Title: The Light
Category: TV Shows » Castle
Author: greygirl03
Language: English, Rating: Rated: M
Genre: Angst

Title: The Light (loosely based on the song by Sara Bareillas)

Disclaimer: Sadly the amazing show that is Castle does not belong to me, nor does Nathan Fillion (as amazing as he his)!

Spoilers: Through Set-Up and Countdown

Rating: M (due to sexually explicit material)

A/N: Okay. So I know that some of you might want to very well kill me for posting this when all of my other stories are still (unfinished) in the works. And so to that I must tell you that when you have a thought that you cannot get out of your head day or night, sometimes the best way to get it out is to put it down on paper. And so that is exactly what I did. I realized at some point over the course of the last week that I haven't once written a Castle ficlet with Kate and Castle as being together together and promptly decided to fix that. I will warn you this ficlet contains a little bit of everything. It has Angst, Drama, and some very intense sexually explicit moments towards the end (Castle/Kate), which is why it's rated M. I hope that you will check it out and give it a read. I put a fair amount of work into it. So...well...without any more delay here it is. Please please please review if you like it. I feel like I put so much emotion and thought into this one. Thanks for reading!

**By the way, for those of you who are into classical music, I make a specific reference to the ballad from Nessun Dorma. I chose this song for a very specific reason. Not only is it one of the most beautiful pieces ever sung/written it also literally means "No one sleeps. No one sleeps. Even you, O Princess...) Seriously, if you haven't heard it before, you must. You won't regret it! Cheers!

In the morning it comes, heaven sent a hurricane
Not a trace of the sun but I don't even run from rain
Beating out of my chest, my heart is holding on to you
From the moment I knew

The first time Castle heard the knock at his door he thought it was something he had imagined deep in recesses of his own mind. He was on the brink of sleep and music wafted through the air around him as he stared into the depths of his fireplace. He'd rarely used it before, but in this case he couldn't resist. He'd told Alexis and Martha to stay the night in the Hamptons, since he hadn't given them the all clear until only a couple hours previously. He wanted to be sure that the bomb had been disassembled and its remnants removed from the city before he let his loved ones back inside. And as much as he'd told himself that it was for their safety and benefit, he'd also put off the call for his own selfish reasons. The truth was, he was rattled...more so than he'd ever been before. In all senses of the words spoken by the serial killer he had once met face to face, he was fascinated by death. But today? Today he had gotten far too close to death. Hell, he'd gotten so close that he'd practically looked death square in the eyes. At the very least he'd seen his life flash before them, and that was enough to make him really question whether he'd finally taken his obsession too far. His last moments had become a seemingly endless string of photographs of his own life, from when he was a young boy, to when Alexis was growing up, to the first day he met Kate and beyond. And so now? Now he felt like he needed to be alone. He felt like he needed to reflect on his life. He wanted to be able to look back on his life with something more than regret. He wanted to be able to fess up to his mistakes and vow never to repeat them. But more importantly, he vowed never to take advantage of the good moments in life as he had so many times before.

He let out a another sigh, a long, deep, and ragged breath, as his thoughts drifted to one person with sea-green eyes and wavy brown hair. He reckoned that she was his greatest regret of all. And even though she had never really been his to begin with, Castle still felt as if he had lost her somehow. Of course there was a good possibility that he never even stood a chance when it came to the sophisticated, beautiful detective, but it was still hard to think about. After all, Kate Beckett was extraordinary, and well, Castle seemed to be a child-like nuisance who made her job harder. He was would always be remembered for pulling her pigtails, but in the end all he really was, was a nobody.

Castle closed his eyes, wishing that he could drift off into a calm dreamless sleep so he could be blissfully unaware of the ache currently residing in his chest (and the rest of his body). He wished that he could shrug off the feelings of hurt and rejection he felt after today. Sure, it was his own fault, because he had turned his back on her in the end. But it had still hurt to walk away. His heart ached even though she'd never rejected him outright.

The more he thought about it, the more that Castle wished that he could go back in time and tell Kate what he'd wanted to say in that isolation tent, as well as what he'd wanted to say to her before the bomb went off. But most of all, he wished he could go back to the precinct and stand his ground. Instead, he'd chickened out. In every sense of the words, Castle had "copped out." He'd seen Josh approaching over Kate's shoulder and suddenly all his instincts were telling him to cut his losses and run. To run like hell nonetheless, and so it he did. He could only assume that she would have turned down his offer for dinner anyways.

He tried not to think about what she might be doing now. He could only assume that she was with her boyfriend, celebrating life with the man she loved.

A violent shiver worked its way up his spine, and he curled up even more under the blankets. Upon reaching home, he had taken what he could only assume was the longest shower known to man. He had turned the water to its maximum temperature, just letting it wash over him until he exhausted all of it and none was left. He doubted that he would ever be able to get rid of the chill that seemed to be housed deep in the marrow of his own bones. The shower still did wonders for his spirits though. During the shower, the water felt as if it were doing more than just simply cleansing him, but rather, it felt like he was being reborn. After all, everything about him was different now. Somehow, profound events like that of the afternoon, left him a changed person. He doubted that he would ever be able to be as carefree as he had only a couple of days before.

Yet another violent shiver overtook his body as he wrapped his blankets tighter around himself and closed his eyes. He was still so tired and cold, and was determined to loll himself into sleep as he lay on the couch in front of his fireplace. He was about to drift off as another loud knock sounded at the door. He jumped slightly, his body on edge and his muscles tight. He let out another deep sigh of frustration as he opened his eyes, and let them dart to the clock over the mantel. It was nearly two in the morning. His brow furrowed as his guest knocked a third time. Now he was sure someone was there, and with great reluctance he slipped out from beneath the pile of blankets covering him. As he slid out from beneath their warmth, he missed the warmth they provided him immediately. He inhaled deeply as he walked, fresh smells of peppermint tea and hot chocolate were abundant in the air. In order to gradually warm his body, and prevent dehydration, Castle continued to drink the warm liquids almost constantly since he'd been home.

He was a little sluggish as he padded his way across the apartment, the floor creaking ever so slightly underneath his feet. It took him a while, but made it to his goal nonetheless. He wondered who on earth that it could be at the late hour, and stepped up to the door, looking through the peephole, in order to discern the identity of the person outside. His heartbeat picked up its pace and he nearly choked on the air in his lungs when he saw Kate Beckett. For a moment he contemplated walking away and pretending that he didn't hear her. After all, it was in the middle of the night, and he could easily have been asleep.

He looked down at the socks on his feel, slowly letting his eyes slide upwards as he judged his own state of dress. Even with the shower, and a fresh set of clothes, Castle knew that he had to look awful given the circumstances of the last few days. He hadn't slept in days, and therefore had large bags under his eyes. He was sure that he'd gained a few more lines to his face and felt like he'd aged years in only the span of a few days. He expelled a big breath, deciding that he had to face the music sooner or later. With another breath, he decided that it might as well be sooner.

You are the air in my breath filling up my love soaked lungs
Such a beautiful mess intertwined and overrun
Nothing better than this, oh, and then the storm can come
You feel just like the sun
Just like the sun

For a brief moment, Castle squeezed his eyes shut as he tried to muster up enough courage to open the door. Finally, with a flick of his wrist and a pull of his bicep he was throwing it open to find, a very bewildered Kate Beckett standing on his doormat.

It was interesting to see Kate's reaction, as it immediately became obvious that Kate was just as clueless as to why she was at Castle's apartment as Castle was. Castle swallowed over the lump in his throat as he drank in the wonderful sight of her. Despite the events of the last few days she looked as beautiful and immaculately put together as ever. He could only assume that she'd taken some time to clean up as well. She wore a tight fitting gray cardigan sweater that really accentuated her eyes, and a pair of nice deep black dress pants. On top of those she was bundled in a long wool coat. He watched with mild bemusement as Kate started doing that thing with her hands that she always did when she was nervous, or when she had nothing to do with them. He watched her eyes dart to and fro, as she couldn't seem to focus on one thing. It was quite rare for Kate to act so vulnerable, and Castle could not help but wonder to why she looked so conflicted in regards to her own presence. He looked away as he recognized a fleeting emotion that crossed her perfectly sculpted features. It seemed to be a cross between guilt and something else. Regret perhaps? He wasn't sure. But it was obvious that Kate felt as if she was outside of her element. Usually, she was always bolstering with confidence. And she has to be, when she constantly has to go up against some of the worst scum New York City has to offer, people who, Castle wouldn't dare touch with a ten foor pole.

Kate Beckett was brave and rarely demonstrated fear. She rarely ever showed emotion, if at all, but today had been no different for her as it had been for Castle. She'd been afraid. For the first time in her life, she'd had to contemplate that her job might bring about her demise. She had been truthful when she said she'd always thought she'd take a bullet. In this case, there would have been nothing left of her at all, and it was hard not to think about how close she'd come. But what scared her even more, was that she felt as if she only wanted to be around one person, and that person was not Josh. She wanted to be near someone who she knew would understand her feelings completely. She wanted to be near Castle.

"Kate," Castle finally managed to choke out something slightly resembling her name. He couldn't help but sound a little surprised by her appearance. Kate's eyes darted up to meet his. His stomach suddenly felt queasy as he watched a slight flush work it's way up her neck. She tried to hide this, of course, by reaching up to rub at the warm, perhaps slightly feverish skin. "I wasn't expecting you..." Castle breathed honestly, not sure of what to say. Castle watched as Kate's eyes darted to several different places, while at the same time taking care to avoid the vicinity of Castle's eyes. Castle swallowed, feeling a very distinctive tension building with each passing second. He doubted that either one of them would have been able to define what the cause of said tension was exactly purely for the reason that they were both in such denial of the truth. Finally, as it became nearly too much, Castle realized that he needed to make the first move, otherwise there was a good possibility that they could be standing in his doorway for the rest of the night. His palms began to sweat as he curled them into fists, trying to ease the lightheaded feeling that Kate always instilled in him. With a slight pause, he was able to muster up enough coherent thought necessary to speak. "So, to what do I owe this honor, detective? Would you like to umm…come inside?" Castle watched another expression pass across her features and suddenly wondered if he'd said something wrong that needed immediate correction. He waited anxiously for Kate's reply. His eyes kept darting to the floor beneath his feet and to the blank face of the wall behind where Kate stood.

"I…" Kate swallowed thickly. Her voice was thick with fatigue, and slightly raspy due to the degree of her dehydration. "I'm…umm…I'm sorry. For once, I actually don't really know why I wound up here…I just," Kate cut herself off again as she ran her hands tiredly over her face. She cleared her throat and then spoke again. "You know what? I'm just going to go before I waste anymore of your time…I…I'm sorry I bothered you," Kate spoke in a rushed and slightly panicked voice. She tried to step out the door, but there was no way Castle was going to let her leave, especially when he wanted to know why it was that she had come to him.

"No! Kate, wait a minute. Please!" Castle spoke her name as she took a step backwards, intending to flee from his apartment before she had ever really entered. Castle reacted quickly, unwilling to let her leave.

He should have known better when she showed up at his door in the middle of the night, looking slightly dazed and conflicted that it was going to be an interesting night.

"Kate," Castle decided to take a more authoritative tone, "Come inside. Please." Kate looked into Castle's eyes for a moment, as if testing the waters. Her heartbeat started to thunder in her chest, and Castle stepped aside as he beckoned her in to the loft for the second time. Before she could retreat again, his wrist gently tugged her inside before he ultimately closed the door behind her, trapping her inside. He drew her a few more steps inside to undercurrents of relaxing classical music. Specifically, the voice of Luciano Pavoratti could be heard wafting through the air, filling Castle's otherwise silent loft with Nessun Dorma. Wordlessly, he helped her out of her jacket and took it from her, hanging it next to the door. She stood frozen, not sure what to do or where to go.

Reading her uneasiness fairly well, Castle slid his arm around her gently, pulling her inside. Quickly, he led her into the living room, picking up one of the thickest afghan blankets he had been previously huddled under. Without a word, he was slipping it around her shoulders. As he looked away, briefly trying to straighten up the apartment a little bit, Kate closed her eyes, savoring one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. Discreetly, she inhaled Castle's scent from the blankets. She took several deep breaths, just trying to drink him in. His scent offered a very deep sense of comfort to her, though she wasn't exactly sure why it was so. His scent was sweet. It was that of Castle mixed with the scent of expensive top of the line cologne. As he finally turned back around to face her, she relaxed her shoulders, allowing them to fall back to their normal height.

"Sorry it's a little messy in here," Castle apologized quickly. "I wasn't really expecting anyone, tonight."

"Are you sure it's okay for me to be here?" Kate inquired anxiously. "I didn't even realize that it's like two in the morning. I just…couldn't sleep."

"I know the feeling," Castle replied honestly. "Kate, in all truth and honesty, I'm glad you're here."

"You are?" Kate's voice faltered slightly in surprise.

"Yeah, I've been listening to music all night, just hoping that it will mellow me out a bit. At the very least I was hoping it would relax me enough to go to sleep at some point," Castle explained, "but I wasn't having much success and frankly I was starting to get a little lonely. Even with the music, it is way too quiet in here."

"I know," Kate replied, "I'm so used to laser tag, or poker, or movies on the big screen. It is ridiculously quiet in here." Kate took a look around. The sheet still hung from the ceiling. Castle had hooked up his laptop to it when they were working the case earlier. Castle, who seemingly noticed her discovery, quickly walked over and tugged it down. She jumped slightly as Castle grabbed her hand gently in his. Leading her towards the kitchen while insisting she have a cup of warm hot cocoa or tea. Reluctantly, she accepted as she realized she didn't have much of a choice. Castle made her sit down while he started making a couple of expressos, using his own personal machine. Of course, they both knew that the expressos would have plenty of caffeine in them, but by this point, Kate and Castle both seemed to accept that they would be far too wound up to consider sleep tonight. After all, there was no high like that of saving an entire city.

And in all frankness, both simply wanted the other's company. Although it was blatantly obvious that neither one of them would admit to that fact out loud. For those observing Kate and Rick's relationship from afar, their attraction and chemistry would be obvious. To them, they were blind to it. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that a great deal of their trusting relationship lies in the unspoken. Their relationship really is all about the things that they think but never have the courage to voice aloud. The evidence supporting this notion can be found in the way they walk side-by-side, arms and hands brushing while they not so subtly steal glances of one another. And even though it would seem obvious to some, Kate and Rick were so comfortable in their relationship that they preferred to pretend that some of the most obvious signs didn't exist. After all, why ruin a good thing right? Especially something as precious and successful as their partnership. So instead, Kate and Castle settled for the comfortable friendship and the trust that comes with it. They're usually amusing banter was far too valuable and far too precious to be jeopardized.

"I have to say," Castle said finally as he watched Kate take her first ginger sip of her latte. "I never expected to see you until Monday. I figured you would be out celebrating with doctor motor cycle boy tonight."

"I told you to stop calling him that," Kate reprimanded, but she couldn't keep her expression stern enough for him to take her seriously.

"What?" Castle shrugged innocently, taking a sip of his own coffee. "Think of it as a term of endearment. After all, it is...sort of."

"Sort of?" Kate laughed.

"Hey," Castle smiled. "He saved my life last night. I have to like him now."

"Both our lives," Kate corrected. Castle felt a pang of regret. After all, it was true, without Ryan, Esposito, or Josh, neither of them would be alive at this moment. Castle found himself setting down his coffee as a silence built between them.

"So..." Castle swallowed, his voice cracking, "How are you feeling?"

"Fine," Kate reassured him, "A little cold, a little tired, but I'm okay."

"Good," Castle smiled, happy to hear she was alright. He suddenly realized that she was probably much better equipped to deal with events like the day before than he was. "You know, you're a true hero now? And you're getting a medal from the mayor. You saved the entire city."

"It's funny how you seem to be forgetting your role in the chronology of events, Castle," Kate replied cheekily. "If anything, you're the one who saved the day, not me." Her expression held conviction as she spoke her next words intensely. "I swear. If it had been up to me, the bomb would have gone off and the United States would be reliving 9/11 all over again. I would have just been standing there like an idiot."

"That's not true," Castle guffawed at that statement, though he realized that maybe, just maybe, it was.

Kate swallowed, deciding to argue. "Yes it is. Frankly, the best I could hope for, was that it was a dud and wouldn't go off." Kate shook her head. "I...I still can't believe you did that."

"Why?" Castle asked, "We were going to die anyway. I figured we had nothing to lose."

"We didn't, but we were still lucky," Kate breathed. "Very lucky... Needless to say, I am never doing something like that again. Ever."

"I'd really hope that it's something that only happens once in a lifetime," Castle replied as he rubbed at his jaw. "Because I don't think I could take it a second time. I nearly had a heart attack."

"Me too," Kate admitted. And it was true. For the briefest moment, her heart had stopped.

"It kind of makes you wonder, though, doesn't it?" Castle asked finally, repeating a question they had both brought up earlier in the day.

"You mean that it makes you wonder how many times stuff like this happens and we have no clue about it?" Kate ellaborated further.

"Yeah," Castle replied tersely, taking a sip of his own hot exspresso. He caught her eyes for a brief moment. "Do you mind if I ask you something?"

"That depends," Kate smiled, "Is it like all of the other usually ridiculous questions that annoy the hell out of me?"

"For once? No. It's just...I've kind of been wondering. Why did you hesitate?" Castle shook his head. "I mean… you're the infamous, extraordinary Kate Beckett. You're not afraid of anything."

"You honestly want to know how I feel about that, Castle?" Kate said honestly.

"I wouldn't be asking if I didn't want to know," Castle nodded, encouraging her to continue.

"Okay. Well, I think that anyone who tells you they're not afraid of death is an outright liar," Kate said simply. "And so that was it. I...was scared. I honestly thought that we were going to die…that the bomb was going to go off and that would be it. No more Kate Beckett." Castle opened his mouth to speak but closed it when he realized Kate wasn't finished. "I step out the door of my apartment everyday, wondering if I'm going to ever walk back through it." Kate let out a sigh. "For a long time, I swore up and down that I wasn't afraid of the possibility I might die someday. I mean, I told you in the freezer that I've thought I was going to die before...that I would take a bullet and that would be it." Castle could scarcely breath as Kate confided in him her true feelings. He had always seen her as this confident, fearless detective, who wasn't afraid of anything. But even she was human. And she obviously feared the unknown just as much as anyone else. It made him feel better about his own insecurities and fears. His heart swelled as he realized that his love for her went so much deeper than he ever realized. He fell in love with based on her confidence, her intelligence, her witty retorts, and her unrelenting determination. And yet, he'd fallen even deeper in love with her as he realized she could be just as equally vulnerable. She could be so incredibly passionate and empathetic when it came to victims. "I used to be unafraid, perhaps even ignorant in regards to violence and murder. Before my mother's murder, I don't think I had ever thought about death and how cruel it really was and the sort of effect that it had on people you love and care about. All those years I took my relationship with my mother for granted, and now I would give anything to go back and relive the best moments. I just wish I would have realized how valuable our relationship was before and not just after." Kate looked away as she choked back tears.

"We all have things we wish we could go back and change," Castle breathed softly, as he reached out and gave her hand a squeeze.

"It's funny really," Kate broke the building silence. "How it seems like the more you live the more you fear death. The fact is, when you're a kid you don't seem to have a care in the world. You're ignorant to all the dangers around you. You're annoyed that your parents are always worrying about you, and act like something is going to happen to you at any given minute. It's because they know...they know about everything that happens out there in the world, good or bad, and it becomes their job to be your protectors until you realize it all for yourself."

"Isn't that the truth?" Castle cut in. Kate smiled as she realized that he knew all of this firsthand because of Alexis. "You know, I still watch Alexis sleep sometimes? She thinks it's creepy, but I just can't help it. She's...she's just so precious, and she will always be my little girl no matter how much she grows up. I just can't help but constantly worry about her. I think it's because I know that she always wants to see the best in people, and in some ways that scares me more." He swallows, "Maybe it sounds strange, but sometimes I'm glad that I can come home and share stories with her about our cases so that I can remind her how important it is to be safe and smart."

"She's smart, Castle," Kate said, her heart swelling. She knew how much Castle loved his daughter and expected that he would do anything for Alexis or Martha. What she failed to realize, however, was that he would also do anything for her. Castle cherished Kate for everything she was, and because he knew Alexis looked up to her and admired the detective so much.

"Yeah," Castle's eyes twinkled. "Well, she has to be. I mean, she practically raised herself. You know, despite my best efforts, I still can't figure out how she turned out so amazing. Especially after having a screw up like me for a father. I mean...I'm practically a kid raising a kid. If anything, she was the one who raised me."

"You really wonder?" Kate sounded surprised. Her heart beating faster in her chest. She wasn't sure why, but his words struck a chord in her. In a way, what he was saying made her love him more. "Castle, she turned out the way she did because you loved her, unconditionally. I mean, you may not have been the perfect father, but you gave her what counted." Kate swallowed over the lump in her throat as she became somewhat emotional. "I don't think you realize how truly wonderful you are as a father." Kate looked away quickly after this admission. Not that she would ever admit it out loud, but she had thought about it once, her and Castle raising a family. She'd imagined the sort of crazy things he would do, what it would be like to have mini-Castle's running around their apartment.

"Thank you," Castle said gratefully after the words were processed.

"It's nothing," Kate tried to shrug it off, but Castle wouldn't let her.

"No...It means a lot that you said that," Castle smiled. "Thank you, Kate."

"Well," she decided to roll with it. "It's the truth." Castle cleared his throat. "So," Kate managed to choke out a second later as her heart skipped a beat. "I'm sorry. I forgot. What is it we were talking about?"

"How innocence and childhood somehow lead to growing up and developing a fear of death," Castle replied.

"Oh right," Kate choked out. "Well, I guess what I was trying to say was that as all these years pass, and you start to build all of these connections to others around you, and you become bound to life in every sense of the word. I think you start to realize the true value of family, of falling in love, and you realize how precious life really is. And then one day, when you're walking down the sidewalk, looking at those around you, you realize that you don't want to leave this place. You realize that no matter how spiritual you are, whether you're sure you're going to heaven or not, that you're still afraid of the concept of passing into the unknown. And then, inherently you realize that you would do anything to cling to life if you could." Kate shook her head, trying to find the right words to continue her earlier dialogue. "So I guess...what I'm trying to say is that...that is why I didn't pull the wires. I was scared to pull them because I was afraid, and I felt like I had too much to lose. The fact is, I'm past the point where I'm okay with leaving, Castle. I don't want to go. I just...want to live."

"Hey, Who says you're going anywhere?" Castle said finally, "Kate, the fact that you know the value of life and have a will to live means that you'll stick around for a long time."

"How do you know that?" Kate asked quietly. "It doesn't take much anymore. One bullet and that could be it..."

"Perhaps its just the writer in me, but I've always felt like the human will is one of the most powerful and profound things in the world," Castle breathed. "You hear astounding stories of survival everyday. I think...that if you want it badly enough, and fight with everything you've got, that you can overcome insurmountable odds."

"Is that so?" Kate challenged.

"Yes." Castle answered. "Think of it as one of my beliefs." A silence built between them for a moment as they held each other's eyes. It didn't matter. She knew that if anything ever happened to her that he'd be there, helping her through it. Her breathing hitched as she came to this realization. Somehow, she managed to catch herself in her own thoughts, and with determination, she decided to change the subject.

"Hey, this might seem like a strange question," she finally spoke quietly, "but have you wondered what they'd be saying about us right now, if we'd been blown up yesterday?" Kate asked aloud.

"Well," Castle drawled slowly, "I really can't imagine the words about me would have been very kind."

"You're kidding me right?" Kate burst out, "Castle, everyone in this city, including the mayor, love you!"

"Kate," Castle shook his head, "Most of it is superficial. The fact is, there aren't a whole lot of people out there who know the real me... well, save for you and some of the other boys at the 12th. To most of the city I'm just some playboy who writes good mystery novels, but if I had things my own way it would be different."

"How so?" Kate found herself asking.

"Well, for starters I'd have a family, and a mother for Alexis. Not just someone who likes me for my money, but someone who is stable and who loves me for who I am, not just the good but the bad too." Kate took a deep breath as she realized the truth. And it was true. She probably knew Castle better than most of his zealous, obsessive, stalker-like fans. Castle swallowed and then continued, coming across as a bit cynical "Though none of that would have really mattered anyways." A beat. "The blast probably would have killed thousands of others along with us, so we would have been a couple of little blips in a long list of names." Kate stopped breathing as she realized for the first time that she'd left out the thousands of others who would have died with them. After all, if the bomb had gone off in central Manhattan, the blast radius would have killed thousands, with the initial wave alone. Then, of course, there was the second wave to think about. The aftermath would have caused high levels of radiation to sweep through most of the island, killing thousands more with radiation poisoning. Another violent shiver worked its way up Kate's spine at the thought. She suddenly felt selfish and guilty for getting so wrapped up in her own feelings. But she had to quickly tell herself that it was okay. Because the bomb didn't go off. And the city hadn't been wracked by what may have been an event considered worse than 9/11 itself.

"Gosh, I didn't really think about that. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts," Kate admitted guiltily, looking down to stare at the dark liquid in the mug currently warming her hands.

"You don't have to feel guilty about that, you know?" Castle seemed to know everything going through her head. She quickly looked up, her emotions continuing to flash across her face and jaw. "I forgot about them too, initially. It's just so easy to think about it in terms of you and I. Because we're the only ones that really know about it." Kate found herself nodding. She was extremely grateful to him for his words and his understanding. Somehow they calmed her and made her feel less selfish.

"I just can't help but imagine that Nikki Heat would have wound up being some poetically tragic way to carry on our memory," Kate found herself admitting. "Hell, they probably would have put a quote from one of your books on my gravestone," Kate continued as she locked eyes with a very sad looking Castle.

"You've already put a lot of thought into all of those things, haven't you?" Castle asked finally with a morose expression. "More than you should have had to." Castle swallowed, taking a sip of the scalding hot liquid. "I should probably apologize…"

"For what?" Kate bit out. "Because for once in our long sordid partnership, it wasn't you that got us into trouble. Rather, you were the one who got us out of it." Kate let out a self-depreciating laugh. "I mean…who would have ever thought that Richard Alexander Rodgers could be an actual hero, but there you are..a hero if I ever saw one. You, the plucky sidekick, wound up saving the day, and no one will ever be the wiser." Castle let out a small laugh at that. "That's what bothers me," Kate spoke as she watched him shake his head back and forth in denial. "You criticize me, but what about you? I mean…shouldn't you be acting high on life right now? In all truth and honesty, I expected that you would be basking in the afterglow right now…."

"Afterglow? What on earth is that supposed to mean?" Castle replied, shaking his head. "You make it sound like I planned on exploiting the situation for my own benefit."

"No," Kate looked distressed, upset that he mistook her words for a different meaning. "That's not what I mean at all."

"Okay," Castle said slowly, "So you just thought that I was going to call a few of my press buddies and leak the story. Or perhaps you thought that I might tell them the story, claiming that I was a hero, and expect a parade to be held in my name or something."

"Castle, please." Kate's voice was emphatic. "You know that's not what I meant."

"But isn't it?" Castle's brow furrowed. "Kate, I'm not stupid. Your first impression of me still lingers in the back of your mind." Castle swallowed uncomfortably. "The fact is, I see it nearly every time you roll your eyes at me. Look, I get it... I'm the class clown! And despite what you might think, I really don't blame you for thinking that I'm arrogant, self-centered, annoying, and some other not so nice adjectives. The only thing I ask is that you don't pretend that you feel any differently."

"You might be surprised to hear it, but I don't think that about you so much anymore, Castle," Kate admitted. "Look, I have to say that my first impression of you was about as bad as they come, but over course of the past couple of years, I realized that its not who you are. It's all just an act."

"An act?" Castle's brow furrowed, clearly not prepared for that response.

"Yeah, an act," Kate cut back in, "Because that's exactly what it is, Castle. The fact is, you play the role of the self-centered, egotistical, obscenely rich author, who thrives under attention, and frankly, you're really good at playing the part. Only someone who looks close enough to see behind the mask you put up would know any better. I think that if people looked hard enough, they would realize that inside you're a big softy, whose main goal in life is to make a difference." Kate swalowed thickly, not sure if he would be angry with her for analyzing him much like he did to her on a daily basis. "Your generous, compassionate, and your drive to tell the story means that a lot of people's memory will be carried on. In many ways, it has given others closure that they might not have gotten otherwise. I mean... Just think about all of the lives you've affected in the last two years alone. Think about what you've done for me, Castle. You gave away a hundred thousand dollars just because you wanted to help me catch my mom's killer. I mean...you forced me to relive some things that I'd rather not have had to go through, but yet, I'm grateful to you for doing that because it brought me that much closer to getting the closure I've needed for so long. That's not even mentioning all of the other lives you've affected. Just think about it for a minute! Jordan Shaw and a dozen other members of the FBI would be dead if you hadn't seen through his antics. Hell, I might not be alive if it wasn't for you." Castle swallowed.

"That's not true," Castle shook his head. "Kate, you're the real one who makes a difference. "I'm just a tag along."

"That's a lie and we both know it," Kate swallowed. Castle opened his mouth to protest, but Kate wouldn't let him. "Don't! I'm not done Castle!"

"You want to know what you really want out of life?" Kate asked pointedly, in hopes of getting him to listen, "Because I'm pretty sure I have that figured out too. I met you purely by chance. I was a detective who, despite her wishes, had to go talk to some egotistical mystery writer about a copy cat. I didn't see it then, but I see it now. Castle, you were not happy with the way your life was before. You got sick of all of the press, the book signings, because somehow over the last few years, it has just become tedious, monotonous. It got to the point where you could predict anything that was about to happen down to a T and it drove you insane that no one ever dared to challenge the status quo. And therefore, you...you want something different, which is why you latched onto me and the case that was presented to you. The fact is, you want your life to be exciting. You want to be surprised, and you want to feel the adrenaline rush that you get every time you storm a building. You, Richard Castle, want to be surrounded by an environment that can't be easily predicted. Which is why you've fallen in love with what you do at the 12th, and which is why you want more than anything to be able to set down the laptop and stop writing altogether." Kate kept his gaze as she said. "You got bored with your characters and the fact that you always knew exactly what your characters were going to do. You got sick of always knowing the ending to the story. And so, for that very same reason, you put a bullet in the back of Derek Storm's head. You're just as sick of playing the part, Castle. You want more. You need more in your life. Which is why you're standing here with me at this very minute." Kate stared back as Castle just stood in front of her his expression full of surprise. At some particular points, his jaw had tightened during her little speech. In particular, he seemed to be just as uneasy about the whole thing as she expected.

"Castle," Kate choked out weakly. "You're not angry with me...are you?"

"No," Castle shook his head, looking away. Kate felt uneasy as she watched Castle push himself up to sit down on the counter briefly. "I guess I'm just trying to figure out how you know more about me right now, than I seem to know about myself."

"Because I'm right," Kate stated, with a slight inflection to her voice.

"Partially," Castle admitted, "Look, everyone gets bored with writing sometimes, Kate. I'm not sure if I'm ready to quit yet, but you're right about the rest of it. I got sick of living that life. It... It left for a lot of wanting." Kate watched him as he ran his hand over his jaw tiredly, "The truth is that I like what we do. It... It challenges me in ways I've never been challenged before." Castle met her eyes as, looking troubled as he asked a surprising question.

"What am I doing, Kate?" Castle asked finally. "Do you think I'm stupid for playing make pretend with a bunch of NYPD detectives?"

"That's not what you're doing and you know it," Kate argued. "Castle, you think outside of the box, and that makes you a huge asset to our unit. I've probably gotten to know you in more ways than you ever intended." Then she added. "You stopped a bomb from going off."

"That was nothing more than dumb luck and you know it," Castle replied.

"You call it what you want, but it was something more," Kate explained. "I'm just confused about why you're so laid back about the whole thing. You should be basking in the glory."

"The only glory I'm basking in is that of hypothermia," Castle replied. "Seriously. I'm so freaking cold, I doubt I'll ever feel warm again." Castle swallowed, "I'm not going to talk about what we went through, Kate. What happened to the two of us is not only classified, but it's deeply personal. I...I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't thought about writing part of the storyline into the next Nikki Heat book, but even then, I don't intend for anyone to know it's based in fact."

"Will you please just accept the praise?" Kate said with a hint of annoyance in her voice. "For once you have something to gloat about, and you're just shrugging it off. It makes absolutely no sense."

"What do you want me to do? Because it's hard to joke about things this time around, Kate. Maybe after a while I'll be able to laugh it off. But…we came too close this time. Way too close. And frankly, I couldn't have done what I did without you at my side, holding my hand." Castle took a deep breath. "If anything, you're the one that gave me the strength to do what I did, so you're just as responsible for it as I am." Kate just shook her head in disagreement. Then she started to loose herself in her own thoughts. "I figured we had nothing to lose, and the bomb was going to go off either way, so I had to do something... In the end, I'm pretty sure that the look in your eyes is what did it for me." Castle paused, searching Kate's expression for something he had seen in them before. He knew he wouldn't see it now because she was always so guarded. It drove him crazy, thinking about that one moment... The moment when there had been this look in her eyes that was just so overpowering. She'd spoken his name once, her eyes meeting his. He held her gaze as he grabbed her hand in his. His face scrunched up in fear and anguish, not willing to accept the possibility they were going to end, but still sure there was nothing he could do. He could scarcely remember the moments after. There was the warmth that flooded his hand, the crazy idea that took root in his mind as he thought that maybe, just maybe if he pulled the wires, one of them would be the right wire and the bomb wouldn't go off. He'd contemplated the idea in his mind for a few seconds, completely torn about what to do. Did he dare do it? Then he realized the value of the person standing next to him, and he was in denial. No. Kate Beckett couldn't die. Not her. He stole one last look at her just before he pulled the wires. He could see one last look flit across her features as he did so. It wasn't one of recognition or understanding. It wasn't even a look of someone who was about to die, or resignation, but something else. "I just have to ask. What were you thinking when we were standing there and the clock was ticking down through its final seconds? Because you had this look in your eyes that was... indescribable." Castle swallowed. "I swear I've never seen anything like it. It was…" Castle's voice trailed off as he saw Kate look away. Something about what he'd said had clearly made her uneasy. He could tell because she started running her hand through her hair. There was something about that way she was acting. He wondered if he had said something wrong.

"Kate?" Castle cleared his throat. "Are you okay?"

"I'm sorry?" Kate asked as she jumped a little, clearly being ripped out of her own reverie. She too had been reliving the final moments, and the feelings that had coursed through her. So many thoughts. There was the initial shock, and then the panic that came with the realization of standing next to a bomb and knowing that there was absolutely nothing that she could do. Then there was the denial. The thought that it wasn't fair. After all, Castle didn't deserve to die. She couldn't be responsible for his death like this. But more importantly, she couldn't imagine going through it all without him at her side. She felt selfish for needing him with her, because in some twisted way she felt like it would be easier knowing he was there. Then there was the thought Castle had been alluded to, she was sure of it. It was the thought that she was extremely grateful to have him there next to her because he offered her comfort. She wasn't alone, and she was so grateful to him for that fact. Because if anything, what Kate feared the most, wasn't death, but the notion of dying alone, without anyone at her side. Castle had made sure that didn't happen. And if he had his way, she knew he would never ever let that happen.

"You okay?" Castle frowned, worrying about Kate and her state of mind.

"Yeah," Kate forced a smile before she answered, although she wasn't entirely okay. She wanted to tell him what she had been thinking as the bomb ticked down. She wanted to tell him what the look had been in her eyes. It had been love. It had been appreciation for his loyalty. It had been longing. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"I…I don't know," Castle sounded bewildered, "It just seems like something is bothering you is all." A flush of heat worked its way up Kate's neck and her breathing became shallow as she realized that she need to change the subject. Quickly. And so she did.

"Where are Martha and Alexis?" Kate asked finally. Castle jumped up, facing away from her as he walked his empty cup over to the coffee maker to refill it with more of the warm liquid. He glanced back over his shoulder and answered.

"Still up in the Hamptons," Castle replied, "Since it was already pretty late before I gave the all clear signal. I told them to stay the night and come back in the morning." Kate nodded absentmindedly, trailing her finger around the rim of her own cup. Castle observed her for a long moment without her knowing. Once again, she had become lost in her own thoughts.

"Which reminds me," Castle's voice brought her back. "You never answered my question," Castle prompted finally. "Where's doctor motorcycle boy?"

"Josh," Kate made a point of stressing his name, more out of playfulness than annoyance, "is probably on his way to the airport." Kate answered quietly as she looked up, meeting his eyes, "I told him that I thought he should go to Haiti."

"Wait a minute… You what?" Castle's voice inflected. He stuttered as he tried to grapple with the shock of that statement. "But I thought that you wanted him to stay. That you wanted a chance to make it work."

"I thought I did too," Kate admitted, "But…I realized something tonight, Castle. I realized something about myself." Castle froze, bearing with her as she tried to explain her decision, even though he was completely dumbfounded.
"Look, I…I live for what I do," Kate confessed, "I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. My work is my life, and it just has to be when I put my life and limb on the line every time I step out the door." Castle nodded in understanding, waiting for her to continue. "Being a cop is who I am, and it defines me just as much as being a Doctor defines the kind of person Josh is. He saves lives, and I protect the living. Our passion is human service. It's pretty ironic that the same thing would take us in two completely different directions, but it does." Castle tried to look away as a fresh bunch of butterflies seemed to take over his stomach. It explained a lot. More importantly, it explained why she was there, at his apartment. His hopes fell as he realized that she'd probably come to him out of a need for comfort and not anything else.

He set down his coffee, no longer trusting himself to keep it down. His heart was beating so fast in his chest, and he started to tell himself that it was nothing as he tried desperately to calm down a little. He had to quickly convince himself that it had nothing to do with him or what he meant to her. They were partners. They were friends, nothing more. He was just the annoying sidekick, who just happened to get lucky this time around. The hardest truth he had to face was that his feelings for her were probably (most definitely) one sided. After all, she was way above him. At the very least, she deserved better than him, and so the chance of anything happening between the two of them was an impossibility.

Kate shook her head as she let out a laugh that sounded more like self-depreciation than anything else. "And so, in a moment of what I can only assume is complete stupidity, I told him to go. I…I just couldn't ask him to give up what he loves to do, when I know in my heart that there is no way that I could ever do the same for him." She took a deep breath. "All I know is...that it wasn't working. The fact is that just because you want something so badly, doesn't mean that it's meant to happen." Castle's mouth grew dry at the meaning in the those words. Kate was smart enough to realize that fact, so why wasn't he able to acknowledge that as well. Maybe things between him and Kate just weren't meant to happen. Of course, he wished to be with her, but deep inside he knew it was impractical. He felt the need to reassure Kate that what she'd done wasn't stupid at all, but instead, it was really a virtue.

"I don't think its stupid," Castle interjected finally, offering his opinion since he knew it was what she really wanted. Reassurance. "I think that it takes a lot of self-awareness to acknowledge something isn't meant to be, especially in cases when you want things to work out so badly." Castle took a deep breath. "That's not to say that it won't hurt…because let's face it… no one is impervious to the pain that comes with heartbreak, but I have no doubt that you'll move on soon enough. And when you're ready to try again, a new man will step into your life and all the pain you've experienced before will be a distant memory." Castle swallowed as the fresh memory of Kate locking lips with Demming floated through his mind. The pain he had felt then, was still raw, even now… Two boyfriends later. It was hard to think about yet another man entering her life, but all he ever wanted is for her is to be happy. So he'd battle those demons then.

"You say that like you know from experience," Kate said quietly, studying Castle's tightened features.

"I do," Castle choked out. "Look, Kate, I know that you have this perception of me…more akin to carefree child, than that of a responsible adult, but I've been through it all. I mean, God, when Meredith left? I couldn't even explain to Alexis why her mother wasn't going to be coming back home. All I could say was that it was my fault, and back then I wasn't even sure what I had done wrong. It really wasn't until later that I discovered that she'd been having an affair. I guess I was only half of what she wanted. I was the money. He was the younger lover...a costar she fell for." Castle couldn't look at Kate as he revealed this piece of information. He'd never told her before. In fact, if anything, he'd gone out of his way to hide it. The sharp intake of breath told Castle that Kate had been surprised at this particular revelation. He would have bet money that Kate thought he was the cause of the demise in both his marriages. Perhaps she'd even thought he'd been the one who was unfaithful. Rather, he'd been the one who was taken advantage of. He'd thought he'd found love only to realize later that it was about something else entirely. He would never regret his marriage to Meredith because she had ultimately given him the greatest gift of all, Alexis. But it was hard to think all of the gaping wounds that were still open after all these years. It was for this reason that he was always careful not to invest himself too much in any of the relationships he's had since Meredith or Gina. After all, you can't get hurt if you don't let someone in, can you? That's why he valued the playboy persona he'd built up over the years. He valued it because he felt that it kept him from getting too close to any one person.

Kate felt her heart ache as she listened to Castle try to explain the pain that he felt. He was right. In some respects, Kate thought of him as a young boy. Sometimes, she even envied him for being so carefree. But the truth was, that no one ever fully escaped the pain of reality. She felt miserable as she realized that she'd had no idea. She'd made false assumptions about him, and for that reason, she felt shallow. She never would have guessed that Meredith and Gina had been the ones to betray him, especially because he'd willingly participated in activities after their divorce. Now she knew better.

"I...I'm so sorry, Castle," Kate breathed quietly, "I...I honestly had no idea." She tried not to sound too wounded when she added. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Frankly?" Castle's voice inflected. "I wasn't sure you would have believed me if I had. Look, you have your past and I have mine. I've tried not to carry the worst things around with me."

"Still," she sighed, looking slightly upset. "I wish you would have told me." Awkward silence filled the room.

"You mean like I wish you would have told me about your mother from the get go?" Castle said pointedly. "Instead, I had to hear about it from someone else."

"I would have told you," Kate said as she held his eyes, "When I was ready, I would have. I hope you know that."

"I do," Castle nodded. "The fact is you did tell me about it, when you were ready..." He swallowed, "I'm sorry. I guess it was just hard for me. I knew the general story, but not the one detail that mattered most to me. I know that it must have been hard to tell me. I... I'm just grateful you decided to let me in."

"I am too," Kate smiled, a warm sincere smile. "Even though you looked into the case after I specifically told you not to." Castle sighed. He still felt bad about the whole thing. She had been right. He had done it for his own selfish reasons. He had deliberately disobeyed her because he had a unwavering thirst to know everything there possibly was to know about her, purely due to the fact that she was such a mystery to him at the time. He swallowed.

"I am sorry for that, you know?" he spoke meekly, feeling guilty all over again.

"I already forgave you for that, remember?" Kate replied, meeting his eyes.

"Still I..." Castle's voice nearly broke, and he forced himself to look away. Kate sighed, feeling a tension start to build between them.

"Castle," Kate persisted. "Hey. Look at me." Castle swallowed, forcing himself to look at her. "It's in the past. Really. So don't worry about it, okay?"

"Maybe I have no right to ask this question, but... Would you change it?" Castle asked finally, "If you could?" He quickly added. "I mean…I know why you joined the force. I know that you still need a sense of closure in regards to your mother's death, and that you want to find the person ultimately responsible for your mother's murder. But if all of that wasn't a factor, do you still think you'd be in the same place you are now?"

"I don't know," Kate answered truthfully. And for once, Kate truly didn't know the answer. It was early on in college when her mother's murder took place. She couldn't even remember if she'd had a major declared by then or not. Kate leant forwards as she invested herself into the question, trying to give a thoughtful answer. "I guess it's hard for me to think in those terms because what happened to my mother will always overshadow the scope of everything else. At the same time, I think that the way I've approached my work has changed greatly over the last few years. Now…it's not just about my mother's murder, but it's about wanting to make a difference. It's about needing to face the horrors that others can't face so that they don't have to go through what I had to." Castle nodded. He sensed that somehow. There was something in Kate. Perhaps, it was a part of her that he hadn't even seen yet, but it seemed as if she was destined to be a cop. Castle could still vividly remembered the day Captain Montgomery had taken him aside and told him why Kate was one of the best detectives he'd ever seen. It was because of her ability to empathize with the victim's families, and her drive to solve those crimes. Kate gave a 100% on every case she received, and thus, she had one of the highest case closure rates in the city.

"The fact is," Kate continued, pulling him out of his own memory, "That I still wake up every morning wanting closure, and I'm not going to stop until I get that."

"I understand that completely," Castle nodded.

"I know you do," Kate replied feeling her throat grow tight.

"For what it's worth," Castle said finally, "I'm glad you are where you are, because I think that you make a real difference in the world. The fact is, not many people can go through something as horrifying as you have and turn it into something positive, but that's exactly what you did. That's what makes you extraordinary."

"You've said that before," Kate couldn't help but smile.

"Because I mean it," Castle spoke emphatically. "I'm constantly amazed by you." Kate forced herself to look away as her shyness got the best of her. His words could do wonders to lift her spirits.

"Hey. Do you think it's going to be hard? To walk back into the precinct on Monday morning and act like non of it happened?" Kate found herself asking after a long moment's silence.

"Should we have to?" Caste offered in a rebuttal. "Kate, if nothing else, I think that life just proved that a lot of things can happen in the span of forty-eight hours." He looked her square in the eyes as he continued. "Look, I don't know about you, but I'm definitely not the same person I was two days ago." Kate stood up slowly, needing to stretch our her legs. Castle was back on his feet as well, pacing back and forth in the kitchen as he started to clean the granite countertops. With the blanket still wrapped tightly around her shoulders to keep in the extra warmth, Kate crossed her arms over her chest as she leaned against the doorframe next to the bar, watching Castle as the man desperately tried to take interest in anything other than her. She could tell that he was just as frightened of the direction this conversation was headed as she was.

"Me neither," Kate replied meekly as she bowed her head, avoiding his eyes. Subconsciously she scuffed her feet on the floor. Castle waited patiently, watching as a fresh series of thoughts worked its way through her mind. He could see her grasping for words, for what she thought she should say next. His heart quickened as he noticed how beautiful she looked in the dim lighting of the kitchen. And although, her eyes drooped from lack of sleep and her complexion seemed a little pale from the cold, she was still stunningly beautiful. She would always be beautiful. What really stole his breath, however, were the bright emerald green eyes of hers that were so incredibly expressive. He swore that sometimes…that just maybe he could read her thoughts. His mouth suddenly grew parched as he noticed the soft pink tint of her lips and the way that her soft, wavy, brown hair hung loosely at her shoulders. His tongue darted out to moisten his lips as Kate twirled a strand or two around her fingers as she bit her bottom lip ever so softly. He found that she did things like this when she was thinking about something, or contemplating her response carefully. He tore his eyes away, as suddenly her eyes darted up to meet his, seemingly catching him in his mischievous state of mind.

"You know what? You're right, I do feel very different now than I did only a few days ago," Kate replied softly, trying to hold his gaze. "I...I think that it's hard not to go through a near death experience like we have and not come out of it a changed person when you reach the other end," Kate agreed. "I mean… We face death everyday, Castle. At this point, I'm not even sure that I could count the number of times you've saved my life anymore. And frankly, I'm not sure I want to. Because then I'd have to admit that I owe you something."

"Hey. You know that you don't owe me anything," Castle replied honestly. "Kate, all of the things I've done to protect you, are because I care about you. I'd do anything to protect you."

"That's the problem," Kate said finally. And Castle stopped breathing, reading the look in her eyes. She was scared of something, only he had no idea what it was or why.

"I-I'm not sure I follow," Castle spoke breathlessly as he took a step forwards. "Kate, we've already talked about this."

"Have we?" Kate asked emotionally. "Because it seems like every time we've talked about the dangers of what we do, you just shrug if off as an impossibility." Castle gulped over the lump in his throat. "So, where is the line, Castle?" Kate asked finally. "I just have to ask." Kate's eyes flashed as she continued. "How far is too far? Because I honestly don't know the answer to that anymore," Kate swallowed, her mouth growing dry, "And that scares me."

Never mind what I knew, nothing seems to matter now
Ooh, who I was without you, I can do without
No one knows where it ends, how it may come tumbling down
But I'm here with you now
I'm with you now

"Kate," he could hardly choke out her name.

"I don't think you realize that you can only have so many close calls before your luck runs out," she breathed. Castle was shocked to see her eyes brim with tears. "You've stuck with me through it all. When anyone else with half a brain would have run the other direction." She shook her head. "I…I honestly don't know how I let you get this close."

"You make it sound like that's a bad thing," Castle said defiantly. "Kate, we're partners. You have to be able to trust me." Then he added. "I thought you felt like I was an asset to the unit."

"I do think that," Kate replied quickly. "But the fact is, boundaries have been crossed. Somehow it went from you staying in the car, to coming in with us, to standing in front of a dirty bomb as it ticked down through its final seconds."

"I elected to be there," Castle's brow and jaw tightened. "It's my responsibility to have your back."

"No," Kate shook her head. "That's Ryan and Esposito's job. Not yours." Kate could see the hurt flash through Castle's eyes and across his features.

"I thought..." Castle tried to cut in, but Kate would have nothing of it.

"Don't. You know exactly what I'm talking about, Castle," Kate said somewhat shortly, with a slight pause, "You know…. I'm assuming that this might come as a bit of a shock to you, but you are not a cop. You don't have a badge, and you can't carry a firearm! You...You are a writer, Castle. A fricking writer. And let me tell you something else. A writer has no place in the line of fire!"

"I don't understand," Castle interjected, his brow furrowing, "Why is this suddenly a problem, Kate. Look, you and I? We've gone to hell and back over the last year. It…it never mattered then."

"Because I lost sight of something important," Kate cut back in, an edginess to her voice. "I mean, Christ, Castle, you have a family for god sake's! A mother and daughter whom you nearly left behind without a father tonight! And for what? For me?" Kate bit back raw emotions as she finally let her feelings come loose. A searing pain worked its way across Castle's chest as Kate forced him to face the truth. He had been avoiding all of those thoughts the entire night. What would have happened to Alexis if he wasn't around anymore? It would have destroyed her. He would have ruined her life and left her without a father. He blinked back tears as he realized that even Kate, Alexis' mentor, wouldn't have been around to help her through it either. She would have been left completely alone.

"What do you think it would do to Alexis, Castle? I mean honestly, how do you think she would feel? We were three feet from a bomb Castle! We would have become nothing more than pink mist!" Kate's trembling hands jumped up to try and conceal the tears now leaking from her eyes.

Pink mist. The words sent a chill shooting up his spine. It's said that anyone inside of the blast radius of a bomb becomes vaporized. Pink mist was the not so kind term to refer to the fate only the most unfortunate ever experienced. The thought that there wouldn't have even been anything left for Martha or Alexis to bury also struck home, leaving his heart aching more than before. Castle closed his eyes as she struggled not to let his emotions get the best of him. He hardly heard Kate's other words as they droned on in the back of his mind. He was a little late on the up-take but responded to her nonetheless.

"Kate," Castle sighed softly, "Look, I'm sorry, okay? You're right. I screwed up. We both did."

"And how did I screw up exactly?" Kate asked shortly. "You seem to be forgetting. I don't really have a family, Castle."

"Yes you do," Castle offered as a rebuttal. "You have a father, and had boyfriend who loved you. Ryan and Esposito are like brothers to you. There are a lot of people out there who love you Kate. Perhaps, my death would have affected Alexis and Martha more directly, but yours would have affected them too. The fact is that we were both in a bad situation that was beyond our control."

"Castle," Kate breathed emotionally, "You don't understand. It's...It's getting to the point where pretty much all I can think about is how many times something could have happened to you, and I would have been powerless to stop it." Kate looked into his eyes. "I get it. You signed a waiver. And you're okay with the notion that you might get hurt. But I'm not, okay?" Kate took a deep steadying breath as she attempted to speak the next bit aloud. "Castle, you have to realize that you are not invincible. The fact is, there are going to lots of times that I will not be able to protect you."

"I know that," Castle said calmly, trying to find a happy medium. "Kate," Castle sighed, raking a hand through his slightly unkempt hair, "What is it you want me to do exactly?"

"I don't know," Kate replied with a sigh of frustration. He could she her kneading her temples as she tried to figure out the answer to that question.

"Katie," Castle tried peaceably, "Look, I understand why you're upset…"

"No you don't!" Kate nearly shouted, her emotions getting the best of her. "You don't understand why I'm upset. I mean...Have you really already forgotten? A serial killer pointed a gun in your face, Castle. He could have killed you. He could have put a bullet in your head and walked away." She took a deep breath. "You have no idea what sort of thoughts were going through my head as I ran up the stairs. God, I thought...I thought he had killed you both." Castle swallowed as the memory of that particular night rushed back. Like many of his worst memories he'd try to repress them. "Do you know what scares me most?" Kate asked for emphasis, "It's that you don't seem afraid of death at all, Castle. Not the least bit." She paused, gulping in a large gasp of air, "And that scares me to death because… If I lose you? If something happens to you and it is my fault? I will not be able to live with that."

"It wouldn't be your fault," Castle argued. "I know what I signed up for Kate. I made that choice."

"Christ…" Kate breathed, ignoring his argument "I never should have let you get this close to me. You were just supposed to be shadowing me for a damn book series. Now look at what we've become. We both care too much to walk away. And I can't even figure out what the hell we are…everything between us feels different than it did two years ago."

"Kate," Castle's voice was pleading as he stepped forwards.

"Don't," Kate threw up her hands. "Don't even try." Kate's voice broke. "Didn't you ever wonder why I didn't have a partner, Castle? Why I worked alone?"

"Montgomery said that you worked best by yourself," Castle stuttered.

"I think he was just trying to respect my privacy, but that was a lie, and at the very least a lie of omission," Kate spoke finally. "My last partner died, Castle. He bled out under my fingertips when I was a beat cop on the street, and there was nothing I could do." Castle squeezed his eyes shut as his heart ached for her. "After that I swore to myself that I would never let it happen again. I told them that I didn't want a partner, and I got by just fine until you came along. And now you're...always there sitting the passenger seat. Sometimes you're even blissfully unaware of what is going on around you."

"Kate," Castle's voice was sympathetic as he spoke. "I..I'm so sorry about your partner. I've always kind of wondered why you worked alone, but I had no idea about why it had come to be this way."

"It's okay. It's just that...even after all this time I remember it like it was yesterday. I don't want to, but I still get these nightmares about that night," Kate revealed softly, "only...the last time I had the dream something changed."

"What was it?" Castle hardly dared to ask.

"It..." Kate's voice quavered and broke as she forced herself to brush away the tears, "It was you, Castle. You...You were dying in my arms and I couldn't do a damn thing."

"Kate," Castle's voice was also thick with emotion as he spoke her name. After all, what did you say to something like that? "That's not going to happen."

"You can't promise me that!" Kate offered in a rebuttal. "Castle, after everything we've been through in the last year, you cannot make that promise." Castle opened his mouth to speak, but Kate didn't let him speak.

"You know?" Kate tried desperately, "I blame myself for this, Castle, not you. I blame myself for missing the signs, and for blatantly ignoring them when they came. I knew you were getting too close. I knew that I felt too much for you. I let you in too much, and I've let my own feelings for you compromise my work. Which is why… I have to stop this now before something serious happens. I have to end this now. This…whatever this is…" Kate winced, as a look of utter and complete pain flashed across Castle's face. "Please, I'm begging you to walk away while you still have the chance."

Castle's jaw grew tight as he gritted his teeth together, trying not to show too much emotion. "You make it sound so easy," Castle gritted out. "You have no idea what it's like to walk away from you, Kate. I did it once last spring… I don't think I can do it again."

"You have to have enough material by now to write 50 books, Castle," Kate said finally. "I see it. Esposito sees it. Lanie sees it." Kate paused briefly as she tried to choke back her own wounded emotions. The feeling of watching Castle walk away with his ex-wife last spring still made her heart feel as if it had been ripped in half.

"I… I'm not stupid. So please… If you really refuse to walk away, could you just be honest with me and tell me why the hell you're still here? Why are you still here after everyone's left? Because I know it's not just about the book series anymore? Why stick with me? Why? Because I can't figure it out! I just can't…"

Castle nearly choked on the air on his lungs as he tried to breath. He wasn't prepared for this. He wasn't prepared for the confrontation at all. Part of him had hoped that they could just fall back into their routine after this. That somehow they could go through work day in and day out while still avoiding the truth. Because the truth was, Castle wasn't sure if Kate could handle the truth, and he wasn't sure he could either.

"Kate, I…I do it because I…. I don't want you to have to do it alone," Castle stumbled over the words. They were a lie and somehow they both knew it. Unfortunately, Kate wasn't brave enough to call him out on it. "You shouldn't have to do it by yourself. Frankly, no one should have to do what you do by yourself. You're afraid of something happening. I get that. But someone needs to have your back." Castle swallowed. "You said that you needed someone you could count on, someone you can trust with your life. But more importantly, you need someone permanent. That's what I want to be for you. At the very least you deserve someone you can count on." Castle watched as some sort of recognition dawned in her eyes.

"It's you," she murmured aloud finally, looking slightly horrified as the realization finally stuck. Castle watched as Kate took a step backwards, her jaw falling open.

"What?" Castle's throat felt incredibly constricted.

"How...how on earth did I miss that too?" Kate muttered, looking as if she were panicking. "It's you…you're always there and you're always going to be there. That's what you were trying to tell me in the tent, weren't you? That you're always going to be there."

"Kate," Castle swallowed, taking a step forwards. "If you'd just let me. I…I want to be. I want to be there for you. I want to be at your side. I'll be the damned sidekick if I have to be…if you'd just let me in. I...I've been trying so hard for a long time now. Please."

"No," Kate shook her head, "God, you're asking for too much. I…I can't do that, Castle. You…You're a civilian. Don't you remember? The plucky sidekick always gets killed in the end. Do you have any idea how I would feel if something ever happened to you?"

"The same way I would if something ever happened to you," Castle spoke passionately. "I…I think about it all the time as well. Kate, I couldn't bear it if something ever happened to you. It's crazy. I'll admit. You and I, together, we're like some sort of enigma. We shouldn't work, but we do. Just…think about it. Please."

"I…" Kate struggled for works as she realized that Castle was right. She was to Castle, what Esposito was to Ryan. In every sense of the word, the partnership was unconventional, but it worked because they were all so incredibly loyal to one another. Castle took a deep breath as he tried to summon up the courage for his next words.

And if you say we'll be alright
I'm gonna trust you, babe
I'm gonna look in your eyes
And if you say we'll be alright
I'll follow you into the light

He could tell that Kate was starting to feel boxed in and was desperate for a way out. He couldn't let her out without getting her to face another truth.

"Kate," Castle breathed quietly as he gripped the countertop for support. "You probably don't remember this, but… But when we were in the ice box together and losing consciousness you were trying to tell me something. And I think I know what it was…"

"Really? And what did I say?" Kate's expression faltered as she suddenly became very afraid of the answer.

"I think you were trying to tell me that you loved me."

"No," Kate shook her head. "That's not... That's crazy. Impossible. You must have imagined that."

"Kate," Castle's voice was a plea. "I know that I was out of it and pretty lethargic, but there is no way that it was imagined." Castle took a deep shaky breath. "I just need to know why you said it because it has been eating me alive ever since. I've been wondering... Do you love me? Do you have feelings for me?"

"No!" Kate nearly faltered. She nearly told him the truth, but fear got the best of her and she was suddenly denying what had taken place in the icebox. "Of course not. That's...crazy. I don't know where on earth you got that idea. But I…I don't… I don't love you."

"Why? Why not?" Castle replied. "Is it because I'm not the safe choice? I would…I would do anything for you, Kate. I would die for you!"

"Finally, I get some sort of a truth from you," Kate said with a frustrating undercurrent to her voice. "What makes you think that you have a right for the truth when you can't even admit it yourself."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Castle snapped out defensively.

"Okay," Kate breathed intensely, "So you want to quibble over details? Then lets." Kate's eyes flashed as she asked Castle, "So what the hell was that at the precinct, hmm?"

"I'm sorry?" Castle's voice inflected as he too feigned ignorance about the odd behavior.

"Oh don't even," Kate threatened. "You saw him didn't you," Kate said accusatorilly. "Josh. You saw him coming over my shoulder when we were at the precinct, and you ran."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Castle challenged.

"Because you were going to say that 'we should' do something," Kate replied quickly, "but you chickened out and changed it to 'I should' at the last minute. Then you took off. You ran away and have been hiding at your loft by yourself ever since."

"Yes," Castle admitted. "But what was I supposed to do? Did you really expect that I was going to ask you to dinner with your boyfriend standing three feet away. Better yet.. did you expect that I was going to tell you I loved you with him standing right there?" Castle ran a hand angrily through his hair. "I mean...can you really blame me for running, Kate? Can you blame me for chickening out after what happened with Tom?" Castle struggled to keep his own temper under control as he continued, "Because let me tell you something, a man can only take so much discouragement before he just gives up and resigns to defeat." With that final statement Castle threw up his hands and turned away. For some reason, looking at her made him feel sick. Perhaps it was because he knew he'd just said far too much and that there was no way he could take it back.

"Castle," Kate tried to speak as calmly as possible. She wanted to reach out for him, and touch him, but was afraid to do so at that particular moment. "Is that what you were going to say?" Kate's heart was now beating frantically as she realized he'd wanted to ask her out. Was it dinner, or was it supposed to be something more? Her stomach dropped as she realized why Castle ran. "That you wanted to take me to dinner?"

"What does it matter?" Castle answered a question with a question, as he remained turned away from her, unable to look at the expression on her face. "You would have just turned me down anyways. Will you please just let it go?"

"No, Castle, I can't just let it go. Because it matters," Kate bit back. "It matters to me. I…" Kate suddenly bit her lip as she realized how close she was to saying too much. "I just wish you would tell me how you really feel."

"Why? There's no way that you could feel the same way about me! There's no way you could possibly love me. No. Because I'm not who you need, Kate. I'm not Tom. I'm not Josh. And I sure as hell don't have anything to offer you that would make it worth your while." He didn't know what to do. He heard her gasp, and that made him scared as hell. Because he suddenly realized that he'd said too much. Way too much.

"Castle," Kate tried to keep the tears from falling as she reached out to touch his shoulder. She flinched as he pulled away from her touch, not realizing what she was supposed to do. "Castle...how can you possibly assume that I've never felt the same?"

"Because you said it yourself," Castle replied. "I've stuck around long enough to gather material for 50 books. If you know that then you also must know about my ulterior motives. You're a detective, Kate. You have to know that the reason that I stuck around all this time was because of you and not because of some stupid book series. I meant it when I said that you were extraordinary. You...you were the first one to care. The first one to call me out on all of my bull-crap. You were my muse because I loved you and everything you represent."

"What would you say if I told you that I only just figured it out, Castle," Kate breathed. "Look, I'm sorry. I don't think I've ever been so oblivious to something in my entire life. I wouldn't have even noticed what was right in from of me if Esposito told me, but by then it was too late and you were off to the Hamptons with Gina."

"Not that it even mattered," Castle shook his head. "You obviously have never felt the same way." Kate opened her mouth to protest but Castle wouldn't let her get that far. "And that's okay," Castle tried to reassure her, "I don't blame you. I'm not the kind of guy that you need."

"Castle," Kate wasn't sure what to say. Her heart was breaking. She hadn't realized he was just as heartbroken over her as she was over him. "I'm sorry."

"Kate," Castle cut her off, needing her to leave so that he could sulk as much as he needed to. "It's not your fault. It's mine. I should have realized all of this a long time ago. I... I'll leave you alone now if that's what you want. You're right, I have enough information to write the series from here on out." Kate's heart seemed to stop, and time froze as she realized he was giving her what he thought she wanted. Only it wasn't what she really wanted at all. She just wanted him. She wanted Castle to be safe...to stay safe because she loved him and feared the possibility of losing him. Now she was about to lose him in another capacity and the thought made her feel faint.

"Castle," Kate's voice was both pleading and apologetica at the same time.

"Don't," Castle's voice was quite cold and harsh as he cut her off, "Just leave it alone! Please?" Castle ran a frustrated hand over his exhausted features. "Would you please…please just go?"

"You need me to…" Kate's face fell as she was suddenly left fighting back tears. How had she and Castle come full circle without her uncovering the truth? Perhaps it was time to accept that they would never happen. Carefully, she slipped the blanket from her shoulders and set it on nearby stool. "You're...You're right," Kate spoke in a slightly weak voice. "I shouldn't have come here. I'm so sorry. I really am." Castle watched as Kate move briskly past him, moving towards the door. Her body brushed his ever so slightly, making him wish for more. Castle let out a ragged breath, letting her go.

As Kate reached the main door of the loft, she extended her arm. Her hand was on the handle, about to turn it, when she froze. She closed her eyes and choked back a sob threatening to burst from within her. She just couldn't bring herself to walk out the door. Sure she could run away, just chalk up this night as one of their countless missed opportunities. But she couldn't do this any more. She had too much to lose, and they'd already had too many missed opportunities. There were already too many things that got in the way. Sure, they could deny it. They could shove down their feelings into the deepest depths of their hearts, but those feelings would always…always come rushing back to the surface. So here she was, within hand's reach of escape, of freedom, and she couldn't bring herself to slip out the door. For the first time in as long as she can remember, she found herelf wanting to face her fears. She wanted to tell Castle how she felt before the day ended and she missed her chance again. Quickly she turned around, walking back towards the kitchen.

Castle, felt a rush of air force its way out of his lungs as he watched Kate flee the kitchen. She cleared the archway, and left him staring at the place she'd been only a moment before. After a long, heart stopping moment, he stepped forwards, unwilling to just let her go. For the first time in the nearly three years he'd been in love with Kate, he felt as if he had enough courage to do something about it. And so, Richard Castle, one of most loyal, underappreciated men in Kate Beckett's life, started chasing after the unattainable, irresistible Kate Beckett. He was going to get her to tell him why she had come in the first place, if he had to keep her there all night. He'd barely cleared the kitchen archway when he ran smack into something very dense and solid in nature. It didn't take a whole lot of thought or reasoning to figure out what, or rather, who it was.

Kate looked up, a gasp falling from her lips as her power filled stride met an immovable object, in the form of Richard Castle.

"Castle," the name was spoken with slight desperation. It was raw in its passion, and the way she said his name took his breath away.

"Kate," Castle hardly dared to breath. "What are you... still doing here?" He stuttered, "I...I thought you left."

"I almost did...but I couldn't leave without asking you something first," Kate breathed finally, her hands gripped the fabric of his shirt gently as she struggled to keep herself from falling backwards. "And if…If you still want me to leave afterwards, then I will. I'll even leave you alone if you want. I just…. I just have to know the answer." She released her grip on him as her balance was restored. Classical music still droned on in the background, though, for the most part, the instruments carrying the melodies were indistinctive, and neither cared about anything than that of which was right in front of them.

"Okay," Castle had to force the word out as he strained to keep his expression from showing too much emotion. He wasn't one to wear his heart on his sleeve, but he just couldn't seem to help himself when it came to Kate Beckett.

"Okay," Kate rasped breathlessly, as she reached out for his hand. Castle seemed unable to conceal his own surprise as Kate held his hand in hers. The skin under Kate's hand felt as if it were burning, tingling with the shock and excitement of his touch. His body craved more, so much more. Kate's touch was commanding, while it was gentle at the same time. "So when we were standing in front of that bomb?" Kate swallowed nervously over the dry, roughened sandpaper that she knew to be her throat. There was a slight inflection lifting her voice at the end "And you took my hand in yours? Did you feel something more?"

"Like what?" Castle's brow furrowed.

"Like we were connected," Kate whispered. "God, I know it's sounds so cheesy, but I...I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It felt like what they talk about in fairytales...in moves. I felt...complete." Kate struggled to continue. "And it wasn't the first time I've felt that way either. It seems like the more we go through, the more closely connected I feel with you." A beat. "Because you know. You truly know everything I go through on a daily basis. You've seen it all, the good, the bad, and you're still here."

"Kate," Castle sighed, not sure if he was following her. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that I'm ready. I want to define what it is that we have," Kate breathed. "I don't want to be stuck in this sort of gray area we're in anymore."

"Kate," Castle shook his head, "Please..." The plea was weak, and she could tell that though he was afraid, his heart was still in it.

"Do you remember the kiss, Castle?" Kate asked finally.

"How could you possibly think I'd ever forget it," Castle replied, his low voice echoing in the large entryway with vaulted ceilings. "The kiss was... Well, it was almost too incredible to be defined." Kate struggled to keep Castle from seeing the blush overtaking her pale complexion. "I actually meant to apologize to you for putting you in that position. Josh probably didn't appreciate what I did."

"Don't you dare apologize for the kiss, Castle," Kate said, shoving him gently. "Because...that was one of the best kisses of my entire life. And also because, I never told Josh about it."

"Why not?" Castle asked, wondering why she appeared so upset.

"Castle...don't you get it?" Kate sighed. "Because telling Josh would have been like opening pandora's box. I would have had to admit to a lot of things I wasn't ready to admit to just yet."

"Like what?" Castle challenged, studying her expression carefully. "Wait a minute... Are you trying to say that a part of you wanted me to kiss you?"

"Not just that. Look, I kissed you back," Kate admitted. "Which means that it wasn't just a kiss, Castle. The fact that I kissed you back suggested that I not only wanted you to kiss me, but also suggested that I had feelings for you as well." Kate took another deep breath. "The fact is, I was having an emotional affair with another man while Josh was half a world away."

"You kissed me back..." Castle felt his heart picking up a rapid pace in his chest as his mouth began dry and his palms began to sweat. Castle shook his head. "I swore that I had imagined that." Castle swallowed, "Are you sure that you weren't just acting?"

"Look," Kate said finally, sounding exasperated, "What more do I have to say to you, Castle?" Kate took a deep breath. "Do you know that tonight I realized that I share more of my feelings and personal life with you than I could ever even contemplate sharing with my own boyfriend?...err now ex-boyfriend." Kate's voice broke.

"So you have feelings for me?" Castle inquired. "Kate, maybe you've already forgotten. But you just told me that you didn't love me about five minutes ago."

"I know I did," Kate looked scared all over again. "But it was a lie. I denied it because I'm afraid of how strongly I feel for you. Look, this is a big deal for both of us, Castle. I'm not exactly good at this remember? And well, from what you've told me neither are you..."

"Did your life flash before your eyes?" Castle asked finally, needing to ask a question of his own.

"What does that have to do with anything?" Kate struggled to hold back the tears as they built in her eyes.

"Just answer the question..." Castle pleaded.

"Y-Yes," Kate breathed. "Of course it did. I… I thought we were going to die. That's what happens when you're on the verge of death."

"And did you see me?" Castle asked finally. "When it was happening? Did you see me?"

"O-Of course I did," Kate stuttered, "Castle, for god's sakes, you were right next to me."

"No," Castle shook his head disappointedly. "You know that's not what I meant. What I mean is…was I part of it? The scrolling images…because I saw Alexis and Martha. But then I saw…you. I saw countless images of you, and I knew…I knew in my heart that you were the one I had been living for, perhaps without ever truly realizing it. You know you have all these looks, their likely infinite in number, and yet every single one of them is so breathtakingly beautiful. My favorite one is the one you have when you're genuinely happy about something. You probably don't even realize it, but at that moment, you let all of your guards down and I can see you...all of you.. " Castle's body started to shiver as he remembers the ghost of her on his lips, kissing him back. He wanted to feel it again so badly. It consumed him from the inside out. He could only wonder if it did the same to her as well. Castle closed his eyes, feeling defeated. No. She had been his life, but he hadn't been hers.

"Castle," Kate's breathless voice, and the gentleness of her touch at his cheek, had eyes slowly opening. The way she said his name left his head spinning. "Yes. I saw you. Hell, besides my mother and father, you're one of the only ones I saw… I'm not going to lie. I saw Lanie, Sito, and Ryan too, but you were the one always at my side. How…how could I not think about you in the end?" Kate closed her eyes, summoning the most important words that she could given the situation. "The truth is...that I think I'm falling in love with you Castle," Kate spoke as she stared into his deep baby blue eyes. "And I hope to god that you feel the same way because I don't think I can fight this anymore."

(Material below is rated M and is for mature audiences only!)

Let the world come rush in
Come down hard, come crushing
All I need is right here beside me
I'n not enough, I swear it
But take my love and and wear it over your shoulders

She watched a look of astonishment overtake Castle's face for a long moment as he tried to process what she'd just told him. The significance of those words could not be lost on any individual.

"Kate," Castle breathed, his voice dulcet as he held her eyes. He wanted to kiss her. His eyes traitorously darted to her lips, giving away his intentions. He felt his heart pound in his ears as he met her eyes again to find them a little darker than before.

"Kiss me," She ordered softly. Castle nearly chuckled at her command, but was just as desperate to comply. For a moment, he looked as if he were weighing his options, and then, Castle's hands latched onto Kate's hips, pulling her into him. In a quick instant, one of his hands slipped around to the small of her back, pulling her just a little harder against him, before he finally slid his hand gently up her back. Kate's lips were only a couple of inches from him now. She could feel his warm breath on her cheek, and she wanted nothing more than to close the distance herself. Just as suddenly, a gasp was falling from her lips as as Castle's hand slipped gently behind her neck and he applied just enough control to gently press her lips to his. As first it was so light that the pressure could hardly be detected, but then, in a single breath it deepened. Kate's hands quickly reacted, reaching up to get a grip on Castle's shoulders, holding him tight. Slowly, Kate's thin, lithe body rose, her chest brushing against his, as their open mouths clashed together again and again. They were hot, wet, fast kisses, and yet, they had a tenderness and softness to them as well. For Castle, it feels like just how he remembers. Kate's lips are so soft, and incredibly sweet. They respond to his just as hungrily as his, and breaths become ragged as they begin to fight for control. The electricity and fire that has always been there between them comes to life as their bodies finally come together. It's not just the magic that they speak about in the movies, or the clichéd repressed sexual tension that builds over years without either one of them realizing it, because it is so much more. It's pure unadulterated passion. It's love, and it is raw desire and passion spilling out into every touch and caress.

Castle's hands are suddenly in her hair exploring the soft curls that he's only ever dreamt about. The undeniably soft, wavy hair that smells so good. He's wanted to run his hands through it so many times over the last three years, but Kate never let himself steal more than a single touch. He'd been fortunate enough to feel it run through his fingers only once before, and it had been just as perfect as it was in this moment. He feels safe, loved, as Kate's arms come up to wrap themselves around his neck, as she too tries to get closer. She wants him just as badly. And Castle can hardly breathe as her tongue forces its way into his mouth, to mingle with his. She's aggressive in the pressure she applies, and somehow that doesn't surprise him. She kisses him back. Oh God, she kisses him back. He loves her, and he can't help but moan with the pleasure of it all. Without realizing it they stumble backwards a few steps.

Kate's back strikes the wall bordering the archway, and a moan of displeasure slips past her lips at the disruption. She's gasping for breath, desperately trying to replace the air in her lungs that Castle is stealing. He makes her head spin. Just with a few touches, Castle makes her body feels like it is on fire, and she wants, no needs, to quell it so badly. She is desperate for more, and never wants it to stop. God, he knows just how to touch her. Everywhere his hands run over her body, burns. Hypersensitive somatosensory nerves are lit up as he applies just the right amount of pressure, giving her brain more fuel for the already rocketing level of desire. Kate shakes her head, and smiles into the kiss as feelings of slight amusement take over. Of course she should have known it would be this good. Anyone who knows Castle, also know that he frequently jokes about his prowess, and his ability as a lover, but as he touches her and worships her body she realizes that not one bit of it was exaggerated. It makes her melt a little more inside, knowing what she's missed out on all of these past months. She moans again as he slides his hands down her body, slipping around to slide up and down against the base of her back. His fingers trail their way up and down her spine, sending violent shivers rocketing up her spine. She can hardly bare the anticipation. As her body reacts to the arousal, the touches, her hips buck forwards and she's grinding against him. She can't seem to catch a breath as Castle slides his hands down to squeeze her muscular backside, before ultimately continuing down to her thighs. Castle picks up her body gently, moving his hands gently under her thighs to lift her up from the floor. With an extra tug of his arms and hands, she slides forwards, and the juncture between her legs collides with his waist just so. Both moan loudly into another kiss before they both gasp for air. Without breaking a new string of kisses, he slowly walks towards the island in the center of the kitchen, not trusting himself to make it to the bedroom. Her legs wrap around his back, as the furious exchange of kisses continues. She she shifts slightly, pushing her harder against his tightening abdominal muscles as she seeks even more closeness. He reaches the island in the middle of the kitchen and realizes the new obstacle. He reaches out to clear a space. A bunch of items now fall to the ground, littering the kitchen floor, as she clings to him even more. The granite surface of the counter is otherwise smooth and has no traction, so as she loosens her vice grip around his lower body, she slides onto the surface as Castle pushes into her. He loves her so much that even these moments leading up to their lovemaking are torturous. Why has it taken him so long to figure this out?

In a second, the foot of space that had opened up between them is already closed again as Castle takes a step forwards. Castle kisses her again, as Kate's legs wrap themselves around Castle's back, encircling him and drawing him closer still at the same time.

His hands enmesh themselves in her hair once more, holding on so that he can draw his lips over hers again and again. She's gasping now, moaning loudly without restraint and the sounds coming from her do wonders to encourage him and spur him on. He wants her to feel his love for her. He wants her to feel it through every sensation imaginable. But, more than anything, he wants to kiss her senseless. Kate's head falls back as he tugs on her long, soft, curly, brown hair, exposing a long column of flawless muscular neck. Before she knows what is happening, he is nipping some of her flesh, soothing away the sting of each bite with his tongue. Kate's hands mirror Castle's burying her fingers into his soft brown hair. She rakes her fingers over his scalp soothingly, holding on tight and somehow managing to keep her touch soft and gentle at the same time. Her hips rise to meet him like the tide, as he bends forward, causing their bodies to meet in the middle of the minute space between them. She uses the friction to quell her own burning desire. She's so turned on already, and her abdomen is throbbing with unrelenting need. Luckily, she's not the only one. Castle begins to crave her body so much that he pulls himself closer to Kate so that his entire body begins to rub along hers. They both let out a long deep moan at the same time.

They are both well aware of the obstacles between them, the clothes that keep them from their one true goal. Castle is the first to give into temptation. He can't resist any longer and slides his hands underneath her sweater to cup those breasts that he had seen only the smallest sliver of on so many occasions. With a greedy touch, he slips his hands under the silk of her bra and gives them a slight squeeze. He applies steady pressure as he runs his thumbs over swelled breasts that leaves Kate unable to do anything else by cry out in pleasure. Every inch of her body was now seemingly sensitized to his touch.

"God…Castle," Kate breathed in his ear, nearly losing control. "More…I need more. Please."

"Kate," Castle could only pant in return. In one fluid movement Castle's hands slip beneath the fabric of her sweater once more, drawing it over her head, as he broke a kiss into two. Castle couldn't help but let out a groan as his eyes raked in the sight of the lacy black bra that was left on her milky white flesh. He found himself running his hands over every inch of her again and again, admiring the perfect flawless skin beneath it. He needed to memorize the sight of it, the feel of it under his hands. He can see the evidence of scars that riddle what would be otherwise perfection, and he only loves her more for it. It is a testament to her bravery, her sacrifice, and it is beautiful. So god damned beautiful.

He kisses Kate, pushing his tongue forcefully into her mouth as his hands slip around her back. As the kiss breaks, Kate lets out a gasp as the clasps of her own bra are released and Castle slips the piece of lingerie off of her shoulders, setting it next to her on the counter. Kate can't help but cry out as Castle's mouth is suddenly swirling around her newly exposed breast. His tongue and mouth are so warm around her it feels like molten lava. Her hands are suddenly in his hair again as she tries to hold him there, never wanting him to stop. She's gasping again as he switches sides, his mouth enveloping her, and before she can stop it a long, deep, moan is escaping from her parted lips. Impulsively she decides she wants him back. She wants to kiss that fantastic mouth of his, and so now she's tugging, trying to direct his mouth back upwards. Finally, he kisses his way back up her chest, and Kate squeezes her eyes shut, focusing on the plethora of sensations he can instill with a single kiss as he trails in hot wet mouth over the hollow of her collarbone and tastes her. Her eyes flicker open as his lips finally find hers, and she's kissing him back as if her life depends on it. They kiss for a long moment, chests bobbing up and down in the cool kitchen. Kate moans as the fabric of Castle's shirt rubs up against her bare chest.

Her body is so warm against his. "God, you're so beautiful," Castle breathes into Kate's ear, before he sucks the lobe into his mouth and robs her of more coherent thought, "So stunningly beautiful that it takes my breath away". She closes her eyes as she accepts it as truth. Somehow the way he says it makes her sure. She knows he means it. A heartbeat later, and Castle is capturing her lips again in an effort to keep her from protesting against his earlier comment not that she was about to. Castle let out a soft moan in the back of his throat as Kate's hand suddenly reached for his pants and brushed something else. Suddenly she ached for him so unbearably, knowing that he was as ready for her as she was for him. Her lower abdomen throbbed with need, so much need. Kate swore that she'd never wanted anything so badly in her whole life.

"Castle," her voice was thick and wanton with unrelenting need. The way she said his name, had his heart pounding even more furiously. He knew that Kate was already well past ready for him, but feared moving too fast. After all, she'd only broken up with Josh hours ago, and now they were about to consummate their love. It felt a bit overwhelming. And yet, Castle had waited for this moment so long. He had craved it and fantasized it for so long, he wasn't sure he'd be able to stop it if things became any more heated. So he tried to slow down the pace. He tried to relish each kiss and each touch he placed upon her, and memorize the moans and noises she was making for him and him alone. "Please," Kate begged trying to redirect his hands.

It figured. The one time that she wanted to rush things, her lover wanted to slow it down and relish it for what it was. She knew she'd be grateful for Castle's tenderness later. Because he made her feel…. everything. So she slowed, and tried to calm her body's intense burn for him. As she grappled with the task, she settled for his shirt. With trembling fingers, she tried unclasping the buttons, but couldn't seem to get them undone fast enough. With a vigorous tug, Castle's shirt ripped open and buttons were left cascading in all directions over the floor. As Castle took her lips in yet another deep kiss, Kate pushed the fabric off of his shoulders. He shrugged out of it, letting it drop to the ground with a happy smile. She let herself admire his well sculpted body, running her hands and fingertips over every contour of his chest. He'd always been covered up by his dress shirt and jacket. She'd never really realized just how attractive he was. She slowly ran her hands downward, running them over the tight muscles of his abdomen. He pulled back slightly, thinking she was going for the button of his pants. He knew that if pants came off that there was no turning back.

"Don't," Kate's voice was soft, but commanding. She didn't want him to pull away. She didn't want him to stop.

"But-" Castle didn't get a chance to finish as Kate took his mouth in possessive kiss. As the kiss broke, they both took a short pause.

They locked eyes for a long moment. It was the first time Castle had seen Kate look the least bit shy. Usually Kate just bolstered with confidence. For a moment, time seemed to stop as they shared a connection they knew they would never soon forget. Her eyes were so incredibly expressive. She was ready. She was sure. With a slight inclination of the head, the smallest fraction of a nod, Castle received his permission. Slowly, he kissed his way down Kate's perfectly sculpted neck to the hollow near her collarbone. Her hand wrapped around the back of his head, holding his lips against her as he licked and nibbled his way down. Her head fell back as his fingers, finally unclasped the button of her black pants. A gentle tug, and the fabric was sliding down her legs, fingertips trailing along her skin. In seconds, Castle was crouching, drawing her lacy black panties down her leg in his wake. Trailing kisses along the way. Her body hummed in anticipation as he slowly kissed his way back upwards. A moan and a gasp escaped from her lips as lips met the hypersensitive skin of her inner thigh, then another as Castle nuzzled dark curls, drinking in the scent of her arousal. She was so wet for him already, and she was sure he had every intention of stealing a taste of her.

"Oh God," Kate gasped, her hands burying themselves in his hair as she tried to direct him to where she needed him most. Castle, however, needed no direction. Kate tried not to scream as a tongue darted out to taste her just as she predicted. But nothing...absolutely nothing could have prepared her for the reality of it. She would have been lying if she tried to tell you she hadn't fantasized about it before. But fantasy was nothing like reality. Kate's body arched as she tried to push herself into Castle's mouth. He was so close, she could feel his warm breath on her already soaked core. "Please," the plead combined with a moan of need pushed him over the edge.

Kate fell back onto the bar as her hands released him, left to clench into fists at her sides as Castle took one bold lick, then another and another. Kate squeezed her eyes shut, trying not to cry out as his mouth did such amazing things to her. He pushed his tongue deep into her and she cried out again. She had never felt anything ao incredible in her whole life. Kate gasped loudly in surprise as he pulled out and in his place two fingers pushed into her, while his tongue swirled circles around her. All the while, his fingers continued drawing in and out of her with purposeful strokes. His fingers, pressed hard against the anterior side of her wall, searching for the one little spot that he knew would drive her over the edge.

"Cas…" Kate couldn't even finish the word as her breaths became ragged, and uneven. She was left struggling to grapple with the extreme amounts of pleasure. It was almost too much. Almost. It was pleasure and it was pain. And she so desperately needed release. Kate's body tightened up into a tightly wound coil as Castle swirled his tongue around her, before flicking her with his tongue.

"So close," Kate begged and chanted. "Please. I need… More. Just a little more." Castle continued his purposeful strokes. He didn't need her to tell him she was close, because he could see it and feel it with every touch he placed on her. Finally, Castle found the spot deep inside of her that he was looking for, and he stroked it with his forefinger and middle finger. Kate cried out louder. He knew she was at the brink as all of the muscles in her body tightened. Her walls clenching hard around his fingers.

"Shh," Castle's voice was surprisingly calm and soothing, "I've got you. It's okay, Kate. You can let go now." Only a heartbeat after the words had been spoken, Caste followed up with something he knew would send her over the edge. He took the bundle of Kate's nerves gently into his mouth and sucked it gently. Kate's body went rigid as she felt herself catapulted over the edge. She found herself screaming his name as she did so. Castle continued a few more strokes trying to prolong Kate's fall. He tried not to moan himself as she came onto his fingers. A flush worked its way up her cheeks as she realized that she still couldn't call him by his first name. Something just didn't seem right about it. He was and would always be Castle to her. Kate's eyes openned as she sank gently down over the island in his kitchen. She stared at the ceiling, consumed by the bliss she had just experienced. Her chest still bobbed wildly in the air as she struggled to accept what she had just done. She would never regret it. She couldn't. Her heart was his. It had been for a long time now. The thing that scared her most was that she cared for him so much. Perhaps even more than she had only an hour ago. She didn't think she could cope with it this time if things ended badly. It was strange, but somehow she and Castle had become best friends over the course of the past two years.

A sated smile slipped onto her lips as two crystalline sapphire blue eyes swam into her vision. Castle looked none too pleased about what he had just done.

"Hey," he breathed softly. "You still with me?"

"Mmm," Kate hummed softly, reaching up to stroke his face softly.

"There's no way that I've rendered the great Kate Beckett speechless," Castle said teasingly. "No way…"

"You wish," Kate laughed, heartily. It was a deep and throaty laugh that warmed Castle's heart more than he'd ever thought possible. And then he saw it, the look that always melted his heart. She bit down on her bottom lip softly as her eyes lit up like that of a carefree child and she refused to tear her eyes away from him. She was so beautiful that in that moment he made a promise to himself that he would never let her go.

"Ah," Castle smiled and nodded knowingly, "Of course not. That would be too good to be true."

"Don't ruin a good moment," Kate breathed softly. "I'm rarely speechless, but that was...amazing."

"Really now," Castle's eyes twinkled with amusement. He let out a laugh of his own.

"Okay," Kate spoke as she swatted him softly, "Now I'm starting to wish I'd brought my pistol with me," Kate's eyes glinted in the light. "It always seems to keep you in line."

"Well, if it's any consolation, I'm glad you didn't," Castle replied honestly as he bent down to capture Kate's lips in another kiss. She tried to pull him down with her, her body still craving his. A moan fell from Castle's lips as his chest brushed hers, while at the same time, Kate moaned at the residual sweet and salty taste left on his lips. Finally, when air became a necessity, Castle pulled back gently.

"I've been thinking," Castle breathed, "you must be a goddess."

"Oh really," Kate teased a she let out a sleepy yawn, and her eyes briefly closed. "I wonder...Has anyone ever told you how amazing you are?"

"I've heard it a few times, but never when it counted," Castle replied, gently scooping Kate up in his arms. "Come on. Let's get you to bed. You need to rest up. You've got to be tired."

"What about you?" Kate yawned again.

"I'm a big boy," Castle replied, his want and need for her growing by the second. What he had just done was so much better than any fantasy that he had ever had. And yet, part of him was convinced she would regret all of it tomorrow. If that was truly the case, he wasn't sure what he'd do, or how they'd salvage their relationship, but he was already bent on damage control. "I'll be fine." Castle shouldered his way into his bedroom, careful not to jostle Kate in any way. He set her down on the bed, pulling up the covers. He tucked her in, kissing her on the forehead.

"It's true, you know," Kate husked in his ear. Her warmth breath sent a fresh shiver rocketing up his spine. "I always thought that you were just very…"

"Egotistical?" Caslte finished for her.

"But that was," Kate let out another moan as she closed her eyes.

"Oh come now," Castle reprimanded mockingly, "You're making me blush." Castle turned on the electrical fireplace in his room. He stole a glance at her as her eyes drifted shut. His hand was on the doorknob when her voice had him jumping.

"What are you doing?" Kate asked, her voice thick with fatigue, while at the same time she sounded slightly wounded. "Where are you going?"

"I just thought that you might like some sleep…without any interruptions." Castle's voice trailed off as Kate pushed back the covers and stood up. She sidled up to Castle, her naked hips swaying back and forth in the dim light of his bedroom. He was mesmerized by her beauty, but more so by the confidence. She was something truly beautiful to behold and she knew it.

Castle gulped as Kate's hand darted out, for the door handle within several inches of Castle's side. With a flick of her wrist the lock engaged. The click of the lock, gave Castle all the clues he needed as to what Kate had planned next. He closed his eyes as Kate's hands were suddenly sliding up over his warm flesh.

"I appreciate the fact that you were trying to be considerate, but I don't want to be alone tonight. And I was kind of hoping that I might be able to spend it in your arms." Kate breathed into his ear, her body rubbing ever so slightly up against his. Castle let out a groan, his hands finding her hips as he pulled her closer. He breathed in her scent, lost in the reality. Part of him feared that this was all some dream that would end abruptly in the morning, leaving him wishing that he could relive it.

Kate could scarcely breath as his lips dove and crashed hungrily against hers. This time the touches and kisses were much more urgent and Kate realized the tenderness and gentleness before had mainly been for her benefit. Now Castle was impatient and desperate for his own release, and she was more than willing to give it to him. She wanted him to know she wasn't just using him for sex. She loved him, and though he could get on her nerves, he always seemed to know exactly what she needed and when she needed it. The kiss did not break as they stumbled backwards towards the bed. Kate groaned as she struggled to undo Castle's belt, which seemed to be putting up a fight of its own. Finally, it came loose, and she slipped the fine leather from the clasp her fingers darting impatiently for the button on his jeans. Kate let out a miniature shriek as her calves hit the back of the bed and they tumbled onto the mattress. Kate bit down on her tongue as she was now straddling a very impatient Castle. Her fingers undid the button of his pants deftly, and then tugged on the zipper. She closed her eyes as she shifted, feeling him respond to her in most delicious way through the fabric. He wanted her. He wanted her badly. Kate leaned forwards onto her knees, tugging down the black fabric and the blue boxers underneath. When the fabric was free she tossed it to the floor. Castle tried to lay still as Kate shifted and slowly crawled up his body, letting her own brush his along the way.

"Kate," the name was barely a whisper as she took his lips in a hungry kiss. Kate smiled as she ran her fingers along his jaw-line. "I don't want you to feel like you have to do this if you don't want to."

"W-What makes you say that?" Kate asked calmly. "Castle… I… I rarely say this so I wouldn't get used to hearing it from me, but I… I need you. God, I want you." Castle's body jerked as Kate ran her fingers down his midline and took hold of him in her hand, running her fingers over the length of him while she took him in another deep, passionate kiss. He pulled away breathlessly. Kate watched as he reached for the drawer of the bedside table, rummaging about inside of it clumsily as he searched for what he needed. Finally, his flingers closed around the thin foil wrapper, and Kate watched as he tore it open. He tried to be quick about it, but it seemed like the more he rushed, the longer it took and the more embarrassed he felt.

"Here," Kate breathed, "Let me." Castle was surprised at her gentle touch as Kate slid it over him. A second later Kate cried out as Castle's thigh pushed up hard against her center. He drew her closer, running his hands up and down her sides. He raked the tips of his fingers in the taught muscles at the base of her spine. She had a strong and very well sculpted back and he already loved running his hands over it. Slowly, he ran them around her front, running them up and down her taught, muscular stomach. She closed her eyes, savoring his touch and he way he appreciated her body. Castle took advantage of this opportunity, running them slowly downwards to the space between her legs. Kate's eyes flickered as Castle dipped his fingers inside of her once more, pulling out a few moments later. "Don't tease me...Please. I need more." Kate husked between moans.

"More?" Castle's brow rose over his eyes. "What is it you want?" Kate's hips jerked as she tried to get him to touch her with more pressure.

"I..I want," Kate was embarrassed as her hips bucked upwards, seemingly of her own accord. She was so desperate. "I…I need you. I need to feel you inside of me." Kate nearly cried. "Castle, please..."

"You're sure?" Castle asked, receiving a prompt nod.

"Yes. More than ever," Kate breathed, as her entire body continued to convey its need through the way her hips bucked at his touch.

In an explosive heartbeat, Kate was being flipped onto her back underneath him. She latched onto him as he lunged forwards, capturing her lips hungrily. Her arm slipped around his shoulders in order to maintain close proximity as he payed homage to her body. She could feel every wet kiss he placed to her skin. He kissed her tenderly. Covering one of the more gruesome looking scars she gotten early on in her career when she was a beat cop with his lips. Finally, after his own lengthened perusal, Castle too, was impatient. Kate closed her eyes as Castle shifted so that he brushed her inner thigh and then her swollen opening. She wanted to cry out in frustration and yell at him for being a tease, but before she ever got the chance, he kept her from doing so. As his upper body sank lower and he kissed her neck, he shifted so that he was ready to enter her.

Kate's head dropped back against the pillows as he pushed into her for the first time, stretching her, filling her. It was slow, as he meant to give her time to adjust to the feeling. A cry fell from her lips as she felt him start to pull out slightly before pushing back into her. This time a little faster.

"Castle," the breathy plea was the most beautiful sound that he'd ever heard. He felt her nails scrape into his back as she grappled with him. In an instant, her legs were wrapping around him, pulling him in closer. He paused for a moment, wanting and needing to relish the feeling of her around him. It was so much more than he'd ever experienced before. He already felt like he wanted to stay inside her forever.

"You okay?" he asked between several kisses, wanting to make sure he wasn't hurting her.

"Mmhmm," Kate hummed between peppered kisses, her breathing hitching with each thrust.

"You sure?" Castle asked softly as he ran his hands over her burning flesh ever so gently.

"God, yes," Kate breathed, "Please...Please don't stop."

"Oh, Kate," Castle grunted, thrusting into her again slowly, before he drew himself back out. Steadily he began to pick up rhythm going at a fairly moderate speed. "God, everything about you is so perfect." Kate opened her mouth to protest, but he wouldn't let her get far enough to do so. Castle moaned again as he pushed into her. Kate couldn't help the moan that befell her lips as well. Everything felt so perfect. So right. This was heaven. It had to be. It just felt like it had to be.

"You're so tight, so warm for me," Castle breathed as he continued thrusting into her. Sweat built on their bodies as Kate's breaths became ragged, hungry as Castle pushed deep into her. Somehow, over the course of a few minutes their bodies became one. They moved in perfect sync, one always giving while the other was receiving, one pushing while the other pulled. It was perfect. They lost themselves in eachother, and became lost in the sensations of one of the most beautiful acts of love. Kate closed her eyes and savored it all, opening her eyes every so often to stare into the deepest blue eyes she'd ever been graced to see. She swore that she could feel everything inside of her. Castle was there with her, in so deep, that he might as well have taken her heart in his hands. Every feeling, good or bad, every fear, every inhibition, everything was his. Kate couldn't stop the sounds coming from her lips as her hips came up to meet his. Instinctively, her legs wrapped tighter around him, cradling him while still trying to force him closer. She needed more. She needed his thrusts to be just a little more forceful, and so she slowly lifted her hands and grazed his hips, drawing him in, guiding him. "Harder...Just a little bit. Please...I need," her state of mind was keeping her from forming complete sentences.

Castle closed his eyes. And one second was all it took. He was pushing harder, giving her everything she needed. It was incredible. She watched him as his eyes opened, finding hers immediately. Their eyes held, neither willing to budge. Their breathing was ragged as they struggled with each connection. Kate wanted more than anything to hold him inside. His grunts sounded animalistic as Kate's walls, clenched tightly around him. He hit all of the right spots inside of her and it drove her body wild. Her abdominal muscles started to tightly coil as felt her pleasure suddenly grow exponentially. Before she could hold it back, it was there and it was all encompassing. She tried to fight it off, to lengthen what they had, but she could not. She was already going over the edge as she spoke.

"Castle I think that I'm…" those were the only five words that made it through Kate's lips before she was screaming out Castle's name in the throes of one of the more powerful orgasms she'd ever had. "Oh god."

And just like that, he was falling with her, crying out into the air as he completed one last thrust. Kate's head dropped back on the pillows as she gasped for air. Castle's trembling arms threatened to give way, but held strong. Kate, still in a daze reached up to touch him. He closed his eyes as she ran her hand so tenderly over his heart. It was nothing like she'd imagined, but rather, it was so much more. In fact, she was pretty sure that Richard Castle was the best thing to ever happened to her. He was everything that she wanted or needed. To think that all this time that everything she'd been looking for had been right under her nose the whole time, only made her wish that she'd figured it out sooner. But now she knew, and she never intended to let him go.

They stayed for that for a long moment, she refused to relinquish her grip on him. She wanted to stay connected to him. She never wanted the feeling to leave. Chests heaved up and down. Kate took a deep breath as Castle briefly buried his face in her neck, drinking in the moment, and appreciating it for what it was. He whisper several beautiful words in her ear, a declaration of love. It was perfect. Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined the night ending like this. Yet somehow, it seemed as if it were destined to happen.

"Castle," Kate's breath hitched as he finally pulled ever so gently out of her. She missed him immediately and reluctantly let him go. Her heartbeat was thundering wildly in her ears. She could scarcely feel her legs as she slowly relinquished the grip on him that held him in place. Sweat pooled on their bodies, and suddenly neither of them were as cold as they had been only hours before. A deep breath escaped Castle's lips as he rolled to the side, dropping onto the mattress in exhaustion. Kate's neck turned ever so slightly to the side, observing his state of mind. He was staring at some spot on the ceiling, and looked torn between elation and fear. She could tell that, in many ways, he was still afraid of rejection. She couldn't reist as she rolled over, curling up against him.

"Kate," Castle tried to speak, but Kate didn't let him get as far. She propped herself up, placing her forefinger over his lips to silence him.

"Shh…" Kate whispered. "I already know what you're thinking. And I don't…I don't regret it one bit. I meant what I said, Castle. I needed you tonight and I wanted you."

"But what about everything else?" Caslte couldn't get rid of the fear and doubt in his own mind. "You just broke up with Josh... I don't want you to rush into things if you're not ready."

"I'm ready," Kate reassured him. "Castle, it's not like it suddenly just dawned on me tonight. I...I've been in love with you since you took off for the Hamptons last summer."

"Y-You have?" Castle's face contorted as he came to grips with this new found information. "I...I had no idea." His expression was suddenly apologetic.

'I know..." Kate swallowed. "Please don't feel bad. It was my fault, Castle, not yours."

"What about our partnership?" he asked finally, unable to relax just yet. "Look, I know I'm not the best partner. I know that I'm not I'm probably the partner you wanted, but I want to be with you."

"Castle," Kate sighed, "Why would you think that you're not the partner I want? You're the best partner that anyone could ask for." She took a deep breath and continued. "Look, I want to be with you too," Kate breathed quickly. She felt slight panic as he avoided her eyes. It was like he didn't believe her and that scared her. She never imagined him to be so insecure about what they'd just done, but then remembered that he'd been betrayed before by people who she knew must have declared their love for him. "Castle, look at me." Kate's hands gently manipulated his gaze to meet hers. "I'm serious. For once in my life, I'm telling you the truth. I know what I want. And I want you at my side. Always."

"Always?" Castle repeated as a smile befell his lips.

"Yes," Kate whispered breathlessly, smiling as she gave him a chaste kiss.

"Are you sure what you're getting into here?" Castle teased, "Because forever is a long time..."

"I'm aware," Kate replied with her own wry smile. "And yes," she giggled softly, "I'm sure." Ever so gently he brushed the hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. She held her breath as his thumb ghosted over her cheek, while his eyes shimmered beneath her.

"You know? Always and forever... I kind of like the sound of that," Castle said sleepily.

"Me too," Kate said honestly as she slowly settled back into him, wrapping her arm around his middle as she used the warmth from his body to warm her own. Kate closed her eyes as a happy sigh sliped from her lips. "I'm so tired.. I'll see you in the morning?" she murmured sleepily.

"I'll be here," Castle reassured her softly. "Now get some sleep." Kate settled into him as he ran his fingertips soothingly through her hair. Who would have known that two days ago this would happen? It wasn't expected, but both of them accepted it for what it was. Wherever your heart is there your treasure will be also. They had finally found their treasure and now they had no intention of ever letting it go. Castle let out a sigh of happiness, feeling happier than he could ever imagine. Kate was finally his. She loved him.

And if you say we'll be alright
I'm gonna trust you, babe
I'm gonna look in your eyes
And if you say we'll be alright
I'll follow you into the light

R & R! So that's it for now! This could be a one shot maybe more. I suppose it all depends on how well this is received. If you have a few seconds to review please do! Reviews are awesome, and make all the work worthwhile! Thanks for reading.