Title: A Picture's Worth
Disclaimer: If I owned them, I'd be doing a silly dance instead of packing back up for college (read, writing this and procrastinating).
Summary: Just what was on Kate's camera after the wedding?
Author's Note: Sometimes I sit down to write one thing (Partners) and end up with something like this:
Kate laughs, throwing a hand over her mouth to cover the sound. A muffled grunt next to her tells her she's unsuccessful, so she lets loose, her giggles ringing around the room.
"Why are you so loud?" he moans, rolling over to look up at her, blue eyes hazy with sleep, hair ruffled and spastic on his head.
She smiles, the last of her laughter floating away as she runs her fingers through the chestnut hair, thoroughly calm and content. "Morning," she says quietly.
He grins, blinking a few times before turning his head to press a gentle kiss to the center of her palm. "How long have you been up?"
They've learned, throughout the year, that no matter what, she'll be up and about before he even thinks about moving, given that there isn't a case. It's in her nature to wake with the sun. So she runs, or does yoga, or makes breakfast. Or, on some mornings, stays in her pajamas, cuddled in his bed, listening to his breathing as she reads, or writes, or like today, flips through old photos on her laptop—the one that has somehow migrated to have a place across from his in the office beside the bedroom.
"Maybe an hour?" she muses, watching the way his fingers slide across the comforter to rest on her thigh, rubbing up against the warm back of her Mac, an acquisition that she's loath to admit she really can't be without.
"You say you'll sleep in, but you never do," he complains, finally sitting up to scoot up to her, his chest pressed against her as his arm slides around her shoulders.
"And you say you'll wake up early, but you never do," she retorts, tipping the laptop so he can see the picture that prompted his earlier-than-desired awakening.
His mouth splits in another grin and this time it's his loud, deep laughter that sounds out against the morning quiet. His lips feather her cheek next, and then the spot just below her ear, used as much for passion as for comfort.
"That's fantastic." She hums her consent, a hand sliding over to his thigh for a quick squeeze. "Are you just going through these?"
She nods and both of their smiles dwindle. "I kept meaning to have them developed but…" she trails off and he kisses the corner of her eye, soothing away the wrinkles there as she frowns.
"But everything hit the fan," he finishes.
Together, they turn back to look at the photo where the two of them are caught in a moment, as they so often were—are. They're on the dance floor, other couples swirling around them, but it doesn't look like it mattered at the time. His eyes have hers, his hand wrapped all the way around her waist, her free arm around his neck, their other hands twined together. How they hadn't just jumped then is beyond her, because even through the screen, and the lens, and the fog of a year behind them, it's so obvious. Their love is so very obvious.
But it's not the absurdity of their game of cat-and-mouse, will-they-won't-they that has them laughing. It's Esposito and Lanie in the background over Rick's shoulder, twin expressions of disgust on their faces, completely directed at them.
"Did they open the pool back up after that?" Rick asks, his fingers dancing on her shoulder as his other hand comes up to press the arrow, bringing along another picture, another memory.
Kate snorts at the image of Ryan and Esposito in the middle of the crowd, dancing pathetically. It looks like Ryan was actually doing the robot. Jenny's laughing in the background and Lanie looks on with barely withheld amusement. She sees Rick's profile along the edge of the photo, and as she hits the arrow, he joins the boys in the circle. Lanie has a picture of Kate's expression as the caller ID on her phone now, and no amount of blackmail has made her remove the image of Kate's easy, besotted laughter.
"They never closed the pool," Kate says as she clicks to the next picture.
"Really? Even after that summer?"
She turns her head to meet his lips, right there next to her cheek. It's chaste and quiet, like the morning, a testament to their comfort with each other, and their morning breath. When they break apart, he rests his chin on her shoulder and bumps her cheek with his nose to get her talking, invested in the soft conversation they're having.
"Even after this spring," she says, her eyes finding his.
He breaths out against her lips, a soft exhale through his nose that tells her more than the tension between his eyebrows. She reaches up to smooth it away, flutters her lips over his, rubs his nose with hers.
"No one gave up," she intones, waiting for his eyes to reopen. "Not me, not you, not the 12th."
His chin pushes into her shoulder as he nods, eyes untroubled, but darker, with the ghost of everything they've had between them, everything before the easy mornings, the passionate nights, the squabbles and laughter and love.
"Who won?" he asks, and it eases something in her chest—that they can talk so simply about the hell that was the year behind them. She's honestly surprised he hasn't asked before this.
He laughs. "Of course it was."
He doesn't ask her, but she knows he wants to know, and there's something sneaky inside her that can't wait to tell him exactly how she'd gotten that red dress she wore on their first month anniversary. They didn't tell Ryan that they celebrated every week—still do. It's a private embarrassment they share only with each other.
"2,000 dollars," she whispers, just to see his eyebrows fly into his hair.
"You're kidding," he asserts and his eyes grow wide when she shakes her head with a grin.
"How do you think I bought that 500 dollar number for our first anniversary?"
His gape turns into a heated grin, and she's lucky she can multitask, or her expensive laptop would definitely be on the floor with the way he's kissing her, all tongue, and teeth, and heat. They break apart a minute later, his eyes a little glazed, her breath a little short.
"You got in on it? Why wasn't I invited?"
Kate feels a light blush creeping up her cheeks and considers lying. But he's so damn good now—knows all of her tells—that it'll be another two hours of teasing it out of her, and full disclosure is just easier. "I may have, um, demanded an in after a night of drinking," she offers.
He smirks. "Were you betting on us, Kate?" he murmurs. But it's less playful than he intends, and she finds his eyes, pulling hers away from the image of Esposito and Castle—because he was Castle then, only Castle—on the stage, singing something she can't remember, looking like two happy, slightly drunk best men.
"Yeah," she says, smiling a little. "More like hoping, I think. But there was something more concrete about throwing down two hundred than just…"
"Trying not to jump my bones?" he interjects, grinning at her, bringing them back to this moment, rather than all those in between, some happy, some heartbreaking, some angry, and hurt, and cold, and lonely.
"Exactly," she laughs. "I'm surprised you didn't place one at some point," she adds.
He shakes his head, digging his chin into her shoulder even more. It's almost painful, but she loves it, always has, can't explain it. "Nah. I had other…bets in the works."
They're serious again, and she wonders how long it will be before they can really talk about the past without this dichotomy of gratitude and healed hurt. "I'm assuming you won?"
He begins to say something but glances down to the screen, only to laugh, the sound filling her back up. "I'd say so," he manages, nudging her neck to get her to look down as well.
She can't help the sounds she's making. She thinks they might be high and squeaky—pee-yourself-funny kind of laughing. Somewhere in this mess of photos from her SD card, they've found one of the two of them that night in the interrogation room. They're not kissing. No, she's got him slammed up against the two-way glass, snarling in his ear, while he tries to decide whether he's aroused or scared shitless.
She has no idea how Ryan managed to grab her camera, or how long he and Esposito must have been in the observation room. She's almost afraid to click to the next frame, and her fears are justified as the next picture pops up; they're on the table now, him on top of her, lips fused together, his hand already creeping up her shirt.
"And we thought we were being so careful," he says, his voice light. That fight had been anything but—a screaming match of hurt feelings, wounded pride, and deep fear on both sides.
"I don't think we were thinking at all," she admits. "I wasn't."
"I was so angry," he whispers, tracing the curve of her palm with his free hand. "And I just wanted..."
"I know," she says, jumping in before he can tunnel down. The lost time weighs on them both, as much as her scars and the one, long, thin mark along his side, where he fell onto glass in that last battle, when she shot the Dragon, when he stood by her side.
But before that, there'd been yelling and screaming, and that night in the interrogation room, they'd yelled themselves hoarse. It had been late, so late at night that everyone was gone, but for the boys, there out of solidarity. The case had broken, because Rick had finally told her about his research—had broken something and needed her help, much as he didn't want to ask. And she'd been so hurt, and he so scared, and she for him—it spiraled out, spiraled down, culminated in the fight now immortalized on her screen.
"Please tell me they didn't…keep taking pictures," he says, bringing her out of the memory.
She blushes and warily taps the next key. One last picture sits there, of her pulled to the edge of the table, legs wrapped around his hips, arms around his neck, shirt…somewhere. She feels slightly violated—can't believe her boys saw this happening, and kept watching—but then her eyes lock onto their faces in the picture, onto the complete and utter devotion that courses between them. And she can't blame the guys anymore, can't care that they'd watched him rip her shirt off, seen her pull his from his belt, probably gotten an eyeful of him palming up her chest.
Because the moment there on the screen, his arm around her waist, his other hand cradling her head as they stare at each other, is everything they've ever been, everything they'll be, captured in one moment, after the worst fight of her life.
"Wow," he breathes, his voice hoarse, throat tight like hers is.
"I want to be mad," he says, but she can hear how much he's not. "But I…can we frame this?"
She laughs and leans her head against his. "And put it where?"
"On your desk?" he jokes, his hand dropping hers to skate across her stomach, sneaking beneath the tank top she'd thrown on to go retrieve the laptop.
"Gates would love that," she snorts, running her hand up his arm, across his skin, his hair tickling the pads of her fingers.
"Then in here?" he continues, lips finding her cheek.
"Sure," she manages, closing her eyes against it, because it's overwhelming—the picture, the bedroom, the man pressing kisses into her skin.
"Can I keep you in here too?" he asks, lips at her ear now, body wrapped around her, the laptop stopping his progress.
"I'm already here," she argues, closing the device and blindly sliding it onto the floor beneath the bed, just in case they tumble off. They're not always that aware of spatial relations when they're like this. And she can barely remember the day or the time as it is.
"Always here," he amends. "Move in with me, Kate. Your stuff's here—your clothes, your shoes, your laptop. Have you even been home this week?" She shakes her head. She hasn't been home in two weeks actually, but she's not about to tell him that. "Just make it everything."
"Rick," she sighs, because they've been here before.
"What's stopping you?"
He's never been that direct—never really asked before, just cajoled and begged and used those big eyes. What's stopping her, really? She opens her eyes, looks around the bedroom that's as much hers as his, flits her gaze to the office, where he's gotten a whiteboard, and an extra chair, and a filing cabinet. She thinks of the kitchen, where she makes meals, of the living room, where they cuddle and talk, of the room upstairs where she spends time with his daughter when she's home—where she and the girl came to a tentative peace that grew into friendship.
She thinks of the guest room she's passed and wondered…thinks of the babies she's thought about. Thinks of the life she knows they want together. "I…" she stops, clears her throat.
"You don't need to answer now," he throws in quickly, almost desperately.
She closes her eyes. She'd so hoped that they were beyond this. She's open now. The stupid, stupid, damned, f-ing wall is gone, now. And somewhere along the line, he'd climbed over it anyway—probably that night in the interrogation room. That night when she and he became they.
But he's never really asked before, and she realizes that she was waiting—waiting until he asked her, real and honest, his voice just that tone, his eyes just as they look in this moment. And she sees it all there—everything he feels for her, everything he wants for her, and him, and the they they've become.
"Okay," she says, her voice a whisper, a murmur, a breath.
But he hears it. Oh, how he hears it. And then he's on her, lips, teeth, hands, tongue—kisses and laughter and delighted, devoted sex fill the next two hours. It's hot and fast the first time, slow and devoted the second, and the next half is just for kicks, because he likes to see how many times he can get her there—says it's a personal challenge. She's hardly one to argue.
She opens her eyes with difficulty to find him grinning down at her, propped up on his unused hand, proud and defiant, but decidedly tender too—so happy to be the man who gets to make her come apart.
"Damn, Castle," she sighs, just to see his eyes light up. He knows what he does to her, doesn't need the confirmation. But she likes to give it, loves to see how happy it makes him to make her happy.
She didn't always. It used to feel wrong, like she somehow couldn't deserve him, and his devotion, and care, and love. But now, after everything—after a bomb, and a bullet, and more guns, and fights, and stabs, and shots than she can count—she loves it.
"That good, huh?" he laughs, leaning in to find her lips for a moment. They've completely given up on morning breath today. She finds she can't be bothered to care.
"Yeah," she smiles, reaching up to run her fingers over the stubble of his jaw. "If I'd known move-in sex would be so good…" she trails off and lets him complete the thought on his own.
"Just wait until we have engagement sex," he says automatically.
She watches as his Adam's apple bobs as soon as the words leave his mouth. His eyes grow a shade dimmer, waiting, presumably, for her to freak out. But she's the one-and-done type, and she wouldn't be moving in if she ever had any intention of moving back out.
"Hmm," she offers, making him sweat a little. Part of her thinks he deserves it. The other part just likes to watch him figure her out. And of course, he does, even before she opens her mouth again. "Gonna be hard to top this."
"Is that a challenge, Miss Beckett?" he asks, all gravel and deep and rich.
"Propose and we'll see," she tosses back, completely at ease, with his fingers trailing up and down the bare plane of her stomach.
She finds his eyes and smiles. She sees the want there—the eager, joyous desire to pop the question right now. But he knows her, and she knows him. This is enough, more than enough, for now.
"I'm gonna keep you in bed for days," he decides, leaning down to pull her earlobe between his teeth. "And the last one will be because you just can't walk."
Kate laughs and turns her head to find his lips. "I'll look forward to being crippled."
His laughter joins hers and then he pulls on her until she's sprawled on his chest, and he's looking down at her in the mid-morning light. It's no longer early, and she has a feeling that he might just keep her in bed all day today too.
"Does this mean I can finally get you your own desk?" he asks some thirty minutes later. They've done nothing but lie there, toying with hair and fingers, sated and lazy.
"If you have to," she yawns. "But I kind of like taking yours."
"See, but then I don't have a desk. And you never let me return the favor," he pouts, his fingers trailing words that she's too tired to decipher against her back.
"I don't mess with your chair."
"No," he frowns down at her and she grins back. "But you leave it smelling like you, and all warm from your amazing ass, and then I can't get anything done."
She smiles and presses a kiss to his chest. "Wouldn't want you to forget about me in my absence," she hums into his skin.
A few years later, she picks up their wedding portrait while trying to find her keys, figuring she left them on his desk, again. He always manages to distract her when she needs to leave, and he's derailed her so thoroughly that she's lost her purse more than once. Today, as she slips back into her heels and pulls her hair back up—he just had to take it down—she spots them, ID caught beneath the silver frame.
She smiles at the photo, the two of them caught in that same embrace from Ryan's wedding, only this time, she's the one in white, and his eyes are a little moist. But it's the same look, the same love—only stronger, forged in even more fights and even more make-ups, this time fought on common ground, in one apartment, in one bed, in one home.
She's about to put it down, less than eager to leave, but more than a little late, when something catches her eye. It's a double frame, and in three years, she's never noticed. Curious, and not able to let it go, she opens the little clasp and laughs, delighted.
There, inside the innocuous, romantic photo from their wedding, is that picture of the two of them on the interrogation room table.
"If you don't leave now, I won't be held responsible for my actions," he threatens, leaning against the doorjamb, watching her with a soft smile.
She turns and finds him there, rumpled and covered in after-glow. She is too, she's sure. She knows she'll never hide it from Lanie—doesn't even bother to try anymore. She glances back at the photo and then to her husband, lip between her teeth.
"What's this? Is Detective Katherine Beckett-sometimes-Castle actually considering playing hooky today?" he asks, all mock-surprise and scandal.
She shakes her head, but he's hit it. She wants to stay home. He's leaving for a book tour tomorrow, and even with his chair beside her desk, and their bed to come home to, she'll miss him in his absence.
"Maybe," she admits on a growl that's completely for show.
He nods, apathetic, and makes his slow way over to her. "And how, one may ask, should her husband convince her to stay home?"
She looks at the picture and then back to him, only to find him on her already, his arms winding around her waist as he rests his head on her shoulder, gazing down at the photo. "Please," he whispers, his lips against her ear.
She takes a breath, moves her hands from the frame to his arms, leans into him, melting into his strong chest behind her. "All you ever had to do was ask."