Point of No Return

Picks up in the middle of 4x01, AU from there. What might have happened in Kate's apartment

There are 3 parts


ONE

"…if this was an accident I've got nowhere to start. If this was an accident I've got nothing. The guy who shot me is gone. Dick Coonan, gone. Hal Lockwood, gone. Montgomery, gone. My mom…everybody is gone, Castle."

The despair washed over her like an under toe threatening to pull her out to sea. Her chest ached almost more than during her first few weeks of rehab. It was all so crushing; so unbearable.

Her mother's case—the one case she needed to solve with every fiber of her being—was the one that continually eluded her. She'd make progress then hit a dead end. Uncover something new, needing it to be the thing that took her ten steps further than she'd been before only to be walloped again by a brick wall or a bullet to the heart.

Not solving the most important case of her life took a toll on her emotionally and physically to the point where she just didn't know how she could go on. How could she be such a great detective and not solve this case—this case.

Rationally, she knew she was being too hard on herself and that not every case was solvable, but why did this one have to be one of the ones that she just couldn't figure out? How could her mother's killer be that cunning? She was skilled; she had resources, so why the hell couldn't she break it? She tried again and again only to fail as many times, but each failure sunk her deeper into the hole she knew that one day she'd never be able to climb out of.

"Not everybody."

The strong baritone of her partner had Kate lifting her gaze and shaking her head as a stray tear escaped the corner of her eye. She brushed it away with the flick of her index finger and sniffed, trying to regain her composure in front of him.

"I-I'm sorry, Castle. I didn't mean to imply that you…just forget it." She dismissed her momentary weakness as casually as she could and turned her back in a futile attempt to hide the remaining tears threatening to fall.

Kate knew that Castle, her partner, was by her side and had been for years. It had been she who turned her back on him that summer while trying to process….everything. She knew it was wrong at the time and seeing the pain etched on his face caused her deeper pangs of guilt, but they would move past it now—together. She would not take him for granted again, but at the same time she needed to keep him safe—from her, from those that wanted to hurt her. She wouldn't push him away, but keep him on the fringes at least until she was ready for them to be together the way they both wanted. But how could she ever get to that place with her mother's murder looming over her like a storm cloud weighted like an anvil?

A soft hand landing on her shoulder caused Kate to breathe in sharply. She hadn't realized he'd approached her from where he sat and it appeared he was only trying to comfort her, to make her feel better like he had done so faithfully during their lengthy partnership. Shutting her eyes, she brushed away another tear and held herself steady, trying to draw strength from the warmth of his hand.

"I'm still here, Kate; I'm still right here."

He surprised her again by placing his opposite hand tentatively at her hip. It remained there for the span of a few seconds before he snuck it around her waist so it rested just above her belly button. Instinctively, she reached down and covered his hand with her own, but not to evade his touch, merely as a response from how close he was holding her. They didn't usually do that—close—and she was curious as to this new form of comfort he was attempting to provide.

"You'll never be alone—not if you don't want to be."

He tugged her towards him until her back connected with his front and she sucked in a breath, arching her body into him. His hand dropped from her shoulder, skimming its way down her arm until it met with the others joined at her waist and she felt a shiver traveling up her spine. God, she wanted him so much. Him—the only man who had ever made her feel the way she did; feel things she never imagined possible thanks to her fractured heart.

She knew she should resist him. They had so much to talk about. She needed to work through so much before it was fair to embark on a relationship with him—fair to either of them. She didn't want to hurt him; she wanted something that would last and she just wasn't there yet, but, god, the way he held her—so strong, unwavering. His arms around her made the pain in her chest just a little bit easier, the ache in her heart more bearable.

A moment late she felt his lips against her neck and she knew it would be harder than ever to resist; harder than ever to be alone. His lips brushed the space beneath her jaw and she felt the iron chains around her heart break apart. She wasn't even sure how her body moved so fast, almost beyond her control, but almost before she realized what was happening, she'd spun around in his embrace and fused their lips together and—

Oh. Oh.

So this was what it felt like to kiss someone she felt so deeply for. His mouth was hot against hers and his hands roamed her back and when she raked her fingers through the hair at the base of his neck she knew that moment was the one she'd waited her entire life for. She felt whole and complete—and desperate for more.

"God, Kate," Castle moaned when she nipped at his bottom lip with her teeth.

"I know," she managed, breathless as she kissed his lips again and again, her hands migrating to tug at the front of his shirt.

Without consciously realizing she began backing her way towards the bedroom, pulling him along with her. All fear and logic had escaped her mind and she instead focused on the searing heat in her low belly—the fire she knew only he could quell. The moment they crossed the threshold to her room Castle began working at the buttons of her lavender blouse, but she didn't realize until one of his hands slipped inside and palmed the cup of her bra.

"Oh no wait!" She twisted away from him and clutched the separated edges of her blouse together as she frantically searched for the t-shirt she'd slept in the night before. It was soft cotton and a bit oversized so he could still easily get his hands beneath it, but at least she'd be covered.

"Okay."

He sounded a mixture of breathless and reluctant, which made a small smile cross her face. Keeping her back to him, she scooped up the gray shirt from the floor, tossed it on to the end of the bed, and began working the remaining buttons on her blouse. "Just—just let me put this t-shirt on and-"

"Wha—why would you be putting clothes on?"

He sounded so befuddled that she almost laughed. Turning only her head as she shrugged her shoulders out of the shirt she explained, "So you don't have to look at my scar."

"Kate."

His hand landed back on her shoulder, but she refused to turn to face him, instead reaching for the shirt to pull over her head. "It still looks really bad and-"

"Kate." He repeated her name as he pulled the shirt from her hands and pushed back against her shoulder, encouraging her to turn and face him. She did so, but with her fingertips covering the red, puckered mark between her breasts. She still found it hideous, though the doctors assured her it would reduce in size and coloring in the coming months. Even still she doubted she'd want to show it off, particularly as it served as another reminder of her shortcomings as an investigator.

The man before her tuned his gentle blue-eyed gaze towards the spot she covered and, with a delicate hand, pulled at her wrist so she would uncover the mark. She did so, though with great reluctance. She watched his face closely but his expression of adoration didn't change as his thumb traced over the swell of her left breast until he reached the valley and it rested on the scar. Turning his gaze back to her face he said, "I want to see all of you—every part—because you're beautiful."

Without waiting for a response, he lowered his head to kiss her. She rose up on her toes and fell against him, letting him turn their bodies so they could collapse down on to the mattress and become lost in each other.

Curled up on her side, spooned into Castle's strong embrace, Kate lay with a sated smile on her face. Making love to Castle had certainly been an event beyond comparison; something better than she dreamed possible. He was, without question, the most amazing man she had ever met. When she drifted back into consciousness at the feeling of him squeezing her waist a bit tighter, Kate's eyes fluttered open and her eyes focused on the book resting on the edge of her nightstand. Heat Rises stared back at her in bold text, and she felt an uncomfortable tightness at the back of her throat.

Kate slid away from her companion enough to sit up with her back against the headboard. She pulled the sheet up to cover her chest with one hand while reaching out for the book with the other.

"Mmm no, stay in bed…" the writer hummed, his voice thick with sleep.

Kate didn't respond or even look at him. Instead, she stared down at the book's cover and the silhouette reflective of her image. She recalled the exact moment she'd read the end of his third novel. From the setup of the scene, her heart was already in her throat. Knowing how his books often mirrored their lives—and cases—she had expected Nikki to take a bullet. Perhaps not to the chest, but in some way or form. When Rook was the one shot, she'd gasped out loud and dropped the book.

"What is it?"

Kate gazed over to see the writer siting up in bed looking between her and the book balanced in her lap. She curled her fingers a bit tighter around the novel and said quietly, "Rook tried to save Nikki just like you tried to save me, only he took the bullet." She wanted to ask him if that was truly how he felt or if it was just how he wrote, but she was too afraid to do so directly, thinking he might think her ridiculous for asking if he would have chosen to sacrifice his life for hers.

"Hey." He reached over and circled her wrist with one of his hands. "I tried to save you the same way. I know you don't remember, but I did."

She shook her head and lifted up her hand to cover her mouth as she remembered that moment in the cemetery: the breath evaporating from her lungs when the bullet entered her chest and a moment later slamming into the ground with Castle on top of her. "You could have been hurt—killed," she squeaked out.

He twisted his body so he could face her and hold on to her arm with both hands. "I would have done anything to save you from that, Kate—anything. I think about that moment every day. I wish I could have been faster to save you from being hurt. If I could have, I would have, even if that meant a bullet for me instead of you."

His voice sounded so strong, so sure, but she struggled to believe that anyone would voluntarily sacrifice themselves that way. She supposed she would have, had their situations been reversed, but she was a cop who had sworn to protect the city. He was a civilian and was under no obligation to do so, yet there he sat with a strong gaze and steady grip on her arm. Sniffling back tears she sighed out, "But w-why wo-"

"Because I lo-"

"No. Don't." She cut him off quickly, letting the book fall to her lap as she scooted away from him in the bed. She squeezed her eyes shut tight and shook her head, unable to hear those three words again and how they clawed at her heart. Still, there they sat naked, both bodies and emotions on display, and she couldn't let him think she didn't return the sentiments even if she was unable to say the words. She couldn't start whatever it was they were starting with a lie—not anymore. "I know. I remember."

He moved closer to her, the blankets crumpling in his lap. "You remembered the shooting? When?"

She glanced over her shoulder tentatively and breathed out a rattled breath. "I remember everything—every second. I never forgot I just…I don't know I was so scared. Scared I was dying. Scared of what you said. It's one of the reasons I hid from you all summer, because I didn't know how to face you again knowing how you felt."

His brow furrowed. "I don't understand."

A mirthless laugh escaped her lips as she said, "Neither do I! God, I wish I did. If I did maybe I'd deserve someone like you, but… I don't know." She covered her face with both hands and attempted to wipe away the tears collecting on her cheeks. From the moment she lied to him about her memory, she regretted it, yet was still terrified to reveal the truth—to face what he said. The terror raked through her and though a small amount of happiness followed behind it, it wasn't enough to erase the fear.

"All I knew was in that moment I was certain that was the end and hearing what you said was absolutely the best thing for me to hear, if it was the last thing I heard on Earth because…because it meant everything was real between us." She remembered shutting her eyes as she faded in and out of consciousness knowing that he loved her and thinking that if she were to die, it would be okay, because at least she had loved someone who loved her in return even if they had never actually had a chance to be together.

A singed expression crossed his face. "Was there a time you thought it wasn't real?"

She nodded. "All the time. I was afraid that…I just couldn't believe that you would feel that way about me." Practically everything about him befuddled her from his crazy theories to many of the aspects of his life. He was a rich, handsome celebrity who also happened to be a genuinely kind and incredible man. He had literally dozens of women groveling at his feet at any given time, yet he chose to shadow her; he chose to call her amazing. Those factors of her life were unbelievable enough, but for him to be in love with her? It was almost unfathomable.

He blinked slowly at her and then reached out his hand to skim beneath her jaw and pull her closer to him. He said, "Then let me prove it to you," just before pulling her in for a long, slow kiss.

After making love a second time, Kate lay with her head on Castle's chest as they snuggled against one another. The writer certainly had done a thorough job of "proving" just how much he cared for her to the point where she wasn't sure she was physically capable of movement yet. She had also discovered several more things he was very talented at—all of which she was incredibly grateful for.

When they'd both reached their climax and he rolled off her, he husked into her ear, "Believe me yet?" with a cheeky grin on his face and her heart had summersaulted in her chest. Kate knew with one hundred percent certainty in that moment that the man beside her was the one she would spend the rest of her life with, crazy as that seemed. She'd heard about it from others and certainly read about it in books both fictional and non—the moment when one knew they'd found the person they'd spend their life with. Kate didn't believe it was possible until that exact moment. Joyful as it was, she knew she was not in the mental or emotional headspace for a full-blown relationship at that time, amazing as their intimacy was.

"Castle?"

"Hmm?"

She pushed herself away from him and propped herself up with her elbows on the mattress so that she could gaze at him. "I meant what I said before—on the swings. I still have walls around me and they're not coming down in a day."

He reached out his hand and brushed a few strands of hair from her forehead. "I know that, but I'd like to help in any way I can."

A light laugh bubbled out of her lips; he truly had no idea how much he was already helping break down her walls forever. "You already are. I'm sorry I hid the truth from you."

"Apology accepted. So where does that leave us? I mean, we kind of hit a point of no return here," he said, gesturing between their still-naked bodies.

"That's okay; I don't want to go back." As much pressure as she would feel to speed up her emotional availability now that they'd been intimate, she didn't regret it. Knowing just how deeply he felt for her aided in quelling some of her remaining fears. Plus she knew exactly what she was working towards.

"Neither do I. So…?"

She shrugged and shook her head. "I don't have an answer, Castle. All I can tell you is that I'll try. I don't know how long it's going to take, so if you're not okay with waiting I'd-"

"Kate," he cut her off, scooting down in the bed further so that their faces were even. He skimmed his hand over her shoulder and down her bare back. "I don't care how long it takes. I'll be right here waiting. I mean literally right here – I'm not leaving your bed."

She groaned and laughed at his cheeky grin. "Castle!"

He leaned in and gave her a sweet kiss. "You're worth waiting for, Kate, but I do want us to spend time together—have dinner, go to movies…"

Though her face flushed from how excitedly he gazed at her, she agreed with, "I'd like that, too."

He kissed her again. "I can't wait to go on non-dates with you!"

She laughed and snuggled up to him once more. "I think we can call them dates, Castle." True, she wanted to keep their intimacy on hold until she felt more emotionally ready for it, but all things considered there was no question in what direction they were headed.

He hugged her tighter and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Even better."