Rick had once told Kate that he'd be whatever she needed him to be, even if that was nothing. So if Kate needed him to stand here and hold her all day, there was no question that he'd hold her until his arms fell off. Not that holding her was a really sacrifice. On the contrary, the fact that she had not yet pulled away from him had his heart doing cartwheels in his chest. He wished that she was this close to him under other, less emotional circumstances, but he couldn't focus on that right now.

Now, he was completely distracted by the way Beckett fit perfectly into his embrace. He could feel her cheekbone resting against his collarbone; her delicate nose nuzzled into the side of his neck so as she stood there trying to calm herself, he could feel her breath fan down past the collar of his shirt and spread warmly across his chest.

He focused on the way her hair felt as he comfortingly moved his fingers through it, touching her graceful neck with just the tips of his fingers. He couldn't help but notice the way that his fingertips seemed to burn after he touched the sinfully smooth skin there. He noticed the way his arms completely surrounded her, feeling just how small she actually was. His hand was wrapped around her waist and he could easily slip his hand a little lower and pull her tight against him...

Rick mentally slapped himself. He was there because she needed him. She was hurting, and emotional, and there he was inappropriate thoughts about her while she was in his arms, looking for a friend.

A friend. That's all he'd ever be to her. He knows he should feel honored to be able to call her that. She's beautiful, trustworthy, loyal, and passionate. She is dedicated, and fair, and would do just about anything for the people she cared about (which included Lanie, Ryan, Esposito, her father, Montgomery, Alexis, Martha, and himself) Kate was the best friend you could ever have; the person you'd want to be standing next to as your world comes crashing down. Of course, she has her own flaws; she's guarded, suspicious, and stubborn, but once you managed to get past her walls, you could see that she was also fiercely protective and loving. It was selfish, but he wanted more. Being her friend, her partner, wasn't enough anymore, but he would pretend it was.

Rick had been waiting his entire life for someone like Kate; someone who made him feel like a real person, not some author with an obscene amount of money; someone who would push him and welcomed him pushing right back; a woman who was intelligent, beautiful, and strong. Unfortunately, it had taken him one lost love, two ex-wives, and many shallow flings to get him to that point, and he knew this baggage made her uncomfortable.

As much as Kate would try to make people think she was strong, independent, and completely confident, Rick knew that she worried about what people said about her. Kate had a hard job, a job not many women find themselves excelling in, but, as he knew all along, she was extraordinary. She had insinuated herself into a world where no one thought she belonged, where everyone thought she was going to fail, and managed to prove all of them wrong. She worked hard for her reputation. Rick knew Kate feared that the opinions of the boys at the precinct would change if she went from being "Detective Kate Beckett" to "Kate Beckett, girlfriend of Rick Castle." How would that look for her? Would everyone think she was in it for the attention? the spotlight? his money? Rick knew that if Kate were to ever be with him, she would be in it for the sheer fact that she wanted to be with him. But he couldn't shake the feeling that that would never happen because Kate didn't want a label that would be associated with him. Kate refused to be "another conquest"; she didn't want to be known as his "flavor of the week"; and she absolutely did not want to be "Wife #3." And in all honesty, he understood that. Who would want any of those titles? None of them are the least bit flattering.

But that didn't make it hurt any less.

Rick knew that he was undeniably and irrevocably in love with Kate. It had started out simply as attraction. But after their initial meeting and first few cases, Rick had been surprised to find that he had been going out of his way to make her notice him. He wanted to impress her. He needed her approval. And when she had first opened up to him about her mother's murder and her story, he realized he didn't deserve her approval, because she was on a completely different level from the other women he usually approached. But he wanted to be good enough for her. It was a battle he was still trying to win.

Rick was ready. He was ready to risk all they had to be with her. To Rick, it didn't seem like much of a risk at all, because he knew they could make it work. What they could gain out of moving this relationship to another level outweighed any other doubt he had in his mind. And no, it wasn't about sex (although, with the feelings he has towards Kate, he was certain the sex would be like nothing he had ever experienced). Kate would finally have someone to lean on, that she could trust unconditionally because he would never (intentionally) hurt her; Alexis would be gaining strong, female role model in her life (though he knew she already looked up to his lovely detective); Kate could get a family, a confidant, and someone who would take care of her; and Rick would finally have the satisfaction and privilege of being able to tell people that he was dating the most extraordinary women he had ever met, the woman he loved and inspired him, and no, he didn't know how or why he had gotten so lucky, but he was eternally grateful to whatever deity had thought him worthy enough to have her. How could she not see what was so obviously right in front of them? However, he wasn't willing to mess up what they already had if she didn't see it. If Kate didn't want to be with him, he was not risking being cut out of her life completely. He could only imagine what that would do to his heart.

So yes, Rick was ready to be with Kate, but not until she was ready to be with him.

Besides, his cynical side thought, she still has Josh.

Josh. How could he compete with a heart surgeon whose hobbies were riding his motorcycle and traveling to foreign countries to save lives? Even when he had made the mistake of being with Gina again, he had found himself extremely jealous of Josh. Rick had tried to replace Kate with Gina, thinking that his successful, blonde, ex-wife would distract him from the beautiful, brunette, detective that didn't want to be with him.

He never claimed it was smart idea.

He knew his plan backfired as soon as he saw Josh walk through the precinct elevator and she saw her smile. He would watch on as he saw Kate's eyes light up when he would call her, how she would smile when he would say something sweet over the phone. Rick was sure his heart broke a little more every time Josh wrapped his arm around Kate's waist, the waist he currently had his own arms around.

Suddenly, Rick felt himself becoming angry. Where the hell was Josh? It was obvious that Kate had had an emotional week. Her boyfriend was supposed to help make it a little less difficult. So where was he? While it pained Rick to think it, it should be Josh here holding her, making her feel safe and protected and loved, because that's what you do when you are lucky enough to have Katherine Beckett as your girlfriend. Rick knew that he could be that person for her; he wanted to her one and done so badly, but he wanted her to be happy. If happy meant Josh, than Josh better understand how damn lucky he is and do everything in his power to keep her happy. Rick was not going to settle for anything less, because Kate deserved nothing less than all the stars in the sky.

And, despite his thoughts that he didn't belong there right now, Kate was still wrapped safely in his arms, and he would take what he could get as far as her affection was concerned.

His anger calmed as he stood there holding her for a little while longer until he felt Kate start to shift against him. He moved his cheek from its place on her hair so she could break away from him if she wanted to. She lifted her head and moved to look him straight in the eye, but didn't fully leave his embrace. He kept his arms around her waist, not willing to let her go if she gave him the opportunity to keep holding her.

Rick wasn't sure how long he stared into her eyes - it might've been seconds, maybe minutes, but he could see himself getting lost in them. Her eyes were red from her tears and her cheeks were splotched pink because of her sobs, and he was once again struck by how beautiful she was. He remembered once hearing that some people are beautiful not in what they look like or how they act, but just because of who they are. Kate was one of those people.

His musing was cut off however when she began to move her face towards his. She leaned his forehead against his, and his breathing got embarrassingly shallow. Could you blame him? Here he was, holding his beautiful partner who he's been in love with months now, and she moved so close to him he could feel her breath on his lips.

"Thank you." She whispered softly. He immediately responded.


Very slowly, Rick watched her as she brought her face closer to his. Rick felt her lips hovering right above his. He felt his eyes start to close, but he snapped open and pulled back slightly.

This is wrong, he thought. She's with Josh, she's emotional, she probably feels like she needs to thank me somehow. She's going to regret this. I can't let her regret this.

"Kate…" he said quietly, "You don't have to do this."

He saw her look at him and almost shied away from the look in her eyes.

"Rick..." She started.

He cut her off, "I don't want you to do something you regret."

He could see the surprise in her eyes the minute he mentioned regret. He knew it. She realized she was going to regret this and she was going to pull away from him. Rick knew he had done the right thing no matter how much it hurt him. To be so close to her lips and never know if they would taste the same when they weren't tinged with worry and fear like they had been that night he kissed her undercover so many months again was sure to haunt him.

Rick was about to remove his arms from around her waist when he saw the look in her eyes change. Her eyes, at first contemplative and wide, suddenly seemed to soften. It was then that he knew. He had spent so much time with her he could read her expression anywhere. In an instant, Rick saw the same look in her eyes that he saw when she handed him her back-up weapon; trust. He saw the look she gave him after she had shot Dick Coonan in order to save his life; determination. He saw the look she gave him in the ambulance after he saved her from the man that had kidnapped Ryan and Esposito; he couldn't be sure, but he thought that it was love.

And then he saw her lips start to form that beautiful smile of hers and he knew that Josh wasn't going to be an issue anymore. That smile was only reserved for moments where she was truly happy, like when he handed her a signed copy of the Temptation Lane cast photo, or when he told her about the scholarship and fundraiser he had organized in her mother's memory, or the smile she had given him after he had pulled all those wires while all the while he was holding her hand. He felt her lean up into him again and this time he didn't pull back. Her lips ghosted over his own.

She whispered, "You talk too much," and before he could smile at her words, she softly pressed her lips against his.

Sorry it took so long for me to update this. My inspiration just wouldn't come back to me. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. I'm a little bit happier with this installment than I was the last one. In all honesty, I don't really know where to go from here, so for right now I'm going to say this story is complete. But who knows, maybe inspiration will strike again and I'll come back and add more. We'll see if anything else comes to mind :)

Also, a special thanks to everyone who has reviewed/favorited/put this story on their alerts. I never expected so many of you to like it! :D