The room is dark except for the still-lit murder board. Kate stands before it, her fingers hovering above the screen, reading, letting it wash over her.
Castle is silent behind her, sitting like a stone in the chair in front of his desk.
She reads, but she doesn't want to. She wants to not know, wants to think there's still nothing but dead ends. But it's too late. Here it is.
"So." She swallows around the edges of this dark thing in her, thrashing awake. "This question mark here."
"I sent the number and the log from my phone to a guy I know."
He always knows a guy. "And?"
"He said he'd let me know. If he could."
"If he doesn't let you know?"
"It's someone. . .with a higher pay grade," he says softly.
"Then even silence is an answer," she replies.
"In a way."
"You don't want to talk about this," she sighs, then heads off his protest by moving back around the desk and sinking down, looking at him. "I don't either."
"I had to tell you."
"At the risk of sounding like a five year old. . .are you mad at me?"
And he does look like one too. "No." She nudges his knee with hers, her back to the murder board. "I think I should be. But I'm not."
"But you are disappointed."
She meets his eyes but doesn't answer.
Rick sighs. "I didn't want to ruin this."
Kate leans forward and snags his hand off his thigh, squeezes it. "Nothing's ruined."
"Not about much. But this? Yeah. I'm sure." She tries to smile at him, feels his hand warm under hers. "I still don't like you mixed up with this."
"Too late for that."
She needs him to understand. Needs him to protect himself, because she can't. She can't refuse his place at her side because she wants him at her side, wants him period. He needs to understand. "I talked to Alexis before dinner."
"I thought maybe you had," he says softly, smiling up at her. Gratitude.
She shakes her head. "You have to think about your family, Castle. Don't make me. . .don't put me ahead of that. Because I'm selfish enough to take it."
When she looks at him, his face is mercurial, his eyes storm-clouds as he stands up before her, the chair rocking back. "You *are* my family. Something happens to you, it happens to us. Me. Alexis. Mother. You're in this now, Kate. Even if you don't want to be."
She leans forward until her cheek presses against his ribs, feels his arms come around her, feels the terrible pounding of his heart.
"I want to be," she says, entirely without thinking. And then it's out there.
He leans back, touches his finger to her cheek, an entirely too-fatherly gesture for her. She brushes his hand away and stands up, giving herself the added edge of her height. Kate leans in until their hips are flush, until she can feel her ribs catching on his as he breathes, and then she runs her mouth over his jaw, lightly, barely there.
She feels his heart pick up its pace under her hand and she grins, letting her fingers curl into his waistband. "Let's not talk about this any more, Castle."
His hands brush her belly, the sides of her breasts, around her back to play with the hair at her neck.
"Who needs to talk?" he murmurs, his nose against her ear, his breath hot. She is liquid and running under his hands, quivering with every stroke, unable to take back control.
She gives up, feels herself crowding him, needing him, not caring that she does.
He breaks away from her, holding her from him, and she shivers at the distance, tries to focus her eyes again, see herself clearly.
"Let's take this somewhere. . .else," he says, dark eyes so intent on hers.
She nods, follows him through to his bedroom, stunned at being here, where she is, breathless from the way her body needs him, breathless at how her head is abandoning ship.
He kisses her again, touching her, bringing her body under his comamnd. She arches into his grip, feels his hand slide under her shirt, draw it up, his broad palm, his long fingers spanning the width of her ribs.
"Are we rolling into your bed now?" she whispers, finding laughter back in her voice.
"Mm-hm," he agrees.
"I can do that," she grins and lifts her arms over her head so he can pull her shirt off.
His eyes light up, tossing her shirt somewhere, and she laughs at him, tries to circle her arms around his neck. He catches at her forearms, draws away, his thumbs sliding to her palms as he holds her out. On display. Her skin rises with goosebumps.
"Castle," she admonishes, tugging on his grip.
"You're just. . .so beautiful." He pulls her hard into him. "And you're here."
The words burn, so good, a fire that licks at her whole body, destroys all obstacles, melts resistance.
"Don't let me be anywhere else," she murmurs, cradling his jaw, moving in to capture his mouth.
He makes it too tender, makes the touch too great, too much. Her body is alive with it, crawling with sensation.
"I love you," he says against her cheek, to her hair, the line of her ear. She shivers. "I love you, I love you."
"I know," she murmurs back, pressed so close, her teeth at his jaw. "I know. I love you too." And she hates how her voice catches on the word, like it might not come out of her mouth.
Castle steers her backwards, breaks apart from her mouth to let her lower herself to the bed; she slides towards the pillows. He watches her, then follows her down, his body heavy on hers.
"I meant it, Castle."
She shifts to accept his weight, curls a knee up alongside his hip. His head drops to brush a kiss to her mouth.
"I want to be your family. We were a family before. . .even before this."
He kisses her again; she presses up into him, using her body instead of her words.
His tongue along her ear, his mouth busy. "At the 12th," he murmurs. "A family there. I want us to be a family here."
"Then here too," she answers, but anxiety flares. "Don't let me ruin this. Don't let me get away."
He laughs against her chest and raises his head. "Not likely now."
She grins back, gentled by the dark determination in his voice, curls her hands around his face. "Good."
"Now shut up, Kate. I'm trying to make love to you."
Castle wakes up in his bed alone.
He curls into her side - it will be her side from now on - and closes his eyes, smells her in the sheets. But her side is cold; she's been gone for awhile.
When he opens his eyes, he knows he needs to find her, make sure. . .just, make sure.
Don't let me get away, she said last night.
Rick slides out of his bed and rubs a hand down his face, then searches for his tshirt, but it's gone. He grabs a new one out of the dresser and pulls it on over his head, checks the bathroom.
He pads down the hallway, his bare feet cold against the wooden floor. A sliver of ice has lodged somewhere in his chest, but he still thinks, wants to hope, that Kate is just in his kitchen starting the coffee or toasting bread, that she is on her way back to him.
When he crosses the threshold, he sees her in the living room, standing in front of the windows that look out over the city.
He stands there a moment, silent, something terrible and amazing filling his chest, love and need both. Kate is silhouetted by the grey, pre-dawn light leaking through the glass, her shoulders sharp and thin in his tshirt. Her legs are a straight, lovely line to the floor.
She shifts just enough to look over her shoulder at him, her face in profile, the dark shadows in the room making her inscrutable. Castle moves because he can't keep standing apart from her, with the cold, clear light between them.
She turns back to the windows as he approaches, but she does uncross her arms from her chest, then drops her hand next to his when he arrives at her side. He links their fingers, tries to fathom what's going through her mind.
But he has no idea. He wishes it were easier.
"I don't know how to do this," she says finally, and he can hear how thin, how reed-like her voice is in the morning light.
"How to hold my hand?"
"Don't be obtuse."
"That's a good word," he murmurs, because that hurt, and he knows she's just frustrated, she doesn't want to hurt him. He has to stall to keep the sting out of his voice. He clears his throat. "What don't you know how to do?"
He glances over at her just in time to see her suck in her cheek and start chewing on it. "Wake up with you in the morning. Stay over at your place. Say the right thing. Take your pick. All of it. I don't know how to do this. I think I've already done it wrong."
Yeah. Alone in front of the window isn't exactly doing it right.
She sighs at his silence, bows her head.
He doesn't like standing next to her, hearing her sigh, and not holding her. So he turns and pulls her into an embrace, breathing her in, comforted by the way her body fits to his, so naturally, everything lining up, like their bodies remember each other and move accordingly.
"Are you having second thoughts, Kate?"
"Yes," she whispers. "And third and fourth. And a hundred. But being in your living room, and not in your bed, was making me miserable. So how could I possibly leave now?"
He closes his eyes and holds her tighter, tries to hang on to the good parts of that statement. "I don't want you to be miserable. I just want to make you happy."
He hears the choking noise of her breath first, then feels the convulsion of her body, the way her hands grip him so tight. "I - that's what I'm afraid of. What if I can't be happy? What if it's not possible anymore?"
Oh God. He buries his face in her neck and tries to suppress the clawing need, tries to push it down. "I can make you happy, Kate. If you let me. Let me love you, and I can make you happy. I will spend my whole life making you happy-"
She wraps her arms up around his neck and presses her face against his; he can feel her cheeks wet against his skin. "I know, I know," she cries. "I know you will. I don't doubt you. It's me."
His clutching panic recedes just a little, and he can breathe again, feel her warm and apologetic against him. He lifts his head and watches her struggle to stave off tears. "Kate. Come back to bed with me. We'll start over. We'll do it right."
He pulls back, brushes his thumbs over her cheeks. "Let's just have a do-over. Okay? Hit the reset button on this morning."
"Reset," she says softly, and her eyes find his with some hesitant hope.
"Yes. Reset. Come on. Back to bed." Castle grabs her hand and tugs toward the hall, leading her away from the windows. "We'll just do it until we get it right."
Kate doesn't say anything but she follows him to his bedroom, crowding into his back as he stops by the bed. Her shoulder brushes his spine and her hand is at his waist as if to say What now?
"Get back in bed, Kate," he murmurs and tugs at her hand as he lays down, sliding back under the covers.
She pauses, keeping her distance, her eyes filled with uncertainty. Then she chews on her lip and puts her knee on the bed. "Scoot over."
He grins wider and opens his arms instead; she rolls her eyes at him but slides down into his embrace, close, her heart beating a little too fast.
"Wait. Just. . .wait here for a moment." He curls his arm around her back and closes his eyes, tries to recapture the feeling of drifting on the outskirts of sleep. She slowly eases against him, her tension melting into the warmth of the bed, her head coming to rest just under his chin.
For a few minutes, he really does doze a little, letting his mind wander away from the dawning day, away from the woman who stood at the windows and didn't know if she could be happy.
He *can* make her happy.
Her fingers begin tracing soft patterns against his chest, awareness returning, and he lets the hand on her back do the same, skimming the lines of her muscles as they relax.
"Morning," he says, his voice rough with gratitude.
She hums. "Morning."
Her hand moves between them and she brushes her fingers across her own neck, then tugs on the collar of her tshirt, slips it down. Her finger strokes lightly over a spot at her neck, her eyebrow raises.
"What?" he whispers, leaning over her a little to kiss the soft line of her jaw. She angles her head into him, fingers around the back of his neck now.
He gasps when she bites him, laughs, and opens his eyes again. "What was that?" He's so glad to see the smile on her face, to see her really and truly trying it all over again. Reset.
"You gave me another hickey. So I figure you deserve a bite."
"A lovebite," he grins, easing back to look at her neck. "Where?"
She tilts her head and he sees the red mark at her jaw, brushes his thumb across it. He remembers doing that the other night. "Proof. So you couldn't deny it." Claiming her.
Kate growls and moves in for his ear, teeth bared. Castle laughs and darts back, accidentally pulling her over with him. He falls onto his back with Kate on top of him, her teeth at his ear.
"And I have one on my shoulder from our first night."
His skin ripples at the sound of her voice, intimate and growling, at the words she says. "Our first night I was a little bit afraid of what you'd do if I marked you where everyone could see."
"You should be afraid." She nips his earlobe, tugs. He runs his hands up and down her back, ready to play. "I also have one on the back of my neck-"
"You bent your head forward and I could't let it go. The ridge of your spine. . ." He trails off, closes his eyes with that mental picture, remembers the feel of his body draped over her back, and feels her laughing over him now, and then her teeth at his neck. He wonders if she's just throwing herself into their reset, if she's putting more effort into it than she might, hoping to distract them both from the specter of the woman at the window.
"And there's one more," she whispers, breaking his train of thought.
One more. Oh. "Yeah."
"You know where it is?"
"Only one? I thought I left two more."
She nips at his jaw, moves down his chest, her hands trailblazing. He jerks and opens his eyes, tries to control the way his body responds to her. But it's a lost cause.
Kate lifts her head, arches an eyebrow, her chin settling against his hipbone. "My inside thigh, Castle."
He grins and lifts up on his elbows. "You gonna reciprocate?"
She glances at his thighs with a speculative look, drags her finger up the line of his quads, nudges his shirt up to expose the plane of his stomach, then ducks her head to brush her lips over his skin. His body flinches.
He pants and leans his head back, tries not to hyperventilate, then glances back down at her, has to see her doing this.
Kate grins and lifts off of him, slides out of bed. "Nah. Don't feel like it. I want some coffee."
"You are a terrible, terrible woman Kate Beckett." He jumps up after her, tripping on his shoes, following her out of his bedroom, trying to catch up with her.
She stops suddenly in the threshold of the living room; he collides into her back.
"Alexis," she says breathlessly.
Oops. Kate's wearing his shirt. And nothing else. He laughs as she shifts backwards, and then he steps in front of her to face his daughter.
Alexis is blushing and laughing at them. "Um. Hi."
"Morning, daughter," Castle says formally, bowing his head. He uses a hip to bump Kate back. "Kate's gonna put on some clothes."
"Castle," she hisses at him. He turns his head and watches her glare at him over her shoulder as she heads back for his bedroom.
He joins Alexis in the kitchen and kisses her head. "Was that too awkward for you?"
"Me? What about Kate?" she says, pushing on his arm.
"Kate'll get over it."
"I'll never get over that," Alexis says with a grin. "I don't want to get over it. Is Kate. . .staying with us?"
"Is that a subtle way of asking if she's moving in?"
Alexis pulls milk out of the fridge and gives him a look. "No. But. . .is she moving in?"
Castle sighs. "I wish." Then he frowns and straightens up. "You know I'd ask you first, right?"
She rolls her eyes and pours milk over her cereal. "I know. You wanna ask me now? Get it out of the way in case it comes up?"
Castle laughs and wraps his arm around her shoulders. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, sweetheart."
"Because my answer is yes," she continues, pulling open the silverware drawer. "In case you wanted to know."
Caste lifts an eyebrow, catches sight of Kate coming through the living room. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Should I ask her instead?" Alexis says, spooning cereal into her mouth and crunching it. She swallows and says into his stunned silence, "If I were a little kid, I'd be kinda irresistible. But I bet I could still work it."
He laughs right as Kate comes into the kitchen wearing boxers and a tshirt. His. Both his. Because, yeah, it's not like she has any clothes here.
"You need to leave some clothes here, Kate," he says.
She throws him a dark glance, a combination of arousal and anxiety he thinks. "We'll talk about that." She heads straight for his coffeemaker. "I got up early and set it to brew. That okay?"
"Course," he answers, ignores that her setting the cofeemaker was when she was trying not to run away. He ignores that because she's here now. She's trying.
Alexis takes her cereal and sits at the bar.
Castle watches his daughter for a moment, he has her permission, then glances back to Kate. "When we go by your apartment this morning, pack a bag."
Kate shoots him a look, her eyes darting to Alexis, her hand holding out a mug to him, fixed to his liking.
Castle shrugs and takes the coffee. "Alexis says you should move in. I'm trying to start small."
Kate's head swivels to Alexis; his daughter grins adorably and shrugs at her. "Sometimes Dad needs a little nudge."
Castle looks back at Kate and finds her standing immobile in the middle of his kitchen, her coffee almost forgotten in her hand.
"Kate." He reaches out and takes a fistful of her shirt - his shirt - and tugs her closer. "Don't freak out on me."
She shakes her head. "Not. Just." She shrugs, her eyes not focused on his, on anything.
"Drink your coffee, detective."
She puts the mug to her lips automatically, sips the liquid. Then she sighs and puts it on the counter, glances once at Alexis, then back to him. "Actually. Yeah. I'll. . .pack some things in a bag when I get to my place."
"For. . .the weekend?" he asks, struggling to keep a victory cry from bursting out of his throat.
She nods. "For the weekend." She turns her head to glance at his daughter. "If that's okay with you?"
Alexis lifts her hands and smiles. "Not my call. But yeah. It's more than okay with me."
Castle reaches out and grabs Kate by the hips, tugging her into his embrace. "You're gonna stay with me all weekend," he grins.
"Yeah," she says, laughing up at him, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek.
"You love me," he teases, kissing her back, capturing her mouth just long enough to make him want more. Much much more. And an empty apartment.
"Yeah, that too," she murmurs, pushing on his shoulders.
"You wanna move in with me," he says back, his arms loosening a little around her lower back. "Admit it."
She laughs - laughs! - and brushes her hands down his biceps, curls her fingers around the back of his elbows. "Okay, fine. I give up. That too."
His mouth drops open, a flash of excitement leaving him frozen in place, his arms locked around her.
She grins at him, pats him fondly on the chest. "Now drink your coffee, Castle."
Yes. Yes ma'am.
Sandiane Carter: I don't know what to say, except that working with Chezchuckles is *so* much fun that I'm not sure it should be legal. And writing Siege, especially, has been this amazing, amazing experience, and I'm sad that it's over. But do not fear, oh, lovely reader: it's only the end of this particular story - our collaboration is nowhere near done. ;)
chezchuckles: I sooo love doing this. When SC and I write a story together, we feed off each other's scenes. She'll send me her chapter and I just grin like crazy. She's so good, isn't she? With this story in particular, I had all this angst after the premiere and I wrote these two or three awful scenes, and then just dumped them all on SC and made her fix it. She came up with Castle's siege of Kate's heart. And I think it's worked. (Also? It's SO her fault they slept together. I'd *never* have let them. But once they did? Oh. Wow. They couldn't stop. lol) So thanks SC, for being entirely too awesome, and thank you all for reading.