Don't Fade Away

Final Chapter


This wasn't how she expected things to go.

"We don't have to tell them right away."

He'd said it on the elevator ride up to his loft because Kate was still visibly anxious, hanging at the back of the lift, her eyes glued to the floor as she watched Castle's feet dance around in his own nervous waltz of some sort. The man was clearly feeding off of her nervous energy and was beginning to lose his nerve on the whole thing himself, too.

"I mean, normally you don't introduce your girlfriend to your family before the first date, right?" he chuckled nervously, running a hand through his hair. He'd barely done a thing to it before leaving Kate's apartment and mussing it up more with his hand was not helping his appearance any whatsoever.

"Castle, I already know your family," she said needlessly because duh, but damn it if that didn't come out shakier than she'd thought it would.

"Right. Yeah. I just mean—"

"I'm okay," she assured him quickly, though her eyes were shut and her hands were still gripping the interior railing of the elevator. He could see the whites of her knuckles every time she squeezed the bar tight enough.

"Hey," Castle said softly, then pressed his lips to her forehead as he tugged her hands from the rail. "They love you, Kate. You know they love you."

She nodded, felt the need to assure him again. "I'm fine, Castle. I'm in this."

The elevator pinged, marking their arrival at his floor and they both startled at the noise before shuffling out and into the hallway, Kate trailing slowly behind him, still mildly hesitant. She was really letting her thoughts and worries get ahead of her the closer they got to his front door. It was one thing for her and Castle to be completely and openly smitten with each other, but an entirely different matter when it came down to breaking the news to everyone they love. Especially family. Martha she had no doubts about. But Alexis...

All she could think about in this moment was how angry the girl appeared outside that bank, and the way she'd stared her down inside the morgue after interrupting the conversation about Sophia Turner. The image of the teen's arms folded across her chest made her heart quicken in her chest.

Especially given...well...recent circumstances. Like lies and blondes and spending the night in the emergency room before curling up on the couch and then her bed, and...

Okay, slow down, Kate.

They've gotten along before. Hell, Alexis even worked in the precinct briefly at one point. She called her up for advice on school abroad. Castle said that Alexis looked up to her.

Alexis wouldn't be so quick to disapprove, right?

Her doubts getting the best of her, Kate reached out and gave a little tug on the back of his jacket but didn't do or say anything further than that.

Key pressed into the lock but doorknob left untouched an unturned, Castle turned back around to her, meeting her eyes, seeing the untold explanation in the depths of her forest green eyes. He nodded once.

"We'll wait," he said. "We can just go in, hang out for a bit, see where it goes from there.

She let out a long breath of air at the relief of it all, but then he unlocked the door and they were instantly met with his mother and now it feels like all hell has broken loose inside of Kate Beckett's mind.


No.

This was not how she expected things to go. Not at all.

It's not as though her partner's mother's actions were anything out of the ordinary at first; she's been grappled into a fierce hug and twirled around on more than one occasion, and it's not as though Martha has never asked them if they were going out on a date before or what they would be doing when going out together in evening wear.

But this time seems...different. Measured.

Calculating.

Ever since they walked through the front door, Castle still wearing yesterday's clothing and carrying the disheveled appearance of someone making their morning walk of shame, it's as though his mother already knows. Not just suspicion and speculation, she knows something.

She's onto them already and Kate's only managed to squeak out a, "Hi, Martha," before Castle leaves her—abandons her—to fend for herself whilst he cleans himself up a bit. Martha exclaims that she and Alexis have seen him walk in the door looking far worse for wear before and he actually blushes looking over at Kate before insisting upon gussying up before his daughter made her way downstairs.

Which is where Kate now finds herself: downstairs, alone with her shiny new boyfriend's mother, the bounce in the elder woman's step and flair in her every word and motion.

Martha is going on and on about some play of hers that her school has been working on but Kate's not really catching any of the specifics. She's more or less catching the actions and nuances, not necessarily the meaning of the words.

She's always known his mother to be fairly energetic, but at this hour of the morning, she's been far too energized for the nightlife-loving, sometimes morning hangover-affected Martha she's used to hearing about. There's also this twinkle in the elder woman's eye and knowing look that she keeps giving her, despite the words that she's speaking, that makes Kate squirm under perceived scrutiny whenever Martha glances her way.

She's a trained detective, damn it, but Martha Rodgers is currently giving her a run for her money when it comes to detecting things. It wouldn't bother her so much, she thinks, if Martha would just call them out on it already instead of all the smiling and looking so obviously ecstatic.

"So darling," the elder woman begins and Kate thinks to herself Okay, here we go...

"How's work?"

Once again, not what she expected. Small talk? Really? Okay. She can do small talk.

"Fine."

Well, she's probably looking for more than that in an answer so, "Everything is fine."

"And you and Richard are..." Martha prompts, and Kate swallows hard.

"Are...?" she throws back, testing the waters.

"Getting along."

And there's the twinkle again and the lift of her lips and eyebrows as she says it and oh, hell. She's got them pegged. Did Martha study how to be a detective at some point in her acting career, or is she just that great of an actress that she can see through their (clearly) failed performance of 'we're just friends, nothing to see here'?

Now she's wondering just how much his mother knows. Castle briefly mentioned venting to his mother about hearing her confession to Bobby after the fact, but as far as anything more recent, she has no clue.

"Yeah. We umm...had plenty of time to ourselves to talk things over." She flushes crimson as it leaves her mouth, quickly adding, "In the hospital, I mean."

Martha merely nods her head, as if in understanding and to beckon her to go on. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, she doesn't get the chance to form anything further on the subject, as Alexis comes hopping down the stairs and adds a whole new element to the already awkward situation.

"Detective Beckett," the young girl greets, and Kate can already tell Castle's daughter is eyeing her carefully.

"Alexis. Hi." She's seriously hating herself right now for her ineloquence.

"Where's Dad?"

"He's in the shower, darling. Wanted to freshen up after the long night he and Detective Beckett had."

Is it possible to burst into flame from blushing alone? Because it certainly feels like she's been set on fire.

"Right. He bumped his head last night. But he's okay?" she directs her question at the detective, and then more cautiously, "He's not...hurting?"

Kate's heart skips a beat. Speaking in subtext, just like her father. Part of her feels like Castle would be proud to see and hear this, but his daughter's clear blue eyes seem to stare right through her as she speaks and she feels more like she's being grilled by both his parent about her intentions plus the concern of a daughter for her heartbroken father all rolled into one.

Ah well, Castle's always had that strange dynamic in his family, so perhaps it is to be expected.

These are all questions she can answer though. Including the hurt. Because they've addressed the issue. They've come to terms with it, and they're moving forward.

Together.

"Yes, he's okay. The doctors checked him over for any internal injury and the test results came back normal. They stitched him up and it's going to be a little tender and swollen for a while, but he's got a prescription of ibuprofen he's been taking."

She lowers her voice then to a softer tone, so that Alexis will have no questions about how sincere and heartfelt her next words are.

"We figured things out and I promise you, he's not hurting. And I have no intention of him getting hurt ever again."

Alexis doesn't smile, doesn't start jumping for joy or congratulating them, and really Kate wouldn't expect her to. This girl has seen her father in so many relationships over the years, how could she blame her for being cautious, reserved? But she's nodding her head at her, showing Kate that she understands, and the detective takes that as a positive sign. Alexis believes her, her words, her sincerity, her promise, and she is willing to give her a chance.

A chance that Kate is in no way going to take for granted. She'll show her. She's not like the other women that have come and gone. She's in this for the long run, for keeps.

Forever.


Shortly after breakfast, Alexis has to run off to meet Lanie for her internship, and it's not long after that that Martha is rushing off to her school to teach a few classes, but not without the promise to return and cook them a fantastic celebratory feast for dinner. Unlike her granddaughter, whom gets very little of the details of Castle's love life, Martha has been Castle's one and only confidant in that respect, and she makes it clear to Kate that she's been campaigning for this courtship for years, and is so happy that they've finally taken the first step.

Under any other circumstances, Kate would feel a tremendous weight on her shoulders, a great deal of pressure and, quite honestly, she'd be absolutely terrified of the expectations a declaration like that entails. But instead, she feels none of it.

Why?

Because of Castle.

Because when the loft vacates and he looks over at her from across the room with an expression so full of unbridled love, as though she's the most beautiful creature on two legs he's ever seen in his life; when he carries her across the threshold of his bedroom, tasting her skin, her mouth, her lips and swearing he was a fool and will never let her go again; when he's whispering sweet nothings in her ear as he makes love to her for the first time, and holds her in his arms as they both drift off to sleep in post-coital bliss...

She believes him when he says that no matter how much they argue in the future, no matter how much they drive each other crazy or what obstacles may come between them, they're going to beat the odds. That today is merely the beginning of a new chapter in the love story they've been writing for the past four years.

Their "always".

And as she wakes, cards her fingers through his sleep and sex tousled hair, watching as he smiles sweetly in his slumber, dreaming about who knows what...she knows he's got her hook, line and sinker, has for a long while, and vice versa, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

Bring on the next chapter. She's ready for it.