She calls her Dad during a commercial break, somewhere towards the end of the first film. She steps into the kitchen as the line shrills in her ear, needing a little space. If she's gonna do this, she needs a little room to breathe. She leans her hip against the sliding glass door, the chill seeping through her clothes into her skin, warm from cuddling between Castle and Alexis.
He answers on the fourth ring, his voice a little hoarse. "Hello?"
She lets out a slow exhale, her warm breath fogging up the door. She rests her fingers there. "Hi, Dad."
"Kate." His voice is warmer now, full of happy surprise.
"Yeah," she says inanely. "Just thought I'd call to see-" she breaks off on a rough swallow, closing her eyes against the words that won't come.
"I'm okay, Katie," he promises.
She nods. "You're not alone, are you, Dad? Because-"
"Bill and I are watching a game. Drinking a few root beers."
She lets out a long sigh of relief that she didn't know she was holding. A part of her thought he'd slip up, find himself staring down the bottle. And she's always been able to tell from his voice when he'd been drinking. He'd talk a little slower, a little more patronizing.
But she doesn't hear any of that today.
"We're gonna have a little dinner here if you want to join us, get outta the house for awhile."
"How about a raincheck? I'm a little tired, not sure if I should make the drive."
She didn't consider that. He's never been the greatest of sleepers, especially sober. But she imagines-
Sleeping last night was probably hard on him.
"Sure, Dad. Maybe when I get home we can go out for Italian? Just the two of us."
"I'd love that."
She smiles at the sincerity in his voice, feels her heart unclenching a little after the stress of this day.
"I'll let you go, Dad. Just wanted to call to see how you were," she says softly. Her eyes lift to find Castle's reflection shuffling toward her. He slides a large warm, palm around her waist, nudging his nose against her cheek.
"Tell Rick and Alexis I said hello."
She rests her hand over his heart, smoothing the flannel over his shirt between her fingers. "I will," she promises.
"I love you, Katie."
She sighs, a shaky, shuddering thing that rattles through her bones. "I love you, too, Dad," she says hoarsely.
"We're gonna be okay," he says quietly.
She nods, leaning into the warmth of Castle's chest a little further. He combs his fingers gently through her hair, soothing her scalp. "Yeah." She swallows. "We will."
After a moment of silence, the line disconnects. She slides the phone into the pocket of her pants and turns in his arms, smudging her mouth against his in a soft kiss.
"Thank you," she murmurs, her thumbs gliding across his eyebrows.
She feels his smile against her cheek. "What for?"
"Just...being here today. For this." She slides her arms around his waist. "I didn't know I needed it."
He kisses her forehead. "Anytime."
"Did you have any immediate plans to return to New York?" she asks, her head falling to rest on his shoulder.
"Alexis has school on Monday, so we should probably head back tomorrow. But we can leave later in the day if you want."
"What do you wanna do about dinner later? I can whip us something up or we can grab something and bring it back here."
"There's a little pizza place that's open year-round, just a few miles from here. Alexis likes pizza, right?"
"Kate, she's seven. Pizza is her favorite food group."
She laughs, her breath puffing against the skin of his neck. He shivers, rippling under her touch, her moment of joy.
She sinks her teeth into her lip, nudging her nose below his ear. "You think we can tire Alexis out so she falls asleep early tonight?" she asks. She brushes her mouth against his skin before sucking it a little, her fingers curling into his shirt.
His Adam's apple bobs, his fingers bruising at her hips. "I think that can be arranged," he rasps.
She can't think of anything better to end this tragic day than losing herself in him, the feeling of his skin slick against hers, filling her up.
"I love you, Castle," she breathes. Thanks for sticking with me after everything we've been through.
"Wild horses, Kate," he murmurs. "'Couldn't keep me away."
I know you wanted something longer, especially after how long it's taken me to finish this. And I wanted to make it longer, I truly did, but I have nothing left to say. Honestly. I admit that I lost my way with this story, but I can't deny that it's helped me make myself a least somewhat known in our little fandom. So to everyone who's read and reviewed-I thank you. It's meant more to me than you'll ever know. And I apologize for not completely delivering the way I maybe should have.