It Started at Dusk

"So where are we going exactly?" Kate asked he led her out of the elevator, a hand touching her elbow lightly.

They had been working nonstop since 5 in the morning when she had gotten the call about a murder. She had called him and told him to get ready, saying she would pick him up in ten minutes. When they got to the scene, her eyes widened and she tried to stop him from seeing the contorted body of the young woman lying on the pavement. She had tried to stop him, but she wasn't fast enough.

The victim seemed to be in her early 20s and had a striking resemblance to Alexis. Her red hair was soaked with her own blood and Kate tried her best not let the bile that was threatening to come up escape. Swallowing hard, she took a deep breath and looked back to check on Castle, only to see him a dozen feet away emptying his stomach.

Her heart ached for him and before Lanie could start filling her in on the vic, she found herself walking purposefully towards her partner. Touching his back, she tried to give him some of her strength. The way he looked at her had her doing something they had never done before in public: she pulled him close and hugged him tightly, whispering in his ear that it wasn't Alexis and that she was safe in California. She felt him nod against her shoulder and slipped her hand inside his jacket to retrieve his phone, immediately dialing his daughter's number.

After making sure Alexis had picked up, she smiled at him and squeezed his hand before walking back to the murder scene.

That had been twelve hours ago and they were still running around in circles. She had been working on some overdue paperwork while they waited for fingerprint results when he had suddenly stood up, urging her to follow him.

They stepped out of the 12th Precinct into the early summer sun and she felt the hand that was touching her elbow slowly travel down to the small of her back.

"Castle?" she asked again and he finally looked at her and shrugged.

"I just needed to get some air." He said casually, but she could see the troubled look in his eyes.

"Hey, you don't have to be here for this." She stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and touched his arm. "If you think you can't handle this, no one is going to judge you. You know that."

He offered her a weak smile and reached for her hand, squeezing it gratefully.

"I'm fine, Kate. I just…" he sighed and looked down. "I just needed to breathe a little, you know? And we can take a break, right? Since there are no leads so far?" he asked almost imploringly and she saw just how deeply this was affecting him. The fact that Alexis was all the way across the country just made things worse.

"Sure. Where do you want to go?" she asked and tugged on his hand so they could keep walking.

He smiled at her, relieved, and held her hand tighter, lacing his fingers through hers. She looked up at him questioningly, but didn't say anything. He needed to be comforted and if holding her hand made him feel better, she was more than happy to oblige. Plus, she liked being this close to him and that was something she couldn't indulge on when they were working.

So she gently caressed the top of his hand with her thumb and leaned into his side.

"I don't care. You choose." He told her and she tugged on his hand again so they could cross the busy street.

"We can walk down to the Hudson maybe? There is this little café about a block away from there. We could stop there to eat something too." She suggested and he nodded, allowing her to lead him there.

It was a bit of a walk, but they let the silence fall between them comfortably, only breaking it a couple of times to point out something they had seen on the way. The café Kate had mentioned was mostly empty and she walked over to the counter to order.

"Should I get everything to go or do you want to eat here?"

She looked back to ask him and was surprised to find him standing closely behind her. She blinked in surprise and almost tripped, her back hitting his chest as his hands on her waist steadied her balance. She blushed at her clumsiness and heard him chuckle slightly. Her elbow made contact with his stomach lightly as she tried to glare at him. He ignored her glare and kept his hands on her waist, pulling her slightly toward him.

"The sun is almost setting. Maybe we could eat out there while we watch it go down?" he offered and she looked at him for a moment, biting her bottom lip. It seemed like an awfully romantic setting for two people who claimed to be just friends.

"You sure?" she asked quietly, allowing herself to relax a little against his chest.

She felt him let out a sigh when her back touched his chest. His hands travelled down to her hips and he caressed her idly with his thumb. This was an entirely new territory for them and Kate knew they had to tread carefully. She also knew it had been three years in the making, which allowed and encouraged her to just roll with it. A couple of months ago, after she had broken up with Josh, she had decided that whatever was supposed to happen between her and Castle – and she had accepted that something would eventually happen – it would be in its own time.

Maybe today was it. Sure it wasn't the ideal circumstances since they were in the middle of a case that had hit him hard, but she decided that she wouldn't fight it. If nothing came to pass, she could at least be there for him as a friend like he had been there for her countless times before.

"Yeah, it's so nice out. We should enjoy a bit of the sunshine. Unless you don't want to." He replied and she shook her head.

"No, it's a great idea." She told him over her shoulder and turned to the young girl who was waiting to get their order. When the waitress left to fill out their orders, Castle rested his chin on her shoulder and she heard him sigh softly.

They waited in silence for their cappuccinos and Kate tried to let her mind wander, but she was incredibly aware of their bodies touching. As the minutes ticked by, he seemed to feel braver that she wasn't going to shoot him for touching her and fully encircled her in his arms, his hands resting lightly on her stomach. They were so hesitant around each other that she was sure it would be funny if she hadn't been in her own shoes here.

The young woman brought back their order just as Kate had covered his hand with her own and they had to disentangle themselves from each other to grab the package with croissants and the carton tray holding their coffee. Kate handed him the tray and reached for her wallet.

"I got it, Kate. Really, you can pay next time. Today is on me." He added when she opened her mouth to protest.

If you asked her, this was starting to look more and more like a date.

She waited for him to pay and they walked out of the café in silence. There was an empty bench facing the river just a block away and Kate pointed it out to him. They settled the coffee tray and the food package between them and Castle started telling her about the Heat Rises launch party that was going to happen in a couple of weeks. They managed to stick to lighter topics as they ate – she was trying her best to keep his mind off of the case – and talked about anything that crossed their minds, even agreeing to watch a movie that was showing at the Angelika tonight if they had time.

When they were done, Kate gathered everything and walked over to a nearby trash can to throw it all away. Then she made her way to the railing facing the river, smiling when she noticed that the sky was starting to turn orange as the sun hurried to meet the horizon. Closing her eyes for a moment, she committed that breathtaking vision to memory.

She heard him approaching her about a minute later. She knew he had stopped right behind her and she looked back at him, only to find him looking at her nervously as if unsure of what he was supposed to do next. She answered his unspoken question by leaning back until her back touched his chest and heard him let out a relieved sigh. Letting a sigh of her own, she relaxed against him and closed her eyes when his arms encircled her waist and pulled her tighter against his body.

Her hand found his as they rested on her stomach and she laced her fingers through his. He rested his chin on her shoulder and she turned her head to place a soft kiss to his cheek.

"Have you talked to Alexis?" she asked quietly and he nodded against her shoulder.

"She has been calling every couple of hours. I guess I freaked her out earlier." He replied, sounding a little sheepish.

"I don't blame you. I was shocked when I saw the body. No wonder you reacted that way." She tells him and feels his lips press against her neck. "When is she coming back home?"

"Sunday night. It's Meredith's birthday on Saturday and she insisted that Alexis had to stay for the party." He explained and kissed her skin softly again. Kate found herself tilting her neck in order to give him better access and sighed when his tongue came out to play.

"You could always fly out there and see her, you know." She whispered and bit her bottom lip so no incriminating sounds would escape.

"Yeah, sure, but that implies that I would have to inevitably spend time with Meredith and she has been insufferable lately. Alexis said she is driving her crazy." He whispered in her ear and caught her earlobe between his teeth.

How exactly had they come to this, Kate asked herself. Just an hour before she had been filling out paperwork, frustrated, while Castle distracted himself with his phone. How had they ended up here, wrapped in each other's arms just an hour later?

The shrilling sound of her phone interrupted her thoughts and she stepped out of Castle's arms to reach for the device ringing in her back pocket. As soon as she hit the answer button, she went back to her previous position and felt him smile against her neck as his arms found their way around her waist again.

"Beckett." She answered the phone and closed her eyes, leaning her head back against his shoulder.

"Hey, boss. We got the results on the prints. Her brother-in-law is a match." Esposito told her and she sighed.

"Alright, you and Ryan go pick him up. I'll meet you guys back at the precinct." She said and looked at Castle, who was looking at her questioningly. "They got a match on the prints." She whispered to him and he nodded, resting his chin on her shoulder again.

"Castle with you?" she heard Esposito ask and confirmed it. "Is he doing okay? Today has been pretty rough on him with the vic looking like Little Castle and all."

"Yeah, he'll be fine and Alexis will be home soon." She said and smiled at Castle when he looked curious. "We're heading back now. Do you need us to go with you?"

"No, that's okay. We'll bring him in."

"Alright, we'll see you soon." She said and hung up. "The boys were worried about you." She explained and he looked down. She touched his chin and made him look at her. "You don't have to feel embarrassed, Rick. You're human and the victim looked like your daughter. Don't beat yourself up. We understand. Okay?"

She let her hand trace his cheek and then his lips. He kissed her thumb for a moment and she smiled at him, leaning in to touch his lips with hers. He smiled against her lips when she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer, sucking on his bottom lip softly. They stood there for a couple of minutes – or an hour or just a few seconds; Kate lost complete track of time after she kissed him – in a dance of lips, teeth and tongue until they were both breathless. He rested his forehead on hers and they took a moment to soak in each other's presence and the fact that they had just crossed a giant line in their relationship.

"Come on, Castle. We've got a killer to catch." She eventually broke the spell and stole one last kiss.

"Lead the way, Detective."

He grinned at her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and they started on walking back to the precinct. She reached for his hand and intertwined their fingers as the sun disappeared below the horizon.

I had promised myself that I wouldn't write anything new until after the finale, but I was bored and sick tonight so this is what came out of it.