She left Josh in the kitchen and turned on the shower, blanket still clutched roughly into her fists, the material scratching into her palms. A bath was usually the staple, but at that point it would have been too still, too much like warmth cooling into a freezing cocoon. She stripped off, her joints cracking, aching with the memories of ice creeping through her layers to start piling in the gaps; a blizzard in her bones. Steam rose off the tiles and her teeth gave an involuntary chatter. The water was too hot when she stepped under it but she let it spill over her, rivulets down her thighs, her chest, her arms as she crossed them over her stomach. It sets in, then, how close she came to the long-fingered embrace of death.
When she woke after the rescue, saw her boyfriend's face creased in concern and then his mouth spread wide in joy she got caught up, tangled in thoughts of being alive (of Ryan telling her Castle was fine, everyone was fine, and she was walking and breathing and smiling), and at the time, it was enough. Enough to make her think of chances and what happens next. She didn't think about what was going to happen when she was alone.
There's a knock on the bathroom door.
"Kate? You okay in there?"
Her heart constricted in her chest, burrowing further into its sturdy house of ribs, and she shut off the spray of water to call out an I'm fine, bundling a towel around her and opening the door to the worried furrow in his brow.
She didn't sleep. She simply dressed, clipped on her badge and snagged her gun into its holster, the weight a comfort against her hip as she walked out the door and made her way back to the precinct.
She's still finding it hard to get warm.
Josh sits across from her, compelled into doctor mode at what he reads as listlessness. He knows nothing of a bomb, that he has almost lost Beckett twice in the space of twenty-four hours, he only sees her fork picking through what's left on her plate, the line of her shoulders trying not to slump.
His continued concern is touching, and she knows she should be grateful that he is here in front of her, not off selflessly saving Third World countries, but she can't shake that he doesn't know what it is like to be that close to freezing, he doesn't know what it is like to come to grips with your existence in the flashing red letters of a countdown. It's not his fault, but she almost wants to blame him nonetheless.
She tugs a small smile across her teeth. "I think I'm going to bed. Thank you for dinner."
Standing, she walks around the table to press a quick kiss to his mouth, and then goes straight to her room. Exhaustion claims her before she even has time to think about whether or not sleep will come easy.
She wakes at three to the threat of eerie blue fading into darkness, sweat sending shivers down her neck. Josh stirs beside her but doesn't wake. Hauling a blanket off the foot of the bed, she grabs her phone from the nightstand and treads quietly to the living room, pulling her feet up under her on the couch, tucking the blanket into a shelter around her.
Castle picks up on the second ring and doesn't sound like he's been sleeping.
"Are you all right?"
There is no hello, no Kates or Becketts or hints of panic; there is just the acknowledgement that there is something wrong. This is all she has really wanted.
"Have you slept yet?" she asks.
"No. Don't change the subject. Have you slept?"
"I had a dream about the container."
There is a pause, and she hears the crackle of his breath, jagged and uncertain even through a cell phone. "What do you need?"
"I still feel cold, do you? It's like I'm still thawing."
"Tell me about it, the last time I wore this many pairs of socks I was in Aspen in December." There is another pause - one she smiles in while she waits for the continuation she knows is coming.
"Isn't Josh there?"
Her smile starts to sting, and she drops it. "He'll be up in a couple of hours I guess. But it's hard, Castle. He doesn't know."
This pause is the longest yet, radio silence threading through ticking seconds. He breathes out. "You can come here if you want. If you think it will help."
She sees his face from earlier in the day, something that looked like pain masquerading as a smile as he walked away, and doesn't give herself time to think about how she should say no. "See you soon."
"Hey Beckett? If this doesn't work you know my mother is a life coach, I'm sure that's pretty close to a therapist. I could definitely get you a discount."
The ride feels short, like she barely got out her door before she arrived at his. It's ajar, and as soon as she steps in and closes it behind her she feels a heavy warmth; clearly he's had the heat on for hours.
He appears around the corner from his study, and when she sees him she smiles, feels a little more cold seep from her bones.
"Your family doesn't mind that you look like you're preparing for a snowstorm?"
"They're coming home in the morning," he gestures to the couch and heads to the liquor cabinet, "But I think... maybe we should go away for a bit. Somewhere tropical. The Mediterranean, perhaps." An eyebrow waggle accompanies the last sentence.
She takes off her shoes and her coat and curls into the couch, watches him pour two glasses of whiskey and bring them over. "Sounds nice."
"I can book you a seat on the plane too, you know." He hands her a glass and sits down next to her, thigh bumping her toes. She doesn't shift, and he pulls a blanket over the both of them.
"I'm not sure you can investigate homicides via webcam."
"Clearly you don't watch nearly enough TV."
She grins into her drink, the spicy warmth smooth on her throat, and knows his eyes are on her.
"Is Josh going to mind that you're here?"
"If he doesn't understand it's his issue, not mine. He knows at least some of what we've been through recently."
Castle nods, his gaze on the liquid in his glass.
"You defused a bomb earlier today, Castle. Your family is out of town and I'm the only other person who knows what that feels like right now. I'm sure I can be forgiven for that."
He looks at her and she doesn't let her gaze waver, needs him to know that she is here for him as much as she is here for herself. He smiles.
"I guess it's not every day you get to save a city."
She smiles back, shakes her head. Then she moves, stretches her legs over his lap and rests her feet on his other side. He hesitates, then drops his free arm and rests his hand at her knee. His thumb circles the depression and she feels heat spread, soak into her skin and sinew beneath. Something in her gut starts to burn.
It's not an unfamiliar feeling when it comes to him. He is, after all, charming and attractive and she has spent more than one frustrated night alone wondering why she hasn't just jumped him and gotten it over with. It's both fortunate and not that she is particular about repercussions.
He clears his throat; his fingers tap against her tibia. "You never told me how you met Josh."
She's forgotten that things have to be on his mind too. There is something awkward about them still, she notices, as she gears up to tell him what she should have some time ago. They are always being careful, spending too much time mentioning and not discussing, skirting and not confronting. She remembers the warmth of the coffee cup between her fingers this morning, and tightens the grip on her glass.
"It was after you left for the Hamptons last summer. Lanie took me out and when I met him at the bar we went to I just... liked him."
Her gaze drops to his hand on her knee, his fingers still. She doesn't mention that she was the one to make Lanie take her out, that at first she only liked Josh because he was what Castle didn't embody and kept him around because she liked his bike and his skill in bed. He was a distraction, a remedy, the band-aid that she needed.
The admiration for passion and drive and his blessedly busy schedule came later - somewhere around the time that Castle came back. She still tells herself there's nothing wrong with that, that she knew those qualities were there all along, but whenever she looks back at those first few weeks of the fall the memories are always escorted by a twinge of guilt.
She swallows. "I still do like him," she sees Castle's expression turn questioning, expecting her addendum, "He's a good person and I know he wants to make it work."
"There shouldn't be a 'but'. That should be enough."
Castle picks up the hand picking at loose threads on the blanket. His fingers are warm around hers. "Not if it isn't what you want."
She squeezes his hand. "I have no idea what I want."
It's not entirely a lie, she reasons. She knows what other people want – Castle, Josh, but she is stuck in a stalemate with herself.
"To go to bed, by the look of it." He plucks the empty whiskey glass from where it rests against her stomach, and sets both his and hers on the table. "I can take you home if you want."
"Castle, that would basically defeat the purpose of coming over in the first place."
He shifts, uncomfortable. "Well, the guest—"
"Do me a favour and stop being a gentleman for five minutes. I trust you." She stands up, gestures for him to go first.
She does trust him implicitly; it's just herself she feels she has to keep an eye on. Her heart beats faster as she follows him down the hall, and she finds his room is as warm as the rest of the loft.
Her worries lessen as she lies down. As soon as she settles she feels tired, contentedly sleepy rather than trembling with exhaustion, and her muscles start to relax even as Castle gets in beside her and switches off the lamp.
"If you... dream anything again you'll wake me, right? Beckett?"
She turns towards him, searches out his form in the murky dark. She thinks about kissing him, how easy it would be to just roll the few inches to his face and find his lips with hers. She hasn't really kissed Josh since before, not in any kind of fiercely consuming way, and she is aching to feel something again. She banishes the thought.
"You don't have to worry about me, Castle."
He turns to face her, resting on an elbow. He feels close, his features are indistinguishable but he isn't far, his aftershave lingering at the edge of her senses.
"But my dearest Detective, if you wake up unsettled in the night I want to be able to take full advantage of your vulnerable state and indulge in some spirited post-nightmare cuddling. Trust me, I'm very comforting."
It's hard not to laugh (he, of course, cannot read her thoughts), and impossible not to take his bait. She leans in, finds the point where his breath catches across her mouth. "Who said I needed to have nightmares for you to comfort me?" Her words are whispers across his face, and she grins when she hears his sharp inhale. Then she rolls back over and faces the wall, pulling the covers tighter around her, waits for his response.
It doesn't come. There is only silence and she simply feels a shift, then the line of his arm against her back, the press of his nose into the highest notch in her spine.
Her eyes squeeze shut when he breathes out, long and slow, and she doesn't know if she's holding back affection or tears.