Disclaimer: All Castle characters are the property of Andrew Marlowe and ABC.

Author's note: I do believe this is the end of this story. I don't feel like going all AU, and since I doubt that this was what really happened between episodes, I figured I'd leave it here before tonight's show. Thank you for all of your encouragement over the past couple weeks. It's been fun!

P.S. I think Kate Beckett is the type of person to go after what she wants once she's sure of it. I also think Castle would be so scared of screwing this up that he'd try to take it slow. I think the contrast would be fun to watch. That's where a lot of this chapter comes from.

The shrill beeping of her phone woke Kate from a dead sleep. She struggled for a groggy moment to reconcile what seemed to be afternoon sun streaming through her bedroom window with the fact that she'd been soundly sleeping. Kate Beckett was not one to take afternoon naps. But today was an exception, she remembered as she checked the time. She had the day off and was due to be at Castle's in half an hour.

With a cat-like arch of her back, Kate stretched and sat up. After unpacking the groceries she had realized how tired she still was. She wanted to be able to stay awake during the movie marathon, so she decided to take a nap while she had the time.

Now, her sleepiness fading, she figured she'd better get moving. Her current jeans and sweater would be fine to wear over to the loft, but Alexis had mentioned pajamas as well. She wasn't completely sure the girl was serious, but knowing the Castle family, it was entirely possible.

It had been awhile since she had done laundry, and her two pairs of loose lounge pants needed to be washed. That left the tighter leggings. Oh well, she thought, Castle had seen her in them before, the time he stayed at her apartment during the Dunn case. She pulled out a faded green tee to go with them and stuffed both into an overnight bag.

She took a moment to brush the hair that had been mussed while she slept, then slipped on some comfy shoes, grabbed her bag and headed out. She was turning the key in the lock when she remembered the brownie ingredients she'd left in a box on the counter. Quickly, she reopened the door and, dropping her bags into the box as well, hoisted everything into her arms, locking the door as she left.

She was glad that Castle had given her the use of his Navigator, making her trip to his place comfortable and easy. Kate arrived quickly, parked and headed up in the elevator. At two minutes 'til three, she was knocking on the door to the loft.

It opened quickly and she saw a flash of red before two arms wrapped tightly around her waist. She leaned into the girl's embrace, saying hello as the teen's grinning father came to take the box from her hands and leaned in to kiss her on the cheek.

"Hey," he said softly.

"Hey yourself," she replied. "Do all of your guests get such a greeting?" she asked with a laugh.

It was Alexis who answered. "Nope, just the ones we love."

Kate felt her heart flutter. She wrapped one arm around the redhead's shoulder and the other around Castle's waist and they headed into the kitchen.

"Ah, well that's good," the detective said. "Because I only make brownies for the people I love."

She felt Castle leaning into her side and knew he would be hugging her if his hands weren't full at the moment.

They deposited the box in the kitchen and Alexis announced that she was going to pick movies, asking if Kate had any preferences. The detective requested something light, and the teen headed to the living room to make her choices, leaving the adults alone.

"Hey," Castle said again, wrapping his arms around Kate and pulling her into his warm embrace.

She laughed into his chest as he pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "You already said that, Castle." She felt him smile against her hair.

"What can I say, Detective Beckett? You render this writer a babbling fool, for I can find no words to describe your beauty."

She pulled back to look into his twinkling eyes. "Would you like a little wine with your cheese?" she teased, matching his smile.

His grin widened. "Why yes, actually, that sounds like a lovely idea. Red or white?"

"Your choice," she replied with a chuckle and released him to go retrieve a bottle. She busied herself emptying the box of brownie ingredients onto the counter.

"Hey Alexis," she called into the other room, "Do we wanna make the brownies now or later?"

"Can we stick to movie snacks for now and make the brownies when we do dinner?" the girl called back.

"Sure, I'll just put the ice cream in the fridge."

She left the rest of the ingredients where they sat alongside her overnight bag and deposited the four pints into the large freezer. When she turned around, she saw that Castle had returned with the bottle of wine and a pair of glasses. He had yet to open the bottle though, and Kate caught him eying her overnight bag.

"Are you spending the night?" he asked with a mix of hesitation and excitement.

She wasn't sure how the evening would turn out, so she dodged the question.

"Alexis told me to bring pajamas. Apparently you Castles like to get comfy for movie marathons."

"That we do," he replied, and she could tell he was going to drop the other topic, for now at least.

"She also told me you have a popcorn machine."

"Yes!" he exclaimed as he grabbed her hand and dragged her over to the corner of the kitchen where the machine stood, quickly removing the cloth cover.

"Alexis had a movie-themed birthday party a few years back, and I was going to rent one of these, but then I found out I could just buy one instead and I mean, really, who doesn't want their own popcorn machine. We've got movie theater butter and the flavored seasonings and everything to go with it, so if you want ranch or cheddar or caramel flavoring, you can have it. I wanted to get a cotton candy machine too, but I couldn't find one I liked, and Alexis said that was more carnival than movie theater anyway, so..."

He trailed off as he saw the amused look on Kate's face. She knew that he was an adult, a good father, and could be responsible and serious when the situation warranted. But the kid in him always made an appearance sooner or later.

"I'm sorry, I just get carried away, I-"

She quickly cut him off.

"I love movie theater popcorn," she said with a wink.

A smile bloomed on his face once again. "Then you've come to the right place. Come on, I'll show you how it works.

She watched as he pressed a few buttons, poured in the oil, measured out the kernels, and added a little salt. While they waited for the popcorn to pop, he stepped back, hands on his hips. Kate slid a hand through the gap between his arm and his torso, leaning into his side until he lifted his arm to rest on her shoulders.

"You know one of the things I love about you, Castle?" she asked, tilting her face up so she could see the quirk of his eyebrows.

"I love the joy you get from the little things, like popcorn and laser tag and magic tricks." She watched his eyes light up as he looked at her with a gentle smile. "You make me stop and smell the roses. No one has done that for me in a long time."

"Thank you for letting me," he said softly. "And I'll happily supply you with roses for the rest of your life if you'll promise to smell them."

She could tell by the tender look in his eyes that he meant every word but decided to tease him a little anyway.

"So what, you'll bring them in with my morning coffee and bearclaw?" she asked with a smirk.

"If it'll make you happy," he said, eyes still serious for a moment before Kate saw a hint of his usual twinkle. "There's actually a florist right next door to the coffee shop where I usually go. Though I'm not sure if I'll be able to swing it for those 4 a.m. crime scenes. I don't think they're open that-"

She cut him off again, this time with her lips pressed suddenly to his. Barely a second passed before he recovered from his surprise and responded, his mouth moving over hers. Her hands settled on his waist as his found their way into her long, wavy locks, pulling her closer to him. Their tongues barely touched and his groan vibrated into her. She shifted slightly, tucking her right hand under the hem of his tee shirt to stroke the soft skin at the base of his spine. She felt him shiver and he tore his lips away from hers.

"My God, woman! You're going to be the death of me!" His hands had dropped to her shoulders, but they still held each other close. She stroked his back again, and he nearly jumped, reaching behind him to grasp her small wrist and bring it up so he could kiss her hand.

She shut her eyes at the feel of his soft lips on her palm, opening them again to see a cloud of desire darkening his eyes. She was about to kiss him again when she heard Alexis calling out to them.

"Hey, are you guys about ready?"

"We'll be right there, sweetie," Castle responded, his voice sounding a little hoarse to Kate's ears.

"Okay, could you bring me a Sprite?"

"Sure thing," he answered before turning back to Kate.

"Maybe we could continue this later?" he asked, and she nearly laughed at the pleading in his eyes.

"That could probably be arranged," she agreed, with a satisfied smile. "Now, I'll go get our drinks while you take care of the popcorn."

She turned to head to the fridge to grab the Sprite, but Castle caught her wrist and pulled her back to him for one last chaste peck.

"I'm so glad you're here," he whispered, leaning his forehead against hers.

"Me too," she returned and lifted a hand to caress his cheek.

He let her go with a final squeeze, and watched as she sauntered over to retrieve a cold can of Sprite along with the bottle of wine and their glasses. She glanced back before she left the room, catching his appreciative gaze. He blushed when he realized she'd caught him staring at her, but she just winked and smirked at him, leaving him to pour the popcorn into tubs and gather the butter and other seasonings.

She plunked down on the other end of the couch from Alexis, leaving room for Castle in the middle.

"So what did you pick for us to watch?" she asked as she handed the redhead her can.

"Thanks," Alexis responded, settling back into the cushions of the couch. "I pulled out three, but if you've got any others you wanna watch, just say the word."

"Well, let's see what you've got," Kate said, picking up the first DVD case. "Ooh, Hitch. I love this movie...good choice."

"Yeah, Dad and I both like that one."

"Baby Mama...I haven't seen it, but I've heard it was pretty funny."

"Definitely, lots of quotable lines, you'll love it."

Kate picked up the third case. The cover made it look like an old sci-fi thriller, but it wasn't one she'd ever heard of.

"Lost Skeleton of Cadavra...yes!" Castle startled Kate with his gleeful shout as he entered the room and spotted the case in her hand.

"Hmm...if it's got you that excited, I'm not sure I want to watch it," she teased him.

"Please, Kate..." he turned on the puppy dog eyes. "I promise, if you want a light movie, there is none better."

Normally, she was immune to his begging, but she found herself giving in this time.

"Okay, what's it about anyway? It looks like an old sci-fi movie."

"Ah, but looks can be deceiving," he said with a grin. "Actually, it's more of a spoof on those movies. It's pretty recent, came out in 2001, I think."

"Yeah, it's one of Dad's favorites," Alexis piped up. "I was pretty leery of watching it the first time, Kate, but I think you'll really like it."

"Alright, then. Shall we watch it first?"

Castle took the case from her hands and happily popped the disc into the player, returning to the couch to plop down between his daughter and the detective.

Before long, the three were quite enjoying themselves, Kate laughing as Castle and Alexis both mouthed lines and made fun of the movie. She cracked up at the aliens' literal interpretation of English slang and the way you could see the seams on the monster's costume.

Castle had placed three tubs of popcorn on the coffee table in front of them, one seasoned with a cheddar cheese topping, one with caramel, and one with plain butter. Alexis favored the cheddar, while Kate ate primarily from the butter, and Castle dug into all three. Every so often, their hands would touch, and she would feel that spark of electricity between them.

On one such occasion, he stilled her retreat, wrapping his fingers around hers as they hovered above the buttered popcorn. She turned her head to look at him, a question in her eyes. He looked like he was about to say something, but then both heard a gentle cough on his other side.

"I'm gonna go get some more to drink. Do you guys want anything?" Alexis asked as she paused the movie and stood.

"No thanks, pumpkin, I'm fine. Anything for you, Kate?"

"Maybe a glass of water if it's no trouble?" Kate requested.

"Sure, be back in a minute."

Their brief moment had been interrupted, but she could still see something in his eyes.

"What is it, Castle?"

"Nothing, it's just...I can't believe it took us this long to get together."

"I know...we've both wasted a lot of time, haven't we?" she asked with a tinge of regret in her voice.

"Maybe, but maybe neither one of us were ready until now. Maybe we both needed to figure out what we wanted."

She sighed.

"As much as I hate to admit this, especially twice in one day, I think you're right," she said.

He grinned, but didn't tease her this time, simply lifted his arm and wrapped it around her shoulder, squeezing her into his side with his forearm so as to avoid getting butter and other toppings on her shirt.

"Alexis," he called into the other room. "Could you bring some napkins when you come back? I'd like to be able to put my arm around Kate, but I don't want to mess up her shirt."

"Okay," Alexis responded, and Kate could hear the laughter in the girl's voice. She turned to glare at the man sitting beside her.

"You just have no filter, do you?" Her tone was harsh, but she couldn't prevent the twinkle in her eyes.

"Well, honesty is the best policy, you know," he said, as he leaned in to place a kiss on the end of her nose.

Her musical laugh rang out. It had been many years since she had been this happy, and her normally guarded self was surprisingly okay with this open giving and receiving of affection. He had broken down her walls, not with a battering ram, but gently, brick by brick, until she realized what lay on the other side and began helping him.

Alexis returned with the napkins, and the water for Kate, along with a mug of tea for herself. Castle wiped his hands, and once they were clean, stroked Kate's shoulder and slung the other arm around his daughter, pulling her into him.

They turned back to the screen and Alexis pressed play again.

When the movie ended around five o' clock and the three had laughed so hard they were nearly crying, Castle stood and extended a hand to each of the women still on the couch.

"I don't know about you two, but I'm starting to get hungry. Shall we make some dinner?"

"Sure," Kate answered as she stood. "Alexis and I will get going on the brownies. What are you making?"

"Meatloaf, baked potatoes, and green beans, if that's alright?"

"Sounds good...I'm impressed that you can make more than just pancakes, Castle," she said with a wink.

"Hey, I'll have you know that I am an excellent cook...part of my creative nature, you know. That, and I couldn't feed my little girl take-out all the time."

"It's true, Kate," Alexis chimed in. "He is a good cook. Although, sometimes he gets a little too creative, if you know what I mean."

She leaned in close to the detective and whispered loudly, "If he ever offers you a s'morelette, just say no."

Castle feigned offense and stalked into the kitchen, the laughter of the women following behind him.

The three of them set about their tasks, Alexis retrieving bowls and spatulas and the mixer while Kate measured ingredients and instructed the teen on the 'secret family recipe of the best brownies ever.' She glanced up a few times to see Castle watching them with a soft smile as he prepared their dinner.

Soon enough they were pouring the batter into the pan and popping it into the oven. Kate was on her way to the sink with the bowl and spatula when a hand reached out and snagged her by the belt loop.

"Castle! What…" she exclaimed as he pulled her toward him.

"Bowl, please," he said, releasing her and holding out his hands. She rolled her eyes at him.


"You promised I could lick the bowl," he pouted.

"Oh, fine, take the bowl."

She left it in his hands and went to the sink to rinse her own hands. She turned around to see him greedily licking the spatula that he'd used to scrape the bowl. Alexis stood behind him, laughing.

"I'll be right back guys, I think I just heard my cell phone go off," the girl said before bounding up the stairs.

Kate just shook her head and surveyed her partner, whose mouth was ringed in gooey chocolate.

"Mmwhat?" he asked when he saw the way she was looking at him.

"You're a mess, Castle," she sighed as she sidled up to him. "We'd better get you cleaned up."

He started to set down the bowl on the counter behind him so he could pick up a hand towel. Before he could reach it, however, Kate had a hand on either side of his head, pulling him down to meet her mouth.

"Mmmthh," he grunted, surprised.

She wound her fingers into his hair, drawing him toward her. His hands found her waist and anchored her there. Their mouths met and she ran her tongue along the soft edges of his lips, wiping away the leftover brownie batter. One hand came up to her neck, holding her in place as he deepened the kiss, tasting chocolate and wine and a hint of buttery popcorn.

His groan echoed in her mouth and traveled down to pool in her belly, a deliciously warm sensation that she knew she would never tire of. She pulled him even closer until there was no more than half an inch between them from hip to shoulder.

His chest was warm and solid, and she could feel his heart racing against hers as he broke from her mouth to trail kisses and light nibbles across her cheek to her ear and then down to her neck where he lingered for a moment until proceeding to her collarbone.

It was her turn to moan, her breath heating and tickling his ear. Gently, she lifted his head so she could look into his eyes.

"All clean," she whispered breathily as he gazed at her with desire clear in his eyes. She pressed another kiss to his lips, allowing him to deepen it briefly before she heard footsteps on the stairs.

She didn't jump away, but she did step back to a more respectable distance. She watched his eyes open, but they were slightly glazed and unfocused, his lips swollen and his hair sticking up in the back.

Before his daughter could reenter the room, Kate picked up the bowl in one hand and grasped his arm with the other, dragging him to the sink, where she turned on the hot water.

"You dry," she whispered, smoothing his hair with a soft hand before turning to scrub the dishes in the sink. He hesitated for a moment until Kate saw understanding dawn on his face and he grabbed a towel.

"Hey, starting to smell good in here," Alexis said as she came into the room. Kate turned to see her opening the bottom oven to check on the meatloaf. "I think it's almost done, Dad."

She grabbed a potholder to squeeze one of the foil-wrapped potatoes, and it gave way easily.

"I'm gonna set the table. Do you guys want more wine, or something else to drink?"

Castle looked at the detective questioningly, and when she shrugged, he answered.

"If you'd just get us some water glasses, that'd be great. I think I've got a nice Bordeaux that would go well, but I'll have to check in a minute."

The two of them finished washing and drying the dishes while Alexis set the table. When the author went in search of the wine, Kate stepped in to help the girl carry the food and various condiments into the dining room.

They got everything situation, and soon Castle returned with an open bottle of wine and a pitcher of water. He handed the pitcher to Kate so she could fill all their glasses and pour a measure of wine into the goblets in front of the adults' place settings.

Then he sat, and they enjoyed dinner together, Kate complimenting Castle on his cooking from time to time. After a little while, she excused herself to check on the brownies, opening the top oven door and allowing the scent of rich chocolate to fill the air.

It wasn't long before the two Castles found their way into the kitchen to hover over her as she cut slices. They were all full, but couldn't resist the siren song of warm fudgy brownies and ice cream. Kate made them leave the brownies alone for a few minutes to cool just a little, and they all went to change into their pajamas before returning to the kitchen.

The three of them assembled their sundae creations, Kate choosing mint chocolate chip and chocolate syrup, Alexis picking butter pecan and pouring caramel sauce on top, while Castle pile a large scoop of strawberry ice cream on top of his brownie, adding more strawberries and chocolate syrup to the mound.

They returned the ice cream to the freezer and made their way back to the living room, settling into the couch again after Alexis switched Baby Mama for Lost Skeleton and pressed play. The rest of the evening was spent laughing at the antics on screen and enjoying their closeness. Right after Castle had put Hitch on and draped a blanket over the three of them, Martha came home. She helped herself to a brownie and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, joining them as they laughed at the foolish things people do when they're in love.

As the movie wound down, Kate lifted her head from Castle's chest to see Alexis asleep on her father's other shoulder. He stroked her hair to wake her up, but she was obviously still worn out from the lack of sleep in the past few days.

"I'll be right back," Castle whispered, and he gathered his daughter into his arms, carrying her upstairs to tuck her into bed. Kate's eyes followed him out of the room, looking after him with a soft smile.

"He's a good man," Martha spoke after a couple minutes of silence.

"I know," Kate replied, nodding.

"You're a good woman," the actress said then.

"Thank you," the younger woman said quietly.

"Welcome to the family, darling," the matriarch said, coming to stand next to Kate and rest a hand on her shoulder.

Kate felt her eyes fill with tears and looked up at the woman who had raised the love of her life.

"Thank you," she repeated, covering Martha's hand with her own. "I can't think of another family I'd rather be part of."

As Castle's mother bid her goodnight and headed up to bed, Kate sat quietly in the dark, absorbing the events of the past two days. So much had happened, and she'd never expected things to turn out like this. But for once, she was certain of her feelings.

"The heart wants what the heart wants," she said out loud to herself.

She startled slightly when his voice answered her. She hadn't even heard him come back.

"Why Detective Beckett, are you quoting your favorite author?" he asked with a teasing tone in his voice.

"No, I'm pretty sure you're the one who told me that," she replied, turning to meet his twinkling eyes with her own.

He pressed a hand to his chest and rolled his eyes into the back of his head.

"You wound me, dear Kate."

She stood and rolled her eyes at him.

"I think you'll live," she said, linking her arm with his. "Come on, Castle, I'm tired, let's go to sleep."

He stopped in his tracks.

"You're staying?" he asked timidly.

"If that's alright," she answered, feeling a little shy for a moment before her instincts took over. "Are you going to keep your hands to yourself?"

"Hey," he exclaimed. "I'm not the one who's been pulling people into passionate kisses all day!"

"Hmm, you're right," she said, considering him with a thoughtful look. He watched her warily.

"Well, I think it's about time you started, Mr. Castle," she said with a wink, swatting him playfully on the rear and leading him to his room.