So... I watched back to back episodes and this just happened. I'm surprised too. Many thanks to Ky for the beta. (Please don't judge my crappy title skillz)

Kate woke up to an empty bed. That was different. She hadn't woken up alone for weeks. She'd avoided her apartment since Ryan and Esposito had been trapped in the burning building. The rush of the day had sent her crashing and as soon as she'd washed the smoky smell of the day off her skin, she'd collapsed into bed, Castle's warm, soothing presence behind her. Since then, it was a matter of rinse and repeat.

She'd gone back to his place and hadn't left since because she hadn't wanted to be alone. The incident with the boys had shaken her to her core; forced to remain on the edge, being unable to take charge of the situation and save the day; she wasn't quite sure how to deal with the emotional fallout. All she knew was that it felt good to be close to him. Her somewhat unsettled emotions had been shoved to the backburner at the arrival of Anderson Cross. An unpleasant tension had settled over the apartment, Martha was rarely seen without a glass of merlot in hand, and Castle had been spending increasing hours in isolation.

An empty bed in the early hours of the morning usually meant that Castle had been woken up by Nikki Heat's tantalisingly persistent whispers and he'd had to rush away to get the whispers from his mind to the page before they could disappear like smoke in the wind. Given the amount of time Castle had been spending licking his wounds, it likely meant something a lot more ominous.

The Kate Beckett of even a few months before would have turned over and curled into a ball, willing herself to go back to sleep, spending hours staring at the red numbers of her alarm clock. It was easy to deny that there was a problem. But sweeping their issues under the rug had hardly served them well in the past and it was a habit that Kate was determined to break. She was resolute. Needing somebody was not a weakness; and in the dead of night, she needed Castle, and she could feel in her bones that he probably needed her too.

She tiptoed out to the kitchen, flicking the kettle to boil by the light of the pantry. She was certain Castle would be in desperate need of a caffeine hit, and assuming that he was writing, he'd be far too busy getting his words on the page to step away long enough to hit the button on the coffee machine.

She padded into the study, placing the mug down on his desk with a gentle thud. "Everybody playing nicely?" she asked, ruffling his hair affectionately. She took a step away from him, ready to curl up on the couch in the study and sip her chamomile tea before going back to sleep. She didn't need to disrupt his process. The gentle tap-tap-tap of his keyboard and steady rhythm of his breathing would be more than enough to soothe her back into slumber.

He snagged her hand, pressing a kiss to the inside of her wrist. "What are you doing up?" he murmured.

She shot him a soft smile. "I can't sleep without somebody trying to invade my side of the bed," she teased. "And I was cold. I woke up to realise that you've been sneaking off to spend time with another woman,"

Castle chuckled. Kate had been the best and worst thing to ever happen to his writing. She was utterly inspiring and as a loyal fan and reader, constantly pushing him to write the next instalment because she needed to know what happened to her literary doppelganger. The downside of her inspiration was that he could rarely tear himself away from her to write. Real life was better than fiction and sometimes; Nikki Heat was a poor man's alternative to the living, breathing Kate Beckett. He pulled her onto his lap. "I'm not writing," he whispered, resting his chin on her shoulder. Clicking on the Google Chrome icon, he pulled up the pages he'd been exploring.

"Richard Castle, are you looking at wedding websites without me?" Kate asked, her eyebrow rising in surprise. This wasn't what she was expecting. She knew he wasn't exactly big on planning and she'd assumed that she would be handling most of the details of the day herself. The fact that Castle was looking at wedding cake designs and had started drafting a guest list was unexpected, but not at all unwelcome. It wasn't just her day… it was for both of them and she wasn't going to monopolise it the way that she was certain ex wives had in the past.

"I figured I better rope you in for life before you figure out what you're marrying into and go running," he replied, taking her mug out of her hand and taking a sip.

Kate frowned. He usually knew better than to mess with her beverages. It was stranger still because he usually rolled his eyes at her herbal tea after dark when not working habit. He wasn't up writing tonight, she reminded herself. He was up distracting himself because he was in anguish over his father. He didn't need hyping up so that he could keep getting his thoughts down. He needed her.

"There's something I never told you," Kate murmured. She put her mug down and laced her fingers with his. "For weeks after you arrived home from Paris, I sat outside your apartment for the evening," she told him. "Just let me finish, babe," she cautioned him before he could interrupt and ask why she hadn't just come upstairs.

"Alexis wasn't in a good state and you didn't need anyone tearing your attention from her. It wasn't my place to be in the apartment. But I needed to know you were safe. So I sat outside and watched. And as I watched, I knew that everything was okay. You hadn't disappeared without a word. It helped me a lot more than I thought it would," she admitted.

She brushed her thumb along his cheekbone. "The thing is, though, I was never alone."

"What?" Castle gaped, his mouth slightly agape.

"I couldn't really see him clearly, but the same guy stood in the shadows between the two buildings across the way from your building. All I knew was that you'd met your father somewhere during your time in Paris, but you'd been so vague with details that all I could do was assume. I figured that assumptions weren't enough, so I never told you."

She watched Castle absorb her words. "How long did you watch the apartment?" he asked. There was no sense in arguing about how she didn't need to do it and that she always had a place in his home so far after the fact. A silent vigil was so completely Beckett, not something that she needed to talk about, but did simply because she loved him.

"A month," she replied, busying herself with taking a sip of tea so that he could absorb her words with at least the illusion of privacy.

"I don't get it," he sighed. "Why? Why would he do that?"

"Oh, Castle," Kate murmured. "I know your father isn't perfect. But imperfect people are still capable of loving." She pressed a kiss to his cheek. "I'm far from perfect and you believe me when I say that I love you, right?"

"Of course I do," he replied.

"You better," she growled playfully. "Castle, the man has spent his life keeping people out of his life because any kind of connection could be used to destroy him. I think he stood outside your apartment for a month because it was the only thing that he could do. He wanted you to be safe from the world he lives in, but he still wants you," she shot him a smile. "I understand that part of it. You're pretty fantastic, you know."

Castle pressed his face into her neck, arms wrapping tightly around her waist as he breathed in the scent of her skin. Her fingers wove through his hair, nails lightly scratching at his scalp as she allowed him to draw comfort from her closeness. "I'm not going anywhere, Castle," she sighed. "I love you and you're gonna be stuck with me for a good, long time yet."

His only response was to pull her closer still. She knew him well enough to know that he was still processing the last few days and she felt no need to push him to speak about all that had happened. "I'm so glad we finally picked a date," she whispered. Her leave application for the wedding and honeymoon had been presented to Gates and approved and save the dates were being sent out the following week. "The fire terrified me, Castle," she whispered.

"All I could think about was how glad I was that it wasn't you in there," he replied, lips brushing against her throat. "I was so relieved that for once, you were safe and it made me feel like such an asshole."

"I never would have been able to look Lanie or Jenny in the face if it hadn't turned out well," Kate replied. "Because they would have lost everything and I would have still had you and I never would have stopped feeling guilty about it. Especially because Jenny would have been all alone with that poor little girl," Kate's breath hitched. They really hadn't spoken about that night. After leaving the hospital, assured that Mom and Baby, as well as Dad and Godfather were fine it had been home for urgent shower sex and sleep. Since then, they'd both kept moving forward without speaking about that night.

"Ever since that day, I've been thinking about the fact that I gave you a ring but we haven't gone any further. We've been to hell and back more than once but the idea that I could lose you without making it clear that you're mine and I love you is just inexcusable." His finger had been tracing the stone of the ring sitting on her left hand. He reached forward and bumped his trackpad, dismissing his screensaver, wedding websites on show again. "Hence the wedding searches in the middle of the night."

Kate smiled at him. She knew that they probably needed to talk about his ex wives and the damage they'd done to him regarding marriage and all that came with it, but for now, she had to resist the urge to count down to the first Saturday in September. "I have no problem with showing everybody you've ever met that you belong to me," she told him firmly, leaning forward to sneak a kiss from his lips. "I can't wait to get down the aisle." Her thumb traced his cheekbone. "Castle, you need to sleep," she murmured.

He nodded. The bags underneath his eyes were pronounced and she knew he'd spent weeks tossing and turning beside her. She'd been about to stand to lead him back to bed, but his grip on her waist tightened. His head rested on her shoulder, his breathing deep and even against her neck. She would have to rouse him eventually. If they stayed where they were, they'd both wake with aching necks because let's face it, neither one of them were spring chickens any more. He was finally peaceful though, and she couldn't bear to disrupt that. Her fingers carded through his hair, enjoying the tranquillity that had settled over the room.

She pressed a kiss to his forehead. "C'mon, babe," she murmured. "Time to get you into an actual bed."

He gave a sleepy whimper of protest when she slipped out of his embrace, his tired eyes squinting as she grabbed his hands and tugged him towards the bedroom door.

She managed to restrain a giggle when he collapsed onto the bed, his face mashed into the pillow as he lay on his stomach like a starfish. She slipped neatly in beside him, nudging him off her side as he slung his arm over her waist. The world was going to keep throwing crap at them, if their past was anything to judge by. But if she got these moments as a reprieve from the storm… she figured that they would both be just fine.

Thoughts? don't be shy!