"I must say," Castle lets out with a contented sigh, "this is quite a satisfying bed. Firm mattress, pretty nice sheets. On the whole, I'm quite happy with it."
Kate huffs a laugh against his chest, enjoying the way his skin ripples with her breath, the play of muscle under her fingers. He's resting flat on his back, and she's curled around him, a leg thrown over his, an arm gathered over his ribs - her cheek pressed to his heart.
"Oh yeah?" she says, and even though she meant it light, meant it teasing, she can tell her voice is still rough, still heavy, a little hazy with pleasure.
His fingertips dance over the line of her cheekbone, venture into the curls draped over her ear; her eyes slide shut, a hum vibrating in her throat.
"Got something against the bed, Kate?"
She can tell, just from his tone, that he's grinning.
"Hmm, no," she answers after a shivering pause due to his wandering hand. "I just think maybe it's not the only thing you should be happy with."
She punctuates her words with a a squeeze of her fingers at his side and he squirms, laughing.
"Oh, no? What else?"
She smiles, knowing he can feel it, feel the curve of her lips into his skin.
"Mm, I don't know. Your wife, for example."
His arm tightens around her, a cord of heat at her ribs, the pressure delicious, welcome.
"My wife. But my wife's not a thing," he objects, and she laughs, the sound round and joyful in her mouth, surprising her even now, when she's married to him, when she's had years to get used to his humor. His determination to make her smile.
"Good answer," she approves, teasing. "Maybe you should get rewarded for it."
"Hmm. And what might that reward be?"
She laughs again, the tip of her tongue against her bottom lip.
"I don't know, Castle. What would you like?"
Instead of giving her words, he shows her, winding both hands around her neck and turning her face up to him. But his lips are warm and soft, the caress of his tongue too gentle; she scrapes it with her teeth, hungry for more, the liquid fire of arousal scorching her veins again.
She arches against him, moaning when the smooth, taut muscles of her abdomen encounter his hipbone, but he seems intent on frustrating her; he draws back and keeps his touch light, his hands gentling her, soft brushes to her collarbone, her arms, her ribs.
She doesn't want tender, she wants-
"I'd like an honest answer," he murmurs to her chin, her jaw, and his hot exhales make it almost impossible for her to process his words. Damn it, Castle.
He moves away, though, giving her space to breathe, space to think. After a second or two, she knits her eyebrows. An honest answer?
"How are you feeling?" he asks, blue eyes dark and serious, making her want to kiss him again. But she bites her lip and rolls onto her back, lets out a reluctant chuckle.
"Only you," she sighs. "Only you can ruin such a nice moment by asking about my health."
"And I only ruin it because I have complete faith in our ability to recreate such a moment."
She laughs, completely against her will, then stretches in the sheets before she curls up on her side, looks back at him.
"I'm fine, Rick."
And she is, truly. Yes, she's still tired. Yes, she has a slight headache, but it's nothing that time won't heal. Time and her husband.
"You sure?" he says, a hint of hesitation in his voice. "Because I - I have drugs you could take, if you're not."
Kate lifts her head from the pillow, rests the weight of her upper body on her forearm.
"What do you mean? You know I took some Tylenol in the train. You don't have anything else, do you?"
More hesitation. Uh-oh. That can't be good. She watches him press his lips together, before he meets her eyes squarely.
"I went out and bought drugs while you were asleep, Kate."
She pushes herself upright, in a sitting position, and the way her head swims tells her she might not be as okay as she thought. She closes her eyes, just a second; she can almost feel Castle's concern, crashing over her like a wave.
She puts a hand up, stopping him, and forces her eyes open again. Forces her brain to work.
"You bought drugs - how long was I asleep for?"
"Over an hour, I guess? You were asleep when I got out of the shower, and considering the time I had to wait at the drugstore..."
Oh. Over an hour. Okay.
It felt like - like a few minutes.
But anyway. Back to the main issue here.
"Where did you find the money, Castle?" She looks at him with raised eyebrows, hopes with all her heart that he'll say he went through her things and found her wallet. He hesitates again, longer this time, and hope trembles, flickers, dies in her chest.
"I used my credit card," he admits in a soft breath, and the disappointment hits her so hard that she has to move, has to step back, to avert her eyes and swing her legs out of bed.
She gathers her underwear and slides it back on, moves off the bed, taking a deep breath.
It's so unfair, so unfair, how he can get to her with just her name.
There's no denying he does, though, so she clenches her teeth and swallows her pride, and turns back to him.
His blue eyes are earnest and pleading, the tan skin of his chest contrasting nicely with the white sheets, his muscles apparent with the way he's propping himself on his arms. She hates herself for noticing.
"Will you please listen to me?" he asks quietly.
As if she could ever refuse him.
When's the last time she said no, uh?
She chews on her lip, sits back on the bed. She draws her knees up to her chest, her feet curling against the softness of the sheets, but stays on her side, away from him.
She rests her cheek to her top of her knees, does it so that she's looking at him.
"I'm listening," she says.
When she looks at him like that, all dark eyes and lashes, his words die in his throat. He has to make a conscious effort to gather them again, put them in order, make sure they're the right ones.
Ugh. Why does it have to be so hard?
He runs his hands through his hair, trails them down his face, sighs.
In front of him, Kate waits patiently, watching.
To say he's grateful for that would be the understatement of the century.
"I took the card as an emergency measure, Kate," he says, the words finally rolling off his tongue. "In case something happened to one of us, something bad; in case, I don't know, we got robbed. This is a foreign country, and I thought - better to have some sort of safety. That's all there is to it, I swear."
She absorbs that, her eyes not leaving his.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asks at last.
He shifts on the bed, perplexed by the question. Why didn't he? There's no valid answer to that. Except, he thought she wouldn't like it, and in both his previous marriages, he's gotten used to ducking every fight he could; it's hard breaking the habit.
But she's worth it.
"I - thought you wouldn't like it," he admits. "And I hoped I wouldn't have to use it."
"So I'd never have to know?"
Her voice is calm, measured, and there's no way that's a good sign. He licks his lips nervously, a habit he's picked from her.
"I - guess so, yeah."
She considers him thoughtfully for what seems like an awfully, awfully long time.
"You didn't take the card because you thought you'd need extra luxuries that I couldn't pay for?"
His mouth opens in surprise, but he quickly masters it. "No. No, Kate."
She stares at him, as if gauging his sincerity, then nods once.
"You didn't take the card because you didn't trust that I could handle the financial aspect of things?"
He wants to laugh - he would laugh, if she didn't look so damn serious.
"No. No, of course not. Kate. I have complete faith in you and the never-ending list of your skills. You know that."
He was hoping for a smile; all he gets is the ghost of one, a hint of a curve at the corner of her mouth. But he'll take it.
She's obviously kept the worst question for last; her lower lip is curled between her teeth, her green eyes intent on the sheets, avoiding him.
"And." She hesitates, and his heart stutters. "You didn't. Take the card because, you thought maybe... we'd be going home separately?"
Oh, hell. Oh, Kate.
He wants to cry at the careful schooling of her face, wants to cry at the helplessness inside him, its dark, hungry pit.
She presses her lips together, eyelashes dark and thick against her cheeks, so close to breaking down - he doesn't need to look into her eyes to know.
"Answer the question, Castle."
He stares at her, nearly undone, swaying in despair. How can she think, how can she think, even for one minute-
But this is his fault. His fault.
He rushed things. She said ask me and he asked; he pushed her into a wedding that he knew she might not be ready for, but he wanted it so bad and she seemed to want it too, and he couldn't - he can never resist her.
And then he broke their deal by taking that stupid card with him, broke their deal *again* by buying the drugs with it, and he had the nerve to think that he could sweet-talk her around to it.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, he wants to say, but this is not what she needs from him now. She needs reassurance, and if he has to remind her every day that he's in this, that he's in this for always, then he will. Gladly.
"No," he says, quiet and confident, happy to find that his voice carries every assurance he feels.
He waits until she lifts her eyes to him to deliver the next part of his sentence, and those eyes are so beseeching, large and vulnerable, that he has to reach for her, has to curl his fingers around her jaw, her cheek, her neck.
"No, Kate. Didn't even occur to me."
And she must believe him, because she lets out a long, long sigh, and at last - at last - a smile tugs at her lips. A thin smile, but it looks like a steady one, too - and it's there. For him.
"Okay," she breathes, leaning in and resting her forehead to his shoulder.
"You'll have to explain to me," she says after a few seconds, her voice back to that dry, ironic thing that he loves, "how exactly getting those drugs qualifies as an emergency measure."
The tension uncoils in his chest just as the laughter spills out of his lips, and boy, does it feel good.
The air inside the cathedral is cool, and a little heavy; the smell is a mixture of different things - wax from the candles, surely, and maybe some incense, but she wouldn't bet on it.
Might just be the scent peculiar to ancient stone. No, not stone. Brick.
Kate's never seen a church made of brick before, even though apparently, it's a fashion in the southwest of France. This one is her first, and the rose-red color looked even more beautiful in the sunset, the fading light splashing over the facade.
And it's massive, too. Beautiful in a stark, austere kind of way.
The cathedral is the reason she made them stop in Lavaur at all - the town in itself has some nice buildings, and an interesting history that goes back to the tenth or eleventh century, but Saint-Alain was the thing she most wanted to see.
Her mother had a thing for churches. And, without being a very religious person, Johanna Beckett taught her daughter to love that quiet, sacred atmosphere, the space it gives, the way it lets her thoughts unfurl.
It's been too long since Kate last walked into a church, and it's partly why she insisted they go tonight. The other reason is that Castle looked like he could use the distraction too.
She lets go of his hand now and takes a few steps, overwhelmed by the silence, the strange sense of peace that always comes with holy places, no matter what she believes - or doesn't believe - in.
There's no one else here.
Maybe it's the late hour - she half-expected the place to be closed, to be honest - but it adds an extra dimension to their visit, a layer of intimacy and freedom that she revels in.
Castle makes an admiring sound behind her.
"How old is this place?" he wonders aloud. The breathless respect in his voice brings a smile to her lips; she knew he would like it.
"It was built between the years 1255 and 1300, if I remember right," she says, turning to him.
The cathedral rather looks its age, but she likes it - likes the unpretentious decoration, the faded paintings on the walls, the absence of anything gilded or ostentatious. It's like whoever runs the place decided that the majesty of the building should be its only ornament, and she couldn't agree more.
There's something breathtaking about the very height of the ceiling, about the beautiful stained glass windows, and the bare walls only serve to emphasize it.
"Are you kidding me?" Castle looks at his surroundings again, disbelieving. "Seven hundred years old? Seriously?"
"Well, I guess not all of it is seven hundred years old. They made a lot of changes, and probably enlarged it too. But, yeah. The foundation has been there for a long, long time."
Fascination and excitement replace the shock in Castle's blue eyes; she watches him, her heart lifting at his childlike enjoyment, and remembers the tears in his eyes when Montgomery told him he could have a bottle of Beau James's whisky.
She loves that in him, the myriad different things that can evoke such an enthusiastic response in him, the ceaseless capacity for wonder. She wishes she were like this, so open, so-
Easy to please? It sounds cheap when you put it like that, and it's not what she wants, but - yes. He can be happy with so little; it strikes her sometimes, makes her envious.
But she can learn.
"Look at the *walls*," he says, moving to one of the aisles, his eyes trained on the stone. "They're painted. And yeah, the paintings are old, but - still there. This place is...amazing."
She's thrilled that he likes it so much. She is. Because it is old, after all, and she's pretty sure Josh - and Will, too - would only have seen that, the ancientness of the place, its dilapidated state.
But Rick has more imagination that both of them combined, of course. He sees what the cathedral was, not what it is; he sees what has been, the million different stories that are probably rooted to the stone.
She finds herself joining him in the aisle, circling his waist with her arms and pressing a kiss to his nape.
His hands come up to cover hers, and he leans back slightly, giving her a better angle.
"I'm glad you like it," she murmurs, delighting in the warmth of his skin, the shiver that runs across his shoulders.
"Like it? I love it," he corrects, shifting in her embrace to face her, beam down at her. "And I love *you*, for bringing me here," he adds softly. "Thank you, Kate."
It ripples through her chest, little sparks of warmth that light her up; her mind flies back to that moment, that one, precious moment when she said, "I'll pay for the honeymoon."
Gratitude and happiness tangle in her throat, tinged with a tenderness for the person she was then, the Kate who didn't have all the knowledge that she has today, and yet had the right instinct about them. And this-
This is what she's dreamed of, what she's wished for; Castle and her alone in the south of France, together. No secrets, nothing between them, just - love.
So much love.
She raises on tiptoe and meets his mouth with hers, deep and slow, exultant.
I love you too.