The SWAT team disperses to make sure no one else is there. The clicking of the captain's heels gets swept away by the wind, only to get lost in the clouds. And Ryan runs across the building, following the sound of Kate's voice.
He lifts himself onto the roof as soon as SWAT deems it clear, his heart clenched with worry, clinging to the sound of Kate's words on the wind, ignoring the agonizing desperation in her tone, focusing instead on the reminder that she's still alive.
His footsteps are loud, his breathing heavy. He doesn't care, doesn't stop, as he races to catch up with Ryan.
To save Kate.
He sees her hand first, her white knuckles, her fingertips clutching at the edge of the roof. A need to survive keeping her strong. A fight for her life, ongoing and terrifying and dragging him to a halt, stealing his breath with a stuttering exhale.
Her fingers slip.
His hands go numb. His heart stops. And shatters.
And he watches without moving, without breathing, as Ryan leans over the edge, catches Kate's wrist and drags her back up. Saves her from the plunge, from her death, as the captain stares on with angry eyes. And his breath stays caught, stays lost, until she's helping Ryan pull her over the edge, and falling onto her hands and knees, onto the roof.
Her breathing is quick, labored. Her hair like a curtain around her head until she looks up. At him.
It's a breath, nothing more. So quiet, so weak that it gets lost as soon as it reaches his ears. But it's enough to drag him to the ground with her, the cement scraping at his knees, his hands reaching for her.
She's shaking, weak or terrified or both, when his hands curl around her waist and bring her to him. Her chest hitches with each breath, her heart thundering as loud as his own, when his chest crushes against hers and his lips land on the soft strands of her hair.
"You're okay," he whispers, not sure if it's to reassure her or himself. "You're okay, Kate."
She squeezes his waist, presses her lips to his throat, mutters the same words she spoke over the phone, whimpers them into his skin. "I'm sorry."
And it has him shaking his head until his chin presses against her temple, has him pushing her away to his eyes can meet the glassy green of hers.
"Don't," he says, can't manage the rest when she's staring at him like that. When silent apologies and fatigue has her eyes hooded, but everything else, joy and appreciation and love, is making them shine bright and golden and more beautiful than ever.
It sends his heart soaring, even as it keeps racing in his chest. Has his grip on her tightening, a smile drawing at the corners of his mouth.
"You're okay," he breathes again. For himself, this time, but it makes her smile, too. "You're okay, Kate, and I–" He stutters, and leans forward to smudge a kiss to her forehead, to give himself the time to calm the whirlwind of thoughts in his mind.
She squeezes at his shoulders when he pulls away, bites at her lip like she knows which words are bursting from his chest, are about to slip from his lips.
"I love you."
He says it first, watches the smile bloom across her face, feels her breath escape her parted lips, watches the flecks of gold in her eyes shine.
And she leans forward, smudges her lips against his in a kiss that lasts a second but says a thousand words.
"I love you, too," she whispers, the words quiet and breathy and lost in the wind, but trapped in his heart.
She waits a second before kissing him again, just as quick, even more gentle, and wraps her arms around his neck, lets her head fall to the cradle between his shoulder and his neck.
And his heart calms, lulled by the comfort of her in his arms, by the slow brush of his fingertips over her spine.
"Thank you," she whispers, "for coming to get me."
His eyes flutter shut, his smile pressing against her crown, sealing his promise with a kiss.
Kate's in trouble. That much is obvious from the daggers in her captain's eyes and the frown that twists at her lips. And yet the captain doesn't sweep Kate away as soon as they get back to the precinct. Instead, Kate's the one dragging him away, to a room with slatted blinds and a glass door that's half-open.
The break room, he discovers. With a cheap coffee machine on the counter, a table and chairs and a couch that looks like it hasn't been touched in weeks. Until her hand is curling around his shoulder and shoving him down so he's sitting on one of the cushions. And she sits down next to him, her hand landing on his thigh, the other cradling his cheek as she stares at him with wide eyes.
"I owe you an explanation," she says.
His hand falls to land over hers, his fingers curling into her palm. "You don't owe me anything."
"If we're going to be together, you should know," she tells him. "After the past few months, Rick, you deserve to know."
And his mouth goes dry at the look in her eyes, the worried furrow of her brow and the silent demand that he just listen spelled out across her features. So he nods, cracking half a smile in a feeble attempt to comfort her, as his thumb drifts over hers in an endless pattern of back and forth.
She nods, probably to herself, and swallows, and looks away. "My mother was murdered when I was nineteen," she says.
He swallows back his response, the fact that he already knew her mom was killed. That she already told him as her knuckles blanched and her body swayed back and forth on a swing, just a little over a week ago now. Lets that remain unspoken and this be her moment, lets the words tumble from her lips without interruption as he holds on to every single one.
"The cops figured it was an act of random gang violence, and her killer was never caught," she continues. "But I…I never believed it was random, and I spent those first few years looking through her case obsessively, until my therapist pointed out that I was going to run myself into the ground, or kill myself. So I put it away, focused on getting justice for other families instead."
He nods, even as he feels his heart crack for her, feels his eyes burn with tears that can only be because of the thick emotion lacing her words.
"But a few years ago, I started looking into it again," she breathes. "And it upset the wrong person. And that's why I got shot."
Her head lifts from her palm, and her fingers dip to press against her sternum, to the spot where he knows her scar is. The spot he traced with his lips, breathing his gratitude for her being alive against the puckered scar, into her skin.
"I put the case away again," she whispers. "Shortly after I met you."
And that has his fingers tightening around hers, has tears prickling at his eyes.
"Today wasn't supposed to happen," she says, making him blink back his tears only to see pain making her eyes gleam, too. "And I don't know if I'm safe, Castle, so you might not…want me around, at least until I know I'm not going to get you killed."
He shakes his head, traces her thumb with his once again before lifting her hand from his thigh, to his mouth. His lips press against her knuckles, the very ones that were bone white and she clung to the roof, clung to her life.
"I'll always want you around, Kate," he whispers, his gaze drifting upwards to lock on hers. "If with me is where you want to be, Kate, considering your walls, then you're always welcome."
Her lips turn upwards, her eyes shining as she reaches forward, lets her palm curl around his jaw. "I think almost dying is just what I needed to knock them down," she says, the words lilted like a promise. "Or, at the very least, to make me realize that I don't want to sit around and wait to be with you."
She leans forward, lets her forehead kiss his, her hand sliding from his grasp to curl around his neck as he reaches for her waist, draws her closer, so his lips can brush across hers. Until pulls away, just far enough for her breath to wash across his face as she speaks.
"I've been on my own, living for this case for way too long, Castle," she whispers. "Now…I just want this. I just want you."
And her head tilts back, her mouth finding his, harder this time, more insistent, hungrier. Her thumbs drift across the ridges of his cheekbones as his lips part beneath her, letting her deepen the kiss as he draws her closer, closer, closer, until she's sitting on his lap.
She pulls away, breathless, after a moment, and her thighs are straddling his, her hands curled tightly around the collar of his shirt.
"Okay?" she breathes.
He nods, drawing her back to him so he can whisper his response against her lips, into her kiss.
His eyes trace the lines of the precinct, the rows of desks, the words written on the whiteboard in an attempt to learn the place by heart, to commit it to memory and then to words when he gets the chance. From where he's leaning against her desk, he gets to see what she sees every day, and that weighs heavy in his mind as he waits for her.
She emerges just as he's committing the layout of the bullpen to memory once more, the jacket he'd tugged from her shoulders slung over her arm, her badge and gun missing from her hip.
She doesn't stop to say goodbye to Ryan, only offers her teammate a half-hearted smile as she walks by him. Instead, she walks straight to her desk, to him, and slides her hand into his, squeezing his fingers, asking him to follow her.
And he does, letting her lead him past the rows of desks and towards the elevator. Her finger jabs at the button to call it, the force in the action the only evidence, besides her missing badge, that everything isn't as okay as it seems.
When the doors slide open, he doesn't wait for her to drag him with her, stepping forward as soon as she does. He's the one that reaches over to hit the button to close the doors and, despite their previous indiscretion, waits until he feels the lift moving beneath his feet to wrap an arm around her shoulders and pull her close.
"Everything okay?" he asks.
She nods, her head pressed against his shoulder. "Yeah. I'm suspended for six weeks, though." Her hand comes up to rest on his chest, drifts downwards over the trail of buttons. "I guess that means I won't have any stories to inspire you for a little while."
He dusks a kiss to her forehead at that, squeezing her shoulder gently. "Kate," he breathes, drawing back so his gaze can lock on hers, "it was never the stories I found inspiring. It was you." His other hand drifts towards her, wraps around her hip. "Always you."
She smiles, just the slightest upturn of the corners of her mouth as her fingers splay across his side. "When I was hanging from the roof, all I could think about was you." Her cheek lands on his shoulder.
He feels the tension leave her shoulders, her spine. The adrenaline of the day leaving her, the arousal their earlier kisses had stoked fading, leaving her nestled against him.
Until she's pulling away, her the hand that had been splayed over his rib cage comes up to curl around his jaw, tilting his head towards hers. "I almost died, and all I could think about was you," she whispers. "That I would never get to tell you how much I love you, and that you've knocked down my walls faster than I thought was possible. I was afraid I'd never get to kiss you again."
"Well, now you can," he tells her.
And she does, pressing her mouth against his, her lips already parted, her tongue tracing the seam of his mouth. His hand drifts down her spine so both can curl around her hips, draw her tighter against him, even as the ding of the elevator, announcing their arrival at the lobby, rings in his ears.
She's the one that pulls away, stumbling back ever so slightly, her eyes fluttering closed.
"You tired?" he asks.
She shrugs. "A little," she says. "It's been a long day."
He grins, reaching forward to take her hand in his. "Okay then," he breathes, "we can always just cuddle."
She narrows her eyes at that, steps towards him even as the doors threaten to close, as the elevator threatens to spur back into motion. Her free hand lands on his hip, drifting down so her fingertips graze across his crotch and his eyes slam closed, only to flutter open again as he feels her pulling away.
Her hand lands on the button to open the doors, her gaze still locked on him, a grin tugging at her cheeks.
"There is no way that's happening," she says. And her hand is slipping from him as she walks away, takes a few steps only to turn back to face him. "You coming, Castle?"
He smiles, and follows, catching her hand in his as soon as he finds his place at her side. Of course he is. He'd follow her anywhere.
I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read, favorite, follow and/or review this story. You guys kept me going through bouts of writer's block and confusion. I'm glad you guys enjoyed, and hope this final chapter is satisfactory, and love you all.
I would also like to thank Lindsey for her extraordinary amount of help with this story. From helping me brainstorm, to helping me time important plot points, catching my face-palm worthy mistakes as a beta reader and encouraging me when I was down. XX.