Then I realized, then I realized, then I realized
I was swimming,
Yes, I was swimming
And now I'm swimming,
Yes, I am swimming
-'Swimming,' Florence + the Machine
His hand ghosts hers on the elevator, along the hall, fingers glancing off each other's, not quite holding hands but so much better. When they stand in front of his apartment, he touches her waist with his palm as if to steady her.
He unlocks the door, and Alexis bounces up from the couch, big grin and dimples, but falters for half a heartbeat when she sees Kate. The young woman recovers, comes eagerly towards them, hugs her father, leans in to do the same to Kate.
An awkward touch of thin arms and the press of cheeks, but the flicker of disappointment is completely gone from Alexis's face. If it was ever there.
"How was dinner?" she asks.
"Good. We need to invite Jim over here sometime," Castle says.
Kate's stomach flips, but he's already taking her by the fingers and tugging her down into his loft, the three of them heading for the couch. Kate ends up crammed in the corner, Castle sitting at her side, her knee tucked under his as Alexis takes the other end and stretches her legs out.
Her father pats the tops of her feet and leans back, jiggling a knee to make her legs bounce. Alexis is grinning at him, shoves a toe into his ribs; Castle huffs at her, squeezes her feet.
Kate leans against the back of the couch with one arm, watches for a moment, caught in the exchange. It's her turn, is it?, to be the witness to the father-daughter relationship. She's fine with this; they don't need her participation, but they've included her just by allowing her here. They're talking about whether or not Castle embarrassed himself in front of Jim, and it makes her smile.
She's good with this. She can handle it. No problem.
"Kate, does your dad - what does he do?" Alexis asks suddenly into the gap in conversation.
"He's mostly retired. He was a lawyer." Too. She gives the girl a shadow of a smile. "He met my mom at work."
"Like you guys," Alexis says, her face brightening.
Everyone holds a breath; the room goes still.
Kate shifts on the couch, catches Castle's forearm before he can turn and apologize. She doesn't want apologies.
"Like us," she affirms, smiling at Alexis.
The young woman breathes out, smiles back, hesitant but growing ever stronger.
Castle clears his throat, already twisting his arm to catch her fingers and lace them with his own. "Jim was telling me about his hobby - he builds stuff out of wood."
Kate lets out a little laugh. "Carpentry, Castle. It has a name."
"Yeah, that. It's so cool. He made the table we ate dinner on."
Alexis lifts her eyebrows, a miniature Castle, that same expression of impressed excitement. "Can he make - say - bookshelves? Like, something I can take to college?"
Castle sighs deeply, but Kate sits forward, scenting her chance. "Yeah. If you have an idea of what you want, a plan, my Dad can do it. What were you thinking?"
"All my bookshelves upstairs are six foot, and heavy, and that's no good. I need like - something light, Shaker style."
"Actually," Kate grins at her, tucking her feet up under her body as she leans over Castle to talk to Alexis. "Dad built a bedside bookshelf for me that I think he can do on a bigger scale. The shelves and sides are on hinges so that they fold up. That way you can carry it. It's super easy to stick in the car - great for moving back and forth to the dorms or an apartment-"
"Oh no. No. You don't get your own apartment until you're a junior in college, at least. At the very least." Castle points a finger at his daughter, then turns on Kate, narrowing his eyes. "And you. Don't encourage her."
"Ooh, yes," Alexis says with relish. "I've got Kate on my side. This totally works for me."
Kate grins at her, feels it splitting her face with how ridiculously relieved she is, how easy it was too. "I'm serious about the bookshelves. Dad works fast. And the one I've got is really durable. I've got stacks of books piled up on it."
"Thanks, Kate," Alexis grins, then pulls her feet out of Castle's lap and leans forward to kiss her father's cheek. She then opens her arms to Kate and hugs her across him; Kate embraces her back, can practically feel Castle beaming with pride above them.
Alexis leans back and gets off the couch, a hand on her father's shoulder. "I'm going to bed. Gotta get some sleep while I still can, before Lanie calls. But you should stay, Kate. Okay? Stay."
Apparently this is how this will work. Castle's daughter will invite her to stay the night.
She nods. "Okay."
Alexis catches Kate's hand as she leaves, squeezing before heading upstairs.
Kate watches her go, even as Castle's hand grips hers harder.
She's not sure how it's gotten to this, but it's beautiful; it was easier to get here than she thought. When she closes her eyes, she can feel the sink of her body into his bed, the warmth of him with her.
"See?" he murmurs, and trails his fingers across her forehead, brushing the hair back. "Much more comfortable than the couch."
"Mm." She opens her eyes and sees him over her, the smile that reshapes his face. Kate lifts her hand from her stomach and presses her fingers to his chin, the hint of dark scruff at his jaw.
He catches her fingers with his hand and kisses them, quickly, not lingering. "You falling asleep?"
"Maybe," she answers, and lets her eyes drift closed again.
He lowers her hand back to her stomach, lets go to stroke up her side and back to her face. Her head rests on his thigh, lying in his king-sized bed and sprawled diagonally across it. He's leaning back against the headboard, his fingers idly playing with her hair.
She hums again and lifts her hand to catch his this time, bring their clasped hands to her ribs, at her sternum, resting there.
He's silent for a long time. But she knows he has something to say and is just waiting for the right moment or maybe the right words. Still, neither comes.
She feels him shifting, can't be bothered to look, to find out what he's doing. He fumbles at the bedside table for a moment, comes back. She still has one of his hands pressed against her chest, their fingers laced together.
Still the silence stretches on and her curiosity overcomes her tiredness. Kate opens her eyes and turns her head slightly to look at him.
Castle is reading a book, his face hidden behind Haunted, the cover of which is a face itself, mouth open and wide-eyed in terror.
Kate laughs and Castle lowers the book, raises an eyebrow.
She turns onto her side to face him, cheek against his thigh, brings her hand to his waist. "Ghost stories?"
"You've read it?"
"Started it. Couldn't find the time to finish it. Read it to me?"
He hesitates. "It's - disturbing."
"Read until I fall asleep," she compromises.
"I don't know if anyone can fall asleep to this."
"Try me," she encourages, then brings her mouth down to the knuckles of his hand, still gripped in hers.
His fingers flex and he shakes his head. "I'll read you something better."
He tosses the paperback onto the floor and reaches for something else on his bedside table; she can't see what. He straightens up with The Time Traveler's Wife and she laughs even harder, but it's sweet.
It's very sweet.
"Okay, Rick. Read that instead."
He smiles down at her, lifts their join hands so he can run his thumb over her eyelids, closing them. She sucks in a breath at his touch and curls her knees up, feeling him warm around her.
"I'll read until you fall asleep."
She's already halfway there, really, and then she hears his voice in the dark room, and the sound of it is just right, the one thing she wanted - Richard Castle reading her a book.
"'I look at Henry. 'To happiness. To here and now.' Henry gravely replies, 'To world enough and time,' and my heart skips and I wonder how he knows. . .'"
Kate drifts out on the rumble of his voice telling a love story, how easy it is to tell.
"'. . .and then it is borne in on me that Clare knows everything, our future, our past, everything, and I shiver in the warm room. . ."
She is warm; she doesn't shiver. She's borne aloft on the rhythm of his voice in time, the promise of everything - future and past and now - having an our, having a love story to tell.
There's no struggle in this. She is just-
How easy it is with him.