Silence greets him as he pulls the key from the lock, pushing the door open.
It's too quiet, and even though he left a few lights on, it seems dark inside the loft.
Maybe it's just him.
Kate had told him to call, told him to maybe come by the station when he left Columbia. But he couldn't bear for her to see him this way. Even after everything. He knows she'd baby him, and he doesn't want it, even if he's not sure exactly why.
He shuts the door behind him and leans back, lets the warm wood bear his weight.
He feels wrung out, twisted up and drained.
The back of his skull thudding against the door, Castle allows himself a moment to wallow. His girl - his baby girl - is at college. And he's here alone.
He needs a drink.
Forcing himself upright, the writer plods across the space, heading toward his office and the good scotch that his mother somehow has never discovered in his desk.
Halfway across the space, he trips.
He catches himself on the arm of the couch, leans down to retrieve his stumbling block.
A laser tag vest.
He'd pulled Alexis from her packing the night before, challenged her to an epic showdown, and she might have rolled her eyes, might have looked longingly for a moment at the piles of clothes and books she was taking to college, but she accepted his challenge nevertheless.
They'd spent a solid hour ducking behind pillars, army-crawling across the floor, trying to draw each other out. And finally she'd caught him just here, behind the couch.
He thought he'd put away the equipment, but maybe he hadn't. Or maybe Alexis had left it out as a reminder to him that she wouldn't be gone forever, that she'd be back for home-cooked meals and laundry and just to spend time with him, playing silly games.
He lifts the vest, stares at it for a moment, then shuts his eyes as the memories flood his vision. A thousand points.
Sighing, he finally continues across the room, vest tucked under his arm. He'll keep the equipment handy, just in case she drops in sooner than expected. Just in case she decides she doesn't want to go to college after all and just wants to live with him for the rest of his life. After all, he lives with his mother, doesn't he? It could happen.
On second thought, maybe he shouldn't be drinking.
He should go to the precinct, should go see how Kate and the boys are doing with their case. Well, their paperwork, he amends. She'd texted him just as he and Alexis were taking their last load into the dorm, told him they'd gotten a confession, that she'd be working on the paperwork for the rest of the day, that he was welcome to return to the precinct and do his share.
Maybe he will. Maybe that's what he needs.
First though, he needs a nap. Sleep hadn't exactly been his top priority the night before. Too busy worrying about his daughter, Castle tossed and turned until four a.m. when he finally threw the covers off and padded upstairs to watch her sleep, to listen to her breathing and the occasional soft snort.
Alexis had given him a gentle look when she awoke and found him there - chastising, but not surprised, a little pitying.
He's tired now.
Striding through his office, he steps over the threshold of his bedroom, still holding the vest as his eyes adjust to the darkness that shrouds his sanctuary.
And then there's a flash of light and an electronic beeping and a laugh that he knows so well and Kate Beckett is sitting on his bed, holding a laser gun.
She's grinning, gaze bright even in the dimness of the room, the light of the gun catching on her eyes and making them glow. And she's wearing one of his shirts.
Nothing but one of his shirts.
"Kate," he breathes, watches as her joyful grin turns predatory.
She slithers off his bed and saunters toward him, gun dangling at her side. "Hey Castle."
He shakes his head, tries to make his brain work properly. "What are you doing here?"
"Finished my paperwork," she says with a shrug. "Thought I'd come over to distract you from wallowing."
She slides one hand around his back - the hand still holding the laser gun - and the other coasts slowly up his chest, nails scratching lightly as she goes. He shivers.
"How am I doing so far?" she whispers as she presses up on tiptoes, her body moulding itself to his, her fingers rising to curl around his neck.
He swallows hard, shuts his eyes to regain a little control. Yeah, right. Control when she's plastered to his front, her scent surrounding him, her mouth working at his jaw? Not happening.
"Pretty good," he growls, his free hand wrapping around her waist to hold her to him. "Yeah. You're good with the distractions."
She chuckles darkly into his ear, her tongue darting out to lave the lobe. "I know."
He groans under her touch, under the lips trailing over his skin, under the fingers playing with the fine hairs at the nape of his neck. He's powerless against her and she knows it.
"Castle?" she murmurs, and he hums his attention, eyes shut, his whole body thrumming with need.
A loud beep from the vest in his hand startles him and he jumps back to find her standing before him, gun in hand, smirking. "That's two. First one to a thousand?"
"Kate," he says, an awestruck laugh crossing his lips, echoing in the quiet room. "You realize that could take years?"
She shrugs, a soft light in her eyes. "Yeah. So?"
I was in a real bad way
When you turned the power on
And made me feel for all the world
Like I was the king of all of the world
-Old 97's, "King of All The World"