Chapter Thirty-Two

Despite her knowledge that this day would wash away from the minds of their friends and family as easily as so many had before, the warmth and contentment of the evening carried her through the cab ride home. Her heart beat in heavy thumps as anticipation built with more landmarks signaling their approach to her apartment. The last block was spent in a tense silence as Castle's fingers grasped her own in a tighter hold and the muscles in his thigh bunched beneath their joined hands.

Despite how many nights, mornings or days they had spent exploring the maddening chemistry between them, these moments of anticipation seemed just as feral and desperate as they had been that first morning together. Becket wondered if this feeling rushing through her might ever fade, but she couldn't bring herself to care. In fact, the idea that he burned himself under her skin more with each time they came together felt more right than she had ever thought possible. Even the fear she had let hold her back from diving into something so deeply compelling and fraught with the potential for emotional devastation, was no longer a consideration.

Having seen the man beside her die in more ways than she cared to think about, was enough to force her to admit that having him with the possible inevitability of losing him was a far better outcome to the alternative. A life without him as her partner in every sense of the word was not much of a life at all. Knowing herself and her fears as she so intimately did, this was something she had struggled with far too desperately, but these past months had taught her more about herself than she would have thought possible.

Thinking about going back to her life before she had allowed that wall to fall away from her heart made her stomach churn with the same sick feeling that gripped it in painful spasms when she had seen Rick's lifeless body on too many Tuesdays. She couldn't even remember that woman who had shielded herself away for fear of being hurt as she had when her mother was murdered. Beckett's eyes sought out Castle's in the dim interior of the cab as the realization swept through her that this man had been a part of her long before they had ever become intimate. Letting her guard down to his unwavering support, confidence and all those teasing smiles had been the first step, but this moment felt like coming to the end of a journey too long in the making.

She'd known she loved him, knew he felt the same, they had even expressed those emotions on so many occasions over the past several months of Tuesdays together, but nothing had felt quite like this. It was as if they were suspended in a moment that was just the two of them. The darkened cab, the noisy streets, all sights and sounds and sensation fell away. All she saw was Castle, the soft smile on his lips, the passion burning in his eyes, the tension of anticipation in every point her body made subtle contact with his. Kate leaned into him, in that moment giving herself up to the feelings coursing through her.

Her lips met his almost tentatively, though they had known the feel of each other so many times before. The tender pressure of flesh on flesh with no heated demand or forceful persuasion was almost new. The feelings let free within her certainly made others before this moment pale in comparison. Castle's breath hitched slightly as if he, too, sensed the changes in her and she could tell by the subtle tremble in his fingers that he was experiencing this moment in the same vivid way that she was.

She turned slightly so that her free hand could move to his face, settling along his jaw in a gesture that she felt him mirror as his own palm settled lightly against her skin. She broke the gentle pressure of their kiss, but put only enough space between them for her eyes to focus on his across a breath of space in the darkness.

She couldn't see him clearly in the dim interior, but her mind brought his image to her so unmistakably it was as if he were standing before her in the bright light of day. "I love you." she whispered into the scant space and watched as his expression softened. It was as if she had never said it before, every time he held a look of wonder and satisfaction in those moments, but this time his eyes shifted to something even more poignant and she knew he recognized in the moment everything that she had felt and saw it for the differences that were there.

He had no verbal response to that, as if she had knocked the words out of his head as much as the air from his lungs as she felt his ragged exhalation against her lips moments before he returned the gentle pressure she had used with his own mouth. Her eyes fell closed and she lost herself in the tender moment for several seconds.

She registered the moment that Castle slipped slightly away from her, but Kate only found her way back to reality when she felt the subtle kiss of a cool summer breeze brush her skin through the open door of the cab. Castle paid the driver before extending his hand to help her from the vehicle, but he didn't release his light grasp as they made their way inside.

Once they were through the doors of her apartment, he let their hands fall apart so she could turn to lock up behind them. He didn't keep his distance, though. As soon as she had thrown the tumbler for the deadbolt, the heat of his body pressed against her back as a hand came up to sweep her hair to the side so his lips could settle along the slope of her neck.

Warm breath ghosted across the sensitive skin of her neck a moment before gentle lips settled there. "I know you hate this." he remarked, though at the moment she could think of nothing about that gesture she could possibly find fault with. "I wish I could tell you that we'll find a way out of this, that eventually we'll make it through this day unscathed and everything will be ok."

"I know." she replied, more to the soothing tone in his voice than the words themselves. The carful pressure of his body against hers, warm and alive, was comforting at the same time that it built the other emotions that had been boiling under the surface as they'd ridden through the darkened city in the back of the cab.

"I don't know if you really do." he replied, releasing a heavy sigh against her skin before stepping back enough to turn her towards him. Rick's hands settled, one against her hip, the other gently along her jaw as he drew her gaze to meet his, though she didn't need the physical action to accomplish that instinctive motion. "Every single day that I get to look at you like this, see your eyes burn up as they return these emotions that have been buried inside me for so long," he swallowed heavily and shook his head as if he didn't know quite how to finish the thought. "It's a gift, Kate."

Kate let her hand drift up to cover the one he held against her cheek and raised her other to cover his heart. The steady thump beneath her palm and the conflicted emotion in his face brought the sting of tears to her eyes, but she forced them back. "I know." she replied again. "As much as I hate everything else about this day and everything we have to go through, nothing is more important to me than to know that I have you by my side." The emotion welled in her again, but she couldn't fight it back in time to stop the catch in her voice as she continued. "I couldn't have made it this far without you." she informed him, surprised with herself that it was the first time she had put that thought into words. "You keep me going when all I want to do it give up. Your faith in me gives me the strength to be the person you see me as."

The strain of emotion in his features was an odd contrast to the slight chuckle he released at that statement. "You've been doing the same for me for years now."

She had to smile at that and the idea that he thought there was something in her that helped to make him a better person. Knowing they had the ability to bring out the best in each other was just one more positive for the idea that she was doing the right thing by taking a chance on them together. After so long a time, there was nothing left for her to deny his right to the place he had carved in her heart.

She brought her lips up to meet his in a soft sweep before pulling back to meet his eyes. "Take me to bed, Castle." she whispered into the space between them.

With a smile so full of tender emotion that she felt choked up all over again, he laced his fingers with hers and together they moved towards her room.


5:45 am

The alarm on the bedside table beeped, jarring her out of what had been a peaceful sleep. Her eyes opened slowly and from her position, lying on her side, she just watched the little dot beside the numbers on the face of her clock as it blinked in time with the beeping. Another day and she immediately didn't feel like facing it.

Instead of reaching out to silence the sound that got progressively louder the longer she waited, she just stared at that blinking dot. She couldn't help thinking about all she had been through and wondering, for what had to be the thousandth time, what she could do to change things.

She was still staring at the numbers, now reading 5:46 when she felt the pressure and heat against her back as a masculine arm reached across her to flip the alarm off before settling around her waist and pulling her back flush against the presence behind her. His lips settled against the side of her neck with gentle teasing motions before sliding up to plant a kiss behind her ear.

Kate's heart raced as the knowledge of what this meant settled onto her and tears filled her eyes, falling silently. Joy and relief mingled and fought for dominance of her emotions as she turned to face him and pulled his mouth to hers.

The salty tears against their mouths could have been from either one of them, but she couldn't seem to stop them nor could she find the will to care. Nothing could ever be as sweet as this moment, waking to find him there with her, and knowing that the endless string of Tuesdays had finally passed.

Gasping through the intense emotions, she finally had to pull her lips free to breathe. Kate buried her face against his neck, giving in to the broken sobs that overpowered her and left her shaking in the circle of his arms. She didn't know how many mornings she had woken hating that she may never see this one, knowing that to be stuck in that Tuesday could be her own version of Hell on Earth. She'd lost count weeks before, but they had likely spent ten months, maybe even a year, in that limbo. Every day the same and so full of pain and fear that she thought this sudden release of intense emotion might be what soldiers felt after finally coming home from a long deployment in some hostile territory.

She didn't know how much time had passed while she lay shaking and crying her joy at this moment, but his calming tone finally reached her ears as his soothing reassurances were repeated. There was a gravely note to his voice from having just woke that sent a shiver of something more than relief along her spine, chasing the fingers that rubbed gentle circles against her back as he continued to whisper into her hair, "It's alright, everything is going to be alright." alternated with other phrases of comfort and reassurance.

The tears finally halted. Despite the fact that she probably looked a mess of swollen eyes and tear-streaked cheeks, when she pulled away to meet his eyes all she saw there was a reflection of her own happiness and the love he had been telling her he felt for her. The look in his eyes was more intense than ever, as if he was finally allowing himself to feel it at its fullest and she realized that he had been holding back and hurting through all those days right alongside her.

He may not have expressed his frustration the same way she had, but it was obvious that it had worn him down to keep the eternal optimism that she had found so annoying at the time. Now it was clear to her that he'd been putting on a front for her sake.

After the silence had stretched on for so long that she'd begun to think she might be dreaming, she found herself asking, "Is it really over?"

He shrugged, though she felt it more than saw it with her eyes still locked on his own. "It's not Tuesday anymore, if that's what you're asking." Then he was grinning, despite the sheen of tears she could see in his own eyes and she could do nothing but grin back, a big, stupid smile that probably looked ridiculous with her red, swollen eyes.

Kate didn't know who started laughing, but the first hint of it had them both succumbing to a fit of giggles as the waves of relief continued to wash over both of them. The realization that the nightmare was finally over, would have knocked her down if she hadn't been lying in bed already.

As if that thought was the reminder she needed to note that she had finally found herself waking in bed with Castle, warm, alive, and gloriously naked, the laughter died as she turned more fully into the contact of his body. Her mouth met his in a kiss so full of promise and delight that neither seemed capable of removing the smiles from their faces despite how it limited the range of motion in their kiss.

"God, I love you." he breathed against her lips a moment before he shifted their bodies and entered her in one long slow stroke that finally succeeded in knocking the smiles off their faces as they shared a heated look before diving into another passionate kiss. He moved slowly as if savoring this moment together while their eyes stayed locked and their bodies shifted and built towards a climax so familiar and yet so new all at the same time.

It took her several minutes to remember why this moment was so different and then she was pushing him away from her, shifting her hips so that his body was no longer a part of her own. Castle moved off of her, his eyes heavy lidded with desire, but plagued with questions and an intensity that had her worrying that he thought she was done with him now that the repetitive Tuesday was finally over.

With a gentle caress of his cheek she gave him a reassuring smile before she turned away from him to rummage through the top drawer of her bedside table. When she rolled back towards him with a triumphant smile and the little foil package in hand he gave her a puzzled look.

"What's that?" he asked, his eyebrow rising incrementally as she used her teeth to tear the package open since one of her hands was too busy exploring the plains of his chest to help the other with the task at hand.

It was her turn to cock an eyebrow at him, "Certainly you've seen a condom before, Castle." she quipped, even though she knew why he was confused.

"Yes," he remarked, his tone of voice more like he were speaking to a person of limited intelligence than how he normally conversed with her, "but we've never,"

She chuckled lightly at the way his voice trailed off when her fingers brushed the protection into place, caressing his flesh in a slow, teasing glide. "We've never had to think about tomorrow before." she remarked lightly as she pressed her hands against his chest to roll him on his back.

Understanding settled on his features at the same moment she straddled him and took him back into her body. With a surge of his hips up towards her, they were again joined completely and she allowed herself a moment to relish the feeling of him inside of her.

His hands gripped her hips, holding her in place when all she wanted was to move. "Kate?" the emotion in his voice drew her eyes to his as she realized that she had closed them to allow the feelings to wash over her. "What if...?"

She leaned down to stop that question with her lips against his in a gentle caress, "If it's too late, then maybe that's what Tuesday was about and I'll be happy about it. I promise." she reassured him, rotating her hips against him as his grip loosened enough to allow her motion again, "However," she stressed as they moved together in that so familiar way, "I would be happy to wait a while longer and enjoy it being just us in the real world for a little while."

"Us," he repeated with that endearing mix of pleasure and surprise that seemed to catch him at times when he realized what they now shared. It hadn't faded in their months together, but seemed to grow more intense on this morning.

She realized in an instant what that emotional word meant to him on today of all the days. This being their first real day together and knowing that it wouldn't be their last. Kate rocked her hips against his, moving in a rhythm they had learned was intoxicating to both of them. She felt the pressure of her release rise inside of her as that single word echoed in her mind. Just before the wave of pleasure broke over her, she found her voice to respond to him. "Always."

Whether it was the knowledge of her statement that she wouldn't be pulling away from him now that reality was back upon them, or the more physical response of her body clamping hard around his, she didn't have the brain cells to determine. As the pleasure crested through her, he tensed below her, his body pulsing inside hers while he groaned long and low as he lost himself in the moment as well.

Sated, with a sheen of sweat on their skin and unable to catch their breath for a long moment, they shared the comfortable silence together. She knew there was nothing left unsaid between them, but felt the urge to whisper her love for him again. She was rewarded by his arms tightening around her, almost crushing the air from her lungs as he placed light, teasing kisses across every inch of her face and repeated her words back to her so many times that she would have wondered if they were the only words he could remember in those minutes if it weren't for the fact that she couldn't find the will to care.

They drifted back to sleep a while later, content in the knowledge that they would both be there when they woke again.


A/N: So, it's been quite a journey. I may make it back here to write an epilogue a little while down the road, but I'll stamp this as complete because I don't know if/when that might come about. I do not know if I will be writing any more stories here, since the demands on my time between my work and home life have become such that I don't have that much left for pleasure writing and it upsets me to have so much time lapse between updates. I wanted all of you to know that these past couple of years have been amazing because of you. You have all given me so much through your kind words, constructive criticism and seemingly endless encouragement that I have no idea if I can ever say how much it has meant to me.

Thank you all for your patience as I found time to wrap this story up in the way I had originally envisioned it instead of just stamping an ending on so that it would have been finished months ago. I appreciate your kindness in dealing with the delays and frustration of having to wait so long between beginning and ending (Can you believe this was started in the middle of 2011?) Oh, you're desperately aware of how long it has taken to finish? Yeah, that's probably true, but I'm still shocked by the time it has taken to get through to the end and appreciate you sticking it out with me.

Review that made my day: greenk, thank you. That really meant a lot to me.

Thanks to everyone for reading, not just this story but any and all before it. You have all made my time here very pleasurable and rewarding. Thank you.