A/N: So I lied. This is not going to be a two-shot because these characters cannot stop talking. I have no choice but to let them do their thing. Because of that, this is now going to be three, maybe four chapters long. I couldn't get even half of what I wanted crammed into this chapter, so I'm going to split it in two. I really wanted to keep going, but I'm too tired and I know I promised this chapter yesterday so...
Anyway, I know it's a bit shorter than usual, but hope you like it. Thank you so much for the incredible reviews. You guys rock my world.
The Only Exception
A few weeks passed by after Kate's epiphany. She didn't do anything, though, was too chicken to actually tell him she loved him, so they carried on with their endless dance. The only thing that was different was that she was a lot more aware of his touches (those were coming at a disturbing frequency too. When had that even happened?) and how he would look at her when he thought she wasn't looking.
She knew there was something there. There had always been. But even with that knowledge, she couldn't bring herself to make the first move. What if it was all in her head? What if he had given upon her and only wanted her friendship? What if they did start a relationship and ended up hating each other?
The what ifs were just too many to fit into the equation in her mind and she just wasn't willing to risk it. She would have to settle for his friendship and that way, everyone would be happy. Except her. And him.
God, why did this have to be so difficult?
Kate was at a loss one summer night. She had all these feelings bubbling up inside of her and she didn't know what to do with them. She wanted him so badly that it was almost physically painful. She had to do something about it or she felt she just might explode of frustration and pent up desire.
It was his birthday and they had all gone to his house in the Hamptons for the weekend to celebrate. It was late and the festivities were still at full swing. Castle had decided to do a luau and there were torches surrounding the house, music, good food and liquor flowing freely. The full moon illuminated the beach and its reflection on the ocean was almost hypnotizing.
Kate found herself staring at it for a long while. She had started to feel a little overwhelmed with all the happy couples there. Loneliness had never been an issue for her, but that night she felt it threatening to swallow her whole. Looking at her friends happily in love with their respective significant others drove her crazy because she knew that the object of her affections was right within her reach.
With a sigh, she took a sip of her beer and walked down to the ocean, her dress billowing in the wind. It was a welcome distraction of the suffocating heat they had had all day. She stared at the moon's reflection and allowed the ocean to bury her feet in the sand as it came and went. She didn't know how long she stood there, trying to keep her mind blank and block out the sounds of the party. She found that focusing on the sound of the waves crashing in front of her helped her mind to settle for a moment.
She was startled out of her thoughts when she felt someone touching her shoulder. She didn't even have to turn around to know who it was; she knew his touch – she was that smitten. When she felt his breath tickling her ear, she bit her lip.
"What are you doing here all by your lonesome?" he whispered, his hand now resting on her waist.
She looked up at him and offered a small, shy smile.
"Just thinking." She told him and looked back at the ocean. He applied a little pressure on her waist, pulling her slightly closer to him, so that her back was almost touching his chest.
"Yeah? Care to share what is going through that beautiful mind of yours?" he asked playfully and she chuckled.
"No." she said quietly and looked up at him again. He looked slightly disappointed and she swallowed hard. "At least, not yet." She added and decided to take a chance, relaxing against him.
He stiffened for a moment and she waited to see how he would react. They had touched plenty of times, but never like this. Never so intimately. She heard him let out a breath and relax and only then she allowed herself to relax as well. His hand squeezed her waist lightly and he pulled her closer, now wrapping his arms around her. It was her turn to freeze for an instant when she was suddenly enveloped by his warmth, but she decided to give into it.
They stood there in silence, bodies touching, as they watched the waves crash at their feet.
It was progress.
Two weeks after that weekend in the Hamptons, Kate found herself at the gala fundraiser for the scholarship in her mother's honor. She had planned this with Castle for months and he had let her have a say in each and every detail of the event if she so desired. That night, she was fighting hard against her emotions. Thinking about her mother always caused her feelings to go haywire, but this… this was pushing her to the limit. Honoring her mother's memory had been her dream for a long time and she couldn't believe it was finally happening.
The fact that it was Castle who had initiated this whole thing warmed her heart and terrified her at the same time. She knew exactly what he was telling her with this gesture. He cared for her, he wanted to see her happy, he wanted to make her dreams come true.
She got the message loud and clear.
"You look breathtaking." He whispered in her ear and she smiled, biting her lip.
Her dress was a deep green and hugged her body just right. Her back was bare she wore her hair up, with a few strands framing her face.
"Thank you." She said, self-consciously pushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "You don't look so bad yourself." She told him with a grin.
"Why, thank you, Detective Beckett. I aim to please." He replied with a wink and she rolled her eyes. "So what do you think?" he asked, gesturing to the ballroom.
"I think we did a good job." She told him with a smile. "Thank you for doing this, Rick. You have no idea what this means to me." She confessed and he wrapped an arm around her waist.
"It's my pleasure, Kate. I just want to see you happy."
He kissed her cheek, lingering a second too long and left her when they called him up to the stage. She followed him with her eyes, a hand touching her cheek where she could still feel the tingling sensation left behind by the touch of his lips. He got up on the stage and greeted the crowd. She could see all her closest friends there.
Her father was sitting with her family – his sister, her husband and kids and her mother's brother – and she smiled when she saw him discreetly wiping a tear away. She knew this was difficult for him too, but that he was incredibly happy they were honoring Johanna Beckett's memory like this. She thought about her mom and knew that she would be proud of what they were doing in her name. Her legacy would live on and it was all thanks to Rick Castle.
She turned her attention back to Castle, just in time to listen to him saying that he wished he could have met her mother. He proceeded to say how many people she had helped and that she had been an incredible woman and the biggest proof of that was her extraordinary daughter.
Kate felt the knot in her throat tightening and the tears that had been threatening to spill were suddenly running down her cheeks. It was too much. She couldn't take this anymore. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard; when she looked at the stage again, she saw him looking straight at her, a concerned look on his face as he wrapped up his speech. She tried to smile at him to let him know everything was fine, but failed miserably.
When a sob threatened to escape, she knew she had to get out of there.
She ran out to the closest balcony and leaned against the wall, trying to catch her breath and reign in her erratic emotions. She couldn't take this anymore. Her heart wasn't cut out to have so many feelings running through it at once.
Kate wasn't surprised when she heard the door open and close. She knew he would come after her, it was just who he is. He leaned against the wall next to her, their shoulders touching, and waited.
"I'm sorry." She broke the silence after a few minutes.
"You okay?" he asked and she could hear the concern in his voice.
"Yeah." She looked at him for the first time since he had found her and the look in his eyes almost took her breath away.
"You sure?" he insisted, taking her hand in his and she nodded.
"It was just… too much, you know? This fundraiser, everything you've done for me lately, my feelings, my mom… I just… it was overwhelming all of a sudden."
He pulled her into a hug and she felt the tears threatening to escape again.
"You know I'm always here, right? For anything you need, even if it's to do nothing at all." He murmured against her hair and she nodded.
"I know. You've been so good to me lately, Rick. I don't know what I'd do without you." She admitted and bit her lip, nervously. She wasn't sure if she was ready for an all out confession. "I just…" she trailed off, letting out a heavy sigh.
He touched her chin making her look at him.
"If you're happy, Kate, then that's all that matters to me." He said with a smile.
His hold on her tightened and she found herself leaning in involuntarily. Her lips touched his hesitantly and she let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding when he kissed her back. They started out slow, testing this unknown territory, but soon there was a fury of lips and tongues and teeth and she was fighting a moan that wanted desperately to escape. Her body was suddenly on fire and she couldn't get as close enough to him as she wanted. She felt rather than heard a growl and that made her abdomen tighten deliciously in anticipation of what could possibly come out of this.
She wanted him. Badly.
And now she could have him.