Author's note: This is another story from my alter ego. I originally posted it in chapters, and I'm going to preserve that format here.
It's still raining when she wakes up, the steady patter of water echoing against his windows. Still dark too, though they'd forgotten to shut the blinds completely and New York is never completely dark. Even so, it's not morning yet. Of course, it wasn't exactly late when they both fell asleep. She knows she hasn't slept well for the past three days, and she suspects his nighttime hours have been much the same - tossing and turning, mulling over their investigation, worrying.
Add to that the blissful exhaustion of sated bodies, and she's not surprised that they both passed out so quickly.
Kate shifts against him, revels in the slide of his hairy legs against her smooth skin, glories in the way his body radiates soothing heat into her aching muscles. He's good for her - in so many ways.
She stretches her arm, allowing her fingers to trail over his bare chest, wincing at the sudden spike of pain in her biceps.
That twinge sets off all the others - the dormant aches that now make themselves known. Right, she'd gotten into a very physical, very vicious fight less than twelve hours ago. Adrenaline had fueled her return to the precinct, her walk in the rain, and her...activities since she'd arrived at Castle's loft. But the adrenaline is gone and both fatigue and a deep hurt have settled into her bones.
A groan she can't quite muffle in time echoes through his bedroom, and he startles beneath her, sleepy blue eyes popping open. Surprise fills his expression at first, and then a slow smile blooms across his handsome face. She can't help returning it.
"Kate," he murmurs, awe infusing the single syllable.
She leans closer, nudging his cheek with her nose. "Hey."
His eyes flutter shut, and she can barely make out the crinkles at the edges, laugh lines that testify to his joy. Her heart fills with affection and she feathers her lips over his skin, adoring him.
"Time to get up?" he asks softly, his hand at her back beginning a slow up and down that makes her feel oh so safe.
She shakes her head. "Not yet. It's still the middle of the night."
"Oh," he answers, his fingers curling, the smooth rubbing motion against her back becoming a gentle scratching instead. She arches her spine into the touch, cat-like, feels the stretching of abused muscles.
Basking in the sense of contentment, she says nothing more, just rests against him, letting him continue in his easy ministrations.
"Why're you awake?" he asks after a moment, his voice rough with weariness.
She sighs. "Not sure. Hurting maybe."
His hand pauses instantly, and he uses his other elbow to prop himself up, opens his eyes to look at her. "What?"
"He beat me up pretty good," she says quietly. "And then there was the whole hanging off a roof thing, so..."
"Kate," he gasps, and she realizes she hadn't really told him anything. Just the bare bones, just that she nearly died. But he probably thought that nearly died equals almost on the wrong end of a gun, not almost falling multiple stories to her death after hand-to-hand combat that left her close to broken.
She gives a mirthless laugh. "He got the drop on Esposito and me in his hotel room, knocked Espo out. I chased him to the roof and he proceeded to beat me up, choke me, and throw me over the edge. And then he left me there."
Her voice is matter of fact. It's done now, and she just wants to forget it, wants to block it out. Wants to not dwell in the terror of those moments when she thought that her life was over and she'd never get to this point.
She can see the horror in his eyes, can see even in the dim light the way his face has blanched at her recitation. Leaning forward, she presses her forehead to his.
"I'm here," she whispers. "I'm here and I'm okay."
His eyes slide shut, a puff of air washing across her lips. His voice is gravelly when he speaks. "I should have been there. God, Kate, I should have never left you."
She shakes her head, lets her hand drift up to rest over his thudding heart. "You were there."
He doesn't speak, but his eyes open again, shiny with unshed tears as he stares at her.
She flattens her hand, pressing hard against his chest. "I heard your voice, Castle, when I was hanging from the roof. That's why I held on. You were calling out to me, and I knew you'd pull me up."
A strangled breath escapes his throat and then he's crushing her to him, tugging her over his body, arms tight around her torso, one hand at the back of her head, his legs tangling with hers.
His chest heaves beneath her, staccato gasps echoing in the darkness of his room. He's trying to say something, but she can't quite make it out, and when she brings her hands to his face, his cheeks are wet.
"Breathe," she murmurs, tilting her forehead to his as she runs her thumb along his cheekbones. "Just breathe, Castle."
His eyes squeezed shut, tears still stream down his face. She kisses them away, her lips following the hot, salty trails across his skin.
"Never," he finally gets out, and his voice sounds deeper, rawer than she's ever heard. "Never again. I'm never leaving you alone again."
He surges up, meets and takes her mouth, possesses her.
And then she's on her back, Castle rising over her, his hands at her collarbones.
Gentle fingers trace her skin, even his most tender touch stinging a little. She watches his eyes, sees the knit of his brow, concerned and angry as his thumbs run along either side of her neck. Hours have passed; she must be bruised by now.
"I should have been there," he mutters, dropping his head to press his lips lightly to her skin. His mouth is warm, soothing, a balm to her wounds.
Reaching up, she winds her fingers into his soft hair, clutching at him as he works his way from her neck to her shoulder then back across to the other side.
"You were there," she murmurs, shutting her eyes as the image of a deadly drop fills her sight, the sound of his voice still ringing in her ears. "You're always there, Castle."
She lets her hand drift down to the nape of his neck, strokes the soft skin there as she whispers reassurances into the air.
"Where else?" he growls, and it takes her a moment to realize his question isn't really directed at her.
Rocking back, he kneels between her thighs, his hands and eyes searching her body for reminders of her war - their war. His fingers rove her skin, his face half shadowed. He's seen all of her now, stripped her slowly after urgency turned to tenderness in the middle of their frantic exploration of each other at his front door.
He'd found her scar and the raging inferno had been doused. Need remained, yes, and want. But it was muted, softened.
Even so, even after his earlier and very thorough discovery of her body, this still feels unfamiliar, still feels monumental - a paradigm shift, the earth tilting on its axis, the dawn of a new era.
She cringes internally at the way she's thinking, but she can't help it. And then she doesn't care, because his mussed hair brushes against her breast, and she's arching against him as his lips feather over her ribs.
"Castle," she groans, but he doesn't stop; he continues in his task of healing her hurts.
And it's almost too much.
His mouth moves over her stomach, the area still sore from the impact of her would-be assassin's knee. She pushes up on her elbows, flexing the muscles of her abdomen, falls back when the strain is too much.
And then he's hovering over her, and she can't see his eyes but she knows the expression on his face anyway, knows the blend of ache and love.
"I could have lost you," he whispers hoarsely, his hand rising to push a wayward lock of hair from her cheek. "I could have lost you and I wouldn't have even known anything was wrong until someone called me. If someone called me. And, Kate, I-"
His voice hitches before he can finish the sentence, his mouth shutting on a barely restrained sob.
She lifts aching arms, curls them around his neck and pulls him down on top of her. He resists at first, and she knows he's afraid of hurting her further. But he needs this and she needs him and all the bruising in the world couldn't keep her from wanting his weight over her, his body a shield and a shelter.
"I'm here now," she murmurs, her lips brushing his ear as he shudders in her arms. "I'm here now, and I'm alive and I'm safe and-"
He cuts her off with a fierce kiss, steals her words away.
"Kate," he gasps when their lips break apart, and he repeats her name in that breathless voice, her name over and over as his mouth finds the hinge of her jaw, the pulse of blood in her neck, the hollow of her throat, the scar, the scar, the scar.
All she can do is whisper "I'm here," invocation and benediction both, her plea and promise as his mouth and hands traverse her flesh, scorching and soothing.
Sliding a hand under her back, he cradles her, pulls her closer, and she clings to him. Her slender fingers smooth down his trapezius, circling the strong muscles of his lower back for a moment and then continuing on to the curves he hides beneath tailored jeans.
His hips jerk at the touch and he takes a shaky breath. She smiles against his neck, opens her mouth to let her teeth graze the tense cords. He groans.
Forehead dropping to her shoulder, he shudders against her as her hand slides around his hip. She runs her thumb along the crease of his thigh, strong muscles jumping under her caress.
His breath heats her shoulder; he's panting, but his fingers still skim over her body, one hand lifting to cup her breast as the other drops to curl around the back of her thigh. She hums her approval, turns her head to press her lips to his cheekbone.
Shifting her hips, she makes room for him, but he stills his movements and all goes quiet save for the blood pounding in her ears.
"Castle," she begs, but he doesn't move. She lifts her hands, sliding one under his arm to curl around his shoulder while the other rises to cup his cheek, thumb glancing over his lips, swiping back and forth in the scant space between his mouth and her own collarbone.
He raises his head, light from the window sparking his gaze, intense and dark and dangerous. And yet so very gentle. He's a conundrum, her own personal paradox, and she wouldn't have him any other way.
She lifts her hips, his readiness brushing against her own. In the half light his eyes fall shut, his mouth falling open at the same time, ragged breaths echoing in the silence.
"Castle," she repeats. "Please."
"I don't want to hurt you," he whispers, shaking his head.
She coasts her hand up his cheek, brushes messy hair out of his eyes, murmurs her truth. "You won't. You can't."
He hesitates still, but she's burning, aching, needing him.
Bending one knee, she slides her calf against his thigh, pushes him closer. His eyes snap to hers, warning and longing both in his gaze. She doesn't look away.
And then he drives home, a swift slide until she cradles him flush against her, pressure and heat and wholeness sinking into her bones.
She curls around him, takes his strength and his tenderness both.
The best remedy.