Disclaimer: If Castle were mine, we'd at least have gotten a kiss by now. (see profile for a REAL disclaimer)

A/N: First written before S3 aired, and finished on the first day of Mini NaNo WriMo over on LJ!

No matter what Castle did, it seemed like he was always doing something wrong.

He couldn't get the girl, he couldn't convince her to run away with him for an arguably romantic weekend getaway in the Hamptons, and he most definitely couldn't sit there and watch the better man win. He'd spent two years fighting- for her attention, her care, her trust, her love- and that uphill battle had left him tired, especially after Schlemming showed up on the scene. It was just too much.

So, with Alexis and Mother gone, he'd escaped down to the Hamptons with his tail between his legs and his ex-wife on his arm. The writers block he'd been experiencing quickly dissolved and he finished the first draft of Naked Heat within a few weeks, sending it off to the publisher not long after that. He decided to enjoy the beaches and solitude in reward, but that had gotten old quickly, lacking the company of a daughter to make sandcastles and play in the surf with. Plagued by boredom and Gina's crazy antics, he only lasted a week before fleeing back to the safety and comfort of the city.

Rick was nervous, though. He and Kate had only talked a handful of times while he was gone. He'd been cautious not to push his luck, having come to realize that asking another woman on the same vacation that he'd invited her on probably hadn't been the smartest idea ever. Hurting her hadn't been his objective, he'd simply been curing his loneliness, to fill that lingering gap in his life. Unfortunately, that mistake had cost him. They'd only exchanged a few polite but impersonal texts and one drunken phone call that he didn't hold much stock in, all instigated by him, but nothing more. She'd have nothing to do with him. Which quite frankly hurt more than knowing she was probably off happily screwing that damn robbery detective every chance she got.

So when he showed up at the precinct bright and early one a Monday morning- ready to get down on his knees and beg the Captain for his "job" back, set on restoring his friendship with her at any cost- and he suddenly found himself being tugged into an interrogation room and shoved against the wall by a distinctly woman shaped figure, he'd been surprised.

"Whoa," he yelped, "Apples, apples!"

Wincing, Rick shrunk back against the wall as far as he could, and prayed that Kate was feeling rather forgiving and wouldn't knee him in the groin.

"What in the hell are you doing here, Castle?"

"I just got back," his eyes widened, "I missed everyone- Ryan, Esposito, Lanie... you."

"You missed me?" she seethed.

He was confused. Apparently that was the wrong thing to say. Didn't women usually like it when you admitted stuff like that?

Kate's grip tightened around the collar of his shirt, jarring him with another teeth rattling slam against the cement behind him.

"Ow! God, what's wrong with you, Beckett? Have you gone insane?"

He watched as muscles clenched in her cheeks, her teeth grinding together, "Have I gone insane? Clearly you have! What, you think you can just waltz back in here like nothing has changed?"

"I was kinda hoping," he grumbled, hoping she wouldn't catch it.

She did.

"What was that?" she glared, creeping the tiniest bit closer, their noses almost brushing, "Castle, you are the most selfish, vain, thickheadedman I know! We aren't just going to welcome you back with open arms!"

"Hey! I'm not selfish or vain...thickheaded maybe, but-"


They paused. Nothing between them but the sound of heavy breathing and an electric tension hanging in the air.

"Are you as turned on as I am right now?" he whispered, hoping desperately that she wouldn't hit him. The blow never came.

Kate nodded tightly, her eyes wild, and the next thing he knew their lips were crashing together in a heated kiss.

He moaned against her, shocked arms wrapping clumsily around the flare of her waist until he felt every single one of her curves pressed tightly against him. It made his stomach flip and his body warm, terrified and strangely giddy at just how right it felt. How their tongues danced together and dainty fingers slid up his neck and into his hair, tugging teasingly as Beckett arched wantonly into him. He was in heaven.

"This doesn't mean I forgive you," Kate mumbled against his mouth.

Rick slid his hands up the back of her shirt, fingers spreading across soft skin, digging gently into the muscles along her spine, "I know."

"We're gonna have to talk about this."

He nodded, kissing her again, her sweet bottom lip between his own. Flipping their positions so that it was her against the wall instead of him, he groaned. He'd never viewed Kate as a tiny woman, petite maybe, but in that moment as his palm gripped her thigh and brought it up around his waist, his groin throbbing in time with his heart as he felt her heat against him for the first time, he was surprised just how small she felt in his arms. It made him him smile against her skin, melting into her, clinging, kissing down the slope of her neck. He was pretty sure that this would be the only time she'd let him protect her, here in the safety of his arms, and that- well, it was certainly something to behold.

"Wait," she gasped, pushing halfheartedly against his chest, "We have to stop. You left, Castle! You just freaking left me here after I broke up with Tom for you!"

Rick's jaw dropped, "After you what?"

It was only then that Kate really seemed to grasp what she'd said and tried to backtrack, attempting to slip from his grasp, unable to look him in the eye. He wasn't about to let that happen. Pinning her with his body, arms against the wall on either side of her, their hips pressed tightly together, he felt his throat tighten and the pit of his stomach gnaw with guilt. Had she really dumped Demming? For him?

Castle hesitantly slid one hand up and over her shoulder, gently placing a bent finger under her chin, lifting her head until their gazes met. What he saw broke his heart. Her normally bright green eyes were dull and welling with tears, the bags under them covered with thick makeup. She looked so broken. Had he done this to her?

"Why didn't you say anything?" he said as he cupped her cheek, absentmindedly tracing the soft skin with his fingertips. He wasn't sure if the soothing motion was more for his sake or hers.

"I tried to," she whispered.

With a furrowed brow, his mind scrambled through different conversations he'd had with her before leaving, and only one stood out.

He'd really gone and fucked this one up, hadn't he?

"At my going away party," he asked, already knowing the answer, "you were telling me then, weren't you? And I wouldn't listen."

Really fucked it up.

She nodded, a tear finally slipping down her heated cheek. He felt like crying with her. He'd been so stupid.

Wiping the moisture away with a sure swipe of his thumb, he leaned forward and captured her lips in a chaste kiss. She didn't try to pull away or return the kiss, they simply coexisted and took comfort in the small action. When they broke apart, he rested his forehead against hers, letting their breaths mingle as he tried to fully process everything.

" You were right, Kate," he started, "I am a selfish, vain, thickheaded man... and it probably won't be enough, but I don't think I'll ever be able to tell you how sorry I am that I hurt you like that."

He felt her fingers tighten their grip on his shoulders, a small shiver running through her body before she released a heavy sigh, "You're a bigger man than I thought you were, Castle."

Grinning, he tugged her forward into his arms. The hug was awkward, and he's pretty sure that it had surprised her at first, but the fact that she allowed him to do it- that this was more physical contact than they'd allowed themselves in the entire two years of their partnership combined, and by far the most intimate touch they'd ever shared- had convinced him that it was worth it.

"Thank you," he whispered against her ear, relief and thoughts of almost losing her threatening to overwhelm him.

She shifted in his embrace- head shifting the slightest bit, followed by a few seconds of silence before she finally relaxed and wrapped her arms around his neck. Inside, he cheered.

"I missed you, Castle."

His eyes slipped shut, nuzzling the side of her neck as his arms tightened around her, "I missed you, too."

"Don't think you're done making up for this, though."

"I wouldn't dream of it," he chuckled, pressing a barely there kiss against her hair.

It's not quite how he pictured it, but there in that room, with her wrapped completely around him... he had it all. The girl wasn't going to shoot him, the interrogation room was a poor substitute for the Hamptons, but it was still arguably romantic, and Demming had long since been removed from the picture.

Rick smiled. He'd finally managed to do something right.