Title: Palm to Palm
Characters: Richard Castle, Kate Beckett
Summary: Sometimes, all you want is a hand to hold. Kate Beckett, Richard Castle, and a conversation the morning after the season four finale ends. Major spoilers for the S4 finale "Always".
From what Richard Castle could see of the outside world, through slightly parted curtains and blearily cracked open eyes, it seemed to be a fairly dismal morning out there. The rain spattered against the window, barely visible against the patches of murky grey sky that peeked out through the gaps between buildings and skyscrapers. Something rustled in the bed beside him, and he shut his eyes briefly, resisting the urge to sigh in relief. There was a part of him that had been seriously scared that she would sneak out in the middle of the night while he was sleeping. Not that much sleeping had actually gone on, but that was beside the point.
The trilling of his cellphone shattered the stillness of his bedroom, making Castle groan out loud and toss an arm over his eyes to block out the daylight. “It’s seriously too early for this,” he muttered under his breath as he reached for the cellphone. “This had better be good if you’re calling this early, Esposito.”
“Have you seen Beckett at all yet today?”
“No. Why?” Somewhere in the corner of his brain he hoped that any stress or awkwardness in his voice would be passed off as a part of being woken up too early, not because he was lying through his teeth.
“Been trying to reach her for hours, but she’s gone off the radar.”
“What happened?” Castle asked, arm still firmly in place over his eyes.
“Oh, no. If you haven’t talked to her yet I’m not saying anything. I’m not explaining this one.”
“Have you tried her father’s place yet? She could be over there.”
“Can’t hurt to try. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.” Esposito disconnected his end, and Castle tossed the phone back on the night table.
A muffled voice floated over from the other side of the bed. “Who was it?”
The arm came off his face, and he glanced over. The combination of feelings that ran through him was a bit unusual for the early morning, but you wouldn’t hear him complaining. There was awe, in that is-this-really-happening sort of a way, there was a simmering feeling of oh-my-god-so-HOT layered on top of that, a warm contentment wrapped somewhere around the middle, and a touch of the giggles floating above all of it that Castle had to fight hard to tamp down because he suspected she really wouldn’t appreciate it.
Kate Beckett was stretched out on her stomach, face firmly buried in a mound of pillows. The blankets were bunched up around her waist, but her back was covered in a tank top that Castle suspected was one of his undershirts. He wasn’t quite sure where that had come from. He’d slipped out of bed sometime before dawn to dig out a fresh pair of boxers (years of built up paranoia that either Alexis or his mother would burst into his room in the morning unannounced had encouraged the habit), but he was certain he had left her snoozing in a curled up little ball. The golden brown hair that looked like it was growing out of the pillows was a mass of crinkled waves, air dried overnight to an unruly mess.
So hot, but kind of funny too.
“Esposito,” he answered.
Beckett’s hand slipped out from under the pillow and waved her own cellphone in the air. “They’ve been calling all morning. Lanie. Espo. Ryan. I keep hitting ‘ignore.’” She shoved the phone back under the pillows, as if she was trying to pretend it didn’t exist.
Castle frowned, twisting his head further towards her. “Why didn’t I hear that?”
This time Beckett’s head lifted out of the pillows and rolled to face him, a small twisting grin across her lips and a gleam in her eyes. “You must have been really tired out.”
“Ha!” He couldn’t actually deny the truth in that statement though. Once had turned pretty quickly into more than once, and it wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning, probably closer to dawn than Castle would have liked to admit, that they had finally gone to bed to actually sleep and not do anything else.
In between one of those rounds Castle had managed to tease some of the story out of Beckett. He hadn’t gotten the whole thing, as they had become…distracted, but enough to start piecing things together. Something about her and Esposito going off without authorization to track down Maddox, Gates finding out about it and having to go bail Beckett out of trouble, Gates putting the two on suspension, culminating with Beckett saying the equivalent of ‘screw this, I’m done.’
Somewhere in the middle of that, she had almost died. Beckett was being close-lipped about the details, but it wasn’t hard to tell that it had rattled her. ‘It was enough to bring her over here, though,’ that little, impish voice in his head piped up. The grown up part of Castle (yes, it did exist, even if he chose not to show it as often as he should have) kicked the voice back into its corner and twisted to his side to fully face her. “You know, we are going to have to talk about yesterday at some point.”
Beckett shook her head and shifted about to mirror his position. “No, not just yet.”
“Ah, the old avoidance tactic.”
This time, Castle got the full force of the death glare. However, it was a bit hard to take her seriously given how…delightful she was currently looking. The tank top was all askew, revealing bits of skin while still keeping some hidden, like a birthday present he really, really wanted to open. Between the rumpled up edge of the tank top and her black bikini underwear were a few stark lines of that elusive tattoo, with the rest of it hidden on the front of her hip bone beneath the lacy fabric. He’d explored it thoroughly the night before, although he would always be up for a refresher course. The blankets draped somewhere around there, keeping her legs covered but he could still see them shifting slightly underneath there. “I’m not avoiding things,” she eventually said, the glare softening a bit. “I just need some time to work through things in my head.” Beckett shrugged and stared off at a point past Castle’s shoulder. “Went for a walk in the rain, got soaking wet…” Her eyes darted back to Castle, staring firmly at him. “Don’t you dare go there,” she said, pointing a finger in his direction.
He snapped his mouth shut. “I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“Uh-huh. Sure.” Castle reached out and hooked his index finger around hers. She squeezed his finger tightly, as if they were touching in more spots than just those couple inches of skin. “All I knew is that I had to come here. That I’d wasted too much time and, uh, that I was lucky enough to be given this one last chance to go after the one person I couldn’t get out from under my skin.”
“Near death experiences have a way of putting things into frightening clarity,” he agreed, his mind briefly flicking through all of the many experiences they’d had in the last few years. It wasn’t the time to dwell on that, however, not when Beckett was finally laying at least part of herself bare for him.
“I should have been thinking of my mother as I was hanging there – “
“Hanging?!” That wasn’t a squeak in his voice, certainly not. If it was a squeak, then it was most certainly a manly squeak.
“Focus, Castle. I’m here now, there’s no use worrying over what happened yesterday.”
“You do realize what hanging implies, don’t you?”
“In any case,” Beckett pushed forward, rolling her eyes at him, “all I really wanted in that very moment was for you there to grab my hand.”
“I’m here now,” Castle repeated, squeezing her finger once more.
“I know.” She leaned forward, the sheets rustling around them, and pressed her lips to his in a tender kiss. It was just a few moments, but it was enough. Beckett pulled away and nestled back into the pillows, their fingers still interlocked. “If something had ever happened to you,” she began, quiet and hesitant, “what would you want for Alexis?”
“As a parent?”
Castle hummed briefly. He thought quickly, trying to see through the layers of the question to find out what she was really asking. After all of these years of knowing each other, it wasn’t hard to come to the answer to the unspoken question. “I’d want her to be happy,” he said softly. “I’d want her to remember the good times we had, and talk about me to her friends and her kids, and I’d want her to live a good, long life. And I think that, more than anything, your mother wants that for you too.”
Beckett nodded, untangling their fingers then pressing the palms together so that their fingers slid easily together. “I think I’m beginning to figure that out,” she whispered.
“Good,” he said. He didn’t want to bring up the next point, but he figured that this wasn’t a time to be cowardly. “Remember that if this guy comes back. Because he’s still out there, and I don’t want to lose you.” Hmm. He hadn’t expected to lay himself out there so openly either, but maybe a little vulnerability wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Beckett’s face fell a little, and she squeezed his hand tighter. “I know. But I can’t think about it. Not here, and not now.”
She fell back into the pillows, not letting go of his hand so that he followed her, looking down at her face. “Because then I’d have to admit that I have no clue what I’m going to do then,” she finally conceded. Castle leaned down and kissed her bare shoulder, leaving his lips there for a long time. He felt her other hand weave through his hair, making even more of a mess out of the strands. “But I know that whatever happens, Rick, I want you right there beside me, holding my hand.”
“Always.” Castle leaned upwards, pressing another kiss to the curve of her jaw and grasping her hand tightly once more.
Later that morning, when Beckett was taking advantage of the shower in his bedroom, Castle snuck into his office and flicked on the computer monitor. Once the screen had booted up he went into the recycle bin and restored the file he had deleted the night before. He buried it back in the network of files, hidden three deep in an obscure folder named something nonsensical. He didn’t expect to return to it any time soon, but Castle felt a little bit better knowing that it was still in existence. Just in case.
Because after all, regardless of whatever challenges were coming their way, they were at their strongest and their best when they together.