To every single one of you who has read and reviewed and alerted and favourited, you are all wonderful and thank you! This is the end of the journey for this fic and you have all been so lovely in helping me get here.
It's a huge deal that I have finished this and that I have maintained a steady update schedule. I couldn't have done it without my amazing beta, eitoph, who has been nothing but helpful and encouraging every step of the way. Thank you! This last one is for you.
But what he feels most is that she doesn't kiss him back.
Apologies are already falling from his lips before he has completely untangled himself from her, "I shouldn't have done that. You're not ready. I'm so sorry."
She wonders if he even hears himself right now. If he could only hear the way he doesn't sound a thing like himself. He doesn't sound like the Richard Castle that she loves, he sounds like a broken record and she wants to fix it.
His angle makes it difficult, as he is already lumbering to his feet and away from her, but she manages to grab hold of him by his t-shirt and tug just enough that he lands back on the couch. She takes in his confused expression for one moment before she becomes the instigator of their second kiss that night.
And oh, this should have been their first kiss.
Their lips meld together as he tastes her slowly, taking his time getting to know her on this new level of intimacy. She moans into his mouth, sending vibrations of pleasure rippling through him, her hands run into his hair, pulling him forwards, impossibly deeper into their lock. It's a testament to the want and need in the room that as they break apart their bodies remain wound tightly together, clinging to every part of the other that they can.
She cuts him off, chest heaving, trying to draw breath after their long embrace, "You gotta give me some time to react."
He lets out a laugh, bowing his head in embarrassment, "I thought…"
"I know what you thought. I was just shocked is all."
She pulls him up to her again, kissing him softly, tenderly, enjoying the warmth of his lips under hers.
He pulls away just long enough to say, "Don't stop," and see her eyes widen at the prospect, as though she wasn't even close to considering it, then he pulls her back into him, never wanting to let go.
It's dark in her bedroom, but that only heightens their sense of touch as they lay naked and tangled in her sheets, their heart rates returning to resting, shivers running through them in the newness of it all.
"We are doing that again soon."
She chuckles as she runs her hands across his chest, hooking a leg over one of his, "Whenever you're ready."
And it strikes him that maybe he was never waiting on her to be ready for this. Maybe they were waiting on each other. The wall wasn't surrounding her alone; it was separating them from each other.
He grins as he rolls over, hovering above her as he brings his lips down to touch hers lightly.
And from the bedside table they hear the unwanted yet tell-tale ringtone of her phone. He hears a distinct groan as she rolls out from under him, taking the sheets with her, and takes some pleasure from the fact that she's annoyed just as much as he is.
He hears her conclude her phone call and quickly surmises that they're needed at a murder scene right away.
She's already walking to the bathroom to get ready for the day and he finds that it's an unsettling feeling seeing her walk into the shower without a backward glance, almost as though she's already forgotten that he's in her bed. He runs a hand over his face, feeling suddenly very vulnerable with nothing to cover his nudity. He should have known that it was never going to be simple with her; they couldn't just go from the extremes of fighting to making love without some residual problems making their way to the surface.
It was never going to just be easy.
He just has to remember that.
He groans as he rolls off the bed, trying to locate his pants. The sun is starting to peek over the horizon and he thinks maybe he can get some coffees ready for them to win back the brownie points that he's not quite sure if he's lost.
Then from behind him, he hears the sweetest words to come out of her mouth, "You joining me?"
He turns around, watching as her naked, wet form beckons to him.
Well, maybe it will a little easier than he hoped.
Alexis is shooing Martha out of the kitchen when he first steps through the door that evening. He catches a lingering burnt smell in the air and knows that his mother has been interfering with dinner.
"What's going on?" He asks as he tucks his jacket in the closet by the door, rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt.
The eyes of the two females shoot to him as though just noticing that someone has come through the door, "Nothing," Alexis recovers first, "Gram just needs to relax; she was up late last night making uniforms." As his mother faces him, he spies Alexis over her shoulder mouthing the rest of the story to him. Apparently Martha has lost the ability to stir gravy consistently.
Martha waves a hand through the air, "Oh I'm quite alright. Besides, I'm not the only one who was up late." She clasps her hands in front of her, leaning her elbows on the breakfast bar in the kitchen, asking questions without asking as she always does.
Alexis has stopped moving in the kitchen and he knows they're both eagerly anticipating what he's going to say next. Good or bad, he will always have these women in his life and at that moment he feels entirely too lucky.
"Yes, I was with Kate."
Alexis smiles, "Working things out, right?"
In a move that would knock the theatricality boots off Martha, Kate finds that to be the most opportune moment to step through the doorway, having been caught behind Castle in traffic on the way over. She answers for her partner as she opens the door, "Yeah, Alexis. Working things out."
She winks and Alexis' eyes widen, "Oh. Oh!"
Beckett laughs and Castle can't decide whether to feel proud or embarrassed. As Martha rushes to the kitchen to stir the gravy that Alexis has now abandoned in her attempt to clear mental images from her head, he thinks it might be a mixture of both that he's searching for.
He kisses his partner hello, even though he saw her only half an hour earlier at the precinct, and smiles as his life happens around him.
He takes her by the hand after dinner and they enter his office. The room hasn't changed a bit, but she feels as though maybe the both of them have changed since last being in it. It feels bigger somehow, less suffocating.
"Have a seat."
She feels nervous, but not in the way that she thinks something bad is coming, she just feels nerves at the unknown of it all, "You sitting too?" She asks as she finds her way to his couch. She's trying to get a feel for the situation. If he's far away he's probably got bad news.
"Yeah." He picks up the small black remote that brought about such a big fight last time and comes to sit next to her.
She braces herself as he flicks the screen on, but lets out a sigh of relief as a photo of the two of them comes up on screen. It's followed by a photo of Alexis and Castle and soon after there's a photo of Esposito feeding the birds with Ryan, "A slideshow?"
He smiles, "Yeah. Thought it might be nice to surround myself with good memories. So when I look over my shoulder I have friendly faces looking back."
He's so poetic sometimes and it makes her grin, "So, where did you put it all?"
It doesn't take him a question to know what she means and his eyes remain glued to the screen as he answers, "It's away. But not out of reach."
She nods, accepting his answer. There will be a time when this is easier, she knows it. There'll be a time when the scar tissue is healed and it doesn't hurt as much anymore. But for now, all they can do is accept that the other has stopped looking, that they've put themselves out of danger. She reaches out and touches his cheek, turning his blue eyes towards her, "Thank you."
And she kisses him.
She's ashamed to admit that the first thing she notices as they fall onto his mess of pillows and sheets is how big the bed is. It's huge. Like she could lie right across the middle and be reaching to touch the edges. When she looks back on that moment in a few months' time she'll find it as the moment her wall came crumbling down. Because lying across his giant bed is the first time she admits in her mind that she could see herself waking up next to Castle in this bed for the rest of her life.
It knocks the wind out of her, but she knows it's true.
The thoughts of his bed are quickly erased as he hovers over her, intensity in his gaze. He reaches down to kiss her, tracing a hand through her hair, pulling her up from the mattress and into him.
"I love you." Their voices meld to one as they both whisper the sentiment.
They're both excruciatingly tired, but they know they won't sleep tonight. The nightmares that plague them will not be present on their first night together, they're both adamant of that. And as they fall into a steady rhythm of passion her soft moans of "Yes, yes, yes," finally drown out the screams of "NO!" in his head.
And they relish in their beautiful life.