She woke when he shifted her off his arm, an apology in her ear as she groaned. "Arm's asleep, one sec."
Kate felt the bed bounce and slitted an eye, saw him shaking it out, flexing his hand. Flexing biceps, muscle moving under his skin. "Your arms are…"
His head whipped around to her, brilliant eagerness, and he turned on his side to cozy up, like it was a slumber party and she was telling secrets. "Go on." He batted his eyelashes. "Do tell, Kate Beckett."
She laughed, sluggish as she felt. "Mm, not sure I should. Might go to your head."
There was a war on his face, and she saw it, naked and raw. Whether to make the joke they all knew was coming, or to give way to the honest grief she'd inadvertently stirred up. She never told, did she? And he was so tired of it.
"This your side of the bed?" she asked, diverting them from either course. Both too familiar, old paths she longed to leave.
"My side of the bed?"
She patted his mattress. "You dragged me down and over. Sat on that side when you were slathering arnica over my back. Your side?"
His eyebrows lifted, then he twisted bodily, as if checking something. When his face turned back to her, he was laughing somewhere inside. "I guess it is. Alarm clock on this side, that drawer has all my stuff in it."
"Stuff," she deadpanned.
He cracked up, took her hand on the mattress to squeeze. "You'll find out."
She grinned. "I could find out right now. Climb over you and open the drawer."
He pouted. "Not until I can preload it with something fun."
She laughed, but her breath caught as he laced their fingers. "You don't use the other bedside table?"
"Not really." His eyes moved past her to the piece of furniture in question. She saw something there she meant to prod, but he asked instead, "Do you have a side of the bed?"
"I guess it's this one."
"Now," she clarified. Now that he had the other. Now that—
"Well, how confident we are," he hummed.
She laughed again, a relief so great it was like floating. "I usually sleep in the middle. Use both sides of the bed."
"Probably I do too. You might found out I hog the middle."
"Well, there we can meet," she tried.
He beamed. He seemed to like her attempts at sappy romanticism. She liked him looking at her like that.
"I quit my job."
He gaped. "You what?"
"I quit. Being a cop. I… led Esposito right down into it with me; lucky he's not dead. I was reckless and stupid and—"
"And you quit."
"I don't want to die."
He just stared at her.
She averted her eyes, stared at their twined hands. She ran her thumb over the outside edge of his, shivering as it got to her. She hugged herself with her free arm and he seemed to take it as a cue. Before she knew it, the sheets were pulled up, the comforter, and they were ensconced.
And hidden from each other.
Should she tell him she wasn't cold, she was only desperate?
Maybe that was too much right now. Too much honesty, too much rawness. Too much sex.
And men were usually ego-attached to their stamina. She wouldn't bring it up if it… couldn't be brought up.
"So what's in the other bedside table drawer?" she asked. Remembering the dart in his eyes when he'd looked past her to it. Wanting to throw him off her scent. "The one you don't use."
Sure enough, there it was again. "Nothing." Too quick, too fast an answer.
"Oh, I'm looking now," she said, half tease, half dread. She twisted in the bed and reached for the drawer pull, had to scoot—
He landed half on top of her, his arm hooking her hips so immediately that the press of his body against hers momentarily had her distracted. "Beckett—"
But she already had the drawer open, her upper body raised to peek in. "It's your book."
He groaned, his face landed against her lower back, a puff of hot, ashamed air that nevertheless made her heart flip. She strained father and plucked up the Heat novel, twisted around to confront him with it.
Accidentally smacked his nose with it as he gave her luminous puppy-dog eyes. "Ow. Beckett. It's nothing."
"It's the first book you wrote." It was floppy, paperback, and well-used. "The advanced reader's copy you gave me to read?"
His cheeks burned.
"It is," she croaked. Her jaw dropped, and she sat up fast, opening the book, untangling from his arms to place it in her lap. "105?"
"Oh God. Don't, no. Don't." He plucked it out of her hands and tossed it toward the side table where it slid but came to a stop, fell into the open drawer almost like he'd done it a thousand times. "It's not that. Not the sex scene." She looked at him; his embarrassment was high. "That's the other drawer."
She wanted to laugh; he intended to make her laugh. But. "Castle."
"You marked it up."
"What?" she asked, thrown.
He scooted down, propped his shoulder against the pillows, lower than her. "You made little pencil marks. Where the editors missed something. Typos." He winced. "And some underlines. Never figured out what those meant."
Her chest squeezed. She scooted down as well, putting herself at his level, against his body. He sighed and slumped, rolled back to the mattress as if he thought she might want space from him.
Kate followed, draping her arm around his ribs and laying her head on his chest. "I… did do that. I thought it was helping." She'd seen one of those typos in the published version, though. He'd said nothing, she had said nothing.
She'd forgotten about it.
"The underlines?" he asked quietly.
She bit her lip, winced. "Parts I liked the best."
He was quiet for a long time. When she lifted her head, his eyes were... shiny.
Kate squeezed his ribs. "You're kind of pathetic, aren't you?"
She held him harder, her heart lodged like a fist in her chest.
He groaned. "Would it be better if it was the sex scene. Let's say it's that. I keep it close at hand to reread the sex scene, Beckett. That's why. Not because you read it and marked it up. That's—"
She silenced him with her mouth. Even as she pressed her lips against the flood of his words, she knew she'd done it once before tonight, stopping up his emotional response with her body. She knew it wouldn't be an ideal long-term solution to his terror.
God. That was sobering. The long-term solution was, well, long-term. Sticking. She couldn't prove that with words, she could only prove it by being here.
She kissed him until the tension went out of his body. Slowly now, no rush, no need to crash into each other. Desperation was a part of them—he'd just been forced to show his, and she'd definitely shown hers when she'd arrived on his doorstep—but desperation didn't have to rule their every moment.
She slowed him down. Felt his heart rate settle, felt his body loosen. She rubbed her thumb over his bicep and her lips over his lips until he drew that arm around her and held her tightly.
The storm faded. She felt in her back and ribs that the battering had been brutal, felt the twinges in her shoulders and the rawness in her hands—but in his tug on her, in his mouth against hers, there was a balm.
When he pressed her to the mattress and his face between her breasts, she could tilt her head and see the open drawer. See the advanced reader copy she'd marked up. She had hidden in the precinct locker room to read away from his too-eager eyes (and yet he'd followed her there, too, hadn't he? He'd followed her.)
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and hooked a leg over the back of his thigh, urging him to make it all come true.
To believe it was real.
Brilliant sunlight speared his eyes, and the whole thing flooded back to him.
The storm. Kate driving inside to kiss him. Her confessions, his. The lightning of their bodies.
Castle hauled himself upright, the bed disheveled, wide.
He was alone.
A/N: Thanks for trusting me on this one. We all know that Castle isn't alone for long, that Kate is only eager to wake him with coffee so she can show him she's in this... but that first reaction of his has never felt good to me. And if they spent the night doing interesting fun things and talked only as much as they had to, if Castle confessed just how much he was tangled up in his love of her, and Kate was her characteristically reserved self... well. I think she's trying, I think she thinks she said a lot that night, as you can tell by his question and her rather flat response about this being more than just a one-time, I-lost-my-job kind of thing.
I never do author's notes, because it's supposed to stand alone. But I wanted to talk to all of you, who came on this journey, because I miss this universe we all created for a while. I miss that feeling. I write original novels too, which are on my Amazon author page (Laura Bontrager), but they don't have this same feeling of community. They're written in isolation, so to speak, while fanfic is written in community, with all of you. So thank you for shaping my writing and shaping all of these stories over the years.