Set late season two, during "The Late Shaft"

"Beckett. C'mon, wait! Please?"

She pretends she doesn't hear him. There's a desperation creeping into his voice, pleading with her to turn around, to face him. Maybe he wants her to press him against the wall again. To cover his mouth with hers, just like she did a few short moments ago. And she's considering it, too. Anything to make him stop.

But not because she enjoys kissing him. Certainly not.


There's more force behind it now, more grit, the K of her name hard, the T sharp. He's getting bolder. Damn. He's determined not to be put off any longer, but she cannot do this right now. Not today, not at the precinct, and definitely not after the spectacular, jealousy-fueled meltdown she just had in front of him. Maybe not ever.

"Kate!" He's raising his voice with no regard for their surroundings. From the corner of her eye, she can see the cops roaming about the bullpen turning to catch the scene they're making. That's his ploy, she's sure of it; embarrass her by drawing attention to this ridiculous pursuit, slow her down when she stops to silence him with a look or a gesture. But no…no. She won't fall for it, won't fall for him – whoa, where did that come from? – picking up the pace as she beelines for the stairwell, escape finally within reach.

The door crashes against the cinderblock wall with the force of her push and she disappears inside, her feet moving faster than is safe or sensible in her high heels, but she's desperate. If he corners her now, she might not be able to deny him, and she can't allow that to happen.

She curses (shit!) when she hears him come through the door right behind her, hot on her heels, and why can't he let her get away, just this once? But then again, when has he ever done that? He always comes back, always seeks her out, always gets up in her space and her thoughts. He wedged himself into her life until she couldn't ignore him anymore, and look where that got them.

It got them here. But it started when she kissed him at Kyra's wedding. That was three months ago.

She wanted to blame the champagne, but that was bullshit, and she knew it. She'd had two glasses, tops, only enough to make her a little loose and warm when she finally acquiesced to Castle's constant badgering for a dance, thinking what could it hurt? At the very least, she figured it would shut him up and she could finally make a quiet exit from what had turned out to be a surprisingly intimate, romantic event.

But the evening hadn't quite gone the way she had envisioned it. If she'd thought Castle would only have eyes for the one that got away, she couldn't have been more wrong. Time and again, his gaze kept wandering back to her, something soft and longing there that she tried her damnedest to ignore. And she had, successfully. That is, until he pulled her onto the parquet dance floor and held her closer than a partner should, his scent and the feel of his body pressed against hers lulling her into a trance where she temporarily forgot that she was Beckett and he was Castle. For the length of a song, they were just Rick and Kate.

His hands had been so warm, so gentle, one pressed to the small of her back while the other cradled her own, and he had smelled so damn good while they lazily swayed to the strains of "Someone to Watch Over Me." But in the end, what really broke her resolve was how he looked at her while he held her, like she was precious, a treasure to protect and cherish. And god help her, when he stared down at her with those sky blue eyes and a sweet smile gracing his lips, she leaned in and kissed him before she even knew what she was doing.

Long and achingly slow, the kiss never progressed beyond the delicate smudging of their lips, but she had felt his breath catch at the exact moment hers did. It was electric, the touch of her flesh to his, and an insistent little voice in the back of her head warned her to regain control before they could get into any serious trouble. She finally willed herself away from his mouth, which was far harder than it should have been, tucking her face into the crook of his neck, unable to face him, unwilling to explain why she had kissed him or why she had stopped.

When the song ended, she'd murmured the briefest of goodnights and practically ran from the building. She didn't trust herself around him at present, which was obvious when she crawled into bed that night, cursing herself while simultaneously relieving her tension with her fingers between her legs, images of his face, his body, his mouth lighting up her imagination and her skin.

She had to put it out of her mind. It couldn't end well.

Any dread she had about potential awkwardness during their next encounter was unfounded though; he behaved as though it was business as usual when he met her at the crime scene of their the next case. Her own feelings betrayed her, her relief and frustration at his apparent indifference waging a war within her heart. But then their victim turned out to have connections to her mom's case, and his concern was anything but casual when that came to light.

It happened again a few days later, in the precinct bathroom, as she was frantically scrubbing Dick Coonan's blood from under her fingernails. Castle had come looking for her after she'd gone missing for too long, refusing to listen to her half-hearted assertion that she was fine as her limbs shook and tears dripped from the tip of her nose. He pulled her away from the flow of water, her skin red and tender, rubbed raw from her efforts, and he carefully dried her hands, the silence hanging between them, heavy and unmovable.

If someone were to ask her why, at that moment, she chose to lift onto her toes and seal her lips to his, she'd be hard-pressed to give a sensible answer. But it had felt right at a time when it seemed like nothing in her life would ever feel right again. He let her take the lead, their lips moving slowly against each other's, until in an instance of boldness she tilted her head and deepened the kiss, her tongue sliding against his. And then there was no air between their bodies, their mouths fused and hungry, their hands reaching and groping. They spent a few stolen seconds like that, just taking whatever it was they needed from the other.

Ultimately, she managed to tear her lips away, a near impossible feat. Leaning her forehead against his collarbone, she listened to the mingling chorus of their gasping breaths and her galloping heart in her ears. Oh god, she was setting a dangerous precedent here. She couldn't go around just kissing him anytime she was feeling scared and vulnerable; it wasn't fair to him when she had no intention of taking it any further. She just…just needed that proof tonight, she reasoned. Proof that he was alive and whole, no bullet lodged in his back, his blood not flowing sticky and warm across the floor of the bullpen. That's all it was. Affirmation.

"I'm so glad you're okay, Castle," she finally whispered against the still-thundering pulse in his neck, avoiding his eyes as she left the bathroom. She gathered her things and exited the precinct in record time, long before Castle had gathered his wits and made it back to her desk.

And again, no acknowledgement of the kiss ever passed between them.

The next time was a few weeks later, after Castle had been named the ninth most eligible bachelor in New York City. Kate ended up being linked to him romantically, and once again, she waged an internal war over the urge to be angry or thrilled about it. They'd both had dates that had ended up being boring busts and left their bellies empty. Burgers and shakes at Remy's after they solved their case were the perfect remedy, the food and company superior to that of Drago, and damn it all, she had a great time in spite of herself.

He walked her home after, keeping a respectful distance all the while and his hands clasped behind his back. Her palm itched with the desire to slide her hand along his, lace their fingers and tug him into her side, absorbing his warmth and the scent of his aftershave. But no, you can't, she admonished herself. It would send the wrong message.

So then why did it feel so right?

When they reached the outer door of her building, she turned in his direction, a sudden wave of awkward shyness overtaking her, because how does one say a simple goodnight to a partner and a friend that one makes out with from time to time? God, this was a mess, and it was her own doing.

But Castle surprised her, leaning forward and planting a slow, sweet kiss to her cheek, his breath warm against her skin when he murmured, "Goodnight, Kate." And when he began to pull away, presumably to leave, she was the one who snapped, leaning in and claiming his mouth before he could go too far.

In that instant, she could feel it. This time...this time was different. This wasn't the shy, tentative touching of that first kiss on the dance floor at Kyra's wedding. It wasn't the frantic, life-affirming desperation of the second. No, this one was intentional, deliberate, and so completely fucking hot she feared she might spontaneously combust, taking him with her and igniting them both in the process.

Neither hesitated to deepen the kiss, their tongues sliding warm and wet into each other's mouth, and she could taste the lingering vanilla from his milkshake. She had teased him about choosing such a dull flavor, his retort of vanilla doesn't have to be boring Beckett and his heated gaze causing butterflies to erupt in her belly. No, his version of vanilla was anything but boring.

She was dizzy, burning up from the inside out, her hands boldly sliding under the fabric of his coat and coasting over his ribs, up his chest to clutch at his shirt and pull him closer. A gasp escaped her lips when he backed her into the frigid brick of the building, but oh god, she couldn't feel the chill anymore, not when he pressed the hard line of his body into her frame like that. There was nothing else in that moment, nothing but his wicked, warm mouth and tongue, his clever fingers teasing along the edge of her blouse and then dipping beneath to slide along the exposed skin at her waist.

It was the jarring horn of a taxi passing in the street that finally broke her from her lust-induced stupor. She flattened her hands against the wrinkled fabric that had been trapped in her grip just seconds before and pushed, and Castle, ever the gentleman, responded immediately and stepped back, their mouths separating with a loud, wet pop. He struggled to catch his breath, gazing at her with darkened eyes and undisguised desire, but something deeper and far scarier lurked behind the pure want and it was enough to sending her running into her building, a hastily whispered thank you for walking me home thrown over her shoulder before the outer door slammed shut behind her.

She used the stairwell, taking the steps two and three at a time, until she was standing before her apartment, gasping for air. Her forehead pressed against the cool paneling of the door as she attempted to gather her wits and stop shaking long enough to get her key in the lock. This was bad. It was so bad, but she had initiated every damn kiss they had shared. What did that say about her? How had this spun so completely out of control?

Drawing a deep, steadying breath, she unlocked her door and decided that was the last time.

And it was...until the next time it happened.

There was the time she kissed him during the Cano Vega case. She had been talking to him in the break room about going to baseball games with her dad, sitting in the bleachers, eating hot dogs and basking in the sunshine, and he hung on her every word, and she just...leaned over and kissed him. It was sweet and short, and he smiled at her like she had just hung the stars and the moon. She sauntered away from him with a swing in her hips and a matching smile on her lips, and only felt slightly disappointed when he didn't chase after her and kiss her again.

Then they caught the case that thrust them into the underground world of dominatrixes, and Castle was buzzing with child-like excitement the whole time, teasing her mercilessly about her knowledge concerning all things dungeon-related. It was hard not to play along and feed his excitement, as she leaned into him one afternoon and whispered that there was one hot, wild, kinky thing that she did enjoy doing, which was, of course, putting killers behind bars. But before she could fill in that blank, she impulsively pounced and pressed her lips to his, her tongue darting out to briefly taste his. She pulled away just in time to prevent being caught by Espo and Ryan when they waltzed into the room with an update. She could have kicked herself, behaving so carelessly.

But the absolute worst was when she was staying in his home during the Scott Dunn case. She knew it would be dangerous, sharing the same living space with him, but her captain had insisted, and she was too exhausted to fight his orders. Her very first night there, she had wandered down to the kitchen, her mind too tormented to sleep, stretched to its limits by the magnitude of her situation and the events of the preceding days.

She padded quietly down the stairs only to find Castle already sitting on one of the barstools in the dimly lit kitchen, nursing a tumbler of whiskey. He hadn't heard her approach, and his unguarded expression stopped her dead in her tracks. He looked sleep-deprived and tormented, darks circles under his eyes and his hair sticking out in at odd angles, probably from running his fingers through it over and over. His obvious misery made an irrational concern for him well in her chest.

He started when her hand slid over his shoulder and he looked at her with such relief, like he was glad for another concrete reminder that she was here, whole and untouched (physically, anyway), by Dunn's deadly rampage against her. He shifted on the stool and pulled her into the vee of his legs, wrapping her up tight in his embrace and she couldn't deny him this, couldn't turn aside his need to hold her, reassuring him softly I'm okay Castle, I'm okay, over and over.

When he finally released her just far enough to look into her eyes, she knew what was coming before he even set it into motion. She could have run. She should have. But she didn't want to, as she gazed into the crisp blue being overtaken by shadowy darkness, his hand raising to cup her cheek tenderly and his breath warm as it skated over her skin. He gave her plenty of opportunity to pull away, to stop him, to say no. She didn't.

Their lips met in a soft, slow dance, their mouths moving in perfect sync, neither attempting to deepen the kiss right away. It was so desperately sweet, full of yearning and the need for solace, and for long moments they simply reveled in the touch and the taste of each other.

And then the energy shifted wordlessly, ratcheted up to new heights, each of them opening to the other as the kiss intensified and spun out of control, their hands roaming and sliding and grasping, pulling the other closer and closer. They were ravenous for each other, devouring and exploring with abandon, and she knew they were on the brink of crossing a line, of taking a step that could not be ignored nor undone, and she just didn't care. She wanted him, badly.

The sound of a door closing upstairs had her staggering backwards and putting an acceptable distance between them, the possibility of being caught frantically making out by his mother or daughter not acceptable to her. They simply stared at each other, panting and unable to look away, longing and fear etched into both of their expressions until she finally managed to excuse herself and stumble back upstairs, where she hid in her room and cursed her weakness for him.

Their desire was spiraling out of control more and more with each passing day, and she knew they'd be ripping each other's clothes off if she didn't find a new place to stay in a hurry. She found a temporary place the next week, but not before he pushed her up against his desk and left her breathless and aching the night they solved the case.

She didn't call him for a week, until they found Will Medina murdered by a gargoyle that fell from the sky. She had needed that distance, needed the perspective it would allow her. Whatever this thing was between them, she'd hoped the time away would cool things off, take everything down a notch. And actually, the case came and went with little ado, and it had left her with the hope that they were back on track to normalcy, or at least, their offbeat version of it.

She couldn't have been more wrong.

It started all over again with Castle's appearance on a late-night talk show and the starlet who draped herself all over him during his interview. Kate managed to keep her cool in front of the boys as they watched the segment together, but deep inside, her blood boiled scorching hot as a green-eyed monster roared to life within her chest, setting her ablaze. She squashed her jealousy in a hurry though, reasoning that Castle was single and entitled to spend time with whomever he wished, as was she. It didn't matter. They weren't a couple and he owed her nothing. She didn't care.

Now if only she could make herself believe that.

Bobby Mann turned up dead the next morning and Castle's instincts turned out to be right on: this was no heart attack, he had been murdered. They began to delve into the case as per usual, the chemistry flowing between them as naturally as ever. That is, until Castle's phone rang.

It was Ellie Monroe, hoping to commiserate with Castle over Bobby's death, and Kate could tell he was tempted to accept the dinner invitation, even as his eyes continued to dart to her face and away again. Whether he was uncomfortable about accepting in front of her or perhaps awaiting her reaction, she wasn't sure, but either way, she refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing her face crumple in disappointment.

She excused herself to the break room under the guise of needing more coffee before he could wrap up the call. He obviously wanted privacy to flirt with Ellie, to say yes to whatever comfort she was offering, and it would be a cold day in hell before Kate stood in the way of Castle's love life. She braced her hands against the counter and leaned into it, taking deep breaths, in and out, schooling her expression into a mask of cool indifference. Whatever had happened between them was a thing of the past; it was time to move on.

That was how he found her a few minutes later, staring off into space, no fresh coffee in her hands.

"Hey, Beckett. Sorry about that." He had paused then, looking her up and down, taking in her posture and the far-off look in her eyes. "Are you okay? Do you want me to make you a latte?"

Her gaze snapped up to his face, sharp and unforgiving, and she felt her emotions bubble up and overflow, unable to staunch the flow from her mouth. "Don't worry about it, Castle. Besides, don't you have a date with Ellie Monroe to get to? Wouldn't want to keep you."

She knew it was a mistake the instant the words left her mouth. Castle's expression cycled through a myriad of reactions in five seconds flat, morphing from shocked to wounded to comprehension to pleasantly surprised. Oh shit, he knew. He knew she cared in a way she had never intended to let on. What a disaster.

"Why Detective Beckett, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you're jealous." A small, crooked smile accompanied his accusation, but it was more happy than it was smug, and that aggravated her even more. This thing between wasn't supposed to evolve, wasn't supposed to become serious, wasn't supposed to evoke any real feelings. It should have never happened in the first place, but she had no one to blame but herself. She started it.

And here she was now, feeling pissed off and possessive and so completely turned on, and before she could stop herself, she had stalked across the room, pushed him up against the wall, and was kissing him like her life depended on it. Castle, for his part, didn't hesitate to dive in, his tongue parting her lips only to be met by her own, and she was drowning in his taste, in the heat of his body pressed against her, his hands roaming her back, shamelessly drifting south to cup her ass and pull her into him.

She moaned into his mouth, the feeling of his arousal pressed tight against her torso shooting sparks through her bloodstream, the spring of desire coiling painfully tight in her belly and oh god, she wanted him, she knew she did. But it was at that moment she realized that she didn't just want his body, she wanted it all, his heart and his mind too, and the thought had her tearing herself from his lips with a noisy smack, her body already missing the enticing warmth of his.

What the hell was happening to her? How had she lost control so completely? She was out of breath, at a loss for words, her eyes darting back and forth between his darkened eyes and his red, kiss-swollen mouth, and all she could think about was pouncing on him again and not stopping this time.

So she did the first thing that came to mind: she ran.

And that's how she finds herself in this situation, running down the stairs at dangerous, breakneck speeds, like a grade-school girl fleeing her playground crush who's in hot pursuit.

"God damn it Kate! Please stop!"

The plaintive tone of his voice, the obvious pleading and desperation make her steps stutter and her balance go awry, but before she can pitch head first down the next flight of stairs, Castle is there at her back, pulling her away from the precipice with a steadying arm around her waist. He tugs her backward onto the landing between floors and everything goes still, their panting breaths deafening in the deserted stairwell, reverberating off the cinderblock walls.

It takes her a handful of seconds and several deep, head-clearing breaths to come back to herself, the adrenaline rush from her near fall making her shaky and weak. Initially, she's grateful for Castle's steadying presence, but before long, she becomes hyperaware of his breath against her neck and the solid feel of his body against her back. His arm is still wrapped around her waist, gripping at her hip.

She doesn't want him to let go (perhaps ever) but she needs some distance between them if she's ever going to her her head on straight.

"Castle, you can let go of me now."

He doesn't move to release her, tilting his forehead into the back of her head instead.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes. Fine. Thank you, but I can stand on my own two feet."

He huffs out a laugh against her neck and it sends an involuntary shiver through her frame.

"Of that, I have no doubt." She thinks he's going to move away then, but he turns serious and adds, "Promise you're not going to run away."

She closes her eyes against the emotions surfacing within her: excitement, terror, arousal, fear, all-consuming want. She wants to run, all right, but whether it's away from him or straight into his arms she can't decide. However, he did just save her from knocking her front teeth out (and maybe worse); the least she can do is face him and have a civilized conversation, hopefully sweeping the last ten minutes under the rug and allowing her to escape with a modicum of her dignity intact.

She lets out a long, bracing breath before she replies, "No running. Promise."

"Okay. Because we saw what almost happened the last time you made a break for it, Beckett." He withdraws his arm, mercifully taking a few steps back and giving her a little room in which to gather herself.

When she turns, she has every intention of laughing this off, of downplaying her reaction to Ellie's phone call and the passionate clinch they just shared and her irrational need to run and hide from him afterward. But one look at him makes her already-weak rationalizations crumble to bitter ash on her tongue. There's no trace of smugness in his expression, no triumph in kissing and catching her. He's more...hopeful. Sweet and sincere. God damn it, who is this man? Certainly not the slick, sarcastic womanizer she once took him for. She doesn't know what the hell to think or what to say, and it's easier to just stare at the bland concrete floor when he looks so damn earnest, but she needs to start somewhere.

"Listen, Castle…."

"I said no."

She looks up, puzzled. "What?"

"I said no, to Ellie. I told her I was busy, that I couldn't go out with her tonight, but the truth is…" he trails off as he shakes his head, and he's the one who looks away now, his expression turning sheepish.

"What? The truth is what?" she urges, even though she suspects she already knows where he's going with this, and her heart flutters against her ribs, tickling her insides.

He shrugs, and this sudden shyness is so endearing, she finds herself drifting toward him again. When she's standing before him, he finally lifts his eyes to meet hers.

"I don't want to go out with her. I don't want her at all. I just want you, Kate."

Her name has barely left her mouth before her lips are on his again, and he doesn't hesitate to fold her into his arms as he kisses her slowly, thoroughly. She clings to him, her fingers grasping the short, silky hairs at the nape of his neck as she explores his mouth, absorbing the taste of him, allowing him to do the same to her.

When they finally part, it's only far enough to lean their foreheads together, their bodies still wrapped around each other's. Castle's eyes remain closed, his tongue darting out to capture the lingering flavor of her on his lips, and it takes every ounce of her strength not to chase it, to lay claim to his mouth again. But they need to talk before this goes any further. They've proven to be excellent at the kissing part; communicating, not so much.

"What are we doing, Castle?" she whispers against his cheek, and it spurs him to open his eyes again, so impossibly blue even in the subdued lighting of the stairwell. There's so much in his gaze, and she can't even begin to tease apart the threads of what it all means.

"Well, we're talking. And a moment ago, we were kissing." The corners of his mouth quirk up at that, and she responds in kind, relieved that the awkwardness has dissipated.

"No, I mean, what's happening here, with us? I thought we were just friends, but…"

"Friends who kiss?" he interjects, his smile growing, and he's not wrong. Yes, they're friends, but they're more, and they have been for months, in spite of her denials. Their relationship has been evolving and growing deeper, and she's been trying to ignore that fact, but that option is no longer tenable. It's time to face this thing.

"Friends who kiss," she murmurs, nodding in assent. "And I won't lie, I've enjoyed the kissing."

"Me too."

She slaps his chest in response his cheekiness. "I'd noticed," she says slyly, shaking her head in the hopes that the motion will knock the right words loose. "But, are we...just friends to you?"

With the benefit of her heels, they're almost eye-to-eye, and he seems almost startled at that question. The seconds draw out as he looks at her, looks into her, the intensity of his gaze daring her to look away but she resists. No more running.

"Kate, you are my friend, but you haven't been just a friend to me for a long time now."

She swallows hard at his confession, her throat constricted tight and stifling any response, but she's saved from having to speak as he continues.

"I've wanted more for a while but I haven't said anything for fear of chasing you away. So I just took what you were willing to give me. I should have spoken up before, but the truth is that I do want more. I want to take you out on a proper date. I want you to come over and have dinner at the loft with me and my family. I want to hold your hand and take walks in the park. And I really, really want to be able to kiss you whenever the urge strikes me. But that might create an entirely new problem."

Her brow creases at the implication that kissing would be a problem; have they not proven that they're really good at it?

"What kind of problem?"

"Well, I'm worried that if I start kissing you all the time, I might never be able to stop. And I need to know that you'll let me keep kissing you. That you won't make me stop because you're scared, or worried, or upset." He starts out smiling, but as he continues to speak, his features give way to something else entirely, his expression serious and heartfelt. "I need to know that you'll talk to me when you feel like that. I need to know that you won't run away."

His words set something in motion, a blooming within her chest that warms her from the inside out and makes her want this beautiful thing that Castle is describing to her, complete with dates and family dinners and walks while holding hands. Oh, and the kissing. Definitely the kissing. And hopefully more.

For a second, she wonders what madness has taken over and is causing her to actually consider entering a serious relationship with Richard Castle. But the truth is, it's the man himself who has convinced her of how right it could be, how good. She doesn't doubt his sincerity; Castle is many things, but he's not glib and he doesn't invite just anyone into the inner circle of his life. When the jokes and the innuendos are gone, when he strips away the public façade and the familiar armor he wears to protect himself from a lifetime of being hurt and abandoned by those he cared about most, there's a genuinely fine man underneath. One who's worthy of the time and effort that he's proposing they spend on each other.

So yeah, she wants to keep kissing him, and she wants all of that other stuff too. Her mind is made up.

She laces her arms around his neck to draw him close, her mouth hovering just over his. "I'm done running, Castle."

Their lips meet in the middle once more, and what better way to seal their pact than with a kiss? They've already proven themselves excellent at it, and when he nudges her backward until her back meets the wall and he has the leverage to press his body into hers, she responds by deepening the kiss and wrapping one leg around his thigh.

She's still scared out of her mind; the very idea of the kind of intimacy he's describing to her is a terrifying prospect to someone who's accustomed to keeping most people at arm's length, one foot forever out the door. She'll have to fight her baser instincts in order to fight for them. She's honestly never been good at this, at giving herself to something or someone wholly and completely.

But as she melts into his kiss and feels just how completely right they are together, she realizes how absurd it was to believe they could ever be just friends.

From the castlefanficprompts Tumblr: "We're just friends." "Friends who kiss?"

Credit for the title goes to Herman Hupfeld's song "As Time Goes By," best known from the 1942 movie Casablanca.

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

All my love and appreciation to the lovely Alex and J: amazing women and wonderful betas.