It's a nightmare she hasn't had in a long time, not since she was coming apart under the stress of trying to solve this thing the first time around. Its logic is simple, as straightforward as she is, psychology 101. She wasn't there, she couldn't stop it, now she has to watch.

Back then, she'd tried alcohol first, then sleeping pills, then not sleeping at all. And even so, she'd wake up sobbing on the floor.

Tonight she does something she's never done before: she crawls back under the covers and reaches for her phone. It's just past 3am, so she doesn't call. Instead, she taps out are you awake and hits send before she can think about it.

The phone rings almost immediately. Clearly, he was.

'Hey,' he says softly. She imagines him downstairs at his desk, typing away in semi-darkness, speaking quietly so his voice doesn't echo through the loft.

'Hey,' she says back. And then doesn't know what to say, is suddenly wishing she'd never texted him at all.

She hears movement on his end, a click like the cover of a laptop closing. 'Just hang tight, I'm on my way.'

'No,' she says, quickly, before he gets committed to the idea. 'I'm okay, I just...needed to hear a friendly voice.'

'And just think how friendly it will sound whispering sweet nothings in your ear.'

'You can do that without going out in the cold at this hour.'

'But then there's no whisper of breath tickling. No hugging. No hot cocoa in our jammies.'

She finds herself laughing softly. She's never hugged Castle, though he has more than once whispered into her ear. She hears him sitting down again, and curls up on her side, pillowing the phone against her cheek.

'Tell me a story,' she says. 'Tell me what Nikki Heat is doing right now.'

'Something you'd kick me in the shins for, if you were here.'

'Good. That's exactly the kind of story I want right now.'

His turn to laugh. She hears movement, the creak of leather. He's settling himself into the corner of the couch. 'Well,' he begins. 'Once upon a time, there was one little girl who went to the police academy...'

She imagines him lying back with one arm behind his head, phone to his ear like a teenaged girl, feet on the couch in slightly stretched out socks. More than the sound of his voice, it's that image that brings her the comfort she needs, the illusion of safety that lets her drift back to sleep.