The one thing she has always loved about him is his words. She loved his words even before that very first day. She loved his words before she knew his face, before he started following her around, pulling her pigtails and somehow somehow making her love him too.
She thinks that this is one thing that will never change: her love of his words. His expressions can say so much, and she's become an expert in reading them – she could paint every laugh line and contour and shadow of his face blindfolded if she had to. His actions too, have always been loud, always touching. But it has always been his words that touch her most, and she hopes it will stay that way forever. His words have a way of slipping beneath her skin, the ink they're written in embracing her blood, dissolving into every part of her until they become a part of her – so much a part of her that she could never hope nor want to extract them.
But, she thinks, these words are her favourite. Not his dedications to her, not any of his letters or books or the little notes he leaves for her in the mornings. Not any of the times he said 'Always' or his first confession, the one that caused her heart to beat faster even though it was running out of beats. No. These three words are her favourite.
Be with Kate.
That's it. Just be with Kate. That's all he ever wanted. To be with her. And although it is a fact she knew before tonight, somehow, seeing it written there on this creased up piece of paper, makes it all the more real. He loves her. She loves him. He has loved her for years. These three words mean more to her than anything, and she understands every nuance of every syllable.
He means 'What we have has always been real', 'I want you to be mine forever', 'I've wanted you for the longest time' and 'I love you' all at once
Quietly, so as not to wake him, Kate makes her way over to the windowsill, his bucket list in her hand. She's wearing his shirt, and the moonlight picks out the streams of blonde in her hair as she sits against the cool glass pane, one bare leg tucked beneath the other. The moonlight shines on his bucket list too, making the black ink gleam silver in parts, making those three oh so beautiful words glimmer. It's 4am.
Three years, Castle has been carrying this list around, safe in his wallet or in the pocket of his jacket, against his heart. She stares out across the city, picking out meaningless shapes amongst the skyscrapers and watching the play of the moon and the clouds and the stars. The silence is peaceful, reverent, almost – as though she is in church.
She smiles – that contagious, adoring smile that blossoms on her lips, bringing a rose to her cheeks and shining, glittering in her eyes.
She thinks of everything they have been through together in the past three years. She thinks of how when he held her in his arms in that freezer, as the blood was turning blue in their veins, this list was in his pocket. She thinks of how when they once stood in front of a bomb, his fingers tightly clasping hers, this list was in his pocket. She thinks of how when he stared helplessly at her in her apartment, his eyes glimmering with desperate tears and his voice, his broken voice, begging her to stop because he loved her, he loved her, he loved her, this list was in his pocket. And the top entry has been waiting for so long to be crossed off.
The smile remains on her face, but she bites down on her bottom lip as though to contain it, to stop it blossoming further, although it can't. All this time, his list has been there, with her name at the top. She thinks of all the crazy things she knows Castle would love to do before he dies – she thinks of the parachute jumps and the trip around the world and the elephant rides – and her gaze keeps returning to those three miraculous words at the top.
Three years ago, Castle sat down to write this list. And all he could think of, the first thing he thought of, was her. All he wanted was her.
And there is something so intrinsically beautiful in that concept, in the sheer terrifying yet sublime depth of his love for her, that almost makes her want to cry.
She looks over to him, her gaze caressing the strong contours of his back as he faces away from her, face buried in a pillow, sheets slung low across his hips. There's an empty whisky glass on the bedside table, the remnants of melted ice and whisky dregs just tinting the bottom a faint amber. She smiles a very different smile.
Folding up his bucket list, she silently picks her way across the room to her jacket and slips the creased piece of paper into the pocket of her own shirt, abandoned by his dresser. She's going to keep it forever, she's decided. No three words are more important to her than the ones at the top of that list.
But she can't take something that important from him without giving him something in return. Glancing back at him to make sure he's still asleep, and once she's sure he is, she tiptoes out of the bedroom in search of some paper and a pen. She easily finds some, and for the next hour she sits on the floor, knees up close to her chin, notepad resting against them. She writes by the moonlight, chewing her lower lip, smiling and hoping he doesn't wake up and miss her.
He doesn't wake, and later, she slips back under the sheets next to him and the only awareness of her returned presence he shows is to shift slightly closer to her, burying his face in her hair, the pillow now becoming superfluous. She doesn't sleep, but just relaxes in the scent of his sheets and the stupor in her head. There's a nervous twisting in the pit of her stomach, but it is the same twisting she felt when she turned up at his door, drenched, with only four words on her lips: I just want you. So she figures it's a good kind of twisting.
When 6am finally dawns, Kate manages to slide out from beneath the sheets. She decides to leave him to rest: he has no obligation to be at the precinct on time, after all. He won't be annoyed at her for leaving without him.
A few hours later, when Castle does wake, it is to an empty bed and sheets that are colder than he has grown used to. He sits up, frowning for a moment before noticing the time. Then, his frown deepens. She has left. She never leaves, at least not without a whispered goodbye and a kiss to his jaw, which usually wakes him up enough to have him following her to the precinct within ten minutes anyway.
He checks the apartment though, peering into the kitchen and bathroom to make sure she hasn't just gone for coffee or a shower. But no. Her clothes are gone from the bedroom floor, and her shoes are missing from the front door.
Frowning, and feeling just a little disappointed at being deprived of waking up next to her (his new favourite thing), Castle returns to the bedroom, and it is only then that he spots it.
On the bedside table, there's a small square of paper – lined, and precisely folded. He smooths out the creases before reading it.
It's a list – much like the one he has been carrying around for three years – only in her loopier, scrawled handwriting.
At the top, she has written four of the most beautiful words he has ever read.
Stay with Rick. Always.
It's only four words, but he understands, just like she understood his three.
She means 'I'm in this for real – no foot in the door', 'I'm never going to leave you', 'I've wanted us for a long time too' and 'I love you' all at once.
Thank you very much for reading – I hope you enjoyed it. I am so in love with this week's episode's ending, so I just had to write something in an attempt to work through all the emotions overflowing in my system about it. :)
Disclaimer – I don't own Castle.
Please feel very welcome to review – I'd love to know your thoughts!