A/N: The title for this is taken from one of my favorite songs by Over the Rhine. If you're not familiar with them (and you probably aren't) you should check them out, they have a great blues/jazz/folk/rock sound accompanied by intelligent lyrics.
Also, I just want to thank divakat for the beta. Hopefully she will soon be posting some Castle fic of her own.
Disclaimer: I don't own them (or the song), damn it.
"So from now to kingdom come,
taste the words on the tip of my tongue ..."
"All I Need is Everything" - Over the Rhine
She thought Castle would take the day off. They had closed their latest case the previous day, except for the paperwork that she was just now finishing, and she had sent him home, his shirt speckled with the little girl's blood. The girl they had saved, she reminded herself, the one they had gotten to in time. That was what she had to hold on to when the urge to drown herself in this case made images of the one who had died rise unbidden in her mind.
It was no different from their last several cases. She had always taken her cases closely to heart - it was one of the qualities that made her a good detective, what kept her pursuit of justice sharp and hot long after many cops would have deemed the cases cold. Recently, it had become more than that, something closer to what had happened with her mother's case. It was not that she gave in to obsession in the face of personal danger the way she had in her pursuit of her mother's killer, but there was no question that she was submerging herself as a form of avoidance
But those were her problems, not Castle's. The point was, he shouldn't be here. He should be safe and happy in the bosom of his family while he recovered from the stress of chasing a murderous child molester. Instead he was walking back into the precinct and every purposeful step declared he had something in mind.
He was always dangerous when he had a plan.
"You're coming with me," he said without any prologue when he reached her desk.
Never one to respond to demands, she didn't bother to answer, just quirked an eyebrow at him.
"Okay, let me rephrase that … please, Beckett, come with me. The paperwork can wait, and if there's one thing I realized last night, it's that wallowing in these cases will swallow you whole."
"I'm fine, Castle."
"I know you are, but I can make you better."
Her practical, self-protective side was about to object but he looked so damn determined. She had to admit, despite whatever useless routines she used to refresh and recharge at home, she could still feel the miasma of their case clinging to her, taste the horror in the back of her throat, and see the terrified girl, bound and tortured, cowering in the corner of the basement. The case was over and yet she still felt its pull.
But now their suspect was charged and in custody, their evidence was strong, the DA was confident, and truthfully, the paperwork could wait. Suddenly, she wanted out. She closed her computer, grabbed her jacket, and decided to ignore the little voice in the back of her head that warned her about the dangers of spending too much time with Castle.
"Where to?" she asked.
They were about to enter the Midtown Tunnel when she questioned him for the first time. "We seem to be leaving the city," she commented in a neutral tone.
"Very observant, Detective Beckett."
"Are you planning on telling me where we're going?"
"You'll see when we get there. In the meantime you'll just have to trust me."
He eyed her to see if she was going to accept his evasion. She made a low noise in the back of her throat but subsided without further objection, and he went back to studying the road.
More than an hour passed before she brought up their destination again. The deep throated hum of the car, and several nights of uneasy slumber, had lulled her into a semi-somnolent daze, and they passed the first Brookhaven exit before she truly noticed their location.
"Castle, please tell me you aren't planning on using this trip as an excuse for kidnapping me out to your place in the Hamptons."
"We're not going to the Hamptons."
"Then where are we going. There's not a lot of island left, you know."
He could hear a very slight edge of frustration in her voice. Beckett was not the sort of woman who appreciated surprises, so he decided he needed to give her a least some sort of answer.
"Montauk. We're going to Montauk, and that's all you're going to get from me for now."
She glanced over at him, but aside from a small glimmer of anticipation in his eyes, she didn't detect any guile in his expression. "Okay," she said simply and settled back into her seat, silent again.
When he cut south to join Highway 27, she gave him a brief smile. "I always loved the name of this road," she told him. "Sunrise Highway. It sounds so full of possibilities."
"Why Beckett, I never knew you were so poetic."
"I was about to add that, at least scenically, most of it doesn't measure up to its name."
"But it's pretty out here near the end," he countered.
"Everything is pretty out here," she told him dryly. "Pretty expensive, too."
Castle shrugged and smiled at her. She could tell he was surprised at her lack of resistance, especially since matters between them had been difficult for the past few weeks. Truthfully, it was taking everything everything she had to sit quietly beside him, but she hoped this little trip might be the first step on their path back to the status quo, so she gritted her teeth and trusted him.
Another half an hour and they were wending their way slowly through the streets of Montauk. When they reached the marina, he pulled into a parking lot near a large pier. A gleaming, white ship, whose decks and windows made it clear it was designed for some sort of sightseeing, was tied to the barnacle encrusted pilings.
Beckett gave the ship a long glance. "Is that where we're headed?" she asked dubiously.
"And where would it be going?"
"Nowhere, really, just out and back." He waited for a moment, watching her struggle with her frustration, before he finished his answer. "I'm taking you whale watching."
Beckett gave him an incredulous look. He came up with some unusual ideas but this was not one she ever would have expected. Still, she had just sat through a two hour car ride and given that it was either go along with the boat trip or take another long ride back to the city, she decided to hold her peace.
When they stepped out of the car, a brisk breeze from off the water sliced through their light clothes. Back home, the city had been in the throes of a warm Indian summer day, but out here at the end of the island, exposed to the water, it was quite a bit cooler. Beckett grabbed her jacket but Castle hadn't thought about the weather change and shivered in his shirtsleeves.
Beckett looked at him with concern. "If you're too cold we could always just grab lunch and go back."
"Never," he said before he popped the trunk and extracted a large travel blanket that was a riot of primary colors. "I'll just use this if it gets too bad." He wrapped it around his shoulders, the excess material forming a cowl around his head and neck, It made him look like he was wearing some sort of oversized baboushka, fresh from the old country.
He cocked his head towards the pier. "Shall we?" he asked.
The man had no shame. Beckett shook her head with amusement and headed for the ship.
The interior of the ship was heated and featured a snack bar where Castle bought them both steaming cups of coffee, but once they started to edge away from the dock, he grabbed her hand and pulled her outside. They stood at the edge of the deck and watched as first the marina, and then the jetties that guarded the harbor entrance, slid past. The boat was nearly empty but a tour guide narrated the sights and pointed out various species of birds to the few other hardy souls who had opted to take a whale watch cruise this late in the season.
For a long time, the various birds and the looming, red and white presence of the Montauk Point lighthouse were the only sights. Beckett leaned against the rail and watched the waves, letting the brisk, sea laden breeze wash the stress of the city off of her. Castle stood by her side, watching, but quiet, as her demeanor gradually relaxed.
Finally, she turned to him. "What made you think of this?"
"Alexis and I used to take a day cruise at least once every summer. It's the best way to see the dolphins, and they were always a favorite of hers. In fact, between Montauk and Sea World, she spent the first eight years of her life determined to become a marine biologist. Then she discovered that they spent more time working with seaweed and slime than they did swimming with dolphins and that particular ambition fell by the wayside."
Beckett knew he was dreading the day when his daughter left for college, and the look on his face as he reminisced about her childhood stirred something deep inside her. After four years of working closely with him, she was well aware that he had emotional depths that he covered with his amusing banter and outrageous imagination, but she always felt closest to him when he let this side of himself shine through. She could just picture him, standing at the rail with Alexis, his childlike wonder matching her own, as they competed to be the first to see a dolphin cut through the waves.
"That's a nice story," she told him.
"But not one that explains why I brought you here," he said with a small chuckle. "I wanted to find something that felt as different from the city, and our cases, as I could. And this …" He paused to gesture towards the grey-green waves crowned by an expanse of cloud flecked sky. "This was the best I could do within a day's trip of the city."
She gave him a grateful smile. "It's perfect," she said. Then she shivered a bit.
"But a little chilly," he added. He moved to stand behind her and opened his arms, spreading wide the blanket he had wrapped around himself. "May I?" he asked, his expression gentle.
A brief flash of fear skittered across her features. But the wind was cold and he was warm, and out here, on the water with the salt spray washing her cares away, she felt very far away from the conflicted woman she was in the city. She threw caution to the wind, stepped into the circle of his arms, and let him enclose her.
At first she remained stiff within his embrace, doing her futile best to maintain some distance between them. But the warmth of his body was seductive, and slowly, her chilled limbs relaxed and she melted back against him, her hands clenched in the blanket that surrounded them.
For a long while he stayed still and let her settle back against him, making no moves that might frighten her back out into the cold. But then the guide pointed out a school of tuna, their silvery bodies breaching the waves in a feeding frenzy. He leaned forward to get a better view and his chin came to rest on her shoulder, his breath tickling her ear.
Even after the tuna slid past their starboard side, he held his position, continuing to scan the horizon in search of their next oceanic sighting. The wind whipped her hair sideways, and she closed her eyes as she felt the gentle scratch of his stubble against the nape of her neck. Suddenly, she was very aware of the long stretch of contact between them, the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed, and the easy shift of his arms around her. Heat pooled in her belly, but she did her best to ignore it and reopened her eyes to join him in his search for dolphins, whales, or whatever it was he hoped to find out in the expanse of sea and sky.
They stayed that way for a long while, wrapped in the cocoon of the blanket, suspended above the waves and disconnected from the tumult of their lives back in the city. Then suddenly, she spotted a dark shape far out on the horizon. She wasn't thinking about the ostensible purpose of their cruise, but the sight of that mighty tail slapping the ocean surface took her breath away. It was huge, so beyond them, that she couldn't help but gasp in awe.
"Castle, look," she said as she craned her body around to get a better view.
Her movement pressed her against him even more tightly, and his only response was a stifled groan. She was so caught up in the sight of the whale that at first she didn't notice his reaction. She raised a hand to try and direct his attention towards her find, but she forgot that the blanket was still clutched tightly in her fist. Her movement pulled it tighter around them, once again pressing Castle firmly against her backside.
"God, Kate, don't …" he moaned, his voice cracking a little.
She stilled instantly. A frisson of desire ran up her spine as she felt the hard length of him pressed against her. His chest rose and fell against her back, his respiration heightened with frustrated desire, and soon her own breathing matched his.
This was what she had both craved and avoided since that fear and alcohol fueled night back at the Old Haunt. The night that both changed their relationship and also, in some strange way, locked it in stasis. The night that led her to dive into her cases in a way that she never had before.
Murder as anesthesia - effective but soul searing.
It wasn't her fault. It was the case whose unavoidable parallels to her own situation had brought all her fears to the surface. Two people, too scared and damaged to confess their feelings had instead lived in torment until one of them gave up and searched for happiness elsewhere. It ended in murder but that wasn't what disturbed her. After she had wrung a confession out of the killer, after he had finally laid his feelings bare under the hot lights of the interrogation room, she would never forget the simple, plaintive words his unknowing soul mate had spoken.
Why couldn't you tell me. It would all have been different if you had just said you loved me.
Those words could have been spoken to her. That was why, later that night, she found her way down to Castle's office at the Old Haunt. She was half drunk on a mix of whiskey and dread and hadn't considered that he might be just as shaken by the case as she was. She would never know if it was her search for reassurance or his own tangled thoughts about the case that made him say just a little too much, but his words demanded an answer she still couldn't give. Terrified, she silenced him with her lips and foolishly hoped it would be enough to save them.
After the explosion, while she lay sweaty and sated in his arms, she looked into his eyes to see the question still there, stronger and more urgent than ever before. She still had no answer. Frightened, the next morning she had run and hidden in her work, hidden so deep in death that she didn't have to face the hurt she had caused him. It was the only way she could forget her fear of losing him.
And now here they were again. He was trying his best not to push her but she knew what she would see if she turned around. She knew the questions were still there. Her gut churned as her opposing fears warred within her, but deep below that was the hungry lick of lust. In the end, it was lust - easy, mind-numbing lust - that won.
In a daze, she reached for his hand and brought it to her lips. Mouth open, she pressed a kiss to his hand, tongue swirling across the ridges of his palm. Behind her, she could hear him groan and feel the tremor that ran through his body as she slipped one of his fingers into her mouth and sucked gently.
"Kate, please. You don't know what you do to me."
But she did. She knew exactly what she did to him, and although she knew it wasn't the solution, she once again distracted him from her lack of words by offering something far less frightening.
She let his finger slip from her mouth with a small, wet pop and tilted her head to one side, offering up the smooth curve of her neck. His willpower dissolved rapidly and with a ragged exhalation he lowered his lips to the proffered skin, humming against her when she shifted her hips to fit more firmly into the planes of his body.
His hands were already wrapped around her but now they found their way under her blouse as he trailed open mouthed kisses down her neck. Her fingers whitened where they gripped the railing when he dipped below the waistband of her jeans to trace the line of her panties before undoing the button on her pants and slipping his fingers further south.
He teased her, fingers barely grazing her through the soaked satin of her panties, his other hand tracing ever decreasing circles on her breast, and waited until she was breathing in short pants, a barely audible keening coming from her lips. Only then did he twitch aside the flimsy fabric and slide his fingers through her wet folds. She tilted her hips to give him better access and he took full advantage of it, slipping two fingers inside her as his thumb pressed roughly against her clit.
It was a good thing that she was facing out towards the water. The blanket wrapped around them hid their activities from view, but anyone who saw her face, eyes closed and cheeks flushed with arousal, would instantly know what they were doing. She couldn't bring herself to care. All she could think about was the feel of his hands on her, the way his lips caressed the back of her neck, and the burn at her core whose flames licked outward with every stroke of his fingers.
And that, after all, was exactly the point.
"Kate," he whispered into her ear, low and husky. "Oh, Kate …"
The sound of her name on his lips, the desperation and devotion in his voice, pulled at her heart and took her over the edge. Her release broke through her, making her legs tremble and he smothered her cry with his hand, wincing a little as her teeth pressed into his flesh. Even once her tremors eased, he went on holding her close. His own breathing almost as ragged as hers, and she could have sworn she felt the damp of his tears against her cheek.
"Your place in the Hamptons, how far is it from here?" she asked.
"Kate, don't. We can't keep …".
She turned in his arms and tried to silence him with a kiss. It didn't work. Even the taste of her tongue as it tangled with his own was not enough to stop him from pressing the point.
"We have to talk sometime," he told her, the unbearable weight of his love heavy in each word.
And still, she couldn't give him what he wanted. "Please, Rick, please just let this be enough."
He didn't need to speak, his answer was evident in his eyes. She was breaking his heart and she could barely stand it, so she reached down into herself and gave him as much as she could, as close to a promise as she could manage.
"Just for now. Could you let this be enough … for now?"
He gave in, because he always did, unable to deny her anything. His hand crept up to tangle in her hair as he pulled her into his chest and held her tight. He pressed his lips to her temple, his breath ruffling her hair as he spoke.
"For now, Kate … but not for always."