Proof of Life

Castle shows up at the 12th and neither of them look surprised. Good, because there's no way they can make him leave.




All that needs to be said. Castle heads for the white board as if there's a case for him there, shakes his head and instead sits in Kate's chair. His chair is still there by the desk, always will be she told him, but he feels like that sitting in Kate's desk chair will somehow invoke her wrath, call her up.

It doesn't. Not right then. But he actually feels better for it.

"Tell me what's going on," he says finally.

"She's just - off the grid, man," Esposito says first, coming around his own desk to reach Castle at Beckett's. "We can't reach her."

"Open cases?"

"Just the one," Ryan adds, sidling up to them, file folder in his hand. "A gang shooting. Two vics. Gang initiation was our thinking."

"This the board for it?" he asks, looking past Ryan to the white board still set up next to Kate's desk. Her handwriting all over it, neat and precise in some places, sloppier as it gets to the bottom.


He stands up and heads over, eyes taking in details. It's been a while since he's stood in front of her murder board and mulled over a case. It's completely wrong to be doing it without her.

"So. Let's make our own," he says, then stutters to a stop as he realizes what that sounds like. He shakes his head. "A timeline. We'll-" he sucks in a breath, clears his head. "We'll make a timeline. Last few hours. Who was the last one to see her?"

Ryan raises his hand. "Me. Before lunch."

Castle moves, but Esposito has already beaten him to it - the board is flipped to the clean side and the marker is placed in Castle's hand. Black for the timeline. Castle nods his thanks to Espo and starts to fill in the details.

"What else?" he says, and he feels better already.

When her phone stops ringing, when it begins going to voicemail immediately, that's when it sets in.

He can't reach her. He can't find her.

She's been working a case in which the gang members often go after cops for the street cred.

He doesn't know where she is.

He sits in her chair and tries not to look at the murder board - shit, shit, he wrote her disappearance on the damn murder board, is he insane? is he taunting the universe and expecting the universe not to take everything from him?


His head jerks up.

Kate walks down the hall towards him, her face a beautiful mask of confusion. He stumbles to his feet.

"What are you - where's Dash?"

He blinks dumbly at her approach, his whole body trembling, and he can see Esposito and Ryan already rushing their way from the conference room where everything has been spread out, and if he doesn't do this now, they'll get to her first.

Castle takes the last few steps to meet her in the hall and wraps both arms around her, lifting her off her feet, his breath stuttering. His heart pounding. His body shaking in relief.


"Where's Dash? Where's our son?" she says, and her voice rises, her hands at his cheeks. "Castle. Where's Dash?"

He shakes his head, a hysterical sound bubbling up his throat that he absolutely, absolutely cannot let out, but that also means he can't answer her immediately. Her face goes ashen and that wipes out everything else.

"No, he's fine. He's fine. He's at your dad's. Just at your dad's."

She drops her head to his shoulder, squeezes his bicep. "Shit, you scared me."

Esposito and Ryan are on them now, hanging back only a little, and Castle does laugh at that. "You have no idea. Why - why is your phone off?"

She pulls back, startled, digs into her jacket pocket. "Oh, sorry. It must have died."

Castle raises an eyebrow and looks past her to Esposito and Ryan who have the same incredulity written on their faces as he does.

Her phone died.

He glances to the clock. It's been four hours. That's it. Four hours she's been off the grid and he's here plotting a murder board?


He turns her around and pushes her towards Ryan and Esposito, who were going over their gang case in the conference room when she walked in, trying to put the pieces together. "The guys wanted to show you something on the case," he says, shooting Esposito and then Ryan intense stares.

They seem to get it, and even though Kate shoots him a strange look, she follows Esposito into the conference room.

Castle rushes back to the whiteboard, quickly scrubs out most of it with a few hasty swipes of the eraser, then flips the board back over. Just in time, because here comes Kate with the boys, biting at her lower lip.

"That an idea," she says. "But I just spent four hours at Riker's hand-holding one of our witnesses, guys, so let's say we break for the day?"

At Riker's. The prison. Where they took her phone and personal effects while she visited an inmate in the jail.

"Yeah, break is good," Esposito says quickly. Ryan nods, Castle nods, they are all nodding, so relieved and feeling stupid too, at least, Castle is. Feeling stupid. He glances at the boys and sees on their faces the same pact.

She will never know of this.

How they overreacted.

Music is coming out of the Bose speakers when they get in the apartment, like he walked out with it on, totally forgetting. She raises an eyebrow at him, wants to laugh at the surprise on his face. He must not have realized, in such a hurry to get to the 12th.

"You're cute," she grins, lets him wrap his arms around her as the door swings shut. Whew, that's tight, but it means she can get in close, press her lips to his neck. "Good album." Black Keys? Yeah. Soft and sexy, just like the skin right here at his jaw, that spot that doesn't grow scruff.

He grunts and crowds into her, his mouth at her ear. "How - how much - jeez-"

"Oh?" she murmurs on a laugh. He's got his hands all over her, but she likes it. Really, he hasn't let go of her since she walked into the 12th and found him there. "How much what?"

"How much I love you, I love you, I love you," he murmurs into her neck, nudging her to the middle of the living room, his fingers at her waist, sliding under her shirt.

"Wait. What's wrong? What's wrong?" she says back, sucking in a long breath at the feel of the slow dance he does against her ribs, her breasts, already sliding her shirt off her head.

"I love you."

"Rick, please," she whispers, not at all liking the dark and desperate need in his voice, in his eyes. What's going on?

The music is rough and ready, and so is he apparently. His fingers dig into her hips as his mouth closes over her exposed skin, his body bent nearly in half over her.

The song shuffles from Never gonna give you up slow and moody to My next girl, ain't nothing like my ex girl, That was a painful dance Now I got a second chance, and she laughs despite the tinge of sorrow in the air, the taste of grief in his mouth. His next girl. Uh-huh.

He sighs at her laugh, and tension drains out of his shoulders suddenly; his touch gentles and wraps around her, his arms tighter than she might like but strong and solid and not nearly so desperate any more.

"What's wrong?" she says again. "And why exactly did you send Dashiell to my dad?"

"He's - spending the night. So we can do - do this." But he doesn't sound convincing.

"Allie?" she asks next. She knows the place is empty, but doesn't hurt to ask.

"Alexis," he grumbles, but her use of the newly-dubbed nickname has him huffing a laugh at her. She can do it too - bring him up out of his darkness with the sudden surge of amusement, humor, life.

"Yes," she concedes. "And where is our oldest?"

"Our oldest," he hums, his thumb circling her bare belly button. "She's at Joy's or Emily's or someone's, grad school applications. All day thing."

"She said the school in Chicago is four years. Did you know that?"

"No. I didn't. Still, a doctorate in social work. Sounds good."

"Mm, sure. If she wants to do that." Kate shivers, shirtless in the slight chill. It's been spring weather this March, but the nights are still cold. "Wanna take me to bed, Rick, or leave me freezing in the middle of the living room?"

He grins and steps back, eyeing her a moment. "I rather like this look. Black dress pants, no shirt, black bra-"

"You haven't even seen my underwear yet. You might like them better."

"Oh, I know I will. You're wearing black stripes. Saw 'em this morning," he adds, his thumbs dipping below the waistband of her pants. "Sexy as hell."

"Stripes are sexy?"

"You. Just you. I was worried."

She blinks, then realizes he's gone back to the original thing. "Worried. About Dash?"

"About you, babe."

She growls at him and darts in to press her teeth into his mouth, nibbling his bottom lip in retaliation for the pet name.

"Hey now, ease up. I thought you'd been shot."

"What?" she gasps, jerks back. "Shot? Who the hell told you that?"

"No. No one. I just - couldn't reach you."

Her phone. She drops her head in one hand, groaning. "Oh, Rick. I - I couldn't take it into the prison with me. And then the battery had died when I got it back."

"Ryan called me first. He couldn't reach you."

"I didn't have my phone," she whispers, crashing her forehead against his broad chest. A hand comes up to her shoulder, curls there.

"I couldn't get you either. I - did you check your texts?"

"I just - I got the picture of Dash. Asleep?"

She lifts her head to look at him; he's giving her a small smile. "Yeah. Asleep under my desk, on my feet."

"I got that one at ten this morning. Wait." She pulls back from him and takes her phone out of her pocket; she charged it a little bit at her computer before they left. It still has just enough juice for her to pull up her notifications. Four missed calls from him. The last message from Rick-


"Oh God," she whispers, lifts her eyes to him. "I am so, so sorry."

"Esposito said you guys were working the double homicide."

"Yeah," she breathes, closes her eyes against the look on his face.

"He said it's been gang initiations, but they - sometimes they go after cops-"

"Damn it, Esposito," she growls, but it's not his fault. It's hers. Her fault. She didn't even text Espo, just didn't think of it. No one knew exactly where she was, and while that's happened before, she can't be doing that any more. "I shouldn't have - I should have told someone. I thought it would be fast. Is that why you were at the station when I got there?"

He nods, lowering his head to kiss her cheek, below her eye, the edge of her eyebrow, the tendon throbbing in her forehead.

"Rick, I am so sorry. They confiscate everything at the door. I thought it would be a thirty minute interview and it turned into this all day thing. The boy witnessed everything; he wanted protection and after speaking to a cop, he couldn't go back in general population. So I got stuck-"

"It's not your fault. You don't need to apologize. Just bad timing."

"The boys got you panicked."

"They did. So I asked your dad to take Dash. Then the boys and I ran down - leads. To your whereabouts. Tracking your last known - it was - I think maybe I didn't look so hot, because Ryan kept asking if I needed to go lie down." He laughs, but it doesn't sound right at all.

She curls around him, nestling closer to his warmth, trying to soothe him with her presence. "Next time I won't be reachable, I'm letting you know. Or at least the boys. I promise. I am so very sorry."

He nods, cups her face in his wide palms. "I just - I love you. I really do. And it scared the shit out of me to think you might be hurt somewhere, and needing me, and I was just here, and I didn't even know it. All day I was here writing and having fun with Dash, and how could I not know you were - could be - might have been dying?"

"I wasn't. I'm fine. Just lack of communication. All my fault."

"It's not. It's not anyone's fault. Just really bad timing," he says, giving her a weak smile that does nothing to make that washed-out, brittle look evaporate from his eyes.

"Let me make it up to you, Castle," she murmurs, puts her mouth against his adam's apple and licks, feels him shudder hard.

His breaths are already ragged; he makes a noise in the back of his throat that causes her stomach to clench, need and pain both.

"I'm here. Let me love you, Rick, love, oh, please-" She pushes her hips into his, rocks against him slowly, trails her fingers under his shirt and along his ribs.

He doesn't disagree, doesn't say anything at all. He just curls around her, arms and legs and hips and chest meeting hers, his mouth bathing every inch of skin it finds.

She quickly unzips her pants, slides them off, trying not to lose contact with him, trying to keep him here and not back in his own head, worried and filled with worst case scenarios. As always, his overactive imagination a blessing and a curse both.

His eyes glitter in the darkness of the loft, alight with a slow-burning lust, a glorious need that awakens something equally hungry within her.

"We haven't done this in ages," she whispers.

"Two days," he laughs, but it's also a growl by the end that makes her hips jerk.

"Two days is too long."

"You say that now."

"Mm, true. But I still want you, Castle. Are you gonna take me, or leave me?"

"I'm taking." He's already pulling her thigh up and around his waist, fingers too tight.

The Black Keys seem to be stuck on that one song, over and over, and the words rattle in her head as Castle pushes her towards the couch, his body against hers in time to the music.

Made mistakes back then, I'll never do it again. That was a painful dance, Now I got a second chance.

Kate is so glad she took a half day today. The weather is that strange flux of breeziness and warm sun, feels so lovely on her skin. Castle trails along behind her, their fingers laced together as they head away from the Brazen Head, that little bookstore built inside an apartment.

"I love that place," he says, sounding happy. She turns her head to look at him and hands back her bag, making him carry it.

Whole reason she took the half-day, whole reason she asked him to take her to the book store, whole reason-

for everything.

"Why don't you look inside?" she says, and she can't help the way her fingers brush against her belly button, her heart pounding so hard.

Castle sticks his hand inside the bag and pulls out a thin picture book. Daddy Loves His Little Girl by John Carter Cash - whose parents were Johnny Cash and June Carter, a love story that Kate absolutely adores (she bought the Johnny Cash autobiography today as well, couldn't help herself).

She watches his face as he flips open the picture book, finds the father and daughter in a magical castle by the sea-

He looks up at her, stunned. Kate presses her palm against her still-flat stomach, and she sees the knowledge pass from her to him, sees it bloom in his eyes.

His mouth splits wide into a gorgeous smile, golden late-afternoon sunlight highlighting him. When his fingers flex around her hand and draw her back to him, she comes, grinning. Castle lays his hand overs her, his thumb brushes her shirt, shoots delicious sparks down to her toes.

"It's yournext girl," she murmurs, breathless with the way he's looking at her.

"How do you know it's a girl?" he says, dropping a kiss to her mouth, caressing her lips.

"Feels like it," she shrugs.

"How does it feel?"

"Easy," she laughs, raises her hand from under his to stroke his cheek. "It feels like the best thing in the world."

"Could just be different circumstances," he nudges his nose against her cheek.

"Ya think?" she says, then kisses him again. "But not just that, stud."

"Mm-hm, I think the fact that you're pregnant definitely makes me a stud."

She chuckles against him and lifts into his embrace. "I knew this time. Before you did. Yeah?"

"Yeah," he admits, laughs too.

"I could feel it. Feel her," she whispers, brushes the back of her fingers against his chest. "I could feel our baby girl."

He bows over her, his arms crushing her into a deep embrace, his laughter sounding a little choked. "Oh, God, Kate."

She wraps her arms around his neck, feels the bag from the book store pressing into her back, the knowledge - and the new life - between them. "We're going to have a baby," she murmurs into his ear.

He tightens his arms, presses a kiss into her mouth that pours liquid fire down her veins.

When she has to break for air, she realizes he's stroking his hand over her stomach, around and around.

"It's your turn," she says quietly. They're on the sidewalk in the middle of Manhattan and all she can see is him, the blue of his eyes. She hopes their baby has his eyes this time. "It's your turn, Rick."

"My turn?" he says, his voice ragged, low with what sounds like want mixed with joy. And then his confusion clears and he gives her that amazing, wonderful smile. "To name her? I get to name her. I get to name her."

"No stripper names. And nothing from Star Wars," she warns, but she's still grinning at him. "Promise me."

"Promise. Baby Kate will have a perfect name. I'm great at names."

"Baby Kate?"


She just shakes her head at him, taking his hand in hers, lacing their fingers together as he smiles at her, all that gorgeous joy beaming out of him, so wide and expansive that even the pedestrians walking past them are giving them smiles back, are twitching their lips with a contagious happiness, and it hits her - it hits her.

What she took from him last time, what she didn't let them have, because she wasn't ready for it, because she was afraid.

Not this time.

She cradles his face between her palms and lifts up into a kiss, gentle and adoring for the man who loved her through the first one and loves her enough to do it again.

But this time it's different.