Richard Castle glanced up from his laptop at the sound of his office door opening. His detective partner slipped inside looking quite unlike her normal sense. She seemed…smaller somehow. Almost, childlike. Her hair was pulled back in a low ponytail and she held in her hand an empty square cardboard box bearing the Kleenex logo.

Castle's eyes dipped to the corner of his computer screen and he saw that it was just after nine p.m. which meant the ghost—or whatever it was—of Johanna Beckett had more than likely left the building. He shut his laptop screen and smiled up at her gently. "Is she gone?"

Kate hummed and stepped up to the edge of his desk, resting the tissue box down on the mahogany surface.

"Do you need more tissues?"

"Wha—ah, no. No, I just used the last of this box. Sorry."

Castle shook off her apology and took the empty box, tossing it in the trash can behind him. Looking back to her he asked, "Are you okay?"

As she was still required to respond with full honesty, she said, "I don't know," because she truly didn't. Watching her mother disappear once more was difficult, though Kate could not honestly say she felt sad about it. She had the rare privilege of speaking with a once lost loved one. And, yeah, maybe it was all in her head; maybe it didn't happen, but it sure felt like closure. Looking down at the writer she asked, "Why did you do that?"

"Because I felt bad about my whole forcing you to tell the truth thing...why are you shaking your head?"

"You promised not to lie to me."

"That's not a lie."

Kate nodded to this. Okay, so his answer was plausible, but it certainly wasn't singular. "What's the other reason then?"

He leaned back in his chair and folded his hands across his lap. "Well I thought about it and really look at my life—what do I need? I'm successful, I'm wealthy. I don't need three wishes so I thought about what you might want." When he saw how much he'd hurt her, he knew immediately that he wanted to use his second wish to make it up to her. Doing so could not be done with any material object, so he thought about all the pieces he knew made up the fundamentals of Kate's personality. Her mother's death defined her in so many ways, which was why his decision to give her the opportunity to speak to and see her mother once more was almost too easy.

Kate skimmed her fingertips across the desk and asked, "Is that all?"

Castle pressed his lips together and his chest constricted. Her heavy lidded gaze told much more than her three word inquiry. Why had he bothered to use his second wish to bring Johanna to her? Why had he used his first wish to get inside her head? Because he would do anything to make her happy.

Shaking his head, he said, "No, it's not all but I-"

"Rick."

"Yeah?"

"Ask me how I feel about you."

He felt his cheeks flush. That was the question he wanted most to ask her, but the one he promised himself he wouldn't—not when she had no choice but to tell him the truth. "Kate."

"Ask me."

Her voice was strong, and she made it difficult to refuse her. Standing from his chair, he walked around to her side of the desk. "I... I think this evening has been emotional enough for you and-"

"Castle, ask me."

The expression on her face had turned from determined to one bearing a wry smile, but he wasn't going to give in. "No."

Her brow rose an inch. "Why?"

He shook his head. So many reasons… "Because I...I don't want to trick you into telling me."

"It's not a trick when I'm asking you to do it."

"I...want you to tell me—of your own accord. No magical involvement. I think I deserve that much." They had been through so much together—so much. He loved her more and more each day and knew in his heart they were meant to be together—but only when she was ready. Her opening up to him, her telling him how she felt of her own free will would be the sign; that's how he'd know she was ready. He wanted that—he wanted her to say those three words—but not before she was ready. If they started too soon and things didn't work out… he didn't want to think about it.

She was silent for almost a full minute before she dropped her eyes to the middle of his chest and confessed, "I don't know if I can."

He took a step back from her. "Then we'll wait. Really, it's fine."

She gazed up at him, tentative. "You'll wait?"

He smiled easily. "Of course. I know I promised I wouldn't ask you anything more but—you...you want me to wait right?"

He held his breath until she responded with an affirmative, "Yes."

Castle reached out and placed his hands on her shoulders, skimming his fingers across her back. "And you...you know how I feel about you?" She bobbed her head and he smiled at her. "Okay." Then, he pulled her in close.

Kate didn't hesitate to fall into his arms, tuck her head beneath his chin, and wrap her arms around his back. She relaxed fully for the first time in days and breathed in that oh-so-perfect Castle scent from his chest. She completely understood why he asked her to tell him how she felt without being forced into honesty by his wish and he was right; he did deserve that. Four years and everything they'd been through he deserved that and more. Still, even after her talk with her mother, Kate wasn't sure if she was quite ready yet; her brain was still too muddled.

Gripping Castle's back a bit tighter, she sighed out, "I don't know how I can ever thank you enough for what you did."

"Don't even worry about it." When she pulled back, he smiled down at her. "Do you want me to call for a car?"

She shook her head. "No I...I think I need the walk."

He nodded. "As long as you're sure…"

She hummed and gave his arm a squeeze as she turned away from him. "Goodnight, Castle."


Shortly before eleven p.m., Castle stood in his kitchen nursing a glass of whisky quite pleased with himself. It had been a good day. He'd discovered a genie, had two wishes granted, and made his partner very happy in the process. Really, he could not have asked for better. Deciding he'd finish the evening off with some light reading, he began to turn off lights in the apartment, but before his task was complete, he heard a knock at the front door.

Crossing through the living room, he wondered who would be knocking at such a late hour only to discover upon opening the door that it was his partner, bundled in her jacket, her cheeks stained red from the chilled night air. "Kate…what's going on?"

Her only response was to step inside, grip his face with both of her hands, and press her lips against his.

Stunned, Castle took a half step back, but his hands managed to land at her waist just as their lips parted. "Kate…"

Keeping her hands on his cheeks, she leaned her forehead against his and spoke softly. "Ask me how I feel about you."

He grumbled and leaned away knowing it was the only way he'd get clarity. "You're making it difficult for me to not ask you…" Returning to his apartment was one thing, but kissing him? She was absolutely going to be the death of him; he was sure of it.

"Castle, please." She insisted, but when his gaze dipped away from hers she stepped back in and placed her hands on his chest. "I spent the past two hours walking around the city thinking about you and what you did and my mom and what she said. She was right."

Kate had wandered around, taking in the lights, the noises of the streets, and all the people passing by. In many ways she was still scared to be in a relationship, but she also knew that some of those fears just wouldn't go away until she was in the relationship, working through it day by day. Her mother's death was the reason she built the walls, so in an odd way it made sense that her mother's advice would be the thing that brought them crashing down.

His curiosity now piqued, he looked up at her. "What'd she say?"

"The risk is more than worth the reward." With that, she brought her lips to his again. Within a moment she felt his fingertips on her spine as he drew her in closer. Her lips parted and she could feel the heat of his mouth, taste the remnants of whisky. Before she even realized he'd backed her up against the closed door, pressing his hips against hers. A small moan escaped her lips when their mouths separated and his bottom lip brushed against hers. "Castle…ask me."

Castle set his jaw and lowered his forehead to hers. God, how he wanted her. More so now that they'd kissed—really kissed. One taste of her and he knew he'd never get enough, not even with a lifetime together. She'd come back and he couldn't deny them now; he had to know. "Kate," he began, his voice husky, "how do you feel about me?"

She didn't even bother to fight the words as they came out. Her fingertips dug into his shoulders and a few tears slipped out. "I love you. I love you. I need you…"

"Oh god Kate…" His words were lost when their mouths crashed together once more.

She loved him. She loved him! He knew—oh god he hoped he knew. He'd guessed how she felt and prayed he wasn't wrong, but hearing her say those words knowing that they had to be one hundred percent truthful was almost too much for him. He had to have her; he had to have her now.

Castle ran his hands down the length of her body and gripped the tops of her thighs before hoisting her up. She locked her legs around his waist and he maneuvered them out of the hall and through the open door to his bedroom. As they crossed the threshold, Kate broke their kiss to unzip her jacket. "Did you wish for this?"

He shook his head and helped her peel the jacket from her shoulders. "I didn't; I swear I didn't!"

With her jacket discarded, Castle tossed her lightly onto the bed and settled down beside her, their lips barely separating for a moment. His hands roamed down her side and up underneath the hem of her shirt while hers clawed at the buttons on his shirt. When his hand reached the bottom edge of her bra, he pulled back and gazed down at her. "Are you sure about this?"

Breathless, she nodded. "I love you, Rick."

He began to say, "I love you, too," but the words were stolen from him by her lips.


Later, Castle lay on his back in bed, lightly stroking the side of the beautiful woman curled up beside him. Her head rested on his chest and every so often her hand gently squeeze his side. When he lifted his head just enough to brush his lips over the top of her hair, she let out a contented sigh and snuggled closer.

Though he didn't want to move, he also had no intentions of getting out of bed until morning, which meant if either of them planned on getting any sleep that night, the bedroom lamps needed to be turned off. Fortunately, his long arms were able to reach the switch above the bed with minimal effort. Once the room was flooded in darkness Castle caught a glimpse of the backlit alarm clock, which informed him it was shortly after midnight. Smiling to himself, he snuggled back against his companion. He just needed quick nap and then perhaps he'd wake her for round two.

Just as he'd tucked his head into a more comfortable position, he heard her say, "Castle?"

"Hmm?"

"I love you. I…I didn't know I could love anyone this much, but I do."

Rick pulled his arm a bit tighter around her body as he considered her words. It was after midnight; the genie's wish had worn off. She no longer needed to confess all her thought to him by rule of magic, which made him curious. "Why are you telling me this?"

She shifted against him and he could tell she was propping her body up so she could look at him despite the darkness. "Because I don't want to be afraid anymore. I don't want to hide from this."

"No more secrets?"

"No more secrets."

Castle pressed his lips together. He was all about honesty and full disclosure in their budding relationship, but unfortunately that meant he needed to reveal something he'd been hiding. Even if it made her mad, he needed to; that was only fair. "I, ah, should probably tell you…I've been investigating your mother's murder and not telling you about it purposely to keep you from the case as part of a deal I made after you were shot that would keep you safe."

Kate held her breath. That information was shocking and no doubt both concerning and upsetting. Yet, after everything he had done for her that day forgiveness seemed warranted. Besides, she'd been concealing something of her own. "I…heard you tell me you loved me when I was shot; I've remember this whole time I was just too scared to tell you."

Oh, well, that was certainly a twist he hadn't seen coming, but it did make a few things about that day's events make more sense. Clearly, both issues needed to be discussed at length, but for the moment, Castle hoped they could just be. "We should…talk about all that tomorrow."

Smiling inwardly, she settled back down on his chest. "Ok."

He kissed her head. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

He smiled to himself, reveling in hearing those words come out of her mouth with ease. It hardly seemed possible, yet it happened. Just as he had heard more of her inner-most thoughts and visited with her deceased mother. What a strange day. "I still have one more wish you know."

"I thought you said they expired?"

"No, the Kate-can't-keep-things-from-me one did, but not the third wish—the one I didn't make yet. What should we wish for?"

"We?"

"Sure; I want to share my wish with you."

She let out a soft giggle and the arm across his waist tightened. "Ok."

"So...what should we get? Oh—Oh shit I didn't even think!"

"What?"

He grumbled to himself. What an idiot he'd been! He'd spent almost an hour alone with her and he'd been so hyped to get information about Kate, it never even crossed his mind. "We should have asked your mom who killed her."

Kate began to move her body away from his. He felt her legs skim against his as she moved them beneath her. From the change in direction of her voice, he realized she must have been sitting cross-legged beside him. "I did; she wouldn't tell me."

She was silent for almost a minute before she continued. "She said she's okay with me not solving her case if the alternative is me putting my life in danger. She said she didn't want me to end up like her."

Castle breathed in deep and considered these words. That opinion from Johanna made sense. Of course she would do whatever it took to save her daughter from the same horrible fate. However, Castle knew that a large portion of Kate's life had been dedicated to solving the crime and giving up on that would be an adjustment. "And how do you feel about that?"

"I'm not sure yet. I understand what she's saying but...I don't know. I need to think about it."

"Well, if you ever want to talk about it…"

Her hand landed on his chest. "I know. I just need some time."

"Of course."

With that, he heard her let out a heavy breath as she began to move once more. That time, she slipped down beneath the sheets and claimed a spot on the other side of the bed. Her hand found his beneath the covers and with fingers intertwined they fell asleep.


Castle awoke shortly after six a.m. to a disappointingly empty bed. "Beckett?" he mumbled out, his voice gravely with sleep. For a brief moment he feared she'd left in the middle of the night, but as his eyes began to adjust, he could see her boots tossed haphazardly by the entrance to his bedroom. Unless she'd gone barefoot, she hadn't gone far.

Yawning, Castle slid from bed and pulled on his robe. He shuffled into his office and spotted her silhouette against the opposite window. She sat on the bench with her feet tucked up, her chin resting on her knees as she hugged her shins. A blanket was draped around her shoulders. Castle walked over and pressed a kiss onto her temple before taking a seat beside her.

"Did yesterday happen?" she asked quietly.

He chuckled. "KInda crazy, right?"

Her eyes turned from the window and fell on him. "Castle. There was a genie involved."

He grinned. That fact was never going to get old. "Okay—totally crazy. And…how do you feel about that this morning?"

"I don't know; I don't think it's processed yet."

"Seeing your mom or…us?"

"Both."

For a brief moment, Castle's heart clenched in his chest and the words TOO SOON flashed in his brain. Oh god, was it too much? Confessing her feelings and acting on them? He wanted her so much that he'd been consumed by the moment and forgotten that this was Kate and she wasn't exactly one to jump in with both feet without looking around first. "But…we're together, right? I mean, that's what you want."

Kate's eyes widened as she looked at him. Though the light was dim, she could see his brow kit and she heard the tentative nature of his voice. Unfolding herself, she slid over so that she knelt beside him on the bench. She looped her arms around his neck and smiled. "Oh Castle you look so scared! Of course—of course this is what I want."

Relief flooded through him and he began to babble, "Well, I—I wasn't…I mean, I-"

Kate silenced him with her lips on hers. "Castle. I love you. I want to be with you. I want us to figure this out together, okay?"

"There's nothing I want more." She kissed him again and he slid his arms around her, turning her body into his so that she rotated and sat down in his lap. Her head fell against his shoulder and he held her tightly against him.

After several minutes of internal thought, Kate began, "Castle?"

"Hmm."

"If I asked you to stop investigating my mother's case, would you? I mean, what if we both stopped." She spent most of the night thinking about it. Though at first she had been lulled to sleep by Castle's even breathing, she'd awakened quickly and reviewed her conversation with her mother in her mind. She appreciated the woman's concern for her safety, and had it been anyone other than her mother asking she knew she would not have considered stopping, but as the request was made by the person for whom she sought justice, it was worth consideration. Still, she wasn't sure if she could stand finding closure for others' cases while hers gaped open like a wound.

Similar thoughts ran through Castle's mind and he asked, "Are you going to be okay with that?"

She skimmed her hand down the collar of his robe. "I don't know. Really, I don't. The knowledge that the man who had her killed is out there somewhere living his life knowing he got away with it tears me up, but….but my mother asked me to stop. She said she wants me to have a life, a family. She doesn't want me to end up murdered like she was. And I…I'd like to try and live without knowing, to try and move on. And I'd like you to help me with that."

He hummed and hugged her a bit tighter. "Well…I do know a guy who's pretty darn interested in having a life with you too."

She grinned and lifted her head to look at him. "Yeah? Do you have his number?"

They shared a smile and he kissed her. "Kate, if you want me to stop, I'll stop."

"Okay."

"Okay."

Kate tucked her head back against Castle's chest and shut her eyes. In that moment, she had no idea what the future held. She did not know if she would be satisfied with the unknown or if she'd later beg to use Castle's third genie wish to reveal her mother's killer, but she knew she wanted to try to be happy, to learn to live her life to the fullest day by day and she knew there would be no better man to help her with that than Castle, her partner. The man she loved.


A/N: Thank you guys so much for reading & reviewing. Hope you enjoyed this short-and-sweet crack!fic.

Daily updates for the week of Christmas begin in Peace & Joy tomorrow - see you there!