He found her, body gently folded over the table, her head pillowed on one of her arms that had been haphazardly extended across the surface. He smiled softly at the sight of Kate finally taking a break from the case that had been consuming her for the last 40 hours.
Ever since getting the call about the crime, she had been working non-stop to find the killer of the 5-year-old boy that had been discovered half buried in a playground sandbox. He had never doubted her passion for speaking for the dead, but this case re-affirmed his beliefs. It spurred something deep within her and he couldn't think about a time since they arrived at the crime scene where she had even stopped for a second to think about anything else. Even for the brief period the night before he had returned to his loft to rest up, he doesn't believe she did the same considering he found her this morning in the exact clothes she was wearing the day before, only slightly more disheveled on her thin frame.
He had watched her closely all day as she went from murder board to interviews to medical examiner's office and back. Around 10 this morning was when he noticed that the smudges of blue that had been residing under her eyes seemed to turn a shade darker than before. It was at 12:30, when he had tried to have her re-energize with something else other than coffee and had put a half of his sandwich in her hand, that he witnessed her leaving it uneaten and forgotten on the edge of Espo's desk. Finally, after catching her swaying slightly in exhaustion as she had studied the timeline just half an hour ago, he bullied her into the conference room with print outs of the parent's finances to have her at least sit while he ran out to find her some food.
That was where he found her; seemingly having finally lost her battle with the natural pull of sleep. When he realized he had been standing next to her desk gazing at her sleeping form for the last several minutes, he jerked to awareness and glanced around bullpen wondering if anyone had witnessed his lovesickness. He wasn't surprised to find it empty. It was, he realized as he checked his watch, almost 10:45 at night; well past the time that many detectives and officers usually stuck around.
He sighed and set the bag of take-out Chinese, one of her favorites, silently down on her desk and made his way into the conference room. The papers he had left her studying were now buried under her form, one with a spot of drool that had made its way down from the corner of her mouth.
She's gorgeous even when she drools, he thought as he came to a stop at the chair next to the one she was currently residing in. He couldn't help himself as one of his hands reached out and swept a lock of her hair that had fallen out of her pony tail and into her face. The decision was quickly regretted when she immediately drew in a deep breath of awakened-ness.
"Castle?" she sighed, her breath fanning across his withdrawing hand. Her eyes blinked open and flitted over to rest upon his face, "How long have I been asleep?"
He found himself staring stupidly at her. Answer her you idiot. He couldn't get any response, no matter how simple, past his suddenly dry lips. The way she was gazing at him through half-mast lids was doing something strange to him. His fierce detective was allowing him to see this softer, sleepy side of herself that she rarely showed people at all.
Suddenly she sat up, the arm she hadn't been resting on following her. He watched as she used the sleeve of the sweater she had previously switched her blazer out for to swipe at the trail of crustiness left by her earlier drool. She glanced at him shyly out of the corner of her eye, seemingly embarrassed by the thought of him having seen the dribble. She muttered an 'ugh' as she hid her face, now tinted slightly pink, in her hands.
"Would you quit staring at me? I know I probably look like a mess right now, but I'm sure your mother taught you better than to gawk at people when they're not at their best." Kate smoothed her palms over her face and up into her hair in an attempt to tame the fly-aways. Her glare gave Castle the initiative to finally find his voice.
"You're beautiful." Shit. "I mean, you look great when you're drooling." Double shit. Get yourself together, man. "I uh, well…" He trailed off as her gaze softened and a small smile began to grace her lips. "I-I just got back. You must have fallen asleep while I was out. Couldn't have been more than thirty minutes." His eyes left her for the first time since spotting her asleep.
"I shouldn't have done that. No time. This case needs to be solved." Kate stood up from her spot and started gathering up the papers that she had spread out on the table.
Castle laid a hand on her forearm, halting her movements. "No, Kate, you need to take a break. Just a few hours to sleep, something to eat. The case will still be here in the morning." Please Kate.
"No," Kate stressed as she shook her head, "Castle, you don't understand, I need to solve this case. That little boy…" Her voice cracked as she trailed off and she closed her eyes as the images from the crime scene came flooding to the front of her thoughts.
"Hey-," Castle brought her attention back to their conversation with the brush of his thumb against the peek of skin from beneath her sweater. "I know. No child should have to go through what this little boy did. That doesn't mean you need to risk your health over this. You need food and sleep so you can be back to your best and solve this. No one will criticize you for taking a break."
They held eye contact for a minute before Kate visibly gave in. "Come on," Castle said, leading her forward with a hand at the small of her back, "I'll take you home."
As they boarded the elevator after collecting their things, Kate wrapped her arms around one of his and rested her head on his shoulder with a sigh. I love you, the unspoken thought of them both as the doors closed and they began their descent.
Love to hear your thoughts. -RockChalkLove