Alexander & Jane: Interlude – Chapter 9

He sat silently in the study, vaguely listening to the sounds of the opening fanfare to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone drift across the loft from the living room where Alexis and Alex were camped out on the couch with popcorn and snacks, debating over whether or not the book was better than the movie. As a writer, Castle was inclined to support the former rather than the latter.

Leaning back in the comfortable cushions of the leather armchair, Castle closed his eyes and relished the quiet calm that had settled over the study. He held his glass up and swirled the liquid around before taking a generous quaff. Castle was just beginning to regain control over his conflicting emotions regarding Beckett, when her voice broke through the silence.

"My Dad wanted me to tell you he was sorry for not coming tonight," she spoke softly, with a gentle conversational tone, as if she was worried to provoke any form of quarrel between them. His eyes flirted open and he watched as she slipped gracefully down into the armchair across from him. She was also nursing a full glass of red wine. "He has a court hearing early in the morning tomorrow, and he wanted to get his beauty sleep," she continued with her explanation after pausing briefly to take a sip of her wine.

"Oh, that's okay," Castle replied, unsure how to really respond. Normally, during family dinner nights, while the kids sat down to watch their movie, the adults, himself, Kate, Martha, and Jim would find a place to sit and chat about things. Of course, with how things had been with Beckett for the last couple of months they really hadn't done that in a while. Instead they'd kind of started just joining the kids in watching whatever movie they had selected.

He flicked his tongue out across his lips anxiously and took a big gulp of his wine, glancing over at Beckett as she tucked her legs under herself and leaned back into the comfy leather armchair.

For the life of him, Castle couldn't fathom how they'd ended up alone. He vaguely remembered his Mother saying something about being invited to some after show party with an old beau, and that she wouldn't be back until the wee hours of the morning; heavily hinting that she'd probably be doing the walk of shame. Castle had groaned at the unsolicited information, and scrubbed his hand down his face in an attempt to hide his mortification at Martha's habit of always providing him with more information than he required.

"Oh, don't be such a prude, dear," Martha had scoffed, patting his cheek affectionately. "I can't attest to recent months, but in the past you two—" she was roping Beckett into the conversation "—have been known to be quite… vocal… in expressing your passions for one another." She added an exaggerated wink, which was totally unneeded, as both Castle and Beckett had known exactly what she was referencing.

"Mother!" Castle had gasped. He had gone completely beet red with embarrassment, and had been unable to meet eyes with Beckett, whose face was turned bright pink as well, while Martha bustled about getting ready for her date.

And to make matters worse, he was pretty sure that Alexis had overheard at least part of the conversation and had even shared a knowing look with Martha at the end of that particular comment. And here Castle had been thinking that he and Beckett had been so discrete at the beginning, back when they had just started renewing their physical relationship.

With his Mother out for the night, that just left him, Beckett, and the kids, who started up the movie almost immediately after Martha had breezed out of the loft in typical theatrical fashion. Castle enjoyed the Harry Potter films, but he wasn't in the mood for the whimsical fun to be had, so he'd just refilled his glass of wine and retreated into the study. And then Beckett had followed and eased down into the seat opposite him.

An awkward silence descended upon them, and neither knew how to break it. Castle squirmed uncomfortably and averted his eyes when he caught her staring at him. Her eyes were like fire, flames dancing in the low light, but the burning embers weren't that of anger or ire, but of a deeper heat that had always burned between them since the very first moment they'd locked eyes over that crowded bar all those years ago.

"I've missed you," she confessed, breaking the silence.

His eyes snapped up to her, stunned that she'd admit that. Her voice was so quiet; he almost didn't hear her. She slowly raised her glass to her lips and took a long sip, her movements smooth and graceful. Castle stared, mesmerized by the motion of her throat as she swallowed. He was in awe of her, of how she could remain so calm and collected on the outside, when, just like him, she was probably going crazy on the inside.

"So… have you really been writing?" she asked.

"Yeah," he replied hesitantly, not at all interested in Beckett discovering the treasure trove of smut based works he'd recently written, and especially when he had used characters that were a literary extension of themselves. Now that he was thinking about it, he really should delete them, otherwise he'd run the risk of his computer getting hacked and then seeing his fantasies splashed all across the internet for the entire world to see. And that was not something he wanted to see.

"Let me guess," she hummed slightly as she tapped one finger against her chin in thought. "Sex."

Castle sputtered, almost snorting out a mouthful of wine.

"Really!?" Beckett exclaimed, a saucy smile forming on her lips. "You've spent hours upon hours shadowing me and the boys at the precinct, and all you can write are sex scenes."

"Why is that so surprising?" he flushed, fumbling for a response. "Let me remind you, Detective, I really haven't been shadowing you at the precinct as of late. The only sort of inspiration I can get from you right now involves a copious amount of raunchy sexual details that are better suited for an erotica novel rather than a murder mystery."

Beckett swallowed and pursed her lips, flicking her eyes up at him with an amazed look. "I… I still inspire you?" she questioned, a wondrous quality to her voice, not at all fazed by the implication that she was the inspiration for scenes of an erotic nature.

Castle froze like a deer caught in the headlights. Shit. He'd revealed too much. She wasn't supposed to know that he was still thinking about her. His ultimatum would only work if she knew his resolve was firm and impenetrable. Now he'd just revealed a chink in his armor. He groaned and let his head drop back against the headrest. "Please, Kate," he begged. "Don't look at me like that."

"Like what?"

"Like you're flattered."

"But I am."

"Just a couple of months ago, you'd have threatened to shoot me for writing sex scenes involving characters based on us," he countered.

She tipped her glass in acknowledge of that fact, before taking a quick sip. "A lot has changed since then, Rick," she replied, putting emphasis on the use of his first name.

"Don't."

Beckett raised her eyebrows. "Don't what?"

"Suddenly act like you care."

"But I do care," came her soft response, so quiet that he almost didn't hear it at first.

His throat clenched with conflicting emotions as he glanced back at her. "Do you?"

"Yes," Beckett answered, gazing back at him with warm eyes. "I do. I know I'm not good at showing it. But I do care." She shifted, stretching her arm out to put her wineglass down. She sat up straight and placed her hands in her lap as she took a deep breath of resolve, before returning her eyes to his. "Look, Castle, I've been thinking, and I need to tell you something."

Oh no, he thought. Nothing good ever started with those two phrases. "Please, don't," he pleaded, his voice cracking. After all the time and effort they've spent in rebuilding this relationship, she couldn't just cut and run now. Maybe he'd pushed her too far. Maybe he shouldn't have given her that ultimatum.

"Damn it, Castle," she ground out heatedly, growing frustrated. "You wanted us to talk, so let me talk!"

He swallowed past the lump in his throat and bobbed his head, preparing for the worse. Beckett sighed and ran her fingers through her luscious hair. It looked so soft now. He'd really liked how she'd let it grow out and return to its natural brown color. Jane had been a brunette, and he'd always thought Kate looked better with her natural hair color, even if that darker coloring with the hint of red was kind of cute.

"As I was saying," Beckett continued, her tone returning to that soft warm quality. "I've been doing some thinking over the last two weeks. About me. About us. About where I want us to be… what I want us to be, and I know I've made some mistakes these past few months, but…"

"Some!?" he scoffed.

"All right, a lot… a lot of mistakes, and I regret them, I do," she asserted. He blinked and gazed at her, taking in her sincerity. This was beginning to sound a lot less like a break up speech and more like an apology. "Most of all, I regret what I said that last night in the hotel. I really didn't mean it, Castle. You have to believe me," a tinge of desperation leaked out into her voice. "I would never do that to you." She paused for a beat, taking a deep breath, before locking eyes with him. "I'm not Meredith."

Castle let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding in. "I believe you," he said, noticing how her shoulders relaxed with relief. He took a deep gulp of his wine, needing the liquid courage to continue this conversation. If she was willing to talk, so should he, especially since it was his idea. "And you're not alone, either. I've made mistakes as well. Hell, we've both made mistakes."

Beckett inclined her head. "Yeah, we both have," she agreed with a rueful chuckle. "I… I just wish things could be easier. We were so happy. Things were going so well."

"They were, weren't they?"

"Yes," she smiled at him, and it was beautiful. She was beautiful.

Castle sighed and rubbed the back of his neck after he leaned forward to place his glass down. This was no time to be drinking. He needed to remain clearheaded for this discussion. "Maybe… maybe we can start over, you know, try and put this behind us… work at… at rebuilding things. Would… would that be something you'd be interested in doing?"

Beckett stared at him for a long moment and then nodded. "Yes. Yes it would. I want us to work… so very much." She leaned back in the chair and raked her fingers through her hair, blowing out a breath of hot air. "And I… I'm still not complete there, you know? I really want to be there… with you, Castle, but I'm still having trouble reconciling what you did."

"I understand," he sighed, knowing it wasn't going to be that easy. "Do you think you can ever forgive me?"

"Yes," she said after some thought, sounding so earnest that he was caught off guard by such certainty. "Yes, I do. I… I just need a little more time. Can you give me that?" Her wide eyes looked at him with a pleading quality, like she was afraid she'd done too much damage that he'd be unwilling to wait any longer for her to repair it.

"As long as it's not too long a wait," he stipulated. "I'm tired of this rift between us. And I think the kids are noticing that things are different between us. Alexis started to ask questions this morning during breakfast. I don't know how much longer I can hold her off until I'm forced to tell her. She's very grownup for her age."

"Yes, I know," Beckett smiled fondly. "You've done a marvelous job with her, Castle. She's turning into a brilliant young woman."

"Thank you," Castle returned her smile, his heart warming at the thought of his wonderful daughter. "And you've done a magnificent job with Alex. He's a great kid."

"Thanks," she ducked her head down bashfully. "But I can't take all the credit. My dad has been a big help." He grinned, always finding it amusing how it was difficult for her to accept compliments, even when they were well deserved.

A comfortable silence stretched out between them. "Yeah, so time is sort of a factor with this," Castle said, bringing them back to the original discussion. "Not to pressure you or anything, but this is beginning to effect others. So we do kind of need to address it soon." She inclined her head in agreement. "Plus, my Mother knows. She figured it out like after the first three weeks. She broached the subject once, and let me tell you… that was an awkward conversation."

"So has my Dad," Beckett added, averting her eyes shyly, a slight hint of pink blossoming across her cheeks. "He… he actually tried having a talk with me a couple of weeks back."

"Oh… that must have been embarrassing," Castle interjected with a slight smirk, just imagining Jim Beckett trying to have that sort of conversation with his strong and independent daughter.

"You have no idea," Beckett laughed, shaking her head at the memory, blushing even more. "Not something I ever want repeated, that's for sure."

They both shared a laugh at their mutual mortification at having their parents get involved in their love life. It was only a brief respite, though. Beckett was the first to sober, turning serious and nervously playing with a loose thread on her sweater. "Do… do you think we'll make it?" she hedged, unsure.

"Huh?"

"That we can go the distance?" she elaborated, glancing up at him with a sheepish expression.

Castle mulled that question over for a while, before inclining his head. "I do," he declared, firm in his belief.

"How can you be so sure?" she questioned, looking so confused and uncertain. She gestured between them. "I mean, look at us, we've really done a number on each other over the last couple of months. How can you still believe that we can make it?"

"Simple," Castle said, making sure to look her directly in the eye when he answered. "I have never felt this way about anyone before. And that's the honest truth, Kate. As far as I'm concerned, you are it for me. You are the one. No one can compare, so why even bother looking."

"Rick," her breath hitched up as she looked at him with large uncomprehending eyes, so in awe of his conviction. "I… I didn't know you felt that way."

"Well, now you do," Castle shrugged, easing out of his chair, and slowly approaching her. She stiffened, her back straightening as he dropped down to his knees before her, cautiously placing his hands on the arms of the chair to prevent her from escaping. She had a tendency to run when it got real. "I fell for Jane all those years ago, but it was Kate Beckett that I fell completely head over heels for. I loved Jane, but I'm in love with Kate Beckett."

Her lower lip trembled as her eyes began to water. "Castle…"

"Shh," he soothed, easing up and raising a hand to brush her hair away from her beautiful face as she shivered. "Tonight was a start. But I think that that is enough talking for now. And if it's okay with you, I'd like to kiss you." Castle palmed her jaw and caressed her cheek with the pad of his thumb, seeking permission.

She bit her lower lip and inclined her head, closing her eyes as she eased into his touch. Castle slowly leaned forward, holding his breath in anticipation. It had been far too long since he'd kissed her, and this was a moment he intended to savor. He brushed his nose against hers, in a sort of Eskimo kiss, providing her with some time to accustom herself with the knowledge he was going to kiss her. Her breath danced across his mouth as she parted her lips expectantly. He eased into her, a hair's breadth away from closing the distance.

"Hey Mom, can I have a…?"

Startled, he immediately pulled away and turned towards the doorway, seeing a wide-eyed Alex standing there as he glanced back and forth between his mother and father, his face turning bright red in embarrassment.

"Yes, Alex?" Beckett questioned, breathily, the first to return to reality as Castle stayed completely still, a blush darkening his face. Alexis had caught him and Gina once—and they'd been doing far more than just almost kissing—but she had been too young to fully understand what they were doing. He knew he shouldn't be embarrassed about being caught in an almost kiss with the mother of his son, but they'd never really been that intimate around Alex before. The closest they'd ever come to that was holding hands and lingering hugs.

"Um…," Alex stammered, just as incoherent as his father.

"You wanted to ask me something?" Beckett asked, leaning back and brushing a hand through her hair.

"Yeah, yeah," he rushed out. "Can… can I have a soda?"

Beckett glanced at her wristwatch. "I don't know. It's a little late," she said, noticing the hour. "But, seeing as it's a Friday, sure, knock yourself out."

"Really?" Alex was amazed.

"Yes, really," Beckett smiled fondly at her son. "Go get yourself a soda and we'll be out in a moment to join you guys."

"Okay! Cool. Thanks Mom!" Alex enthused as he darted from the room, the awkward scene already forgotten.

Beckett turned back to Castle and caressed the side of his face, pulling his attention back to her. "Sorry," she said.

"Not your fault," he mumbled.

"I know," she sighed. "But still… I was really looking forward to that kiss."

"You were?" he asked, pleasantly pleased.

"Of course," her eyes sparkled as she brushed a flop of hair away from his forehead. "So, hurry up and kiss me before Alexis comes in demanding to know what is going on!"

Castle smiled happily, finally feeling like they were on the right path, and before she could change her mind, he jumped forward, surprising her as he captured her grinning lips in a heated kiss.