It can't be the right time to say it, but he's not sure there's ever a right time for them anymore. He wanted to take her somewhere, but with the FBI's protective detail, that seems impossible. He can't imagine Agent Braun in the Hamptons, black shiny shoes filled with sand.
Speak of the devil - the burly, stone-faced devil - Braun touches his ear bud and lifts his head. "Detective Beckett is on her way up."
Finally. Castle is so sick of being alone with these guys.
He hops up from the couch, putting his laptop on the coffee table. To be honest, he's been writing like crazy for the last few weeks - the last month really - ever since the indictment process got started. When the FBI took over IAB's case, they also took most of his and Kate's access to it.
Jeez, you hand over a three-inch thick file filled with concrete, documented evidence of a man's web of criminal activities spanning a good thirty years or more, and what do you get?
A pat on the head and a protective detail that is always up your ass.
Still, he's proud of himself, even as Kate continuously reminds him that his actions that night were foolish and foolhardy and dangerous. Yeah, yeah. But he got that file and he managed to hang onto his sanity long enough to hide it in the weather tower of Belvedere Castle.
Course, he got electrocuted while doing it - some piece of equipment, something. They're not sure, never did quite figure that out. The electrocution is what zapped his memories, or at least that's the running theory.
But he's pretty sure he's got most everything back now. Daughter? Check. Mother? Check - unfortunately, all still there, everything, and he's managed to convince her to go on tour with an off-Broadway show. Better that way - safer.
Kate? Ohhhh, check check check. He knows Kate Beckett. Thoroughly.
Castle grins to himself, wolfish and lazy and so content, striding for his front door, bypassing Agent Braun.
They're supposed to find out today, find out if all this has come to fruition, if the Dragon will have to face justice. Castle hopes that Kate is coming over to keep him company for the wait, all night if that's what it takes.
Rick gets to the front door of his loft at the same time she knocks; he yanks it open and drinks her in, a long moment of relief and love that forces him forward, tugging her into his arms for a fierce embrace.
"Yeah, you too, Castle," she laughs, pushing out of his arms and looking at him strangely.
"Come inside," he answers, grabbing her by the hand. Braun stands solid and silent in the entryway. Castle isn't thrilled with having the guy in his loft, but he and Kate made a deal - she tolerates the FBI's presence in her apartment so long as he does in his.
"You got any food?" she mutters, pushing past him for the kitchen. "I'm starving. Haven't had lunch yet."
"Meatballs in a container on the second shelf." Rick follows her to the fridge, leans back against the counter to watch her. "Hey, I was gonna ask you something."
He glances back at Braun, sighs. "After you eat?"
Kate turns back to him with the lid pried off, her finger dipping into the sauce. She brings it to her mouth, licks the sauce off and hums at him, eyes flashing. She's so hungry she apparently doesn't realize how sexy-hot-not-fair that is, but when her gaze crashes into his, she laughs.
"Want some?" she murmurs, and leans in to kiss him, sharing the flavor. She pulls back, a grin lifting her lips. "There are three in here. You can have one, maybe."
"Just one?" he laughs back, fingers at her hips. She wriggles away to grab two plates, dishes out the meatballs. He opens the microwave and takes the plates from her; she pushes him aside to drape paper towels over the food.
As it reheats, she shifts closer to him against the counter, their hips and thighs touching, hands braced behind them so their elbows knock into each other.
He looks over at her with a grin, but her goofy mood has vanished, as if evaporated under the heat of this day.
"Should be sometime this afternoon," he says softly.
She nods at that, draws her lower lip into her teeth. "Yeah."
"I'm sure he'll be indicted."
She shrugs. "Never know."
"The case is rock solid. All that evidence, detailed evidence."
She ducks her head, her hair falling forward to hide her face. When she speaks next, her voice is rough. "I just - I won't be able to forgive myself if I've dragged Montgomery's name in the mud for nothing."
"It's not for nothing. And we talked with Evelyn. She made the decision with us."
Kate nods but her her eyes are filling; she closes them as if she can hold it back and he feels her elbow knocking into him.
"We share the responsibility, Kate. The whole family. You, me, Ryan and Esposito. Evelyn and her kids. We share that."
She nods again, and he's said it to her before, but he'll say it as much and as often as she needs to hear it.
The microwave dings and he steps forward, pulls their plates out. She snags the one with two meatballs, lifting an eyebrow at him, and he grabs forks from the drawer as she heads for the dining room table.
When they're settled, her knee brushes his under the table and she reaches out to squeeze his forearm, trailing her fingers down to his wrist before letting go.
They eat in silence as Braun stands sentinel in the entry.
The office is licked with sunlight, the shelves and couch and desk saturated with gold and yellow. Kate is lying on the floor, her head on a cushion, reading a book to distract herself while Castle sits in the chair and doesn't write.
She drops the book with a sigh and turns her face towards him, sees him watching her. Kate props her head on her hand, elbow hard against the floor, and reaches out with her other arm to wrap her fingers around his ankle.
He gives her a slight smile, then puts the laptop down and leans forward, elbows on his knees, staring down at her.
"Hey," he says quietly, keeping his voice low and out of Braun's hearing. "It'll be fine."
At the look in his eyes, she releases his ankle and sits up, then rises to her knees to lean forward into him, palms on his thighs. He sits back a little, a hand coming to her neck, brushing down her shoulder, and she knows he's worried, no matter what he says.
They've talked about it. A little bit. What happens if this doesn't go their way.
His hand squeezes at her neck and then his mouth comes in to brush her lips, too tender and too reverent; the kiss is so filled with desolation that she has to pull back, catch her breath.
"You're still having that dream," she says softly.
"You have that dream a lot?"
"Not so much anymore."
She searches his face, but he's open. Honest.
"I don't need the dream," he says finally, and he gives her a real smile this time. "There's this. Reality."
She quirks back a smile at him, but the terrible thing is - she's not sure there will always be this. Not if they don't get the indictment.
"What's wrong?" he says, his fingers twining through her hair.
Kate gets to her feet and pushes on him to scoot over; she sits to one side of him, scrunched in the seat, and hangs her legs off the armrest. He needs some kind of reassurance, and this is all she has - her touch, her closeness. For now.
"Kate," he says, his arms loose around her, his forehead coming to rest against hers. "What aren't you telling me?"
"No, it's not a secret. I've just - I can't help but think. If it doesn't come through."
"It will. The grand jury will indict him; we'll go to trial."
"If it doesn't happen, or after that, if he isn't convicted-"
"Listen to me, Castle." She strokes her fingers down his jaw and lifts away from him, makes herself look him in the eyes to say this. "If the grand jury doesn't return an indictment, then I am out of a job."
He sighs heavily. "I figured."
"I'll be fired. I'll no longer have the protection of the badge - if it's any protection at all. The FBI will be gone."
His face pales. "I didn't - didn't think that far ahead."
"Castle, I'll have to leave the city. Leave the state," she says, choking on the idea even as it leaves her mouth. But speaking it, the awful future, sucks some of the fear out of it, some of the horror. "To keep us both safe. If I'm not around, then you're not a threat-"
"No," he rasps, arms tightening around her. "No, Kate."
"It won't be safe for me here. He'll take me out."
She feels him gathering her up into his body, feels the tremble of his arms and the way his breath hitches.
"Castle?" She has to know he understands. He has to understand. "I'll go to Wyoming or Montana, someplace without a lot of people. I'll use my mother's money to buy some land, get a horse or something. A dog. Lots of blue sky and mountains. I'll be okay."
"It'll be okay," she murmurs, pressing her lips to his temple and closing her eyes, feeling the warm beat of his pulse under his skin. She doesn't want to leave him, doesn't want to lose him, not now.
"They'll indict him, Kate. They have to indict him."
When she gets too restless to stay still, one of Braun's guys - Swift - follows her down to the building's weight room so she can run on the treadmill. Rick stays upstairs, gets on his laptop first thing.
He's never been much for planning ahead - he likes to just see where the wind takes him, likes to be spontaneous. But Kate's the opposite, and he knows if she's bringing up places like Wyoming or Montana, she has done some research.
It takes him only fifteen minutes to find ranch property for sale in both states; he uses real estate websites to narrow down the best ones, and then he emails his accountant with specific instructions. He set up a couple of subsidiaries of the Castle brand name ages ago, mostly because he thought it sounded so cool to have a shell company, and even cooler to have to use the cloak and dagger stuff at some point in his life.
The shell company will hire a functionary to buy the ranch in Montana first; discreetly, the shell company will then immediately sign papers on the Wyoming property. He'll have access to them both within 48 hours, hopefully.
If it comes down to it, he and Kate will be on the road, headed for one of those places and her wide open blue sky. He'll buy her a barn of horses. He'll do anything if she lets him stay with her.
He checks a couple of his balance sheets, and then he wires a good deal of his money to the previously unused Caymans account. More of the cloak and dagger, back when he thought it was so cool to be sneaky, back when following around Sophia Turner made him think he'd need the spy stuff some day. The Caymans account has seen little action since he opened it, just the yearly maintenance requirements. If the indictment doesn't come through, it will be hard, almost impossible, to trace what happens to the money once it leaves that account.
He is planning ahead. This is their back-up plan - this is his back-up plan.
Because when she asked if he was still having that dream, he told her not really. But the truth is, when he wakes in the middle of the night with another layering of memory, he still thinks, instinctively, that Kate is his, that she should be there in his bed.
Sometimes she is. Sometimes she's not.
He wants her to always be there, and he is working towards that. Anything else is unacceptable.
Kate comes back soaked in sweat, trailing Swift behind her as she opens Castle's door. Of course, she has to put her key in the lock and go through it all even though Swift radioed up to Braun, and Braun no doubt let Castle know.
She insists on not using the FBI agents as runners for their lines of communication. If the FBI wasn't here, she'd be doing the same thing now - unlocking his door with her shaky hand and pushing her way inside.
Of course, Castle's waiting on her. He hands her a glass of water and she gives him a weary smile, drinks it down even as they stand there. Swift shuts the door, stays posted outside even as Braun keeps his eyes front and center.
Castle leans in, his mouth at the sweaty spot behind her ear. "Wanna shower?"
She cuts her eyes to Braun, then back to Rick, and nods with a little smile at him.
He grins and takes the water from her, gestures towards his bedroom as he returns the glass to the sink. She makes her way slowly, heading through his study first, idly wiping sweat from the back of her neck, toeing off her shoes as she goes.
She hears him trip on one of her sneakers, grins to herself. She reaches down, half bent over to get at her socks, and he comes up behind her suddenly, bumping into her, his hands on her hips.
She feels the hot edge of his body against her and stumbles, peeling her grey sock off. She stands again, nestling back into him, and his hand slides around her waist to slip his fingers under the waistband of her shorts.
His mouth sucks at the tendon of her neck; her knees run to water. He tips her back against his chest and pulls the skin at her collarbone with his teeth. She lets out a breath, long and low, reaches back to clutch at his thigh.
"Shower - shower, Castle," she manages, but her eyes slam shut when he lets his hand travel.
She pants, squeezing his leg, tries to pull away from him. He walks with her, herding her now, pushing them both towards the bathroom.
When he steps out of the shower a few minutes after her, Kate takes a moment to watch him in the mirror, the comb in her hand stilling briefly.
He yanks a towel from the warmer and drapes it over his head, swiping at his face, rubbing his hair, and she lets her eyes follow the strong lines of him. She finds herself in love with his knees, the round edges of the patellas, the bulge of tendon and muscle in ridges, the thick skin. He has a scar on the right one, wide, like there's a story there.
She's drifting back to him, so that when he drops the towel and moves to dry off, she's suddenly right there in front of him. He gives her a saucy look, leering and content, and she leans in to press herself against him.
He huffs a surprised breath at the top of her head, arms coming up around her. His palms are hot, his body a furnace that flames her, head to toe, like a brand. She lifts on her toes, feels the shudder that goes through him at her movement.
He takes her kiss with a loose grin under her mouth. She smiles back even as she hovers at his lips, touches her tongue to his. Devastation rises up in her, swift as lightning, and she has to hold on to him, clutch his biceps in a death grip.
This has to work. They have to get the indictment.
"I don't want to leave," she moans, pressing her eyes to his jaw to keep it down, keep it from spilling out. "I don't want to leave you-"
"You won't. It won't happen."
"Oh God, it might. I have to - we have to face that. Castle," she groans, crowding closer to him as if he could change the future. She won't take him away from Alexis, his mother, his whole career, but she can't stomach the idea of driving off without him.
"Whatever happens, Kate-"
Her phone rings from the bedroom where she dropped it in their rush to shower. It's the prosecutor's ring tone. She stiffens in his arms, pulls back, her eyes staring through the doorway towards his room.
Fitting that she should be naked when the call comes.
"Get the phone, Kate," he murmurs, wrapping his towel around her, tucking it into her breasts with such kindness on his face that she could cry.
Instead she clutches at the loose towel and heads for her still-ringing phone.
Castle pulls on his boxer briefs, then a pair of gym shorts. He heads to the dresser and grabs a tshirt, tugs it on over his head as he listens to Kate listening.
No words yet, just her tense concentration on whatever the prosecutor might be saying to her.
If this goes wrong, they will leave tonight. Right now, actually. This very afternoon for Montana or Wyoming and her horses, her blue sky. Oh, and a dog. They won't stop until they've lost cell service and there are more herds of cows than there are gas stations.
If she leaves this city, he's in exile with her.
Her shoulders hunch on a breath; his heart twists painfully. He can't even begin to think about his mother and Alexis. They'll have to come visit from time to time; he thinks they won't need to be truly as underground as witness protection. Just being out of the city should assure that they're no threat.
Oh God, if Kate is taken from him-
She spins around, the phone falling from her ear; her face is a mask of stunned disbelief. Or horror. It could be horror.
"Wait," he says, holding his hand up to her.
She closes her mouth, the knowledge in her eyes unreadable. She's breathing hard.
"Kate. No matter what he told you. I'm with you. I'm always with you. So you listen to me. Either everything is okay, and this is just me asking you to move in with me. Or it didn't go like we planned, and this is me asking to move in with you - in Wyoming or Montana, wherever it takes us, however long it takes, just don't leave without me."
She stumbles back, her hand still clutched around the phone. She closes her eyes for a moment, head bowed, and then she lifts her chin.
He braces himself for the worst. For packing in a hurry and running away with her.
"Castle," she rasps, her voice like sandpaper. She swallows, presses her hand against her mouth, her eyes pleading with him. He doesn't even know why. "Castle. Yes." She comes for him then, wraps her arms around his neck, cheek against his, her breath rapid, heart pounding. "Yes, I'll move in with you."
Move in with-
"The grand jury returned with an indictment," she continues, her words the sexiest thing he's heard in ages. "He's going to trial."
He's going to trial. They're taking the Dragon down.
He chokes on a laugh and wraps his arms so hard around her that he can feel her lose her breath. "We did it. Oh God, Kate-"
"We made it," she murmurs, and her mouth finds his, takes from him, again and again, needy and intense and unending. "I thought I'd never - but you wouldn't let go, wouldn't quit; you kept me going even when it was so dark, and, Castle, God, Castle, I love you so much. Through everything, since the beginning, it's always been you."
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