A/N: First, I am so sorry I took so long to finally post this. Life got in the way. And second, you guys are amazing. The response I had to this story was overwhelming. I really hope you guys like the conclusion to it. Thank you so much!

Please note the rating has changed.


Chapter 2

"What the hell were you thinking, Castle?"

Her angry voice pulled him out of the red rage daze he had been in. Blinking fast, he tried to pull himself together and get his breathing under control. Hayes had almost stabbed her. He had had to do something. He would not lose her again. He refused to let her even come close to something dangerous like this ever again. He had to protect her. He loved her, goddamn it, and he would always protect her in the best way he could. How could she be angry when all he wanted was to make sure she was safe?

Breathing hard, he turned to look at her as she called in an ambulance for the girl Nicholas Hayes had tried to kill in the alley behind the club. Her dress was torn on her stomach and he could see the red already starting to soak through the fabric. His breath caught in his throat as his eyes locked on the red stain, his mind hurtling back to that sunny morning at the cemetery. He remembered the glint in the distance that had caught his eye, the mind numbing second in which he figured out what was about to happen and the clear instinct to save her. He remembered how her blood soaked rapidly through her shirt, how he begged her to stay with him, how he told her he loved her.

How she died in his arms, anyway.

Now as he watched her blood being shed again, it felt like someone had just cut off all his supply of oxygen. He couldn't lose her again. He couldn't. He wouldn't.

"Castle?" Her voice broke through the fog in his mind and he looked at her. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?" He could hear the concern in her tone and breathed a sigh of relief that she seemed to be okay.

"Don't worry about me. I'm fine." He was still having trouble breathing in and out as he reached out and touched her. "You're bleeding." He whispered and she looked down, frowning.

"Oh. Wow, I didn't even feel it." She tried to examine the wound but it proved to be a difficult task. Castle reached out and pushed away the torn fabric, revealing a not so deep cut where the blood was starting to coagulate.

"Does it hurt?" He leaned against a dumpster, his hands ghosting over her sides.

"Now that you pointed it out to me, it kinda does, yeah." She grimaced and he took her hands in his, bringing both to his lips. "But it's not bad, right? It doesn't feel all that bad." She asked, still trying to get a glimpse at the bloody patch on her dress.

"Doesn't look too deep." He threaded his fingers through hers and felt a little more relieved when she gave him a small smile. "I'm so glad you're okay." He breathed out and closed his eyes, resting his forehead against hers.

They had seen the suspect lead a girl out the back entrance of the club and decided to follow them. When they caught up with them outside, Hayes had a knife to the girl's throat as she struggled fruitlessly against him. Kate had told him to freeze, whipping out her gun from the concealed holster on her thigh, but he ignored her command. He let go of the girl, but started to close in on Kate so fast that neither of them saw it coming when he kicked the gun away from her hand. The next thing Castle knew, he was tackling the guy and punching the daylights out of him in a rage so strong, it had even surprised himself.

"I'm glad you're okay. What the hell were you thinking, tackling him like that?" She untangled one of her hands from his and touched his cheek. "He had a knife. You could've been hurt or worse, Castle." She whispered, her fingers gently caressing his skin, settling on his neck.

"He was trying to kill you. He almost succeeded. I couldn't let that happen." He told her firmly and wrapped his free arm around her waist. "I'm not going to lose you again, Kate. I can't." He whispered in her ear, placing a kiss on her neck, breathing her in.

"You two okay over there?" They heard Esposito's voice and jumped apart as if they had been burned.

Kate had called them and an ambulance to take care of the girl and Hayes a few minutes ago. The young woman had been in shock until the ambulance arrived. Kate had stayed with her, keeping an eye on Hayes' unconscious form lying on the ground. When the paramedics flooded in, she had handed the girl to them and went to check on Castle.

"What happened?" Ryan joined in as he and Esposito walked towards them. "Beckett, you're bleeding." He pointed out when they finally reached them, making Castle look down at the red stain on her stomach, which just made him feel sick to his stomach again.

"Hayes attacked me. Castle beat the shit out of him, though." She explained and the boys looked at him impressed.

"That was your handy work, bro?" Esposito asked and he nodded, his hand itching to touch Kate again. She seemed to be struggling with the same issue, though, as he watched her slowly gravitate towards him. "Damn. Who knew you had it in you, man." The Hispanic detective grinned at him and Castle chuckled, relief flooding him when he felt Kate's arm touch his as she leaned against the dumpster too.

"Let's just hope Gates doesn't bitch about it." She said and linked her pinky finger with his, earning a small smile from him.

"You should get that cut checked out." He told her and the boys agreed with him. He looked at her and found her nodding grudgingly, pushing herself off of the dumpster, and pulling him with her. She let go of his hand and he immediately missed the warmth of her touch, his body already craving it, now that he had had a taste. "I'll go get our coats while they fix you up." He told her as they approached the ambulance, Ryan and Esposito following closely behind.

"We're going to wrap it up here and see that Hayes is taken care of. See you at the 12th?" Ryan asked her and she nodded, sitting down on the back of the ambulance as a paramedic started asking questions.

"Yeah, thanks, guys." She gave them a small smile and they nodded.

"Just glad you're okay, Beckett." Esposito told her and she nodded gratefully. Castle decided to take his leave and go back into the club to retrieve their things, when her hand grabbed his.

"Stay with me?" She asked quietly, almost shyly. He smiled at her, squeezing her hand, and hopped into the ambulance.

"You okay?" He asked, looking around to check if the boys were really gone, before placing a kiss to the back of her hand.

"Yeah, I just…" she trailed off, closing her eyes for a moment, and he entwined their fingers together.

"I'll stay." He promised her and she smiled gratefully, leaning into him. "Is she going to need stitches?" He asked the young paramedic that was tending to her and watching their interaction interestedly.

"Nah. It's not deep. I'll just clean it and put a bandage on it." She said and Castle nodded. "Is your tetanus shot up to date, Detective Beckett?" She turned to Kate, who had laid down on the gurney inside the ambulance to get the wound checked out.

"Yeah. Had one just a few months ago." She informed and the paramedic nodded.

"Alright, this is probably going to sting a bit." She said as she cleaned the cut with peroxide. Castle felt her squeeze his hand tightly during the whole process and took it all in stride, gladly. She was okay and alive and that was all that mattered, he thought, leaning down to kiss her forehead softly. "All done, Detective." They heard the paramedic say as she finished putting the bandage on.

"Thanks, Erica." Kate smiled at the young woman and sat up, grimacing a little when the movement pulled on the cut. "Come on, Castle." She pulled him by the hand as she hopped off the ambulance, but dropped it as soon as they were in plain sight of everyone at the scene.

Castle waved at Erica and followed Kate back into the club. Once inside, he grabbed her hand and pulled her back against him, his arms immediately encircling her waist. She looked surprised for a moment, but when she looked up at him, her eyes softened.

"I'm fine, Castle." She leaned in and pressed her lips to his. "Really. It was just a scratch." She whispered, tucking her head between his shoulder and neck. He only held her tighter, careful not to hurt her, but was glad that she seemed to understand what he was going through.

"I know, just…" He swallowed hard and kissed her neck gently. "Just give me a minute." He told her, sighing heavily. She complied and stayed in his arms until he got his emotions under control.

"We should head back to the precinct. I still have to book Hayes." She murmured into his neck and he nodded, pulling back slightly, only enough to press a kiss to her forehead and then to her lips. He felt her smile against his lips as her hands found his and entwined their fingers. As soon as she did that, however, he felt a sharp wave of pain eradiating from his right knuckles and a gasp escaped involuntarily. "What's wrong?" she asked, pulling back to look at him.

He reluctantly let go of her hand and brought his hand up for examination. His knuckles were bloody and a little swollen. Damn it.

"Nothing, I'll just get this checked out later." He showed her his hand and heard her gasp in surprise.

"Why didn't you say anything, Castle? You may have a fracture here." She chided and he shook his head.

"I didn't even feel it until now. Let's just go get this done at the precinct and then I'll get it checked out. I promise." He added when she looked at him skeptically. "It doesn't feel broken, don't worry." He gave her a ghost of a smile and kissed her again. "Let's go?" He offered his good hand to her and she took it.

"Let's go. But I'm taking you to the hospital after this." She promised with that determined gaze he loved so much and he chuckled.

"I'll do whatever you want, detective."

It was past 4 in the morning when he parked the Ferrari in front of Kate's building, killed the engine and turned to look at her. She had her eyes closed, head leaned back against the seat. He took the time to just watch her, engrave every single detail about her in his mind, so he could revisit this moment whenever he wanted. She had changed out of her costume and was now wearing a spare t-shirt and yoga pants she had left in her locker at the precinct. Reaching out to touch her, a sharp pain in his right hand reminded him of the hairline fracture he had suffered.

After they had gotten everything done – or as much as they could, given the time – she had made good on her promise and took him to the hospital. They had waited for about an hour until a doctor finally came to see them and after getting some x-rays done, the young doctor announced he had a hairline fracture. It was very minor and he just had his hand bandaged to immobilize it for a few days. Kate had said she would be driving, but by the time they left the hospital she was practically asleep on her feet, so he just guided her to the passenger seat and took the keys from her coat pocket, settling behind the wheel. The drive to her apartment was short, but it looked like she had fallen asleep on him on the way.

"Kate." He touched her shoulder, minding his hurt hand, but she didn't even stir. "Kate." He called again, louder this time, and watched as her eyes flew open, a gasp escaping her lips.

"What? What is it? What's wrong?" She fired the questions in rapid succession, breathless.

"Nothing, relax." He touched her cheek and she met his eyes in the relative darkness of his car. "We're here." He said quietly and she looked outside, recognition dawning on her.

"Oh." She blinked, trying to get rid of the remnants of sleep and he smiled at how adorable she looked when she was sleepy. "Sorry, I was supposed to take you home. Didn't mean to fall asleep on you."

"Hey, I got us here in one piece, thank you very much." He said in mock outrage and she shook her head, smiling.

"Do you want to come up?" She asked a little shyly after a moment, biting her lip. He smiled at her hesitancy and nodded. "How's the hand?"

"Hurts like hell." He shrugged after they met on the sidewalk. "But I'll live."

He grinned at her and took her hand in his as they walked to her building's entrance. If he was honest with himself, he was terrified she would regret everything that had happened tonight and start to pull away from him. But things seemed to be finally going his way, as she threaded her fingers through his and pulled him into the lobby. She pressed the button for the elevator and leaned into his side.

"I'm so ridiculously tired." She yawned and he wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. She rested her head on his shoulder and he couldn't fight the smile that blossomed on his lips. This was really happening. Kate Beckett was in his arms and it was all very real.

"Are you sure you want me to come up?" He asked her quietly, kissing her hair, and she nodded. "Alright." He let out a breath in relief and told himself to relax. He was still so tense after everything that had happened that his entire body hurt.

The elevator ride to her apartment on the fifth floor was fast and the next thing he knew, Kate was pulling him into the apartment. She threw her keys at the coffee table and slipped out of her high heeled sandals, a moan of pleasure escaping her lips. He smiled at the sight in front of him and tried to ignore that moan and all the things it did to him. Taking off his tuxedo jacket, he put it on the back of the couch and unbuttoned the cuff of his shirt.

"Come on." She reached out a hand to him and he took it, mystified, as she started to lead him to her bedroom.

"Kate…" He needed to be sure this was something she wanted, that she wouldn't wake up the next morning and regret everything. He wouldn't be able to take that.

"Just sleeping, Castle. We're both too exhausted for anything else." She gave him a small smile and he nodded.

While she rummaged through her drawers, he took the time to look around her room. It wasn't the first time he had been in there, but it was the first time she had invited him to stay. His eyes travelled over the walls, the pictures on her nightstand, and the books on a bookshelf to the right of her bed. He smiled when he saw she had quite an impressive collection of his books and had to bite his lip to keep from saying anything about it.

"Here." She handed him a shirt that looked too familiar and his eyes widened when he realized it was one of his shirts. She had borrowed it when her apartment blew up during the Dunn case.

"Hey, I've been looking everywhere for this." He looked up at her and grinned when a blush started to creep up her neck. "You kept my shirt, you little thief." He teased her and she rolled her eyes. "I can't believe you kept it all this time."

"Shut up." She threw the shirt at him and walked to the bathroom, her own clothes in hand. "I'm just going to change real quick and then you can use the bathroom." She told him over her shoulder and he sat down on her bed, unbuttoning his shirt to throw on the one Kate had just given him. After that was taken care of, he stood up again and took his pants off, thinking that boxers and a t-shirt was decent enough to sleep in.

After a few minutes, Kate opened the door, waving a toothbrush at him. He made his way to the bathroom and found her removing her makeup. Leaning on the doorsill, he just watched her movements, fascinated. This was a side of Kate Beckett he wasn't usually privy to. After a couple of minutes, she caught him staring and raised an eyebrow at him in question. He shook his head, smiling to himself, and grabbed the toothbrush she had offered him, applying toothpaste to it. As they brushed their teeth side by side in her bathroom, Castle couldn't help but marvel at how fast – and seamlessly – things had changed between them. If someone had told him yesterday that tonight he would be getting ready for bed with Kate Beckett in her apartment, he would have laughed in their faces.

But here they were.

The world really did work in mysterious ways, he mused to himself, as he reached for the towel. Kate touched his arm and gave him a smile before going back to her room. He closed the door and went about his nightly ritual. A couple of minutes later, he opened the door again and found her room in near darkness with only the dim light on her nightstand on. Kate was already in bed, lying on her side, her back to him. He walked over to the bed and lay down, hands itching to touch her, but not sure what he was allowed to do.

Tentatively, he reached out slowly and brushed his fingers on her arm. When she didn't pull away, he scooted closer to her until his chest was touching her back, his arm around her waist. Pressing a kiss to her neck, he felt her relax into him, her hand finding his in the darkness. He threaded their fingers together and kept showering her neck and shoulder with lazy, open mouthed kisses. When she shivered against him as he sucked on her pulse point, he smiled against her skin and redoubled his efforts. A moment later, she turned around to face him, her mouth suddenly on his. He was slightly taken aback at how hungry and demanding her lips were, but he recovered fast and kissed her back with the same enthusiasm, pushing her back onto the bed, his body hovering over hers, hand caressing her sides. He tried to mind his hurt hand, but at the moment the pain was forgotten as she pulled him tighter on top of her, her legs parting so he could fit snugly between them.

Her hands ran all over his back, pulling his shirt up, her nails making him shiver and his skin to break out in goose bumps. He pulled away breathlessly as she took his shirt off and threw it over the side of the bed, running her hands everywhere she could reach. He was certain he was moments away from collapsing from sensory overload as her touch elicited all kinds of deliciously torturous feelings. Slipping a hand into her shirt, he touched her carefully, mindful of the injury she had suffered just hours before. Kate didn't seem to care, though, pulling her shirt off the rest of the way. He watched, mesmerized, as she laid bare to him in the dim light, her pupils betraying her desire, the flush on her chest a joy to look at.

Then his eyes found the scars that marked her now, proof that that terrible day back in May had really happened. He sensed when she suddenly became self-conscious, apparently just remembering that those scars were there as well. She tried to cover them with her hands, but he stilled her movements before she could, leaning down to press a kiss to the bullet wound mark just under her left breast, then trailing further to the left, where another line marred her perfect skin. He kissed those lines reverentially, a sudden wave of gratitude and love for her so strong washing over him that it nearly took his breath away. Kissing his way lazily back to her lips, he pulled away, touching her cheek gently, making her look at him.

"You're so beautiful, Kate. So perfect to me." He whispered and saw her bite her lip, a myriad of emotions flashing in her eyes. He was tempted to say just how much he loved her then, but stopped himself just in time. This wasn't the right time yet.

He kissed her again, deep and slow, and felt her respond with the same intensity. What he was feeling at that moment was something so unique, so inherent to his love for her, that he was sure he would never experience anything similar with anyone else. He was also sure that after tonight he wouldn't want anyone but Kate.

She held onto him tightly, as if he was her lifeline, and wrapped her legs around his waist, bringing them closer. When his hips pressed against hers, he rejoiced in the satisfied moan that escaped her and made it his mission to hear more of that amazing sound. He touched her everywhere he could reach, his lips dancing over her skin, settling on the tight peaks of her breasts for a moment – just enough to have her panting and writhing under him – and let his hands travel further south, pulling the yoga pants, along with her underwear, down her legs and throwing it over his shoulder. Pulling away, he took a moment to take that sight in.

She was gorgeous. He wanted her so badly, it hurt.

She sat up, her hands reaching for his waistband, pulling it down. When she touched him for the first time, he thought it would be all over before they had even gotten started and gritted his teeth to get himself under control. She ran her hand over the length of him, teasing him with a wicked grin playing on her lips. He was able to endure that delicious torture for only a couple of minutes, before he had her lying on her back again, his hand diving between her legs, his lips curving up in a smile when she let out a low moan and bucked against his hand. She was so ready for him and just the thought of what was about to happen, what it was going to be like to be joined with her in the most beautiful way, had him close to the edge again.

He worked her with his fingers, his mouth eventually joining in on the task, until he felt her crashing around him, her back arching and the most gorgeous sound escaping her lips. He smiled at the scene in front of him, bringing her down from her orgasm gently, proud of himself for doing this to her. To Kate Beckett. His Kate Beckett. Kissing up her body, he found her lips again and they kissed lazily for a few minutes, until she reached down between them and grabbed him.

"Nightstand." She whispered in his ear and he immediately reached out to the small drawer, his hand blindingly looking for a condom.

As soon as he found it, he showed it to her happily and she chuckled, taking it from him and ripping the foil with her teeth. Rolling it down on him, she pulled him back on top of her as he instinctively entered her. The overwhelming sensation of being in her had him moaning against her neck as he started to move slowly with her. She wrapped her legs around his waist again, which just pulled him in deeper, eliciting sounds from both of them. They moved together fluidly as if they had been doing this for years. She kissed him with a voracity he had never seen before and the feelings her actions evoked had him almost spilling out his love for her. Instead, he just chanted it in his head, intermingled with her name. When she whispered in his ear to go faster, he almost went over the edge, but held out for her. Reaching down between them, he found her most sensitive spot and massaged it until she reached her peak again, his name spilling out of her lips like a prayer. Only then, he allowed himself to let go.

Later, as they tried to catch their breaths, he got up to quickly dispose of protection, and went back to the warmth of her. She curled herself around him, her legs intertwined with his, her breath whispering against his neck. He wrapped his arms around her and wished and prayed this would all still be real in the morning. She kissed his neck sleepily, her limbs completely relaxed against him, as he ran his hand up and down her back, hairline fracture all but forgotten. He was sure it would hurt like hell in the morning, but he had no regrets. This had been so worth it.

"What's on your mind, Rick?" Her sleepy voice broke the silence and he sighed contently.

"Would it be really cheesy and clichéd if I said it was you?" He asked and felt her laugh against him.

"A little, but you get a cheesy and clichéd free pass tonight." The playful tone in her voice made the uncertainty in his heart slowly melt away.

"Good." He found her lips with his and sucked on her bottom lip. "This was…"

"I think mind blowing is a good description." She interrupted him and he chuckled, agreeing with her wholeheartedly. They were quiet for a few minutes, just listening to each other breathing. "Hey, Rick?" she said after a while and he pulled away to meet her eyes. "I'm really glad you're here." She whispered and he felt the happiest smile appear on his lips.


She smiled at him and closed the distance between them.


And that was all the reassurance he needed.

A/N: Thoughts?