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Momentary Troubles

.

When you think you've found

something worth holding on to. . .

Maybe one day soon

It will all come out

How you dream about each other sometimes.

With the memory of

How you once gave up

But you made it through the troubled times.

.

-'Troubled Times' Fountains of Wayne

Rick Castle wakes once in the night, disoriented.

His hand is flung off the end of the bed; he's laying on his stomach, face mashed into the fitted sheet, his pillow nowhere to be found. He's at the edge, the moonlight sliding through the window, when it comes back to him.

Oh.

Oh, Kate.

He turns his head and there she is, quite close but still a good six inches between them (six inches too many), her hair spread over her bare back, the sheet pushed away. The moonlight on her skin, the silver-pink of her lips, the long lashes looking somehow fragile without makeup-

Rick shifts onto his side so he can watch her, resting beside her in the bright darkness. It's too warm in his apartment now, but after the snow outside and the bitter bite of winter wind, he'd turned up the thermostat so they could thaw.

They found better ways, faster ways to heat up again.

And here she is. He wants her even more than last night, more than last summer, more than the year before that, more than the first day he met her, scowling, choppy hair and the badge in his face. What happens to him next year? Does his longing increase exponentially? Is there a math equation that will balance out each side?

Show your work, his algebra teachers scolded him.

Here's his work. Here is the proof of the year's long toil; he solved for X and now: Kate asleep in his bed. Of her own free will.

Here she is. Her lips are slack and her body has melted into his mattress. Castle can't help sliding closer and pressing his mouth to her shoulder, tasting the faint freckle there (did she get that at her father's cabin?), then brushing back her hair with his shaking, incredulous hand to kiss her cheek.

He doesn't want to wake her up. He wants her to get some much-needed rest. REM sleep. He can see her eyes moving under her lids, the slight smile on her lips. Castle assumes it's about him. Of course it is. All *his* dreams are about her.

And usually, in just about every single one of those dreams, she looks exactly like this. Bare shoulder in the moonlight.

He curls up close, trying not to wake her, not to jostle the bed too much. He falls asleep quickly, her face in front of his, her breath skirting his nose.

Sunlight shoves its way through his blinds, angles across his eyelids. Castle groans and tries to lay there for a minute, but he turned up the heat last night and now the bright sun is roasting him; sweat breaks across his skin and-

Oh.

Kate.

He opens his eyes, a smile bursting across his face (probably just as annoying as the sunlight coming in through his window) and he turns his head and-

She's gone.

Oh, she's gone.

The bed is empty, cool to the touch of his questing hand. Both of his pillows on the side she slept on last night, but not Kate herself.

Not Kate.

Oh God.

What has he done? What did he do? She'll never - and he'll be left to - and at the station, she'll -

He rolls onto his back in soul-eating misery but gets a spark of insight, a momentary hope, his brain starting to function. He jumps out of bed and pads across to the closed bathroom door, pushes it open-

No.

Empty.

He stands in the doorway a moment, something heavy struggling to move in his chest. His heart maybe. Or his guts, threatening to come up.

Castle turns slowly, surveys his room. Not even. . .not even a hint to show she'd been there last night.

A dream?

No. God, no. Couldn't be. Nothing like that has ever been in his dreams, nothing so right, so good-

For him. For him at least.

Maybe not for her. He has to face that.

Castle slinks back to his bed and curls into it, closing his eyes, drawing an arm over his face. The pressure against his eyelids, in his tear ducts, is nearly too much. But this isn't-

Okay. Think.

She ran. Or. She woke up and had to get home to shower and change (she could've used his shower) Or. She got a call and didn't want to wake him (but she'd wake him for a body anyway, no matter where she'd slept the night before). Or-

She ran.

Honestly, if he stops kidding himself, he knows. He does.

She ran.

This is Kate. This is what she does. . .

She warned him that she wasn't the kind of person she needed to be to do this. She did warn him. And what? He didn't listen. He stomped around inside this thing like a bull in a china shop, ignoring her hesitations, her doubts, and now-

God, he misses her. He can smell her on the pillow. He misses her in a way that's more poignant because it could be the last of her.

Castle rolls onto his side and puts his palm over his ear, hiding his face in the shadow of darkness made by his arm, a little cave of him and the pillow, her scent building up in the space between, letting himself sink down into it-

"Hey."

He jerks and opens his eyes, heart pounding.

"Scoot over," she murmurs, nudging his forehead with her knee.

Castle looks up, speechless, beholds Kate in nothing but his white tshirt, her hair falling towards him as she puts a knee on the bed. A long, lovely expanse of skin sliding up to the bright borderline of that shirt-

"Stop staring, Castle, scoot."

He pushes back and sits up, watching her climb back into bed with two mugs of coffee.

She catches his eye and hands over one of the mugs, waiting for him to take it.

Coffee.

"Kate," he breathes, reverent and awed, as his fingers close around the mug.

She rolls her eyes. "Oh jeez, it's just coffee, Castle."

But he sees it across her face, how pleased she is, how the bookends of their day make her feel like it is right, it is exactly right, to be here with him. Because he's the same. Just as a story begins and ends on a theme, so does the story of them.

He can feel the words in his chest, bubbling up, wanting to break free, to fly out of his mouth. Again. And even though he knows she's still hurt, somewhere in there, hurt because he kept her out of the loop on her mother's case, even though he should've said something, should've tried harder. . .

Even so. Here she is.

To keep his big mouth shut, or busy, he takes a cautionary sip from his coffee mug and smiles at the perfect blend of flavor: caffeine and cream, sugar and espresso. She's used his machine, she's measured it out just right, and she's brought it to him in his bed wearing nothing but his undershirt from last night, and she's smiling over the rim of her cup and watching him, dark beautiful Kate-

"I love you," he blurts out, and hears how it sounds, relieved and sincere and a little too quick, as if he expects her to have to go.

Oh damn. He shouldn't have-

"Castle." Her hand, warmed by the mug, comes up to stroke the side of his face, her fingers tracing the lines engraved around his eyes, settled beside his nose, framing his mouth.

"I know," she says gently, apologetically, and closes her eyes for a brief moment.

With her eyes shut, some of the spell is broken, cast off, and he can think clearly, long enough to realize she didn't run away, she didn't stiffen up, she didn't panic-

She said she knew. She already knew?

Oh.

"Oh, Kate," he groans and drops his head to his chest, breathing hard. She already knew. She's known. This whole time? "How. . .long?"

He hears the clink of her mug settling onto the bedside table, then she takes his as well, out of his hands, and he lets it go. He lifts his head to watch her, the determination masking her shame, and then she turns to face him, getting close, her hands on his thighs and oh. . .oh, so distracting.

"I never. . .didn't know."

Ah, shit, that hurts.

"And I'm not sorry," she continues, leaning in closer, her hands balancing her weight on his upper thighs, her lips brushing his ear. "Light and momentary troubles, Castle. That's all."

"Pain builds character?"

"Is it so. . .painful?"

She moves closer, wrapping her legs around his waist, pressing herself against him, too close to think.

"You keep - doing that - it will be," he gasps, his arms coming around her to either hold her still or urge her on.

She laughs against his cheek and hums. Hums. Oh God, he's not going to survive this-

"I'm not sorry."

She keeps saying that and he really won't survive-

"I waited until I could say it back."

Say it - back?

"Kate?"

She pulls away from him, just far enough to meet his eyes, to show him everything there. He sees now that same face she had at the end of the summer, the day she went back to the 12th, serious and compelling and, just a little, teasing.

Her hands at his jaw, fingers brushing his ears, her legs squeeze around him like she can't help it.

"I love you, Richard Castle. I love you."

Oh.

Kate.

Therefore we do not lose heart. . .For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

2 Corinthians 4