A/N: So, this is not the sequel to A Death in the Family, but it's the closest thing I've got. I told some of you that I was toying with the idea of writing a standalone, M-rated chapter that would take place between DitF and the sequel (which is not even close to ready yet, I'm afraid). That's what this is. I've never really ventured into the mature content realm before, so needless to say, I'm a little nervous. I want to thank Trapped in a Matchbox and Carolina17 for their encouragement- I'm not sure I would be posting this at all if it weren't for them. I'll say it again - this is M, so even if it's nothing too graphic (I hope) you underage people should stop reading right there.

All of you that are still waiting for the sequel - as I said before, I'm not done playing with the characters I've created, but I also don't want to write for the sake of writing. I need to figure out where I'm going first, and hopefully to make it worth your while. I hope you don't mind, and that you will, in the meantime, enjoy this.

Disclaimer: Nope, nothing Castle-related is mine.

Kate sighed and rubbed a weary hand against her forehead.

The case they had closed was a trying one, and she felt no pride whatsoever in the confession she had gotten from a young woman who had accidentally killed her neighbor, believing that it was her abusive husband coming back to kill her.

Her name was Jenny, something that at first had them all looking twice at Ryan, and had the blue-eyed detective exclaim in a somewhat patronizing tone, "Guys, there's bound to be a good number of women called Jenny in this town. Doesn't mean I care for every one of them." Then he had smirked and added as an afterthought, "In fact, I'm pretty sure my Jenny would be very annoyed if I did."

That was the last time Beckett smiled for the last couple of days.

They put everything together earlier this afternoon: Pete, the husband, beat his wife up that night, then left for the bar. Jenny had a gun that she had been planning to use, merely to threaten him, but the first beating started so suddenly that she didn't have time to reach for the weapon. She made sure it was by her side after Pete's departure, as she tended to her open wounds – a split lip and a nasty cut on her forehead. Those weren't the worst, though.

Pete hadn't closed the door completely after he left, and the couple's young neighbor, a med student named Ted, came in to check on Jenny. Too scared to be rational, the young woman lifted the gun and fired. Got him right through the heart. Beginner's luck, isn't that what they call it?

Then Jenny had panicked, called the husband she was so afraid of, and they had gotten rid of the body by dumping it into the next building's trash. Not a very thought-through plan, if you asked Kate.

Beckett yanked the pictures from the murder board with more force than necessary. She hated cases like this. Yes, they had the perpetrator of the crime behind bars – but the person who was really responsible, the abusive husband, would merely do time for assault and battery if Jenny accepted to testify. Right now, guilt had made her almost catatonic and pretty much ready to agree to anything. But it didn't mean she wouldn't back out from it later.

The dark haired detective threw the pictures inside a box, her hands and eyes only lingering on Jenny's. The picture dated back to a few years, and the woman looked young and happy. Hell, she was only twenty-eight today. But when she'd get out of jail… Kate shook her head, unwilling to let it get to her.

The worst part was that Jenny Bowles seemed like a nice girl who had just gotten involved with the wrong guy. And something else made the detective furious: prior to buying the gun, Jenny had tried going to the cops. Apparently, the man she had spoken with had been a complete jerk, doubting her word and not even bothering to file her complaint. In Kate's opinion, whoever that jackass was, he was partly responsible for the body now lying in the morgue.

Dropping the picture with the rest of the files, Beckett heaved another sigh and reached for her coat. Paperwork could wait until tomorrow; right now, she was much too depressed to be facing this case any longer. Looking around, she was surprised by the lack of Castle. She vaguely recalled Ryan and Esposito leaving a few minutes ago (maybe it was longer than that; she had been staring at the board in dismay and had barely responded to their goodbyes), but the writer hadn't said anything about going home.

Or had he? Maybe she had missed it. She felt a pang of sadness; but as quickly as it had appeared, the feeling was dispelled by the appearance of Richard Castle, coming out from the men's bathroom. Beckett's heart gave a few relieved, eager beats, and she chastised herself for it. Ridiculous.

"Ready to go home?" the author asked with a faint smile, taking in the jacket on her shoulders. He wasn't faring much better than she was; she had seen the look on his face when Jenny had broken down and confessed to everything. It was a mixture of deep pity, sadness and anger; and Kate had a feeling that the last one hadn't been directed at their suspect. Castle, she had learned in the first months of their unlikely partnership, did not take well to abusive spouses. The detective had once deemed it "his White Knight complex", but nothing could have been farther from her thoughts tonight. She understood all too well what he was going through.

"More than ready. Overdue," she let out quietly, exhaling a slow breath and stepping into his warmth. It was late, the precinct was empty, and they could both use the comfort.

Kate slowly wound her arms around Rick's neck, brushed a butterfly kiss against his lips, and buried her face in his shoulder. With her wearing her heels, they were the same height, which was most convenient. The author wasn't shy about responding to her actions; his hands came to rest at the small of her back, not too tight but not exactly loose, either, and he pressed his mouth to her hair, her temple, breathing deep like he was inhaling her scent.

Which he probably was.

"Sometimes I hate your job," he whispered against her skin, his tone gentle and free from reproach.

"Sometimes I hate my job, too," Beckett murmured with a joyless smile.

"She's almost as much of a victim as the dead guy –"

Castle paused, well aware that nothing would come out of his arguing, both because he couldn't change a thing to the way justice worked and because Kate already agreed with him fully.

"I know, Rick," she replied, and she stepped back from him, her stance more assured, her legs a little less wobbly than before. He did that to her. "Let's not talk about it tonight, okay?"

"Deal," he answered. He granted himself a moment of just looking at her, because even after a full day's work, Kate Beckett was still a sight for sore eyes. She made him feel better without even trying. "Wanna have dinner with me at the loft?" He asked, a light smile on his face.

His partner pulled her lower lip in between her teeth, chewing on it reflexively. She knew there was absolutely no food left at her place, but she still needed to get up tomorrow and come back to take care of the paperwork. Going to the loft would mean driving home alone, later, and just thinking about it made her want to groan in despair.

"I don't know, Castle. You look pretty worn out," she said, trying to pull out the teasing tone that she used so often with him.

He didn't take the bait, though, merely pouting at her and giving her puppy dog eyes.

Now that was hard to resist. Before she could help herself, Kate found herself leaning into him and running her fingertips along the stubble on his cheek. The case had been intense, and he hadn't had time to shave this morning. To tell the truth, this wasn't something the detective felt too sorry about. His expression relaxed at her touch and she let her thumb wander at the corner of his mouth, and across the lips that, she had learned, could steal all the breath out of her.

Only two weeks since they had gotten back from Whitesboro, she thought disbelievingly. It felt like so much longer. A seemingly never-ending chain of murders had spread over New York City, making it hard to catch a death-free moment to spend together; and if you added the opening of Martha's school, and the various events that celebrated the upcoming end of Alexis's school year and that Castle felt compelled to attend… Yeah, they hadn't seen each other much out of work.

Rick had asked Kate to come with him to one of Alexis's events, but she had declined. Work, as always, was her excuse, but she had also said something about it not being her place, and not wanting to ruin it. Rick, far from being discouraged, kept asking her, and he had a feeling that maybe she was going to cave and accompany him to Alexis's violin concert. His daughter herself (smart as she was) had insisted that she'd be delighted to have Kate come, because maybe she could rein Castle him and keep him from making a fool both of himself and his daughter, as he generally ended up doing. Rick had faked hurt, but he would have taken that kind of comments any day if it got Kate to bite her lip and say she would "consider it".

"Will Martha and Alexis be there?" Beckett asked, bringing him back to the present and gently tugging him towards the elevator.

"Uh, no, Alexis is at Paige's for the night. I knew that speech she fed me last month about having outgrown sleepovers was bull," he chuckled. "And mother is… Somewhere in the city, doing things I'm sure I don't want to know about."

His answer brought the ghost of a smile on his partner's lips. She was too tired to deal with the whole Castle clan tonight, but Rick alone? That she could do. It held, in fact, much more appeal than the prospect of her cold, lonely apartment.

"So?" he pressed, somewhat anxious to hear her answer.

Lacing her fingers with his, Kate rested her head on his shoulder for a second.

"Alright, Rick," she answered quietly. "Chez Castle it is."

The large grin that spread on his face had her fighting not to laugh.

"Have I told you before how much I love your French accent?" He said casually.

"Not that I remember," she shot back. "But I do recall someone gaping a little when I used the Russian one." She saw his eyes twinkle at the memory, and it was too good an opportunity to pass up. They were alone in the elevator, and she brushed her lips across his jaw, whispering, "You, Richard… Very handsome man."

Rolling her r's was never as much fun as when she got to see his eyes widen, to hear his breath hitch in response. Kate laughed then, unable to help herself, and Castle made a face. Sulking would be counter-productive, though, he suddenly decided. His arms suddenly sneaked around the detective's waist, holding her to him while he captured her lips in an attempt to get back at her.

He got distracted, however – how could he not, when her mouth opened for him, when her hand curled at the back of his neck and she breathed him in, hot and willing? – and they were both rather reluctant to part when the elevator reached its final destination.

Beckett threw him the keys, which would have delighted him in any other circumstance. Right now, however – well, let's say he'd rather have focused on something else than the road.

"And for that little stunt, you get to drive, Rick. Congratulations." She looked at him archly, lifting an eyebrow, and he shook his head in amusement.

"That's my punishment, then?" He asked as he settled in the driver's seat.

"Punishment? That's a reward, buddy," Kate exclaimed, fastening her seat belt. "But hey, if you want punishment, I'll see what I can do."

He gave her a look; but the humor shining in her green eyes soon had him smiling, too. It felt so good to see her like this – relaxed, ready to laugh. After this week's case, it felt like a godsend.

"You're a tease," he commented happily, starting the car.

"And I'm not hearing you complain about it."

They stopped for food on their way to the loft, because as much as Castle raved about fresh and organic, neither of them was exactly eager to cook that night. And there was this nice little Italian that made some of the best pasta Kate had ever had, so why bother?

By the time they were done eating, they both felt invigorated, and a little more alive. Food and banter, Kate thought, was a winning combination. Well, ice cream for dessert didn't hurt, either. After meticulously cleaning his cup, Rick rose from his chair. She expected him to start gathering plates and boxes, but instead he glided – maybe the word wasn't appropriate, but it was radically different from his usual energetic bounce – to the stereo, putting music on.

It was a jazzy combination of piano, trumpet and bass; again, different from what she expected in that it was not overly romantic. She barely had time to blink before he was in front of her, extending a hand with a small, intimate smile that was all kinds of sexy and sent ripples of joy through her body, tingling joy that warmed her toes, her belly, her heart.

"Will you dance, Miss Beckett?" he asked, his voice lower than it normally was.

Kate arched an eyebrow – whether it was in reaction to the dancing offer or to "Miss Beckett", she wasn't sure. Rick's smile didn't falter; he stared at her, confident and quiet, waiting for her to give in. How had they gotten there? How had they gotten to the point where he knew her well enough to predict her reaction? Maybe it didn't matter, she thought giddily. But give in she did.

His hands came to rest on her hips, not low enough for it to be vulgar, but low enough for it not to feel innocent. He was warm and strong and steady against her, and the detective let herself go, allowing him to twirl her and catch her and make her laugh for what felt like the first time that week.

It felt right; righter than anything had in a long time.

Castle was singing along, humming when he didn't know the exact lyrics. The deep notes rang through Kate, pulling at places inside her like she was a string instrument, and his voice the fingers deftly playing her.

The comparison may have brought a blush to her cheeks if she hadn't been so completely distracted by the man dancing with her. When the music changed, the author drew her into a closer embrace, his hands claiming this spot at the small of her back. She rested her forehead against his chest, enjoying their different heights now that she was barefoot.

"Kate," he whispered in her ear, tightening his arms around her. They were no longer dancing, simply holding each other, in the middle of his living room.

She relished the warmth of his breath on her skin, the shiver that ran through her. Castle pulled back a little, only so he could bring down his mouth to hers; she welcomed his kiss, almost immediately parting her lips and teasing him with a flick of her tongue.

He groaned softly, took the invitation, but kept a slow, relaxed pace that made her want to whimper for more. When they were both breathless, he pulled back for a moment, looking at her with a question in his eyes. Kate stared back. It was pretty clear what he wanted, and it just so happened to be what she wanted too. But the voice of reason in her head said that she was tired, and he was tired, and couldn't they wait a little longer and make sure this was special –

Castle knew her well enough to guess where the doubt in her eyes came from, and he gently lifted her chin with a finger, interrupting her confused stream of thought.

"Kate," he whispered, his voice rough with desire and contained emotion, "Tell me you don't want this."

His eyes were darker than she had ever seen them, and God, it just made her heart pound harder in her chest. She did want this; she didn't feel so exhausted anymore. Maybe there would never be a better time, after all – her job was bodies and blood and death, and they were both here tonight, together. Wasn't it all that mattered?

She eased into him, tiptoeing to bring her lips level with his. Her kiss was gentle, but thorough and confident, and he responded eagerly, trailing his mouth along her neck when they broke apart for air. She felt his hand come up and tug on the collar of her shirt, on the strap of her bra, exposing the soft skin of her shoulder to the touch of his tongue. Kate let her head fall back with a breathy moan.

She heard him chuckle, and vaguely thought of issuing a threat as his head came up, his eyes meeting hers, twinkling in the half-light.

"Only me on your mind now?" he asked teasingly, referring to the last time they had been in his apartment, alone, and in a position very similar to their current one.

Not willing to surrender that easily, Kate replied with a light shrug, "Well, only you and…" She waited until the writer's face fell a little, and finished, "Your very large ego."

He laughed quietly, the sound wrapping around her body in thrilling, tantalizing ways.

"You had me scared for a minute there," he whispered, his lips against her hair.

"You shouldn't be," she said softly, surprising herself with her serious tone. She raised a hand to brush against his cheek, tracing with her fingertips the little wrinkles his smile caused around his eyes, the attractive line of his mouth.

"Kate," he murmured, like her name held all the answers, all the wonders in the world.

"So, Rick," she finally said with a slow, sly grin. "Where again is that bedroom of yours?"

He looked at her with a mixture of awe and delight that brought the lightest of blushes to her cheeks, and he pulled her in for a winding, toe-curling kiss before he answered, "I'll show you."

And this time, when he scooped her in his arms, she kind of expected it.

Kate almost told him to let her down, but then she discovered that her current position was perfect for nipping gently at the side of his neck, and lost no time in bringing her mouth to the soft patch of skin under his ear.

She heard him groan, and found it hard not to smile. They had stopped moving, part of her brain noticed detachedly.

"What's the matter, Castle?" She asked playfully. "Can't do two things at a time?"

The writer narrowed his eyes at her.

"You…" He shook his head, amused at his own lack of words. "I'll make you pay for this, Kate Beckett."

The way he said her name was heavy with menace, and something deeper, too.

Then they reached the door, and he gently pushed it open before slowly getting Kate back on her feet. She had gotten glimpses of his bedroom when she had lived at the loft after her apartment had blown up, but at the time, despite her curiosity, she had felt it wouldn't be appropriate to step inside.

Now that she was there, however, she found that her interest rested more with the room's occupant than with the furniture arrangement.

Castle lowered his mouth to hers a mere second after her feet had touched the ground, and her hands came up to his shoulders – half for balance, half for encouragement. His kiss was warm, demanding, and Kate went to her toes, responding to his need with some of her own. It was the same kind of exhilarating as building theory with him was – the feel of his fingers tangling in her hair, the way her soft curves were pressed against him in a dance that would never get old. She hummed when his tongue traced the roof of her mouth, inched closer.

She couldn't believe how long they had waited to do this. God, it was amazing. She wished she didn't have to breathe. That oxygen thing was such an inconvenience.

They did part for air, though, both thoroughly winded at this point, and Kate started undoing the buttons of her blouse, wanting, needing the contact of his skin on hers. Castle's hands stopped her. She turned an interrogative, slightly irritated look to him.

"Let me," he said, suddenly assertive. Her eyes widened, but his hands were already busy with the buttons, and the way his fingers brushed against every inch of newly revealed skin was far too nice for her to object now.

The writer took his time, pausing to kiss the parts of her he slowly exposed, tracing circles on her abdomen with his tongue. Beckett was not usually one to relinquish control, but the way she felt, standing in the dim light with his breath, his mouth, his fingers caressing her skin – she was slightly annoyed to find her knees weakening.

Once he got the blouse off, Rick came back up to kiss her mouth, fervent and adoring, stealing her breath away. He left her bra where it was, choosing to deal with her jeans first. He was slow, poised, in control; more so than she would have expected, and maybe more than she would have wished. Somehow, though, it only contributed to build up the delicious tension inside her.

His deft fingers ran smoothly down her legs, his touch feather light as he got to the back of her knees. Rick looked up, curious to find if she was ticklish, and smiled to see her bite her lip and try to hold back a shiver.

Ticklish it was. He stored that one for later, and part of him delighted in the mere notion of there being a later. They were doing this. He was doing this with Kate. His heart raced up, his mind struggling to believe it.

When the pants were on the floor, he gently led her out of them, taking off her socks at the same time. Coming up to his feet once more, he feasted on the sight of her in her underwear. It was simple – black silk and lace – and it suited her completely. Kate's eyes were closed, but she opened them at the lasting absence of contact.

Taking in the awed expression of his face, she let a small smile play on her lips.

"That too much for you, Castle?" she taunted, and he came out of whatever trance he was in, smirking.

"Just taking in the view," he answered, stepping closer. "It's a very, very good view," he added as he reached for the straps of her bra. Kate made a small disapproving sound at the back of her throat, and he looked at her, surprised.

"I'm underdressed enough as it is," she whispered coyly. "Your turn, now."

He gladly reached for the hem of his shirt, but his lovely partner swatted his hand away.

"Uh-uh," she said with obvious pleasure at the idea of turning the tables on him. "Hands stay were they are, Castle. I'll take off your clothes."

Rick gulped visibly. He should have known Beckett was the sort to give as good she got, but… For some reason, he hadn't expected this. He obeyed, however – not that he really had a choice – and stood still as Kate's nimble fingers slid between his skin and the fabric of his shirt, caressing his ribs. He shivered hard, and thought he could see the corner of her mouth twitching. She was smiling, the little minx.

He obeyed dutifully when she asked him to raise his arms, and she made a quicker work of his shirt than he had of her blouse. When she started kissing her way down, however, Castle realized the trouble he was in. But as always with Beckett, he would have been unable to tell where excitement ended and tension started, not even if his life had depended on it.

He made a fist when she started undoing his pants, his own sharp intakes of air loud in his ears. He tried to distract himself by wondering when was the last time that a woman had taken so much trouble, so much care, to get him undressed; but it didn't really help, because he couldn't remember – couldn't think of a woman before Kate who had kissed his chest so gently, thoroughly, like it was a fragile thing that needed protection.

He couldn't really tell why that turned him on, but it did. Unless it was just the fact that Beckett was doing it.

Beckett kneeling in front of him. Oh, God. He closed his eyes against the dreamlike vision and the many, many fantasies it brought back to life. She had gotten his pants off, and he felt her hesitate, her fingertips light against the waistband of his boxers. Then she dragged them down, slow, unbearably slow, and his legs were so unsteady that he almost lost his balance when he stepped out of the now useless piece of clothing.

Kate made a sound that was suspiciously like laughter and he opened his eyes again to glare at her.

She was naked.

How had he not heard her unclasp her bra? How had he not heard the rustle of her panties sliding down those incredibly long legs? It didn't matter – she gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "glorious nudity".

With a low, animalistic noise, Richard stepped forward. He needed to touch her. He would never, never get enough of her. That much he knew.

It seemed like every nerve ending in Kate's body was twice as raw, twice as responsive as usual. A brush of his fingers, and she shivered; a firmer touch of his hand and her back arched. She couldn't comprehend it, hard as she tried. She had had great sex before – some of it she could even call adventurous – and yet she had never felt like she did now, every sensation heightened, sharp, cutting straight to her bones.

Maybe, she thought, fighting for air as the writer worshipped every inch of her body, maybe it had to do with the three years of denying that attraction between them, of denying that she wanted him at all. There was another possible explanation, of course, though she considered it only reluctantly: that she had let Castle ("let" being a slight overstatement) get closer to her than any other man – any other human being, really – and this was the consequence; the thrill of having their bodies seek as close an acquaintance as the one already existing between their minds.

Her reasoning gave way under the sharp twinge of pleasure that resulted from Castle nipping at her neck, his teeth grazing the sensitive skin they found there, and Kate unwittingly pressed the length of her naked body against him in a most deserved, if delightful, punishment. The muted exclamation of pleasure that passed the author's lips was a perfect echo to her own feelings.

His hold on her tightened as he kissed her deeply, a wandering hand taking residence over the smooth curves of her backside. Beckett moved against him, warm and liquid in his embrace, meeting his infuriating restraint with her impatience until, at last, he growled against her lips and started walking them towards the bed.

It wasn't her bedroom, and she wasn't familiar with the setting of things, so she shouldn't have been surprised when she took too big a step, met the wooden frame of the bed and toppled backwards, taking Rick with her (they were too closely intertwined for him to do anything but yelp and follow). He did catch himself, managing to extend an arm before he crashed on top of her, but it didn't stop skin from meeting skin in a brusque enough way to draw mirroring gasps from both of them.

"A little eager, aren't we?" Castle teased, grinning, when he caught his breath.

Kate couldn't fight her smile. "Don't make me laugh now," she commanded, her voice so low that she barely recognized it.

"No?" He said in mock surprise, his fingers brushing against her ribs in a parody of tickling. Her body contracted in response, and he delighted in the labored breath she let out in a half-successful attempt to ease the tension away.

"I'm gonna kill you," she hissed between grinded teeth.

"Might want to wait a little bit before you do that," he chuckled. She glared at him, but the tenderness shining in his eyes made it hard to keep it up more than a second. Although his body was flush with hers in a number of new and very enjoyable places, the author did not look like he was intending to move anytime soon. The concoction of need and pure, unadulterated lust now burning strong inside her had Kate bite back a frustrated sigh – she would not give him the pleasure.

"You know," she said instead, taking great pains to keep her voice light and steady, "It's not like I'm waiting or anything."

The sly smile on his face made her want to hit him. Or something.

"Why, Detective Beckett, you just had to ask."

The hand that had been tracing random patterns on her abdomen moved south, and though Kate's body rose eagerly to the occasion, she quickly reached out to swat his hand away.

"Not what I want," she scolded breathlessly, their lips brushing.


Did he never stop teasing? Castle moved as if to replace his hand with his mouth, but Beckett's steely grip on his arm stopped him.

"Not what I want either," she warned with a hint of threat to her tone. He looked at her with laughing eyes. She was going to kill him. Before he could ask her what it was she wanted, her other hand moved stealthily and closed on the part of him that attested to his maleness. She had the satisfaction of seeing his eyelids drift shut for a moment. Two could play that game.

"Pushy as always, uh?" He asked after a minute, a smile in his voice.

"You love it," she replied without missing a beat.

"That I do," he answered truthfully, lowering his head to capture her lips in a passionate, haunting kiss. When they were both breathless and desperate for more, he drew back and whispered, "Should I –"

"I'm on the pill," she cut him, pulling him in for another kiss. "And I trust you," she breathed against his lips.

He hovered above her, so close and yet not close enough, taunting her instead of giving her what she had so expressly asked for. Kate had had enough of foreplay, and she growled, "I swear, Rick, if you –" but then he was sliding into her, robbing her of speech, of articulate thought, and she could only feel.

When at last his hips brushed against hers, she let out the breath she had been holding, and a soft-spoken sound of wonder, gratitude and pure satisfaction escaped her. She felt Castle's warm exhale on her cheek as he whispered, "I know, right?"

She smiled, closed her eyes against the laughter bubbling inside her.

"Shut up and make love to me, Castle."

He did as he was told.

He moved in a slow, deliberate way that made things more intense, like he meant for every inch of her to feel all there was of him; like he was reluctant to leave the warm, tight sheath of her.

The moans that escaped her, echoing in the dark stillness of the room, felt like they were falling from a stranger's lips – Kate could no longer make the connection between them and her own throat, would have been powerless to stop them if she had.

Her clear skin glistened in the dark, taunt muscle flexing underneath; and the sounds she made ate away at Rick's control, shredding it to pieces. He wanted to draw this out as long as he could, and yet he found himself gathering speed, encouraged by the eagerness with which Beckett met him, by the sting of her heels digging into the back of his thighs.

It wasn't like this was new for her; Kate had been there before – her body pleasurably coiled, tense, begging for release – but never had it been – quite like this – and she wanted to tell Castle, to let him know, but she struggled to find a way, to catch her breath; until suddenly she had the right words, right there, at the tip of her tongue.

"Castle," she panted, as her fingers dug into his back.

"Shh," he murmured, breathless himself; and he lowered his lips to hers for a ghost of a kiss. He wasn't sure he could take her words, not when her body was driving him absolutely wild, sending his mind into overdrive.

But Kate would speak; she would not be denied. "Castle –" she started again, but it ended on a choked, plaintive note when he thrust into her in just the right way.

Oh, God. She was so close…

It was a testament to how strong her will was that she could still focus at a time like this, even though it took her a few seconds to remember what it was she wanted to say. Her right hand left the author's back to cup his cheek, and she waited for him to open his eyes, look at her, give her a fragment of his attention.

If she hadn't known his eyes were blue, she wouldn't have been able to tell in this moment.

Beckett bit on her lower lip, hard, trying to keep herself from falling over that edge, just a little longer.

She took a ragged breath and, her gaze firmly locked with her lover's, she whispered, "I love you." The words resounded through the room, spreading their wings and finding a life of their own; they nested in the layer of perspiration on their bodies, merged with the warm air they sucked in at irregular intervals, melted into them.

It was all it took.

Castle made a small sound, somewhere between awed and grateful and desperate, before he plunged back into her with everything he had, and Kate let go at last with a sob of pleasure, ecstasy washing over her, again and again.

She didn't let go of him afterwards, kept her legs tight around him, her arms wrapped around his neck. She found herself wondering, once coherent thinking was again within reach, how words could make such a difference. She had never been one to talk during sex - and when she had, it certainly was never endearments. No, Kate Beckett didn't usually add her feelings to the mix. But she was glad she had made an exception. Rick stirred after a moment, slowly lifting his face from the crook of her neck.

"Kate," he said softly.

She hummed to show he had her attention, unwilling to be dragged down from that happy place she was still in.

"I'm crushing you," he whispered, lips brushing gently against her jaw.

The gentle caress made her want to purr and arch her back, feline-like. She expressed her contentment in a wordless manner, and heard Rick chuckle somewhere.

"Kate?" he asked again, in a tone that had her wondering if he had asked a question that she forgot to answer.

Her mind lazily retraced the last minutes. Ah.

"Maybe I like being crushed," she suggested, not very favorable to the idea of moving at all.

Castle laughed quietly, vibrations spreading from his body to hers, tingling. There was no doubt in his mind that she was half-asleep – the Kate Beckett he knew would never have consciously spoken such a line. He put some of his weight back on his forearms, lifting himself so he could get a clear view of her face. She was utterly beautiful; all relaxed lines, dark strands of hair sticking to her temples, an almost smile on her lips.

He kissed that smile, relishing the warm softness of her lips, the way they parted for him. One of her hands took residence at his neck, exerted pressure there as she took him deeper, her tongue coming out to obliged, deepening the kiss but keeping a measured pace, trying for meaningful rather than passionate. From the shaky sigh Kate gave when he let go of her mouth, he wasn't too far off the mark.

His heart thumped painfully in his chest, happiness flooding him, drying his throat.

"Hey, Kate?" he asked when she finally let him roll off her and onto his side. He couldn't help reaching out, gathering her against him, and he was surprised when she came willingly.

She craned her neck and touched his mouth with hers, giving him unspoken permission of voicing his thoughts.

"I love you too," he murmured, meaning the words with every inch of him, flesh, bone, heart. It was hers; everything he had to give. It was hers.

"You better," she replied sleepily, a lazy smile stretching her lips.

And Detective Kate Beckett, who always slept on her side of the bed, rarely spooned, and almost never cuddled (a detail that had greatly distressed Josh, Will, and a few others), fell asleep nestled against Rick's side, her cheek resting on the soft skin of his shoulder.

She woke up in the middle of the night, slightly disoriented, after what must have been a nightmare. It took her a few seconds to remember where she was and why, and when she did her eyes had adjusted to the little light, and found Castle's face.

She felt strangely reassured by the peaceful, childish look she found there. Then she noticed the large hand splayed on her waist, and smiled. Apparently, Rick Castle got a little possessive in his sleep. Vaguely tempted to wake him and suggest a repeat performance of the night before, Beckett ran a light hand along his upper arm, before she realized she was yawning. Mmh. Maybe repeat performances could wait until tomorrow.

She snuggled once more into her partner's side. It wasn't long before she was sound asleep again; the idea of running back to her own apartment had not even crossed her mind.

Richard woke around four in the morning to the sound of a door closing in the distance. He blinked against the haziness of sleep, the weight of it heavy on his eyelids. His mind was not much clearer. Oh, his mother. The door was probably his mother, doing an early walk of shame.

The theory was satisfying enough, and he was closing his eyes again when he realized who that toned arm resting on his chest belonged to. Kate. The knowledge had him grinning widely in the dark, and he couldn't resist stealing a glance at her.

He didn't see much; merely her slender form tangled up in his sheets, and the darker mass of her hair resting the pillow. Yet it was enough to attest that she truly was there, in his arms - if the warm smoothness of her hadn't been evidence enough. And Rick happily let slumber claim him once more, confident that when the morning came, she would still be here. They would still be here. Together.