Spoilers: "Cops & Robbers" 4x07 (and everything before, especially Kate's therapy scenes from 4x05) – This story takes place after dinner at Castle's loft.
Summary: Kate needs to know if Castle will wait for her.
Author's Note: I know, I know… another post-ep for "Cops & Robbers." But I couldn't help myself. I got this idea and decided to run with it. I hope you like it. P.S. There's a little nod in here to all the Castle-crazy Tumblr peeps, see if you can find it! (I'm itcouldbelove on there, btw.)
"Well, Richard, darling, I must take my leave," Martha says with a flourish of her arm, her bracelets sending tinkling sounds into the air. "All that cooking has left me absolutely exhausted."
Kate meets Castle's eyes across the kitchen, amusement turning up the corners of her lips and sparkling in her eyes. She stands next to him, waiting on the next clean dish to be passed from his hands to hers.
The four of them had cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, their own twisted version of a family, and then the three adults had started the dishes while Alexis went upstairs to study. They had let her go, knowing she had more to deal with than homework.
The dishes are nearly finished, so Kate sees no harm in letting Martha out of the rest, especially since the woman had created a masterpiece for dinner. Besides, she wouldn't mind being left alone with Castle for awhile. She wants to talk to him, to just… be with him, after almost losing him, again; this time to a bomb.
Need curls inside of her, restless, like wisps of smoke she can't get a grasp on.
Castle interrupts her thoughts.
"She speaks as though being held hostage all day in a bank is nothing compared to making dinner for four," Castle murmurs to Kate as he hands her a glass.
"Ha! And you speak as though I can't hear you." Martha leans in and kisses her son's cheek, then moves to pull Kate into another sweeping hug. "And Kate, my dear, thank you so much for coming over to enjoy my cooking. It's not often enough that someone is pleased with the way I prepare food."
Kate smiles, about to tell Martha that it was her pleasure, but Castle cuts her off.
"That's because what you normally cook is horrendous, Mother. As a matter of fact, I would like to know how it's possible that you've been holding out on us all these years. I'm beginning to think that you do know how to cook and made us believe you can't, just so you didn't have to put forth the energy every now and then."
Martha releases Kate to toss her arms into the air. "Well, what can I say, cooking isn't my favorite pastime, but sometimes you just need to feel a sense of normalcy."
"Well that explains it then."
Martha arches her eyebrow in question, as Kate returns the glass to its rightful place in one of the cupboards.
"You're anything but normal, Mother." His grin is cheeky.
Kate takes it all in, watching with a smile on her face as Martha reaches over to slap her son's arm. Kate feels light, weightless, like a bird soaring through the clouds. There's freedom here, in this home, in his home. A freedom to relax, to feel, to… to love.
Maybe it's the wine, but she feels open to it, wide open like the midnight sky.
"You're one to talk, Richard," Martha exclaims, breaking Kate of her reverie. "There's nothing normal about a grown man who plays laser tag and has more toys than a five-year-old boy."
Castle's jaw drops comically and Kate chuckles, amused by their back and forth banter.
Martha turns once more to Kate and reaches over to squeeze the detective's hand. "I hope you'll come again soon, Kate. It's been wonderful having you here."
Kate ducks her head shyly, but gifts Martha with a smile. "I've had a really good time."
Martha smiles, pleased, then releases Kate to head for the stairs. "Goodnight, you two. Don't do anything I wouldn't do," Martha practically sings.
Castle shakes his head, chuckling at her antics, before handing Kate a clean plate. "She's something."
Kate reaches up into a cupboard, placing the clean plate on top of the others there. "I like her," she murmurs softly.
Castle turns his head to smile at her, soft and sweet. "She likes you, too, you know."
Kate dips her head, nods slightly, acknowledging that. A pang resonates in her heart, and it simultaneously feels good, and hurts, all at once. Having Martha, it's like… it's like having a mother again. A mother figure, at least. And while it is nice, feels good, feels right, it also makes her miss her own mother even more. She wishes her mother could meet Castle.
She thinks Johanna would have loved him.
Castle opens the silverware drawer beside the sink, and starts drying the utensils. Since her help is no longer needed, Kate leans a hip against the countertop and watches him, studying the curve of his jaw and the play of muscles in his forearm. The silence stretches between them, full and calming, like waves lapping at the shoreline. It feels so domestic, standing here in his kitchen with him, finishing up the dishes after a wonderful dinner with his daughter and mother.
She wants to hold onto the feeling and never let go, so she steps up behind him, and wraps her arms around his waist.
Startled, Castle freezes, his hands stilling on the fork he's holding.
She presses her nose to the space between his shoulder blades and takes a deep breath of him. She had come so very close to losing him earlier. She suppresses the shudder that wants to rip through her and smiles against him instead.
"I've needed to do this ever since your mother interrupted us in the bank," she says shyly. Her heart trips in her chest. She's not used to being so open with him, but the atmosphere, the wine… the man in front of her makes her loose, makes her words flow freely.
Castle snorts, and starts drying the silverware again, as if their embrace is nothing, as if it happens every day. She loves him for that, loves him for being so casual when she's usually so tense. "Interrupted? You mean 'cock-blocked.'"
"Castle!" Kate exclaims, but can't restrain the laugh that escapes her mouth and weaves into the fabric of his shirt.
"Well, it's the truth, Beckett. I am ninety-nine percent sure you were going to kiss me in there," he teases, keeping the mood light.
"Yeah, right, Castle," she shoots back, but her heart skips a beat, because she knows he is right. She would have kissed him then and there if Martha hadn't spoken, hadn't crashed the moment. A part of her had been amused by the obvious disappointment on Castle's face, and another part was relieved at the fact that she hadn't been able to make that particular misstep.
There is still too much between them, too much in the way.
Castle places the last utensil in the drawer and tries to turn in her arms, but she squeezes her arms tighter and crowds into him, refusing to let him face her.
"Kate?" His voice is soft, questioning, a broken record repeating.
"Just…" She sighs, her cheek pressed against his back, facing away from his turned head. "I've been going to therapy."
Castle stills, taking the words in, before relaxing under her, his hands sliding down to lace his fingers through hers around his waist. "Since when?"
"I had to go before I could be re-instated, and then… I just never stopped."
Castle breathes, his back rising and falling under her cheek. After a moment, he says, "Does it help?"
The steady thump of his heartbeat soothes her, and gives her the strength to pull away, to face him. She steps back and he turns to look at her, trying to read the words in her eyes.
Her fingers twist together and she nods. "Yes. Yes, it does help, but…" She trails off. The fear inside of her is a tangible thing, like a knot of barbed wire, threatening to cut her up from the inside out.
"But?" he asks gently, his fingers twitching.
She knows he wants to reach for her, and is so thankful that he's giving her space instead. She meets his gaze, lifting her chin. She slips on invisible armor, gearing herself up for the invasion into her heart. "I don't want to lose you," she whispers.
He steps closer, but the deer-in-the-headlights look on her face must stop him. His hands clench into fists as he keeps his distance. "Kate."
"Today was… I've never been so afraid in my entire life, Castle." Her voice is soft, barely there, but she knows he hears her. His whole body is straining toward hers. "This isn't the first time one of us has been in danger, and I know it won't be the last. But I… I can't bear to think that if something like this happens again tomorrow, that there are things you don't know. Things that my therapist and I have talked about, things you should know."
Curiosity creeps onto his face, and he smiles at her. "C'mon, let's go into the living room and talk."
He wraps his fingers around her elbow, trying to lead her, but she stops him with a palm on his forearm.
"No, Castle, just… let me get this all out. Please. Before I… Before I chicken out."
He cocks his head to the side, like a puppy, and she has this insane urge to ruffle his hair. Her fingers tighten on his arm instead.
Castle studies her face, and then nods. "Okay."
She releases him, before pacing to the other side of the kitchen. She turns, facing him again, steeling herself. She hopes he won't hate her. "I heard you."
"You… You heard me?" he asks, thoroughly confused.
She nods, swallows hard. "Yes. After… after I was shot. In the cemetery."
Kate sees the realization slam into him and then the hurt that crawls across his features. She wants to weep for putting it there. Her hands tremble as she crosses her arms under her breasts, hugging herself. She hopes she can make him understand.
"You said you didn't remember anything," he murmurs, his line of vision focused on the floor. "You said that multiple times."
The loss of his gaze punches her in the gut. The thread that holds them together is weak without eye contact. "I lied," she whispers.
He closes his eyes briefly, and then reopens them to look at her. His pain is obvious, like a beam of light aimed towards her. It cuts at her. "Why?" His voice is equally soft, but there's a bruise to it, as though her words have caused damage to his vocal chords.
And then she leaps, hoping with every fiber of her being that he will catch her, that he won't let her fall. "Because I love you, too."
A strangled sound escapes his lips, and he steps quickly towards her. This time she doesn't stop him, this time she doesn't run.
Castle crushes her against his chest, his arms locking around her, as hers get trapped between them. She fists her hands into his shirt and buries her face in his collar.
"You know, Kate, that's… that's really, really good to hear. But that still doesn't really explain why you didn't tell me you heard me." His voice is light now, airy, like he hasn't a care in the world. Like he isn't afraid of her answers anymore, like he isn't afraid of her anymore.
Relief floods her, carrying her away on a tumultuous river.
"Because I can't… I can't be with you yet."
Castle pulls back, reaches up to frame her face with his hands. "Yet?"
"I told you that there's a wall inside me, around my… my heart. And it's still there, Castle. I can't be who I want to be, I can't give all of myself. Not in a relationship. Not in a relationship with you. You're… you're too important, Castle. And if I do this now, if I… if I dive in to this with you, I'll drown. And I'll take you down with me."
"Listen, please. Just… let me explain everything so you'll understand."
Castle releases her face, his hands dropping to her shoulders, then sliding down her arms. He takes her hands in his, and steps back, looking into her eyes. "Okay."
She squeezes his hands and hopes he knows how grateful she is. "My therapist, Dr. Burke, and I have talked about you a lot."
A delighted grin steals over Castle's face, and she rolls her eyes. "Don't get a big head over it, Castle."
He chuckles, and lifts one of her hands to brush a kiss across her knuckles. When he lowers their hands, she continues.
"Dr. Burke knows… everything. I told him about our conversation that day on the swings. He knows how important you are to me. But I'm not sure that you know, Castle."
"Let me finish." She swallows, taking a deep breath. "You told me how you feel, and even though… even though I lied and said I didn't hear you, I've actually known, all this time, how you feel about me. But I've never told you how I feel about you. And after today, I need you to know. That I… That I love you. Because I'm afraid… I'm afraid that if you don't know, that you won't wait for me. And I… I need you to wait for me, Castle. I need to know you'll wait for me."
Tears shimmer in her eyes, and he reaches up to rub the moisture away, his thumb brushing across the fragile skin under her left eye.
"Kate." Her name falls from his lips like a benediction, reverent and wanting. "When you're ready, I'll be here." He smiles softly at her. "I'm not going anywhere."
She closes her eyes, relief pouring through her like a soothing balm to her soul. She sways against him and feels his lips brush her forehead.
"I'd wait forever for you." His lips curve into a smile against her skin. "I hope I don't have to… wait forever, that is. But I would. I will."
Kate reaches up to encircle his wrists with her fingers. "No, it won't be forever. I promise."
He lowers his head slowly, and then gently brushes her lips with his, once, twice, before he steps back, releasing her. "Stay," he murmurs.
"In the guestroom, Kate. It's late, and you've had a little to drink. And I just… I'd like you to stay. I'll make us pancakes in the morning," he says, drawing out the word pancakes as if it's an irresistible offer.
She smiles, and knows it's not the pancakes that are irresistible, but him.
So she doesn't resist. "All right, Castle. Show me to my room."
His answering grin lifts her up, and she can't help the smile that curves her lips in return.
End Note: I've missed writing. I've been gone from it for over a month and I think I've lost my groove a little bit. But that's okay, I'll keep working at it. I hope you like this – let me know by leaving me some reviews! Please? With sugar & honey on top! Or should I say… honey & milk? :)