Sometimes the words came and sometimes they didn't. Tonight fell into the latter category.
Rick stared down the cursor that winked mockingly at him, as if he could simply will his thoughts onto the screen rather than translate them into action. This wasn't writers block. This was simply him not having the proper words to convey exactly what he thought. It was the first time in his life where words weren't enough.
He'd tried several combinations, but none of them fully captured what he needed them to. They were just shadows of the emotions behind them. He'd once thought that if a writer believed enough in what they wrote then the words would follow suit. The passion, the sorrow, the rage … if the emotion was genuine, then it would reflect on paper. But he was now learning that wasn't the case. Sometimes, there were no words to portray the pathos.
He sighed, ran a hand back through his hair irritably, and pushed the laptop back on his desk. He needed a break; he needed a drink. The bottle of scotch was still sitting out since the last time he'd gone to it for a bit of reprieve. Hopefully, this wouldn't turn into a recurring theme. For now though, the pleasant burn of fine alcohol was a welcomed respite. Anything was better than trying to simplify everything Roy Montgomery had been – to him as well as all of those whose lives he'd touched over the years – into a few measly lines.
As he rounded the desk, his eyes fell on the cover art panel for Heat Rises, now sporting a rather nasty dent right in the middle of it. The art department was going to be furious when they saw the damage; that'd been one of three original prints. He didn't much care, wasn't sure if he ever could bring himself to care. It was just a book. That was it. None of it was important, none of it really mattered….
God, Kate. He could still see her face in his mind, the way she struggled to remain composed, collected, so that those she cared about could break down. She'd kept it together while Ryan cried, even managed a reassuring smile for Esposito. She'd hugged Lanie, accepted condolences from other precincts, sat through hours and hours of IA interviews… all of it without ever once flinching.
The closest she'd come to letting herself go was when they'd taken the elevator down after everything was wrapped up. He'd waited for her through the interviews and debriefings. He'd sat in his usual chair at the precinct, exchanging texts with Alexis and his mother to keep them updated. When she'd emerged from the final interview of the day, she'd simply grabbed her coat and walked toward the elevator, knowing he would be right behind. It wasn't until the doors closed on them that she'd reached for his hand, twining her fingers with his. Her hand squeezed his, he reciprocated, and that was that. By the time the doors slid open on the parking level, her shields were up and she was once again the stoic woman, staying strong for the people she cared about.
Was she falling apart now, alone in her apartment? Was Josh there? He hoped so. Rick might be jealous of the guy, but he'd rather Josh be there for her than think about her handling this by herself. His phone was out and he was pushing speed dial before he even realized he was doing it.
A muffled phone rang somewhere in response.
At first he thought maybe it was Alexis's phone, but then he remembered it was almost two in the morning. She always set it to vibrate by ten on a week night. He followed the sound, which oddly fell in time with the ringing of Kate's phone, all the way to the front door. No way….
Hardly daring to believe it, Rick opened the door – and there she was, standing just outside with her phone in hand and not quite able to look him in the eye. "Kate."
Her smile was brief and almost more of a grimace. She pushed her hair back behind her ear, a self conscious gesture he found endearing. Kate pressed the ignore button on her phone, her lower lip caught between her teeth as she still avoided his gaze. "I, um… I couldn't sleep," she said, making it both an excuse and a greeting.
Without a word, he stepped back and let her enter. He wanted to ask so many things: was she okay, would she like a drink, did Josh know she was there, did he even know she couldn't sleep? But he didn't ask any of them. Instead, he guided her to the couch before slipping back into his library for the scotch and an extra glass. He knew she was more of a beer girl, but he didn't think she was in the mood to be particular. As long as it was alcohol, that was all she needed.
That twisted smile made a quick reappearance as he handed her a tumbler before sitting next to her on the couch. Rick watched her profile closely, looking for the little tells that surfaced every so often through her expert poker face. That was about as unguarded as she ever got when things went south, but he'd gotten good at detecting them. Right now, her jaw was tight, her brow pinching slightly as she stared into her untouched scotch. One fingernail was tracing over the raised design on the glass, the knuckles on her other hand pale as she gripped it tightly.
Finally, after a minute or two of silence, she asked in a soft, hoarse voice, "Can we not talk?"
Rick nodded, a faint smile coming unbidden to his lips. "Sure."
Kate's eyes closed, the tension in her shoulder sliding away completely. She placed a hand on his knee, thanking him silently for that small favor, as she settled back against the couch. When his arm curved over her shoulder, tucking her into his side, she didn't protest. They sat there together, utterly silent as they drank scotch and shared their mutual grief. He had no idea how long they remained like that, and he didn't care. If she wanted, they could stay that way forever.
He didn't know when, but sometime during the silence they began exchanging small touches. Maybe he started it by combing his fingers through her hair? Maybe she did with the way her thumb was tracing circles over his knee? All he was really certain of was that the touches were starting to move beyond attempts at friendly comfort. His lips had no business being in her hair, just as her hand probably shouldn't have moved up to stroke his inner thigh.
But it wasn't until she shifted next to him, her breath warm on his neck and her lips entirely too close to his skin, that he finally found enough voice to croak out, "Kate…" It was a warning and a question all rolled into one rough syllable.
Her reply was to set her half finished scotch on the coffee table before swinging her leg over his lap. Rick swallowed hard and had a difficult time deciding whether to look her in the eye or stare at how she was now straddling his thighs. Her eyes won out, mostly because to look elsewhere conjured some very tempting ideas that were probably best ignored. Maybe. He wasn't certain of much right now beyond the fact that she was sitting on his lap and that her breathing was just as short as his.
He glanced at her face, saw the cautious heat building as well as the thread of uncertainty. Whether she was unsure of what she was instigating or the aftermath, he didn't know. All he knew was that, underneath it all, was pain. She was hurting, more so than he was. Wasn't he the one who'd said that during times of grief people craved a physical connection? Or … it was something along those lines. This wasn't exactly how he wanted things to work out between them, but she needed this: to be reminded that she was still alive. And he'd come to accept that, when it came to Kate Beckett, he would do or be anything she needed.
There was a second of hesitation as she leaned down toward him, just as their mouths were about to meet for the second time ever in their relationship. It was as if she too sensed that this would be a game changer; there was no lookout to distract, nothing that could excuse their next actions. If they kissed this time, it was for real. How it would change things later was a mystery. The question now was did they cross that final line or did they retreat?
She made the decision, and apparently retreat wasn't an option. Rick sucked in a quick breath when her lips brushed across his, brief and soft at first but when he responded it became hard, more demanding. It was easily one of the hottest kisses in his entire life. He couldn't decide where to put his hands, on her thighs or in her hair, so he ended up opting for both. One hand tangled in the long strands of her hair as she slanted her mouth across his for a deeper angle, and the other slid up to grip her thigh, moving her that scant inch necessary to make him break off their kiss with a ragged gasp.
For a moment, they simply stared at each other, both of them breathing heavily. She was beautiful, probably one of the most beautiful women he'd ever met. That wasn't hyperbole; it was a fact. Her lips were kiss reddened, her hair disheveled, and her eyes … she really did have the most amazing eyes. His hand moved to cup her cheek, his thumb brushing across her lower lip gently. Kate's eyes closed at the touch as her breath left in an uneven stutter across his wrist.
She started to lean in again, and he stopped her by saying, "Alexis."
The last thing either of them wanted was his teenage daughter coming downstairs to find them making out on the couch. Rick wasn't above a little parental scarring, but that bordered almost on child abuse.
Unfortunately, the mention of Alexis was like ice water for the mood. Kate blinked once, very quickly, and then pushed herself off his lap completely. "Right," she murmured, smoothing her hands down the front of her sweater. Her brow pinched briefly before she pushed her hair back and cleared her throat. "I should … I should go."
He caught her wrist just as she turned toward the door. "You can stay."
She turned back toward him slowly, almost as if she couldn't believe he would suggest that.
Rick shrugged and tried to ignore the sudden tightness in his throat as he added, "If you want to, I mean."
Kate regarded him a moment, her eyes flickering from his face to where he was still holding onto her wrist. He could see the indecision in the subtle shifting of her features, could almost imagine the argument going on in her head. Stay and take a risk or leave and play it safe? Her lips parted as she started to speak, but no words came out.
He stood up, his hand slipping down to take hers, but that was all he did. If she wanted to leave, he wouldn't stop her. He was just letting her know silently that he'd be really okay with her staying. There was a bright sheen to her eyes as she looked away, staring at a point on his couch, that made his heart ache for her.
"I just … I need to feel alive," she murmured.
He nodded, his lips pressing to her forehead gently. "I know."
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't. Beyond what's acceptably kinky, I mean."
She rolled her eyes, but the effect was ruined as her lips quirked upward at the corners. "Maybe some other time."
She was playing it off as a joke, but he liked hearing her talk about 'other times'. He had no idea where they stood with each other, or where she stood with Josh for that matter, but he didn't care. Tonight, it was more about simply being together, of having the closeness that came with physical intimacy, than sorting out the semantics.
He placed a chaste kiss to the corner of her mouth, felt her shiver in response. Rick repeated it, this time kissing just a little further down her jaw as his hands slid to her hips. She remained still, but she wasn't unresponsive. Far from it, actually. He could hear the slight gasp to her inhales, feel the exhales stutter against his neck. Her hand was shaking as she slowly slid it up his chest, looping her arm around his neck so that her fingers were just brushing the hair across his nape. The touch was soft, barely even there, but it was enough to send that familiar tingling sensation down his spine.
Rick tilted his head in the direction of the bedroom and she nodded back, letting her hand slip free from his neck to take his. It probably wasn't the most eloquent way of asking whether she wanted to move things to the bedroom, but why waste words when they both knew what they wanted?
She followed him down the hall, her heels tapping in a slow, staccato rhythm with each step. His heart was racing and his thoughts were scattering in a million different directions at once. There was excitement, of course, but also the same uncertainty she had. What did this mean for them? What would happen in the morning? Would she even be there when he woke up? Or was this just about the sex?
As if she knew what he was thinking (and there was a very real chance she probably did), Kate stopped him just as they were about to enter his bedroom by pulling on his hand. He turned, hoping the look he gave her was nonchalant enough not to tip her off on his inner turmoil. Apparently, his own poker face wasn't up to par tonight either, because she very deliberately cupped her palms to his cheeks and brushed another kiss across his lips.
For some reason, this kiss hit him harder than the previous few. It was like everything stopped: his breathing, his heart – hell, maybe even the world itself. He didn't know what it was, just something about the way she'd looked at him that left him breathless and slow to respond.
It took him a moment to regain some semblance of intelligent thought as she drew back, her hands still framing his cheeks. Rick's eyes opened slowly and he was once again robbed of breath at the intensity of her gaze. He could see the words long before she said them, whispering in a low, even voice, "I'm all in."
Those few words meant more to him than anything in the world. It wasn't a declaration of love or a promise that they'd always be together; it was much more than that. She was giving him the security that in the morning things would be okay between them. Different, yes … but okay. Possibly better than ever.
He was about to respond, but then she was kissing him again and all but three simple words were chased away. It took everything he had not to say them – not yet, and definitely not now. Instead, he just gave himself over to the moment. There would be other opportunities to say what he wanted to.
Kate didn't take the lead; he gave it to her gladly, letting her steer him back toward the bed as things became rapidly more heated. Clothing was tugged off, skin was revealed to hands and lips. When her teeth found his neck, Rick swore he almost blacked out. If she kept doing things like that, this wouldn't last very long at all.
She pushed him flat on the bed, his back against the cool sheets as she positioned herself over him. It offered him a perfect view, one he couldn't help admiring. He watched as her hands moved up his chest, tracing along his sternum to his collar bone. His hands settled on her thighs, starting right above her knees before moving slowly higher. He could feel her muscles shifting beneath her soft skin, basked in the faint catch in her breath as his palms curved around her bare hips. She was watching him with parted lips and eyes dark with desire.
And then her hips rocked into his and it was all he could do to remember his own name.
No words were needed after that, just movement and friction and heat. There were sighs which turned to moans which then faded into nothing more than ragged gasps and pants as the desire spiraled higher. She controlled the rhythm, dictated when they would move faster or when they slowed it down. He liked it when she took her time. He liked watching her hips roll into his, how she would brace her hands on his stomach and arch her back, giving him a perfect line of her sweat-sheened skin from pelvis to chin. Her thighs were trembling as they squeezed his hips and she was biting her lower lip to hold back anything louder than a groan.
But the controlled pace couldn't be maintained. It was too much for either of them to take. Rick reached for her, threading his fingers through her hair to haul her down to him. Their mouths met, more a collision of breaths and tongues and lips than a kiss. She was still trying to hold on, still fighting to keep control – just like she always did. That wouldn't do at all, so he took it from her, gripping her hips hard as he forced her to move faster.
Kate gasped against his mouth, one hand curling tightly into his sheets and the other pressing nails into his upper arm. She hadn't expected that, hadn't anticipated he would strip her of that iron-fisted control. It was what she clung to when she didn't want to feel anything and without it she had no choice but to experience the sensations full force. He could feel the tremors racking through her entire body, running down her spine to her legs, her fingers, even her lips where they were pressed to his. She was on the edge; all she needed was that final push.
It happened when he rolled them across the bed, reversing their positions so that she was beneath him. All it took was him lifting her leg higher around his waist, adjusting the angle that fraction needed to set her off. She didn't scream his name or call for God or anything like that. As with everything involving Kate Beckett, it was the subtleties that mattered. Her eyes widened slightly before squeezing shut, her lips parted in a silent gasp of shock as her nails pressed harder into his shoulders. Her back arched off the bed and it was the way she whispered his name against his neck that sent him falling after her.
For a long time, neither of them could move. They lay together, still joined and breathing heavily. Rick pressed his face into the crook of her neck while she stroked languid fingers up and down his spine. That was easily one of the most intense sexual encounters he'd ever had in his entire life – bar none. When she nudged his hip with her knee to move, the most he could manage was a graceless flop to one side. He closed his eyes, raked a hand through his damp hair, and took a few more seconds to bask in the afterglow before turning toward her.
She was staring at him, one of hand curled on the pillow while the other rested on her bare stomach. That haunted look, the one she'd had from the moment he'd invited her in, was gone. The sadness was still there, but it wasn't the heavy weight it had been. He smiled, unable to help himself, and she rolled her eyes in return.
"Smugness in bed isn't attractive, Rick," she teased.
He shrugged unrepentantly. "Can you blame me? That was amazing."
Kate arched a brow in response – a silent contestation to his words. She was only goading him on, but his ego was just childish enough to fall for it.
"Oh, come on! You can't tell me that wasn't some of the best sex you've ever had," he scoffed while tugging the blanket out from underneath them. She gave him a hand and soon enough they were both settled on their sides, facing each other and tucked comfortably in bed.
She pretended to ponder this for a moment before replying, "Maybe top twenty."
Rick mock scowled at her and made a big show of turning over so his back was to her. "Top twenty my ass," he muttered as he pulled the blankets higher over his chest. "That was top five at the least."
He felt her shift behind him and a moment later her breasts were pressed to his back and she'd curved one arm around his waist, spooning him from behind. Rick couldn't help smiling a little as she kissed the back of his neck. He covered her hand with his, anchoring her to him more securely. The afterglow was starting to fade, leaving him exhausted and perfectly content to fall asleep with her curled around him.
"Maybe even top three," she murmured just as he was on the edge of sleep. A drowsy smile surfaced as he gave her hand a squeeze. For that, he'd make her pancakes in the morning.
The Superman theme song blaring through cell phone speakers jolted her awake. Muttering curses under her breath, she quickly kicked herself free of the sheets and half rolled, half flailed her way out of bed. Clothing was everywhere on the floor and her cell phone alarm was still blasting full volume. She scrambled around, trying to disentangle her jeans from the mess to shut the damn thing up. Hopefully, the walls in luxury apartments were thicker than the ones in hers.
She finally managed to find her jeans, which were partially kicked under the bed, and quickly dug out her cell phone from the back pocket. The theme cut off mid verse and she sighed in relief, relaxing back against the foot of the bed.
"That is the sexiest thing ever," a very rough, sleep-heavy voice said from the bed.
Kate shook her head and smiled, unsurprised that the peanut gallery had been woken up. "What is?" she asked, playing along even though she had a fairly good idea where the joke was headed.
"You having Superman as your alarm tone. That or you downloaded it especially for last night."
A small laugh broke from her before she could control it. "Castle, do you really want to reopen this discussion, because now that I'm awake I think maybe top three was too generous."
Something fluffy and smelling like him smacked her on top of the head. "No pancakes for you," he countered with mock petulance.
Kate chucked the pillow back onto the bed and stood up. She was very aware of him watching her as she started gathering the rest of her clothing. As tempting as it was to stay for breakfast (especially pancakes) she really couldn't. There was a lot she still needed to do before the funeral that afternoon.
"I'm going to have to pass on breakfast, Castle," she said as she began getting dressed. She glanced at him over her shoulder while fastening her bra, saw the disappointed look on his face and added, "Rain check?"
Rick's expression immediately perked up at the offer. He knew it was for more than just the opportunity to wow her with his pancake flipping skills. His smile was the soft one she loved so much, the one that warmed his eyes and was reserved for those he cared about. "Anytime, Beckett."
She nodded and pushed her hair back behind her ear, suddenly feeling a little awkward with where the conversation was heading. Or maybe it was more accurate to say she was nervous. Very nervous. She hesitated slightly before saying, "I meant what I said last night, Rick. About being all in."
His expression sobered immediately. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he sat up, tugging the sheet around himself. "Good," he replied. "Because I am, too."
Kate released the breath she hadn't been aware she was holding and repeated, "Good."
"I still get to tail you at the precinct though."
"Fine. But if you breathe one word to Ryan or Esposito about what goes on between us, I swear I'll make you regret it for the rest of your life." Lanie was excluded because she would probably end up telling the ME herself, but she could already imagine what kind of hell the other two would put her through if they had intimate details.
He flinched and she smirk at the fact that he knew it wasn't an idle threat. "Noted."
Satisfied that he understood the severity of the warning, Kate went over to him, nudging his knees apart with her leg until she was standing between them. His hands immediately went to her waist and hers threaded through his hair, holding him to her. She didn't kiss him, partially because morning breath was never pleasant but also because she knew if they did she'd probably end up back in bed with him and that would totally screw her day up.
"Do you want a ride to the funeral?" he asked, lifting his head just enough to meet her gaze.
She smiled and shook her head.
"You sure you don't want pancakes first, because Alexis got me these really cool moulds that—,"
She put a hand over his mouth to stop any further stalling tactics on his part. "I need to go, Castle. I'll see you there." To mollify him, she kissed his cheek before heading toward the door.
"I couldn't write," he called after her.
Kate paused in the doorway to his bedroom, one foot already over the threshold. She turned toward him, her brow furrowing in confusion. "Come again?"
Rick was staring at the carpet, his shoulders hunched and a very frustrated look on his face. He was so caught up in whatever was going on inside his head that he missed the opportunity for a really obvious innuendo. That alone told her whatever was going on was pretty serious. She waited, the door still partially open, for him to gather his thoughts.
Finally, he shook his head, ran a hand back through his mussed hair and expanded, "Last night, when you showed up. I was trying to write something for today, but the words… I didn't know what to write. I still don't know. How do you even begin to condense how much he meant to everyone in just a few paragraphs?"
Her heart lurched at that; she knew exactly what he meant. A thread of guilt wound through her that last night when she'd come running to him for comfort, she hadn't stopped to ask why he was up as well. She hadn't considered that he was hurting too, despite the fact that she knew he was. And now here she was getting ready to bolt out the door while he sat there looking lost and more than a little confused.
Sighing, Kate closed the door and went back over to him. She sat down on the edge of the bed so that their shoulders touched and reached over to place a hand on his sheet shrouded thigh. When his hand covered hers, she turned her palm over so their fingers laced together.
"I'm not a writer," she said softly, her eyes focused on their joined hands, "but I've read enough to know that the best stories are the ones told with the most honesty."
She felt more than saw him turn toward her. "So you want me to…?"
"I don't want you to do anything, Rick," she clarified. "I'm just saying stop trying to write with your head. This isn't a novel where you can influence the emotion as the story needs it. Write what you're feeling, right now. And I promise you that it'll mean everything in the world and then some to those who knew and loved him."
For a moment, neither of them moved or said anything, but then he kissed her temple and squeezed her hand gratefully. She smiled and squeezed back before getting to her feet again.
"You really are an amazing muse, you know," he said to her back, causing her to pause once again halfway out the door.
Kate smiled and called back, "I'll see you there, Castle." She shut the door before he could finish getting the final word and left the loft. There was still so much to do, so many things she still needed to process and sort out. But one thing was for certain: things would definitely never be the same.