Disclaimer: All things "Castle" belong to Andrew Marlowe and the powers that be at ABC.

Author's Note: What comes of rewatching 2x17 "Tick, Tick, Tick" and 2x18 "Boom." Beckett being forced out of necessity to stay at the loft for a time was another great missed opportunity for Castle and Beckett and I wanted to try my hand at fixing it. Also, I thought it'd be nice to return to the (innocent) times of S2 before Caskett's relationship got so much more complicated with all that happens especially in S4 and beyond.

Feels Like Home

Chapter 1

Kate jerked awake with a sharp gasp, her heart racing, her breath coming too quickly.

Panic made her chest feel tight, her lungs not quite able to expand. This wasn't—where was—fire. There was a fire.

Disoriented, her gaze flitted around the dim room and reality gradually returned to her.

Castle. She was in Castle's loft. In the guest bedroom.

Her apartment had exploded. So she was staying here.

Scott Dunn had been caught. He was behind bars. It was over. She was safe.

Homeless, but safe.

She frowned at the thought and pushed herself upright and then winced as various aches and pains from her fight with Dunn and the residual aches from escaping the bomb made themselves known. Oww.

She had indulged herself in an extended soak in the (wonderfully luxurious) bathtub in Castle's guest bathroom earlier that evening but now, hours later, her body was definitely feeling the effects.

Moving slowly and carefully, Kate slid out of bed and stood up, making her way down the stairs and to the kitchen.

She found a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water, tossing down some painkillers.

Turning away from the kitchen island, she started and almost dropped the glass.

"Castle, you shouldn't sneak up on people in the middle of the night," she scolded.

He held up his hands. "Sorry."

She huffed out a breath as she moved around the kitchen island, heading towards the living room area.

"Couldn't sleep?" he asked.

She lifted one shoulder into a half-shrug as she sat down on the couch, carefully keeping another wince off her face at the tug of pain from the bruises on her back and shoulder. "Unfamiliar bed; worrying over having to find a new apartment." She wasn't about to mention her nightmare. "What about you? Why aren't you asleep at this hour?"

"Just doing some writing."

She raised her eyebrows at him. "Do you always write at 2 o'clock in the morning?"

He tossed her a small smirk. "Inspiration doesn't only strike 9 to 5, Beckett. Genius works at all hours."

She snorted. "Genius. Yeah, right. I sometimes think that your ego makes the Grand Canyon look small by comparison."

He put on an expression of affected injury. "You're mocking me when I just saved your life? That's gratitude for you."

He was teasing. She knew that. Just part of the usual banter that characterized this odd friendship—partnership—whatever—of theirs. But she still felt a little twinge of guilt. He had saved her life twice in the last two days, had run into a burning building and, when the rubble and broken glass from the explosion had proven to be too much for her bare feet, he had actually picked her up and carried her to the emergency vehicles. (She was so used to thinking of him as her pesky, childish, and rather metrosexual tag-along that it was surprising—surprising and hot, an annoying internal voice spoke up—to learn that he was strong enough to carry her without much apparent difficulty. She shoved the thought away. That wasn't—she couldn't think like that.) He'd shot Dunn before Dunn could shoot her. And he'd opened up his home to her, given her a place to stay when she had nowhere else and refused to listen to any of her protests.

Unbidden, she heard Lanie's voice in her head from what Lanie had said to her earlier when she'd been helping Kate go through the wreckage of her apartment and pick out which of her clothes and other things could be saved and which had to be tossed. Kate had, again, asked Lanie if she could stay with her and Lanie had responded, tartly, "Girl, you're telling me you think you'd be more comfortable crashing on my couch, which I'd remind you, is short enough that your feet would probably dangle off the edge, than staying with Writer Boy where you'd have a real bed and a bedroom to yourself?"

Kate had grumbled but had to admit the sense of Lanie's words. Neither Lanie nor the boys had a guest bedroom in their apartments and Ryan had a girlfriend who stayed with him at least half the nights anyway and Kate wasn't about to intrude on them like that.

Kate was brought back to the present by Castle.

"Beckett. You know I wasn't trying to guilt you or anything."

She blinked and managed a slight smile for him. "No, it's okay. You just reminded me that I never said thanks for…" she trailed off, waving her hand in an awkward gesture to indicate the loft, but finally finished, "saving my life." Easier and safer to thank him for saving her life than for everything else.

He shrugged and gave her a careless grin. She was getting to know his expressions by now and so she was expecting his demurral but she was not expecting what he said next. "No thanks necessary, Beckett. My motives were purely self-interested anyway."

Self-interested? It had been in his self-interest to run into a burning building to save her?

She threw him a skeptical look. "Is this some weird ironic use of the term self-interested?"

In his self-interest to save her because she mattered to him? Because he valued having her in his life so much, an errant voice in her head suggested and she pushed it aside. That wasn't—it couldn't be what he meant.

He scoffed. "No. I'm talking about the money."

"Money," she repeated blankly.

He gave her a look of exaggerated, wide-eyed sincerity. "Do you have any idea how much money Heat Wave has made for me? Or how much money Black Pawn offered me for my contract for the next Nikki Heat books? And since you are the inspiration for Nikki Heat, clearly it would behoove me to keep you alive so I can keep shadowing you and getting authenticity for my books. Authenticity sells books, Detective, and I can't write authentically about Nikki without following the inspiration for Nikki," he pontificated.

She bit her lip but couldn't quite hold back her laugh. "It would behoove you? Who uses language like that anymore?"

"I'm a writer; I can use whatever language I like. So you see, Beckett, I had purely mercenary motives for saving you. After all, Alexis will be going to college in a few years and tuition is expensive."

She laughed at his silliness, even as she felt rather treacherous warmth blossom in her chest. She knew how rich he was—well, no, she didn't really know but she could guess judging from the size of his loft and the fact that she knew he had a Ferrari. (And he had given $100,000 of his own money without blinking an eye in order to catch her mother's killer.) He didn't need more money—he was already rich—he was just trying to make her feel more comfortable with owing him so much.

"Well, I would hate to think that I was responsible for Alexis not getting the education she deserves so I'll do my best to stay alive in the future," she managed to say but couldn't quite control her expression to match the lightness of her tone. Maybe it was the lateness of the hour or her uncharacteristic sense of vulnerability after the events of the last couple days but her defenses were weaker, if not entirely down.

He only smiled at her and they sat in silence for a couple minutes—surprising her since she always tended to forget that he could be silent for any length of time but even as she had the thought, he spoke.

"If you want, I can call my realtor to help you find a new place. It might make it easier."

"Thanks, Castle. I might take you up on that."

"Also, I know my mother has some odds and ends of furniture in storage from her last apartment before moving in here." He quirked a smile. "And fortunately, her taste in furniture is less… dramatic than her taste in clothing. I'm sure my mother would be happy to let you take a look at it and take what you like whenever you find a new place."

She blinked. Furniture. She hadn't even thought about all that yet, mostly focused on her clothes and personal keepsakes but he was right. She would need to replace all her furniture and the cost of that, on top of finding a new apartment, to say nothing of replacing at least half her wardrobe… (She didn't know for sure but somehow she doubted that insurance would come through for anything other than the bare minimum.) "Oh, I… hadn't even thought about furniture yet. Are you sure Martha won't need it some time?"

He waved a hand. "You can ask her but I promise you if she ever actually moves out of here, she'll just use it as an excuse to buy all new furniture and make me pay for it." He glanced around theatrically and then leaned forward to add in a loud whisper, "Mother likes my credit cards more than she likes me."

She choked on a laugh. He was being ridiculous—as usual—but he'd managed to dispel her sudden worry over how she was supposed to afford everything she needed to replace.

He sat back and then said, with a smirk, "And Beckett, since I know this is the most important thing, I will personally ensure that your entire collection of the works of Richard Castle is replaced."

"I'd rather have the complete works of James Patterson."

"If you're very nice, I might throw in a few, just a couple, of his books too," he said with the air of someone making a great concession.

She wanted to laugh and she was smiling but it suddenly hit her all over again, now that the adrenaline of working the case was over, that she was homeless, had lost... just about everything she owned. She had a little less than a week's worth of clothes—the spare changes of clothes and the one extra pair of shoes she kept at the precinct along with a few outfits that she had fortunately not had time to pick up from the dry cleaners before now—but other than that… About half her wardrobe was salvageable but in dire need of some serious dry cleaning before it would be wearable again. Everything else—her family photos, the keepsake box where she usually kept her badge, her father's watch, and her mother's ring, the set of nice dishes that used to belong to her grandmother—was gone, destroyed.

And Castle couldn't replace all that but he had saved her father's watch, had offered her a place to stay—and she knew without his saying so that the offer was open for as long as she needed until she found a new apartment—and even now, he was offering to help her rebuild her life again.

Unbidden, she heard Agent Shaw's voice in her mind. He cares about you, Kate. You may not see it, you may not be ready to. But he does.

Oh, she saw it. She saw it. She just didn't know what to do about it.

"You're looking at me like you've never seen me before, Beckett."

"I just… you're being so nice to me," she blurted out dumbly. Stupid, Kate.

He gave her a look of exaggerated shock. "Are you implying that I'm not always nice to you, Detective?"

"Considering you seem to have made it your mission in life to annoy me…" she manufactured a teasing little smile. "It's… disorienting to have you being so… nice."

"How do you know I'm not this nice to all the beautiful women I know?" he parried.

She snorted. "Really, Castle? That's a line unworthy of your status as a writer."

"It's the middle of the night. I'm off my game," he defended.

She smirked at him. "That's assuming you ever have any game to speak of."

He threw her a look of exaggerated dismay. "I'll have you know that I'm famous for being charming! I've got a lot of game!" he protested. "Just ask the New York Ledger."

"Didn't anyone ever tell you not to believe everything you read in the paper?"

He gave her an odd look that she couldn't quite decipher but only said, "I'll remind you of that the next time Page Six decides to write about me."

She bit her lip but couldn't quite hold back her smile, one that he returned, and she felt a dangerous little flutter inside her because it was one of his real smiles, not one of his usual, infuriating smirks, one of the smiles that reminded her that Castle really wasn't the jackass he spent so much time pretending to be.

She blinked and yanked her eyes away from his, clearing her throat. "It's late, Castle. I'm going to…" she broke off, rapidly rethinking her unthinking words of saying she was going to bed and finished, quickly, "go back upstairs and sleep."

It sounded awkward and she inwardly cringed but he didn't comment, only stood up in his turn.

"Good night, Beckett."

Her eyes flickered to meet his briefly. "Night, Castle."

Once back in the guest bedroom, Kate lay down on the bed and huffed out her breath.

She needed to leave. She couldn't stay here, in Castle's loft, with Castle for very long. A couple days, a week maybe. Just enough time to get her bearings again and feel a little more put-together, after having her entire life basically blown apart by the bomb. That was all and then she would leave.

Castle waited in the living room until he heard the soft sound of the guest bedroom door being closed before he flicked off the light in the kitchen and retreated into his office.

He was so doomed.

He knew it.

He'd told himself and told himself for weeks, even months now, that what he felt for Beckett was just the healthy lust that any red-blooded male would feel for someone so gorgeous. And of course, he did want her. Anyone would.

But now, well, now he couldn't kid himself that his feelings for Beckett were that simple.

It wasn't just lust. It wasn't just friendship.

He was in over his head. In so far over his head that he knew he was going to drown and fall in l—no, no, he couldn't think the word. He didn't. He couldn't.

(But a part of him already knew that he did.)

He'd thought the bottom had fallen out of his world when he'd seen and felt the bomb go off in her apartment. He hadn't been able to breathe properly in the endless minutes before he'd found her alive. (And naked, an errant voice in his head inserted.)

And now he'd been sitting in his office trying to write, to describe the explosion, the heat of the flames, the smell of the smoke. (He was a writer; he always tried to write out descriptions of new experiences and being so close to a bomb going off was a new experience.) He hadn't succeeded. He'd thought the added distance of the couple days that had passed and everything that had happened in those couple days would allow him to write about it. He'd been wrong. Every time he tried, the emotion of that moment, of thinking that Ka—Beckett was dead returned and he'd practically needed to grip his desk just to keep from going upstairs to the guest bedroom to make sure she was really all right.

And then as if his own worries had conjured her up, he'd heard soft footsteps coming down the stairs and he'd known, somehow, that it was her. He'd fought with himself for a few seconds—being alone with her in the middle of the night was dangerous—but then he'd given in to his own driving need to see her—alive and safe—his own wish to be close to her. (He always wanted to be close to her. He was so doomed.)

He could still see the uncovered cut on her forehead from the explosion, her wrist had been taped up, and she'd looked tired and stressed and there'd been a tightness around the set of her lips that made him suspect that she was sore too. She'd still been the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.

And even with all that had happened to her in the last couple days—being threatened by a serial killer, nearly being blown up in an explosion, losing her home and her belongings—she'd still been able to smile and laugh and tease him and match wits with him and he'd hardly been able to breathe for being amazed by her.

Words, extravagant promises, bubbled up inside him and it had been all he could do to bite them back. He wanted to ask her to move in and stay forever. He wanted to tell her he would buy her a new apartment if she wanted. He wanted to tell her he'd pay for her entire replacement wardrobe. He wanted to tell her that he l—cared about her and he would do anything for her and beg her to let him help her.

He hadn't.

He'd limited his offers to the help of his realtor, offered up his mother's old furniture (maybe he could go furniture shopping and have that new furniture put in with his mother's odds and ends), and then offered to replace her collection of his books. (That much, at least, he thought he could do; he left unsaid that he had every intention of replacing as much of her library as he could remember seeing on her bookshelves in the night he'd spent on her couch. If he limited it mostly to her mystery collection, surely she would allow that.)

Ironic, that Beckett's rather prickly independence—and Beckett was undoubtedly the most self-sufficient woman he'd ever met in his life—only made him want to help her more, do more for her. He knew her well enough to know she wouldn't ask for help—but he liked and respected her all the more for her independence. (He liked everything about her.)

Yeah, he was really doomed.

But she'd thanked him for saving her life. And she'd smiled at him a few times, real soft smiles. And she'd be staying at the loft for at least the next few days until she could get things sorted out.

And maybe, this would be his chance to show Kate Beckett that he cared, that he was serious about her—because he was serious about her, more serious than even he'd realized until now—that he wanted her to give him a chance. Maybe this would be the catalyst to push them from being colleagues at work and friends—he thought she considered him a friend by now, she certainly didn't hate him anymore—to being something more than that.

~To be continued…~

A/N 2: Stepping out of my comfort zone a little with this fic since multi-chapter fics aren't my strong suit.

As always, thank you all for reading and please let me know what you think!