Title: A Heart's Haunt
Characters: Kate Beckett & Richard Castle. Lanie, Martha, Alexis, Ryan & Esposito will make an appearance.
Rating: T (one chapter will be M and will be indicated as such)
Spoilers: Anything up to and including S3 finale "Knockout." And a few smackerals of S4 Spoilers.
Disclaimer: No I don't own, profit from, or claim any rights to the TV show Castle or it's characters. All rights belong to ABC and to the bloody brilliant Andrew Marlowe (whom I trust completely).
Summary: In the aftermath of solving her mother's case, Beckett tries to comes to terms with the fact that she is still in love with Castle and she tries to make things right with him before it is too late. Post S3. AU S4-Future Fic.

A/N: Hello my lovely returning readers and new readers. This can be considered a sequel to "A Sparrow's Fall." You DO NOT have to read "A Sparrow's Fall," however, somethings will have more of an emotional impact if you do.

Summary of "A Sparrow's Fall" : During her recovery at the hospital it was revealed [SPOILER ALERT] that Kate and Josh have broken up. Aggie Renalds (one of the nurses) killed Kate's shooter to cover up and protect the man behind Kate's mother's death. Rick was held a gunpoint by Aggie and a sniper and in exchange for Kate's safety, promised that he would keep Kate from researching her mother's case. Rick also has the files that Roy sent him, though he has yet to look at the name of the man responsible for Beckett's mother's death. Ryan and Esposito are helping Castle to keep Kate safe, but they do not know that Castle has Roy's files. Kate also has a picture of the sniper and has promised to pursue her mother's case without telling Rick. Rick also told Beckett about the first story he had every written resulting from an incident with a sparrow. He also said to her 'from apples to always' and meant it. They left the hospital friends, with lingering promises of more.

A/N: Last but certainly not least, I would like to thank my wonderful Beta, Tadpole24, who did such a marvelous job of editing. She is fabulous and has my sincerest thanks for navigating through my unpolished imagination. Any mistakes found are my own because I always add things in the last minute.

Thank you so much for your support for my last story and I hope you enjoy this one just as much.

And now, A Heart's Haunt


Part I

. . . . . . . . . .

September 17th, 2012.

. . . . . . . . . .

The crisp autumn night air soon filled with lingering puffs of exhaust. Illuminated by the street lamp overhead, Detective Kate Beckett took off her helmet to meet the artificial twilight of New York. She swung her jean clad leg over her 1994 Harley Soft Tail until her five inch heals tried to pierce the concrete of the sidewalk.

Off to her right was a familiar, shadowed stairwell that beckoned her just like the night life seemed to beckon everyone else. It had been a while since she had been here. She was certain the remnants of two broken hearts were probably still on the walls of his office.

Kate moved from underneath the light to the shadows in front of her precipice. Stairs leading down towards him. He was there waiting for her. To tell her something that she had feared and expected since Alexis talked to her outside Rick's hospital room two weeks ago.

Kate looked at the slippery slope before her. Ten months ago she would have taken each step one at a time, swung the door wide and entered the establishment. She would have ordered a drink, sat with her friends and thrown jokes with dark undertones around for fun. Castle would have sat across from her, winking, laughing and joking along with her, and he would have even slipped in an inviting touch here or there when no one was looking.

She would be doing that exact thing tonight, if two months ago she hadn't made the journey into his office, then none of this ever would have happened. No, that was a lie. Maybe all of it had been a lie. Lies. Lies. Lies. Each of them had an arsenal of falsehoods that they had kept hidden, even some they were able to weave so well they started to become a truth.

Their truth.

Between what was said and what wasn't, they had found a space to call their own. It had started under guise of 'just a taste' only to prevaricate into shadowed moments spurred on by sprigs of mistletoe.

Once, she had taken the time to stop and shake hands with happiness. Once, she had finally risked her heart. Once, she had decided that one taste couldn't possibly be enough.


. . . . . . . . . .

December 23rd, 2011

. . . . . . . . . .

"Careful, that's Mother's *special* eggnog."

Kate gave him an odd look before taking a sip. She chortled in her drink a few seconds later as Rick took the glass from her.

"You need a cast iron stomach to handle that concoction." He handed her a glass of champagne instead as Martha's version of "White Christmas" filled the room.

"Thank you," Kate managed to croak out. As she tried to wash down the remainder of Martha's 'eggnog' she gazed around the room that exemplified the meaning of Christmas.

Among friends and family were pillars adorned with white twinkle lights and from the roof streams of white netting, with embroidered stars, mixed with silver and ice blue silk-like fabric. There was a giant Christmas tree in the corner and all around the room people were dressed in their best, not to the nines, but sociable for the occasion.

The decorations weren't her favorite part though. It was the mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and mint that filled the room. And, of course, the model train going around the tree.

"You've out done yourself."

"I know, right? Did you see the dancing Santa?" he pointed to the St. Nick by the door.

"Everyone seems to be having a great time."

They both took a drink from their champagne flutes.

"And what about you?" He eventually asked.

"You are an excellent host, Castle."

"If I'm that excellent, then why haven't you answered my question yet?"

"I did. You just have selective hearing."

"So what you're saying is that you are still thinking about it?"

Kate put down her drink on the table before her. "I'm working."

"On accepting?"

"No, I'm working over the holidays."

He finished what was left of his champagne and placed his glass next to hers. "I don't buy it. I know you have it off."

"I'm busy." It was the only free time she had to work on her mother's case, since not only Castle, but Ryan and Esposito seemed to be watching her intently all the time.

"How can you say you are too busy to spend Christmas with me-my family? Your dad accepted my invitation weeks ago, only to say he couldn't come because you had declined."

Kate looked down at the huge bowl of eggnog, thinking about dunking her whole head it in if it got her out of this conversation.

"You need to spend Christmas with Alexis and Martha."

Castle sighed, "At least come to Christmas dinner. I'm making the biggest turkey to have ever gob-gobbled on this earth. I'll let you carve," he made slicing gestures with his hands.

Kate didn't respond, instead she caught the eye of the Montgomery girls playing with their presents that Rick had gotten them. She gave them a quick wave and they returned in kind. "That was really sweet of you to invite them."

Rick moved closer to her, "First Christmas without their father...I can't even imagine."

"You never really get used to it. You just...force yourself into a new normal," she stated quietly.

As "All I want for Christmas is you," started to play she felt his hand cover hers, "I'm just glad you were able to get out from under Flood Gates' thumb and come tonight." Both of them looked to the woman in question who had managed to commandeer Martha away from the microphone for a conversation. "I bet she goes home at night stroking her hairless cat and plotting for world domination," he brought his pinky to the side of his mouth.

"I'm surprised you invited her at all."

"New boss."

"The classic kiss-ass."

"I prefer to think of it as back scratching."

"And yet she hasn't reciprocated."

"I'm back as your partner aren't I?"

Partner? Barely. More like consultant with a shock collar. Still, Kate had fought for him and she couldn't deny she liked having him back, "Yes, your chair missed you."

"Just the chair?"

"No." she gave him a quick look, "Ryan and Esposito missed you. They say you are the cuddler of the group."

He wrapped his arms around himself and moved side to side grinning. "I'm like a teddy bear. Wanna take me for a test hug?"

Yes. Yes, she did. Especially tonight. He was dressed in a crisp maroon shirt, paired with slacks and a black dress jacket. And then there was his hair. Did it always have to look 'run-your-finger-through-it' ready?

"The eggnog is going to your head if you think that will happen."

"I haven't drunk any. You have though. Are we feeling a bit tipsy."

"Hoping to get me drunk?"

"We both know you can drink me under the table," he paused before adding, "Would you? We could do things underneath there."

"Dad?"

Alexis appeared in front of them, looking striking and adorable as always, wearing a black dress with an elf hat.

"How is my little elf this evening?"

"Would you mind if I called it a night?"

Kate took a few steps away from the two of them, to give them more privacy and to put some more distance between herself and the man whose scent was driving her crazy.

"Of course not. It will give you time to write your letter to Santa."

Alexis gave him a soft smile before looking at Kate.

"I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Detective Beckett."

It was no longer 'Kate' and there were reasons why.

"You too, Alexis."

"I've been trying to convince Kate to spend Christmas with us," Rick cheerfully stated.

"I'm sure it's more like pestering, but," Alexis looked at her Dad with a knowing expression before gazing into Kate's eyes, "We would love to have you here." It was sincere and Kate was grateful for that.

Rick had mentioned that things with Alexis had been tense lately. Alexis had a lot to deal with at the moment and Kate really did not want to add to that list.

"I'll try and stop by. How's that?"

Alexis looked at her father before adding, "I hope you do more than try or else he will be insufferable."

"It's true. I will drown my sorrows in Mother's nog," Castle said before closing the distance Kate had made between them.

Alexis said her goodbyes before heading up the stairs. Kate shot him a look when she noticed him smiling after his daughter, "Did you put her up to that?"

"What? Asking you?"

Kate nodded.

"No, why?" He gave Kate an odd look.

"She's going through a lot and I don't want to make it harder for her."

"Why would you make it harder?"

"Never mind." Kate picked up a napkin and started to fiddle with it before his grin became too annoying.

"Really? It's been almost a month. You could at least try and look devastated for your daughter."

He did look sheepish then, "I had nothing to do with her and Ashley's break up or her deciding that Stanford wasn't for her."

"Knowing you, you were probably hiding subliminal messages in your everyday dialogue."

"It worked on you, didn't it? We are no longer dancing at arm's length."

"We don't dance at all, Castle."

"No kidding. Especially since 'Captain my Captain' keeps piling on the paper work. Were you naughty? Did you...discharge your gun inappropriately at work? You can tell me."

"Yes, that's exactly what happened, though you forgot that I was topless while doing it."

"I'm going to be temporarily unavailable while I picture that, excuse me." He put his hand to his chin and stared off into space. Then his face changed and she knew it had finally happened. Kate thought he would have figured it out by now, but he had been distracted lately.

They grew quiet. As Elvis' "If Everyday was like Christmas" washed over them and a few seconds later Castle had finally connected the dots. "You shouldn't have."

"Of course I did. It beats you showing up at my door step almost every night with some lame excuse."

"Guitar Hero is not lame," he waited a beat, "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I would have done it for anyone. So don't let that ego of yours inflate."

"It's never inflated when you are around," he quipped. "At least let me help you with the forms tomorrow."

"Sorry. I live by the book now."

"That's no fun."

"I don't think a punishment is supposed to be." They were in a habit of that. It had to be considered a form of punishment to be so close yet forcing this chasm to grow between them.

"Would...would it be easier if I wasn't there?" he asked, quietly.

She shrugged, "My elephants on my desk might like a reprieve from you playing with them out of the shear boredom of just watching me do paper work."

He turned so he leaned against the table until they were shoulder to shoulder, "You know, I may come for the crime, but I stay for the people." She looked and him and found a huge grin waiting for her.

"I'll arrange for you to spend some quality time with some of the animals from lock-up. Then you can meet new people to annoy."

"But I am only truly good at annoying you."

She had only stopped pushing him away when they had solved a case involving a sniper. It brought back everything she was trying to forget and Esposito must have called him because he just showed up on her doorstep all those months ago, not saying a word and had wrapped his arms around her.

Kate stopped fighting it then. She wanted him back. She wanted what they had. So she had asked Victoria "Iron" Gates for him to come back as her partner. It took weeks of convincing, but the agreement was that Kate had to keep her nose clean, so to speak. By the book all the way. One misstep and Castle was gone. She also had to attend therapy for her PTSD and Castle was not to engage in any dangerous activities.

Everything had been going fine since he came back to the precinct. They had kept things professional and seemed to fall back into their old pattern. Outside of work, though, they had gotten closer than ever. Movie nights, dinners and late night talks about his past relationships, his childhood and even his father. He was making it impossible to not fall for him even more.

"Uh-oh this can't be good," Castle mumbled and elbowed Kate. Esposito came towards them, wearing a mistletoe head piece.

"Have you seen Lanie?"

Kate gave him a stern look, "I think she's in the kitchen avoiding both you and Jenny. Careful though, there are knives in there."

"I was not flirting with that rookie cop at the crime scene yesterday."

"Your eyes were," Castle supplied as he reached over and snatched off the mistletoe, "You are not worthy of this."

Castle went to put it on his head when Kate snatched it from him, "Don't even think about it."

Esposito looked towards the kitchen, "I need that as back up just in case she is wielding a knife."

"Just go and apologize, and mean it," Kate commanded.

Esposito hung his head and nodded, making his way towards the kitchen.

"Honeymoon period is long since over for them, isn't it?"

"They'll be fine." Kate didn't really believe that. Lanie wanted more from the relationship and Kate didn't know if Esposito was ready for the kind of commitment that Ryan and Jenny were going to undertake in February.

"You throw quite the party, Rick." Victoria Gate's strong voice demanded their attention.

"Glad you could make it."

"I was surprised by the invite."

"You're part of the team, so you shouldn't be."

"Well, you're not really part of our team and yet almost the entire 12th is here," Victoria turned her gaze from Castle (who was forcing his smile), to Kate, "Glad to see you've been able to keep him on a tight leash, Detective Beckett. You are a woman of your word."

Castle shot a side-ways glance at Kate, before addressing the new captain, "I am trainable," he joked.

"You mean containable," Victoria supplied.

"Sure, that too."

Her strong features and slicked back hair, in a bun, made her gaze all the more intense. There was something in her eyes though that Kate always took as a warning of 'not-to-go-there' with Castle. "I hope the two of you have a wonderful holiday together."

Kate and Castle let the implication settle before looking at their proximity to one another. Had they always stood that close to each other?

They quickly stepped apart as an odd grin played on the Captain's features. "Martha told me that the lovely detective here was invited to spend the holidays with you. So naturally I just assumed."

"We're just partners," Kate said, emphatically.

"Yes, so I've been told. Well, you should never be the last one to leave a party so thank you once again. Oh and...I expect to have those files on my desk after the holidays. Have a pleasant evening." Victoria made her way to the door to get her coat.

"Oh, she is definitely making it into my next book."

"She'll love that," Kate countered as more people were heading towards the door.

"If you'll excuse me. Hosting duties are calling." He gave her arm a touch, leaving her side.

Kate knew she should go and get her coat, get in a cab and go home. That would be the best decision. Instead, she made her way to his kitchen just as Lanie, with Esposito hot on her heels, moved out of the room, arguing once again.

Kate just shook her head as a familiar voice drew her attention.

"Kate, darling. Have I told you how smashing you look?" A rather tipsy Martha asked.

She had. Three times already. It wasn't anything special, just a little, simple, v-neck, evergreen, wrap-around dress that fell above the knees. And of course, heels that made Rick scan her legs as if they were skyscrapers. No jewelry except for her mother's necklace and her hair fell in waves to her shoulders.

"Thank you. And so do you."

Martha waved her hand, "Oh, well. I do try to bring out the glitz at Christmas." Martha's black glittering dress picked up the light in the kitchen, "So how are things with you and Richard."

Kate gave Martha a sympathetic look, "I was about to ask you the same question." There was definitely some tension in the Castle household and not just between Alexis and Rick, but between Martha and Rick as well.

"Ah, so my son told you." Martha grew pensive.

"I know how he can be, but it's between you and Rick so you don't have to..." Kate stated not knowing if she had already overstepped.

"I wish it were that simple," the older woman adjusted a few of her large rings on her fingers, "Nothing ever was with Richard's father. Sometimes the best of intentions can truly come and take a chunk out of our lives."

"You were...are a good mother, Martha. Rick knows you were just looking out for him."

The two women were quiet for a moment, before Martha was able to ask, "I know I have no real right to ask, but if you could...be there for him through this, when I do finally tell him?"

"I will, I promise."

"I plan on telling him before the new year and Richard told me that you didn't give him an answer regarding spending Christmas with us."

"I did actually. Ric-Castle just didn't listen."

"When it comes to you, he never will." Martha helped Kate clean up a bit before adding, "This wouldn't have anything to do with Alexis, would it?"

Kate's hand stopped mid-action before she finally picked up a few platters. "I think that it is a good idea for them to spend the holidays together."

Martha moved in and took the platters from Kate, demanding her full attention. "Don't take what she said to heart. She was upset, she and Ashley had just broken up and well, she worries about her father."

"And you're not worried?"

"I don't like the idea of him going into danger, but then I know that you don't either. Victoria told me that you stipulated he was not to follow you on ride-alongs as much and apart from interviewing witnesses in a controlled environment, that he was to stay strictly as a consultant and practically chained to the murder board."

Kate looked at the counter top, trying to see the patterns in the granite. "I know what it's like to lose a parent. I...I don't want Alexis to ever have to go through that."

"No one should have to go through that. You are doing the best you can. Besides, Alexis and Richard are in the lovely transitional phase that is about a lot more than just her being worried about his safety. You remember what you were like at that age?"

Kate thought about her motorcycle, the boys she dated, her tattoo, her overall 'wild child' ways and how her parents had reacted.

"I know you want the same thing Alexis and I want. I also know that you want him close and he wants to be with you as well. Oh, the country music he played when you wouldn't let him take you to physical therapy drove us absolutely mad. He would lock himself in his office for hours upon hours doing God knows what."

"I'm sorry about that."

"You can make it up to me by at least spending Christmas with us. You can bring your father. We can have a family dinner, together."

"You and Castle decided a tag team would work on me?"

"Is it?"

"Martha, I don't want you to think he and I are..."

"Darling, all I need to know is this: Where do you keep that picture I gave you when you left the hospital?"

Kate paused. She didn't want to display it where everyone could see it, so she put it in a place where she could always see it when she wanted to, "In the box where I keep my gun and my mother's ring," she whispered.

Martha picked up the mistletoe head band and handed it over to Kate. The actress' striking blue eyes captured Kate's attention immediately. "Time to bite the bullet, kiddo. Because the in between is killing you both."

Someone started playing the piano again from the living room, "And that's my cue to get more of my eggnog and belt out some Holly Jollies as people leave. See you at Christmas dinner!" Martha left the room in a grande swoop.

Kate made her way out of the kitchen, fiddling with the mistletoe she had in her hand. She waved her goodbyes to Ryan, Esposito, Lanie and Jenny before heading down the hallway to Rick's office. She just wanted a few moments alone.

His office was just how she remembered it: breathtaking view, books galore and simplistic design of modern and wooden fixtures. And papers strewn everywhere. He was in the midst of his next book. She wondered what his next dedication would be since his one in Heat Rises made her heart sing.

Then she drew her attention to his smart board which had plot points everywhere. In the corner of the smart board RIck had written the names of the main characters: Nikki and Rook. He circled their names and then wrote 'in love' with a question mark. That was a very good question.

She moved around his desk and looked at the scattered papers everywhere. Some were under Tolstoy's War and Peace. He had been spending so much time with her she honestly didn't know when he found time to write. Maybe that's why he looked so tired lately. He never complained, but she could see it.

Kate pushed the book aside and ran her fingers over the papers, stopping when she noticed a name she had almost forgotten. Aggie Renalds was the nurse responsible for killing Hauk, Kate's shooter during Kate's hospital stay almost seven months ago. Castle could be using her as a character in his next book. She was about to lift the paper up to read it when she heard Castle call her name.

He came through the door and his face suggested a moment of shock, but it was masked by a warm glow.

"This room is on spoiler alert!" He moved and ushered her away from behind his desk before switching off the smart board. He stacked the papers into a pile.

"Sorry, I couldn't resist," Kate commented.

"You know I will give you an advanced copy."

"Sometimes it's interesting to see how your mind works."

"You should know how it works by now."

"Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't a mystery, Castle."

"In that case..." He dipped down and opened the top drawer of his desk and brought out a present.

"Or maybe you are just predictable." She placed the head band on the desk and took the gift that he offered. "Castle, we said no gifts." She honestly didn't get him one because she knew that there was only one gift that he really wanted.

"You don't have to get me anything in return. That's not what giving is about." He scooped up the papers off the top of his desk, and put them in the desk drawer before pulling out a small box wrapped in red and gold.

"Merry Christmas, Kate."

She hesitated before opening it.

"Please tell me you aren't one of those people who saves the paper? Rip-it!"

"Fine." She ripped the paper and after she crumpled it up she threw it at him. Then she lifted the lid on the box. Inside were a stack of off-white papers that had faded from colour over time. Some of the edges were torn from being read and there were stains on the pages as well. The title though, that got her attention immediately.

"'The Adventures of Space Cowboy and Sparrow.'" She picked up the story and drew her finger over the title written in pencil. Almost too faded to read.

"See, I didn't spend anything on the gift. So you can stop feeling guilty for not getting me anything."

Didn't spend anything? What was before her was priceless. Something you give someone who will always be in your life.

She sat beside the window and started to read it using the city lights, and a few twinkle lights Rick had used to decorate his office. Rick sat next to her as she read the very first story he had ever written. It wasn't very long but the talent was there right from his early age. He had his signature sense of humor too.

Rick just watched her read it, enjoying each expression she made until the last page had been turned and she placed it back in the box.

"Awful, right?"

Kate laughed, "Not for an eight year old, though, I can't believe you named your hero Space Cowboy."

"Too literal?" he joked.

"It's...wonderful. Thank you." She got up and walked over to the desk where the mistletoe was. She looked from his gift to the mistletoe one more time, then at the door. Martha had been right. The in between was killing them. What if she just tasted what could be? Would that be enough? Was it worth the risk? She spun a new lie then. One that made her take a few deep breaths before turning to face the man that had proven that he would be there for her.

"I think I'm reconsidering our arrangement."

He leapt to his feet, "What? Why? Is this because of Hell's Gate? I've been good. I have suppressed my heroic ways and limited my criminal chasing. And.. I've only mentally undressed you twice since I've been back."

She raised an eyebrow, "Back as my partner?"

"No, back since I got back from the living room. That is a record for me."

Kate let an exasperated huff, "No wonder Gates thought there was something going on. You know her policy." Kate said, trying to convince herself against the inevitable.

"You cannot wear something like that and expect me not to look."

"It's just a dress, Castle."

"On you? No. Nothing you wear is 'just' anything."

She had worn the dress just for him. She knew he would like it and she knew his look would cling to her all night long.

"I'll make sure that next time I just wear-"

"Something see-through?"

She reached up and grabbed his ear at his audacity. Though, her subconscious was telling that she just wanted to touch him.

"OW OW OW..APPLES!"

God, his childish ways that could get them both in trouble.

"AH! BECKETT! SERIOUSLY! A.P.P.L.E.S!"

His annoying childish ways that brought a blush to her cheeks, a smile to her face after a long hard day. That made her laugh when she thought she would never get through her therapy. Her grip lessened.

Not just his childish ways.

Just his ways.

Just him.

Always. Always. Always.

Their eyes met. She felt his hands come up and flutter gently down on her hips. Kate trailed her hand from his ear, until she was gently cupping his cheek. She felt him lean into it and then lean in towards her ear. He placed a peck of his lips against her delicate skin just below her ear.

"I'm going to go before I can't," he whispered as he drew back and kissed her again, this time on the cheek.

Her breath hitched. Her eyes went wide as the world seemed to burst into sharps and high-notes as her knees betrayed her first by wanting to slump in his presence. Then, her breath quickened. Kate knew he sensed it, knew she had begged her heart to stay back.

Castle drew her hand away, a gesture she hated and thanked him for. He held her hand, she felt him squeeze it before he turned towards the door.

Her eyes darted to the desk as any consequences seemed to float away. Just as the door was about to close she called after him.

"Don't you want your present?"

"I thought you didn't get... me...one..." he trailed off as he closed the door behind him. Then his eyes focused on what must have been some cruel joke.

Kate Beckett was wearing a head band of mistletoe.

He gulped. "Um...you're kind of sending me mixed signals here."

"You should be used to that by now." She took a step towards him and he towards her, "Now, do you want your present or not?"

"Since it's Christmas, it would be rude of me not to accept it." Because of her heels they were almost at eye level The mistletoe tickled the top of his hair.

"True. A host should always accept their gifts."

His hands found their home at the side of her neck and his thumbs lifted her jaw towards him. She separated her lips, running her tongue over them in anticipation. He didn't start there though.

Like lightly applying pressure to piano keys, he wrote a tune of their own with lingering kisses. First on her forehead, cheeks, then finally on her lips. This vibration of languid motion slowly tormented her lips, her mouth. Leisurely and lovingly taking what she had to offer; her cadence mixing with his stress and tones. He finally pulled away taking her bottom lip between his teeth and pulling it before letting go.

His hands stayed where they were.

He went to step away from her but she grabbed him by the front of his shirt and with her other hand she drew the mistletoe from her hair, allowing it to fall to the floor. Just a taste? No. She wanted more.

"You don't need mistletoe to kiss me senseless, do you...Rick?" Her voice strong, yet barely audible.

His eyes went wide and he quickly glanced at the safe on his wall and then back at his desk as if he was holding something from her, "I-I don't...we..." he gave up, "I'm in trouble, aren't I?"

She nodded. They both were.

The detective pushed him until he was sitting on the edge of his desk.

He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her flush with his body. They were both smiling as their lips met. There were no guises, no pretenses. The lies they kept were subdued by the momentum that had started years ago. Their joining lips knew that and so did their roaming hands. The surreal and the sublime competed in that moment, flickering back and forth. It was a taste of what could come or would come given an opportunity to explore: bliss. Oh the taste of the sweet, succulent, and spectacular bliss.

He pulled back as their chests heaved up and down. Smoldering fires burned bright at what had truly been exposed.

They both laughed and his hand found the side of her face. Soon his nose was beside hers, nuzzling, "Spend Christmas with me?" He leaned out and held out his hand for her to take it.

"Since, you asked so... nicely," she taunted, taking his hand.

"'Nicely'? I'll give you 'nicely'." His lips captured hers once again as the lights from the city danced in delight.


. . . . . . . . . .

September 17th, 2012

. . . . . . . . . .

Kate moved from her memories to the present. Her leather clad glove gripped the railing so it made a squeaking sound. That had been one of the best Christmas' of her life. Happiness, though it seemed brief, had found her and it carried well into the new year.

That was months ago, though. The door of the Old Haunt loomed ahead, like a vault she wished she had forgotten the combination to. She shouldn't have come. Too much had happened. Too many mistakes had apologies clinging to them like band-aids only to have them slowly pulled off over time.

Kate wouldn't have shown up if it wasn't for a particular ME and her all too knowing ways. Lanie had been persistent. A pit-bull on Kate's pant leg. But instead of baring teeth, it was chocolate and coffee. Kate tried her usual tactics: evasiveness, walking away. They didn't work. Out of a moment of frustration Kate had told the ME, not only what had happened at the warehouse, but what had been going on since she had been shot almost a year and half ago.

After Lanie had read her the riot act for not telling her everything that a best friend should, her advice had been simple.

Simple, that is, for anyone who wasn't Kate Beckett.

As if on cue her phone started to ring in her pocket for what seemed like the hundredth time in the last hour. She pulled it out. Seeing various messages and texts from Castle, and one recently from Lanie stating:

"He's doing that pouty thing with his face ;)"

Kate looked at her father's watch. The second hand ticked on by as the other two hands were well passed the witching hour. Of course they were waiting. She punched a few keys and sent a message back to Lanie:

"Running late. Paperwork. Be there soon."

Kate turned her phone off and shoved it in her pocket before looking at the stairway before her. She just had to treat this like a casual evening between friends. Ignore any pachyderms lurking in the shadows, and barb along as if nothing had changed. Yet, her hand still gripped the railing. Her feet still wanted to run in the opposite direction.

She reached in her pocket and fiddled with the folded piece of paper. A gesture that she had been doing for weeks since the last time she spoke to Castle. Was she ready to up the ante? Was she ready to bet all she had on it?

"Risking our hearts is why we're alive. The last thing you want is to look back at your life and wonder, if only."

Castle almost became an 'if only'. Two weeks ago she had finally come face to face with the man who had started it all. The man behind her mother's murder, behind Roy's death. He was behind bars now, his political career and life were over. She had amounted iron clad evidence and she had finally accomplished what she had longed for.

It should have been one of the happiest days of her life, but it was marred by the image of Castles beaten and broken body. She felt her heart and soul split on that day. The one thing that she wanted to stop from happening, did. Castle had followed her into the Dragon's Lair and almost got killed.

Kate slumped down on the old establishment's steps and stared at the writing on her helmet. Detective Beckett could face down criminals, work alongside him every day under the guise of her professionalism, but strip that away and all your were left with was Kate. The part of her who wanted things that almost anyone passing along the street above wanted. That innate human beat to seek out the notes of life.

She caught a glimpse of that once when she put down her conductor's baton and actually joined in the orchestra. It was brief, and her audience was of one, but oh how their symphony roared.

Kate leaned her head against her arm that was still hanging onto the railing, and reached into her leather jacket and pulled out something else.

A one way ticket to risking her heart once again.

. . . . . . . . . .


I hope you enjoyed Part I. This is not a very long story since I took my key plot moments from my second and third stories and mashed them together. The next chapter will have an M section, but I will indicate where for you youngins :D

I would love to hear your thoughts. Any feedback you are willing to give is very helpful and helps me work on my writing. I will always respond in kind. So, reviews are welcomed and definitely encouraged. If you are willing to alert then I hope you are willing to review. :D

Next update will be sometime this week!

Cheers,

Rini :D