Disclaimer: In my heart, Castle belongs to me, but nowhere else.
A/N: Well, I meant it to be a one-shot but the encouragement I have had from some lovely people made me decide to add an epilogue. Just to make my position on Doctor Motorcycle Boy ABSOLUTELY clear!
Thank you to those of you who reviewed or said such nice things on the ABC boards. I was nervous about posting and you really made me glad that I was brave enough to publish it. So THANK YOU! I would love some reviews and constructive feedback, if you have time!
Castle had grabbed a passing waiter and asked him for a bottle of champagne and two glasses. The bubbly was in an ice bucket next to him and the glasses were on the top of the stone balustrade. The writer was sitting on a chair, his long legs propped up on the wall in front of him. He had been looking at the moon, but, with his usual attention span, that had paled for him quickly. So he was playing the latest version of Angry Birds on his phone. Anything to distract him from what might be happening in the ballroom. What was taking so long? It took all his willpower not to get up and go and see what was going on.
But Beckett (No. Kate. After what had happened, he was determined not to go back to calling her Beckett. Beckett was someone he worked with. Kate was the warm, passionate armful of awe-inspiring womanhood who had moaned into his mouth and allowed their tongues and breath to mingle in ways that would be seared into his mind forever.) Well, Kate had told him to stay here and he did not want to jinx the way the evening seemed to be going. A thousand thoughts and questions were racing around his head like a hive of over-excited bees.
Doubts were now creeping in. Was it all a result of Kate being drunk? But she had seemed to be just a little merry. Nothing to make her do something completely out of character.
Yeah, and Detective Kate Beckett letting you stick your tongue down her throat and doing it right back is so how she normally behaves!
His ecstatic high of half an hour before had started to dissipate. Like a balloon with a tiny hole, the euphoria created by those earth-shattering kisses was slowly leaking out of him, making him sink lower and lower in the chair, deflated.
But she could not kiss him like that and not mean... something more than alcohol-induced lust. Surely? And at the end, she had kissed him in front of the surgeon and told him to wait. She had not seemed embarrassed at all, though how the heck was she going to talk her way out of that one with Josh? Yet, he had had the distinct impression that, when she had told DMB they needed to talk, she had not been about to apologise or try to mend fences with her boyfriend.
Probably wishful thinking. You can always create a scenario that suits you, Writer Boy. Doesn't mean it's true. Beckett has told you that a thousand times. (And, boom, back to Beckett he went. That little fantasy didn't last long.) Look for the evidence. Well, she asked me to dance, she took me outside, she pulled my arms around her, she turned to face me. She kissed me first... I think. She let me kiss her again and again. So why would she do that if she loves Tall, Dark and Annoying? Or perhaps it WAS just the champagne.
Suddenly, the insulting little nicknames were not so funny. Maybe she would be the future Mrs Josh Davidson, and she was in there right now trying to fix her relationship with him.
He rubbed his hands over his face, groaning. He felt stone-cold, had never touched a drop of the hard stuff ever, sober, despite the amount of champagne he had consumed that night. He thought back over the months since the funeral. He had been through the worst time of his life, trying to help Kate to recover, while not letting on that he was investigating her mother's murder using the information Montgomery had sent him. It had been a long road to health for her.
For Castle, it had been torture. He had hated seeing her in pain, seeing her struggle physically and mentally. All the while he had been lying to her about the investigation, knowing that she would never forgive him if she found that out. And, on top of that, he had been tormented by wondering if she had heard his declaration of love at the funeral. She had never given any sign of it but had allowed Castle to be a huge part of her life and her recuperation. He was grateful for that, even though Josh had often been there, in the background. Not as much as Castle would have expected from her boyfriend, though Kate had always been ready with excuses for him.
And the writer and his muse had been growing closer and closer. He was in no doubt about that. Their fight in her apartment had never been referred to (no change there) and she had acted as if everything were normal between them. But they had been spending more and more time together, even after she came out of hospital. He had helped her a lot with her recovery and had spent endless hours at her apartment. Playing games, watching movies, eating, planning the Benefit. Acting like best friends. They had talked very little about the investigation into her shooting as the new Captain had insisted that it be handled by Ryan and Esposito alone.
Little by little they had got to the point where the day felt wrong if they did not have some sort of contact with each other. Yet Castle had resigned himself to the fact that he was destined for the best friend role forever and that he might have to watch her walk down the aisle towards another man, a vision of ethereal loveliness in white that would never be his. He had amazed himself by his ability to step into that buddy role and play it convincingly.
He had even been on a few, less than successful, dates with other women, whose names he could hardly remember now. He had been trying to find a way to live that did not revolve around him waiting for Kate to see that they should be together. On the surface, he had been managing, even if, inside, he was slowly dying.
And now here they were. She had kissed him and said that they were going to finish something 'for once.' Surely that meant that... Oh, God, he was going to go crazy out here.
So he leapt up, nearly knocking the ice-bucket stand over, determined to go inside and find out what was happening. If she had made up with Josh, he might just have to punch the surgeon in the face and then buy himself a tropical island where he could escape civilisation and lick his wounds in private. Whatever happened, they could not go on like they had been. Enough was enough.
'Whoa, there, Writer Boy. Don't waste that; it's good stuff.'
He whirled around, knocking the chair over in his haste.
And there she was, thirty feet away, a tall, slender, lavender column in the moonlight. His heart felt too big for his chest. He tried to read her expression, but she was too far away.
As Kate stood there, seeing Castle's tall, broad-shouldered figure surrounded by a halo of golden moonlight, she felt herself trembling. And not because of the uncomfortable scene she had just gone through inside.
Most people had left, apart from a few diehard party animals who were too drunk to notice anything and who were dancing somewhat erratically to Elvis' 'Blue Suede Shoes'. Martha had kissed Kate goodbye, after saying a polite hello to Josh, and had tactfully taken Alexis and Ashley with her. The actress' mind was reeling at this latest development. What was going on with her son and the detective? If the ridiculously pretty doctor were still in the picture, then what had that dance been about? Well, Martha thought, with her usual pragmatism, she would find out in the morning what had happened, and there was nothing she could do now. Her son was old enough to fight his own battles. And she had a strong suspicion that, this time, he would win.
Josh had been civilised, because there were far too many people around for him to be able to shout and rant at her. Though, to be fair, she thought, he was not the ranting type. They had talked for longer than she had expected, because he had not wanted to give up on their relationship without a fight. She had been touched by that and it had made her feel more than a little guilty.
Yet she had not wavered, because, when she imagined herself saying goodbye to one of these men, it was the thought of a final farewell to Castle that made her feel sick to her stomach. No more Rick in her life would be unbearable. No more Josh would be sad, but it would not feel like she had lost a limb or a vital organ.
Rick was... He was as essential to her as oxygen. It was that simple and that complex. You did not usually remember that you needed to breathe in oxygen to live. But if it were not there, you would soon realise that you were going to die without it. That was it. She could not breathe without Richard Castle.
So she had said her goodbyes to Josh. Part of her hoped that he was a little relieved as he could now go off and save the world without worrying about leaving his girlfriend who was recovering from a serious injury. She knew she would feel bad about breaking things off with the handsome doctor like this, especially as he had stood by her throughout her recovery as much as his work would allow. But not tonight.
Tonight she had to face up to something that was terrifying and wonderful and... inescapable. She had finally admitted to herself that her destiny was tied up in that infuriating, contradictory, child-like, charming, tender-hearted, tall drink of water waiting outside for her. She bit her lip as she walked towards the terrace, trembling with anticipation and a little fear.
She had stopped halfway across the terrace, trying to think what to say, when he jumped out of his seat. When he heard her, he spun round to face her.
They stood for a long time, in silence, trying to gauge the mood of the other person. Kate could feel the tension radiating out of Castle, as far away as he was.
Oh dear God, please don't let her say 'Castle, we need to talk.' I couldn't bear it. And Castle clenched his fists at his sides.
When she saw that, Kate smiled and took a step towards him. A small step away from the past and a huge leap into the future, a future inextricably bound up with Richard Castle.
She slowly took a few paces towards him, but he stayed where he was. He did not think that he could have moved an inch as his legs seemed frozen in place. His whole body felt paralysed as he watched the woman whom he loved, beyond reason, beyond hope, beyond anything he had thought he was capable of feeling, walking towards him.
Whatever she said now would be it. If she were planning to stay with Josh, then Castle was done. There would be no going back.
Finally, after what seemed hours, she was standing in front of him, looking up at him, a quizzical look in those expressive green eyes.
'You look like you're waiting for test results at a doctor's. Like you're expecting bad news. What's that all about?'
She seemed to be laughing at him, which, to Castle, was downright cruel. Surely she knew what she was doing to him?
'Beckett... Kate. Don't torture me. What the hell went on in there? Is Josh still here? Are you going home with him? What did you tell him about what we were doing? What WERE we doing? Are you drunk? Was that why...? I mean...'
'Jeez, Rick, which question do you want me to answer first? Calm down a little. I can sum it all up for you in a few words.'
His heart, which had suffered enough abuse for one night, faltered in his chest again. He shut his eyes tight, as if to ward off the horrible thing she might be going to say.
'Why have you got your eyes shut, Rick?' She was definitely laughing at him. Was that a good or a bad sign?
'If you can't see something, then it isn't real. Don't you know that? So if you're going to say something I don't want to hear, then I can pretend it isn't true.'
'What are you, eight? And that makes no sense. If you don't want to hear something, surely you should put your fingers in your ears, not shut your eyes?'
'Don't confuse me with your logic.'
This was so not the time for their usual banter, but Castle held onto it, like a drowning man grasping at a piece of floating driftwood. Anything rather than face what she had to say.
'Rick, you are being ridiculous. Open your eyes and look at me.'
She had called him Rick three times in a few minutes, part of his brain registered. He opened his eyes.
She was standing very close to him, almost, but not quite, touching. He could smell the usual heavenly cherry scent that would forever be associated with Kate in his mind. Her eyes held a strange mixture of amusement, nervousness and affection. Or was he just projecting? More wishful thinking on his part, no doubt.
She stared at him for a long moment. His expression was one of fear and doubt and yet there was still tenderness and desire there.
Always. That was what he had promised her more than once. For so long she had refused to believe that or to have faith in him that he would keep his word. She had known that Castle had the power to take her heart and crush it like no other man she had ever met. For that reason, it had never seemed worth the risk to let him in. She doubted she would recover from Richard Castle walking away from her, which had seemed to be his usual m.o. with women. Three years of keeping her distance, trying to protect herself, to avoid falling into the moment with this man.
She was still scared. She trusted Castle with her life, but it was so much harder to trust him with her heart. There were no guarantees, and she was someone who wanted everything in her life to be sure and solid. Love was anything but that. And perhaps that was what made it so awful and so beautiful.
As she gazed into those eyes that saw everything differently from anyone else, which saw her as extraordinary, when she felt herself to be anything but that, she took a deep breath. She cupped his face in her hands and spoke softly to him.
'You know, Rick. I don't need words. Words are not always the answer, Writer Boy'.
With that, she kissed him. A gentle, magical touch of lips on lips into which she tried to pour all the words and feelings she was not yet ready to say out loud.
Then she pulled back and forced him to look at her. The wonder, the shock, the joy, the love she saw on his face, made the tears well up in her eyes. She blinked them away and, trying to inject a stern note into her voice, she said, 'Have I made myself perfectly clear? Josh is gone. I am here. This is a beginning. Ok?'
His grin was so wide she thought it must be hurting his face. He still said nothing but just nodded, and then lowered his face to hers, capturing her bottom lip between his teeth and sucking on it until she stopped thinking and just wound her arms behind his head. He pulled her to him, gripping her hard enough that she would probably have a few bruises in the morning, but what did that matter?
The kiss deepened and they clung to each other, hardly able to stand up.
The planet kept on turning: the waiters were inside clearing up, the band was playing its last song. Everything continued as normal, as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening.
Yet, for the writer and the detective, they had finally found extraordinary. And, with luck, they would keep on finding it.