Author's Note: The last chapter, and the second one revolving around "Kill Shot." Fair warning, this is another long, heavy, emotional chapter—but it ends happily, I promise.

What Is Supposed to Be

Chapter 6

She couldn't do this.

She couldn't, all her fragile, newfound confidence lying in ruins, proven for the blind bravado that it had been.

She couldn't breathe, her chest tight, her eyes stinging, Emily Reese's terrified, panicked words ringing in her ears. She could feel the burn in her own chest, her own terror as she'd been lying on the grass, believing she was going to die too.

Oh god.

She was vaguely aware of hearing Castle calling her as she fled but she couldn't answer him, couldn't stop. She was running—again—not from him but from everyone else. It was asking too much for her to fall apart when there were so many cops around, the uniforms and everyone else in the Grace Point Tower streaming out of the building.

The only difference was that this time, she thought, she expected, that Castle would follow her.

She choked back the sobs building inside her, but the first sob ripped from her throat as she pushed open the door to the stairwell, thankfully empty.

She regretted her decision to wear a turtleneck, felt as if she was strangling, but could only tug at the neck of it, even as she dropped her gun and her badge, shed her jacket—so much for it being a confidence builder.

"Kate?"

Castle. Oh thank goodness…

He joined her in the stairwell and she reached for him blindly, not quite able to see through her tears, as she collapsed against the solid, welcoming wall of his chest.

He wrapped his arms around her and she sagged gratefully into him, gripping his jacket with her hands as she sobbed into his shirt.

This was so much easier, better, she thought vaguely. Having him there to hold her. Easier to fall when someone was there to catch her.

Her sobs didn't last for long—Kate rarely cried and when she did, her tears almost never lasted long—but even after the tears ceased, she didn't move, stayed in the comforting warmth of his embrace. She just… liked it, liked being in his arms. Liked the strength of his arms around her, liked the way one of his hands was rubbing her back in long, soothing sweeps. Liked the way he was murmuring quiet sounds that never quite resolved themselves into coherent words but served as an additional reminder that he was there. Slowly, she unclenched her grip on his jacket and let her hands creep around his back to hug him.

She buried her face in his shoulder, breathing in his familiar scent, and then let it out in a sigh that somehow got mixed up with a last lingering sob and ended up sounding like a hiccup instead.

"I don't think I can do this," she muttered against his shoulder.

His hand momentarily stilled in its soothing motions. "Do what, Kate?"

She had to force the words out because she hated this sort of admission of weakness and she never slacked on work but after this last incident, she couldn't deny that she wasn't in control of herself right now. She hadn't been since this case had started. "I don't think I can work on this case," she admitted haltingly. "I just… I need to be better but I'm not and I—I don't think I can do this."

Just as Captain Montgomery had kicked her off the Raglan case, or as Jordan Shaw had kicked her off the Dunn case after her apartment had blown up, she had to accept that she was too close to this, was too affected by all this. She wasn't dealing with it, wasn't in control.

She hadn't wanted to admit it—never liked admitting failure—but now she knew. She was a liability and Sarah Vasquez, Henry Wyatt, Emily Reese, they all deserved better. They deserved, needed, someone in charge who wasn't liable to collapse at the mere sound of a siren.

He sucked in his breath a little, tensing a little. "Kate," he began, his tone already communicating his automatic, instinctive denial.

"No, Castle," she contradicted. "Think about it, honestly. I'm not… in control right now. I haven't been. You saw just now, the way I fell apart, again, because of what Emily Reese said. And you know… I haven't been…" this one was harder, a harder admission to make, but she was being honest, was facing the truth unflinchingly now. "I haven't helped on this case. I've been… an albatross around your necks. The way I lit into Marcus Ford, and again just now. I'm not… functioning, haven't helped. Not like you, figuring out the paper dolls, or Espo with his sniper training―you've all been picking up the slack but it's… this is my case and I—I'm supposed to be leading it, not holding you back, and that's all I'm doing."

"So that's it, then? You're having a hard time and so you're just giving up?" There was a definite challenge in his voice, one that set off automatic sparks of defiance in her mind, had her tensing, straightening up so she was no longer sagging against him. "That doesn't sound like the Detective Beckett I know."

"Because I'm not the same Detective Beckett!" she flared. "Don't you get that, Castle? I'm different now, I'm—" she choked a little, "damaged goods."

"We're all damaged goods in some way," he retorted. "None of us are in perfect factory condition, unless we were born yesterday. We've all got nicks and scars because we're adults and that's what life does. We've all got emotional baggage. We saw that just weeks ago, with Ryan and how he was haunted with guilt over his gun being used to kill Jane Herzfeld."

"It's not the same."

"Not exactly but it's not that different either. The point, Beckett, is that you can't just give up. You don't just give up." His tone softened a little. "Do you remember what I told you once, about what makes you extraordinary? It's because you don't give up."

She did remember his words, from more than two years ago. Most people come up against a wall, they give up. Not you. You don't let go. You don't back down. That's what makes you extraordinary. Her breath caught in her throat. Even so long ago, back when he had still mostly been acting like a jackass, he'd thought she was extraordinary. It was one of the first things he'd said to her that made her realize that he wasn't thinking of her as just a conquest, someone he wanted to get into bed and little else. Made her realize that he really respected her.

"I remember," she managed in a whisper. "Of course I remember."

"That's still true, you know. If anything, it's even more true now. You say that you're broken but Beckett, that's not the end of the story. You take what would be a weakness and turn it into a strength. It's what you do, Beckett, the way you used what happened to your mom and let it drive you, fuel your compassion and your tenacity." His voice gentled at the mention of her mom and she sucked in her breath, lifting her eyes to look at him. No one—or almost no one who knew her would mention what happened to her mom so directly and from almost anyone else, she would have lashed out—but this was Castle. And Castle knew what her mom's case had done to her, Castle understood and he wouldn't mention her mom lightly.

Take the weakness of her shooting and turn it into a strength—could she do that? How could she do that? She didn't know how to take what had happened to her and make it helpful to her in this case but the gears of her mind were starting to creak into action, wondering, considering.

"It might have broken anyone else but not you; you used it to become the best cop in the city. You're still the best cop in the city." He shifted, his arms falling from around her to grip her arms lightly, bracingly. No longer holding her up but only giving her encouragement. "And this sniper might be good but he's just another killer, like any of the hundreds of other killers you've brought down. He might have some more training than the average Joe but he's not a criminal mastermind, not some super-villain. You know how we know?"

"How?" she asked, a flicker of curiosity breaking through.

"Because Emily Reese is alive," he answered succinctly.

That was true, she realized slowly. She hadn't thought of it, had been too preoccupied with Emily Reese's familiar terror, the panic in the woman's voice, all the memories it had brought up.

But Emily Reese was alive—had been conscious and able to talk. Which Kate had not been. They already knew that this sniper was shooting to kill. But he had failed this time.

"He made a mistake," she spoke her thought aloud, slowly.

"Exactly. And we know when criminals make mistakes—"

"It makes it easier to catch them," she supplied, meeting his eyes, and something about the simple act of completing his sentence made her feel more like her old Detective Beckett self than she'd felt since this whole nightmare had begun.

She saw the spark kindle in his eyes, the familiar light from when clues started to fall into place.

"My money's on you, Beckett. You can do this and you've got a pretty great team backing you up, if I do say so myself," he added.

Amazingly, she felt a smile curve her lips, an honest spurt of amusement easing some of the tension in her chest. "Yeah, Espo and Ryan are some of the best cops around," she agreed with mock solemnity. Oh, this man, always making her laugh, brightening her mood. Making her stronger.

He pasted on a pout. "And what about your partner?"

"Mm, he's okay, I guess," she drawled with the air of someone making a great concession.

"Okay," he pretended to grumble. "I'll show you okay and after I figured out what those paper dolls meant too."

She huffed something approaching a laugh and stepped into him, wrapping her arms around his waist again, but this time, she turned her face up to give him a small smile. "I have it on good authority that I have the perfect partner. He just doesn't like to do paperwork."

His lips curved. "Yeah? That's nice but I think my partner's better." He paused. "She does do paperwork," he deadpanned.

A laugh sputtered out of her and he dropped a light kiss on her cheek. "Come on, Beckett, back to work," he said briskly.

She gave his waist a last squeeze before releasing him, bending to retrieve her things, before they turned to leave the stairwell together, back into the bustle of the lobby.

"Castle?" She didn't know what she would have done without him, how she would have handled things, but she could only guess that it would not have been good, to put it mildly. She supposed she would have, somehow, papered over the cracks, survived the case, but she almost shuddered at the thought of how hard it would have been, how bleak her days and nights would be.

"Hmm?"

I love you. For the first time, the words rose to her throat and she thought she could actually say them to him now. But this wasn't the time or the place. Not with CSU swarming all over the area, not in the middle of the case. No, when she said these words to him for the first time, she wanted to be alone, preferably in the privacy of his bedroom or hers. "I—I'll make you coffee when we get back to the precinct," she offered, lamely. It was all she could think of, stupidly, but coffee was theirs.

A faint smile curved his lips and she thought, hoped, he understood at least some of what she meant. "That sounds nice. Thank you."


She was so tired.

Kate's feet felt heavier than usual as she made her way down the hall to the door to the loft, knocking briefly. The emotional exigencies of dealing with Lee Travis had been bad enough but then she'd managed to squeeze in a session with Dr. Burke to talk it over and those were always draining. So now, she was just exhausted. She had returned to her own apartment briefly because she'd needed to pick something up—following her own resolution and Dr. Burke's advice to keep letting Castle help her—and had been tempted to simply stay there, crawling into her own bed. Except she'd promised Castle when she'd sent him home from the precinct that she'd come to the loft after her appointment with Dr. Burke. And more than that, her own bed wasn't what she wanted—at least, not when it was empty. It still surprised her a little but even after just a few weeks, she didn't sleep that well when she was alone anymore, always seemed to orient herself to where Castle's warm body should be and then be awoken by the consciousness of his absence. No, what she really wanted—needed—was to be able to curl up against his chest and fall asleep in his—their—bed.

"Oh, Katherine, darling," Martha greeted her, immediately pulling Kate into a hug and for just a moment, Kate let her eyes close and sank into it. A mother's embrace. Martha was nothing like her own mom had been for the most part but she was, at base, a mother too and right now, that was comforting.

Martha drew back to study Kate, who manufactured a small reassuring smile although she was aware that the evidence of the tears she'd shed in Dr. Burke's office was still apparent, mostly because of the fact that she knew her makeup was almost entirely gone and her mascara was smudged beyond repair. "How are you doing, kiddo?"

At that, Kate's smile became real. She would never have imagined liking to be called something as childish as 'kiddo,' but somehow from Martha, she rather did. It was such a familial endearment, yet another way in which Martha had made it clear that she welcomed Kate into the family whole-heartedly. "I'm doing better now," she answered honestly. "Glad the case is over."

"Oh, I can imagine. It must be such a relief," Martha agreed.

Martha released Kate but before Kate could so much as blink, she found herself abruptly being hugged again by another red-head as Alexis took Martha's place. Oh. It was the first time Alexis had hugged Kate in, possibly, ever? She couldn't remember. She supposed she didn't need to worry so much now over whether Alexis accepted her as part of Castle's life, Kate thought rather vaguely as she returned the girl's hug.

"Are you okay, Kate?" The girl's blue eyes were filled with concern. And the use of Kate's first name was yet another sign that she and Alexis were on good terms again. It was nice, reassuring. Alexis might never have said an untoward word but Kate knew that if any part of Alexis were not happy about Kate's being in a relationship with Castle, then it would rapidly complicate their relationship.

Kate smiled at the girl. "Yeah, I really am—"

Her words broke off as Castle hurried into the front room, alerted by the sound of their voices, his eyes immediately finding Kate's.

"Kate. You're here."

It took some effort but Kate tore her eyes away from Castle to focus on Alexis again. "I'm really fine, Alexis," she assured, conscious of Castle's eyes on her.

Alexis gave her a small smile. "Good. I'm glad. I know Dad's been worried too."

"Thanks, Alexis," Castle interjected wryly.

Alexis threw her father a cheeky smile. "I'm sure Kate already knew that."

Kate's smile was real this time as she exchanged glances with Alexis. "I did. He's not that subtle," she added in a loud whisper.

Alexis laughed. "He's really not."

Castle huffed but then he was there, tugging Kate into his arms, and she went willingly, forgetting all about teasing him in favor of stepping into the safe haven of his arms.

"Well, I think we'll just leave you two lovebirds to it," Martha declared, breaking the silence, and Kate started a little to see Martha grasping Alexis's arm and pulling her away towards the stairs. "We're glad you're here, Katherine, so Richard will stop moping. Upstairs if you need us. Good night." With that, Martha had tugged Alexis up the stairs and vanished.

Leaving Kate flushing and Castle grimacing. "Obviously, my mother is a master of subtlety and tact," he said ironically.

Kate laughed in spite of herself. "Martha's a dear."

"At least one of us likes her," he muttered.

Kate nudged Castle. "Be nice, Castle."

"I haven't kicked her out yet, have I?"

The joke was characteristic but for once, the attempt at lightness seemed forced and, she realized with a flicker of apprehension, that his humor wasn't reaching his eyes.

She sobered. "Castle, is something wrong?"

He blinked, his expression blanking for a moment in a way that somehow made her feel more nervous than even a scowl would have. "I—uh—we need to talk." He darted a quick glance upstairs, although Kate doubted either Martha or Alexis could hear them. "Let's go into my office."

Oh god. The words 'we need to talk' never served as the harbinger of anything good. She felt a stab of fear that she tried to tamp down. He wasn't—couldn't be—breaking up with her, she told herself. He loved her, still, even after knowing how much of a mess she was. And as long as they weren't about to break up, she could handle whatever this new complication was. She could handle anything as long as they were still together, so how bad could it be?

She followed him into his office and forced herself to sit down, in spite of the roweling agitation that made her want to pace. He loved her and she loved him so whatever this was, they could deal with it. Really.

He perched on the edge of his desk, then stood, paced a few steps, and then resumed his perch on the end of his desk, although she could tell he wasn't at all relaxed, tension visible in every line of his body.

She felt cold spreading inside her. She hadn't seen Castle this visibly nervous in, well, ever. And if Castle, the incorrigible optimist, was nervous…

"I… uh… have to tell you something," he began, not quite steadily and with his eyes fixed somewhere above her head but not meeting hers. "Because I don't want to have any secrets from you and… from what you said the other day about how we haven't caught the guy who… hurt you…" She didn't miss his slight hitch of breath, the way he did not—could not?—say outright that she'd been shot. She tried not to flinch.

"I just… I know that's still haunting you and I… don't want to keep this from you and you deserve to know…"

He was stalling now, with this halting explanation. She curled in on herself protectively, bracing herself for the anticipated blow. This was his 'it's about your mother' tone.

"It has to do with Montgomery."

She jolted, feeling the sharp stab of grief and hurt at the mention of her former Captain. She hadn't thought, hadn't expected to hear his name. Oh god, she couldn't help but think about the last time she'd heard a revelation involving Montgomery, the betrayal of learning about her mentor's connection to her mother's murder.

He paused, hesitated, but if he was expecting a response, he wasn't going to get one. She didn't think she could speak through the lump in her throat, even if she had words to say.

"Before he… went to the hangar that night, he… sent a package to a man, a friend of his. This package had information on the man who's behind all this. Montgomery sent it to his friend to… protect you—"

A harsh, skeptical sound erupted from her throat of its own volition. "Yeah, that didn't work. I was still shot."

He flinched and finally, looked at her. "The man—he said his name was Smith—didn't get the package until after… that happened to you. He used the information Montgomery sent him to make a deal with the man behind all this, to protect you."

"Are you—" she choked, swallowed, and managed to croak, "a part of this? Working with—" She felt as if her chest was collapsing in on itself, as if it no longer provided enough space for her lungs to function.

"No!" he burst out, interrupting her.

"Then how do you know—"

"Smith called me," he rushed ahead. "He told me… told me I had to stop you from looking into this, to keep you safe. Told me if you started to dig into this, he couldn't—the deal wouldn't work. I was—I just wanted to keep you safe."

She choked again. "Keep me safe? By cutting a deal for my life and then lying to me about it? I—what else is there? What more do you know about all this, the man who killed my mother, and are hiding because you don't trust me to make my own decisions?" she demanded, again finding refuge from heart-crushing hurt in anger.

"Nothing!" he blurted out. "Nothing, I swear. I just… I tried to trace the call from Smith but it was a burner phone, a dead end. I don't know anything more, that's all."

She believed him. The thought broke through her anger to an extent. His wide-eyed panic, the beseeching look in his eyes, told her enough. He was in no state of mind to be watching his words or concealing anything more.

"And I do trust you. I just… I wanted to protect you, do what I failed to do in the cemetery, and I wasn't sure if you were ready—"

"You don't get to decide that!" The volume of her voice, a near-yell, startled even her and she forcibly modulated her tone, made it an angry hiss. "You should have told me the truth, not made this decision behind my back and then kept it from me! This was my life, my mom's case, and you don't get to decide! You should have told me—"

It was his turn to make a skeptical sound. "Because asking you to stand down and stop looking into your mom's case worked so well the last time?" he retorted sharply, abruptly straightening.

The push-back startled her but even as she felt automatic, instinctive defiance flare up, the reminder of that terrible argument in her apartment made her freeze. When he'd tried to make her stop chasing this and she hadn't—and had gotten shot.

Think about the people who love you, he had told her—challenged her. The people who loved her—which included him. He had loved her then.

Somehow, surprisingly—or not—the thought extinguished her anger. He loved her, had tried to save her—and she had… lied to him, sent him away. Hurt him.

Oh damn.

She wanted to be angry, still didn't like what he'd done, that he'd hidden this from her. But if he had done the wrong thing—lying to her—he had done it for the right reasons. He'd been trying to protect her. And now, belatedly, what he'd said, revealed, returned to her—he'd wanted to do what he'd failed to do in the cemetery. When he'd tried to take a bullet for her.

She slumped, the fight leaving her.

"I just wanted to keep you safe," he repeated, his voice quieter now. "I can't—" his voice cracked ever so slightly. "I can't lose you again."

The pent-up fear in his voice, the sentiment, had her choking on a strangled sob. She didn't want to lose him either. She blinked through the tears that were threatening to blind her to see that he had stood up and was holding out a hand.

The gesture undid her entirely. She flew at him, burying her face in his shoulder as his arms closed around her. And somehow, just feeling his arms around her made her lungs seem to remember how to function properly, her chest no longer collapsing so she could take a full breath again.

She honestly wasn't sure how long it was that they simply held each other but she felt no inclination to move and he didn't seem eager to let her go either so they stayed, letting the warmth of their embrace knit up the wounds they had each inflicted on the other.

"I'm sorry," he finally murmured.

"I'm sorry too."

"Are we… okay?"

She lifted her face to look at him. "We're okay," she confirmed. And for once, even she, the one who was usually so quick to doubt, was sure of that. They might still fight, might hurt each other, but they also always ended up gravitating together. Because somehow, in spite of everything (or maybe because of everything), it seemed this was where they were supposed to end up—together.

He let out a breath and she felt the tension dissolve in his muscles.

And now that she was calmer, safely tucked against him, she had to admit—grudgingly—that he might have been right that she wasn't ready. Maybe never would be fully ready. This last case had shown her just how haunted she still was and she did know what her mom's case tended to do to her. It was like her own personal black hole with its own gravitational pull, sucking her in inexorably.

"But Castle?"

"Yeah?"

"If I can't look into my mom's case again, then neither can you. No more digging behind my back."

He met her eyes. "Deal. If we ever look into it again, it'll be together."

They should always deal with things together, she decided. If she needed to be better about that, letting him in, then he needed to do the same. "Deal," she agreed quietly, resting her head against his shoulder again.

She sagged against him, allowing someone else—him, only ever him—to hold her up when she felt as if she couldn't quite stand on her own. On this side of yet another cataclysmic conversation—fight?—if she hadn't been exhausted before, she certainly was now. She felt as if she could happily sleep for a week.

After a moment, he nudged her and then gently shepherded her to rearrange their positions until he was sitting down with her settled on his lap, his arms curled around her, cosseting her. It was the sort of position she wouldn't normally allow, let alone enjoy, but as with most things, with Castle, it was a different thing. For now, at least, she was quite content to sit on his lap and nestle against the broad width of his chest.

The day—the last few days—had been too much. Really, she thought rather petulantly, couldn't the universe give them a break for a little while, just let them enjoy being together?

But even as she thought it, as if on cue, she heard his voice in her mind from just that morning. We're still here, still together, and stronger than ever.

And after all, that was true. Their relationship had survived her lie about her shooting, her lingering trauma, and now this, her mom's case—any and all of which could have broken them except that it hadn't. They had talked about it and survived. This talking thing might be—was—excruciatingly hard but she couldn't argue with the results.

"Kate?"

"Hmm?"

"How did your therapy session go?"

Oh, that. Oddly, amazingly, she had nearly forgotten about it in all that had happened since. "Fine." She paused. "At least, I suppose, as well as can be expected. It's not exactly meant to be fun," she added quickly, not wanting to sound evasive.

It was true enough. Dr. Burke had been pleased, in his own almost entirely expressionless way, that she had been able to let Castle help her. He had only warned her to be mindful that the recovery process from a trauma like hers was not a linear path, that there were going to be days that were harder than the others, that she could expect to feel sometimes as if she were taking one step forward, two steps back, but that at least, the first step, which she'd already taken of being honest with Castle, was the hardest.

"He said it was good that I… let you help me."

"Eventually," Castle added as an aside but there was no bite to it, was almost but not quite teasing.

She nudged him. "Better late than never."

"True. And it was worth the wait."

A faint smile curved her lips. "You like seeing me fall apart that much?" she teased.

"Well, I'd prefer to make you fall apart for different, more fun reasons," he returned, his leer making his meaning clear and she huffed a laugh. Incorrigible man.

He sobered. "But really, Kate, I just don't want you to feel like you need to hide from me. You don't have to be alone. I want to be there for you, your partner, in good times and bad."

"I know," she agreed softly. "And I'm trying to be better. I know I'm not good at letting people in and I'm not used to letting people help me but I am trying to be better about it." She forced herself to straighten up, pushing herself to her feet but softening the gesture by bending to brush a kiss against Castle's cheek. "Wait just a sec. I have something for you."

She returned to the front room of the loft to retrieve the duffel bag she'd brought with her and then resumed her seat on his lap, her hand closed around what she'd stowed in one of the pockets.

He resettled his arm around her and she let herself lean against his chest again as she opened her hand to display the key she was holding.

He blinked at it. "Beckett, did you buy me a car?" he tried to joke. "You remember I already have a Ferrari, right?"

The words were characteristic but the look in his eyes told her he wasn't taking this as a laughing matter.

"It's a key to my apartment," she clarified, trying and failing to smile. She felt her heart rate speeding up. This wasn't something she did and certainly not so soon in a relationship. She'd never even thought about giving Josh a key to her apartment. And with Will, she had reluctantly given him a key to her apartment, but only because he had first given her one to his and she'd realized that it would be too awkward not to reciprocate. And that had been after they'd been together for months.

"If I try to hide from you again, I want you to be able to come after me the way you did this morning."

He closed his hand around the key. "I'll always go after you," he promised quietly, "now that I know you want me around."

"I always wanted you around. I was just too stubborn to admit it," she mumbled into his shirt.

And was rewarded for the admission by a kiss, as he swept his other hand up her back to cup the back of her neck, angling her head to allow his lips and his tongue—ooh, yes, his tongue—to take possession of her mouth in a slow, leisurely, thorough kiss that effectively cleared her brain of all thought.

Afterwards, she tucked her head against his shoulder in a position that allowed her to brush her lips against his chin and his jaw with very little effort and would allow her to touch her lips to his if he turned his head in the right direction.

He didn't. Instead, he started to talk.

"Beckett, I was thinking," he began, sounding pleasingly breathless, even if she rather thought she'd prefer his mouth be occupied with other things, like, say, kissing. "We've been busy lately, haven't had much time to just be..."

"'The world is too much with us, late and soon,'" she murmured.

That got him to turn his head properly and kiss her, briefly. "You are so hot." If this was the way he reacted when she quoted poetry to him, she needed to memorize more poetry.

"Anyway, I was thinking, Thanksgiving is coming up soon and I don't know what you usually do for Thanksgiving but what do you think about going out to the Hamptons for the holiday weekend? It's off-season so it'll be quiet there and it'll allow us to get out of the city for a couple days, take a little break."

"What about Alexis and Martha?"

"Alexis will probably come with us and with my mother, we can ask and see. You could invite your dad too. There's plenty of room at the house."

"Don't you mean mansion?"

"I wouldn't call it a mansion per se."

"No, would you call it a castle then?" It was quite possibly the dumbest joke she'd ever made but she bit her lip on the smile that threatened to escape at his anticipated reaction.

As she'd predicted, he did react with characteristic histrionics, giving a loud, fake gasp and turning a look of overblown dismay on her. "Katherine Beckett, that is terrible. You should be ashamed of yourself."

She smirked. "No lamer than some of your jokes," she teased.

He huffed in mock offense. "That is so not true, Detective."

"Uh uh, it is so true." (She couldn't believe she was sounding so juvenile but decided to blame it on him. Clearly, he brought it out in her.)

"Is not."

"Are you a five-year-old now?"

"I am all man, Beckett, and I'm happy to prove it to you."

Yes, please. She bit her lip on the immediate and too-eager response. No need to feed his ego—and it was too early to go to bed yet, she reminded herself. "Maybe later," she made herself drawl.

"I'm going to hold you to that."

She didn't doubt that.

"I'll ask my dad about Thanksgiving," she added after a moment. "It would be nice to get away." It really would. And even with Alexis and Martha—and her dad—present, she had no doubt that the house would be large enough to accommodate them all and still give her and Castle some time to themselves.

He looked delighted. "So that's a yes on going out to the Hamptons?"

She couldn't help her smile, the sight of him looking so happy making her heart melt like butter on a hot stove. "It's a yes."

He gave her a quick smacking kiss. "Thank you, Beckett. We are going to have a great time. The kitchen's big so it'll be easy to make a full-on Thanksgiving feast. And it might be too cold to swim but we can still take walks on the beach and the views of the sunsets are amazing and I think you'll really like our master suite and—"

He really was adorable and he was thanking her as if she had done him a favor by agreeing to his invitation and he'd so easily referred to the master suite as being theirs and she just… loved him.

Wait. He'd broken off, his entire body going stiff, his lips parted as he stared at her, surprise and joy dawning in his eyes.

"Kate…" he breathed.

Oh. Had she said that out loud?

She had, those three words just spilling out of her mouth. Oh. That hadn't exactly been how she'd planned to tell him.

But then he was kissing her, his lips and tongue working over hers as if her kiss was all he needed to survive and her head spun and she forgot everything else in favor of kissing him. And really, what did anything else matter? She was in his arms, kissing him, so at that moment, all was right in her world.

~The End~

A/N 2: I hope this satisfied! Thank you, as always, to everyone for reading and reviewing, especially the guest reviewers I can't thank directly.