Originally, this story was only supposed to be 5 chapters, 15 chapters later I just want to say THANKS! There's no way to properly thank you for reading or for the reviews, alerts & support except to say feedback is priceless. It helps to right wrong directions, inspires to keep writing when you wonder if anyone's reading, & gives the courage to post when worrying the chapters aren't as good as we want them to be. Your response has been appreciated more than you know. Thank you so much & I hope you like the way this story ends.

Chapter 15

The steady rhythm of Castle's breathing above her ear, Kate snuggles deeper into the blankets to escape the cold. As she forces her eyes open, she's not pleased to find the reason for her discomfort awkwardly bent between the bed and chair. This time, instead of being amused by Castle, she's disappointed that in the light of day it's only a pillow they share. All night what she's wanted most is for morning to come. Little did she know how unprepared she would be for the reality that would accompany it.

Careful not to wake her companion, Kate tilts her head to see the face that's turned her life upside down. Just as she should have known a week without Castle wouldn't be as easy as she hoped, she was naïve to think last night wouldn't change anything. For months, she's watched the line they've walked since day one get thinner and thinner. Still, she refused to acknowledge it. The longer she could pretend it wasn't shrinking, the longer she could put off facing something she wasn't quite ready for. Dating Rick Castle always seemed dangerous to her. If they ever both ventured over that line, there would be no going back. No do-overs. She's not convinced it wouldn't end badly and, the truth is, she's no more ready to give up working with Castle than she is his friendship. More than that, getting him home safely at the end of the day is her responsibility. There's no room for failure. She never wants to speak those devastating words to Martha and Alexis. Never wants to be haunted by dreams of Rick Castle. That means she cannot afford to be any more distracted than she already is. Taking a deep breath she finds blue eyes staring down at her.

Waking up to the face of Kate Beckett is something Castle's sure he can get used to. He's intrigued seeing her eyes, a little more guarded than when he fell asleep, speckled with something he can't identify. He would dare anyone to convince him it's not one of the best views in the city. Though, without a doubt, the best view is his earlier spot with Kate tucked in his arms. Still, he's happy she's curled up on the edge of the bed right next to him. In the story he's written for them, she's there because she misses his touch as much as he does hers.

Watching her, his mind drifts into the dangerous territory that is the future. How would their story end? He knows how he would write Rook and Heat's but theirs remains a mystery. Will they become strangers? Kate ending up as nothing more than a set of initials in a book dedication. Another muse of his past, living only in his memories and the imaginations of his readers. Will she become the best friend he's been without for too long? One day being the keeper of secrets he willingly reveals, not just the ones she's clever enough to figure out. Will she be the one who gives in to the lust he catches in her eyes? Unleashing the spark they share that is too often extinguished by interruptions. Is she the Kate that will one day look at him with love in her eyes? Lounging in bed on Sunday mornings doing the NY Times crossword and spending lazy days reading. Could he be Kate Beckett's one and done? The two of them growing old together in this city they both love. Waiting to learn how this story will end excites and worries him like no other.

Turning away from Castle, Kate doesn't like that her nerves are back. No matter how many times she tells herself it's just Castle, a million thoughts rush through her mind. Rationally she knows those things he saw, while they may have worried him, did not scare him away. He may have told her that she's the one who doesn't give up, doesn't let go but neither does he. Like had become his habit, he stayed by her side, letting her come to him and pushing only when he realized she may not be able to get there on her own. None of this makes it any easier for the part of her that's ashamed of what she revealed to let go of her fear.

As is the case most mornings, Castle's in no hurry to begin the day. He wants to hold onto this Kate a little while longer. It was hard enough pulling himself out of her bed to answer a call from nature. When he came back she looked too peaceful sprawled across the bed to move so, like he does almost every day, he settled into the closest chair. It wasn't nearly as comfortable or enjoyable as the bed but he was more than happy to sit beside her. If not for Kate's fidgeting with her necklace again, he would still be perfectly content.

"Good morning"

Good morning. Kate's returned this greeting thousands of times yet she can't seem to get the words out. This morning, that phrase feels more like a hollow pleasantry exchanged by strangers. She's sure there are better words. Words that will make Castle understand how much she appreciates what he did for her last night. How much it means to her that he chose to stay. Maybe even that she missed him. The right words can change everything, and, maybe this morning she can be brave enough to try them. The smile he's giving her, reassuring her that nothing has changed, makes her want to try.

"Castle, thanks. I, uh…"

"Hey, you don't need to."

The uncertainty in Kate's voice is enough to make him want to pull her into a big hug. He can't stand to watch this woman who spends her life making things right for others, again struggle trying to do what she thinks is the right thing. There's no need for her to say anything more. He already knows. It's written all over her face in the awkward smile and the faint glimmer that's returning to those green eyes.

"It's morning. All is forgotten just like I promised."

Kate is speechless as another moment is lost. This time, though, she knows she has no one to blame but herself. She's the one who made him promise. Writer man picked one hell of a time to start listening.

"Ouch. They really don't make these chairs for comfort. "

Kate doesn't bother hiding her amusement as a grimacing Castle maneuvers himself off of the bed. Of the many words she would use to describe the writer, graceful will never be one of them.

"Oh, don't be such a baby."

"Your concern truly is touching. It really hurts and it's all your fault."

Castle's baiting doesn't go unnoticed. Her teeth pull at her lip as she considers accepting his challenge. A challenge she knows will lead to a discussion of their sleeping together in the same bed. Kate would but Beckett, well, Beckett's not convinced it's the best idea.

"I'm sure you've woken up in worst positions Castle. Maybe if that nurse is still around, she can give you a massage."

"Speaking of positions, I always imagined when we finally slept together, we would wake up without our clothes on."

The pain in his neck no longer his main concern, Castle leans in from his perch on the edge of her bed. His disappointment seeing the shyness of Kate disappear as the mask of Beckett returns is eased only by the way her eyes dance as they enter into one more round of this game they've mastered.

"We did not sleep together."

"Sure we did."

Shaking her head, Kate's not at all surprised that Castle looks almost as happy as he does when someone mentions murder. Ready for a fight she shifts to her side a bit so that she can use her elbow to prop herself up. It's as close to equal footing as she can manage laying in a hospital bed. Her glare dares him to make his case.

"Technically we did Detective."

How foreign the word detective sounds after a single night of Kate catches Castle off guard. He forced himself to say it to prove to her that things hadn't changed. That in spite of what he witnessed last night, they are still Castle and Beckett, writer and muse. Maybe even to remind himself that Kate and Rick were not reality. Not yet.

"Well, that doesn't count."

"One way or another everything counts. You of all people should know that."

She does. Once things happen you can't take them back. You can apologize for them, deny them but they're still out there. As much as part of her desperately wants to pretend it didn't, this too counts. It's another test that they passed. More proof that they're stronger together. One more way that they have managed to entwine themselves into each other's lives. Whether or not they ever speak of it again, she knows neither will forget.

Castle is dying to know what Kate's thinking that makes her look away. Certain she's not going to tell him, he decides on a distraction instead of a question. Blowing away a stray hair from her face, he grins proudly seeing the annoyed look Kate throws his way.

"You're such a child Castle."

"You know, you're pretty cute when you sleep."

"Do you have any idea how creepy that sounds?"

"Perhaps to some, but not you. In fact, one day you're going to admit how much you like it."

"Not happening. Anyway, that's the last time you're gonna see me sleep."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that. You never know what the future may bring."

Cursing herself for how nervous she lets him make her, Kate's brow furrows at the writer's insinuation. The man is bold. She would give him that.

"Besides with your terrible habit of falling asleep in break rooms and desks I'm confident I'll have plenty of opportunities."

Her smile as they easily slide back into the roles of Castle Beckett conceals her sadness. That their normal doesn't feel nearly as good as she remembered sends her mind to places it shouldn't be. In the light of the morning, there's no room for dreams.

"You can probably let go of my hand now Castle."

He breaks their stare to glance at their fingers peeking from under the blanket. When he sat in the chair he couldn't stand being so close and not touching her. For awhile, he sat brushing his thumb over her hand. That was enough until her fingers reached out to his. Now, letting go is the last thing he wants. He refuses to be the first to do it. He's not ready. Suddenly, he wonders if he ever will be.

"Do I have to?"

Briefly Kate considers the consequences of answering no. When she woke up, she was glad to feel his hand wrapped around hers. She had been in no hurry to let go. The warmth of her face brings her back to reality. Partners don't hold hands.

"Only if you want it to keep working."

Despite her threat and the painful memory of last night's death grip, Castle can think of a million things he'd rather do than let go. It isn't until he feels her fingers begin to fall away from his own that he sets his muse's hand free. Once apart, he slips deeper back into a reality that no longer seems good enough.

Releasing her hand, Castle's eyes remain locked on hers as intensely as ever. As much as she knows she should look away or say something, Kate can't. Fascinated by bright blue eyes, every unspoken thought drifts back to the man in front of her. Their silence is finally broken by the growling of her stomach followed by the even louder sound of Castle's chair scraping against the floor.

"Where are you going?"

Abruptly sitting up, Kate's not happy to see the smug grin on his face confirming that she had done a very bad job of keeping the panic out of her voice.

"There's a little café next door. I thought I'd get us some decent breakfast. Don't want you yelling at any one else today."

"And a bear claw?"

The pout staring back at him is exactly why he really doesn't want to leave Kate alone. He's almost certain when he returns Beckett will have hidden most of this Kate away. It's just a matter of time.

"I said decent breakfast, but yes, I will bring you coffee and a bear claw. First, though, you have to promise that you'll eat a real breakfast. Whatever I bring back. No complaints."

If Castle has to leave the comfort of this drab hospital room that's become their little hideaway, he's making sure she gets more than sugar and caffeine. For a woman who survives on takeout, bear claws and insane amounts of coffee, this breakfast will likely be the healthiest meal Kate eats the rest of the weekend.

"Okay. Deal."

This time, instead of minding how well he knows her, Kate basks in the comfort of it. She trusts him. Since that one time, he has never betrayed her. Every day she believes a little more that he never will again.

"I'll be back."

Rolling her eyes at his terrible Terminator impression, Kate watches him walk happy as she is to leave the hospital behind, she's feeling a little sad to say goodbye to Kate and Rick. They were kind of sweet together. Honest with each other. Once more she silences the annoying voice reminding her of what might have been under different circumstances.

"Oh and Kate"

Startled to see Castle reappear, she looks up, "Yeah"

"Don't get into any trouble before I get back."

Before Kate can say anything he's gone. Wrapping herself tighter in the warm blanket that smells a little like her favorite author, she stares at the vacant doorway and smiles.

He's still calling her Kate.


I hope you enjoyed the end. I had a few stories that I was working on and I decide to combine them into a story arc as a follow up to this one. There will be follow up story to this one...at some point. Thanks again, it was a fun ride!