She stood with her back to him, hands on the edge of the sink, leaning forward. He could hear her quiet breathing in the even quieter apartment. In the darkened kitchen with only the dim lights from the city skyline, he could see her back move slightly with each inhalation.

She was so strong. He could see it in the set of her shoulders and the angle of her chin so defiantly set against the forces that constantly threatened to crush her. She was a warrior who fought against the breaking of her being. Defender of the defenseless. Protector of the city.

But who was her champion? Whose arms would fend off her demons? She was strong, but she was delicate. A determined, multifaceted diamond, each of her shiny sides reflected light at exactly the same brilliance. He loved it all. He wanted his arms to be the ones to carry her through fire. His shoulders to bear the weight of her burdens. His heart to beat as one with hers and keep them strong.

He knew that he already was all those things. He was already her friend, her partner, her always. But day in and day out he threw on his cloak and veil and they played their safe little game of pretend. Let's pretend I'm not staring at you. Let's pretend you're not smiling at me. Let's pretend our hands didn't brush. Let's pretend that you aren't my everything and that I don't love you with every single sad little cell in my body.

Looking at the way her dark hair fell down her back made Castle forget, just for a second, that they were supposed to still be pretending. He reached a tentative hand out and fingered one of the soft waves. He knew she couldn't feel him there and he took a moment to memorize how perfect each strand felt to his touch. He wanted to be able to touch her hair whenever he wanted. He wanted to quit playing pretend and just be who they really were. Lovers.

Why couldn't they? What exactly was the excuse of the week? She was with Josh. They were partners and it would ruin their working relationship. He had a history. She had—she had…

Nothing. There was nothing that seemed like it was worth it anymore. He wanted her and he knew in the deepest, truest part of his soul that she wanted him too. She loved him back. She had to.

Taking one more step forward, he let his body linger just close enough to her back that he could feel her body heat radiating to his chest. It seemed that the cosmic hook that linked them together had clenched irrevocably and now with every breath she took, his body swayed with hers, connected by something deeper than the physical.

She had to know he was there. His heat had to be affecting her in the same way hers had rocked him. Her hands had tightened almost imperceptibly on the counter and he thought he could feel a shift in her breathing. Maybe it was just the reflection of the shift within him. He was done with the game.

Slowly, he slid his hands around her until they were pressed firmly into her stomach, holding her to him. She felt small in his arms, and he could sense the tension that vibrated off of every molecule of her being. She was frozen in form. Time and space ceased to be factors.

She breathed, "Castle. What are you—?"

"—I'm tired, Kate."


"I'm tired of pretending, Kate. Aren't you tired?" He brought his head down to her neck and buried his face in her hair, breathing deeply. The scent of her washed over and through him like the sweetest relief he'd ever experienced. "I can't pretend anymore."

He tightened his arms around her and pulled her that much closer to himself. She was warm against him and he thought that maybe, if he held on just a little tighter, she would simply melt into him. Pushing her hair out of the way with his nose, he brought his lips to her neck and let them hover over her pulse, inhaling the scent of sunshine from her skin.

He heard a small intake of breath and watched as her knuckles tightened to white on the granite countertop. He brushed his lips over the skin lightly, like an artist painting a summer cloud. The air she had taken in escaped her in a rush, but she made no other sounds or movements.

"Please, Kate. Let me stop pretending." He closed his eyes and pressed his lips to her unbearably soft skin, and left a kiss for her there. And another. And another. The taste of her almost brought tears to his eyes. She was warm and soft and felt like heaven against his lips. He would never leave this spot. This corner of delights where her neck met her shoulder was the setting of his happily ever after.

"Castle…" His name was drawn from her lips like a hot line of liquid glass.

He hummed into her white, sweet skin and soon her neck was falling to the side slightly like a tree bending to the wind.

"Stop pretending, Kate." He ran his hands around her until her sides filled his palms, and then skimmed them up and down, trying to feel all of her that he could. "Be real. Let us be real tonight."

He could tell the moment she dropped her veils. The moment she gave in and ceased to don the costumes of their invented selves. Her hands left the sink and found his arms. Her head fell to his shoulder, exposing a vast new expanse of ivory skin for his taking.

He moved from that heavenly juncture and began to explore the rest of her neck slowly and with reverence. His lips softly caressed the smooth spot right above her clavicle and a sound escaped her that was half gasp, half whimper.

Castle couldn't help his reaction. She was just too much for him to handle and it finally broke what little self-control he had left.

"Let me kiss you. Please, let me kiss you." It was a plea. If he couldn't kiss her now, something inside of him would simply explode into a supernova of unresolved passion.

She turned her head and for the first time in what felt like an infinite string of time, their eyes met. Navy blue and earth green fused together. Castle's breath abandoned him as he took in the unadulterated lust in her eyes. Her mouth opened and his name tumbled from her parted pink lips.


He didn't wait another second. She had used his first name. The one she never used in public when they were set in their safe little roles. It was the last confirmation he needed to be sure that she wasn't pretending anymore. This was her and this was him and this was them together at last. Kate and Rick.

He brought his lips to hers and it was everything he had ever wanted or needed or dreamt of. Her mouth was hot and her response was blissfully real. The way her tongue stroked his and her lips pulled at him was simply maddening. Intoxicating. He forgot that he had hands, forgot that he could use them. Their bodies were frozen together as they simply explored the fullest potential of the kiss.

He started to pull away from her, not because he wanted to stop the kiss, but because he could hardly bear it any longer. He was losing his control and his reactions would soon be spinning out of his grasp. The moment his lips left hers, however, she released a small sound of protest and her hand moved quickly from his forearm to his jaw and cheek, quickly halting his retreat.

Bringing their lips together again almost forcefully, she made it clear that stopping was not an option.

"Not yet." She whispered against his lips through the kiss. "Not done yet."

He obliged. Her hand ran from his jaw and into his hair tugging at its thickness just a little, while simultaneously pulling him closer to her. At the intense feelings her hand inspired he remembered his own and slowly began to slide them over her front again. She moaned deeply into his mouth and he absorbed the hum, letting it become a part of himself.

He felt a shift in her body as she pressed into him, arching her back so that she could better feel his hands. He could no longer resist the temptation and let his thumb brush lightly against her breast. Feeling the soft weight of it through the fabric of her shirt was dreamlike. With a mind of its own, his thumb stroked against the underside and started to pull the rest of his hand slowly up as if an uncontrollable magnetic force was driving it.

She ripped her lips from his, and just when he thought she had pulled the mask back on and would push him away, she let her head fall back to his shoulder and exhaled passionately. Arching further into his palm, she let him fill his hand with her. There was no way that she couldn't feel him pressing against her lower back, but she voiced no protestations.

His lips fell once again to her neck as he resumed devouring her. The noises she made when he found the perfect combination between his hand and his lips were unbelievable. She was incredible and he whispered so into her ear.

Sliding his other hand down her taut stomach, he let the very tips of his fingers dip below the waistband of her jeans. That centimeter of his fingers touched a centimeter of her bare skin and he almost came undone at the experience. The fabric of her jeans rasped against his first knuckles as his hand slid even lower and he had to pull his mouth from her skin, to focus on staying in power of his actions. He rested his cheek by her ear as they breathed together, and he let his fingers graze lightly over the very upper edge of her underwear. He could feel lace and his mind flashed with a thousand images of her wearing only those and lying spread on his bed.

He had to pull away now, or there would be absolutely no turning back.

Withdrawing his hands from their torturously tempting positions, he settled them once again at her sides and then slowly guided her to turn and face him. She leaned her forehead against his and neither of them spoke for at least thirty heartbeats.

His desperate heart couldn't transmit the feelings for his mind to turn into words. It simply beat strong and fast in his chest, overwhelmed by the torrent of emotions that were flying through its chambers.

She seemed equally speechless and so for the moment, they simply settled for sharing the air between them in countless rapid breaths. Things finally began to slow from the frenzied swirl, and she pulled back from his forehead to look into his eyes. The room was still dark, but her wide green eyes reflected the city lights with a hypnotic twinkle.

She drew her bottom lip between her teeth and into her mouth and he couldn't help but bring his thumb up to pull it back out, running the pad along its wet surface. Her lips were swollen from his kiss and she had never looked more beautiful.

"Kate, I…" He didn't really know where he was going when he started speaking, but he knew that he had to say something to her. Something to tell her how he was feeling and how much this meant.

"Rick, don't. Not now."

He leaned in and kissed that full lower lip of hers briefly before pulling back and stroking her face with his hand.

"Don't make us go back to pretending. Please. We can't go back after this…At least I can't."

She looked down and the hands that she had rested against his sides started to glide them mindlessly up and down in small movements.

"I can't go back either," she whispered. Castle revealed a tiny smile that she would never see, her eyes focused on the buttons of his shirt. "But there are…things. Things that have to change in order for this to be real. Right now it's just…"


"Exactly." She smiled one of those adorable half smiles at him and his heart ached for her even more.

Leaning in to kiss her forehead. He pulled back and smiled reassuringly. As long as they weren't going to pretend anymore, he could wait for her.

"Okay. I can wait. But not too long, Kate."

She nodded and then leaned in with closed eyes, asking silently for another kiss. His heart swelled at the thought that she craved his lips as much as he needed hers. Leaning in, he ghosted a kiss across her lips before placing one on each cheekbone, the corner of her jaw, the curve of her forehead, the tip of her nose, and finally that tiny, mysterious, delicate beauty mark that rested just under her eyelashes. She opened her eyes and brought her lips to his one more time, for just a few more moments.

"I'm done pretending, too, Rick."

And as hard as it was to leave her warmth and her arms and her side that night, he knew that tomorrow, he would dress lighter. The daily mask and veil and cloak could be left behind and his heart could be on his sleeve, where it belonged. No more pretending.

A/N: I know, I know. I'm supposed to be writing Russian Roulette. But this just jumped into my mind and kind of took over my entire thought process. Sorry if it toes that delicate little M line. If I crossed it, just let me know and I'll bump up the rating. I feel like...they only really rounded second base, so it's pretty T appropriate. I'd love to hear your reviews. They are kind of my favorite part about life right now. I'm turning into a review whore. Although that would make you guys the gross dudes who like to pay ladies for And that's jsut uncomfortable for everybody to imagine. Unless I'm Julia Roberts and you're Richard Gere. And then being a hooker is romantic!

Speaking of Richard guys should totally check out my Tumblr (URL in my bio) and follow me on Twitter (daphnebeauty). Neither of those things have anything to do with Richard Gere, but I needed a segue.

I may or may not be persuaded to continue this one shot. But I can't quite think of where I would take it. Ideas?