Breath of Life


Always
I wanna be with you
And make believe with you
And live in harmony harmony oh love
- Always, Erasure


He threw his head back as he gulped down the last of the amber liquor in the tumbler glass. Wincing at the burn as it slid down his throat, Richard Castle reached for the bottle of Scotch, and unscrewed the cap, pouring himself another generous helping. The bottle rattled when he placed it back on the tray, and he swayed a little as he stepped away, turning around to head for his desk.

It was late, and he should probably think about getting some rest. But he couldn't sleep. His mind wouldn't let him. She wouldn't let him. All he could think of was her. That was what his problem was. For the last four years, all he could think of was her. He vividly recalled the way she walked away from him after their first case together. She'd looked so cute with that short hair, and the way she bit her lower lip before murmuring into his ear still drove him wild.

You have no idea.

Damn right.

And then she just had to go and add an extra sway to her hips as she walked away. Come on, she knew exactly what she was doing. She owned her sexuality. And damn, if that didn't make him want her all the more. But over the years, as he come to know her for who she really was, that initial lust turned into something deeper, and far more meaningful.

He loved her. Desperately.

But Kate Beckett would never be his.

No. She didn't care for him, at least not the way he wanted her to.

Castle took another drink of his scotch and groaned, rubbing his forehead as he already sensed the massive hangover he'd wake up to in the morning. Having sensed his impending self-destructing behavior, his mother had preemptively taken Alexis away from the weekend, wanting to protect his daughter from seeing him like this again. It had been bad enough after Beckett had been shot. Martha didn't want her granddaughter witnessing yet another downward spiral. He sighed. It was better that way. After all, he wasn't up for company. He wanted to be left alone.

He finished off this glass, and went back to the tray for another fill up. He was in the middle of pouring his—he'd long since lost track of the number—drink when a knock came from the door. Castle ignored it in favor of the alcoholic burn of his drink. He closed his eyes, wishing the unwelcomed visitor away as he gulped down his latest glass of scotch.

The intruder knocked again—pounded was more like it. He groaned, slamming the tumbler down onto the table, almost hard enough to break it. With great effort, he moved his feet, guiding himself through his office door and across the opened space of the living room. He reached the front door and squinted, swaying slightly as he tried to collect himself before answering the disturbance.

Knock. Knock.

Castle pinched the bridge of his nose and reached for the door handle. He gave it a yank, opening the door. He was prepared to tell off the unwelcomed intruder when his eyes landed on the woman standing before him.

"Beckett?" he stammered out, a little tipsy and definitely surprised.

"Castle?" she frowned, gazing at him with concern. "Are… are you drunk?"

"Maybe," he smiled dopily. He swayed slightly and she reached out to steady him. Scowling, he shoved her hand away and stepped back, putting some distance between them. He failed to notice the flash of disappointment that shot across her face at his actions. "Wha… what'd you want?"

Beckett licked her lips and swallowed. He stared, mesmerized at the way her throat bobbed as she did so. She was so utterly fascinating. Always had been.

"I…," she paused, knitting her eyebrows together adorably as she collected her thoughts. She looked up at him again, eyes wide and expressive. "I didn't like how we ended things tonight."

His brow furrowed as she gazed at her, uncertain and confused. "What?"

"It just felt wrong," she stated. "It all felt wrong. The way we parted." She shook her head as she looked up at him with longing and unmasked desperation in her eyes. "You've never turn down an offer of drinks before."

"Oh," Castle swayed back a bit. "Well, perhaps I was just tired. It was a tough case after all."

"It was a tough case for all of us," Beckett insisted. "That bombing was just so sudden. It reminds you that life isn't something to take for granted. That you can't just let things be unsaid and wish it all turns out in the end."

Castle pursed his lips, growing increasingly perplexed. His mind was muddled by alcohol and emotional pain. He was having trouble following her. He shook his head and stared at her, trying to deduce the reason behind her appearance so late in the evening.

"Tonight was supposed to be different," Beckett asserted with building confidence, taking a step closer, crossing the threshold and entering the loft.

He let her. Coward that he was, he wanted her still despite the heartache and hurt. Hell, he'd even take a pity fuck if that's all he could get. He just wanted her. And he'd take whatever he could get. Damn him. He was wrong. Love wasn't a switch. And he could never turn it off.

Castle swallowed as he gazed down at her with an odd mixture of hurt and warmth. He couldn't help it. He loved her. He really did. Yet, the agony of her rejection was just too painful to dismiss. She cared for him, yes, she did. He could read the concern in her eyes. But it wasn't romantic. No. It was platonic. She was his friend and nothing more. No more and no less.

With a sigh, Castle surrendered to his pathetic need for her presence. He shuffled back, offering her more room to move. She accepted the offer and step past him, fully entering the loft. He closed his eyes and inhaled the sweet scent of her perfume. Still cherries, he noted. But also with a hint of vanilla.

He sighed again, more wishful than before.

Perfect.

She was utterly perfect, in almost every way.

If only she loved him back.

Castle closed the door and turned to follow her. He stopped in his tracks when he found her standing there, right beside him.

"Kate?" he ventured, so startled at her close proximity that he forgot to just use her last name.

"This case made things very clear," she said, biting her lower lip, struggling to give voice to her thoughts. "I know I'm not an easy person to get to know. But over the years we've worked together, you've proven to be… well, patient when it comes to me." She paused for a breath, bringing her hands up to nervously brush back her hair. "I told you before, that I had walls—"

"Yeah, I know," he groused. "I remember. You can't have the kind of relationship you want until their gone. Got it, Beckett."

"No, you don't!" she snapped.

Her eyes flashed with irritation, and he relished it, forcing the emotion out of her. He'd rather have another fight than lose her forever. Beckett shook her head and frowned as she stared down at the floor. Still a bit inebriated, Castle waited her out. Brushing her hair back from her beautiful face, she stared up at him again, and he was sober enough to recognize the look of longing in her eyes.

"I was wrong, Rick," she said. "So wrong."

That snapped him out of his stupor. She never used his first name unless it was important. He blinked and swallowed, feeling himself sober almost instantly.

"Wrong about what?" he hedged, still cautious.

"All of it," she said, flinging her hands up into the air. "I can't wait around for things to just happen. If I learned anything from this last case it's that life is too precious to waste in waiting. I can no longer sit back and just hope. I have to take action. And…," she heaved in a deep breath, building up to something. "And that's what tonight was supposed to be."

"I don't understand," Castle stammered, bewildered.

He watched in stunned awe as Beckett stood before him and let it all go. Her walls, which had constantly guarded her heart, fell away, leaving her exposed, defenseless and vulnerable. He saw all of her. Everything that she was. Her hopes, her dreams, and her fears.

Tentatively, as if she was afraid he'd jump back, she reached up with one hand, and cupped his jaw. His heart pounded profoundly under his chest. He closed his eyes and leaned into the soothing touch of her palm, wondering if he was dreaming. It had to be a dream. Kate Beckett would never touch him so intimately. She didn't want him. She didn't love him.

Yet here she was, cradling his cheek in her palm.

"Kate?" he croaked out, gazing down at her with watery eyes, so conflicted and baffled.

She smiled up at him, just as emotional as he was. It was like the dam had broken and let it all flow out. Nothing stood between them except themselves. And he felt it the instant their eyes met. It was real. This moment, in this place and time, was real.

"I remember," she confessed in a soft, repentant voice. "I remember everything. And I'm so sorry for not telling you. So, so sorry. There's nothing I can say to make it up. But if… if you'll let me, I'll spend more whole life trying to."

"You really mean that, don't you?"

Beckett nodded. "Yes, I do." She pushed up on her toes and brushed a feather of a kiss against his lips. "Tell me again, Castle… please," she pleaded, not even bothering to disguise her neediness.

Staring down her, Castle got the sense that this was their turning point. He would never have guessed that when things seemed to be at their darkest was when the light would appear, manifesting in a wave of pure, raw emotion from the woman in front of him. He had to give it to her. It took courage to confront him with the truth. It made him feel ashamed that he hadn't had the same bravery. Instead of assuming the worse after witnessing that interrogation, he should have confronted. Perhaps then the last couple of days of heartache could have been avoided.

"Castle," she hummed softly, her hand dropping down to gently squeeze his bicep. "Say it again, please."

He blinked, returning to the present. He looked down at her, the woman he loved, and let his heart swell with it. It was invigorating, letting his love in. The hurt was not completely gone, but it was slightly mended. There would be time enough to repair it. But not now. Now he finally had the chance to do it right.

Castle swallowed, summoning up the courage that had come too late the last time he'd spoken those words. He met Beckett's eyes and smile faintly, overwhelmed by the moment and emotion of it.

"Kate, I love you," he said, reaching up with one hand to cradle the side of her gorgeous face. "I love you, Kate."

And then he was kissing her, ramming his mouth down against hers in a desperate need to prove the truth of his words. Beckett surged up to meet him, giving back just as much as he gave. It was exhilarating, banishing the dark clouds that had followed him around for days. His large hands swooped down her shoulders and along her back until he cupped her deliciously firm backside in his palms. The sudden touch startled her at first, but she grinned into his mouth and renewed her attack with gusto, adding her own hands to the mix, tugging and pulling at his shirt and neck in an attempt to bring him closer to her.

Castle broke away from her mouth and nip down the gentle slope of her perfect neck. He smirked at he coaxed erotic moans from her. She gripped his shoulders for support as he worshiped her smooth skin. He kneaded the firm muscle beneath his palms and Beckett jerked her hips into his in retaliation.

"Oh God, Kate… I want you," he groaned, sweeping one hand up her arching back while the other continued to squeeze her ass.

Beckett let out a hot breath against his cheek. "And I want you," she growled out.

The softness of their earlier conversation forgotten, they let their passions flare. Hands roamed, exploring new, once forbidden territory. Beckett wrapped her arms around his neck and canted into him, banishing the space between them. She tilted her head up and claimed his mouth once again. Castle groaned at the feel of her lithe body pressed so intimately against his. He adjusted his hold on her, gripping her hips and nudging her back.

They tumbled over and bounced down onto the sofa, Beckett rolling beneath him. He grinned and swept his hand up her side, tickling her, and making her laugh. She fought back, tugging at his shirt and wiggling her fingers under the material, finding skin. His veins felt on fire at her touch. She smiled at him, her eyes alight with mischief and delight. Castle dipped his head down, distracting her with a heated kiss.

As they sucked on each other mouths, Castle ran a hand up her body and palmed one of her breasts. Beckett moaned enthusiastically under his touch as he massaged her through her blouse. He moved his mouth, sucking on the slope of her neck, hoping to leave his mark. She let out a huff, sensing his purpose.

"Castle," she huffed.

Ignoring her admonishment, he hummed against her skin, dancing hot, wet kisses across her shoulder and collarbone. With his free hand, Castle hastily unbuttoned her blouse. Finished, he parted the material, revealing more delectable flesh underneath. Beckett arched up into him as he kissed the soft slope of her breasts. But then he paused, briefly, over a razed rounded part of flesh situated over her heart. Her breath hitched as he placed a tender, loving kiss there, so grateful she was alive.

Her fingers clawed at his hair, coaxing him back up for another kiss. It was slow, less frantic than the previous ones, but just as good. She was reassuring him that she was there. And it worked. It was like a breath of life, her kiss. It was all he needed.

Castle pulled back and gazed down into her gorgeous hazel eyes with nothing but love. And, as they did so often, they shared a silent conversation with just their eyes. There would be time, later, for more. Right now, in this moment, they both simply wanted each other. He leaned down and kissed her again, agreeing to their unspoken decision.

Sitting back on his haunches, Castle hurriedly unbuckled his belt and pulled down his zipper. Meanwhile, Beckett lifted her hips and worked her jeans down her long legs. Castle fumbled around his pockets, searching for his wallet. Beckett sensed what he was doing and gently soothed him, touching his heaving chest with one hand as she sat up. She reached down for her discarded jeans and retrieved a plastic wrapper from the back pocket.

Castle raised an eyebrow as he glanced down at the condom in her hand, and Beckett merely shrugged.

"I was being optimistic," she explained with a happy smile.

Castle smiled in return. "God, I love you."

She grinned back, "I know."

That made him smile all the more. Oh, she knew him so well. Just for that, he kissed her again, stealing the wrapped condom from her hand. He leaned back, and quickly finished divesting himself of his slacks. Beckett grinned excitedly, almost bouncing with anticipation. She eagerly reached forward and tugged on his boxers, pulling them down past his waist. Her mouth dropped and her eyes went wide when he sprang free, proudly erect and ready. But before he could say something cocky, Beckett was snatching the condom from his fingers and tearing the wrapper. Castle groaned, low in his chest, as she expertly rolled the condom over his length.

She grinned up saucily, adding a little squeeze, just to taunt him. He shook his head at her, and reached down to cup her face in his large palm. Dipping down he slanted his mouth over hers, distracting her with a kiss as he gently coaxed her down onto her back. Pulling away, Castle smiled dreamily at the sight of her tousled hair, swollen lips, and rumpled blouse. The creamy skin of her chest glistened in the low light coming from the kitchen, and he watched transfixed at the swell of her breasts as they strained against the lacy black material of her bra with each one of her heaving breaths.

Beckett raised her hips up as he curled his fingers under the waistband of her matching panties, and with a delighted grin spreading across his lips, he pulled them down her long legs, exposing her glistening center to his eyes for the first time.

"Beautiful," he murmured, skimming his hands up her legs, treading the insides of her thighs as she opened for him. He dropped his head down and planted soft kisses across her rippling abdominal muscles, teasing her with possibilities. But not this time. There would be time enough later to fully explore her body. Right now, at this very moment, he just wanted to be with her.

And Beckett wanted the same. She wiggled her fingers, reaching for him, silently pleading with him to make love to her. Castle obeyed. He moved, kissing his way up her undulating body, worshiping the woman he loved with his mouth and hands. Beckett moaned and cooed, making all these little noises that he wanted to remember for all eternity, and recreate again and again.

Finally, their mouths met once more in a delicious kiss. She hummed in pleasure, her hands skimming down his back until she grabbed his ass, squeezing the flesh there, urging him on. Castle shifted, creating enough space to reach down between them and adjust himself into position. Beckett groaned, squirming her hips as he rubbed himself against her moist core. She was so very wet, so ready for him.

"Castle," she pleaded, unashamed of the desperate lilt to her voice. Shoving his hand aside and taking hold of him herself. A low groan rumbled up through his chest a she deliciously squeezed him in retaliation, before she guided him to her entrance.

And then he was pushing inside her.

Beckett's mouth dropped in a silent gasp as he entered, spreading her wide. He pushed until he was buried deep inside her. His head dropped and their foreheads kissed. They shared heated breaths as they both relished the feeling of their intimate connection. Castle tilted his head and brushed his nose against hers, giving her time to adjust to his intrusion. She felt so good, so tight around him. It felt so wonderful that part of him didn't want to move, but he knew he'd eventually have to.

His signal was when Beckett's hips started to squirm beneath him, and he grinned, turning his head and smearing a kiss to her lips as he slowly pulled out. Her hips raised up off the sofa to follow him, pleading with him to return. And he did. He thrust down hard, sheathing himself once more in her tight heat. Beckett let out a loud moan, her fingers clutching at his shoulders as their bodies met in an intimate embrace. It was so very hot and sensual. Yet there was more to it than just the sex. This was special. They both loved one another, and this was them expressing that love physically for the very first time, in a very raw and emotional way.

Castle stared into her eyes, and she stared right back. He saw her love for him reflecting back at him, and he kicked himself for never seeing it before, whenever she'd looked at him for longer than was strictly necessary, or in all the little touches and gestures that went beyond those shared by work friends. His heart swelled and beat in sync with the beat of hers.

Working together they easily found a perfect rhythm. They moved as one, each sensing what the other wanted or needed. He moved one hand up the side of her body to palm her breast, teasing her nipple through the material of her lacy bra, while the other gripped her hip to keep her steady as he pounded into her. She skimmed her hands through his hair, down his back, squeezing his buttocks to egg him on, demanding more passion from him, passion he was more than willing to give.

Beckett worked her hips in time with his, and it wasn't long until Castle started to feel the buildup of his release. He slowed, not wanting it to end, but she rubbed her hand down his chest, encouraging him on. He looked down at her, and saw it in the way her eyes misted, in the way her mouth dropped with each thrust, releasing a silent gasp. She was just as close as he was.

Releasing his grip on her hipbone, Castle moved one hand up in search of hers. He raised her arm over her head, claiming her small delicate hand in his larger one. Their fingers interlaced and palms kissed, and their bodies continued that intimate dance of love.

"Oh, Castle," she moaned, her body arching up into his.

"Kate… oh… Oh, Kate," he groaned, his hips jerking as he approached the threshold.

Beckett bucked up into him and met him with each thrust, their body slamming together in an erotic dance that even his wildest imagination could never have conjured up. Reality was so much better than his dreams. And then it was happening. With one final, sloppy thrust, he came. Beneath him, Beckett writhed with pleasure as she too reached orgasm. Her body clenched around him, and he groaned, canting her name as he continued to pump his hips as best he could, wanting to prolong their high for as long as possible.

When they were done, they laid there, listening to each other's heartbeats and heavy breaths, their hands still clenched firmly together above her head. Sweat glistened across their skin, and the air was thick with the smell of sex and them. He sighed. She sighed. It was perfect.

Castle adjusted himself above her, moving to lay behind her and cradle her pliant body against him. Beckett let out a disproving groan when he slipped out of her, but hummed contently when he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back flushed to his chest. He nuzzled the back of her head with his nose, breathing in her scent mixed with his. It was intoxicating. He didn't want to forget it.

"Rick," Beckett wished after a long contented silence.

"Yes?"

"I love you, too," she said.

"I know," he murmured. "I know now. Sorry I ever doubted."

"S'okay," she sighed back, wiggling her delicious behind into the cradle of his hips. "I'm sorry for giving you reason to doubt."

He grinned, propping himself up on an elbow, and leaned over her to press a kiss to her willing lips. "Why don't we continue this in the bedroom? We can talk in the morning."

"Yeah," she smiled, bright and pleased. "I like that idea."

Castle beamed, gazing down at her with nothing but love and a very healthy amount of lust. "Then let's not waste a moment more."

Slowly, he helped her up into a sitting position. And then, hand in hand, Castle and Beckett walked towards his bedroom, so very ready to build their always together.