DISCLAIMER: Castle and everything about it belongs to ABC, AWM, and TEM, not me. This piece of fan fiction is for my entertainment as well as that of my fellow Castle fans without monetary gain whatsoever. It's simply a means to practice my writing.

Credit for some of the dialogue in chapter one goes to my best friend Sara and the rain and storm suggestion is courtesy of my friend and fellow sewing buddy, Casketteer Irma Romero. Thanks girls. Thanks also to Peter for helping me learn how to improve syntax and structure as well as taking the time to offer helpful constructive criticisms.


Chapter 1

Castle and Kate had left the precinct that drizzly late October evening five months after that horrible day in May that changed all their lives. It was nearly seven and they'd gotten very little accomplished on their case and they'd been at it since dawn. Seemed like everywhere they turned on this damn mystery was a dead end or wound back around to some illogical conclusion.

Even Kate had started pulling Castle-like ideas off the top of her head but got no results. She'd sat next to Castle on the desk in the bullpen, both of them scowling in concentration at the murder board. Throughout the long and tiring day, they'd collected and posted information on the board, which now was full with photos and written facts about the victim and their meager list of suspects.

"Argh!" Kate growled, widening her eyes. "This is so damned frustrating! There's something here but I can't seem to put my finger on it."

Sliding off the desk, she walked over to the board and stood in front of it with her fingers cupped to her lips and a frown of concentration creasing her brows. Her eyes darted around the board as she reread the written facts they'd posted and compiled during the day. She stared begrudgingly at the data as if the answer, written in invisible ink, would now magically appear with the heat of her frustrated exclamation.

"Yeah, I know what you mean," Castle replied dryly, looking at her with solemn puppy dog eyes. "It's here. We just have to figure things out," he added with a longing stare at her face.

He meant what he said in more ways than one. He meant not just the case, but also their relationship stuck where it was like she didn't remember him confessing his love as he'd held her bloodied body in his arms that frightening day. He continued staring at her wondering if she really understood his complete meaning. Little did he know with the lingering and searching look she gave him that she'd heard both his meanings loud and clear.

Troubled and concerned by the storm of emotions she saw raging in his darkened blue eyes, she focused back on the board and pretended to study the case clues.

Things hadn't been the same between them since the shooting. They were uneasy around each other, almost tense at times, and they had problems making theory together as they so easily had in the past. It was as if they were floating on separate wavelengths and not finding the right frequency to match each other. Their former symphony of harmony and matching chords was now the cacophony of unharmonious discord.

He wanted to reach out to her and calm her storm —their storm. Chase away their clouds of doubt, fear, and trepidation to reveal the light. Match the wavelengths of their souls and restore their harmony. But, she seemed different and more introspective these days.

He sensed somehow, as if by magic, her inner emotional turmoil. He was acutely aware that her maelstrom of feelings was leading her to the brink of a revelation—finding the truth.

"So, what's your theory, Castle?" Kate asked flatly as she drew her eyes from the board and looked at Castle, who was still staring at her.

"I think it's the girlfriend's other lover," he stated matter-of-factly after a brief pause as her voice drew him out of his thoughts.

Kate expected him to elaborate his idea and hesitated with an expectant look on her face waiting for him to continue. When he didn't, she gave him a knowing look so he would. He didn't respond. Now that was different.

"Really, the girlfriend's other lover?" Kate asked with raised brows, an incredulous look on her face. "What, no story and no grand theory?"

He shrugged his shoulders in disregard.

"That makes no sense because he's got an airtight alibi. It's her best friend, Castle." She sounded a little frustrated, irritated, and disappointed.

"Well, you asked what I thought so I told you," he said in a low voice, frowning.

"Why aren't we on the same wavelength with this?" she questioned tersely.

"Maybe because I can't read your mind today," he quipped with a sarcastic edge to his voice and a stony tightness to his handsome features.

"That's because I lost it earlier," Kate tried in a lighter tone and sort of smiled at her dryly humorous comment. She was trying to lighten up his attitude. He was too gloomy and not himself at all. But, he'd missed the amusement she was trying to spin on her words and instead took it as sarcastic and chiding.

"Fine," he shot back while standing up from the desk. "Just because you're frustrated you don't have to bite my head off."

"Whoa, time out, Rick," she said, lowering her voice and making a T with her hands as she walked nearer to him. "I wasn't. What's with you anyway?" she asked, looking deep into his eyes as she placed her hand on his elbow and gave it a light squeeze.

"What's with you?" he countered, staring back.

"I'm just trying to lighten things up here. It's too gloomy," she gave him a meaningful look.

There it is, he thought, she knows we're both off kilter and it bothers her as much as it does me.

"Look," he said with a breath forcing a smile on his face in an attempt to cheer them both. "Why don't we get out of here, score us some take out, and go to my place? Might help get the creative juices flowing to get out of here, hum," he smirked, making circular motions around his temples with his fingers like he was winding up a spring and then tapping the sides of his head.

"Creative juices, Castle?" She raised her brows and held his eyes for a minute while an ornery smile played around her lips. It's a good idea he can't read my mind, she thought, because I'd have to explain why I thought that sounded naughty.

"Um, that sounded dirtier than I meant it," he chuckled.

She looked back at him almost guiltily, but her smile from knowing his mind went where hers had gone was replaced with a more thoughtful look. She sighed as a small frown creased her brow.

First time he's smiled all day, she noted. Oh how I love that smile. I wish I could do something to get him out of his funk. Something's wrong and he's not telling me. Course, I haven't told him what I'm thinking either. Damn, I'm doing it again. I've got to be honest with him or we'll get nowhere. I wish I wasn't afraid of this between us.

"Are you ready?" he asked, seeing her thoughtful expression.

"Yep, it's your turn to buy dinner so you drive," she smiled, rousing herself from her internal monologue and tossing him the keys, which he deftly caught. Picking up a couple boxes of case files and heading to the elevator, they left for the evening.

After taking the elevator down to street level, they strolled out of the precinct. Walking to the car, they were caught in the light drizzle that had been sporadically wetting the city from gray moody clouds since before daybreak. They both climbed into the car, Castle started the engine, and then pulled the car into traffic. Then, they stopped by Remy's and picked up burgers, fries, and sodas for dinner.

Now, in the car on their way to Castle's loft with the two of them staring out the windshield, there was a slightly uncharacteristic, tense silence. The soft whooshing sound of tires running on wet pavement filtered into the vehicle and heightened the already palpable soundlessness. Rick flicked on the wipers to an intermittent speed as the windshield collected the small raindrops that were spitting down from above.

It was as if nature herself was reflecting the dismal, almost sorrowful attitude of the car's two occupants. The slow, rhythmic swishing of the wipers added to the uptight, melancholy thoughtfulness that pervaded the warm interior of the auto.

Usually, in months past when things were better between them, they chatted about the case, or she listened to his concerns about Alexis, or they sang along with the radio, but not tonight. Tonight, there was silence. They were introspective as their minds were whirling with their own thoughts and feelings.

I miss our closeness, he considered as he glanced to her.

I miss our closeness, she mused sadly as she gazed over at him.

Their eyes met and held a moment as if they just touched the depth of each other's souls.

Only the universe knew they had just thought the same thing right at the same time.

Hours later at the loft, after dinner was long gone and the sun had long ago slipped below the horizon leaving in its sleepy wake the black of night, they continued pouring over files and evidence for the case. The drizzle continued intermittently though they weren't aware of its light pings against the windows.

They were alone. Martha, Alexis, and Ashley had gone to a dinner theater play and subsequent cast party for an actress friend of Martha's and wouldn't be back until after twelve thirty. Castle sat in his favorite leather chair in the sitting area by his study while Kate sat crossed legged on the leather sofa nearby.

Castle had changed out of his black pinstriped suit and had put on worn jeans and a blue and white striped flannel shirt. Kate had kicked off her heels under the coffee table in front of her hours ago and was still in her black dress slacks and stylish blue blouse that buttoned down the front. She'd visually checked the internal locking system safety on the grip of her Glock 19 and snapped it back into her shoulder holster. Though she remained wearing the holstered gun for safety, she opted for a bit of comfort and set her badge and cuffs on the table.

Phone and financial records, crime scene photos, Lanie's autopsy reports with the forensic toxicologist's findings, and notes from witnesses and suspect interviews were spread across the tables, on the floor, and around the end of the couch. They were searching for the one piece of elusive information that would break the case. They'd even commandeered Castle's electronic "murder board" he used for writing by putting up all their data on its lighted screen. At first they'd used his board a lot as they kept posting information from their evidence, but as the evening wore on they were back to square one.

Nothing in all their information added up, not even after another round of brainstorming and argumentatively discussing the facts. They were frustrated with the case and interacting with that was the difficult condition of their relationship, and so each had delved into their separate stacks of evidence in tense silence.

Now, as time ticked away and the light sputtering drizzle continued their tension dissolved into silent concentration and thought.

Kate sat cross legged staring down at the paperwork on her lap trying to focus. Looking up from the documents to give her eyes a break she blinked several times attempting to clear her vision. Then looking down at her watch she saw it was just after eleven o'clock. She was getting tired, her eyes hurt from the constant scanning, and again her vision blurred in fatigue. Rubbing her eyes carefully she blinked a few times and ended up gazing over at Castle. He had a frown of concentration on his face and his lips were slightly pursed in thought.

He's so cute when he does that, she thought. I bet he doesn't even realize how adorable that is.

She took the opportunity to study him while he wasn't watching. Beautiful eyes, she mused, and let her eyes scan down his handsome face to his puckered lips. Her gazed lingered there as she remembered the crushing, sweet taste of his lips on hers, the blazing passion, and the aching need of desire of the kiss they'd shared months ago.

Involuntarily, her fingers went up to her lips, which seemed to tingle just at the memory. Slowly running her fingers back and forth across her parted lips in an imitation of his kisses she thought of the muscular hardness of his body tightly pressed against hers as she'd clung to him. The way they'd both hungrily drank of each other's lips like they were each other's first drink of water after a long drought, or trek through the desert. Aroused by the erotic memory, her nipples hardened, her breasts grew heavy, her breathing quickened, and the warm seat of her feminine desire moistened and fluttered.

She sighed audibly. He looked up hearing her sexy sounding, breathy exhale and his eyes caught and held hers. He saw her desire, wanting, and need for him and his love, his being, playing in the depth of those sparkling green pools. Her cheeks were flushed looking like she was aroused by remembering something intimate between them. She looked away in embarrassment and lowering her fingers from her lips she blushed more knowing he'd caught her staring.

Continuing his stare at her, a slight smile tugging the side of his lips, Castle appreciated her shy, girly smile and the way her rosy cheeks seemed to make her glow.

"You look tired," he said after a moment, clearing his throat while glancing down and attempting to cover the fact he'd caught her staring. He set down the stack of crime scene photos he was studying on the edge of the table giving her his undivided attention.

"I think my eyes crossed a half hour ago," she mused, yawning. "I should go."

"No, you shouldn't," he said more harshly then he intended.

Kate raised her brows with a questioning look on her face in response to his loud outburst.

Realizing from the look on her face that his voice was louder than he meant it to be, he softened his tone and continued.

"You're tired and I don't like the idea of you driving home alone after dark. Not since…." He caught himself so not to think of the grimmest day of his life.

"Castle, I'm a cop. I can take care of myself," she said firmly and tersely with an irritated frown. Tossing down her pile of notes and phone records onto the coffee table, she uncrossed her legs and stood up from the couch to leave.

"I wasn't suggesting you can't," he placated, slightly raising his voice. "I know I've been overprotective lately, Kate, but I just…I don't want anythi…." He trailed off, running his hands through his thick, brown hair as a spiral of emotions choked his voice and his eyes welled with tears. "I don't want anything to happen to you," he finished softly.

"I know," she said in a gentler tone as the look on his face and the tears lingering in his eyes touched her heart and made her feel bad for upsetting him. She sat back down. "It's sweet that you are being that way, really." She smiled at him and grabbed the blanket off the back of the couch along with a nearby pillow knowing that he was right and spending the night there was her safest choice.

"You can have the guest room, you know," he suggested, flipping on the TV with the remote and turning down the volume as he commiserated the fact that he had no theories to offer on their case or any ideas on how to resolve their issues and fix their relationship.

"I know but if you're going to be in here for a while then the couch is fine." Somehow right then, the fact he was playing the all heroic, stalwart knight and guarding her struck a resonating chord in her heart and she didn't want to be away from his protective presence.

If he feels better with me right here knowing where I am, so be it, she thought. Truth is right now that's just what I need, a part of him—his essence—a bit of his warmth and comfort even if things aren't quite right with us.

She collected and stacked the disarray of evidence she had spread across the other end of the couch and placed them on the coffee table. Then stretching out on the couch under the blanket she soon started dozing off as her head sank into the softness of the pillow.

Gazing over at her, he quickly became lost in thought as she sighed sleepily from the comfort of the couch. Staring off into space, he wished again that things were closer between them like they had been; before Hurricane Demming, Gina, and the now infamous and relinquished Doctor to the World, who ironically, had healed her physically, but not emotionally.

Then now there were the physical and emotional repercussions from her shooting. He understood that healing physically and mentally from such a near death trauma took time. But he hated this uneasy feeling, distance and disunity, which were growing between them none the less. Their world seemed out of focus or off balance somehow as if it were the atmosphere destabilized by the rising pressure caused from warm air rising and meeting cool air falling. A storm was certain to develop.

Ignoring the images on the TV and the light spattering of rain on the windows, Castle refocused his eyes on her. His heart beat wildly with so many emotions looking at the woman he so desperately and completely loved. This woman, who had in so many ways, become his life.

He didn't know if she remembered him confessing those three important words of love those months ago. That made him sad. Though, having her with him here and now gave him a comfort despite the fact that their relationship was uneasy and on edge.

Maybe we just need a good long heart to heart talk, he swirled the idea in his head. Or, he continued, I could just kiss her senseless like she needs and make her face that desire for me I know is there. Make her face her fears. Right, then she gets pissed, whoosh, the walls go back up, I get punched, and I'm back at square freaking one.

Great idea Rick, good strategy, he rolled his eyes at himself. Talk is better. She has to hear what's in my heart. We can't keep going on like this.

He sighed and realized Kate had completely fallen asleep. Her beautiful features had relaxed and her breathing was slow and deep. Castle dimpled a small grin, loving the way she looked.

I wish she looked that relaxed and happy all the time, he thought.

Little did he know she was far from happy or relaxed and would soon come face to face with her fears as her mind had floated her off into a horrid and thunderous dream…