Final Chapter :)

Chapter 12

He was kissing Kate.

Kissing her.

Kissing her in the closet in the precinct in the middle of the afternoon…wait, wait, he pulled away, tried to make his lungs work. "Do you think we should…?"

"No. Stop thinking." Her mouth was back, the hot slide of her lips across his jaw, his throat. She was unbuttoning his shirt, the feel of her hands on him making his eyes cross.

"You're right." He kissed her he kissed her his hands slipping to her back, his fingers tracing the long line of her spine, and she arched into him with a noise deep in her throat that was going to make him crazy. She needed to do it again. "No more thinking. We're making this too hard."

"Something's hard." Kate slowly and deliberately rocked her hips into his, her hand curving around the nape of his neck, her tongue ….and he couldn't believe his heart hadn't exploded from his chest. He was going to die.

"Why, Katherine Beckett." He was making a valiant attempt at sardonic, but was falling way short. It was hard to pull off over the sound of his own panting. "That's so naughty. I'm definitely a bad influence on you."

"Not a bad influence." He could barely hear her but he could feel the words against his mouth, her lips on his; so close he couldn't tell his heartbeat from hers. "The best."

And everything in him combusted. Four years slammed into him, demolishing what was left of his control, and he was pressing her into the shelves, lifting her up so he could reach her mouth, her weight resting on his leg between hers. He couldn't stop, couldn't make sense, and the last coherent thought he had was that this might be the most erotic, most perfect, happiest thing that had ever happened to him, jammed in a closet, surrounded by cleaning supplies, kissing Kate Beckett in the dark.

3:54 pm., 12th precinct, supply closet. Making out.


This was…

This was perfect.

Except that didn't even cover it. There were no words.

Her mouth was on his, she was twined around him in the dark, and it was hard to believe she wasn't dying or dreaming because it felt like this was everything she had ever, ever wanted and she couldn't believe she'd waited this long.

Castle's hands were everywhere, fast, desperate, his hips rocking into hers and it felt so good they had to stop, had to stop or they wouldn't be able to, but somehow her hands were on the button of his pants and –

"Oof." Castle flinched back like he'd been hit, his mouth slipping from hers. "Ouch! Something just-"

"What? What?" She doesn't even sound like herself, breathy and distracted and …holy shit, what the-

Kate jumped about a foot as something furry brushed past her ankle, but no. No. It's not. She's not even going to think it. No.

"Oh my god! Something just jumped out and scratched me!" Castle was backed up against the shelves, rumpled and delicious, his shirt unbuttoned. He pulled up his shirttail, exposing most of his torso, and almost involuntarily she reached for him. "Am I bleeding? I think it was the – "

"Don't say it!" Kate ran her hand across his stomach, his abdominals clenching under her touch. "No. You're not bleeding." She tucked herself back into him, sliding along his warm, smooth skin… "Don't…I just need to…" she didn't want to talk yet. Stupid ferret.

Immediately his hand was on her thigh, his mouth against her throat, his scratch forgotten. "Do you think it's still in here?" Castle didn't sound like he really cared. He was wrapping himself around her, his body tight, urgent, and again he was all she could feel, all she could think of.

"I don't care." Her words were all but unintelligible as she kissed him, "I don't care, I don't care." Because she couldn't stop now - it was too much to ask - five minutes was nowhere near long enough to take the edge off four years except…

High pitched screaming erupted from the bullpen, perfectly on cue. It startled them apart, and they stood there breathing hard and staring at each other with wide, unfocused eyes.

Castle cleared his throat. "Well. I guess we know it's not in here anymore."

4:02 pm. 12th precinct, bullpen. No longer even surprised.

Karpowski was the screamer. Obviously.

She was standing on her desk, staring at the ceiling, her mouth opened in a shrill, continuous scream. If she didn't take a breath soon she was going to pass out. Everyone in the bullpen had come to a complete stop, frozen, turned toward Karpowski and her hysterics. Except…

Out of the corner of her eye Kate could see someone tearing through the bullpen. It was Ryan, running as fast as she'd ever seen him, straight for Karpowski's desk.

Straight towards the ferret, who was curled up on her foot, completely calm, as if it were napping.

Everything seemed to happen at once. Karpowski snapped out of her immobilized hysterics and moved into frantic, frenetic hysterics, jumping up and down on her desk in what Kate could only guess was an effort to dislodge the ferret, which seemed to be wrapped around her ankle. She was still screaming, but now in short static bursts-like a fire alarm-that punctuated each jump.

Ryan flew past them and reached the desk, immediately falling to the floor, arms flailing comically in the air like Kermit the Frog's, knocked down by Karpowski's now wildly swinging foot. She was trying to kick off the ferret.

"Wow. Look at it hold on." Kate turned to Castle, who, no surprised, sounded thrilled, just in time to see his smile drop and his eyes widen. "Oh no." Kate whirled back around to see Karpowski teetering on the edge, her foot swinging over the side, just as she reared her leg back to smash the ferret against the side of her desk.

"She's going to fall." Kate muttered, starting forward.

"She's going to hurt the ferret!" Castle darted after her.

But before they could reach her, Ryan popped back up from behind the desk, face sweaty, hair askew, eyes acrazy.

"Noooooooo!" He dove across the desk grabbing her ankle – and the ferret – knocking Karpowski off balance. She toppled over, landing on her desk – still screaming - barely missing her monitor.

Ryan yanked the ferret off her foot and cradled it in his arms… for maybe two seconds, before it utterly and completely freaked out. It was chirping, angry chirping, its teeth flashing, its little claws flying as it used Ryan's arms as a ramp to run up and wrap itself around his neck. Kate was just grateful that it seemed to have lost the paperclip chain somewhere along the way.

Kate started towards Ryan, to at least pull the ferret off his neck – how tight could they squeeze? – but she hadn't taken two steps before there was a ruckus behind her. It was Esposito, appearing from nowhere, his arm raised, his mouth opened in a battle cry as he charged across the room.

"I've got your back, bro!" Kate had seen Esposito face down a bullet without sounding this enraged. "Partners!"

He skidded to a stop in front of Ryan. He only hesitated for a second before heroically overcoming his fear and proving his loyalty by going straight for the ferret. Which immediately proved inadvisable because…

"It bit me!" Esposito's voice had reached dizzying heights of hysteria. "The little fucker bit me!"

Kate made a mental note to give Esposito Dr. Burke's number.

Ryan's response was muffled by Karpowski's screams and all the ferret fur in his mouth, but Esposito must have understood him. "I'm not leaving you! I'll get him!"

That's when Kate saw the light glinting of the syringe in Esposito's hand. She grabbed Castle's arm. "Shit."

"Oh, this is a bad ..." Castle lunged towards him just as Esposito stabbed the syringe in the direction of the ferret, who, from its position and Ryan's sudden screams seemed to have sunk its teeth into Ryan's earlobe.

There was a scuffle – arms and legs and fur everywhere. Kate couldn't really see, but from Ryan's sudden calisthenics it seemed like the ferret had taken refuge down his shirt.

Esposito turned around triumphantly, the empty syringe held high. "I got him!"

That's when the ferret shot out the neck of Ryan's shirt and landed on Esposito's head. Like a hat. A ferret fez.

There was about half a beat of total horrified silence. Even Karpowski shut up. Then Esposito opened his mouth. Nothing came out. His silent scream hung in the air for a second that went on forever and then…

He and Karpowski both let loose. It was like a stereo effect of complete and total crazy.

Things kind of went downhill from there.

Esposito started running in circles – still screaming - exactly like a person on fire.

Castle must have thought so too, since he started yelling, "Stop, drop and roll, Espo! Drop and roll!"

"That's fire, Castle" Kate hollered, but she shouldn't have bothered. No one could hear her, the insanity was too loud.

Castle certainly didn't. "I need a blanket!"

Ryan grabbed Karpowski sweater and threw it as hard as he could across the bullpen. Castle leapt to catch it and would have, if it hadn't been intercepted by Gate's head as she stepped into the bullpen.

Kate clamped her hand over her mouth. She wanted to close her eyes but couldn't look away from the biggest train wreck she had ever personally experienced.

No. Seriously. This couldn't be real. Kate couldn't be standing in the bullpen unable to hear anything over ferret-induced hysterics, while her partner tried to help with fire safety tips and her captain stood there with a sweater wrapped around her head.

Castle didn't hesitate. He tore the sweater off Gates and tackled Esposito, ripping the ferret from his hair – impossibly, Esposito screamed even louder. Those claws must be strong – and bundling it up, holding it to his chest.

Esposito jumped to his feet. "Why is he still moving? I hit him with the tranquilizers!"

"Um, guys?" They turned towards Ryan, who had been oddly quiet, just in time to see his eyes roll up in his head as he slowly slid to the floor, knocked out.

Kate sighed. Of course. Of course. "Yeah, I don't think you hit the ferret."

"Excuse me." Gates was eerily calm in the midst of chaos. "Was that a ferret Mr. Castle just removed from Detective Esposito's head?"

Kate shot a glance to Castle, panicked. "Are…are you asking me?"

"Well. Detective Karpowski seems to be incapacitated on her desk. Detective Ryan appears to have suffered some sort of fainting fit, and Detective Esposito looks catatonic. So yes, Detective Beckett, I am asking you."

"Uh…" Kate's mind was completely blank, because there was no explanation for a ferret on Esposito's head. Gates was wearing her "you all are fired" face and Kate would half-think this was a dream, except she never had dreams this dumb.

"It's the cat-burglar circus crime-ring. Sir."

Gates turned her head to Castle. Her hair was a mess. "The cat-burglar circus crime-ring?"

Castle was rocking the ferret back and forth, like he was trying to sooth it. "Yes, you know, Robbery's case. This is their ferret. It was confiscated during the raid. It must have gotten loose in the precinct somehow."

Gates tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. "Fascinating. And tell me, Mr. Castle, what did the cat-burglar circus crime-ring do with this ferret?"

Castle sucked in a breath, stalling. Kate realized she was holding her breath, her hand still against her mouth. "I think they used it on small jobs, or in a crowd. They had trained it as a pickpocket. I'm pretty sure the guy in Robbery said its name is Fagin –"

"Thank you." Gates held a hand to stop him and Castle fell silent, still rocking the ferret. Gates slowly shook her head. "Mr. Castle. Always at the ready with an explanation. A story."

Castle shrugged modestly. "I try."

Gates pursed her lips and scanned the room, her hair sticking up and staticky, her hands still raised in front of her."You know what? There are some moments when, as Captain, it is more prudent not to know. I believe that now is one of those moments. Consider this your one and only get out of jail free card."

And she turned and walked into her office, shutting the door behind her.

"Did she just let us off?" Kate knew she was standing there with her mouth hanging opened. She turned to Castle, her eyes huge. "That settles it. This is the craziest day ever."

Castle was glancing back and forth between the unconscious Ryan and Esposito, who had yet to say anything, but might have been whimpering. "I think those guys in the Mounted Unit were messing with you, man. It's a good thing you hit Ryan. You would have killed the ferret for sure."

Kate wondered if that would have really been a bad thing.

Castle turned to Karpowski, the squirming buddle of ferret still tucked securely under his arm. "Hey, I'll get you your sweater back later, okay?"

Karpowski didn't lift her head from her desk, only moving to wave her hand in the air. "Keep it. It's tainted now."

No way. There was just no way this had just happened. Kate glanced from Karpowski, to Esposito with his thousand yard stare, to Ryan tranquilized on the floor. She wondered if Dr. Burke would give them a group rate.

This day could not be real.

"Hey." Castle moved up beside her, the squirming ferret now clutched to his chest. "That was awesome." He smiled, that unfettered smile of pure happiness, and Kate felt her stomach flip and her breath come short.

Everything rushed back. Everything. "Yeah." Kate knew an answering smile was breaking out across her face. "It was."

(Please let this day be real.)

4:32 pm., 12th precinct, bullpen. How is it possible that it is not yet 5:00? How?

Gates placated – check

Ryan "sleeping" comfortably at his desk - check

Ferret drugged and safely in the (locked) desk drawer – check

Castle had fussed over the ferret, while Kate pretended to roll her eyes and Esposito sat at his desk and tried not to look at them. He held it as it fell asleep, before laying it carefully in the drawer and tucking it in with Karpowski's sweater.

"Will it be okay in there? Can it breathe?"

"It's a desk drawer, Castle, not a bank vault. It'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" He looked anxious, and Kate didn't even try to pretend that she didn't find it completely endearing that he was worried about the ferret.

"I promise. Don't worry." She nudged him with her hip. "Do I need to tranq you too?"

He waggled his eyebrows at her. "Sounds kinky." And her stomach dropped and her face flushed and good lord, when was it going to be five o'clock?

Now Kate sat at her desk, Castle in his chair next to her. He stretched out and rubbed his eyes. "Wow. I don't think I've ever worked so hard doing nothing in my life, and for me that's really saying something."

His tone was nonchalant, giving nothing away, but one hand was on her thigh, the heat from his skin hot against hers, even through her pants. She was trying really hard not to squirm, and from the way he kept shooting her hot little looks while slowly inching his fingers higher, he could totally tell.

Her phone rang, and she looked away to answer it, hoping against hope that she would sound like she was a professional at work, and not like she was naked in Castle's bed. Oh god. Naked. His bed. She swallowed hard.

"Beckett." She sucked in a breath. "Where?" Kate tucked the phone against her shoulder and grabbed a pen, studiously avoiding looking at Castle, who was now stroking up the inside of her thigh. "Yeah. On my way." She pocketed her phone as she stood up and grabbed Castle's hand, pulling him up with her.

"Oh my god, get your coat. We're saved. There's a body."

Castle folded his fingers around hers and held her there, frowning. "Wait. What about Ryan? We can't just leave him like this."

Kate glanced at Ryan, peacefully sleeping at his desk, a slight but growing puddle of drool visible under his cheek. Kate felt guilty for about half a second, but…

"There's been a murder, Castle. We have to go. Esposito will just have to deal with it."

Castle's shoulders slumped in relief. He grabbed his coat and followed her to the elevator, stepping aside to let off the uniform leading a lone handcuffed clown still clutching a balloon animal behind his back before they stepped on.

"Thank god. I'm exhausted."

4:40 pm., 12th precinct, elevator. Finally.

"So." Castle bumped her shoulder with his. "Where's the body?"

He was smiling, but something in his face…disappointment. It hit her then. They had a body. They had a case. They were going to be here all night. Here, and not…dammit.

The elevator doors slid opened and Kate stepped on, fighting her way to the back, her fingers still loosely intertwined with his.

It was full. They were surrounded by the latest round of circus people on their way back to lockup, including their old friend the hypnotist and a pair of identical twins dressed in leopard print jumpsuits. In the corner, requiring two uniformed guards, was a gentleman in pantaloons, a jacket with tales, and a top hat. He looked a little worse for the wear.

"It's the ringleader! The ringleader for the cat-burglar circus crime-ring!" Castle hissed in her ear, delighted, and his breath on her neck sent such a shock of desire through her that it was all she could do to stop herself from kissing him. She did her best to appear unaffected as they stood against the back of the elevator together, their shoulders touching, his thumb rubbing the sensitive inside of her wrist. Her stomach was a riot of butterflies, because in just a minute they would be alone, even if it would be on the way to a crime scene.

"You know," Kate swallowed, her mouth dry. Alone with him. In a car. She had to stop, lick her lips, try to pull in adequate air. She had to say something, anything, just to try and focus on something besides the tingling sensation along every nerve in her body, sensation feathering from his softly stroking thumb. "I secretly think cat burglars are kind of bad ass."

Castle's fingers stilled, his eyes wide. "You do?" He wrapped his hand around her wrist, his palm hot and smooth. "Sorry. I'm just imagining a cat suit." His eyes were burning. "On you."

It's like a switch had been flipped. Nothing is new and yet everything is.

"Really?" They were barely whispering so as not to be overheard, and Kate went up on her toes, her lips almost touching his ear. He froze. "Do I look as good as these girls?"

Castle's fingers spasmed against her arm. He turned his face to her, his cheek against hers, his mouth against her ear, moist and hot. "Kate? Don't you know? No one is as good as you."

All the air left her body in a rush and Kate took an abrupt step back, needing at least a sliver of distance or she was going to attack him in this crowded elevator in front of the leopard twins and everyone. She looked up at his face, so serious, his eyes the darkest blue she had ever seen them.

They're going to be alone in a minute, and it was worse now, because she knew. She knew how it would be between them and she wasn't going to make it, she wasn't…

Kate pulled her phone out of her pocket, half noticing that her hands were shaking. She quickly dialed, all the while holding Castle's gaze, that burning blue.

The call connected. "Carver. This is Beckett. We've just had a body drop. I've had a personal emergency and was hoping you could cover for me?" Kate listened, her eyes never leaving Castle. As soon as he realized what she was doing his gaze became so hot she was surprised that she didn't spontaneously combust right there next to the guy in the sequined unitard. "Thanks. Esposito has the details." She dropped her phone in her pocket, her hand still shaking as she comprehended what she had just done, what it would mean.

The elevator jerked as it came to a stop, the bell dinging. The doors slid opened to the lobby, and Castle pushed past the circus folk on their way to holding, his hand still clamped around her wrist. Kate almost tripped on her own heels as he all but dragged her across the lobby and through the front doors.

Outside the snow was whirling fast and thick, obscuring her vision, muting all sound. Everything felt surreal and magical and this couldn't really be happening to her.

Castle skidded to a stop in front of the town car – impossibly parked directly in front of the precinct – his feet nearly slipping in the heavy snow. He managed to right himself, throw open the passenger door and swing her inside all before she even realized what was happening. He must have called for the car service earlier, could have had it waiting all day, but...

"No driver?"

Castle climbed in, shut the driver side door with a muted thunk, and scooted to the middle, turning to face her.

"No. I, um,"

And now here they were, staring at each other across front seat, their rapid puffs of breath visible in the air between them. The swirling snow at the windows enclosing them, wrapping them up. They were parked on the street but it felt like they were the only two people left in the world.

"So." Castle swallowed and reached for her hand again, tentative. "Cat burglars, huh?"

Kate blinked. He wanted to talk about cat burglars? His hand lightly trembled in hers, every line in his body tense.

Despite the cold, a slow warmth started to spread through her as realization hit. Castle was nervous.

He was probably terrified she was going to step back, put on the brakes. Because she would have. Kate was sorry she had made him feel that way, but the guilt, the horrible indecisive guilt, was gone. Everything was different now and she wasn't stopping anything.

This was happening. It struck Kate then, the inevitability of them. Not just now, in this car surround by snow and finally alone, but always, from the moment they met. And Castle was as nervous as she was. They had been playing the same game all along.

Her heart almost ached with tenderness for him. "Yeah." She turned her hand so they were palm to palm, his warmth spreading up her arm, dissipating the chill. "Like a superhero, you know? A vigilante cat burglar."

Castle shifted in his seat, carefully letting out a breath. "That' You could be a homicide detective by day, cat burglar by night. A whole new direction for Nikki Heat." He was going for casual but he was babbling, his voice almost shaking. It gave Kate courage.

She scooted across the front seat, as close as she could get in the confides of the car. The snow whirled at the windows, blocking out the world. She tucked her leg underneath her, angling her body towards his. She reached up to run her fingers down his jaw, giving into the impulse she'd had all day and forever.

Castle closed his eyes. She could actually see his chest jerk as his breath stuttered out. His voice was hoarse, restrained. His eyes an impossible, burning blue.

"You'd have to be careful though, not to get caught. Scandal"

Kate nudged even closer, her ankle crossing his, her hand against his neck. She could feel his pulse moving at an incredible speed, like his heart was about to burst. She had to kiss him soon. She muttered something, anything, flirting, skirting the edge.

"If I got caught, you could break me out of jail. Would you get me out, Castle?"

Kate was teasing, but Castle's gaze flew to hers, emotion flickering across his face, something moving in his eyes that was more than just hunger, and suddenly he was reaching for her.

"Yes." His voice was rough, his hands urgent as he grasped her waist and pulled her across his lap, her knees on either side of his hips. He splayed one hand against the small of her back and pulled her close, his other hand cradling the back of her head. He buried his face in the crook of her neck, like he couldn't even look at her, like it was abruptly too much. He gasped, his breath hot against her throat. "I would get you out of jail."

He lifted his head, his fingers still threaded through her hair. He shook his head, laughed almost to himself. "I would get you out of jail. I would help you foil a hypnotist, and fool your boss, and catch a ferret, and any other insane thing you needed. I would do anything for you, always. It's what you do for the people you love."

Castle was trying to smile, but his eyes were bright with tears, burning with an intensity that belied his teasing words. Kate heart stuttered as she realized that this was it. She took deep breath as she felt the wave crash over her.

"What you do for the people you love?" His arms clenched against her back as she spoke, his body surrounded her, buoying her up.

Castle stopped breathing, and for a moment was completely still. Then he sucked in a breath, his eyes defiant, determined. With both hands on her face her pulled her towards him and whispered in her ear, his voice hard and sure. "Yes. The person that I love. I love you, Kate."

And then his mouth was on hers and he was kissing her and finally, finally.

The air was freezing but his mouth was hot, scorching, and she couldn't get enough, couldn't get close enough. She was slammed into desire, ignited by the love she denied for so long, finally bursting free. Her hips were already undulating against his, her hands frantically delving beneath his coat and his jacket and, God, why was he wearing so many clothes? She almost ripped his shirt trying to get it out of his pants, trying to get to bare skin.

He was kissing her back just as desperately, as if he had waiting so long he was never going to stop, and Kate knew she couldn't overwhelm him with her feelings for him when his own were so vast. His heart was big enough to take whatever she could give, and she was tired of waiting.

She loved him. And that would change her forever, but not into someone Castle wouldn't recognize. She might not be exactly the woman he fell in love with, but she was something better. The woman that he loved.

She had been so wrong. Her love wouldn't overwhelm either one of them. It would surround them, bind them together, keep them safe. It couldn't pull them under. Not while they were holding each other up.

Kate wrenched her mouth from his...she had to tell him…"Castle." Her hands were on his face, his neck, pushing back his hair, his bright, bright eyes inches from her own. She should have been breathless; instead she sounded brave and true. "Me, too. I love you, too."


Whew! In just under the wire.:)

Writing this has been such a wonderful, rewarding experience for me, and I can't thank all of you enough; everyone who alerted and favorited and commented, some of you on every single chapter. I've gotten to know some truly wonderful people. Thank you so, so much for all your support and for continuing to read, even though this story was crazy and it took months. I hope you had fun. I definitely did. You guys are awesome.:)

Less than 24 for hours until Always! EEEEE!