NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Happy birthday to the lovely AC. Thanks for bringing me into the fold.


She mostly tries to stay out of the way. Too many people carrying heavy boxes, too many opportunities to get run over if she's not careful. Loud voices boom and make her skittish.

She retreats to the room upstairs that has always been her haven with its butter yellow walls that reflect the afternoon sunlight.

She's safe here, safe to curl up on the soft bed, and so that's exactly what she does.

There are no boxes here, no strangers calling out to each other, alternately smiling or glaring when they catch a glimpse of her. No doubt someone will find her eventually. Someone will come looking for her at some point, will discover her hideaway and try to coax her into rejoining the family.

Either that or she'll get hungry and venture downstairs on her own.

Their life has been so chaotic lately, and it has completely upset her routine - she's barely eaten for days, her sleep has been disrupted by knocks at the door and ringing and being shuttled back and forth nearly every day.

The old place is nearly empty now though, and as the boxes have been opened here, she has recognized familiar things - her favorite chair, the soft blanket she loves, her dishes of course.

"There you are."

She looks up at the familiar voice, watches as the figure strides toward her, sitting down on the bed at her side. A warm hand settles on her back, gentle pressure that strokes down, lifts and then resumes its motions from the base of her neck once more. She arches into the touch, and strong fingers delve down to scratch pleasantly against her skin.

She purrs.


"You think she'll be okay?" the detective asks softly.

He leans against the back of the couch, stretches his arm out to pull her toward him, dropping an easy kiss on the crown of her head when she's within reach.

"Minnie will be fine," he promises. "It's not like she's never been here before."

Kate laughs. "You're right. She's spent nearly as much time here as she ever did at my apartment. I just worry. She hasn't been eating like she usually does."

"I think she's just been feeling a little unsettled," he murmurs, his fingers skating up and down her bicep, nose nudging at her ear. "We've all been so busy lately. But she'll be back to normal before we know it, chasing fake mice and trying to sneak food off our plates."

"Not so much trying as succeeding when it comes to you," the woman teases. "Not even really sneaking."

He shifts his body to face her, puts on the best expression of affront that he can manage. "I have no idea what you mean, Detective."

She hums, lips pressed together and a thoughtful look on her face. "Oh really?"

"Really."

She shrugs. "Then it must have been someone else's fiancÚ that I saw feeding bacon to the cat a few days ago."

"Turkey bacon," he defends himself, belatedly realizing what he's admitted.

Laughing, she pats him on the chest. "Oh, well, if it was turkey bacon."

A thump on the back of the couch startles them both, and they turn in unison to find the small gray cat staring at them, green eyes luminous in the dim light of the living room.

He watches as she bumps her forehead against Kate's temple, a raspy purr echoing in the quiet of the loft.

"See?" he whispers, sliding his hand across the short distance to rest of Kate's thigh. "She's doing fine already."

The detective smiles, lifts her hand to cup his cheek, her ring finger sparkling as she moves. "Yes, I see. You do take good care of us."

He beams at her, heart fluttering at the words, turns his head to let his lips caress her palm. "And I always will, no matter what changes we face."

She drops her hand from his cheek, pushes against his shoulder to get him to lean back once more. When he's settled, the detective - his soon-to-be wife, he reminds himself, his heart clenching - tucks her body into his, lets him curl an arm around her, her head tilted against his shoulder.

He sighs, filled up and happy, listens to her quiet breathing, taking in the way she fits against him, the way she fits into his home. Their home now.

The last of her boxes have been unpacked, all her clothes put away, her knick-knacks finding space next to his on dressers and shelves, her razor sitting next to his sea sponge in the shower.

Soft paws knead his other shoulder then, and he turns his head, tickling whiskers brushing his cheek. Minnie regards him solemnly for a moment and then meows quietly into his ear. He lifts his free hand to stroke her fur and she settles, draping herself over him, wet nose tucked into the crook of his neck.

He feels Kate shift, glances down to see her gentle smile as she takes in the sight of the cat in the spot she's favored since the very first night they spent watching Christmas movies and drinking hot chocolate and falling deeper in love.

Happiness dawns in her eyes, his own contentment reflected back to him. She lifts her hand, runs her fingers over the small creature's back and then tugs on Castle's chin. She kisses him, soft and slow. It feels like forever.

Rubbing her nose against his, she settles back into his grasp, wrapping one arm around his waist. "Nice to know some things will never change."

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