Maybe it's strange that this is his favorite part of the day but he doesn't care. It is and no one can say or do anything to change that. He likes the click of her heels as he ushers her through the door. He enjoys how she sighs and how her fingers squeeze around his when she leads him into their home. And how sometimes, like now, she continues tugging as he trails after her. Not stopping until they're in their bedroom. He loves to watch her shrink before his eyes as she toes off the heels, how she'll fit right beneath his chin if he chooses to pull her in and hold her tight. It's a brief thought, one he'll explore further in a few minutes.

But not right now. Because he's an observer. And she's shrugging out of her jacket and smiling at him, only letting go of his hand to escape the confinement of leather. And he's her watcher. As creepy as it is, as she says, it's what he enjoys. He likes knowing her. He loves the little things. How she kicks her shoes aside and tosses the jacket on the bed.

Later, she'll pick it all up and put things away but not now. And that's why this is his favorite. Because she's warm and smiling and still on high from closing their case. They're home early. The sun hasn't even set. But she'd decided the paperwork could wait, that they could all use some sleep.

The silence is easy. Still wrapped in warmth and an understanding that words aren't needed. Not always. Sometimes they're both content to just be. And when her eyes meet with his and her tongue pokes out between her teeth, her smile wide and brilliant, he feels swamped with it. Every word she hasn't said floods through him as she closes the distance between them again. She reaches first. It still astounds him, knocks him breathless when she's playful and reaching, when she steals soft kisses or demands punishing ones.

It's her voice, low and velvet, rich like chocolate that draws his attention to her lips. Soft, ripe lips.

"Take off your shirt." Not a request. She's commanding it. And a smirk spreads on his face.

He would. He would definitely do anything she tells him when it involves losing clothing. Except, her fingers are already slipping the buttons free. Not giving him the time, but he helps. He starts at the bottom, meets her in the middle. And she's parting the fabric, pushing it off his shoulders before he even has the time to realize he's still wearing his jacket.

"Kate," he murmurs it to stop her, and it does. "Give me a minute."

His wife is impatient when she wants something. He knows that. But she doesn't argue, she steps back, let's him pull off his jacket, untuck the tails of his shirt. It takes him more than a minute, he fumbles when she joins in. When she casually lifts her shirt over her head and lets it the floor. He falters, his eyes locking on skin.

Her bra is next. And it's all so intimate without being rushed, without mouths meeting and hands roaming. It's just her undressing as if she's about to step into the shower but it's still her and she's still getting naked. He's all for it. Whatever it is that she's planning, he's game.

And that makes him rush a bit, fight with the buttons at his wrists. It's always those ones that get him. He has to stop staring at her to make his fingers work. He has to stop watching as she pushes the fabric of her pants down her hips. And finally, finally he gets the shirt off.

She's down to her panties, the ones he'd barely kept his hands off when she slid them on this morning and he's still wearing his shoes. It doesn't seem right. That's when he sees the amusement in her gaze, when he's standing there clutching a shirt and she's so very close to bare.

He loses focus again, doesn't know exactly what's happening when his eyes wander to her breasts. Not his fault. It's really not. She's And she's his wife. His heart still races when she leans in, when her lips part and he can feel the heat of her chest against his.

"Thanks, babe." And then she's gone. And so is his shirt.

And he's suddenly very jealous of it. Of the fact that she's slipping her arms into it, covering all the skin he was enjoying.

"I -"


"I just...I thought -"

"Thought what, Castle?" It's the innocent expression on her face that has him reaching out, grabbing both sides of his shirt, not letting her button them before he pulls her in.

Heat flames her skin, he can see it, the pink of it creeping in. He can taste it on her lips when he presses his mouth against hers.

"You just stole the shirt off my back, Beckett."

"I don't think 'stole' is the appropriate term."

Oh but he does. He's pretty sure that is exactly what she's done.

Even if she used compulsion to make him hand it over. It was under false pretenses. And he wants it back. Off. He wants it off.

She wiggles away, just far enough to tease by swinging her hips and to laugh when the air rushes out of his lungs but does she expect less? When her hands are sliding those panties down her legs, does she expect him not to react?

He tackles her. With his shoes still on. And that stupid shirt she's determined to wear still covering a little too much for his liking. The maroon against her skin.

He doesn't realize until later, when she's still wearing it, panting against his neck that it's the same shirt he wore to his daughter's graduation. The one he wore when the woman slumped on his chest became more than a partner and friend he'd thought he'd lost. And right then, he understands why she wanted it.