A/N: So it's been an age since I updated. Sorry about that, folks I won't go into the reasons why, but I just haven't felt like writing about the show for a while. And when I did come back to this, I ended up deleting most of what was already here and starting again.

So, I hope you enjoy this installment, and I'm happy to say that I think I've rediscovered my enthusiasm for this story, so new chapters should be forthcoming. I know I said that last time, and three months have passed since, but this time it's true. Promise.

Chapter 20

Rick stirred as the credits began to roll on the movie, glancing down at the woman pressed against his side. He was struggling to recall an evening he'd had that was as enjoyable as this one. The sense of pleasure and fulfillment created by something as simple as relaxing on a couch, with the woman you wanted more than anything in the world happily accepting your arm around her, was hard to describe. It was something that Rick had almost forgotten, in his years of casual dating in flashy restaurants, indeed; it was something that he couldn't even recall doing with either Meredith or Gina.

Meredith had been a storm of passion and excitement, the perfect antidote to his lovelorn misery after Kyra left. But there had been no relaxation there, no opportunity to just be. And with Gina, well things had never run smoothly enough for them to share this kind of contentment. What is it about this woman? Rick pondered, with a sense of wonder, how does she make me feel this way? Have I really fallen so far, so fast? It was a dangerous train of thought. Things were too new to start wondering at the nature of what this was between them. There had already been a fair amount of drama, and certainly more openness than Rick was comfortable with at such an early stage in a relationship. But then, this wasn't really that early, was it? They'd been together, in one way or another, for over eighteen months now. He couldn't help thinking that everything between them had been leading up to this. This moment where he couldn't think of anything in the world he'd rather do than sit here, with her head on his shoulder and her hand on his thigh.

As if reading his thoughts, Kate stirred and looking up at him. Rick felt his heart jump in his chest at the smoky darkness of her eyes, the way her mouth curved into an eager smile. She stretched up and claimed his lips, sighing softly into his mouth when he responded. It was a heady feeling, to know that he could make Kate Beckett react like this, and Rick brought his free hand up to stroke her cheek, reveling in the way her body molded itself to his.

Kate swung her leg over his lap suddenly, moving to straddle him with a boldness that left Rick feeling a little light-headed. And when her mouth moved, to nibble softly at his earlobe, he couldn't stifle the groan that escaped his throat. His hands came up instinctively to grab her ass, squeezing and caressing rhythmically and causing her to emit a sound that, had it come from another woman, he might have described as a whimper. Her hand went to the buttons of his shirt, and he felt one pop open, then a second, as her tongue flickered out against the pulse point in his neck.

Rick was reeling. She really is extraordinary! This had gotten out of control, quickly, was further than they'd ever gone. His hand drifted up under her sweatshirt, to touch her naked back. Her skin was so smooth, silky, and he could feel the heat of her, radiating through his palm. Kate rocked back a little, the pressure drawing another groan out of him, her eyes darker than he'd ever seen them, her face flushed. "Stay," she breathed, hands toying with the opening of his shirt.

One word, at once confident and tentative, hopeful. Rick stared at her, just inches away, his mouth suddenly dry, heart pounding. He couldn't think of anything in the world that he wanted more at that moment, to be with this woman, to make love to her. "I can't," he answered, the hardest words he'd ever said. Her eyes flickered away from him, suddenly embarrassed. She started to pull back, and Rick reached up to stroke the side of her face, drawing her eyes back to him. "I want to. God, I want to. But I told Alexis I'd be home, and I don't want her to worry."

Kate chewed her lip, still looking unsure, awkward. "Okay," she answered, her voice quiet.

"Hey. Kate, listen, you know how much I want this. If you were in any doubt, I'm quite sure that right now, you can feel how much I want this." Kate glanced down at his lap, and her face flushed a deeper red as she giggled reluctantly, catching his meaning.

"Yeah, I can feel that." She looked back up at him, seemingly more herself. "Sorry, I just got… carried away."

"You're not the only one. But we have all the time in the world, believe me. And you need to be careful, Kate. I'm a fairly healthy guy, but many more nights like this, and you'll be the death of me." His joke had the intended effect, when she laughed quietly, and shifted, sitting up. She didn't stand, though, just rested her weight on her knees, to either side of him on the couch.

"Well, you'd better start looking after yourself a bit better, Rick. Work out a bit more, eat less crap food, because this?" She straightened, staring down at him proudly, challengingly, "This is nothing compared to what it will be like when I get you in my bed." With that, she stood, and walked… no, sashayed across the room to the kitchen counter.

Rick stared after her, still struggling to regain control of himself. That last remark had left him gasping, like a speared fish. She really will be the death of me! He moved to stand, trying to adjust himself inconspicuously. She noticed though, he could tell from the pleased little smirk that graced her lips as she leaned against the counter, watching him. He still couldn't think of anything useful to say, and stared like an idiot as Kate emptied the last of the wine into her glass, and downed it in one gulp, not taking her eyes off him for a moment.

"I… I should probably make a move, then." Rick winced inwardly at the sound of his voice. Thick with lust, a touch breathy. Kate nodded, still watching him almost hungrily, and Rick found himself speaking again. "I want to tell Alexis about us." He'd not planned on this, but in that moment, he realised that this woman was worth the fight it might take to make it all work. A family. Kate's eyebrows shot up in surprise, and he hurriedly continued. "I mean, I want to let her know that we're dating. She already knows I'm seeing someone, and she's getting suspicious. She's pretty good at figuring out when I'm hiding something, then she won't give up until she's got to the truth of it and…" He trailed off, as Kate looked on, now thoroughly amused. "And I'm babbling, aren't I?"

She laughed, a rich, wonderful sound, and walked over to him, resting her hand against his chest. "You are, and it's adorable." He bristled a little at that, but she ignored him. "But in case you haven't noticed, this is becoming something… real, and I don't want to think that you're hiding it from your family. After all, you weren't happy when you thought I didn't want my colleagues knowing."

Rick nodded. She was right, as usual. "Yeah, of course. Well, my mother already knows, I think. I've never told her that we're… together," he used that word hesitantly, but felt his heart soar when she smiled, accepting it as a valid description of their situation. "So, I've never told her, but she knows how I feel about you, and she's a lot sharper than she ever lets on."

"Rick, it's fine." Kate cocked her head, watching him fondly. "I know things are going to get more complicated, but we're going to have to face up to that at some point. Why not make it now?"

He stopped, finally taking in what she was saying. "You mean that?"

Kate rolled her eyes, still close to laughter. "No, I'm just saying it to see how you react. Of course I mean it!" She leaned into him, pressing her lips to his briefly. "Now, go home before your daughter starts to worry."

The brief taste of her lips was enough to make Rick linger, but then he smiled and nodded. "Ok. Well, I'll see you tomorrow then." He backed towards the door, not taking his eyes off her.

"I certainly hope so." Kate replied, her eyes twinkling with merriment. "Now get out of here."

"You're getting there pretty quickly, Lex," Kate said, wiping down her face with a towel. They'd just spent the best part of an hour practicing kicks and throws, and Kate could honestly say she'd never had a better student.

Alexis was eager to learn, quick to pick things up and she had the most pleasant demeanour that Kate could ever hope for. She thought that, even if she didn't have particular reasons for wanting to bond with this girl, she would have done anyway.

"You're a good teacher, Kate," Alexis answered, beaming with pride. "Anyone would learn quickly with you."

Kate tried to laugh off the compliment, but couldn't disguise that she was touched. She'd had more success in hiding the change in status between her and Alexis' father. In the heat of things last night, she'd agreed to him telling Alexis without even registering that they had another self defence class together this evening. When she had remembered, that morning, a hasty and slightly desperate phone call to Rick had confirmed that he hadn't been able to sit down and talk to Alexis yet. Kate had begged him to hold off until after tonight, to give her one more evening with the girl as a teacher and potential friend, before she became someone else entirely. Rick had laughed at her, a reaction that had raised her hackles at the time, and still irritated her when she thought about it now. But he'd agreed, and so Kate had relaxed, safe in the knowledge that she wouldn't have to face Alexis tonight with the revelation of this new relationship hanging over them.

As she looked at the girl now, she knew it had been the right decision. They'd have plenty of time to figure out where all the pieces fitted, and Kate was still coming to terms with the idea that she could be a part of their lives at all. "Are you just trying to butter me up so I don't make you do the warm up exercises next week?"

"Ah rats, you caught me!" Alexis grinned up at her. "So, do you want to grab a bite to eat, then?"

"You took the words right out of my mouth, Lex," Kate said as she began to head for the locker room. "Burgers at Remys?"

"Of course. I'll just call dad and let him know." Her eagerness blazed through the words, and Kate felt a warmth spread through her that this girl was so happy to spend time with her. She only hoped that the friendship between them would continue to grow as her relationship with Rick did.

Rick woke early, feeling energized and eager to get to work. He'd pretty much finished the revisions that Black Pawn had asked for. And though he knew they'd still ask for one or two more changes, he was fairly sure that they'd be minor. After writing 22 bestselling novels, you developed a feel for the editorial process, and Rick did a pretty good job of reigning in his own excesses and flights of fancy, with Alexis' help of course.

Alexis. He'd told Kate a couple of days ago that he wanted to tell his daughter that they were dating, and it was true. But he wasn't quite sure how to go about it. It was one thing, telling a ten year old girl that daddy had a new friend, when he'd decided it was time for her to meet Gina, but another entirely to tell his now sixteen year old daughter that he was dating a woman that Alexis was clearly very fond of. Would she be happy at the thought? He hoped so, but as well as he knew Alexis, he had to concede that she was changing as she got older. She was certainly jaded when it came to the issue of him dating, and it was hard to ignore the hints she'd given him regarding that.

Before he could take his thoughts any further than that, his daughter appeared in his office doorway. "Morning, dad," she called, strolling in and perching on the edge of his desk. "Still not finished?"

"Just about, sweetie." He smiled up at her, "I'm just finishing up with Gina's list of comments. Then I'll email it back to her and see if she has anything else to demand of me."

Alexis smirked at that. "I'm not going to make the joke you're looking for there, dad."

"Fair enough." He paused, studying her for a moment. "How was your self defence class last night? Did you have fun with Beckett?"

His daughter's face suffused with excited energy. "Dad, she's great. So much fun to hang out with. She gives the best advice on dating and…" She trailed off, smirking at Rick's sudden look of alarm. "Don't worry, dad. It was all hypothetical. If I get a boyfriend, you'll be the first to know."

He squirmed a little at that, and decided that now was as good a time as any. "Alexis, there's something I need to talk to you about."

He smile became slightly wary. "Ok. Well, here I am. Not going anywhere."

"Right well," he paused again, trying to figure out the best way to do this. "As you know, I've been on several dates over the past few weeks. With the same woman."

Alexis nodded encouragingly, confusion written on her face. Rick didn't blame her for that. He'd never talked to her about women he dated in the past, and he was pretty sure she didn't want to know anything about them anyway. It wasn't like many of them would have been worth the time it took to talk to his daughter about them.

"In fact, I think you could say that I'm… in a relationship with this woman." He trailed off, waiting for Alexis' response.

She blinked, then her eyes widened almost comically. "A relationship? My dad, in a relationship?" She narrowed her eyes and peered at him with faux concern. "Do I need to be talking to this woman about her intentions towards you?"

Rick laughed uncomfortably at the joke. "No, I don't think that'll be necessary. I think her intentions are entirely honourable. Well, mostly honourable."

"Ew. Dad, I don't need to hear the details." She sobered, and then looked at him fondly. "So, what's her name, this 'honourable woman'?"

"Erm… well, her name is Kate."

"Kate? Like Detective Beckett?" Alexis looked doubtful, and he could see her confusion growing. He decided he needed to stop prevaricating.

"Exactly like Detective Beckett." He nodded. "Kate Beckett."

"So… what you're saying is that the woman you've started a… relationship with is Kate Beckett?" She seemed a lot less excited than Rick had imagined. In fact, not excited at all, just unsure.

He sighed. "Yes, Kate and I have started a relationship." Alexis nodded, eyes fixed on his face. "Alexis, I thought you liked Kate. Is this… do you have a problem with this?" He dreaded the answer, worrying now that he'd somehow completely misread his daughter when it came to her feelings for Kate.

But after a moment, a smile broke across her face. "Dad, I think it's great. Really." She reached out and covered his hand with her own, squeezing affectionately. "It was just a surprise, that's all. I mean, you've worked together for so long now, and I guess I just figured you were friends, and that's as far as it was likely to go."

"We are friends, pumpkin. But we're more than that."

"So, this is getting serious then?"

"Oh, it's a little early to be gauging that sort of thing." He tried for breezy, but didn't really hit it. "Let's just say that we're really enjoying spending time with each other, and I certainly hope that it grows into more than that." He still hadn't quite come to terms with the depth of his feelings for Kate, and he didn't want to say too much, not even to Alexis.

She was nodding, eyes intent. "So, does Gram know?"

"I think so. I've always been surprised at the things she knows, without me ever having told her."

Alexis took a deep, cleansing breath. "Ok, well, you're going to have to bring Kate around to 'meet the family' then, aren't you?"

"You know her already. Hell, you spend an evening every week with her, learning how to beat people up and then having milkshakes."

"Yeah, but that's as Kate, not as my dad's girlfriend." She shrugged slightly, as though she recognized it was an odd distinction to make.

Rick had felt a flood of warmth when Alexis had called Kate his girlfriend, and had drifted for a second, wondering at the turns life took. My girlfriend. Kate Beckett. Does it get any better than that?

"You should invite her over for dinner." Alexis said, hopping off his desk and standing, hands on hips. "Why haven't you done that already?" Her glare was accusing.

"I just, didn't want to rush things. I'm kind of out of practice at this whole relationship thing. You know, my dates usually only amount to…"

Alexis cut him off hurriedly. "I know what they usually amount to, dad, and I really don't think we need to talk about that." She glanced at her watch. "I'm going to meet Paige. We're going shopping. You talk to Kate about coming over."

"Yes, ma'am." Rick answered. "Hey, do some damage on that credit card, will you? You deserve to live a little now school's over."

"Uh huh. Sure thing, dad," she breezed, waving back at him over her shoulder as she headed for the door. "Get your book finished, too."

"Will do." That went pretty well, he told himself. I thought she'd go nuts, and start picking out wedding patterns. He settled back into his chair, and began to type up the email he had to send to Gina. He knew it would only be a few hours until she got back to him with any last requests, so that would leave him some time to drop in on Kate and the boys.

The shrill ringing of a telephone rudely jolted Kate back into consciousness. She'd had trouble getting to sleep last night, and as loath as she was to admit it, she knew why. She hadn't seen him yesterday. He'd called briefly to say that Gina had been too quick to get back to him with the final edits for Naked Heat, and he wanted to get it all done and dusted. She'd missed him, but the day had been an endless slog of paperwork anyway, so she couldn't think of a valid excuse to call him. The end result was that she'd left work late, and grumpy, deciding to get an early night. Only he'd plagued her thoughts, vivid memories of two nights previously, when she'd been so close to dragging him to her bedroom, despite his need to be home for Alexis. Grumpiness was replaced with a severe case of thwarted desire and frustration. In the end, after much tossing and turning, she'd dealt with it the only way she knew how, and drifted off into a bliss induced sleep. There was no respite there either, though. Rick came to her in her dreams and did all the things she'd been wanting him to do in person.

All in all, she woke more exhausted and frazzled than she had been before going to bed.

She reached blindly for the phone, and dragged it to her ear. "Beckett," she muttered, her voice thick and fuzzy with sleep.

"Morning, boss." Esposito, sounding far too cheerful and far too pleased to be waking her up. "Sorry to interrupt whatever you've got going on over there, but a body dropped. Harlem, West 124th and Lenox. "

Kate tried to form an appropriate response, but settled for, "Fine, On my way. And stop smirking." She hung up without another word, and hauled herself out of bed, rubbing her eyes groggily. Rick's going to pay for this, she decided vindictively. Though really, she knew she'd be hard pressed not to just jump him as soon as she saw him.

Fifteen minutes later, she was freshly showered and leaving her apartment, locking the door with one hand and dialing Castle on her phone's speed dial with the other. He answered before the first ring finished, and Kate couldn't suppress a smile at his eager greeting. "Good morning, Kate. Is this a business call, or could you just not go for more than a day without hearing my voice?"

She laughed easily, shaking her head. "Rick, if only I had enough time to waste to just listen to you talk. It's business. Esposito just called about a body. You want me to pick you up on the way?"

"Absolutely. I can think of nothing better to do than investigate a murder with you."

"Nothing better? Way to flatter a girl, Castle." She almost laughed again when he frantically started backtracking.

"Oh no, I can think of so many things I'd rather do with you, but none of them would be acceptable at a crime scene." He paused for a moment. "Or even in public."

"Ok, cool your jets, Ricky," she could feel the heat rise in her face. "I'll be knocking on your door in ten minutes. Be ready for me."

"Tease," he replied, with real affection, and Kate wondered again at how fast things were going now. She hung up and headed for her car.

It was more like fifteen minutes when she pulled up outside Rick's building, and she realized she wouldn't have to go up and knock on his door. He was sitting on the steps outside the rather grand entrance, looking for all the world like a small boy waiting to embark on an expedition. He spotted her before she'd even pulled up to the curb, and hopped to his feet, a broad smile plastered across his face.

She couldn't help but match his grin, thoroughly charmed by his enthusiasm, even if it was for a new murder investigation. He hurried around to the passenger side of the car, and hopped in.

"Good morning, dear," he greeted her, leaning over to kiss her on the cheek. She smiled again, oddly pleased at the domestic nature of the gesture.

"Good morning to you too."

"So, what've we got?" His eyes were shining with excitement, and she knew him well enough now to know that it wasn't glee at the thought of a new murder to solve.

"What's with you this morning?" She asked him, deciding that bluntness was the best way to go when he was in this sort of mood.

"I finished my book this morning. Emailed it off to Gina less than an hour ago." He looked so proud that she felt almost as though the achievement was her own.

"Wow, that's great, Rick." She hesitated. "What does a supportive girlfriend normally do in these circumstances? Congratulate you?"

His grin turned positively filthy. "Well, usually…"

Kate glared. "Don't even think of finishing that sentence, Ricky. Not unless you want to be kicked out of a moving car."

He subsided, still smiling.

For a few moments they drove in silence, before Kate felt his eyes on her. "What?"

"You called yourself my girlfriend," he said, quietly.

She risked a glance in his direction, and saw the warmth in his eyes. "You noticed that, did you?"

"I notice everything you do." He smiled. "I've got to say, I really like the sound of it."

"Yeah? Well maybe if you behave well enough, I might let you call me that one day." She glanced at him again, and saw that he seemed to be basking in her presence, a pleased little smile on his face. Well, a girl can't ask for more than that, can she?

"Well, just so you know, I'm not nearly as stingy with the terms of endearment. You can call me your boyfriend any time you like."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Good. Because you might like to use it once or twice when you come over for dinner with me and Alexis."

That was enough to freeze the smile on her face. "You told her, then?" At his nod, she felt an odd thrill rush through her. Not nervous, exactly…. Clearing her throat self consciously, she asked, "So, what did she say?"

"She's fine with it. I told you, Alexis thinks you're great."

"She thinks I'm great as her dad's work partner, and as a friend. It's not quite the same if she sees me as… as…" Kate couldn't finish that, her mind seizing up when she realized the next words to come out of her mouth were going to be 'a mother figure'. That would be overstepping the bounds by about nine miles!

Rick either didn't notice, or thought better of commenting, merely settling for, "Don't worry about it, Kate. Trust me."

"Ok." It was still surprising to find just how much her trust in him was growing.

"Good. So, we'll figure out our plans later." He didn't wait for her to respond, clearly thinking the matter settled. "So where are we going, anyway?"

"Harlem. Esposito and Ryan are already there."

When they arrived, it wasn't difficult to spot the building they were looking for. Half a dozen squad cars and two CSU vans were parked up outside it, uniformed officers already patrolling the cordoned off area.

Ryan was waiting at the door, and greeted them both gravely. "It's a nasty one," he told them, his face set in grim lines.

"Aren't all murders nasty?" Rick asked him, attempting to inject a little levity into the conversation.

"Yeah, but this one is especially nasty." With those ominous words, Kate and Rick entered the building, heading up the stairs to an apartment on the second floor. The door hung open, and CSU officers milled about, doing their thing. Camera flashes lit the room up periodically, though when Kate entered, she realized she'd rather the gloom had obscured the horrific tableau.

A/N: So, I'm trying to take a new approach regarding Alexis' view of Castle and Beckett's relationship. She's usually written as being fully supportive of it, and whilst that's great fun to read, I want to go a slightly different way. It'll become clearer in following chapters, though I'm thinking I might have to include one or two Alexis POV sections to fully explain her thought processes. It's this that's caused the biggest delays, I think, whilst I figured out how I wanted to deal with it.

Anyway, please drop me a review, if you like it or if you don't. And as I may be expanding this to include Alexis POVs, let me know if there are any other characters you might like to see get a bit of 'inside their head' treatment.