A/N: Set just after Always, 4x23. Rated Mature


"What's past is prologue."

-William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Beckett winced as her bruised back hit his mattress. Lightning chased the thunder outside his windows, so loud it made her jaw rattle.

Steam rose from her body, naked and hot-damp with sex. She hurt all down her spine, a throbbing that wouldn't release no matter the orgasm. Her breathing was labored and she could still feel the impression of him inside her. A blunt force.

Castle laid next to her, not touching, and she wondered if his anger still ran as high as her desperation. The aggression of their sex hadn't done a thing to temper the pit of need that had opened up in her guts that day. Wandering without him. And judging by the ungentle way his hands had been on her, the flint of his face when he'd first pushed inside her, sex wasn't going to fix this.

Maybe they shouldn't have gone straight to it. Her body was still as damaged as her heart.

He didn't move, either for her or away. She could hear his breathing level off. So did the ardor.

She chewed on her bottom lip, a knot in her chest that had nothing to do with being thrown from a roof. "I'm… sorry for making everything more difficult that it should have been," she said. Her voice was shredded, her back was painful with bruises. She'd nearly died, and yet still, in that last moment, she'd been certain he'd come back for her.

He hadn't.

"Difficult." Almost a question.

"I thought you would wait." Hot shame pricked her eyes; she pressed her arm over her face.

"Thought there was something to wait for," he rumbled.

Her chest heaved as she struggled for a breath. Something to say, even though she couldn't look at him. "Is that in question?"

"Now?" His long silence pinched her throat.

And then she felt his hand fumble against hers and take her fingers. She sucked in a hard breath and squeezed his knuckles. The force of his grip was like an anchor, and she could risk lowering her arm from her eyes.

Still, she didn't look at him.

"I guess that's up to you," he said. The low intensity of his voice made her hips shift with willingness, but her heart was cracked. "I guess it's always been up to you."

She pushed her fingers between his wide ones, a spurt of panic as it wasn't easy to do, to knit them as closely as she wanted. He squeezed back and it felt like a vise was being applied to every finger bone.

None of this was easy. Or painless.

"I invented so many obstacles," she admitted. "I didn't realize how much I'd hidden away from… you."

He was silent.

He was never silent. Couldn't he open his mouth and ramble on until she wasn't so nervous anymore? That was his usual m.o. Why had she thought sex would make all of this so clear and easy?

Her hips ached. An ache both good and bad.

"I, uh…" He lifted his fingers from the lacing of hers and shifted.

She froze, but the movement of his hand to his groin opened up that hungry mouth of desperation inside her again.

"Be right back," he rumbled. Castle rolled off the bed to deal with the condom; she watched his body as he moved to the bathroom, the thickness of him. The width and... stature.

She sat up slowly when he disappeared through the door, dragged her legs over the side of the bed to force herself upright. She gripped the edge of the mattress and closed her eyes against the pulse of pain, even as lightning bathed her face.

She stood, twinges in her legs, her hips, deep inside. Their actual sex was now mostly a blur with hot flares of images seared into her memory: his wide hand gripping her neck, the strange reverence of his mouth on the scar between her breasts, that first push inside her… and the rest was throbs of agony and ecstasy.

She wandered into the bathroom, forgot she was naked until they met at the door. She touched his forearm as he moved to help her balance, and then they passed, less awkward than she'd have expected.

She used the bathroom and then washed her hands. Bent over the bowl, the weariness made her spirits sink again. She ran cold water in the basin and splashed it over her face, trying to cool the fever of her skin. She stood and saw her own reflection, flinched at the drowned rat before her.

She dried her face and tried to run her fingers through the snarls of her hair. Had to drop her arms, it hurt too much.

When she limped back to his bed and crawled in, he turned from his side where he'd been watching her and laid on his back, still studying her. "Your spine is a canvas of bruises."

"Wasn't you," she promised.

His eyebrow slanted up and she realized he already knew that. Of course he did. He wasn't in the habit of violence.

She slowly scissored her legs under his sheets, tried to get comfortable. "Went up against a hired hit man… because somehow I thought my righteous anger was an invincibility cloak, that I couldn't fail."

"That's from fighting with him? Those bruises."

She nodded against the pillow. He reached across the mattress and wound his fingers around her bent elbow. She felt his shin against her toes and she smiled, relief unwinding like a cool ribbon.

"Then you should probably be on top for this one."

Kate laughed, let him drag her across the bed to him. "Already?" Reached him, reached for him. Oh, sure enough.

She would rather do this than lacerate her wounds.

Maybe it could save them.