A/N: Here is the last chapter of City Slickers. Part 3: The Root of All Evil (title provided by GHSchade- thank you for that) is coming soon. Things will be getting a little more interesting in Colorado Springs as old enemies return and the rumor mill begins to churn. Sometimes it's hard to know who to trust in the Wild West.
Thank you to all of you readers, old and new, for your continuing support for this little story. It is so much fun to write and I hope it is continuing to be fun for you to read.
Now, on to chapter 16! :)
It was another week before Kate was allowed outside of the hotel and the minute she was given her crutch, she had taken off through the doors and into the slush covered streets of Colorado Springs. Her leg had been healing nicely, she was able to walk short distances and her knee could bend most of the way. Her bruises were gone and she had put on enough weight that both Lanie and Eustice were satisfied. Those two women were bad enough on their own, but together they were a force to be reckoned with. One that Kate was more than happy to get away from as quickly as possible.
She hobbled her way a few feet down the rode before she turned back and made her way around the side of the hotel to the stables.
"Hey, girl," Kate whispered as she hopped up to Whisper's stall. "You ready to go home?"
Whisper gave a soft whinny and snort and Kate patted her gently on the nose, before leading her out of the stall. With a firm grip and gritted teeth she swung herself up onto Whisper's back, settling in like she had never been thrown off of her horse in the first place.
"You know, if it hadn't been for that darn saddle, I would have been able to hold on to you," Kate told the horse. "Luckily Rick's got all of your supplies and we don't need to carry them all back with us."
Whisper snuffled softly and Kate patted her on the neck, leaving her crutch on the ground of the stables as she took off, her legs clenched against the sides of the steed.
The ride out to the homestead was, short, almost too short but Kate was still grinning from ear to ear as she pulling Whisper to a stop and dropped back down to the ground, the horse wandering into the Beckett stables on her own. Kate bent her knees a couple of times, testing out her leg before she limped her way to her cabin. Making her way down the short path she stared at the stairs for a minute, debating whether it was worth it to walk up right then or if she should bide her time, sitting outside before making her way into the house. Once she went inside, chances are the idea of going back down the stairs would be a little too much to handle. Not that she would tell anyone that her leg was still hurting that much. If she had said that, she wouldn't have been allowed to leave her bed, let alone the hotel.
She glanced around. The early afternoon sunlight was warming her face in the ice-cold air— a strange combination but a sign that spring was just around the corner. Her gaze landed on a lone figure kneeling under the large oak tree at the edge of the property and she sucked in a short breath. Slowly, she hobbled her way across the yard, her boots sinking into the soft muddy ground. She cursed at herself for being stubborn and leaving the crutch behind as she limped along, her knee becoming more stiff with every step.
"You should be resting you know, not wandering around out here without a crutch," Josh stated as she used his shoulder to lower herself down next to him.
"Well," Kate replied. "If you hadn't been avoiding me like the plague for the past two weeks, I wouldn't have to track you down."
She leaned against his shoulder slightly, breathing heavily, tired from the overexertion on her still healing body. She rested her head against his shoulder, his arm wrapping around her as they stared at the tiny cross sticking out of the ground, a pile of rocks showing under the thin layer of dirty snow.
They both stared at the small wooden cross for long minutes. Josh reached out his hand and brushed a layer of snow off of the rocks covering the tiny grave.
"I missed you, you know," Josh confessed as he stared forward.
Kate reached out a hand to brush over the wood, her fingers tracing over the date carved in the plank. She stayed silent, waiting for him to continue.
"When you left after Sarah died. All I wanted was to be with you but you ran to the reservation. I wanted to run after you but everyone insisted that I let you be. After you didn't come home I got tired, fed up and I left. We had talked about moving east so I could go to school. I knew you weren't happy with the idea; that you wouldn't fit in, but I though that maybe you would follow me. When I came back a few years ago I though I might be able to convince you to give me another chance but you had changed so much, and you were so angry. You wouldn't even look at me. It was stupid. We were young. I just want you to know that I am sorry. I shouldn't have left you like that. I should have followed you out to the reservation. I should have convinced you to come home. I shouldn't have been there for you."
Kate shook her head against his shoulder, sighing softly. "I left first. It was my fault."
He bent his head down to rest on hers, the scruff that had grown on his cheeks over the past couple of weeks scratching her forehead.
She sighed against his shirt, her fingers coming up to play with one of the wooden buttons. "I still love you, you know. That's why it hurt so much. I think I will always love you."
Josh let out a sigh and turned his head to press a kiss into her scalp. "I will always love you, too."
Kate nodded against him again before lifting her head, turning to look at him with a sad smile, tears glistening in her eyes. "The train is coming again tomorrow. The town is putting itself back together. Lanie and Alexis have the clinic under control. Go home, Josh. You have a wife and a child waiting."
Slowly, Kate pushed herself up off the ground, her hand pressing down on his shoulder as she made her way back to her feet, his head hanging as he nodded in assent. With a final trace of her finger over the small cross, she leaned over and planted a soft kiss on his forehead, rubbing over it with her thumb, before straightening up and turning back towards the house. She never turned to look back over her shoulder. It was time to look forward.
"How long have you been out here?" She questioned as she approached her cabin.
Castle shrugged his shoulders as he stared up at her, a hat spinning between his fingers. "A few minutes. Imagine my surprise when I get back to the hotel and they tell me that you've taken off. I believe we had an entire conversation last night about me getting the wagon and picking you up so you wouldn't have to put too much strain on that leg."
Kate nodded her head as she rolled her eyes at his teasing. "What can I say, you were taking too long. I got bored and wanted to get out of there."
He nodded again as she leaned against the railing of the stairs, shifting weight off of her leg. Castle stared past her to look at Josh who was still kneeling over their daughter's grave. She watched him for a moment, waiting for the question, but it never came. He didn't was what they had been talking about. He didn't bubble with jealously over seeing her kiss him.
Castle looked back up to find her grinning down at him, her hand reaching out to brush a lock of hair out of his eyes.
"What you got there?" She questioned softly, motioning to the hat he was still spinning.
"This, my dear," Castle started as he pushed himself off of the steps so he was standing over her, "belongs to you."
He plopped the hat onto her head and her grin grew. "You brought me my hat."
Castle grinned as he bent down to kiss her, his lips meeting hers softly, and oh, too shortly, before he pulled back, reaching down to take her hand in his. "You up for going for a walk?"
Kate gave a brave nod, the throbbing in her leg, which had been there moments before, suddenly lighter.
"The train's coming tomorrow," he started as they made their way down to the tree line and along a beaten path towards the creek.
She nodded. "You have to go back to New York."
They had talked about it the night before. He would go back to New York for a couple of months, get everything in order before coming back out to live in Colorado Springs. It hadn't even been a discussion. Kate belonged out west, and Castle could write from anywhere. Alexis had wanted to stay in Colorado while he went back to New York and after a couple of arguments she had won her father over, convincing him that between Lanie, Kate and Jenny, she would be well taken care of.
"Yes, I just wanted to talk to you about something before I go."
Kate looked up at him, her arm threaded through his as they walked along side by side, her leaning against him a little more than she would have liked, for balance.
They stopped by a large, flat rock and Kate sighed in relief as she sat down, her leg stretched out in front of her. She rubbed her thigh tenderly, her focus too much on her aching limb to notice Rick kneeling down in front of her.
"What did you want to talk to me about, Rick?" she mumbled, not bothering to look up as she rubbed the heel of her hand against her knee.
When he didn't answer, she lifted her head and her huff of annoyance died on her lips as she saw him holding her mother's ring out to her.
"Your father gave me this during out hunting trip last week. He told me to make an honest woman out of you. I told him I would never be able to make you anything you didn't want to be, but I would be happy to marry you and have you make me an honest man. So, Katherine Beckett, will you marry me?"
Kate stared at him for a moment, her jaw hanging open as she forced her lungs to keep breathing. She looked at the plain gold band, with a small diamond shining from the top, in his hand and brought her eyes up to meet his.
Her head nodded slowly as she forced her jaw closed and a smile blossomed over her face. "Yes, I will."
Castle surged towards her, his arms wrapping around her middle as he lifted her up to spin her around in a circle, her legs coming up to wrap around his waist.
She slid down his body as he came to a stop and he pushed the ring down over her finger.
"I love you," he murmured as his lips came down to meet hers and she repeated the words back in kind as her mouth grinned against his.
Their kisses became long and she could feel her leg growing weaker as she leaned against him.
Slowly he lowered her to the ground and her hands came up under his shirt as her hat slid off of her head. His hands worked their way down to the buttons of her top and she gasped as she felt his lips and the cool air against the bare skin of her shoulder.
"I, um," she mumbled against his lips. "I haven't done this in a very long time."
Castle pulled back slightly, his wide eyes flickering down to her swollen lips and bare chest before locking back with hers. "Do you want to stop?"
She bit her lip, a slight blush gracing her chest and neck as she shook her head. "No, I definitely don't want to stop."
Castle nodded as her hands came up to pull his shirt over his head and he bent down so that his lips, once again, met the soft skin of her neck.
She moaned as she fell limp against her coat, the only barrier between her now bare back and the cold ground, and her knees came up to cradle him against her. "But, I swear to God, Richard Castle, if you get me pregnant, I will kill you."