A/N: Anyone alive after this week's episode?
If you are, here it is, the last chapter. It's been a real journey writing this story. I truly didn't think this story would be this long, my original plan had about five less chapters, so that so many of you have stuck with it and all, despite my sometimes erratic update schedule, really means a lot. I honestly can't thank you all enough for reading this and those people who have taken the time to review: alwayscastle2, htbuzz, jellybean96, TORONTOSUN, kramerjp, GeekMom, hfce, wendykw, Manxkid, PrettyLittleGG, Marlene, caskett09013, rickkate3, Anarra, MonicaKateBingCastle, psyraven, saved240307, MLN, I'm Widget, cybercorpsesnake, Harbor 85, Jclimactic and anyone anonymous, I am especially grateful to.
I hope you enjoy this.
She shut the suitcase and zipped it closed, unable to escape the feeling of finality, just moments before Castle leaned around the doorframe.
"The taxi's here."
She nodded and looked about the room, checking for anything they might have accidentally left unpacked, before replying, "I'm ready." The gift they'd bought for Alexis and all the mementoes they'd collected from their time in Bora Bora had already been packed into the bag which Castle had taken out while she finished up their packing, because apparently, 'he just couldn't organise the case properly.' When she'd finally opened her suitcase on their morning in Tahiti, he'd received quite the scolding for folding a dress that, judging from the deep wrinkles in it, he shouldn't have.
Whilst he grabbed the suitcases, she gathered her bag and coat from the bed, slinging the tan jacket over her arm. She'd miss this place; she decided as she surveyed the room once more, trying her best to savour it, to remember the nights she'd spent cuddled up close with Rick in the bed, both of them completely exhausted after days milling about the island, swimming, and then making love practically all night long.
"Kate?" Rick called from beyond the door, jolting her from her memories.
"Coming," she yelled back. With one last trail of her fingers over the silk throw folded neatly at the end of the bed, she turned on her heel and left the bedroom and the villa behind. Waiting by the door for her, Rick took her hand in one of his. His large hand almost swallowed hers, but it was a nice feeling.
His shoulder bumped hers whilst they stood watching the driver load their luggage into the trunk of the taxi. "You're thinking pretty loudly, Kate."
She offered him a wan smile. "I'm just going to miss this place that's all."
The last two weeks have been a perfect mix of relaxation, romance and fun, all just between the two of them.
Lost in memories, they were mainly silent for the cab ride until Castle said, "Remember that night on the beach?"
She blushed. How could she not? It would be quite difficult to forget something like that, even if it hadn't been only a week ago. Unfortunately for her the next morning was not quite as pleasant; at least until she'd showered that was. Sand. Everywhere. Recalling that made her shudder.
"Yeah," she mumbled.
"It was amazing," he told her. "Hands down, best night of my life."
"What about our wedding? That's not number one on your list?" she asked, smirking with a quirked eyebrow.
"That was the best day of my life," he explained, clearly quite pleased with himself for managing to avoid digging himself a hole.
She chuckled, taking his hand and threading her fingers through his; giving them a squeeze simply because she was grateful for the extraordinary man she could now call her own. She wasn't sure when, but somewhere along the way, he'd managed to turn her into quite the sap. Those walls that had once guarded her heart had been demolished and apparently not even the foundations were standing anymore.
"You know," he muttered, pulling her magazine down with a finger so she'd look at him, "there's one last thing we could do to celebrate our honeymoon before we get back to New York."
"Seriously? You want to have a quickie in the plane's bathroom?" she hissed incredulously, shooting nervous glances around the rest of the business class section of the plane in case anybody had overheard.
"What do you say? One last time while we're technically still in Tahiti?" He waggled his eyebrows at her, waiting for her response.
"Technically still in Tahiti?"
"Tahitian air," he clarified. "You know what I mean."
He was doing that thing where he begged her with just his eyes because he knew just how hard it was for her to say no. How he managed to keep his wide eyes looking so innocent when his intentions weren't exactly pure was a mystery. Sighing, she succumbed and stood up, leaving her magazine on her chair.
"Give it five minutes."
"Five minutes," he nodded. "Got it."
She walked off, leaving him in the chair desperately trying not to literally count out five minutes in his head. It was kind of difficult when all he could think about was how in five minutes – no four now – his wife's endless legs would be wrapped around his hips. Finally, he gave in. It was too much. He wanted to stop picturing it and experience the real thing so much that he no longer cared if it had been five minutes.
He couldn't help furtively glancing at the stewards as he walked down the aisle towards his wife, unable to stop internally chuckling at how he appeared to have switched positions with Kate as he made his way towards the bathroom. The notes of Mendelssohn's Wedding March stuck in his head didn't help the situation.
He knocked first, grinning when Kate opened the door only for his smile faded as she exclaimed, "Way to leave me hanging, Castle! I said five minutes not ten!"
He was sputtering an apologetic reply when she yanked him by his unbuttoned shirt into the bathroom and used his body to shut the door behind him. Before he knew it her lips were attacking his with a fervour he wasn't sure he'd experienced since the night of the storm. Her hands reaching under his shirt, resting over his abdominal muscles, were cold to his heated skin, startling him into action. She grinned against his lips as his hands clutched her hips and lifted her up against the wall behind her, the tiny compartment meaning he didn't even have to take a step forwards.
She looked in the mirror at her smudged lipstick, a result of both his hungry kisses and the hand he'd held over her mouth in an attempt to smother her loud moans, and the growing hickey on the side of her neck and swore. "I should have brought my bag."
"I can go and get it," Castle offered, zipping his pants back up.
"No, that'll make it too obvious." She knew her messed up hair and flushed skin were signs enough. Thankfully her hair was long enough to mask the mark on her neck. It was just her thoroughly ruined lipstick she was worried about. "I'll just duck my head a bit, try to hide it," she told him, quickly running her fingers through her hair in a mostly futile attempt to tame it. Somehow, she couldn't find it within herself to be angry with him for suggesting the whole sex-in-the-bathroom thing or even the lovebite on her neck.
He nodded. "So, do you want to leave first or shall I?" He thought it was a pointless question. Kate was always first in and first out in everything they did, partly because she was so used to being in command of people and partly because he was chivalrous enough that he always opened doors for her anyway.
"You go," she said, still trying to fix the damage his talented fingers and lips had wrought on her appearance.
He covered his surprise with a nod and unlocked the door; pushing it open at the same time someone else arrived to use the bathroom. The woman looked between the two of them, eyes lingering on both of their clearly post-sex hair and the hickey on Kate's neck, before smirking.
"Sorry if I, ah, interrupted something."
"Not at all, we're done," Rick replied.
"Rick," Kate exclaimed, swatting his arm.
He took her hand and towed her out of the bathroom before her cheeks could get any redder. She had just enough mind to duck her head before the made it into view of the rest of the plane, praying that no-one was paying them any attention.
Finally they made it back to their seats.
"We are never doing that again," she declared, fixing him with one glare before reaching for her bag so she could finally brush out her hair and reapply her makeup.
His disappointment was palpable. She could feel him pouting beside her even though she resolutely kept her gaze on the mirror and the reflection of her hand directing her lipstick over her lips. She didn't care how much he tried giving her that look, she wouldn't give in again.
"Kate, look at me. Just for a second," he requested, fingers resting lightly on her arm because he didn't want to have to take her chin and physically turn her face towards his own. She set dropped her hands from her face with a sigh before meeting his eyes. "I'm sorry you were embarrassed." He was sincere for a moment before getting cocky again. "Just think of it like a compliment – you're far too hot and I love you far too much to be able to keep my hands to myself for more than a few hours."
She rolled her eyes and he took it as a sign that things were okay between them again.
Since they'd landed, Castle pulled out his phone and switched it on, expecting he'd find a few Twitter alerts and maybe a text or too. He was surprised to find instead a voicemail and he was just in the process of dialling to listen to it when he received an incoming call.
"Rick, I'm glad I caught you," Gina said, huffing as though she was hurrying somewhere.
"Gina, I just landed and we've still got to pick up our luggage," he replied, walking down the steps, "so can you make this quick?"
"Absolutely, so long as you can haul ass to get here."
"Didn't you see my email?"
"No, we literally just landed and I'd just turned my phone on when you called."
"Oh, well, you've got a meeting with Paula regarding rescheduling your book tour. Black Pawn have been inundated with requests since the wedding picture was released to the press."
"A meeting? Really? It's my first day back in New York and I was planning to spend it catching up with Alexis and my mother. Can't we do it another day?"
"Sorry, Rick, it has to be today. Paula's going to be out of town with another writer for the next week. You need to be in Paula's office in forty minutes."
"Forty minutes? That's fucking impossible, Gina," he hissed into the phone only to realise that his ex-wife and agent had already hung up.
"Problem?" Kate asked.
"Sorry, looks like I'm going to have to abandon you with all the luggage and get to Black Pawn." He sighed and scrubbed a hand down his face. Sometimes his publishers were the least understanding people. "They want to schedule the book tour again. If I don't go, I won't get any say in the dates."
She nodded understandingly. "It's fine, babe. I'll see you back home later. I think Lanie wanted to meet me for a catch up coffee anyway. I might even be able to wrangle a lift home out of her."
"You're the best," he said, pressing a swift kiss to her lips before beginning to leg it through the airport so he could hail a taxi out front.
Kate watched his retreating figure before stopping to find her phone and call her best friend.
"Lanie? Yeah, it's Kate. I was just wondering if you were still free for that coffee. You are? Great! I don't suppose you could swing by the airport on your way, could you?"
"Don't tell me Writer Boy's abandoned you?"
"He's not abandoned me, per se," Kate replied, wincing at Lanie's tone. Thinking that the staff might have had enough time to start unloading the luggage onto the carousel, she started walking again, explaining that he'd had to dash to a last minute meeting.
"Guess I'll see you at the airport then," Lanie said before saying her goodbyes and hanging up.
After collecting their luggage and somehow managing to wheel two suitcases and carry two bags, Kate stopped in the arrivals lounge and waited. It would have been a boring thirty five minutes if she had not got a copy of In a Hail of Bullets with her. She was actually too busy drinking her coffee, finding the taste quite different from the beans she'd gotten used to in Bora Bora, and enjoying rereading one of Rick's older novels to even realise that Lanie had arrived until the Medical Examiner was stood in front of her with her hands on her hips.
"Look at you," she cooed. "All tanned and beautiful."
"Hi Lanie," Kate laughed, leaving her book on the table as she stood up to embrace her best friend, finding that she'd missed her quite a lot over those two weeks, even if they were probably the best two weeks of her life.
After a tight hug, Lanie said, "I've got a bone to pick with you Kate Beckett-Castle-Whatever-You're-Calling-Yourself."
Suppressing a smile, Kate asked, "Which is?"
"I slept with Javi and it's your fault."
"How is that my fault?" Kate demanded, carefully sliding In a Hail of Bullets back into her bag whilst they walked out to the car park.
"You kept buying me all that wine!"
"When? At the wedding?" Lanie nodded an affirmative. "So what you're saying," Kate summarised, "is that you were so drunk at my wedding that you ended up having a one night stand with your former boyfriend and that's my fault because I got you in said state?"
"Well, I hate to break it to you, Lanie, but you were already drunk before Rick bought us a glass of wine each."
She couldn't contain her smirk now, especially when Lanie replied, "I was?" Clearly, she didn't remember that part of Kate's wedding particularly well. Kate, on the other hand, still found the memory of Lanie slurring her words as she moaned about Javier Esposito's inability to pluck up the courage to ask her out again quite entertaining.
Lanie groaned, but it wasn't from the weight of the suitcase she lifted into her car boot.
"So, how are things between you and Espo?"
"Do you have to ask? It's awkward as hell of course."
"Are you sure you couldn't just get back together? Obviously you both still have feelings for each other."
"Girl, are you seriously giving me love advice?" Lanie asked disbelievingly.
"Maybe," Kate grinned. "I am married now, you know. Some people would say that makes me an expert on all things to do with love."
"I know, I'm still not sure I'm used to it. Kate Beckett a married woman." Lanie shook her head, shooting Kate a grin as she started her car's engine. "So, how was the honeymoon? I hear from the boys that Rick took you to Bora Bora."
"It was…" Kate trailed off as she searched for the perfect word before lamely settling on, "pretty good."
"Pretty good? That's it? I expected more of Writer Boy!"
"Shut up, Lanie!" Kate laughed. "You know what I mean. It was amazing."
They were driving for a good half an hour before they reached the little coffee shop they sometimes frequented together, just after dropping all of Kate's and Rick's luggage at the loft, and even when they'd got their drinks and were seated in two cosy, little armchairs, they still hadn't run out of things to talk about.
They'd virtually exhausted the topic of Kate's honeymoon, and, embarrassingly, she'd even told Lanie about what had happened on the plane, which had caused her best friend to cackle loudly for a good five minutes. She was still chuckling every now and again ten minutes later, whilst Kate was interrogating her about Esposito.
"What happened the morning after then?"
"Nothing happened the morning after except I woke up, realised what I'd done and ran the hell out before he could wake up!"
"So you haven't talked about it?"
"So you think it was a mistake then?"
"Well I certainly didn't plan on getting into bed with him, so I'd say that classes it as a mistake. In fact, if I remember correctly, I was set on moving on. I was having a great time dancing with that friend of Rick's, that young writer guy-"
"-Alex Conrad," Kate cut in.
"Yeah him," Lanie continued, obviously not bothered by the fact that she could even remember his name. "And then, Javi had to come along and start dancing near us, scaring the guy away!"
"I don't know Lanie, it sounds like Espo might have been trying to 'get his head out of his ass and make a move.'"
Lanie regarded her doubtfully. She'd only just begun to reply when Kate's cell rang.
"Sorry," Kate said, digging around with one hand to find her cell in her bag. "It's probably Castle."
She frowned when she saw Esposito's name across her cell phone's screen instead, but accepted the call nonetheless.
"Beckett." It was instinctive, something ingrained into her from years of barking it down the phone every time it rang.
"Shouldn't you be answering as Castle now?"
She could hear the amusement in his tone and replied, "Shut up, I'm still working that out." The words had no sooner left her lips when Lanie's phone trilled. They shared a silent look before she answered, already guessing that they were going to have to work. The only thing confusing about it was that Kate wasn't scheduled to even be on call for two more days.
"Better work it out soon, I'm afraid. We've got a situation, Gates wants you in."
Kate sighed, but replied, "Okay, give me the address?" After Javi had given her the crime scene address, Kate told him she'd be there ASAP and hung up, sending a text to Castle to let him know she'd be late home.
Having hitched a lift to the crime scene from Lanie, the two women ducked under the police tape together and entered the apartment building whilst pulling on latex gloves from the box with pens, clipboards and pieces of paperwork that Lanie always left in readiness in the trunk of her car.
Esposito and Ryan were already there in the building's lobby, the pair of them speaking to two men who were presumably witnesses of some description.
She nodded at them both, waiting until they were finished with the civilians so they could give her the lowdown on the murder while Lanie headed up to the Penthouse by herself in the elevator.
When they were done, Ryan said, "Sorry to call you in on a day off."
"It's fine," she replied. "What have we got?"
"Two victims in the penthouse apartment, one James Cleaver and his wife, Monica. One of the neighbours from the floor below called 911 after hearing shots fired. When uniforms got here, they found the two bodies but the perp had gone. While they were searching the apartment, they heard crying coming from one of the cupboards and found the Cleavers' four year old daughter hiding in there, the room locked from the outside."
"Their kid was there the whole time?" Kate asked, astonished and almost sick to her stomach at the thought of an innocent, defenceless four year old girl hearing her parents being murdered.
"Yeah," Esposito answered. "And there's something else…"
A/N: Oh, cliffhanger! Sorry (but not sorry really)!
I've got a few last things to say. First, like I've said before, this story will have a sequel. It won't be appearing straight away though. I'd like to take a bit longer to rough out the entire story arc, and try to put some attention to other projects I have before I really sink my teeth into the sequel (plus I still need to think of a title for it!) If you're worrying, at most it'll only be a month before I start posting the sequel. Secondly, just because I literally just found out, and I'm actually insanely giddy about it, I'd like to throw out a congratulations to Stana and everyone who voted for her and Castle at the People's Choice Awards. We truly are amazing fans. And finally, I just want to reiterate my thanks to everyone who has been involved with this story, whether you've just been reading it, added it to your alerts or favourites or reviewed.