"No. No, Castle. This is ludicrous. And it's late."
She resisted the effort of his tug, but when Rick Castle was insistent, when Rick Castle was afraid as well, she wasn't sure she could actually stop him. Not without hurting him, at least.
He stepped inside her apartment and tightened his grip on her wrist. "I know; I couldn't get here any earlier. We don't have much time, and I don't know how bad the roads will be."
"People are traveling for Christmas holidays, not-"
"Kate. This is serious."
"Castle, this is just as bad as buying property on the moon."
"This is cataclysmic."
"This will be just another day," she said, tugging on her wrist again to test his limits. His grip tightened; she was going to have bruises. Or he was.
"Kate, please don't make me beg." His face - while usually suffused with some remnant of humor or tenderness - held only the deep lines of a man embattled, a man with the Cassandra-esque job of foretelling the fall of Troy. "I will carry you downstairs without compunction. I'll - I'll do a lot worse. You have to come with me."
"Castle, my dad is coming for Christmas-"
"I plan on driving upstate and getting your dad too - it's on the way. It's all planned out. There's plenty of room."
"This is simply crazy. You're acting-"
"It might be crazy. It might be. That's fine. But I can't take the risk that there are forces out there at work - forces which have set into motion a string of events which may cause - I don't know - I don't even know, Beckett. It could be anything from alien invasion to the collision of the Earth with a planetary body known as Nibiru, but the point is - the point is - I have the means and the resources to keep the ones I love somewhat safe. Please let me do that."
She stared at him. Not because - well, yes, because he tossed off Nibiru like it was an actual thing that existed - but mostly because he'd just lumped her into a category of people that she had only lately admitted she belonged to. Wanted to belong to. The ones I love.
"We'll get your dad," he repeated. "Please, Kate. Please."
She turned away, yanking her arm back; he actually let go. She paced away from him, panicked by his panic, like it was a thing that might be catching.
But see . . . see, she might not believe him, but she believed in him. His crazy theories often turned out partially right. And no, no, she didn't think that December 21, 2012 was the end of the world. No. She hadn't believed in Mayan curses back then and she didn't believe in them now - or rather, Mayan calendars eerily falling silent - but Rick Castle was damn persuasive, and in nearly literal agony over her refusal to go with him.
"Kate. Just - just think of it as a Christmas vacation. A somewhat enclosed vacation, but everyone will be together, and I've got it all decorated. I sent my mother and Alexis on ahead - they've been there for the last few days - and I'm wearing Esposito down, I can so tell-"
"Wait. Wait, hold on-" She held up both hands as she spun around to look at him. "Esposito?"
"And Ryan. He and Jenny are already there. Ryan thinks-"
"Ryan is a-" She bit that off and narrowed her eyes at him. "Ryan has a tendency to believe every story you spin, Castle."
"I got Lanie working on Esposito."
"There is no way in hell you're gonna make me believe that Lanie agrees with you."
He shook his head. "No. But she is okay with a free vacation." He smiled at her carefully, winningly.
For a half-second, she was persuaded, she was ready to pack a bag and spend her Christmas vacation days with him.
And then her brain cleared. "No. Castle. This is just - beyond your usual."
"Haven't you been listening to the radio?"
She startled back at the sudden change in subject. "I - don't usually?"
"It's all over the radio."
"The end of the world."
"Castle," she huffed. "Crackpot conspiracy theorists. Be reasonable."
"You be reasonable. Just come with us. All of us. So I don't have to battle my way through the zombie hordes to rescue you come December 21, Beckett."
"Or the rain of sulfur and brimstone?"
"It could be aliens. And you know what aliens are capable of. If they abduct you, Kate, I'm not so sure I could find you."
It wasn't that she really ever expected to be abducted, it wasn't that the likelihood of alien abduction loomed large - no. No, it was the way his face looked when he said he wasn't sure he could find her.
Heartbroken. Already desolate.
That was what did it. All it took.
She closed her eyes and she heard his breath catch, intense and vital hope in that gasp. Kate held a hand up for silence, warred with herself for another long and bitter moment, and then opened her eyes.
"Damn it. Help me pack. I'll go to your stupid fallout shelter."
"So help me," she warned, a threat in her voice.
"Yes, yes, whatever you want to call it," he hastened to add, turning her around by the shoulders and guiding her back towards her bedroom. "Let's pack. You can call your dad from the road."
She called her dad from the road.
"Hey, Katie. Guess what? I found-"
"Wait, Dad," she interrupted, giving her partner another long and questioning look before giving it up. "I - I'm on my way to pick you up. There's a change in plans for Christmas."
There was a moment of silence and then her father's too-cheerful voice. "If you've got to work, sweetheart, we can do Christmas early. I don't mind. It's just a day-"
"No, Dad, actually, I have the time off. That's not the issue."
"What's going on?"
"Castle is having a panic attack."
"He thinks the world is going to end."
Her father laughed, loudly, and she hoped Castle could hear it. After a moment, her father's laughter died down and he said, "What does this have to do with Christmas?"
"I - I might have enabled his delusion, just a little, Dad. He has a fallout shelter-"
"Doomsday Bunker," Castle interjected.
"Hush, Castle. I told you. No more." She glared at him, then went back to her conversation. "And I agreed to come. We'll just have Christmas there, all of us together. Is that - are you okay with that?"
"Wait. You're coming to pick me up because we're going to Rick's - ah - whatever this is? - to withstand the end of the world? For Christmas?"
She sighed, closed her eyes to get past the humility of actually having this conversation. "Yes?"
"I know. So very crazy."
"Actually, I was going to say that's sweet. He wants to keep everyone safe. He's a good man."
Wait. Hold up. "Dad. This isn't sweet. This is insane."
"Your dad thinks it's sweet?" Castle swiveled his head to look at her, eyebrows raised.
"Eyes on the road, Castle."
He turned back, but kept giving her sidelong glances, happy glances, so pleased with himself.
"Katie, I'll pack up the Christmas stuff, throw some clothes in a bag. How long are we staying?"
"Through Christmas, Dad. At least."
"Longer," Castle said loudly. "In case we have to wait out nuclear fallout - in which case it'd be years and years-"
"Castle. Shut the hell up."
"Katie," her father chided. "Be nice. I'll pack for a week. Just in case."
Castle was fiddling with the radio the moment she hung up, and she slumped against the window, lamenting the lack of control she had over her life at this moment. How had she been finagled into a week-long Christmas vacation with Richard Castle and family? And her Dad? And Lanie and Esposito and Ryan and Jenny-
"If there is fallout," Castle went on. "It's okay because I have provisions of course. I - I never expected this many people, so we'll have to be smart about it. And then of course, with three couples, we can repopulate the world, no problem. Ooh, I like how culturally diverse our Adams and Eves-"
"Castle," she growled, and opened her eyes to stare him down. "I am not repopulating the world with you."
"Well you're not doing it with Esposito or Ryan. They've been claimed."
"I'm not doing it with anyone."
"You have an obligation to the future to-"
"If you even suggest that I spend the rest of my life having your kids in some fallout shelter, barefoot and pregnant-"
"No. No." He gulped and darted nervous looks over at her. "I - that wasn't - I was thinking more about the sexy fun times?"
She stared at him.
He swallowed hard. "Okay, no sexy fun times. Got it."
She closed her eyes again, willed herself not to hit him.
"But it's going to be a lo-o-ong thirty-five years if we can't-"
"Shutting the hell up now."