"Castle." His lashes rise, nearly graze hers in their ascent. She's never been this close before and yet, somehow, she still doesn't feel close enough, still wants so much more. "I love you."

He looks mesmerized, intoxicated, but so sharp with need. Her thighs squeeze at his hips.

"Now take me to bed."

Castle carries her through the cabin like he carried her through the rain a few weeks ago, one arm hooked beneath her knees, the other firm at her back and holding her close. Only this time, she isn't stiff and furious in his grasp, wrought with tension and pain that blooms from her scars. She's liquid in his embrace, hands moving to scale his throat, cup his jaw, lips ceaseless at his mouth.

It throws Castle off balance halfway through the living room, has him swaying towards the couch.

"Kate," he pants, hands tightening at her outer thigh, her ribs.

Their lips part as she tries to breathe, but her heart is beating too hard, the need strident and crackling through her veins, boiling through her blood.

"Don't stop," she whispers, brushing a kiss to his bottom lip before claiming it with her teeth.

He groans, starts forward again. She almost tells him to just lower her to the couch, follow her down to the cushions. She's waited this long, but she doesn't have the patience for more, can't wait any longer. He has his footing now, though, his own impatience burning in the clutch of his hands, searing through her clothes. And then he's finally striding into her bedroom.

The first thing he does is walk to her side of the bed, ease her down onto the mattress like she's still some fragile thing needing to be handled with care. But her body isn't broken anymore, her heart well on its way to mending, and she doesn't want anything about this night with him to be fragile.

Her back touches the soft surface of the sheets, but her hands hold to the collar of his shirt, tugging. His knee digs into the space beside her hip, but his fingers catch hers, unhook them from the fabric.

"Castle?" she mumbles, doesn't understand. He said he wanted her, that he's wanted her for so long now. Why won't he have her?

He was so adamant that the marred pieces of her skin would change nothing, but now… now that he's seen her scars, felt them beneath his fingertips, she has to wonders if his desire has suddenly dimmed.

The hands that abandoned her rise to the buttons of his dress shirt, sliding the small discs free from the holes of fabric, revealing a strip of his chest, a glimpse of his abdominals. Castle shrugs the shirt from his shoulders, drops it to the floor.

"I want to take my time," he murmurs, leaning forward to trace the tip of his index finger along the waistband of her shorts. The muscles of her abdomen clench, her skin quivering beneath the touch. "I told you, I want every inch of you, Kate. I want to go slow."

Her hips buck beneath the caress of his words, the trail of his fingers now grazing along the sensitive flesh below her navel.

"I don't want to go slow," she gasps, thighs rubbing together, unable to help it. "I want you now."

His thumb hooks in the band of her shorts. She catches his wrist.

"Castle, I don't need slow," she insists, pressing her thumb to the inside of his wrist, feeling the steady thrum of his pulse beneath the pad of her finger. "I need you."

He doesn't resist the guide of her hand leading his past her shorts, down to the emanating heat between her legs. After her shower earlier, she bypassed the option of underwear and watches the surprise of that discovery flicker through the arousal in his eyes.

"God, you're wet," he groans softly, his palms cupping her, trapping the molten heat of her beneath his hand.

Her hips thrust shallowly. It burns.

All she can do is nod as her eyes flutter, a whimper building low in her throat when his thumb grazes her clit.

"Told you," she gets out, her fingers unfurling from his wrist to travel up to his forearm.

"I know you don't need slow." The cove of his palm breaks apart, fingers spreading outwards, two stroking through her folds. Kate hisses, tightens her fingers around his arm, and feels the flex of muscle beneath her hand.

He teases at her entrance, grazes too gently over her clit, but doesn't give her what she wants. So close, but not yet.

"I love you, Kate." Her heartbeat accelerates, but his hand slips from between her legs. She whines in disapproval, squeezes his forearm once more. But Castle shakes off her grip, curls both hands around the waistband of her shorts.

Her hips lift automatically, shifting to help him drag the material past her ass, down her legs. They fall to the floor with his shirt while he finally climbs onto the bed. But he doesn't move to lie beside her, over her; he wraps his arms beneath her bent knees, curls his hands just below the bones of her hips, and lowers his head to her parted thighs.

"I love you and I want to take my time showing you."

"Fuck," she gasps as his lips brush along her lower abdominals, past her navel, and over the hollow spaces just above her hips. He grins against the contracting muscles beneath his mouth.

"Don't pass out on me, Beckett."

She opens her mouth for a remark, but nothing comes out. She can barely manage a breath. Her mind goes momentarily blank as the exhale of his breath rushes over her, a prelude to the first touch of his mouth.

Her spine arches when he drapes his mouth over her, grazes his tongue through her slit, the spill of arousal. His hands hold her down, prevent her from moving too much, but it doesn't stop her entire body from trembling. She clutches the sheets, the pillow beneath her head, but her fingers eventually end up back in his hair, tangling in the strands.

Castle hums, the vibration shooting fire through her core, a line of flames up to her chest. Kate whimpers, instinctively digs her heels into his back. Her ankles hook at the middle of his spine, managing to drag him closer without even trying.

Her skin is on fire beneath the flannel of her shirt, hanging on by only a couple of buttons just below her breasts, fever spreading and sweat seeping into the fabric. She releases a fistful of his hair to attempt those final few buttons, but every plunge of his tongue, brush of his lips, and unexpected scrape of his teeth causes her coordination to fail.

"Castle, take - take my shirt off," she pants, arching her hips to get his attention. But he's already lifting his gaze, staring up from between her thighs, and - and fuck, it's the hottest thing she's ever seen. She breathes a curse, clutches the back of his neck with the hand still twined in his hair. "Never mind, just - just go back."

He glances to her struggling fingers that have given up in the middle of her sternum, but returns his mouth to her center. She almost chokes at the sudden suckle of his lips at her clit, the hard stroke of his tongue.

But then he's leaving her white-hot and aching, dragging his mouth up to her stomach again. His tongue circles her navel, dips inside. She cries out, scores the back of his neck with her nails until he ventures higher, whispers his lips just below her ribs. Over her scar.

She expects fragility, the sweet brush of his mouth. She gets the rake of his teeth, gasps at the spark of life it elicits beneath the dead tissue.

"Rick," she moans as he scales her ribs, his lips going higher, his body forced to follow. His shoulders fit between her thighs, his chest against her core, and a streak of wetness paints his skin as he travels the length of her frame.

He nudges the buttons apart with his nose, draws a hand up to her chest to aid in pushing her shirt aside. He laves the scar between her breasts with his tongue, caresses the slopes of her breast with his mouth before closing his lips over her nipple.

She cradles his head in her hands at he works at her breast, his tongue swirling over the tip, his teeth adding the occasional scrape, as if he already knows what she liked. It shouldn't surprise her after nearly three years; he knows her well, always too well. And she always knew from the moment they met that sex with him would be amazing, that he would make it amazing.

But this is better than she could have ever imagined.

He squeezes her opposite breast in his hand and she jerks, grinds into the solid bulge now pressed between them.

"Fuck, Kate," he exhales into her skin.

Her hands drift, one marking his back with the dig of her nails, the other slipping between them. Her knuckles graze along the path of his stomach, stained with the evidence of her arousal in a slick strip from his chest to the front of his slacks now damp with her. Kate flicks the button of his pants open with her thumb, maneuvers her hand inside. She steals her hand past the waistband of his boxers, hears the rough sound of his grunt, feels the sharp nip of his teeth at her collarbone.

Her fingers brush along his length before winding around him. He thrusts into her palm, mouth parting with a gasp over her skin. The heat of his breath sears like his cock in her hand, brands her with the burn of arousal, desire she no longer doubts.

She squeezes gently, strokes painfully slow, and Castle clutches at her breast in warning.

"This is about to be over too soon if you keep doing that," he husks, lifting his head to stare down at her. His hair is mussed from the comb of her fingers and his eyes are dark with a kind of need she's never seen him wear before. Yet they sill shine with sparks of gold for her like stars in a night sky.

She brushes her thumb over his tip anyway, feels the quiver race down his spine. Rick growls and balances with one elbow digging into the mattress, uses the other to catch her hand. He presses his knuckles to her clit in retaliation, kneads at her nerves as he snatches her hand away and pins it to the bed.

She keens, can't help grinding into the ridge of his knuckles.

"Then take off your pants already," she murmurs, hooking her knee at his thigh and rolling her hips.

"I always knew you'd be impatient in bed," he grumbles, releasing her hand and shifting above her. He manages to shove his pants down with one hand and a shimmy of his hips.

"Always knew?" she echoes. "How often were you thinking about this?"

Castle pauses, narrows his eyes on her. "Are we talking in general or this past summer alone?"

She grins, feels her cheeks warming.

"Pretty sure that's answer enough."

He smiles, looks like a little boy in that moment with that crooked quirk to his lips and the sparkle in his eye.

"Believe me, Kate." He shakes one leg and she watches the fabric of his slacks slip down to his ankle, join the rest of their clothing on the floor. "There's rarely a time I'm not thinking of you."

Her gaze maps the bare length of his body above her and her skin prickles with a fresh wave of want.

"And this?" she inquires with an arch of her eyebrow. She sits up, rolls her shoulders to finally shed the shirt from her back. It slides down her arms and she tosses it to the side.

She expected that awed expression that's been claiming his face for the past few months to have retired by now, but it returns with a brilliance as he allows his eyes to roam. They travel slowly, studying every naked inch of her, every curve and muscle, bone and scar and imperfection. It's a little unnerving, pulls on her urge to cover up, turn out the lamp on the nightstand, or simply distract him with what her body can do.

He swallows. "This too. But fantasy never came close to this."

Kate bites her lip, clenches her knees at his hips, and reaches for his face.

"I agree," she mumbles, tilting her chin. He kisses her, soft and sweet before pushing his tongue past her lips. A moan catches in her throat as she tastes herself, as he strokes his tongue to the roof of her mouth. He's good at this, could cleanse her mind with his mouth alone if she let him.

Maybe she should have let him a long time ago.

She descends to her back, draws him down with her until their bodies are aligned.

"Fantasized about me often, huh?" he smirks, brushing the hair back from her cheeks. His chest grazes hers with every breath, the hard wall of his sternum skimming the taut peaks of her breasts. She's tempted to tell him the truth, how she fell apart with his name trapped in her mouth too many times to count over the past three years. Far more than she'll ever admit.

She widens her thighs instead, breathes past the whimper lodged inside her throat as he settles so snugly between her legs.

The friction cracks like a whip through her senses.

"What - what do you think?"

Castle drops his forehead to rest against hers and tightens his fingers in her hair, his chest stuttering against hers.

"Don't pass out on me, Castle," she parrots, stroking her hands down his sides.

He nearly chokes on the chuckle that slips past his lips. "No guarantees."

He doesn't stop the curl of her fingers at his length this time, his teeth gritting. She holds his gaze when she guides him inside, only looking away when her eyes snap closed as he fills her. Her chest arches, colliding with his, her heart pressing hard against the cage of her ribs.

He's big, thick and solid inside of her, hot and exquisite and good. She bands her arms at his shoulders, lets her eyes remain closed for a long moment. She can feel the heat building between them, temperature rising as the flames grow; she's so close to just letting the fire consume.

She's no longer worried about drowning. She'd prefer for this to burn her alive.

Castle's ribs expand, fit into hers. She opens her eyes to see him already watching, his chest heaving and the same fire she feels in her veins alight in his eyes.

"If it's too much, if I hurt you-"

"You're not going to hurt me," she promises, her hands ascending up the planes of his back to splay at the wings of his shoulder blades. Her knees bend, wrap around his waist. She presses her heels into the curve of his ass feels his hips trembling with the urge to thrust.

"But if I do-"

She growls. "I'll tell you to stop. Now will you just-"

He pulls out of her almost completely, glides back in, deeper than before, harder. Kate gasps, claws at his back.

"Okay?" he murmurs, his lips grazing her eyebrow.

"Yes." Her hips rock into his next thrust and they both groan. "Yes, yes, so good, Castle."

She trails her hands up the ladder of his vertebrae, wrapping her arms around his neck even though it tugs a little too harshly at her scar.

Her eyes fall shut again, her world dark and focused solely on him, the coil of heat inside of her that winds tighter with every thrust of his hips, the way her skin sizzles at even the most innocent of touches, the intimate brush of his stomach along hers. Her eyes open at the feather of his thumb at her cheekbone, looks up to find him so intent and marveling above her.

He's going to make her fall apart solely from looking at her like that. The perfect fit of him inside of her, all around her, the flawless pace he sets. Her body grips him, fighting every pull, welcoming every push, fluttering around him every time and causing their tempo to stutter and break. She was already poised on the edge from his mouth, comes closer to swan diving over it with every drive of his cock until she finally lets go.

Her first orgasm spreads like a slow burn, coaxed outwards from between them and licking through her veins, lapping like white-hot waves through her blood.

Castle slides his hands beneath the arc of her spine, gathering her up and alleviating some of the pressure from her chest at the same time while she floats back down. But even through the haze of bliss clouding her mind, she can feel that he's still hard and pulsing inside of her, still without release.

One of his hands circles around to dust over the scar between her breasts.

"Hurting at all?" he asks, but his voice is laden with a devastating combination of restraint and lost control, the same decimating kind of need she feels for him. "It's pretty red. Inflamed."

"Skin's just flushed." Kate cups the back of his neck in her palm, holds him still as her lungs calm, regain the ability to expand. The pound of her heart is rough, strenuous, but no worse than what she would expect from a taxing physical therapy session. Definitely not enough to make her stop. "Not hurting."

She palms his nape before submerging her fingers in his hair, cradling his cheek with her other hand as she kisses him. Castle grins against her lips, drifts his hand from the hole in her chest to skate his thumb back and forth over her nipple. Stirring the sea of arousal her body has become.

"Just flushing," he murmurs, the tone of his voice all too proud, even when the words are smothered by her mouth.

She rolls her eyes, but she's grinning too, stroking the paper thin skin beneath his eyes with her thumb. She opens her thighs a little wider, undulates beneath him, wiping the gentle amusement clean from his features.

"You're pretty warm yourself, Rick.

"Kate," he rasps, cracking, succumbing. She folds her legs high at his back, grunts as the change in angle pushes him even deeper, drags him impossibly closer. It has him burying his face in her neck, releasing a ragged breath into the column of her throat.

"You're good," she murmurs, trailing one hand to curve at the rounded edge of his shoulder. "So good at loving me, Castle."

One of her legs twines around his thigh, clenching around the straining muscle of his flank. She uses the strength of her lower body to roll them, shifting him onto his back. Her vision wavers, black spots swimming along the edges, but she doesn't allow the blur of dizziness to stop her from pressing her hands to his chest, leaning over him.

"My turn to love you back."

His eyes flash, but his hands scale the length of her spine to settle at her hips, fingertips flirting with the curve of her ass. He has such large, all encompassing palms, covering everything in their wake. It allows him to cup her ass all too easily, kneading the taut muscles of her glutes, encouraging the wave of her body surging into the shoreline of his.

She chokes on the unexpected gasp that rushes to her lips, feels Castle's groan reverberate from his chest to hers. She swears her heart skips a few vital beats, but she maintains the rhythm she's set, grinding down with every rise and fall of her body, adding an occasional twist of her hips. She doesn't risk breaking until Castle's hands begin to wander again, fingers dancing up her ribs, up to reclaim her breasts swaying in the strip of space left between them.

Her hips falter, her hands ascending from his chest to catch his wrists. She pins them above his head, ignores the strain of her scars, and layers her body over his until that space no longer exists.

Castle moans, arches his hips into hers, stealing her breath with the collision of bones, the added pressure.

She unlatches her hands from his wrists to slide into his palms, thread her fingers through his, and score his knuckles with her nails. The extension of her body has the skin surrounding her scars stinging, the healed tissue threatening to rip apart and pushing a gasp to her lips.

Castle must hear the pain in it, must feel the flinch and spasm of her muscles, the tremor in her bones that has no correlation to her last orgasm, because he goes completely still beneath her.

Beads of sweat accumulate along her hairline, a mixture of pleasure and agony damp at her temple.

"Here," he murmurs, bending his elbows, carefully drawing hers to follow. She exhales a sharp breath she wasn't aware she's been holding, allows him to guide her arms back to her sides and clasp his hands with hers atop his chest.

She expects him to stop then, to insist they stop. The protest is already bubbling to her lips, but then he's moving, releasing her hands and looping his arms around her back instead. He rolls them onto their sides, keeping her stable through the rotation, and giving her body the chance for reprieve.

Rick swallows, his lashes fluttering and his cock throbbing within her at the change in position, the shift between them and the rub of friction she can feel burning so raw inside her.

He glances down, lust pushed aside by familiar concern. He doesn't look like he can last much longer, though, and she doesn't want him to.

She wants to witness him come apart with her, to feel it.


Her heart swells, the lingering flickers of pain in her chest, her side, forgotten and dissipating.

"Yeah," she assures him, curling her fingers at his neck, seeking leverage to pull herself closer. Castle assists without her having to ask, hooking a hand at the back of her knee and hoisting her leg to twine at his hip. The adjustment cracks her open for him, has her body rippling with desperation but rolling into him with languid ease. His palm scales the back of her thigh, follows the path of her flank to her ass. He repeats the same method from earlier, using the grip of his hand to push her closer, higher, deeper. "Oh god, Rick."

His fingertips dig into her flesh, controlling her rhythm so he can fall into sync with her, overcome it. His other hand curves at her nape, a warm weight that anchors her, keeps her from sinking below the surface for just a little while longer. He groans, ducks his head to stain his mouth along the slope of a breast, splashing pleasure through her insides with every slick brush of heat to her flesh.

She's not staying above the water for much longer.

Her hips quiver, rocking into him harder, tighter. She cranes her neck to steal his mouth, prolong the overwhelming urge to shatter from sensation. His fingers fist in her hair as he kisses her back, but he's breathless, lips glancing over hers before he coasts his mouth along her jaw, down her throat. He swirls his tongue through the hollow spot between her collarbones, blazes a trail with his mouth back down to her chest.

Kate buries her face, her moans and whimpers, into his shoulder, scores his skin with her teeth, and clenches her inner muscles around him. Harder with every thrust. A strangled gasp, tangled up with a ragged growl, trembles against her breast as he bruises her hip with the crush of his fingers around the bone. She urges him on with the dig of her hips into his, knows how close he is by the shake of his muscles, the rippling of his skin beneath her fingers, and the force of his heartbeat crashing into his ribs.

"Rick," she begs, doesn't even care how breathy and soft she sounds, how needy. "Castle, please. Come with me, for me. Let go for me-"

He presses a palm to the base of her spine, snaps her lower body into his as he plunges so impossibly and gorgeously deep. He hits her just right, so right, and spills hot and fast inside of her. She succumbs to the flood of pleasure then, the overflow of ecstasy, and sinks to the bottom of the deep end with him.

It takes a while for him to regain the ability to breathe normally again, gasping for air against Kate's sternum. As if he's just emerged from being too long underwater. He sucks the oxygen from her skin once his lungs no longer feel on the verge of bursting, licks the salt from her flesh.

She whimpers at the whisper of his lips, the gentle brush of his tongue. He trails his hand from her back, up the bow of her spine, to rest between her shoulder blades, feeling the frantic pound of her heart beneath his palm. He refrains from asking if she's okay, if she's in any pain, if her scars interfered with her pleasure. If it was too much.

But then he feels the breath of a kiss on his shoulder, over the strip of skin she sunk her teeth into. He is so pleasantly surprised - and still pretty turned on - that Kate Beckett bit him.

"You're amazing," he sighs, so drunk with sex and dreamy. "I've never - everything about that was just... wow."

Her lips spread into a grin across his skin, that shy smile he recognizes without having to see. It's the same smile she wears every morning when he brings her coffee, the same blossoming of her lips that happens any time he's ever surprised her, every time he's told her he loves her.

Castle strokes his hand up and down her back, combs the other through the damp strands of her hair. He nuzzles his face at her breasts, his lips to the puckered circle of flesh that's still a little too warm for his liking. But her heart rate has calmed, her breathing steady and expelling against the side of his throat as she moves closer, burrowing into him.

His body is like a cove around hers and he never would have guessed it about her, but she seems content to remain. He just had the most intense sex of his life with the woman he's been in love with for longer than he should probably admit, and now she's cuddling with him.

He's in heaven.

Kate's leg loosens at his waist, slides to twine between his instead. He shifts to slip from the warm glove of her body, sighs at the loss, but the intimate seal of her skin, the fit of her bones between his, makes up for it with ease.

Her spine stretches and her head lifts, her lips dusting at his forehead. Her chest blooms with her inhale and he rises with her lungs, meets her gaze from the edge of a shared pillow. She looks warm and sated, her eyes liquid and gold, molten and sparkling, the smile on her lips still in place. She looks happy, happier than he's ever seen her.

He can't believe he's in any way responsible for it.

Her fingers touch his skin, fingertips kissing his chin so gently, more gentleness than he would have imagined her capable of. She scratches her nails to the stubble there, traces them down to the pillar of his throat.

"I love you," she whispers like it's still a secret. He wonders how long it has been. He wonders if she felt the inklings of it fluttering through her chest at the most unexpected moments like he did, if she wanted him in the ways that he wanted her, in ways that surpassed sex and fantasies. If she loved him before the summer, before she was bleeding out beneath him at Montgomery's funeral.

It doesn't matter. Nothing else matters now, not when he finally has her, has her body so intimately intertwined with his, has her soul as bare as her skin exposed to him. He would have spent a lifetime waiting, done the wondering all over again, as long as he knew this was what he'd be waiting for. It would be worth it.

She always has been.

Castle cradles her skull in his palm, caresses the tender spot behind her ear with his thumb, and feathers a kiss over her lips that is barely there but still succeeds in triggering those soft sparks of electricity.

"I love you too," he murmurs, easing onto his back to offer her some space. But she follows, the tangle of legs dragging her along.

Kate's smile grows and she drapes her hand at his chest, over his heart.

"Good, because I'm not done."

His brow arches. "Not done?"

She shifts on her elbow, nestled close enough into his side that he can feel every piece of her.

"This is one part of our relationship that doesn't require any wading on my part, Castle."

He chokes on a laugh, scratches his fingertips along her scalp. "We did kinda dive headfirst."

"Mm, but swimming's easy here," she mumbles, lowering her lips to his jaw. "So easy with you."

"Calling me an easy lay, Beckett?"

She nips at his cheek, keeps pressing that smile into his skin.

"No, took a while to get you in my bed."

He scoffs, turns his head to chase her mouth. She chuckles as he catches her bottom lip between his teeth.

"But I'm here now," he murmurs, releasing the tender flesh of her mouth to kiss her instead.

Kate hums, grazes her nose to his cheek and smiles into the brush of his lips. "You are."

"And I don't plan to leave for a while."

Her body slides the rest of the way over his, draping, and he embraces the weight of her on top of him, relishes it. Her legs fall between his, abdomens, torsos, everything aligned, and her lips just a breath away from his. He could stay like this forever.

"I don't want you to go." A flicker of guilt from earlier passes over her face, but it's burned away by resolution a moment later, a rush of reverence. Kate touches her lips to his chin, the corner of his mouth, sweet yet so erotic at the same time. She makes him lose focus, sets him on fire in a way no one else has, with a burn that is slow but deadly. "I love you," she repeats, as if she can't say it enough now that it's free to leave her lips. It drags him back from the flames, back to her.

Rick draws her down, feels her arms winding around his neck and her hips sinking into the embrace of his. She nuzzles his cheek, kisses the bone with her lashes. So irrevocably entwined with him, he's lost track of where he ends and she begins.

No, he's definitely not going anywhere. Not as long as he's allowed to have this.

Kate parts her lips, a soft breath caressing his skin, before she whispers the words against his cheek.

"I want you to stay."