was close to hers, one of his arms coming to rest on her other side as he partially covered her. "You are the most stunning woman I've ever me, Katherine Beckett. And I don't need to be able to see you to know that. And, I have to say, I might like sleepy, pajamaed Kate better than anything."
She smiled and blushed all at once, glad that the darkness could hide her reaction, at least partially. "Even more than dolled up Kate, wearing dresses you picked out and little black numbers to go clubbing?"
"Yes," he said, his voice thick. "Because I get to snuggle with pajama Kate."
"Ah, I see," she said objectively, even as his lips came down and met her cheek, and then her nose, and then her eyelids. He eased down on top of her and she wound her arms around his neck, playing with his hair.
Eventually, his lips found hers and they sighed as they completely melted into each other. Kate couldn't remember the last time she'd had a man in her bed and all they did was kiss. With Josh, every time had been a tumble, because they saw each other so infrequently. And on the rare night that they didn't have sex, they were simply so exhausted that they just fell asleep.
"You taste like cinnamon," he murmured as his lips left hers to skate over to her neck.
"So do you."
"I like your toothpaste."
She smiled and then let out a small gasp as he found her pulse below her jaw. He spent a moment memorizing that spot before he pulled away, placing a last kiss against her lips.
"As much as I want to kiss you until time stops, I think we should try to sleep. What time do you need to be at the station tomorrow?"
"Eleven. Until time stops? Really, Rick?"
He smiled and shifted to her right, gently rolling her onto her side so that he could scoot up against her, spooning her, an arm heavy over her stomach. "You make me say corny things, what can I say?"
She just laughed and laced her fingers through his on her stomach, marveling at how normal it felt, lying in bed with him. "I guess it's cute."
"Is it cuter if I mean them too?"
"It's me, if I mean them?" he asked, his breath warm against her cheek where he was resting his head on her shoulder.
"You say all sorts of things that are silly or hyperbolic, but you mean them. And it's…don't use this against me?"
"Promise," he murmured.
He kissed her cheek and the she felt him move his head back to his pillow. "I'm glad. Because you're incredible, and I plan to tell you that in as many ways I can for the rest of my life."
Her breath caught in her throat. He loved her. He was going to spend the rest of the life telling her how great she was in the corniest ways possible, simply because he could. He was laying behind her, telling her that she'd never been more beautiful than she was now, in just her tank and shorts, without makeup. And just like that, they'd taken the plunge, dived into it together.
"Then I guess I'll have to learn to accept that for the rest of my life," she whispered.
His arm tightened around her and she heard him take a deep breath. "Good."
"Thanks for tucking me in."
She could practically feel him grinning into her hair. "Always."