They sat quietly next each other in their first class seats, settling in as the flight attendants went through their pre-flight rituals. He, in the window seat; she, next to the aisle. Carry ons? Stowed. Belts? Fastened. Reading material? Prepped. Electronic devices? Fully charged and set to airplane mode.
"Did you know that they have found crazy amounts of bacteria on airplane seats and trays?" Castle commented randomly. Kate looked over and could see he was already white-knuckling the armrests. The plane hadn't even begun to move away from the gate, and yet his nervousness was radiating off of him in almost visible waves.
He was nervous; take off always made him nervous. That feeling of borderline weightlessness as the giant bird lifted from the earth into the sky, when one's stomach dropped down to their lower extremities, and the average layperson marveled at how such a heavy contraption could hold itself airborne. He'd had the mechanics of it explained to him before, on more than one occasion in fact, but physics simply wasn't his wheelhouse. He just knew the plane flew, and got him from point A to point B. He didn't have to understand it for it to work. And he didn't have to like it either.
"Seriously, they've found some really disgusting stuff. Like MRSA and bodily fluids and fecal material and…"
"CASTLE!" Kate snapped, and he clammed up instantly, suddenly aware of his irrational babbling. She wasn't actually angry at him; she understood his flying phobia and sympathized. But seeing as she didn't have any antibacterial wipes on-hand, she really didn't want to focus on the griminess of her current accommodations. She was tempted to point out how much nicer first class was when contrasted with coach, but she knew the comparison would be lost on him. Castle's wealth had enabled him to travel this way for ages. It was her who wasn't used to the nicer digs. But she was working on it, working on accepting his generosity and his grand displays. It wasn't easy; she would always be an independent soul by nature, but she also understood that he made these gestures with the purest of intentions, an attempt to show his love and gratitude to those who meant the most to him. And she knew she was one of those people to him.
"Listen. I get that you're nervous. I know that you always get this way before takeoff. But for God's sake, can we please stop talking about bacteria? I'm feeling kind-of grossed out by the whole topic." Kate tried to soothe him as best she could, but she couldn't take this line of conversation anymore.
Castle looked at her from the corner of his eye and grinned sheepishly. "Sorry! Sorry. I...I just hate takeoff. The anticipation is the worst."
She reached for his hand and clasped it tightly in hers, smiling at him in a placating way. "I know you do. If it makes you feel any better, you can hold my hand, okay? We'll be airborne before you know it."
At that moment, the flight attendant approached and offered each of them a flute of champagne. Yet another perk of first class, Kate thought. Castle happily took two glasses from his tray and passed one to Kate.
"May I get anything else for either of you before takeoff, Mr. and Mrs. Castle?" the attendant asked.
Castle visibly flinched, looking to Kate for her reaction to being referred to as his wife. Perhaps the term is a bit premature, he thought, but since I already have the ring sitting in a drawer at home, one day - one day! - she will be Mrs. Richard Castle if I have anything to say about it…
Kate, ever the vision of grace, beat him to the reactionary punch, though. "Not right now, but keep the champagne coming. We're on vacation, after all." With that, she slyly winked at Castle, while the attendant chuckled and excused himself. She gave him a wide, easy smile, the kind he was used to seeing on those lazy Sundays when she wasn't on-call; when they had the time to sleep in, laze around the loft, make decadent breakfasts that rushed weekday mornings didn't allow for, eventually wandering back to bed to make love and take extended naps together. Heavenly days, those were. He got lost for a moment, just looking at her, trying to rein in his excitement at being on vacation with her.
Vacation. With Kate.
She took her glass and raised it to Castle's. "Here's to ten amazing days in paradise."
Castle snapped out of his reverie, moving his glass to clink against Kate's. "I will definitely drink to that, thankyouverymuch…" he breathed, instantly feeling more at ease knowing they had days and days of relaxing Hawaiian bliss awaiting them.
They had started discussing this vacation about three months prior. It was shortly after their second run-in with Senator Bracken that Castle had suggested a get-away of epic proportions. At first, the planning began as a diversion to help her to escape from the burden that case had placed upon her shoulders, but it had turned serious rather quickly. Castle mused that their one-year anniversary was in three short months, and that he'd like to do something special to commemorate that unforgettable night when she showed up at his doorstep, soaked and vulnerable and ready. He had only fallen harder since then.
Kate, for her part, had to fight her knee-jerk reaction to turn down his offer to whisk her away to remote locations and spoil her rotten. Her first thought, of course, was "No no no, I can't do that." But when she truly took the time to mull Castle's suggestion over, she thought, "Wait…why not? Why can't I? We deserve a break. It's time for us to take this plunge." She had inwardly grinned at her own personal growth, her ability to let go, be taken care of, be loved by this man. In the end, it wasn't as difficult as she thought it would be. Hell...the planning had actually turned out to be fun.
Finally, the door was closed and the plane began to move back from the gate. Castle twitched and grabbed Kate's forearm in a panic, but quickly regained his wits, lowered his hand to hers, and held it tightly as they continued to push back. He wished his weakness wasn't quite so apparent, but if the last year had taught him anything about Kate Beckett, it was that she didn't mind his quirks and foibles. She embraced him, all of him, in all of his ridiculous glory.
His eyes slipped shut and he sipped the champagne as the plane taxied to the runway. He felt her slender fingers entwined with his, drawing strength from the simple gesture. She made no move to pull away; she knew that she served as an anchor to him in this moment. It was the least she could do.
Soon enough, their flutes were collected and their plane was next up for departure, and they sped down the tarmac on their way to being airborne. The takeoff ended up being surprisingly smooth, and Castle couldn't help but hope that it would bode well for the remainder of the trip. Of course, they had been on short getaways together; up to the Hamptons for a long weekend here and there, the ski trip that ended early when broken bones intervened. But ten days? This was going to be a test of their compatibility and patience, to be sure. He wasn't worried, per se, but he was…okay, he was a little worried. He knew he could happily spend every waking moment with Kate, but she was a different story. She needed her space, and while he had gotten better at picking up on her cues, he still struggled to curb his childlike exuberance around her sometimes, occasionally drawing her ire. She was truly unlike any woman he had ever been in a relationship with, but he was getting better at reading her, distinguishing her moods, and backing off when it was called for. However, no amount of chastising from Kate could have dampened his excitement for this trip, and luckily, she indulged his enthusiasm. The truth was that she was just as thrilled as he.
When he could feel the plane leveling out, he opened his eyes again, first looking at their tangled fingers, then looking up to her serene face as she gazed at him, waiting out his panicked state. Grateful for her lack of teasing, he leaned in and stole a quick, sweet kiss from her soft lips. As their smiling mouths brushed against the other's, he breathed out, "Maui, here we come."
They kept themselves busy for the long flight to the west coast: after fifteen levels of Cut the Rope, four magazines, a botched attempt by Castle to purchase several outlandishly expensive and totally unneeded items from the Sky Mall catalog, three chapters of Stephen King's "11/22/63", one movie (Argo), a heated discussion on the finer points of winning roshambo, and several glasses of champagne later, they landed for their brief layover in San Francisco.
Castle was already beginning to bemoan the fact that he had passed on the Caribbean as a destination. We would have been there by now, he told himself. There was another five hours of flying ahead of them, and the thought of yet another takeoff, paired with the mind-numbing dullness of air travel had him pouting as they trekked to the gate where they were going catch their connecting flight.
Kate, on the other hand, bounded forward with limitless energy, bouncing on her toes and smiling liberally. She was suddenly wishing they had made arrangements to stay over in San Francisco for a few days. Her days at Stanford had been tragically brief, but she had had the chance to spend several long days exploring the city with classmates, and while she would always consider herself a New York City girl through-and-through, she had a soft spot for the City by the Bay.
"You know, Castle," Kate started as they stepped onto an escalator, "the next time we find ourselves on the West Coast, we should make a point of spending some time here in the Bay Area. You know, check out San Francisco, go to Berkeley and Napa, maybe head down to the beach, like Carmel or Monterey, for a few days…"
She stopped short when she looked down to Castle, standing several steps below her and staring openly at her with what could only be described as love and awe shining from his eyes. He looked like he was in a trance.
"Castle…what it is?"
He snapped out of it. "Nothing. No, really. I just…I just like hearing you talk about future plans. Feels good." He shrugged and gave her a crooked grin. "I'd love to come back to San Francisco with you. I love it here."
She grinned as well and dipped her head shyly, and then looked up just in time to see the escalator was coming to an end. She gracefully stepped off and waited for Castle, who stumbled for a moment on his exit. She smiled at him…adorable even when being klutzy.
"C'mon, you," she murmured, tilting her head in the direction of their gate. "Let's go catch our plane."
"Aye aye, Cap'n!" came the typical smart-ass response.
Their plane finally touched down at the Kahului Airport around four in the afternoon local time. Castle had spent the last few moments of their descent checking out Haleakala from his window, the massive volcanic crater that had, in large part, formed the island.
"Kate. Kate! Check it out! The mountain is so tall you can't see the peak, it's above the cloud layer! That thing is huge! I'm so stoked that we made plans to visit there…" Castle continued to ramble on about his research on the crater, and Kate had to admit that his childlike enthusiasm was infectious. They were well matched in regard to their adventurous spirit. They planned to see as much of the island as they could, interspersed with plenty of lazy days doing a whole lot of nothing as well.
Being in first class, they disembarked first, and made quick work of gathering their luggage and picking up their rental car. Castle had insisted on renting a four-wheel drive vehicle so that they could tackle the road to Hana and beyond. They knew it was forbidden by the rental companies to travel the wild, unpaved portions of the road, but they weren't going to let that stop them. They ended up with a sporty red Jeep Liberty that looked like it had taken a beating from past drivers. According to the rental company, that was just part-and-parcel of driving on the islands.
Castle jumped in the driver's seat while Kate fiddled with the map application on her iPhone to find the best way to get to the house they rented in Kaanapali on the western side of the island. She also Googled local grocery stores so they could stock up on supplies, and checked out restaurants in the area for dinner that night. They were both pretty pooped from their travels, and she was confident neither would want to cook. Castle looked to her then, prompting her for the directions.
"Well, it's kind of six of one half a dozen of the other," she started. "So between the airport and Kaanapali is this big ol' mountain. You can go to the north or south to get to the other side, but there is no direct route." They simultaneously looked up through the windshield and could see the actual mountain in question, Puu Kukui, directly in front of them. It's lush, green mountainsides towered dramatically into the sky, again covered with a thick layer of clouds that looked like snow white cotton batting that got snagged on the jagged mountaintop as it tried to pass overhead.
"So, north or south? Wanna flip a coin?" Castle asked, and she could tell he was being serious about the coin toss.
Kate examined the map for another moment before she came to a decision. "Let's go south. Those roads look more direct and suited for travel, and I don't know about you, but I just want to get there and settle in. We can take the northern route around another day."
"Excellent choice, milady," Castle intoned.
Kate rolled her eyes expertly but smiled simultaneously. "Just drive the damn car, Castle."
It was going on seven by the time they pulled up to the house. They had stopped at a local sushi place for dinner on the way (which had some of the most amazing sashimi), and then loaded up on the food supplies before making their way to the house. When they had begun to plan the trip several months prior, they had decided almost immediately upon a private residence for their living arrangements. As lovely as the accommodations and amenities of a five-star hotel had sounded, they opted for the privacy of a house, with the intention of preparing most of their own meals and christening every horizontal surface they could find. Castle didn't need any more convincing than that and set about finding the perfect place.
Castle had made the majority of the travel reservations, but he had consulted with Kate on most every detail; it was her vacation too, after all. They had of course seen pictures of the house online, but in the end, nothing could compare to actually being here, taking in the white two-story Colonial with cornflower blue shutters in the fading light of the day. The beautifully manicured garden surrounding the house sported a plethora of vegetation that was foreign to them: dramatic birds of paradise; bushes overflowing with giant hibiscus blooms; fragrant plumeria trees of white and yellow or pink and orange; and bougainvillea in every shade of the rainbow, exploding from every corner of the garden. Kate could see from this vantage point that the shore was not far away, probably a walk of only a two or three minutes. It was just…beautiful. Gorgeous. Paradise. And so different from the concrete and metal jungle that was Manahattan. She suddenly marveled at the fact that she had fought the idea of this trip at all. Silly, stubborn woman, she mused silently.
Kate walked to the edge of the property, demarcated with plush, green waist-high shrubbery, and stood looking toward the sun, sinking lower in the sky by the moment. In no time, she felt Castle's warmth at her back, wrapping his arms around her front, their fingers tangling until they couldn't tell where one started and the other ended. He squeezed her tightly within his arms, and she sighed contentedly. She was wearing flats for their travel today, so their height difference was emphasized. He leaned down to press several soft kisses to her shoulder and neck before laying his cheek to the top of her head. She smelled terrific, he thought, even after a day of travel.
"Whatcha thinking about?" he murmured.
Kate frowned and thought for a moment. "Honestly? I wasn't thinking about anything of significance. I just allowed myself to go…blank, I guess. Taking it all in, you know?"
Castle smiled into her hair and said, "Yeah, yeah I do know. You know, Beckett, you're allowed to shut down here. You're on vacation." He whispered that last part into her ear as though it was a secret that needed protecting.
She chuckled and tilted her head just enough to capture his lips with hers. They just stood there for a moment, lips touching softly, breath mingling. When they pulled back to rest their foreheads together, Kate could suddenly feel Castle's body tense up against hers.
"What is it?" she asked, genuinely concern.
"The ice cream is melting in the car!" Castle looked panicked.
Kate smiled and shook her head as they unlaced their arms, and she gestured toward the car. "C'mon. Let's unload, shall we?" She patted his bottom to get him moving, and he looked back at her with a ridiculously scandalized look on his face.
They had noticed the homeowner's car in the driveway as they pulled up a few moments before. They had called Mike during dinner to let him know that they would be arriving at the house within the next hour or so. He told them that he would be there when they arrived to give them the grand tour, and to open up some windows and turn on ceiling fans to get the air circulating. It wasn't terribly humid out today, but enough so that the still air in the closed-up house would have been stifling. Mike was nothing if not a good host.
As they approached the front porch with grocery bags in their arms, Mike ran onto the porch and greeted them with a boisterous "Aloha!" and a big white smile on his very tan face. Between the three of them, they made short order of unloading the food and luggage. Kate popped the few frozen and refrigerated items into their appropriate storage places, and then Mike led them on a tour of the property. The house itself was lovely. There were four bedrooms upstairs, while a great room, a den, and a large, well-appointed kitchen dominated the lower level. The grounds were plush and immaculate, with a two-person hammock strung between two sturdy palms and a private Jacuzzi in the back yard surrounded by enough greenery to frustrate even the most determined peeping Tom. Mike made a thinly-veiled joke about the two lovebirds skinny-dipping, but they just gave him a set of Cheshire grins, knowing that when it came to them, it wasn't really a joke at all. He then guided them around to the front of the house to show them where the path down to the beach was.
Mike, again being a good host, made himself scarce after about a half-hour. He had hosted enough couples and newlyweds over the years to know that while they appreciated his attention, they didn't appreciate it for long. He said his goodbyes to the attractive couple with assurances that if they needed anything, he was only a phone call away. He sped away down the long driveway in his open Wrangler, his arm waving frantically to say farewell.
When he was out of sight, Castle turned to Kate and said, "Fancy a walk down to the beach? The sun should be setting soon."
Kate's type A personality screamed at her to stay and unpack fully before doing anything remotely fun, but she shrugged off the inclination, and with a smile, she slipped her hand into his.
They walked down the path quietly, hand in hand. They knew they were in a somewhat secluded spot, but they didn't encounter another soul during the two-minute walk down to the sand. They knew that wouldn't always be the case, since the pathway served several houses in the area, but tonight, it was just the two of them. Their ears were filled with the chirps and cheeps of the tree frogs and crickets, putting on their evening performance for whoever might be listening. When they emerged from the tree line onto the sand, the cacophony of noises created by the island's animal inhabitants was replaced with the roar of the surf. They both paused for a moment, looking up and down the beach, taking in the white/pink color of the fine sand, so very different from east coast shores. The beach wasn't private, but the closest people were more than 100 feet away in either direction. For all intents and purposes, they were alone.
Castle tugged on Kate's hand then to get her attention, and she watched as he kicked off his flip-flops and left them by the entrance to the pathway. She followed his lead and ditched her ballet flats along side. Hands clasped together still, they walked to the edge of the water, allowing the cool ocean water to wash over their hot, tired feet, soothing frazzled nerve endings and taking the edge off of the remaining humidity that shimmered in the tropical air.
Finally, Castle pulled her back to an area of dry sand not far from the water's edge. He sat first, spreading his legs in invitation for her to sit between them. She needed no other prompting and took up that position immediately, leaning back into his broad chest as he extended his hands in back of him and planted them in the sand in order to support their combined weight. Her hands reached out to rest on his knees as her head relaxed onto his shoulder. They both sighed then, a long, contented, comforting exhale, and if they hadn't felt so damn happy and mellow in that moment, they would probably have teased the other and declared "Jinx!"
Their timing was perfect. The sun was probably within five minutes of setting behind the island of Molokai, which lay in a slightly northwest direction of their beach in Kaanapali, and they could also see Lanai almost directly to the west. The evening air was laced with the scent of tropical blooms and something indefinable, like a combination of rum, coconut, and Coppertone. It smelled…exotic. Again, so different from the smog and sewers of the city.
Kate burrowed into Castle's chest just a little further, knowing he loved the closeness too. As the sun slipped further toward the horizon, she said, "Hey Toto? I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
Castle shook behind her as he laughed at her all-too-true statement. "Sometimes I forget what a goofball you can be."
"Who're you callin' a goofball? You're, like, the king of the goofballs!"
"Then you are my worthy apprentice. I have taught you well."
He sat up then and wrapped his arms around Kate's torso, clearly unable to ever get close enough to her. But she didn't mind; she felt the same way sometimes, like she wanted to crawl into his skin, live there, be comforted by his strength and warmth and love. She knew what a gift this feeling was, how rare and special. She also recognized it for what it was: love, of course. True love. Didn't make it any less terrifying, that idea of forever and ever. But…it was getting easier. Every day. Every day with him by her side. One and done, she told herself. One and done.
Castle slipped one hand under her breast to cup it lightly, but there was no sexual intent in the gesture. Rather, it was comforting, a feeling of possession, knowing that they were "it" for the other. That her body fit his perfectly, and vice versa. He nuzzled the soft skin at the hairline behind her ear as the sun inched toward Molokai, starting to sink below the profile of the island's rugged terrain.
"Here we go," Castle whispered into her ear.
Kate just smiled, and thought to herself, here we go indeed.
They walked back to the house, exhausted to the bone. Even though it was only eight o'clock local time, their internal clocks, still in tune with the Eastern time zone, told them it was two am. Castle was used to keeping strange hours as a writer, never knowing when inspiration will strike, but even he was dog-tired. After an extended day of travel and the long, crazy hours they had kept at the precinct lately, they were ready for a soft bed and peaceful, uninterrupted slumber. They wiped the sand off of their feet before walking into the house, immediately stowed the remaining groceries, turned off all of the downstairs lights, and trudged up the stairs in the hopes of collapsing into bed soon.
They took a few moments to unpack, check e-mails, plug in electronics to charge. Kate took her bag of toiletries into the master bathroom and took a few minutes to appreciate the roomy aqua-tiled shower that could easily accommodate the two of them, and then the deep whirlpool bath that she intended to make good use of. Alone and not alone. Suddenly, it occurred to her that a shower to wash the day off sounded like the best idea ever.
Kate poked her head out of the bathroom to find Castle typing away at his laptop. "I'm thinking of taking a shower. Interested?" she said with raised eyebrows.
"Am I interested? Seriously? Does the Pope wear a funny hat?"
"I dunno, Castle. I'm not Catholic."
"Well, neither am I, but I've seen pictures, and he most definitely does!"
She rolled her eyes. "Then get in here already!"
He quickly shut the laptop (Kate figured whoever he was sending an email to must not be all that important) and practically leapt off the bed to head in her direction, stripping his t-shirt off as he approached and tossing it toward a laundry basket that had been placed at the foot of their bed. She unabashedly admired the view of his bare chest as he sauntered toward her.
"Coming, dear..." he said in a low, teasing voice.
She smirked and spared him the eye-roll this time. They placed their showering necessities in the stall before Kate turned on the water, hot enough to wash the grime of the germy seats and recirculated air from the airplane off of them, but cool enough to combat the humidity. Castle approached her silently, arms reaching forward to grasp the edges of her t-shirt and pull it over her head. He grinned boyishly as he snapped open the front-fastening clasp of the bra she was wearing, always a favorite of his, before he slid the garment down her arms and tossed it onto the recently discarded shirt. He then quickly kneeled before her, applying the same treatment first to her capris, then returning for her panties. He deliberately dragged them down her legs slowly, taking his time to brush his fingers down the length of her long, smooth legs. She steadied herself with a hand on his shoulder while she stepped out of the garment, watching as he ran his eyes up the expanse of her now-naked body, so clearly adoring, appreciating what he saw before him. While she once found herself unsettled and unsure of his staring, she loved the way looked at her now.
When he finally met her eyes, she took her fingers and carded them through the hair at his temples, scratching and soothing his evident weariness. She was staggered by what she saw in his countenance; his love for her was so obvious now, so unmistakable in his eyes and smile. When she thought about it, he'd been looking at her like this for years, long before they ever admitted to each other what had been so painfully obvious to everyone else. His hands glided up and down the sides of her legs as they watched each other, neither wanting to break the reverie.
Finally, his warm hands settled at her narrow waist and he stood before her again, gripping her tightly. "Better get in there Beckett, or there won't be any hot water left."
"Last I checked, you have entirely too many clothes on, Mr. Castle. Shall we remedy that situation?" He nodded enthusiastically and she made quick work of his pants and boxers.
Kate slipped her hand into his, tugging him behind her into the shower. She stood beneath the showerhead, relishing the heavenly hot water as it beat down on her chest, running down her body. Castle crowded her from behind to wrap her in his arms, surrounding her with warmth from all sides. She quickly spun in his embrace, the water now streaming down her back, her face nuzzled into his neck, feeling the scratchy growth of his beard against her lips and cheek. Her arms snaked over his shoulders while her fingers dove into his hair. They stood there like that for a few long minutes, just holding each other. There was no feeling like it.
As much as they wanted to "break in" the shower (as he had already suggested to her with waggling eyebrows), they were both feeling the effects of the long day, and the desire to be bathed and in bed overruled any passion. They quickly washed themselves, occasionally touching and kissing the other tenderly in the process. They dried off, dressed and brushed their teeth, and before they knew it, they were sinking into the comfort of the master bedroom's bed.
"Uuuuuugh that feels amaaaaaazing!" Castle groaned as their heads hit the pillow. "Seriously. Can't remember a time that a bed felt so good."
Kate, whose eyes had already fluttered shut, grinned and said "Oh yeah? What about the first time you got me into your bed?"
"Oh, it was amazing alright, but that had nothing to do with the actual bed and everything to do with the woman in it."
She turned to him then and opened her eyes to find him looking at her once again, a sleepy softness overtaking him quickly, but the ever-present love was spilling out from his eyes, the tone of his voice.
"You change everything you touch, Kate, for the better. My whole life is different with you in it. I'll never be the same."
She felt the familiar squeeze of emotion in her chest, the one she experienced whenever he talked this way to her, unfiltered and oh-so in love.
She smiled and shook her head at him then. "Such a wordsmith." She reached out and stroked his cheek, and he turned to press a kiss to her palm.
"C'mon. Let's sleep. I plan to wear you out on this trip."
She raised an eyebrow at the suggestive comment, murmuring "You do, do you? Good luck with that."
"Hey, I may not succeed, but I can't wait to try."
With the click of a lamp, soft kisses to the lips, and whispered "I love yous" and "goodnights," they swiftly drifted into peaceful slumber.
A/N: Whew! My return to fanfic...I sincerely hope that reading it was worth your time. This trip is based upon my own travels to the Hawaiian islands and my adventures there, so I hope to impart some authenticity to the story. You'll notice that this was generally a rather fluffy chapter, and while I love me some good ol' fluff, I require depth to my fluff. Expect some deep conversation between these two while they enjoy the tropics ('cause we all know we can't witness every conversation we want to see them have...that's what fanfic is for). I'm also debating the content (and therefore the rating) of this fic. It's been a while since I've written smut, but DAMN I love good smut, so let me know your thoughts on that. And as always, I genuinely appreciate any and all of your input as readers. After all, I write for you! Well, and for me. But mostly for you!