Time passes slowly at the precinct. Even as she grills their irrevocably guilty suspect, even as she manages to instill the satisfying crack in his denials and earns her conviction, everything seems to take hours.
The interrogation, the confession, the paperwork. It's past midnight by the time she's halfway through.
"I'm sorry, Castle," she sighs, burying her fingers in her hair. She wishes their perverted killer would have waited at least another hour, maybe two, to strike. She wishes she could go back to the elegant hotel room with him, slip back into that lovely piece of lingerie, return to the bubble they inadvertently created where the rest of the world didn't exist.
She has too much to prove, to both him and herself.
The wheels of his chair roll closer to her desk, his hand inching beneath the cover of it to touch her knee. She stares down at the drape of his fingers over the dark wash of her jeans. Thick, warm, and reassuring over the bone.
"Kate." She flicks her eyes up to meet his. They're a gentle blue, tired and calm, but alight. "We have time."
She huffs. "I know, but I wanted you tonight."
The skyrocket of his brow to his hairline is almost comical. It's strange, being so open with him, speaking her mind without thinking. She could probably tone that last part down a bit.
"Sorry, I know that was-"
"What? No, no, no," he murmurs, squeezing her knee. "Never apologize for saying things like that."
Kate rolls her eyes, but slips her hand from the surface of her desk, lowering it to layer over his. "You should head home for the night. I'll call you in the morning."
She watches his throat bob. "Even if we don't have a case?"
Ah, so that's still a sore spot for him then. Well, she can't blame him when her last words while she was in the hospital were a promise to call before she disappeared from his life for three months without warning. Without calling.
Kate squeezes his hand. "Castle, I'm not changing my mind. Not now. So go home, get some sleep. I'll do the same, call you as soon as I'm up."
"I better hear a sexy morning rasp in my ear first thing tomorrow, Beckett," he murmurs, narrowing his eyes on her.
"It's a deal." She maneuvers her hand to curl around his, another squeeze in lieu of a shake.
"I so wish I could kiss you right now," he sighs, staring mournfully at their hands. "That's going to be a reoccurring issue, isn't it? Wanting you all the time, not being able to do anything about it."
She hums. "Probably."
Their hands part ways and Castle moves to stand, grabbing his jacket from the back of his chair.
"Rick." He looks up at her call. "You're still wearing your ring."
He glances down to the hand around his jacket, flexing his fingers. "Oh. Guess I just got used to the feel again."
Castle eases the gold band from his finger and holds it out for her. She opens her palm for him to drop it into, but instead, he deposits the ring into her hand without rush, grazing his fingertips along her palm, the length of her fingers. It's nothing, just a simple brush of contact, but after the past twenty-four hours, it's dizzying.
He draws his hand back with a smile, small and soft and hooking in her heart.
"Until tomorrow, Kate."
"Tomorrow," she confirms, curling her tingling palm into a fist as if she can trap the remnants of his touch there.
But she wishes she didn't have to wait until tomorrow. She wishes she never had to wait at all.
By the time he walks through his front door, the loft is dark and quiet, his mother and daughter already in bed. He finds a note from Alexis on the kitchen island and smiles down at her handwriting. She could have just texted him about the leftovers in the fridge and her hopes that the case with Beckett turned out okay, but he appreciates her pen-written words on a sticky note so much more.
Castle tucks the note into his pocket and opens the door to the fridge, allowing the cool rush of air to spill onto his arms while he trails his eyes over the shelves of food. He isn't hungry. He's wired from his last cup of coffee with Kate a few hours ago, after they got back to the Twelfth from the hotel; he's wired from his day with her, already yearning for morning and the promise of her voice in his ear. Already fearing that he'll wake to nothing instead.
She said she would call and he believes her. He does.
He believed her before too.
He sighs and grabs a bowl of grapes. Good enough. There's no way he'll be able to eat, no way he'll be able to sleep. No, not a chance. But maybe he can try to write. Cradling the small bowl in his palm, he starts for his office, Nikki and Rook on his mind. Maybe he can use today's events to create something for his characters.
But deep down, he already knows that it won't be Nikki on his mind, on the page, no matter how hard he tries. Kate will plague his thoughts as he stares at a blank document, his fingers spelling out her name across the keyboard by accident, until he finally gives in and succumbs to the call and comfort of his bed.
He won't sleep, but he'll drift in and out of dreams of her until the exhaustion finally kicks in. It won't be the first time he's cycled through the routine of it all. But he does wonder if it might possibly be the last.
She can't sleep.
Kate shifts onto her opposite side in the bed, curling the sheet to her chin and attempting to relax. She should be exhausted, should drop off right into sleep like always, but she's wired, wide awake.
Her eyes slip open, her gaze sifting through the darkness of her bedroom to find her phone on the nightstand.
She wonders if Castle managed to find rest after leaving the precinct earlier, if he reached the loft and was able to crawl into bed, fall into an immediate sleep like she yearns to. She wonders if he's still awake, tossing and turning over her, over their 'wedding', the hours that followed, like she is.
She wonders if he would answer the door if she showed up tonight.
Kate sits up in the bed, pushing the sheets from her skin and swinging her legs over the edge of the mattress.
She knows with certainty that he won't turn her away.
The knock on his door is urgent, quick raps that have him jerking from the light sleep he was drifting in and out of for the last hour.
Castle stumbles out of bed and through the office, rubbing at his eyes as he crosses through the living room to reach the front door. He doesn't think to check the peephole, simply unlocking the deadbolt and swinging it open to reveal-
"Kate?" he mumbles, blinking wide awake at the sight of Kate Beckett standing outside his door in what has to be the middle of the night, nearly morning, by now.
She pushes the softened waves of her hair, still clinging to the curls they were wound into for the wedding, behind her ear and offers him a nervous smile. The cardigan she's wearing is loose and knitted, a heather grey fabric with sleeves that slide down to her fingers and makes him want to wrap her up against him.
"What are you doing here?" he murmurs, his lips quirking even as his brow furrows. He doesn't care if the clock on the oven is correct and it's four in the morning, she's on his doorstep and she looks adorable.
Kate bites her lip before her eyes flicker to his, the hazel shade of her irises darkening ever so slightly to an enticing liquid gold.
She takes a step forward, those hands that looks so slim and small within the sleeves of her sweater rising to cradle his face, cool fingers draping at his cheeks. "I needed to tell you."
His breath catches, but he lifts his own hands to hers, curls his fingers around the bones of her wrists.
"Tell me?" he echoes, a little concerned, a lot intrigued.
Kate nods and leans in closer, her nose grazing the corner of his mouth, lips at his chin. His heart seizes. "That you were right."
Rick slips his hands along the lengths of her arms, fitting his palms to the rounded edges of her shoulders. "I was? Wait, about what?"
"The wall." He feels the fall of her lashes like feather soft kisses against his skin. "You're already inside, probably have been for a while now."
He dips his head to nudge his nose against hers. "Staying outside hasn't been an option for a while now."
Her throat bobs with a swallow, but she's nodding her agreement, her lips curling into a tentative smile against his chin. He doesn't want to make it dissipate, but he - he can't just let it go unsaid.
"You know I love you. You've known, before tonight."
She sucks in a breath, but doesn't hesitate for long, owning up to the truth he's been waiting for. "Since the funeral," she confirms with a nod. "I knew. I got scared."
"I get it, Kate. I understand being scared," he murmurs, fingers scaling to her nape, palms resting against the vulnerable flesh, thumbs brushing through the baby fine hairs there. "I hoped - I was just starting to worry that it was more than that, more than fear-"
Her head shakes, her jaw bumping against the heels of his hands.
"Fear that it was going to hurt, that I'd screw it up, that you - couldn't mean it in a moment like that," she explains, curling her fingers at his cheeks. "But not something more." She lifts her eyes to his, holds his gaze. "It wasn't the most ideal moment, but it... it was still reciprocated, Castle."
His heart is really being put through the ringer tonight, his lungs too. His entire system in overdrive the only thing convincing him that this is more than just a dream.
"I couldn't have meant it more," he swears quietly. "Bad timing for me to finally admit it to you, but I thought I was going to lose you and I couldn't let you go without saying it at least once."
She bites her lip and nuzzles in closer to him, hands grazing along his face as her arms move to lace around his neck.
"Tell me again," she whispers in his ear, drawing her body in closer, fitting so snug and wonderful against him.
Rick cradles her skull in his palms while he kisses her, slow and just soft enough to have her humming, tightening her arms around his neck and lifting on her toes for more.
"I love you," he rasps into her mouth, brushing the words against her parted lips. "Love you so much, Kate."
She sighs, a sound of contentment that he never imagined the mention of his love for her would evoke.
"So much that I'm going to marry you for real one day."
The respite turns to a huff of irritation that makes him grin.
"Shut up," she mutters, but she's smiling into the next kiss she presses to his lips and nudging him backwards. "I'm still wearing the bridal lingerie."
He gasps, but she's laughing, stumbling with him towards his bedroom. So good it has to be a dream despite how hard his heart is pounding. But then they're bumping into his office doorway and she's clinging to the collar of his t-shirt for stability, her smile so wide and real and all for him.
"Rick." His name in her mouth is like ecstacy, has his breath catching and stuttering in his throat. He loves her, she knows, and she loves him back. She doesn't have to say the words for him to feel that. "Be my plus one for Ryan's wedding."
"Yeah?" he grins, pressing her spine into the wall of a bookshelf, framing her hips with his wide palms as she nods.
"I can wait for our first date," she murmurs the compromise, rising on her toes once more. He hoists her into his arms without preamble, wanting her closer, as close as possible. Until her chest is sealed and her spine is bowing over him, her breath warm and whispering along his lips when she speaks. "But not for this. No more waiting for this, Castle."