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Home Is Where the Rebel Roams

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Castle drags himself out of the town car and onto the curb. With a distracted wave he sends the driver off into the waning twilight. Darkness descends swiftly. Much like his energy levels. The writer stretches his back, tries to release his bone-weary tiredness. There’s a soft pop. It hardly helps.

He feels so incredibly drained from the day’s rounds of meetings. The morning was a cake walk of ignoring everyone and having Paula do all his dirty work with Black Pawn. It was the usual harassment from Gina about finishing his latest book. Deadly Heat has to be finished on time for the September release.” He only intercepted when Gina made her pointless threats of cancelling the current 3-book deal. “Really, Gina? Nikki is so much more popular than Derrick Storm, and you know it.”

But the afternoon session… Apparently the two harpies had tag-teamed – that’s not nice; it’s the tiredness talking – and Gina had been so kind as to hand the board room over to his publicist. It was Paula’s turn to eviscerate him. No mercy. She confiscated his phone the moment the door closed behind her. That’s how he knew he was about to get his ass handed to him.

Paula making a deal is like Beckett interrogating a suspect. Except, a lot less hot and a lot more frustrating.

He felt like he was defending the integrity of Nikki Heat; she felt like he was fighting the almighty dollar. Paula demanded a premiere party for the Nikki Heat movie. Castle wanted it to pass unmentioned. Royalties be damned, the movie was an embarrassment. Paula was still peeved from the last meeting when he started rallying to get the movie to a straight-to-DVD release, particularly since it did go straight to DVD. Of course she reminded him of his so-called “stunt”.

”Oh, don’t try to blame that on me, Paula! The film distributor pulled the plug. The movie was already suffering from multiple production setbacks. It was going to happen.”

It was an argument oft had. He was tired. He was weary. She struck when he was weak. Somehow, some way, Paula got him to agree to an 11-day, 12-city book tour. He was going to regret this for sure.

He walks through the lobby, gives a tired salute to the doorman behind his desk. Eduardo nods in return with a gruff “Mr. Castle”. The man returns to his work, picking up the phone to make a call.

The elevator is quick to arrive. God bless. He trudges in and sinks against the back wall.

He’s tired and run down. He just wants to curl up with someone on the couch and watch mindless television. Maybe they can get Chinese or pizza. He starts fantasizing about his coming night as he gets off the elevator. He really hopes that – oh, wait… He forgot.

Alexis is still in Costa Rica.

See, this is why she should have stayed. Daddy still needs his little girl. But oh, no, she has to go gallivanting to other countries to study rain forests and be an adult and – yeah, maybe she was right. He really had to let go.

And Kate. Kate is in D.C.

For now, though. Her flight is supposed to get in late tonight. A weekend together will be good. Better than good. He hasn’t seen her in two weeks.

Maybe Martha is home and he can coerce her into being motherly.

He might have to pull out the blankets and pillows.

He should get a dog…

He tries to open the door. The key misses the jamb a few times. Damn. He finally gets it in, wrestles the door knob open. The lights are off. Well… there goes his dream night. His mother isn’t even home.

When did he get so lame?

He lets out a sigh of disappointment, and flicks the light switch as he swings the door shut. He’s still bathed in darkness. Huh? He flips the switch a couple of times but still there is no light. Damn it… the breaker box is in the laundry room, right? He walks off the step and towards the kitchen.

Blue blinking lights in his periphery catch his attention. His laser tag vest rests on the coffee table in the middle of the living room with an envelope propped against the gun. He glances around himself as he opens the envelope. He notices that the curtains are pulled across the windows (didn’t he leave them open this morning?) and bed sheets have been pinned to the book shelves guarding his office, obstructing his view of the room. He looks down at the letter. It’s written in Kate’s script.


Despicable Voltar,

You have refused to listen to reason. Prepare your forces and say final prayers to your abomination of gods. Your empire falls tonight. Don your armor if you wish to proceed. We meet on the field of honor. The omni-verse will be mine.

See you at the end of my barrel,

Rebel Leader

P.S.: Second floor is off limits.

P.P.S.: I caught an earlier flight. Surprise!




His grin grows as he reads the letter. His fiancée is somewhere in the loft and she wants to play laser tag with him.

It still feels good to say. Fiancée. He lets it roll around on his tongue, in his mind. It still feels like pulling on the first sweater of winter.

He rushes to put on the vest, mentally running through his playbook. Best idea would be to flush her out. He hoists up his gun, reaches down for - huh, where are the glasses?

Kate probably ‘forgot’ them. She never did like playing with them. “They obstruct my view, Castle. They’re pointless.”

Castle nimbly walks towards his bedroom, imitating the stances commonly taken up by Ryan and Esposito about to make a bust.

He’s up against the door post. “On my count. 3. 2. –“ He points towards the door and walks in, slightly crouched, followed by his imaginary forces. He gives the signal to fan out, scans the bedroom. No movement. “Clear,” he mumbles to himself.

Castle walks the perimeter of the room. It’s all very methodical, much like all the busts he’s watched over the years. He’s pretty proud of himself. He nears the bed and drops to the ground, sweeps his gun under the bed with a barrage of fire. The green lasers fly off into the darkness. Shoot first, ask questions later. He learned that lesson the hard way when Alexis was nine.

He glances underneath, using the blinking lights of his gun to see. Now, if he had the glasses… He would still see nothing but shadows. He pulls back out and gets back up on his feet.

Castle rolls over the bed and lands in a crouch on the other side. He’s always wanted to do that. He creeps towards the ensuite bathroom doorway. Sliding up the door post, he side glances into the half opened doorway. He would never admit to having the Mission: Impossible theme song playing in his head right now. Nope, that never happened. He cocks up his gun and slowly opens the door. Flashing green lights reflect in the mirror. A predatory grin graces his mouth. Oh, Beckett, you’re slipping.

He jumps in with a shout of triumph and shoots. The shot lands, the dying sounds of the other vest echoing in the bathroom. His face falls.

Damnit, Boba Fett.

He should’ve realized it was Alexis’s vest. Why would Kate use Alexis’s? Maybe this still counts?

He checks the shower real quick. The stall’s empty. Hopefully that won’t be the case later…

He shoots Boba Fett again just because. Walking back to the door, he sees a note taped to the back.


“Boba Fett doesn’t count.”



 

How does she know him so well?

He walks back out, a little distracted in thought. Usually games with Alexis were more action packed; she made herself known sooner and they would just run circles around the living room, hiding behind the pillars. His childish impatience is making him paranoid. Just what the rebel wants. Although a part of him does wonder if Beckett is even actually playing or if she’s taking a nap upstairs and wants him to stay distracted chasing shadows.

He sees dim lights peering from the space under the closet door. Is this another Boba Fett play? He refuses to believe Beckett would be so dumb as to trap herself in the closet. He approaches quietly, taking care to avoid the creaking floorboards.

The lights are purple so it is her vest this time. It must be her. He doubts she would pull out Martha’s vest; that one ran out of battery ages ago and no one bothered to change them. Mother just didn’t care for laser tag. Damn shame; she would be an easy target.

He grips the door knob and holds his gun at the ready. He swings open the door and shoots. The wounded cry of his own vest deafens him and the lights shut off. What the hell?

Beckett barrels into him, lands a shoulder into his chest and knocks his gun out of his grasp. He falls to the side with the force, landing on a pile of blankets. She planned that?!

He flips over on the pile and watches her scurry out the door to his office. He fumbles for his gun while keeping an eye on the doorway.

She peers back around the door post and shoots with an excited grin before disappearing again. His vest dissolves into noise. Again.

“Two to zero, Voltar! Your empire will soon be mine!”

He climbs to his feet, kicks the blankets away. “You can’t destroy the vast forces of Voltar, foolish rebel.”

“We’ll see about that!” Her voice sounds muffled now.

He enters his office, sweeps through almost distractedly. He knows she’s not in here. Beckett’s quick and there’s nowhere to hide other than behind the desk. His view of the living room is obstructed by the sheets she pinned to the other side of the book shelves. The outlines of the books and tchotchkes lining the shelves in the dark are all that is visible, nothing past. A whisper of movement from the sheet catches his attention. It must be a little loose then. The bottom corner of the sheet by the doorway glows a soft purple. That would explain the moving sheet.

He enters the doorway, pressed up against the book shelf, and surveys as much as he can. Even though he knows her position, he can’t help but check for the all-clear. With the door wide open, the threshold is a vantage point. The front entry is clear; the stair well, also. He thinks he can hear breathing just around the corner. It sounds like she’s trying to get her breathing back in check.

He feels like Sidney in Alien.

He grips his gun with both hands, mentally counts, then spins around, posed roughly in weaver stance.

Just as he registers nothing in his line of sight –

She springs from her crouched position against the shelf and slips up into his unintentional embrace. Her rising shoulders roughly shove his arms apart; his stance gives way to her form. She wraps her arms around his neck and assaults him with her mouth. He grunts, dropping his gun in surprise, and tugs her into his body in acceptance. He opens up to her readily. Her hum of pleasure fills him. He moans when she pins him up against the book shelf. His gun drags along beside him on its cord, bumping into the bottom shelf. She runs her fingers through his hair. Her own gun hangs limp in her left hand, pressing into his back. She moves to his jaw, laying down a line of kisses. “I missed you.”

He pulls her closer still. “I missed you, too.”

They stand together in the dark. Exchanging lazy kisses, enjoying the touch and feel of each other. His residual fatigue and frustration from the day fade away.

She goes on tiptoe, pressing up into him as if she can’t get close enough. Through his haze of bliss he can feel her hand reach up past him. He sucks her bottom lip into his mouth and lets it go.

“Is this your surrender?” he murmurs, leaning back in to sip at her lips.

Her soft laugh vibrates into his chest, sends arousal through his veins. She pushes her smile into him, breathing in the same air. He can almost taste her smirk. She whispers into his mouth, “Never.”

She pulls out of his loose embrace and yanks the sheet over him, ensnaring him in 800-thread count bindings before he can register what happened.

The floorboards creak beneath her as she makes her escape. He throws the bed sheet off of himself with a grand sweep of his arm and a growl. He has to shake off its death grip from his hand as he reaches down for his gun.

He’s alone again. Her clever ruse prevented him from seeing where she ducked behind.

“That was dirty, Beckett!” He moves forward through the living room, passing a pillar.

“All’s fair in love and war.” She might be in the kitchen.

“And which one is this, rebel?” He passes the next pillar.

“Who says it isn’t both, Commander?” Oh, he loves that coy lilt to her voice. And yes, she’s definitely in the kitchen.

His whole body thrums in anticipation. He crouches behind the couch and props his elbows on the seat cushion, using the leverage as a gun mount. He scans the kitchen counter top through his night scope. There’s nothing to look at; she’s probably ducked down next to the oven. Maybe he can lure her out.

“Give up your fight now and I may show mercy.”

He’s met with silence. She didn’t rise to the bait. He crab crawls around the couch. He needs to get closer.

The air is still. How is she making no sounds?

“The personal harem of Voltar could always use a new concubine.”

Her gun violently pops up from the other side of the kitchen counter and fires wildly, no regard for aim. Ooh, struck a nerve. He grins.

“I’d rather die on the battlefield!” she calls out.

“That can be arranged, as well.”

She growls in response.

He rolls like a spy from the couch to the kitchen counter. Ouch. His back is not what it used to be. He holds his breath, trying to keep in that grunt of pain. He listens for movements. How is she so damn silent?

He scuttles carefully along the counter and around the bar stools. Hopefully he can trap her in the corner by the oven. He takes a step to round the counter into the kitchen. The board creaks. He freezes. Still nothing.

He lets out a sigh of relief. He’s too close to be giving away his position.

He hears a loud stomp behind him. He jumps in surprise and turns in time to see Kate in the middle of a flying leap. She gets in a mid-air shot before she tackles him to the ground. His vest explodes in color. She scrambles up. Her chest sweeps past his face and causes lights to burst in his vision. He lays back, the wind knocked out of him. She stands with a triumphant laugh. He loves that sound of pure joy, the undertones of pride.

He can do without her Captain Morgan pose though.

She pins him down with a foot on his chest, smiles brightly at him before swinging her arm down and shooting him once more.

“Five, zero, Voltar. Time to give up the throne. The omni-verse is mine now.”

He grabs her by the ankle on his chest and pulls hard. With a sudden intake of breath, she loses her balance and gravity takes her. He breaks her fall with an oomph! She lands sitting on his chest, her legs on either side of his torso.

She slaps his shoulder. Her cheeks are flushed with the rush of falling. The adrenaline makes her glow and he can’t help but think of how gorgeous she looks, even in such dim lighting. She closes her eyes, trying to focus on slowing down her pounding heart rate. They open again when she leans down over him, resting her forehead to his and propping herself on her forearms on either side of his head. She shifts her lower body to accommodate the movement. When she’s comfortable she starts to stroke his hair lightly with her fingers.

He runs his hands up her thighs to hold her to him. His thumbs circle slowly.

She searches his eyes. “Don’t be a sore loser.” She breathes it into him.

He tips his mouth, kisses her. “Don’t be a sore winner.”

She hums a press-lipped smile. Kisses him hard and quick. Like a reset button. “How was your day?”

He watches the warm play of lights on her skin. The blue flashes play across her cheeks, the purple flutter along the curve of her neck.

And he sees her. Really sees her. This wonderful woman.

He just needs her. Screw the loft and the book tour and DC. All the places that are keeping him from home. He just needs Kate. Wants her.

“Better now that I’m home.”

She smirks at his response, quirks an eyebrow at the obvious. But she must see something extra in his eyes. Her face glows brightly with an open smile. He can see the shy pleasure she takes in his words, whatever deeper interpretation she read. She leans down swiftly and peppers his face with light kisses.

And with contented sigh, she rests her cheek on his chest, buries her nose into his neck, nuzzling him. He wraps his arms around her in a loose hug.

They rest in each other’s presence. Breathe in the moment.

“It’s really dark in here.”

He chuckles. “Yeah.”