They don't sleep. Not that he planned to.
It's his first night with Kate Beckett, his first chance to truly adore every inch of her body. His hands, his mouth, her skin - he touches everything and he takes his time.
They don't sleep, but he still emerges from an hour of dozing when the sun breaches the horizon, sending light spilling through her bedroom. Kate is fast asleep beside him, lashes kissing her cheeks, fingers curled at his bicep, and her lips at his shoulder. The sun is rising at her back, spilling gold through her hair, across the naked length of her spine.
Rick turns his head to brush a kiss between her brows, his eyes falling closed as he inhales the scent of her skin. The mixture of her shampoo and that cherry lotion she wears, the glorious combination of sweat and sex that still clings to her.
He sighs, shifts ever so slightly towards the edge of the bed. He'll return in a few minutes with coffee, rouse her with the smell, or perhaps with the trail of his mouth down the perfect bow of her spine. He has a feeling she'd be receptive to either option.
Castle tiptoes out of her room, into the kitchen, and sets the coffee to brew. He casts his gaze to the sunrise happening outside while he waits. It's on perfect display through the glass screen of the backdoor, shimmering through the trees and reflecting across the water. He adores this place in the mornings, but after a night of seeing stars with Kate, daybreak feels all the more magical.
Rick abandons the coffeemaker in the kitchen, hesitates on his way to the door. He wants to wake Kate, draw her out of bed to venture outside with him, enjoy the view. But he kept her up late last night, put her body through plenty of strenuous activity, and plans to continue keeping her busy throughout the morning. She may have made great strides in physical therapy, she may be practically healed, but he doesn't want to push the boundaries of her body too far.
Yeah, she needs her rest.
Castle proceeds to the glass door alone and slips through the back entrance. The air is warming, but the chill of night still lingers, prolonging the heat, the layer of humidity. He forgoes the idea of grabbing his shoes, follows the flat rocks Jim has arranged as a short path from the house to the dock above the lake. The dew that clings to the grass licks at his bare feet, the moisture bleeding through the wood of the dock cool beneath his soles.
He pauses at the edge, exhales as he looks across the water. He's shirtless, wearing nothing but the boxers he stepped into as he abandoned her bed. The gentle breeze sweeps across his shoulders, caresses the bare skin of his chest. It makes the crescent marks she left with her nails, the swells of reds and purples from her mouth, come alive across his skin, bloom with warmth. He explored her body thoroughly, but she didn't hesitate to do the same.
Rick's lips curl, his blood heating. He came out here for a peaceful moment amidst the breach of day, to appreciate the beauty of the sunrise, but he already wants her again.
He doesn't expect that to dull any time soon.
God, how is he supposed to leave here without her? How is he supposed to leave at all? He didn't plan to visit this weekend in the first place, texting Alexis to let her know at the last minute, but the idea of leaving now is almost painful. The drive back home, the days spent alone, his empty bed in the city - it all holds no appeal without her.
The feather of lips along his shoulder blade, the splay of palms at his sides, steals his attention.
Rick's hand drifts backwards, fingers skimming the bare edge of her thigh.
"Feeling okay?" he murmurs, feeling the brush of her nose at the tip of his spine as she nods, the vibration of her throat as she hums in affirmation.
"What're you doing out here?" Kate rasps at his back, her breath hot and skittering across his flesh. Castle claims a better grip on her thigh, wrapping his fingers at her flank. His arm brushes fabric and he glances over his shoulder, taking in the sight of her tousled hair, eyes that are still heavy with sleep, and the way his shirt from yesterday drapes over her body.
"I was awake, got up to make you coffee. I wanted to watch the sunrise before I brought you a cup," he explains, his thumb flirting with the curve of her ass. Her fingers drift from his ribs, meander down to tease along the waistband of his boxers in retaliation. Castle grunts, catches one of her wandering hands and pins her palm just below his navel. "I was gonna wake you, but I figured you needed the sleep."
Kate hums, her lips quirking at his back. "You're right, but you're spoiling me, Castle."
He shifts to see her a little better, his hand regretfully leaving the length of her hamstring to rest at her hip instead. With his body in front of her, she leans into the wall of his chest, wedges one of her knees between his, every part of her seeking.
He's never imagined Kate as one to crave the physical contact. He actually worried he would drive her crazy this past month, finally being able to indulge the urge to touch her. He feared that her independence was too strong, that he was too needy and would smother her without even trying. But she hasn't turned away his desire for close proximity, the sometimes restless caress of his hands and occasional wander of his mouth. If anything, she's embraced his need to touch, sought it out.
"What do you mean?"
She rises on her toes, laces her arms around his neck, and looks up at him. Her lips are still in a smile, but her eyes are brightening like the sun now ascending over his shoulder. "I was never really a fan of sharing my bed before. Now I sleep better with you in it."
His heart leaps.
"Not a fan of waking up without you in it either," she mumbles, brushing her lips to his throat, grazing her teeth along his jaw.
Rick's eyes flutter as his blood warms, simmers beneath her mouth.
"You're making the idea of leaving even more unappealing, Beckett," he sighs, swallowing to stop the shiver that threatens to dive down his spine. Her hands are moving, drifting down to his chest, one palm falling to spread over the wild muscle of his heart.
Her eyes follow and her fingers curl, as if she's trying to capture the beat beneath her hand.
"What if I just… went home with you today?"
For a moment, everything quiets. The frogs near the water fall silent, the lap of water mutes, his lungs pause, halting the whisper of his breathing.
She wants to go home with him.
Kate bites her lip, maintains eye contact with the seal of her hand on his chest. "My dad's cabin was the best place for me to recover and having you here so often… it's helped, Castle. But I want to go home."
"With me?" he repeats before he can think better of it.
Her cheeks gain a touch of color, but she shrugs. "Well, you are part of 'home', so yeah."
Castle's hands tighten on her hips before releasing, his fingertips spreading like wings across her waist. "And you feel ready for that? For everything that comes with it?"
She swallows and lifts her gaze to meet his. He expects a hint of doubt, a flicker of fear, but her eyes blaze gold with resolution, with that same look she wore last night before she told him that he was all she wanted.
"Together," she murmurs. "The case, the new captain, the deal with Smith - we do all of that together."
"Of course," he nods without hesitation, feeling her chest brush against his with the breath she inhales.
"As for you and me…" Kate's hand scales his sternum to curl at his jaw. Her thumb strokes his cheek, the corner of his mouth. The smile she gives him is soft, adoring, and even after the last few weeks, he doesn't think she's ever looked at him like this. So in love with him, so happy about it. He can't help catching her hand, holding it there to press a kiss to her palm. "I'm ready for all that comes with us too."
Her fingers slip to trail down his neck as he leans forward to kiss her. Castle draws her closer with the splay of his hands across her spine, a moan building in his throat as their hipbones brush and the fabric of his stolen shirt flirts with the bare skin of his stomach.
Her thumb grazes over the sensitive spot she discovered below his jaw and she hums as he sucks her bottom lip into her mouth. He scrapes with his teeth, soothes with his tongue, learning last night just how much she enjoys the contrast, and slides his hands beneath the shirt.
Her spine arches, fitting her upper body tight and wonderful against his. She hooks her leg around his thigh, breathes that soft little moan, that gorgeous sound he can't get enough of, lighting a match of need that burns straight to his groin.
Castle parts from her mouth, knocks his forehead into hers while he tries to catch his breath, and cradles her face in his hands.
"I love you, Kate."
She grins against his mouth, nuzzles her nose to his cheek. "I love you too." His heart still flutters at the flow of those words past her lips, still can't believe they're for him. "But I made you a promise."
His brow creases and he glances down in question, but Kate is already planting her hands flat to his chest, applying pressure.
Realization comes too late.
He tries to grab for her, to find a grip, but she's already shoving him backwards, pushing him off the dock and into the lake.
He barely has the time to yelp.
Castle goes into the water with a loud splash, sinking deep until his feet land in the floor of mud and he can push back to the surface. She's laughing as he emerges, leaning over the edge of the dock with that brilliant smile, mischief and affection dancing in her gaze. He can't help smiling back up at her like an idiot as he blinks the water from his eyes.
"I can't believe you used that beautiful moment to trick me."
She rolls her eyes, descends to her knees as he wades forward. The water isn't deep, barely up to his chest, and the dock is only a foot higher, an easy height for him to fold his arms atop the edge. Kate combs her fingers through his dripping hair, brushes it back from his forehead.
"Sorry, babe," she smirks, trailing her thumb along one of his eyebrows before pulling her hand back. His grin widens; she just called him babe. "If this is my last day here, I had to seize the opportunity."
"I give you points for turning it into such a good sneak attack. I've been on edge all summer wondering when you were finally going to push me in."
"Yeah, well, no more waiting," she murmurs, the truth of it flashing through her features.
"No," he concurs, reaching out to trail his fingertips along her outer thigh. He hooks his fingers behind her knee and brushes his thumb along her patella. Kate is already watching him when he glances up to see her, holds her gaze. "Only question now is whether you're going to join me or not."
Her eyes sparkle and she stands. Her fingers flick along the three buttons of the shirt that were slipped into place, parting the fabric in seconds. Her shoulders roll and the dress shirt he wore to the book signing yesterday morning slides from her skin, revealing the naked length of her body bathed in the morning glow of sunlight.
He forgets to breathe.
Kate smiles down at him, tilts her head for him to move. He pushes back from the dock, gives her some space, and floats a few feet away to watch. The sun is spreading gold across her skin now, beams twining through her hair. She looks like warmth and joy, unabashed and confident. He can't help marveling over her, over all that has changed within the last couple of months. How she no longer hides her scars or herself from him, how much work she has put in to healing her body, how willing she is to let him have her heart.
How there is no struggle anymore, no current to fight against.
"I'm ready to swim, Castle."
He believes her.
She dives in.