A/N: So this is a first for me. I've never done a Castle fic before and I'd like to know what you think. It's based on one of the spoilers for 3x22. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I wish.

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The past two days had been nothing but a whirlwind of physical exertion and mental mind games. It had been difficult. A hard case, which had definitely taken its toll on them both. Yet, if he could do it over his decision would still have been the same. He would still have followed her out here. Because she had asked, and he had come to the realisation some time ago that he would always follow.

It really was not about the books anymore. It hadn't been for a while. Instead, it was now about trying to rid the pain in his heart that occurred whenever he was away from her, and if it took following her wherever she went for him to find some rest then he would accept that.

Because she was worth it.

Even now, he could feel himself about to make another small sacrifice in order to take her mind off the day's events. Sweeping past the small kitchen area, he was going to head into his bedroom, hoping that the exhaustion, which had begun to creep into his bones, would leave him if he had a few minutes rest. Nevertheless, he halted halfway as he took in her unmoving form on the couch, her eyes betraying the fact that her mind was obviously far away from where they were.

The haunted look was beginning to return to her features, causing his feet to make a quick turn in their direction, bringing him closer to her. All thoughts of the comfortable bed left him as the overwhelming need to help her took over his consciousness.

Losing his own need for comfort was a small sacrifice, and anyway he was certain that he would be unable to sleep with the knowledge that she was still out here. Her dangerous thoughts eating away at her soul, like they so often did.

Reaching the couch, he threw himself down beside her, keeping a respectable distance between them, but still close enough to be a shoulder to lean on if she needed one. He wasn't sure whether that small point was for her need or for his own selfish desire to be the one she leaned on.

Shutting out his internal monologue, he spoke the first words that came to him, hoping that they would grasp her attention.

"You know what I first thought when I met you?"

He knew he had succeeded in pulling her away from the confines of her mind when she brought her gaze slowly around to meet his, one shoulder rising to offer a small shrug.

"That you were a mystery I was never gonna solve," he elaborated. Turning on the small couch, he looked at her more directly, pleased to have gained her full attention when she rested her head on the hand she propped up against the back of the couch.

"Even now," he continued. "After spending all this time with you I'm..." He faltered but only for a moment; because he knew she needed to hear this. "I'm still amazed. At the depth of your strength. Your heart."

The small smile of appreciation she gave him was reward enough for baring a part of his soul to her. He could have gone on with his speech. She was perfection in his eyes; everything she did was extraordinary, so of course he could have given her endless examples of traits he admired within her.

But he didn't, because the carefully constructed line within their relationship did not allow it. Sure, he would push the boundaries when he forgot. And lately that had been happening more and more. He would seem to forget the most important factor within their relationship.

That no matter how much he wanted her, how much he craved to be the one she needed in her life, he wasn't. Because she was not his to begin with. She already had someone in her life to share her lonely nights, so he had to be sure that he only ever fulfilled the role of her friend.

Only the more time they spent together the more the line became blurred. He knew it was only a matter of time before he pushed too far. And he dreaded that day, because when it came, he would lose her.

The movement of her head turning as she looked away from him pulled him from the internal hammering of his feelings. A sigh held itself in behind his lips, wanting to break free, as he realised that this conversation had taken on a serious note; and the slight blush evident on her cheeks meant he might have pushed the line once more, so he reverted to their safety net. Humour.

"... And your hotness."

She let out a small noise of appreciation, before responding with such predictability it made his heart ache. "You're not so bad yourself Castle."

Hearing her words he nodded briefly in acknowledgment, too drained to be bothered to come up a quip, because he knew it was unneeded. This was how it was, how it always was. They would trade a mixture of humour filled sarcasm and they would flirt, but at the end of the day, when it really mattered, they would run from the serious conversations.

Which he had grown tired of. He was tired of the fleeing. He wanted to be able to tell how he felt; he wanted to be there for her. Because he loved her. He realised that now, had known it for a while in fact, but he was unable to do anything about it. Instead, he merely kept his mouth closed, reigning in any other heartfelt words that wanted to burst forth and tried to convey what he felt with a look.

He was sure his admiration was written all over his face, etched into his features so deep that the love he had for her was obvious to everyone but the woman in question. Although from the gaze that she returned maybe she was more affected by him then he thought.

The hope that blossomed within his chest caused his smile to fade as he leaned forward slightly, stopping before she could notice the distance between them lessen. He was familiar with this game now. They would have an innocent enough conversation, which then would lead to this lock of gazes and tearing emotions. It was a stalemate of epic proportions that neither of them could stop. Only this time it seemed differant. Normally there was an interruption, but they had nothing to break the moment here. They were alone, and they were phoneless.

This moment belonged to them and only them.

Feeling the air around them take on a heated note, he opened his mouth to say something, anything that would bring her closer to him. But the movement of his parting lips broke her from the trance and she managed to actually surprise him with the predictability this time. He really had thought something had changed, but he had been wrong.

"I should go," she whispered. Voice raspy she pulled away, clearing her throat before continuing, "It's late. Goodnight."

She was up before his brain could register the empty spot before him. He wanted to protest, to grab her hand and make her stop running. Just this once he wanted her to see him... really see him, and everything he could offer her. But she was leaving too quickly and he seemed to be running out of time, so he panicked and called out to her, hoping she could hear the plea in his voice.

"Kate."

The intimate sound of her first name halted her tracks and he opened his mouth to say something else, faltering when he realised he had nothing. And she noticed, taking the chance that his silence offered and pouncing through the small window of opportunity it opened.

"Goodnight Castle," she stated calmly, turning to him and offering him the shadow of a smile.

But he was too hurt to notice. He tried not to think of her abrupt departure as callous but he was unable to. He knew the reason why. It was because he had allowed himself to hope earlier, which had led to him lowering the wall he kept his heart behind.

He winced as her bedroom door clicked closed before staring at the offending object intently. The urge to follow her, to throw open the door and demand she not run from him anymore was so great he could feel a slight tremor going through his muscles. His jaw clenched and his fists tightened as he slowly stood to his feet, before berating himself for standing.

That was already the first step taken to going after her, so he turned away quickly. If he couldn't see her door, he would not be tempted. Surely, that theory was correct.

He was wrong. It only fuelled the desire he had. He needed something to take his mind off the idea. Looking around he noted the half full wine glass on the table, before picking it up and downing it in one large gulp.

"Great," he muttered, "get drunk and lose all of your restraint."

Feeling the exhaustion returning he sat down heavily on the edge of the couch, resting his arms on his knees and his head in his hands. Maybe he should have let her stay in the hotel she had booked. At least that way he would not be tempted to burst into her room and force a confrontation.

Dropping his hands he looked over at his own bedroom, realising his bed seemed to be calling him and with resignation in his movement, he began to stand, halting as he straightened when the door to his left was thrown open.

"You came back," he whispered, unable to believe the sight before him.

She had been about to speak when he had interrupted her, and she frowned as she seemed to lose her train of thought. "What? Oh, erm... yeah." Running her hands through her hair, she stepped back into the room before throwing her arms down to her sides and stopping her footsteps.

"You're wrong," she stated.

Frowning, he shook his head slowly, unable to comprehend what she could possibly be talking about. "What about?"

"You say that I have all this strength. That I amaze you."

"It's true. You're extraordinary," he stated, quickly.

"No I'm not." Holding a hand up to stop his protests she let out a deep breath before pacing back and forth a few steps, seeming to gather her thoughts. "Not all the time. I have weak moments. I might not admit it but I do break sometimes."

"I know."

"I know you do. But that's just it Castle. You're the only one who knows. You're the only one I fully let in... ever" Stopping her pacing she gazed at him with confusion evident in her features. "I don't need anyone," she stated, seeming to do a complete 180 in her thoughts.

"I never said you do. It's just nice to have someone there anyway." He could see her beginning to face the truth, only he wasn't sure whether it would be a good thing.

Nodding she crossed her arms around her middle, warding of the harshness of the reality she was facing. "You want to know why I'm as strong as you say."

"You don't have to tell me." And she didn't, because the fact that she had come back spoke more volumes then he could have ever hoped for.

"I know," she answered with a small smile, before the seriousness took over once more. "It's because of you."

"I don't understand," he said, confusion evident on his face.

"When my mother first..." Her words faltering, her hand automatically went to the ring on the chain around her neck. "When she died, things were really bad for me. To the point that some days I would wake up and wish it was me in the alley, not her."

"Kate," he whispered mournfully taking a step towards her, but stopping when she held a hand out in protest.

"You were one of her favourite authors you know," she stated, a small flicker of a smile making a brief appearance on her lips. "About a month after I lost her, I stumbled across one of your books in her study. It seemed to call out to me, because when I picked it up I had this intense urge to read it. I can't really explain it, but the words on those pages made me feel like my mother was still there. It sounds stupid I know."

"Hey," he protested, moving towards her once more and reaching a hand out to lie on her arm. "Anything you do which brings you comfort in the wake of such a tragedy could never be seen as stupid."

Nodding she looked away seeming to lose herself in her thoughts once more. "I read all through the night and managed to finish it in a day."

"Wow," he interjected, knowing that none of his novels could be considered short stories.

"Yeah. Looking back on it, it was pretty impressive. Anyway after that I brought every book you wrote." Looking back at him, she lost the small traces of wistfulness and her expression turned serious. "It was the way you wrote that captured me. The hope. The way that no matter how awful the situation was there was always the possibility for redemption. For justice. Your books helped me move forward. They gave me the strength I had when we met."

"And now," he asked, genuine curiosity fighting for his own selfish desire to hear her admit to needing him.

"I'm stronger now and I'm getting more so the longer I know you. Because I know that no matter what happens I have someone I can count on. Someone who seems to believe in me regardless of the events surrounding me."

"Kate," he began, about to deny the fact that he was that responsible for the traits he admired in her.

"I'm not perfect Rick," she stated, interrupting and pulling away from him at the same time.

"But..."

"If I was perfect then I would mean it when I say I don't need anyone. But no matter how hard I try, I always seem to find myself needing you. And that scares me, because I've tried so hard to not let people in properly. But you come into my life spinning your ridiculous stories and assisting me in solving my cases that you seem to break down the walls I built."

"I won't apologise for that," he said forcefully. And he meant it.

"I don't want you too," she answered.

"Good."

"I guess... what I'm trying to say... in a really round about manner..."

"Yeah," he urged as she trailed off. Her slow movement towards him took him off guard however. Slowly and with careful precision, she placed her hands on his chest and lifted herself onto her tiptoes. He kept perfectly still as she come into his line of vision. He was frightened to move in case she moved away, so he held his breath. The only sound he could hear was the ever-fastening beat of his heart, which he was sure, was going to give way any moment.

His eyelids fell closed as her soft lips made contact with his cheek and he held back the urge to turn his head. This was not the time for him to betray her trust by trying to initiate an actual kiss. His thoughts drifted off though as the scent of her cherry shampoo reached his senses and he had to hold back the groan that threatened to leave his mouth. All too soon the moment ended and she was pulling away meaning his eyes had to open before she noticed.

He wanted to lift his hand and press it to his cheek. To keep the imprint of her lips against his skin but he refrained because he knew it would make him look like a prepubescent teen. Her hand reached up and pushed the hair away from his forehead as she let a gentle smile set itself upon her lips.

"Thank you," she whispered. "For everything. For always having my back."

"Always," he responded, a smile making its way onto his own features.

"I mean it. You do far more for me then you have to."

"I do it because I want to. I like helping you." The last part came out almost as a whisper as he regarded her carefully.

"Why?" The question was aired so quickly and with such bluntness that it seemed to even surprise her.

Reaching for her hand that still rested on his chest, he clasped it tightly in his own for a moment before letting go and running his hands through his hair. This was his moment. Finally. He was finally getting the chance to tell her how he felt. However, when it came down to it, when he was faced with the possibility of changing the very structure of their relationship... he couldn't do it. He couldn't do it to her. She wasn't ready, and he realised that now.

But he still could not stop himself from checking. "Do you really want to know," he asked, his voice bathed in sincerity.

She regarded him for a moment, causing the hope to return ten fold. Maybe he had it all wrong. Maybe she was on the same page as him. But even that was short lived as she answered him. "No."

He couldn't stop the wince he gave. He really needed to learn to stop hoping, at least for the time being. And she noticed it, of course she did. Because as much as he knew her, she seemed to know him.

"I mean..."

"You don't have to explain yourself," he said interrupting her, and giving her an out.

Nodding she looked down, and let out a sigh, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand as she did so. "It's late. So... I'm gonna..." Pointing to the room behind her she began to take carefully slow steps backwards.

All he could do was nod as he watched her leave once more. The only comfort he had was that this time it was under different circumstances. Sure, she was still running, but he was unable to be disappointed. Mainly it was because his cheek still tingled from the contact his skin had, had with her lips. That coupled with the fact that she had thanked him and told him he had helped her through the most difficult thing in her life.

He was glad he hadn't gone to bed earlier, because he would never have missed this moment for anything in the world. Seeing her smile at him like that was the reason that he stayed. It was the main reason why he loved her.

"Goodnight Kate," he responded, as she turned to go.

Still he stayed put, waiting and watching as she nodded and moved into her room swinging back round to close the door. He turned to go before he heard the click so he missed her re-opening the door, only aware of her presence when she called out to him once more.

"Rick." She held his glance as a smile lit up her features and she continued, "Someday."

"Someday," he echoed.

"Yeah. You can tell me someday." And with that, she closed the door leaving him to grin at thin air.

Maybe he had given up on hope to early because she did feel something, and all he had to do was be patient for once in his life. But really, when the prize at the end was so important he had all the time in the world.