A/N: I started writing this in September. So it takes place in a very AU summer after Season 3. The Cappy is still alive. Josh hadn't been introduced. They never kissed undercover. You get the idea. On with the show...


Chapter One:

There was blood in her hair. On her hands. It was all over her white blouse making her look like a living breathing Pollack masterpiece. Living and breathing. At least I'm living and breathing. None of the blood was hers, which made it feel foreign and unwanted on her body. She scratched at her neck where the little rivulets of blood had dried and begun to crack. Looking to her left, she saw Castle with his hands gripped tightly on the wheel of the car. There was a small fresh cut on his knuckle and she idly wondered what it was from. The thin set of his mouth was framed by a series of lines that seemed to age his profile beyond his true years.

She turned her head back to the road and tried to force the incessant ringing from her ears. After several minutes in vain, she decided that maybe the ringing could stay. It couldn't possibly be worse than the silence that reigned in the car. Not a word had been spoken between the two in hours and she wondered if she should break the stand off and just ask him something. Those lines around his mouth had sprouted twins that were hanging onto the corners of his eyes. They were nothing like the lines of mirth that usually decorated his face when he laughed. These were lines of pain. She looked away again and chose to stare out the window as the lights of a thousand endless restaurants flashed by. She should say something. She really should say something. Come on, Kate. Just break the silence. Say anything. But nothing seemed right, so she kept her mouth shut.

It was taking Castle a long time to get to her apartment. She looked at the restaurants that lined the street. None of them looked familiar. Castle turned the wheel at the next intersection and pulled into an open space on the curb. She looked over at him and then back out the window.

She could see his reflection distorted in the glass. Even the reflected image of the man exuded torrents of anguish. His face overlaid the glass doors to his apartment building, but the two couldn't have been more different. Castle was closing off. She couldn't read him. He was no longer a window or a door or whatever metaphor seemed handiest at the time. He was walling himself in. Oh boy. Now she had to say something.

"I thought I asked you to take me home." They were perhaps not the kindest words, but at least she'd broken the spades.

"My place was closer." His words were short and without the usual lilt. He exited the car and walked around the front towards her door. She remained seated on the passenger side and watched his journey to the sidewalk. His head was held high, but his eyes were looking downward and his shoulders carried none of the pride and confidence of their normal daily load.

A strong part of her wanted to reach over, honk the horn, and shock him into his usual demeanor. He needed to get back into the car and take her to her place. She remained in the chair even after the air rushed in from the door that Castle opened, in the hopes he would receive her tacit message and take her home.

"Come on, Beckett. Get out of the car." His voice was tired and laced with impatience.

Pick your battles, Kate. This isn't the fight to wage tonight. Other things are more important. She stood, resting her hand on the frame of the door. "We need to talk."

"I think I am all talked out for the night, thanks. If you have any questions, they have my statement down at the precinct. Right now, I just want a beer. A beer and some TV."

"Ok." She looked at the man in front of her and ached to smooth the lines of his face with her hand. He had been through so much today. She had blood on her hands literally, but he had blood on his hands figuratively. She knew from experience which one was worse.

He turned from her and walked up the steps to the lobby beneath his loft, pressing the call button for the elevator. The doors opened with a grandeur that seemed completely out of place for the events of the day. She followed him into the lift and stood near his side, wishing that the lights weren't quite so bright and that Castle wasn't standing quite so far.

Four floors later and they were exiting the bright cubicle of the elevator into the much darker hallway. He rattled around his keys and swung the door open for her. She walked into the apartment and breathed in the familiar scent of rich wood. It smelled like him and it instantly filled her with a sense of comfort and peace. Things were quiet here, but not like the horrendous silence that had deafened her in the car.

Castle made a beeline for the refrigerator and retrieved two ice-cold bottled beers. Bringing them back into the main room, he practically fell onto the couch and closed his eyes.

Taking a deep breath, he spoke to her in an almost defeated voice. "Sit down. Have a drink."

Kate made a move towards the couch but then looked down at her clothes.

"Um, Castle? I think I need to get this," she motioned to the blood that seemed to cover every inch of her upper body, "off of me before I make myself at home on your sofa."

"Right, right," he said distractedly, not really looking at her. He had barely looked at her all night. "My shower is just right through my room, there. Go ahead and get started. I'll lay some fresh clothes by the door."

Giving the man in front of her a lengthy stare, she furrowed her brow. She wished he would look at her. Pausing long enough to tempt a glance from him, she was vastly disappointed. His gaze remained fixed on his lap.

"Thanks." She walked away from the couch reluctantly, wishing there was something she could do. She passed behind him and couldn't help but run her hand along his shoulder lightly with just her fingertips. To comfort herself as much as him.


She turned the shower on as hot as she could stand it and soon found herself naked and standing under the most wonderfully cleansing water in the world. Her father used to always lecture her about the proper way to wash a car. "From the top down, Katie!" His voice rang in her mind.

She started with her hair. It was matted with blood, but the water washed it all away surprisingly quickly. She used a shampoo and conditioner that sat on the shower bench. She didn't know what she had been expecting, but the gel didn't smell like flowers or fruits. From the moment she popped the cap and filled her palm with the shampoo, the steaming shower began to fill with the scent of Castle. It wasn't his main smell, but she identified it with the man anyway. It was just one of the small underlying scents that compiled into the whole to create an intoxicating blend of understated…manliness. Clean, but comforting.

After every single bit of blood was washed from her hair, she used a washcloth and soap to scrub at the rest of her body. The soap was labeled "Mint and Rosemary" and it too smelled refreshing, but incredibly light. Almost as if it just wasn't there at all. It didn't smell so much like Castle, but given how subtle the scent was, she wasn't surprised. It made her feel clean, quite a feat considering she had been covered in someone else's blood.

She remained under the hot water long after the blood was gone. The walls of the shower had steamed up and Kate laid her hand against the glassy surface. When she pulled it away, it had left a handprint. She smiled to herself and then took her finger and traced the letters of her name. K-A-T-E. The K had a bit more flair than she usually wrote it with, but she thought it looked rather nice anyway. It's not like she had drawn little hearts around it or anything. After a few more minutes in the shower, she figured she should probably rejoin Castle and take him up on that beer.

Turning off the stream of water, she wrung out her hair and then stepped out onto the cold marble floor. Reaching for a plush towel, she dried her body off quickly. Scrubbing her head upside down with the towel she flipped her hair back. It probably looked like a wet mess now, but at least it would dry quicker this way.

She opened the door of the bathroom a crack and found a neatly folded pile of clothes outside the door. Taking them inside, she quickly put on what he had given her. A black T-shirt that had the first names of the Rolling Stones on it and a pair of Alexis' athletic shorts. The shorts were barely visible beneath his shirt, but it was just for sleeping in.

Feeling much refreshed, she made her way back to the living room to the sound of some sports talk post-game show. Castle was sitting on the couch with his arms spread wide and his head rested on the back. His hair was wet and combed and Kate realized that he must have taken a shower in one of the guest rooms. She walked around to the front of the couch and saw that his eyes were closed and he was sound asleep. She smiled softly and sat gently down next to him. Reaching over and grabbing the blanket to her side, she carefully covered him up.

Careful not to overtly cuddle him, Kate sank herself deeper into the sofa and laid her head on Castle's arm that rested over the back of the couch. Sleep did not come to her immediately as she listened to the dull hum of the sportscasters on the TV. Tilting her head to the side, she took in the man that sat beside her. In solitary moments like these, when she didn't have the energy to fight herself, she imagined what it could feel like to fall asleep next to him every night, and not just the ones after traumatic events.

As she looked at his face in the glow of the TV, the thoughts of the night came flooding back to her. She had been pushing them out and ignoring them for hours, but they were back with a vengeance. The images replayed in her mind, in a hundred different colors that all added up to one black and white conclusion. She knew what she had to do tomorrow. She had known it from the second she heard the gun go off. Tomorrow was not going to be a good day.

Slowly, before she even knew it was happening, Kate fell into an empty sleep.

A/N: Well…here is the start of another epic journey. You can thank AllusionToAnIllusion for this story. I wasn't actually ever going to post it, but I'm weak and she's a god.

The updates for this story will be coming fast. The chapters are a teeeeny bit shorter but you should be getting one almost every day. This fic was the first one I ever wrote, so it needs a bit of…tweaking. I actually wrote this guy before I had even started reading Castle fanfic, so there are a few clichés that I fell into. In my defense, I didn't know they were cliché when I wrote them, but I swear if I have to read another mention of a bear claw in a fic, I'm going to explode. Anyway…I'm trying to get rid of some of the clichés before I post.

The next chapter will help clear some of this one up, in case anyone was horribly confused or something. Stick with it. I'm gonna make this worth your while. Don't forget to review. Send corrections (or overt sexual advances) to me in a PM.