A/N: First of all, I am so so sorry I took forever to update. Things have been a little crazy and I had a monster of a writer block that refused to leave me. I hope you guys are still interested in this story after so long. Thank you so much for all your reviews and support. You guys rock my world.

Disclaimer: Castle is not mine.

Of Bars and Secrets

Chapter 12

"Well, you look like you've just seen a ghost."

Lanie's voice pulled her out of her thoughts and she looked up at her friend, who had just come back from the ladies room. She blinked, trying to process what Lanie had said, but all her mind seemed to be capable of thinking were Castle's last two words before he hung up the phone.

He loved her.

He loved her.

Oh, sweet baby Jesus, he loved her.

What was she supposed to do now? She knew she cared about him deeply; knew she probably loved him right back, but wasn't this kind of too soon? Had he even realize what he had just said to her? Because the way he said it, like it was something he was so used to say to her; how the words just rolled out of his tongue in the most casual way possible, as if they had been together and in love for ages.

She swallowed hard, trying to think about how she was supposed to play this. Should she say something? What if it was a mistake and he was beating himself up for letting it slip, something he just said automatically to his daughter and Martha? Maybe he had just been distracted and the words slipped out. Maybe he didn't mean anything by it.

On the other hand, his actions for the past few months entirely contradicted that thought. He had been nothing but kind to her, respecting her wishes and giving her space when she needed to think things through. Wasn't that something you did for someone you loved?

"Kate? You there?" she heard Lanie's voice again and shook her head, trying to make those jumbled feelings and thoughts disappear.

"Yeah, sorry. Spaced out for a second." She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose; a slight headache was already pressing in.

"You can say that again. What's got you so worked up? You're as pale as one of my corpses." Lanie asked in a light tone, but she could see the concern in her friend's eyes.

"Nothing. Just thinking." She shook her head again and stood up. "You ready to go?"

"Is this about Dr. McDreamy? Is he harassing you that much? Should I call the boys to kick his ass?" She asked the questions really fast, pointing out the last one with one of her infamous glares and Kate had to smile at her over protectiveness.

"Don't worry, Lanie. I'm fine. You know how I am. Just over thinking things."

"You should just relax, girl. Allow yourself to be happy for once." Lanie smiled at her and elbowed her playfully as they walked out of the restaurant. "And from what I can see, writer boy is making you pretty damn happy right now."

"Yeah, he is." Kate said quietly, a smile blossoming on her lips.

Maybe he shouldn't worry so much. After all, he did make her happy.

Well, shit. What the hell had he just said to her?

He knew he loved her, but he hadn't wanted to say it like that. He had wanted it to be special, so she could actually feel loved and cherished. Because he did; he loved her so much he couldn't even bare the thought of not having her in his life. He wanted to take care of her and hold her and kiss her and worship her. Telling her those three magical words (two, if you wanted to be technical) over the phone was not how he had envisioned it at all.

He hoped against hope that he hadn't scared her away. He knew how afraid she was and how she had been incredibly reluctant to jump in a relationship with him. Professing his undying love for her only a couple of weeks into said relationship would probably make her run away screaming.

Well, maybe she didn't hear it. Maybe she hung up before he said anything.

He sighed. Who was he kidding? He was well aware that he had hung up first. Running a hand through his hair, he spotted Ryan and Esposito walking towards him so he made a decision. It was done and there was no use freaking out over something he couldn't take back. He meant it and maybe that was not the best way to tell her, but there was nothing he could do now. It was already out there and the ball was in her court. If she said anything about it, he would say it again; this time he would handle it better than he had earlier.

If she didn't mention anything… well, they had plenty of time.

"Hey, Castle, we're going to go pick up the suspect for questioning. You up for a road trip?" Esposito asked, leaning against Kate's desk.

Rick was tempted to go with them so he wouldn't have to face Kate after his sudden confession, but decided against it. He would have to confront this sooner or later and he wanted to make sure things were alright between them. If she had too much time to think, he was sure she would start pulling back and he didn't want that. He couldn't handle that, not now. Not when things were going so well.

"No, I'll just hang out here until Beckett comes back." He said casually and both detectives raised an eyebrow at him.

He felt like kicking himself. As if that wasn't suspicious at all. He really was a damn puppy when it came to her.

"You sure? They're having those girl talks. She could still be a while." Ryan argued, but he shook his head.

"No, I talked to her just now. They're already on their way back." He explained and they smirked at him, but apparently decided to let him off the hook.

"Alright, suit yourself." Ryan's blue eyes sparkled with amusement and Rick felt the urge to glare at him.

"Yeah, I'll see you guys later." He said and turned his attention to his phone as Ryan and Esposito walked towards the elevator. Once they were out of sight, he let out a breath he didn't know he was holding. He really needed to watch his words better.

Half an hour passed by and he started to get restless. Where was she? The restaurant wasn't that far from here and she had said they were on their way. Right? He looked down at his phone and thought about calling her. His finger hovered over her name on his contacts list for a moment. He was about to press it when he heard the elevator ding and she walked into the bullpen.

Letting out a sigh in relief, he felt stupid and chuckled to himself. He really needed to get some kind of control for his imagination. Relaxing further into her chair, he tried to think about what he should tell her should she ask about what he had said on the phone.

He felt her presence next to him a moment before he heard her voice.

"Now what exactly is wrong with this picture?" he heard the teasing tone in her voice and smiled involuntarily, the urge to touch her somehow almost overwhelming his common sense.

"Nothing?" he said innocently and turned around to face her. She was biting on her lip, a small smile playing on her beautiful face.

"Get out of my chair, Castle." She rolled her eyes and hit his shoulder playfully, her hand lingering there a moment longer than socially acceptable between two colleagues. "Where are Ryan and Esposito?" she asked after he was settled on his own chair and she had reclaimed hers.

"They're picking up Evanston." He explained and leaned forward, resting his hand on her desk, close enough to brush against hers.


She nodded and looked at him for a minute. He thought he could see something in her eyes that he couldn't quite identify. It was a mix of tenderness and affection if he dared to put it into words.

He watched as her pinky finger reached out and brushed against his. When he looked back at her, she smiled softly at him and he smiled back, locking his pinky finger around hers. She didn't pull back.

Just like that, he knew they were okay.

Later that day, they stopped by Kate's apartment so she could get a change of clothes. She had originally planned to go home, but Rick ended up convincing her to go back to the loft with him. He didn't want to leave Alexis alone, but he didn't want to spend the night away from Kate, so they compromised and decided to do a movie night at the loft and order take out.

From the moment they had left the precinct, he couldn't keep his hands off of her, even if it was just to hold her hand or touch the small of her back. They took full advantage of the elevator, making out like teenagers until Kate reminded him there were probably cameras watching them and that if the content leaked, it would be the paparazzi nightmare all over again. He pouted, kissed her again, but took a step away from her in the end, settling for holding her hand.

When they walked into the loft, Alexis and her boyfriend Ashley were on the couch watching TV and eating popcorn. Kate looked at Rick and saw how relieved he seemed to be that they hadn't walked in on them making out.

"Hey, Lex." She greeted the teenage girl and took her shoes off.

"Kate, you're back." Alexis asked, sitting up from her comfortable position on Ashley's lap. She had been lying on the couch, her leg propped up on a pillow and her head resting on her boyfriend's thigh. "Are you staying for dinner?"

"Yeah. Your dad and I thought we could order something and watch a movie. How does that sound?" she smiled at her and the teen nodded.

"Sounds great. Ashley, this is Detective Beckett." She introduced them and Kate smiled at the boy, shaking his hand.

"Nice to meet you, Ashley. Heard a lot about you." She said and sat on one of the reclining chairs.

"You too, Detective." He sounded a little intimidated by her and she thought it was adorable.

"You can call me Kate, Ashley. I'm not on duty." She chuckled as Rick came by and kissed his daughter's forehead.

"How are you doing, pumpkin?" he asked and sat on the arm of Kate's chair.

"Better. Ashley has been taking good care of me." She smiled at her dad and his gaze shifted to the young man.

"Not too good, I hope." He said lightly, but Kate could sense the threat in his tone.

"No, Mr. Castle. We've just been watching TV." Ashley told him quickly and he nodded.

"Dad." Alexis warned and Kate slapped his arm.

"What, I'm just kidding. How about we order a pizza and get started on the movie?" He said and turned to Kate. "Do you want to go change before we start?" he asked quietly and Kate could feel the teenagers' gaze on them.

"Yeah, I think I'm going to take a shower. Can you order the pizza?" she stood up and brushed his hair away from his forehead. When he nodded, she leaned in and placed a quick kiss on his lips. "I won't be long."

While Kate was in the shower, Rick decided to select the movies they would be watching that night. Once that was taken care of, he made his way to the kitchen and took a beer from the fridge, enjoying the cold, relaxing drink as he ordered their pizza. It had been one hell of a day. Things seemed to be fine between them and Kate hadn't mentioned anything, but he knew it would come up sooner or later.

He sighed and tried not to worry about it. They would be okay, he was sure of it.

The shrill ring of Kate's cell phone interrupted his thoughts and he picked it up from the kitchen table where she had left it before going upstairs. It was a number he didn't recognize, so he decided to answer, thinking it could be something important.

"Hello?" he said into the phone and took another sip of his beer.

"Who's this?" a male voice that sounded familiar asked in a not so friendly tone.

"Who do you wish to speak to?" he asked, frowning.

"Kate Beckett. Who is this?" the caller insisted and Rick found himself rolling his eyes.

"She can't come to the phone right now. I can take a message if you want." He said politely and heard the man chuckle humorlessly.

"You're the writer, right? Castle?"

"Yes, who is this?" Rick asked again, losing his patience.

"Kate's boyfriend." He said smugly and Rick's frown deepened.

"Well, I'm pretty sure you're not her boyfriend, so I'm going to hang up now."

"You turned her against me. We were good together and you took her away from me." The man said and something finally clicked in Rick's mind.


"You know, I never figured her for the cheating type, but you've corrupted her. She was just fine before you came back." Josh carried on and Rick sighed. He should have just ignored her phone. "And she has no idea you're just going to use her and throw her away just like you do with all the dumb girls you get in your bed."

"You have no idea what you're talking about, Josh. What Kate and I have… I love her, okay? Stay out of our lives." He said quietly, but harshly and hung up, not giving the doctor a chance to reply.

When he turned around, Kate was standing on the other side of the kitchen island, her mouth slightly open, her hair dripping as the towel hung lose in her hands.

The silence that followed seemed to stretch out for an eternity. Their eyes never strayed from each other and it was Alexis who broke the spell, saying the delivery guy had arrived.

They didn't say anything and let the unsaid words hang over their heads the entire evening. At one point, they both seemed to relax as Kate curled up against him on the floor after they had finished the pizza and were just enjoying the movie. He ran his hands lightly up and down her arm, occasionally catching her looking up at him with that look he couldn't quite decipher. Not letting himself dwell too much on it, he would always steal a quick, innocent kiss, aware that his daughter and her boyfriend were in the room too.

Hours later, after walking Ashley to the door (since Alexis couldn't walk and he wanted to be nice to the kid) and taking Alexis to her room and tucking her in, he finally made his way to his room. Kate had gone up ahead of him and when he opened the door, she was already in his bed, lying on her side apparently asleep.

He took a moment to look at her and appreciate how lucky he was to have a woman so extraordinary like her in his life. A few minutes later, after brushing his teeth and undressing to a t-shirt and boxers, he joined her in bed. She immediately gravitated towards him, nuzzling his neck. He threw an arm around her waist and pulled her closer, placing a kiss on her hair.

They were quiet for a while and he was sure she had fallen asleep when her voice startled him.

"Hey, Rick?" she whispered against his neck and kissed his skin softly.

"Hmm?" It was all he managed to say sleepily.

"I love you too." She told him and he stiffened for a second, letting her words wash over him.

She loved him.

"Rick?" she leaned back to look at him, but he silenced her with a passionate kiss.

And then proceeded to show her just how much he agreed with her statement.

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