Lying, like license, has its degrees.

-George Sand

When she goes to pour them a third glass, Castle blocks her with a hand hovering over the lip.

" Please. I don't wanna get drunk."

She purses her lips as she pulls the bottle away, screwing the top back on and setting it down on the liquor cart with a clatter, her empty tumbler close behind.

Stalking away from him to stand before the window, her shoulders rise and fall as she breathes through the chaos she can't push down anymore. She doesn't want to discuss it; not right now. She thought she could shut him down with booze, but he's not going for it.

Castle not doing what she wants...imagine that.

"Kate. Please talk to me."

She scoffs, quiet enough to her own ears but he's drawn close enough to her to hear it.

"Something funny?"

"No, Castle. Nothing about this is funny."

Shaking her head, her hair falls forward like a curtain, protecting her frown in its shadow. She won't look at him; she can't. If she looks at him she might break down, give in, say something she later regrets. She doesn't want to be that kind of person, that kind of wife.

How did we end up here again?

God, she wishes she knew. The only thing she knows with any certainty is that they're each determined to throw themselves upon their swords for the other, consequences be damned. He may be guilty, but no more so than she.

"Kate." He's right behind her now, his hands gently grasping her upper arms, attempting to spin her in his direction.

He succeeds in turning her but her head remains bent forward, her eyes shielded from his knowing gaze.

"Please talk to me."

Her hair swings with each shake of her head, and she feels not unlike a defiant child, refusing to look at him, to acknowledge his needs.

"I can't do this right now, Castle. I can't hash this out with you. I'm not ready yet. I'm still...upset."

"Upset." The way he says it...he doesn't believe her, because he knows her. He knows she doesn't do anything halfway, in those degrees he was referring to earlier. Invariably, upset is simply her way of saying furious without actually putting words to it.

But it doesn't stop him from trying to draw it out of her anyway. "Kate, this isn't going away. We're gonna have to talk about this."

Her head shoots up at that, the outburst she's been keeping at bay finally breaking free. "You think I don't know that, Castle? You think I don't know that what you did had serious, far-reaching consequences? You disappeared on the day of our wedding. My AG team was killed, every last one of them. You were shot and could have died. Do you think I'm not aware of all of this? Don't patronize me."

"I'm not patronizing you, Beckett. I'm just...I'm trying to find a way…" He lets out a frustrated grunt and begins to walk away only to change gears after a few steps, turning back to get right up in her face.

"No, you know what? You don't always get to decide. You're my wife, god damn it! Of course I'm gonna do whatever I have to in order to protect you. You'd have done the same. You have done the same. Please don't tell me you've forgotten walking out on me with no explanation just a few short months ago. You don't get to be pissed when you know would have done the same fucking thing!"

Her eyes flare at his temper, at his language. Neither of them is above swearing when the situation calls for it, but Castle curses so rarely, and almost never when they fight. It does something strange to her, rage and desire flooding and clashing within her veins. She's never been one to use sex to fix or avoid problems, but right now, she just needs something to release this tension, and she hopes it doesn't involve talking. She doesn't have the heart or the energy to talk. Not tonight.

Suddenly, the anger is gone, and all that's left in its place is longing. Longing to understand why this keeps happening to them, longing to be close to her husband. Longing to be left in peace with the man she treasures more than life itself, once and for all.

Her body language must give away the shift in her mood because Castle is suddenly frowning and taking her hands in his, his own ire forgotten in his concern for her.

Oh Castle...always putting others first. Of course he does. It's who he is.

She prays the way she's looking at him conveys her love and her need, and simply whispers, "Come with me. Please."

He follows without question, seemingly always willing to go where she leads, and god, she adores him for it. She pulls him by his fingertips into their bedroom, no words passing between them, disconnecting from him only when they reach the foot of their bed. Moving from one door to the next, she closes them in her wake, creating a bubble of privacy.

She returns to stand before him and begins undressing herself, shedding her coat first and tossing it onto a nearby chair, then moving to unbutton her blazer. His eyes widen with the realization of what she has in mind and he reaches to still her hands.

"Kate, you don't...we don't have to…" He trails off, probably hoping she'll fill in the blanks for him, but she won't. He can figure it out on his own. She just wants to feel anything other than the jumble of emotions she's been mired in all day. She just wants her husband, warm and vital and naked, pressing her into the sheets with the weight of his body. She just wants him.

Batting his hands away, she continues to disrobe, the blazer following the coat, her t-shirt not far behind, all the while holding his gaze and praying he follows her lead. She needs him, and maybe, just maybe, he needs her too.

Her relief is palpable when he begins to undress himself with haste, determined to catch up to her. By the time she's stripped to just her underwear, he's in his boxers, and they pause, taking each other in with covetous stares. There's so much - so much - they need to resolve, but this is the best they can do under the circumstances. Closeness is all they can manage right now; talking will follow.

"Let me," he murmurs as he steps forward into her space, reaching under her arms to unclasp her bra and running his fingers over her shoulders to brush the straps down and out of the way. He kneels before her then, tugging her panties down her legs and placing soft kisses just below her navel. The silk of his lips and the heat of his breath against her over-sensitive skin already has her eyes drifting shut and her breath coming in shallow gasps. She can't remember the last time she needed him this much.

She manages to peel her eyes open when he rises, pulling his boxers off to stand bare before her. His eyes are so intense, so dark; from anger or frustration or desire she has no idea, but they're probably a reflection of her own. She just loves this man so goddamned much, and when he risks himself for her, when she thinks about what would become of her if she lost him…

No. No more. None of that, not now and not ever. It's a thought she won't even entertain.

She sits on the edge of the bed, reaching for the solid length of him when he turns to face her. He groans at her deft touch, and the feel of him is so satisfying and familiar to her, how she knows his body almost as well as she knows her own. Her strokes grow faster, more urgent, and his head tilts back, his eyes slamming shut as he pants out his yearning for her.

Finally nearing his breaking point, he grabs her wrists and holds her away from his body, clearly in a struggle to regain his composure before the gossamer thread of control snaps. Taking a cue from him, she scoots back to recline on the bed, watching with hooded eyes as he crawls up her body, taking pause to nip at the flesh of her inner thigh when her legs fall open in invitation.

He takes one long lick through her soaked center, flicking her nerves with the tip of his tongue and making her body twitch uncontrollably. She weaves her fingers into his hair, trying to coax him into hurrying the hell up, but he's determined to torment her, kissing the planes of her stomach, scraping his teeth along the ridges of her ribs, drawing one taut nipple into his mouth and sucking hard. She cries out at the sensation, a painful throb shooting low into her belly from his mouth's ministrations and the feel of him, hot and hard against her thigh.

The pressure in her core is winding her up, almost painful in its intensity, and she fears she might burst if he makes her wait any longer. "Castle, god, please. I need you."

Maybe he takes mercy upon her, maybe he's just as desperate as she is, but he finally aligns their bodies, his weight and his warmth a welcome, soothing balm to her worn spirit. They wrap themselves around each other as he glides into her body, their shared moan captured in the scant space between their lips.

He stills after they're joined, brushing her hair away from her face with a tender touch, just taking her in. Even after this, after everything, no one's ever looked at her the way he does. It's passion and desire, yes, but there's more to it; it's a promise and a pledge, a claim staked on each other's heart and soul. They belong to each other, forever intertwined, always a united force.

Emotion wells within her, fueling her impatience and demanding action now. She plants her feet on the bed to raise her hips, and he sinks deeper into her body. They can't bring themselves to feel self-conscious about the whimper it elicits from them both, spurring them into motion instead; a tortuous slide out, followed by a hard thrust back in. Her nails dig into the broad muscles of his shoulders, holding on for dear life as he sets a divine rhythm. He calls, she answers, over and over.

And it's so good, so right. This is how it's meant to be; effortless pleasure, overflowing love, never quite becoming one person but attempting to nonetheless, and coming as close as two people possibly can. Her eyes drift shut when he buries his head in her neck, painting her skin with his lips, inscribing his undying devotion where her pulse thrums just under the surface, beating out her own adoration for him.

She can feel her release, curving and coiling tight in her pelvis, priming to explode at just the right moment. And god, she wants that, wants the blinding amnesia it will bestow upon her, even if it's just for a few seconds. An instant when they can just be husband and wife, two bodies locked in harmonious ecstasy, the outside world fading into a muted blur, forgotten and buried.

She's adrift in her own head, lost in the bliss of their lovemaking, when she hears his voice cutting through her trance.

"Kate, look at me."

Her eyes blink open only to find his riveted upon her, and she can see it all right there; his pain, his sorrow, his regret for anything and everything he's ever done to cause her even an ounce of suffering. She recognizes it instantly because she owns the same pain, the same sorrows, the same regrets. They hurt each other, but never with malice; only with the intent of keeping the other safe, happy, cherished. It's their greatest strength and their worst downfall.

One wide, warm palm scales her body to cup her jaw while he continues to rock into her, deep and slow. She fights to keep her focus on him, resisting the urge to close her eyes again and stray back into the pure sensation of his body moving inside of hers.

"Kate. I love you so much."

Oh, she knows. She really does. She doesn't doubt it for a moment, but he's speaking again before she can reciprocate.

"I would do anything for you. Anything…"

His eyes flutter closed for a moment, waging his own battle to maintain control and not mindlessly take and take and take. When they open again, she could swear she's never seen them so black, so hungry.

"Tell me you understand, Kate. Tell me."

Her answer stutters in her throat, capturing her response, forcing her to swallow and regroup, to try again, to convey her determination to do the same for him. Always.

"Yes. Oh God, Rick, yes…" She nods as she speaks, as if the words alone aren't sufficient. Her voice is more breath than sound, but it's the best she can do at present while her orgasm builds, beginning to thread through her veins, stealing all coherent thought and leaving her trembling and moaning for more, harder, now.

His movements are becoming erratic, burying himself in her with each push of his hips, gritting out the words to make the last of his thoughts heard. "I would do anything to protect you. Anything to keep you safe. I can't live without you, Kate. I can't...I'll do anything…"

Unexpected tears prick at the corners of her eyes, spilling fast and without her permission, but there's no staunching the flow now. He grips her thigh and leverages it higher around his waist, changing the angle of his thrusts deep within her, and she's gone, the world around her blank, wiped out in a burst of euphoria and a colorful kaleidoscope behind the eyelids that she can't keep open any longer.

Her voice is hoarse as she clings to his body and chants a litany of oh god, oh yes into his ear, vaguely aware of when his body tenses and he gives in to his own release, his prayer of oh my god Kate imparted against her sweat-slicked neck. His body continues to surge into hers and she responds in kind, so attuned to the other's movements and their ability to draw every last drop of pleasure from this act, until they finally collapse, limp and panting and spent.

She lies still, content to feel and listen and touch as their bodies recover, wishing they could simply stay cocooned in their bed and shut out the reality of their lives and this investigation that has already taken too much from them. She's not willing to give another inch, not any more.

Yes, she wants justice; that's integral to who she is. Denying that part of herself would be like denying herself air and water. But she wants this, too; she wants her husband, she wants the life they're building together, she wants the promise of children and growing old together and happily ever after. She wants it all, and if that makes her greedy, then so be it. She'll fight tooth and nail to see it through.

Castle finally rises onto his elbows, his touch so tender as he tucks her wayward tresses behind her ears, his thumbs gently sweeping away the remnants of her tears. His presses one last, lingering kiss to her lips before disengaging from her body with a soft moan, but he doesn't go far, settling on his side beside her and drawing her into his arms to hold her close. She's still unsure of what their next steps should be, still conflicted about the part each of them has played in this mess, but she's grateful that even when they're hurting and upset, they can still provide some measure of comfort and affection to each other. Sometimes when words don't work, they let their bodies do the talking.

He sighs against the crown of her head, and she can sense just how mentally exhausted this ordeal has made him, a feeling she understands all too well. Snaking her arms around his middle, she nuzzles into his chest, her nose filled with the scent of her husband and his soap and sex. She loves it, loves him, more than she can put into words. That's how she knew everything about this relationship was different from those that came before; the others seemed quantifiable to her, something that she could put a specific value on. Not so with Castle. Everything with him is infinite and undefinable. A few years ago, that would have scared the hell out of her, but this man anchors her to the here and now.



"I meant it. Every word. I really would do anything for you."

She withdraws just far enough to look into his eyes, still clouded with remorse for his part in her turmoil. She can't take that away, not yet. They still need to talk, but sleep will overcome them sooner rather than later, and this is a conversation that needs to occur between two sober, alert people. It'll have to wait.

She reaches up to stroke his cheek, his stubble ticklish against her palm, and it seems to soothe something inside of him, his lids sliding shut and a cleansing breath released from somewhere deep within. She waits him out, until his eyes open upon her again.

"I know. And right or wrong, I'd do the same."

He simply nods, no other words needed as he gathers her close again, the lure of slumber pulling him under fast. As tired as she is, she needs to get back to her open case, and she already knows her busy mind will give her no peace tonight. But first, she'll allow herself this, some time to rest her world-weary bones, to revel in the feel of her husband's skin pressed against her own and let it revitalize her. She'll let him sleep while she gets back to work, and tomorrow, they'll talk.

She doesn't dread it, though. They'll talk, they'll clash, they'll disagree. And in the end, they'll come together and figure it out, because that who they are and what they do. They fight, but they fight for each other, and always have their backs no matter what. That knowledge, the unwavering confidence that they can work this out - whatever this is - leaves her feeling unburdened for the first time since he walked into her office that afternoon with a grim look on his face.

She relaxes into his embrace, weightless, closing her eyes and allowing herself to drift.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read. I hope you enjoyed the story and if you feel so inclined, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

Thanks to Alex and J for taking my words, whipping them into shape, and making them presentable. You're the real heroes.

Kudos to Kelsey for another stunning piece of artwork!