Disclaimer: If I owned Castle, I would be set for college. Since I don't, I'm not.

Notes: So, I was falling asleep, and this brain-sized Beckett popped into my head and poked at me until I sat up and wrote down this story idea. She's quite pushy, not gonna lie.

Kate Beckett could not, to save her own life, explain why she was tip-toeing down the stairs, cautious to step over the squeaky ones, of Richard Castle's loft. She knew why she was in his home; it was the coldest winter on record and she had no power at her place, a fact she was still cursing ConEd over. But sneaking down the stairs? No explanation. She had been trying to sleep, up in that luxurious spare room, since midnight. Four hours later, she was still wide awake, and thirty minutes after that, she found herself standing at the bottom of the stairs. She waited there for several minutes, just listening, she didn't hear the tell-tale sounds of a keyboard, and she could tell the TV was off. She smacked a hand to her forehead.

"It's nearly five in the morning you idiot, he's sleeping," she scolded herself quietly. She let her eyes make one last sweep over the quiet loft and she decided that maybe she could use something strong to quell her nerves, and help her sleep.

"What are you waiting for?" Alexis was on the bottom step rubbing at the sleep in her eyes. She capped the question off with an enviable yawn. "Dad only booby traps the fridge at dinner," she mumbled and brushed past Kate to make a zombie-like trip to the fridge for water. She didn't say anything else, just grabbed the bottle and went back upstairs.

"Night, Alexis..." Kate waited until she disappeared before moving into the kitchen. She poked around his liquor cabinet until she found a half empty bottle of scotch. She found a clean tumbler in the cabinet and poured two-fingers. After tucking away the bottle, she stood at the counter nursing the glass. Five brought on a renewed confidence, and suddenly Kate found herself standing at his door with her hand turning the knob of its own volition.

She froze as her traitorous hand eased the door open, and she stared at the sleeping man-child safely cocooned in his over-sized bed. He was sleeping with his back to her, but even in the dim moonlight streaming in his windows she could see how the tension in his shoulders was gone. As carefree as the man seemed to be on the outside, she could easily see the weight he carried on a daily basis.

She inched forward across the hardwood to the end of his bed, careful to tread lightly. Once she had rounded the final edge, she saw absolute serenity etched into his features. She hugged her arms around herself, and just watched him sleep. Her bravery got the better of her, and she gently lowered herself down onto the side of the bed. With one leg nearly tucked under her, and the other folded up to her chin, she sat at the edge of his bed and watched him dream.

She knew she was in trouble the moment he burrowed deeper into his blankets and pulled her body closer to him. She was royally screwed, her only saving grace would be him not waking up. Something he was apparently very keen to not do. He shifted onto his back and began to lightly snore, and Kate had to bite her lip to prevent the small chuckle from escaping. Figuring she was safe for now, she folded her arms on top of her knee and rested her chin on it.

Lost in her own revere, she failed to notice him waking up.

"Are you watching me sleep?"

"How creepy would you think I was if I said yes?" She raised her head and arm and propped her face against her palm.

He scrubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes and blinked at her a few times before answering, "Honestly? I'm not as creeped out as I should be."

She smirked and shifted her gaze to the wall behind his bed. "Should I worry about that?"

"I wouldn't," he replied, shifting up to a sitting position, his back pressed against the headboard. "Saves you a headache." She nodded in response, and he reached over to brush a lock of hair away from her face. "Not that I hate waking up and finding you in my bed, but what are you doing in here?"

"I couldn't sleep. Fun fact, raided your liquor cabinet, and scotch at five in the morning makes me quite bold," she smiled, finally turning her attention back to him.

"Are you drunk?"

"No, I barely had enough to even bother with drinking it. I was hoping it would turn my brain off, and instead, it brought me here."

"What's on your mind, Kate?" He placed a comforting hand on the leg closest to him, his thumb absently tracing circles.

"What I want. Purely selfish thoughts on my mind tonight."

"What is it you want?" He was actually a very patient man, and just as skilled at interrogating as she was. He knew just what questions to ask, when to hold back, and when to prod. It probably helped that he could play her like a piano.

She took a deep breath and looked at the wall next to his head. "When I was ten, I remember telling my mother that I wanted to be an actress. I was big on movies when I was little, but it was always movies that I had no business knowing about. My dad and I used to sit at home on Saturday mornings and watch Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant and Doris Day. I was 12 before I figured out that most of my friends spent their mornings watching cartoons. I was so enamored by the glamorousness of it all. Those dreams fell through when I realized that I had a very serious case of stage fright.

"When I was 15, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer, no, I wanted to be just like Mom. I wanted to be a lawyer; find the perfect guy; have the family. She thought I was insane, and tried to convince me to do anything but be a lawyer. 'Do something that makes you happy, Katie.' She said those words over and over to me, but you know how stubborn I am. I barreled my way through every advanced, honors, and IB course I could get my hands on in high school. A pretty good set up for college, but it left me wanting a major that was less... intensive.

"I'd never in my life been as terrified as I was when I was registering for classes that first semester. She encouraged me to try something new, and that if I wanted to take an entire semester of frivolous courses she'd support me on it. I ended up, at the end of that fall, discovering the Slavic studies program, and I fell in love. I didn't know what I would do with that degree, and I still don't, but I wanted it. I threw myself into it, there is such a rich culture over there that most of us know nothing about," she paused in her monologue and looked back at him.

"And that changed too." He finished her unspoken sentence, his thumb was still rubbing those same soothing rhythmic circles on her calf.

"Yeah," she admitted quietly, "I finished it for her, but it wasn't what I wanted anymore. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never climb back out, but she would've hated that. I floundered for a long time. Dad was in his bottle, and I was sleep-walking through my education." She ran a hand through her hair.

"You found the academy though." He squeezed her leg.

"Yep. I wanted to solve her murder, and I worked harder than I had ever worked before. Too hard. I was saving him, working awful shifts, and drowning in her case. Royce put me back on dry land, but after that I was afraid to go after what I wanted. I didn't want to end up like that again, you know?"

"Then I came along, and turned your world on its side."

"No," she said vehemently, "You set my world upright again. You tied a rope around my waist to make sure I never got lost in that darkness again. You started fixing everything that broke when she died. You've always been there, Rick. Making sure that I made it through, and now that we've solved the case, I don't think I know what I want anymore."

"I think that's a lie. I think you know exactly what you want, but you're just unwilling to admit it," he prodded, shifting a little closer to her and brushing his hand through her hair again.

"I want to be happy. I want to live that life she spent 19 years encouraging me to have. I want to wake up in the mornings with a reason to smile. I have the career, but I still want the guy; the family." She leaned into his hand and closed her eyes.

"You can have all of that, Kate."

"And you are dense."

He looked affronted. "Excuse me?"

"I know I can have all of that, Rick. Of all the times you chose not to listen to what I'm not saying very loudly." She exhaled a deep breath and locked eyes with him. "I'm tired of running from this, and I have to put it out there before I implode. I want that life with you, Rick. I want 'always' with you. Everything." She extended her arm and placed her palm over his heart. "You are the one thing in this world that has never let me down, and let's face it, even when you did, you didn't."

Rick leaned forward. "Point of clarification: Is this how Kate Beckett says 'I love you'?"

She smiled and brought her face close to his. "No." She closed the final distance and met his lips with a gentle kiss. It lasted all of ten seconds, but the electricity than ran through it could've powered her blacked out corner of the city. "This is: I love you. I am in love with you, Richard Castle. May Madison Queller never find out I repeated these words: I want to make little Castle babies with you. One and done, and all of that. Is it clear enough now?"

He had been staring at her with his mouth hanging open. "Clear enough, yes." He regained his faculties and pulled her toward him, capturing her lips in a heated kiss. His hands tangled themselves in her hair, and she fisted her hand in his shirt as she untangled herself from her own legs to get closer to him. Lips parted and tongues began a tango, that left them both breathless when they finally pulled apart. "I love you too."