"I don’t have a home."
"Yes, you do."
"You have anymore boxes?" Castle asked, appearing in the doorway. Kate turned to him, holding a rather large box labeled, ‘Shoes’ (the third Castle had seen since he arrived. She nodded, nodding towards her bedroom.
"Just one." she said, "it’s right by the door." She walked past him and he held open the door for her, making sure she got to the elevator okay. She rolled her eyes at him. "Lock up before you leave, alright? I’m gonna go give my landlord the spare key."
He nodded, making his way through the eerily empty apartment, towards her bedroom.
He saw the box almost immediately—he also saw that it wasn’t closed yet—but he took a moment to glance around the room. Her bookshelf was gone, as were her bed and end tables—which they’d put into storage until they found something to do with them. Everything was just…gone. Emptied out to be moved to either his—their—loft or her storage locker.
Kate, his soon-to-be wife, had finally run out on her lease and agreed to move in, just a week before their nuptials. They’d be surrounded by bubble wrap and cardboard for weeks to come, at least, but at least they were finally taking that last step towards forever. All that was left were a couple of—
Castle’s eye widened as his eyes drifted down to the box at his feet, half-filled with what remained of her clothes. There was a shirt sticking out slightly—a very familiar shirt…
Kneeling next to the box, Castle reached in and pulled it out, instantly recognizing his own plain red t-shirt, which he’d lost—or thought he’d lost—years ago…
Back after Kate had spent the week at his…oh.
He’d lent her this shirt, along with a pair of…yep, there they were. His sweatpants; the same ones she’d complained about having to roll up three times just to keep them from falling off her slender frame. He’d joked back that he wouldn’t have minded. She’d twisted his ear good for that one.
Castle grinned, remembering the shouts that had brought his daughter curiously into the living room, asking what was wrong; how the girls had laughed together as he’d whined.
"Don’t be such a baby, Castle," rang in his ears as he buried his nose in the shirt and inhaled her reminiscent cherry scent.
"What have I told you about smelling my clothes?" Kate’s voice nearly made him fall over as a squeak just barely passed his lips. He turned to see his fiance leaning against the doorjamb, grinning at him. He smiled guiltily, holding up the shirt.
"This is mine," he said, weakly. Kate chuckled, walking towards him and kneeling down at his side, their hips pressed firmly together.
"I know," she said, not looking at him, but rather the shirt in his hands. "I took it a couple years back, after my old apartment…well, you remember."
Castle nodded. “I think I still have a burn scar from when I braved the hellish flames to—not the ears!” He dropped the shirt as he clapped his hands against his ears, before Kate could grab hold. She laughed, shaking her head and nudging him with her shoulder, before reaching for the shirt and bringing it against her chest.
"I was in a strange place," she said quietly; "somewhere between perpetually annoyed and inexplicably happy to have you around. That first night with this shirt, I thought I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep after everything that had just happened but…the scent of this shirt, it just…it was calming. Before I knew it, it was morning and I’d slept like a baby, like I hadn’t in so many years, Castle. That’s when I knew."
"When you knew?" Castle asked, lowering his hands.
Kate nodded. “That I was falling for you. I was stuck between running straight for the nearest exit and running straight for your bed.” She laughed to herself. “Neither was really a viable option at the time, so I settled for making you breakfast instead.”
"Logical reaction," Castle quipped and she playfully reached for his ear but he leaned away, pouting. She laughed.
"Yeah, well, it made sense at the time. After all, you did give me a place to sleep for a couple nights. Anyway, when it was time to leave, I…I already had my own pajamas and a bunch of other new clothes but…I just wanted a little something, you know? Something to tide me over until we took that step.”
"So you stole my clothes? That’s kinda creepy, Beckett." She sent him a death glare and he clamped his mouth shut, motioning for her to continue.
“Anyway, I’ve kept them since the night I left and every time I felt like I needed to be…close to you, I put on that shirt and it felt like you were right there with me, long after your scent was gone, even. And I told myself that I’d give them back to you, after we got together, but even then it was too hard to part with them, so whenever we were apart, I’d just…take them out and wear them to bed. And think of you.”
"Even in DC?" Castle asked. Kate nodded.
“Especially in DC,” she confirmed, grasping his hand. “That was probably the hardest time for me.”
"Me too," Castle replied, honestly, squeezing her hand. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Kate?" he asked when she’d settled her head on his chest.
"Yeah?" she replied, her eyes closed.
"Can I have my shirt back now?"
Kate pulled back, glaring at him. “Never,” she said, placing the shirt back into her box and practically sprinting out of the room with it.
"Aw, come on!" Castle called out after her, ignoring the popping in his knees as he got up, "that was one of my favorite shirts!"
"Not gonna happen, Castle!" Kate called over her shoulder, laughing as he limped towards her. She ran out of the apartment, straight to the elevator, with Rick right behind her.
"You’re gonna pay for this, woman!" he called out. She laughed, boarding the elevator just as he backed her into a corner, forcing her to drop the box as he lifted her up, sealing their lips together. Kate responded enthusiastically to the kiss, moaning against his lips.
When Castle pulled back, he rested his forehead against hers.
"I love you," he breathed, looking deep into her eyes. Kate’s sparkled as she grinned back at him. "Do you love me?" he asked.