Disclaimer: I don't own Castle, which is good, because I would have run out of great ideas a long time ago.


The night sky had deepened to a rich navy blue. The last vestiges of light clinging on the horizon like a desperate lover begging for release as darkness blanketed the city. Rush hour commuters had settled comfortably in their homes leaving the streets desolate, the park dangerously shadowed.

The path of a lonely traveller forged in these harrowing hours, was one of darkest despair and a desperate need to keep moving. The cloying feeling of watchful eyes raking over him as his heart hammered in his chest made his feet move more quickly on the slippery cobblestone walkway.

He could feel the eyes on him. He could feel the footsteps getting closer.

Fear as he had never known, gripped him. With a strangled cry his feet began to move faster until her was running awkwardly over the uneven stone path. His feet slipped occasionally on the patches of ice that had formed from the melt off once the sun fell and temperatures dropped back below freezing.

Panting and exhausted he forced himself to move further to run faster, but his anxiety did not abate. Looking behind himself, sullenly, to take in the expression on the face of his purser he let the realization that this was to be the end of him take hold.

He found himself staring into dark nothingness as far as his eyes could see along the path.

A fresh wave of confusion brutally assaulted him as the icy fingers of a winter wind whipped through his jacket and bit at his flesh. Fear was rolling through his body as his legs continued to carry him along the path. Panting and breathless he moved further into the park, glancing back again just before his foot caught and he suddenly found himself barreling face first into the rocky footpath.

Stunned, for a moment, he knew he had to get up and move. He knew more than he knew his own name that if he didn't go now the night would end in bloodshed.

He almost laughed as he brought his hand to his face and found the warm wet evidence of a heavy trickle pouring out of his nose, but he could not feel the pain. He could do nothing but laugh as he was proven right from more blood pour through his fingers and splashing onto the stone near where he was still kneeling on the hard lumpy surface. Cold from the contact with the wet, icy rocks beneath him seemed to seep through his clothes, but he was already numb to this existence and feeling the cold was outside of his abilities.

Soon they would catch him. Soon they would make him pay, they would make him suffer and bleed and ache far more than this broken nose ever could.

He had to move.

He had stayed here too long already and he could feel their eyes as they closed in on him from every direction.

As he gathered his breath and clasped his hand tighter around the blood pouring from his nose, he gave a nervous glance around.

Eyes. Eyes in the bushes, staring out at him. They had found him and he was going to pay for what he had done. Fear and guilt gripped him with equally icy fingers.

He sprang to his feet, and disappeared into the darkness as swiftly as his feet would carry him over the slippery surface of the ice-patched stones underfoot.

Chapter One

Richard Castle was sleepily wandering through his loft apartment with his empty coffee cup in hand. His flannel pants and grey t-shirt were rumpled from his fitful night's sleep, or lack of sleep, and he hadn't even bothered with taming the mess that was his morning hair when he had padded into the kitchen in search of more caffeine.

Another night spent writing like a banshee, never feeling like he could sleep the few times he had tried to close his eyes. Here he was, up before Alexis, only because he hadn't been to sleep yet and finally the ideas had been purged and he felt himself ready for some much deserved and highly underrated sleep.

Setting his coffee on the kitchen counter, he allowed himself to free fall. He landed face first, into the comfortable cushions on his couch. Finally, his brain did not protest as his eyes slowly closed and just as sleep was grasping him, lapping anxiously on the edges of consciousness, he heard the normally thrilling, now frustrating sound of his phone ringing.

He knew who it was even before he managed to groggily roll off his pocket and pull the phone out. "Castle." He said.

"Wake up, we got a fresh one on your side of town and we're headed your way." Becket responded.

"When?" he asked. He realized he was apparently unable to pull more than a single word at a time through his tired mind.

"I'll be outside in five." She responded and he slammed his phone closed, before dragging himself back upstairs to put on something more presentable than his pajamas and do something about the mess on his head.

True to her word, Detective Kate Beckett pulled her car up to the curb out front of Castle's apartment five minutes later. He climbed in the passenger seat with a large thermos of coffee and a slight nod in greeting. He had been about to speak when a huge yawn interrupted him mid-thought.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty, you awake over there?" she asked in a teasing voice, but he didn't miss the hint of something else tingeing the words.

He cursed his over-tired state for not being able to put his finger on what that note in her voice meant. He knew that tone, but something just wasn't falling into place.

He couldn't tell if she was really just joking or if she was hoping he would stay home for once. He expected not, she had called him and offered to pick him up. More than his concern over whether she thought he should have stayed was the overwhelming thought in the back of his own mind that had him thinking that going with her in his current state of more than completely exhausted would be the bad decision it was starting to look like it was going to be.

Instead of focus on her tone too directly, Castle grasped at her words and gave her a lascivious smile, "You are welcome to wake me with a kiss whenever you want."

He saw the eye roll he had been expecting, and, even tired, he couldn't suppress a grin. She was most assuredly a creature of habit. Predictable and constant, except when she wasn't. Her chiding a moment later was also to be expected, "I was thinking more along the lines of having someone bring me your heart so I didn't have to worry about you spoiling my day again."

He felt a sudden devilish grin light his face as he noted the upper hand she had inadvertently handed him and he made a conscious effort to keep his tone low and serious, "It's yours, if you want it."

Speechless, Becket glared out the front window, that muscle along the edge of her jaw twitching slightly from the intense clenching she was doing with her teeth.

Score one for Castle, he thought and then he yawned again and that little quirk of her lips told him she was amused as it washed away the tension in her jawline. That left her absently biting her lip, he knew she was fighting saying something smart back, but the act drew his mind to decidedly erotic places and that's when he knew.

He definitely should have stayed home to sleep, because his focus was already proving to be less than stellar and they hadn't even made it to the crime scene yet.

He knew her long days, and supposing this was like most case, she would probably be at the precinct until well after most others had left. She had a drive that was more focused and directed than any he had ever seen.

Therefore, of course, as he pondered sleep, he felt the familiar tug of his protective instincts kicking in. If he didn't stick around, she would work herself into the ground without thought of food or rest.

He pictured himself as the heroic white night, riding in to rescue her and couldn't help the laugh at the ridiculousness of that mental picture. Katherine Beckett was anything but a damsel in distress and she could quickly snap him in half or put a bullet through him.

Not only could she, but if he answered that little raise of her eyebrows that was asking him what was funny he was certain she would. He shrugged off her question and they continued to the crime scene in silence.

The park was empty, save for the emergency personnel, as Castle and Becket walked towards the yellow crime scene tape several hundred feet across a field from the parking lot.

Remnants of the snowfall from two days prior, crunched loudly under their feet as they cautiously made their way across the icy terrain.

Yesterday had been warm, in comparison to the days they had been having, and gave the snow a change to melt away. It was nearly gone now, but the plummet in temperatures last night brought with it a freeze of all that remained, resulting in their need to walk at a more reserved pace.

The cold wind was biting and he felt his eyes drifting to her again as he wondered if the cold was getting to her as much as it felt that it was slicing through him. She didn't seem bothered by it at all, as they walked and he felt a moment of silly giddiness as he realized her boots for the winter were much lower than her standard heels, and he was actually looking down slightly to take in her expression.

Her scarf was pulled around her neck, but it hung more loosely in front of her neck than behind. He suspected it was something to tuck her nose into if the frigid temperatures became too much to bear. He let his gaze shift to her face and was surprised to find her nose a rosy shade of pink. The cold was already getting to her, so he was left wonder why she wasn't using the scarf she had so obviously positioned for warmth.

He was still contemplating this when they reached the cobblestone walking path and the unexpected slickness of it caused his boot to suddenly slip out from underneath him, taking his foot and leg with it and knocking him completely off balance.

He saw the speed, like a snake attacking, as Beckett's hand shot out of her jacket pocket and grabbed his arm. She seemed to move faster than his brain could interpret, because suddenly she was turned towards him and her other hand had a firm grip on the lapels of his jacket. Holding firmly, she kept him from meeting his demise there on the rocks beneath their feet.

"Careful." She said, seemingly on autopilot. Her eyes scanned him as if verifying that he did indeed have full control of his stance and was not going to fall over.

She didn't step away and Castle felt a small grin tug at the corner of his mouth as he slowly leaned towards her, "If you wanted to hold me in the park, you didn't have to wait for someone to die."

He felt her hand tighten on his arm to the point where this had gone from rescuing to, "Ow. Ow. Ow." He said as she finally released him and pointed to where he had nearly fallen. There were several splotches of blood with yellow numbers labeling them.

"You can fall down in your own space. This is my crime scene and I don't need you rolling over all the evidence." She turned and strode purposefully away from him.

He had to walk more quickly then was probably advised to catch up, "Thanks, though. I really like this coat and would be very upset if it were covered in blood and evidence."

"What do you got, Lanie?" Becket asked as she and Castle approached the Medical Examiner crouching over the body of their victim.

Kate and Castle crouched down to join Lanie Parish next to the body of an older man wearing a very nice suit.

"That's Armani." Castle noted with a whistle, but both women seemed to ignore him as they looked down at the body of their victim.

"The victim is Charles Cooper. I'd put a preliminary time of death between ten and twelve last night." Lanie passed the man's wallet to Beckett.

"Not a robbery." Beckett responded absently as she opened it and fanned through the bills still inside.

Lanie responded, "There does seem to be some damage on his wrist, could be from the forceful removal of a watch or something. I won't know much else until I get him back to the lab."

Castle was only half listening to the M.E. as he glanced from the victim, obviously strangled, to Beckett. With his sleep-deprived brain, it took him a moment to realize what he was seeing. As Beckett looked down at the body, the lower half of her face and her nose disappeared into the loose loop of her scarf. He felt a silly grin play on his face.

He wasn't the only one feeling this biting cold that made his lungs burn with every breath, but Kate Beckett was not one to show weakness in any form. She was professional and independent, but he had never realized that the independence she carried so well masked a hidden darker side.

Apparently, her need to prove to the world that she was strong, powerful, and in control, extended to old man winter as well. She would show that frosty old man a thing or two. However, he knew if she were walking home after work, that scarf would be pulled tight and probably double looped to keep her warm.

One of these days he was going to have to have a talk with her about how there is a difference between showing that you're human and showing that you're weak.

"Castle!" Beckett snapped at him and he realized that both women were staring at him and he was still staring at Kate's scarf.

The two women stood back to their full heights, "Did you break writer boy?" Lanie asked with a wink at her friend.

"Why is Castle being distracted always my fault?" Beckett asked as the two women started to move towards Lanie's bus to get the body bag and gurney. The way she said his name as if it were an insult made him grin; he knew exactly the expression on her face.

She would have the exasperated yet amused look that confounded him with its intricacy and contradiction. Her brow furrowed as if she were angry or coming down with a headache, but one corner of her mouth twitching as if anxious to spring into a smile that never fully formed.

"Girl, you don't seriously expect me to answer that, do you?" he heard Lanie respond with a laugh and she sounded far away now. He couldn't figure out why he was still squatting near the body, staring at the spot where Kate's scarf had been, now there was only patchy snow over yellowed grass.

A/N: This is my first Castle fic, though I'm new to writing fanfic in general, but I really love this show, it's characters, the humor, and the cases.

This story is currently a side project as I work like crazy to finish another. I got my characters in the middle of quite a mess on my other project and I have to get them out, but this story didn't want to wait for me to finish to have its turn.

These are complicated characters and I wouldn't want to go on if I'm not getting them right. Let me know how I'm doing on that, anything I can do better, or if I should scrap this and stick to my other favorite show.

Thanks for reading.