Leaves of Night
Only do not forget, if I wake up crying
it's only because in my dream I'm a lost child
hunting through the leaves of the night for your hands
-Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets
This time he's not leaving it for later.
This time no one says, I don't know what we are, but he clarifies it as best he can anyway:
"We're more than partners."
And she doesn't do much other than stare at him from across her apartment, the wall spelling doomsday behind her - if only in a painting that has haunted him since he's seen it.
So he has to turn and leave her there, leave her to it, because he doesn't know how to tame a wild thing, and it is breaking him to try.
He can see her heart pounding in her eyes, still alive, not bleeding out.
Not yet. And never again. And never again if he has anything-
He wants to say, Don't do this to me.
But she reaches him in a moment and collides with him, the hard angle of her elbow at his stomach, an arm hooked tight around his back, her mouth open and close but not close enough, like she doesn't know how she fits, but he does, he knows-
He slams her back with the door as it closes, his body a cove around her. She's hot and cold both, slick pools of rain in her collarbone that he drinks and slides his mouth down, his hands already working at her shirt buttons in a tight and edgy need that has him suckling at her skin as nose nuzzles down inch by inch until-
He breathes hard as his lips find the raised edge of the bullet's passage to her heart. His teeth to it, his hands cupping her as he breathes out and raises his head to look, that raw and desperate need in the back of his throat.
He moves to that top and last button, folds her shirt back to the black lace bra so he can see the thing that's been between them all this year.
She cradles his hand between hers and presses it against the scar, presses his fingers right there and he can feel her heart beating so hard beneath it, defiant and indomitable and frantic for him.
Oh God, she almost died.
He leans into her and offers a kiss, wide and slow, the slide of their tongues, the holy temple of her mouth meeting his, the two fingers against his chin, his jaw, in soft guidance and the nudge of her nose-
He pulls back, stunned and hurting and overwhelmed and in love with her-
Her mouth is an open smile hovering at his, her eyes lift to his gaze and he sees it washed clean so that all that remains is just the pure and bright want, the love.
She trails her palm down his arm and laces their fingers together even as her body shifts, drawing him after her, their interlocked hands sealing promises.
His mouth, his mouth is so good and - and it worships, it adores.
"I'm so sorry, so sorry," she hums on the arch of her body upward. His hands press to her hips to keep them still; he takes her apologies with the ruthless forgiveness of his mouth on her and it is too much, too good, it is the burning fire.
"Tell me," he rasps back at her, mouth trailing flames along her skin.
"Nearly fell off the roof. Hanging - hanging on by my fingers - my whole life hanging by my fingers-" She flickers her eyes open at his stillness and finds him hovering over her, exquisite torture on his face and then a desperate and thrumming kiss that tastes of musk and his journey over her body.
"I love you, Kate." He breathes into her mouth and she slides her legs to his hips, her arms around him, reminder and reassurance.
"Heard you," she pants, her words catching as he moves.
"Heard me?" he murmurs around her, making her vibrate, clutch at the taut muscle of his shoulder.
"Heard you calling my name. Even as my hand slipped-"
"Kate," he groans, harsh and gut-wrenching, imagined grief and shocked arousal both, her name erotic on his tongue.
"Wanted you so badly to be there, want you now," she murmurs, nudging into his nose, open for him but unable to get there. "Just you, nothing else matters-"
"Nothing," he sighs and angles his mouth against hers, the slide of lips, swallowing his breath.
It is too good, it is more than she can bear, it is the way he loves and gives, outpouring, and she finally sees him, feels him, and this is all she ever wanted.
"Love you, love you, oh, I love you-"
She breaks open, can't hold on, can't stop spilling her secrets into the haven of his body.
The morning after-
they have a morning after-
it is the brush of her fingers against his arm, her hair over his chest, that wakes him up for more - and then he gets to shower as she hums impatiently through her first cup of coffee and then he gets to flash her as he steps out (only she just smiles and puts the coffee aside and says, This is why I woke early).
Her body is so hot under the shower, her hair sleek and dark, curling slightly at her ears, her forehead, the places where its only damp, and she crowds him back to the wall.
"I love you," he murmurs against her mouth, tongue darting out to touch, to seek, unable to meet her lips because he needs everything in him to concentrate, to just breathe.
"You, just you, always you," she murmurs darkly, water and love in her eyes.
It takes him longer than it should, but when the light finally breaks free of last night's storm clouds, tripping over the bed, he realizes it's late. It's late and despite the attempt to rise, coffee and shower, they are back here again.
"Work?" he questions, her legs tangled with his and her lips lazily moving over his chest. His skin ripples every time she uses her fingers to guide her mouth. "Kate. What about-"
He clutches harder at her. "What?"
"I was - compromised. I got Javi suspended. I put Ryan in a terrible position and it might have ruined his partnership. I made unforgivable mistakes-"
"Kate," he groans, rolling her to one side so he can look at her in the sun. "What did you do?"
She blinks back something like grief, and he gentles, presses her down against the sheets with his body, a soft kiss at the corner of her mouth. When he lifts his head, she's swiping at tears.
"I should have listened to you. I should have stopped. Both times, you were right. I didn't see it. See you."
"Kate," he murmurs, wanting to still her, wanting her to know.
Her fingers curl at his neck, her eyes averted, sun highlighting the sharp angle of her cheek and the round ridge of her collarbone, limning her lashes.
"The guy who shot me. I cleared the room. I cleared the room but I wasn't paying enough attention. I was distracted by - by all of it. And he got the drop on me and Esposito both and I could've gotten him killed-" Her chest hitches and he moves in to stop her, comfort her, but she squeezes his neck and puts her other hand to his chest to hold him back. "I chased the guy to the roof. I was going to get him."
"He got you."
"He got me." She swallows and the hand drops from him, letting him lower his mouth to trace the path of that swallow, the underside of her jaw, her tightly-pressed lips.
She turns her head into him and he curls an arm around her shoulders and pulls her up against him, moves them to their sides so she can do whatever she needs-
like tangle up with him, ever closer, her breaths shaky but steady against him.
"And he got away," Castle nudges.
"And he got away." She shrugs, jostling them both.
"And then you walked here in the rain?"
"I walked everywhere."
"This is a story you know already," she says, dark and smiling both.
"But I like this story. A lot. A whole lot." His chest eases to hear the smile, the tease of her again.
"I've never written my own story before," she says back, sounding clever and maybe flippant, but by the end of it, she's quiet and still in his arms and he knows she heard it too. How it sounded.
He doesn't say anything, waiting on her to figure out what she might mean. Her fingers trace patterns against his shoulder and after a moment, he realizes she's writing her badge number against his skin, over and over, 41319. As if to ward off evil.
He's just about to open his mouth when her finger stops and she finally speaks.
"It's true. Everything was written for me. I've spent my whole life reacting and never writing my own ending. No more, Castle."
"You did the best you could from what you were given, Kate." He doesn't want her second guessing her whole life, not when it led them to this. Not when that woman was the one that captivated him and held him here, made him want more and better and real again.
"I interrupted movie night," she says softly.
He laughs and glances over at her. "Uh, yeah. You're forgiven."
"Oh, Alexis's speech?"
It is entirely disconcerting to talk to Beckett about everyday life when she is at least halfway naked and pressed in really, really close. Disconcerting in a good way.
"She did so well - it was beautiful."
"You're proud," Kate murmurs. "You should be."
He hums at that, no need to even speak, and he feels her lashes brush against him, the slight sigh of her body sinking deeper. And then something else hits him and tightens his arms around her.
"Sounds a little stupid, but I'm proud of you too, Kate."
"Yeah?" She's trying to sound unconcerned, but he hears it anyway, the crave for it.
"Yeah." His throat closes up because he can't begin that list, can't even start or it will never end, and so he lowers his head to the curve of her neck, breathes out erratically as her arms come up and clutch his shoulders, intimations of last night.
"Castle," she says, her mouth at his cheek, nudging into him. "Castle, don't - don't-"
He's not. He's not. He'll be okay. "I'm sorry too," he says finally.
Her arms tighten. "We're fine. That's done. It's over."
"No," she echoes. "No, but enough. Time to let it go, all of it."
She is still so strong. She is still so very - so everything.
He takes a deeper breath and lifts his head to look at her, gorgeous eyes so clear in the light that they look almost grey, the serious set of her mouth.
He wants to make it right. He wants to give her a happy ending. So first, a smile.
"We have three hours before Alexis gets home," he says.
That's all it takes to dispel the lingering haze of self-doubt. She draws a knee up and leans in to kiss him.
"Rick. That is not nearly enough time for what I want to do to you."