That Familiar Feeling

Chapter Eight: Never Have to Wonder

So I'll never have to wonder if
I'll have someone to share all of it with.

-CeeLo Green, 'Bright Lights, Big City'

"For a man who makes a living with words, you sure as hell have a hard time finding them when it counts." Ryan gives him a long, assessing look. His words have heat to them, but his voice is steady, almost ironic.

Rick shakes his head again, wishing Kate would come back. She stepped outside the interrogation room to speak with the Captain of the 12th Precinct; she told him she was calling the DA. She told him to keep his mouth shut. He's trying to do as she says.

"Come on, Mr. Castle. Roses on her body. Sunflowers on her eyes?"

He keeps his mouth shut, just like she told him, but everything in him longs to defend himself. His body quivers with a grief-stricken ferocity that makes his skin crawl, his hands clench in fists.

He needs Kate.

"You think we don't read? We wouldn't notice?"

Detective Ryan and his partner have already spent the better part of an hour going over his rap sheet in meticulous detail, reading aloud from the arrest reports, Kate's hand on his thigh the moment the police horse incident was brought up. She didn't look at him then, but he knew she had lingering. . .

He didn't buy her; he didn't. Despite the look Ryan gave Beckett when she followed him out of the party. Despite the raised eyebrows when she took the opposite side of the table from the detectives.

He suddenly realizes just how. . .dangerous it is for her to have his back in this when her job requires she back off and let these guys work. To the boys in the 12th, it looks like Beckett is switching sides.

Castle's mouth goes dry.

"Alison Tisdale, Mr. Castle. She's dead. This whole bad-boy charm thing you've got going? Maybe it works on bimbos and well-" Ryan waves in the general direction of the closed door, clearly indicating the woman beyond it. "-her, but it doesn't work on me. Or the justice system."

Castle jumps to his feet, staring down at Ryan who hasn't moved, doesn't flinch. "You don't say a word about her. Say what you want about me. But don't you dare open your mouth and disparage Kate Beckett."

Ryan watches him.

Damn. Shut your mouth, Rick.

His heart pounds, but he sits his foolish ass back down. He wants Kate in here. He needs to talk to her, get her to leave this alone. He's innocent of course; he didn't murder anyone, but he doesn't want her name blackened by all of this. Just working on his side, just being here with him might have already endangered her job.

And he knows her job is her crusade, her job is the way she deals with her father's murder. She needs her job; he can't put that in jeopardy.

Ryan leans in, his eyes hard. "You may have a prosecutor girlfriend running around triyng to make this disappear, but Alison Tisdale is dead, Mr. Castle. That doesn't disappear."

He knows he's revealing too much with every flicker of his eyes back to the door. The guiltier he looks (even if he's not guilty) damns Kate in their eyes. He needs to get this back under control.

Back to the bad-boy charm, as Ryan put it. "I can see that," he says dryly, indicating the pictures strewn over the table. "But I didn't kill her."

Ryan sits back, tries a different tack. "Did you ever meet her? Book signing? Charity event?"

Ants are crawling up the back of his neck, but he makes himself sit loosely in the seat, lazy and clever, slipping back into his easiest, and most fun role: playboy. Go with what works. "It's possible. She's not in my little black book, if that's what you're getting at. Besides, I haven't-" He clamps his mouth shut, berating himself. Shut up, Rick. No need to mention that he hasn't dated bimbos and blondes since he met Kate. Don't bring her into this.

"You're telling me you might have met her, you might have gotten-"

The door opens and Rick sees Kate stepping back inside, the DA behind her. Relief pours through him, but her face is tight. She steps up beside him, a hand to his shoulder.

"Castle, this is District Attorney Mark Lyons. He's personally overseeing this case. Mark, this is the novelist, Richard Castle."

He can tell by her voice that this isn't shaping up to be as sociable as she'd hoped. Castle keeps his hands flat on the table.

"You'll excuse me if I'm not thrilled to meet you in these circumstances." He debates commenting about meeting her boss, but lets that go. Kate is close at his side, eyeing Lyons warily.

The DA nods to Ryan, faces Castle. "Sorry if you've felt uncomfortable, Mr. Castle. Just asking questions."

"I've answered them. Repeatedly," he pans, flicking his eyes up to Kate. She looks serious; he doesn't think that look means anything good for him. Lyons catches the look and shoots an assessing glance to Beckett; Castle ruthlessly clamps down on the urge to break his arm for it.

"You're lucky Ms. Beckett went to bat for you on this one. Because on the surface of things, it doesn't look good."

He swallows, put in his place by the thought of Kate sticking her neck out for him. "The flowers, the arrangement of her body. It's like my book." Kate squeezes his shoulder tightly, meaning he should shut up. He closes his mouth. But damn, he wants to defend himself.

"Ryan noticed the similarities. I think we've already established you have no alibi at the time of her murder. That alone, you might be facing charges right now."

If that were true, if he were, Lyons wouldn't look like he swallowed something sour. Castle keeps his composure, forces his hands back in his lap, looking at ease.

Lyons gives him a long and deliberate look. "But we have a second murder. A murder your girlfriend here pointed out."

Castle feels her stiffen; curses Lyons for the dirty way he made it sound. As if Kate were led astray by him.

"And it just so happens that she's managed to alibi you out for the second one."

His stomach churns. "A second murder."

And Kate, again, in his corner, defending him.

"Marvin Fisk." The DA opens a file folder and slaps a couple of 8 by 10 glossy photos onto the table. A dead guy. Rick can't help but stare, his writer's curiosity getting the best of him. All the details of a murdered body - the half-open eyes, the swollen tongue, the way the man's skin has erupted into a rainbow of blue tones. Details he'd never have been able to conjure on his own.

"Right out of Hell Hath No Fury," Kate murmurs. "I remember seeing it in the line-up, feeling like it was familiar somehow, but with Tisdale's murder. . ."

His lips quirk and he looks over his shoulder at her. "Really? Angry wiccans out for blood? Only hardcore Castle groupies read that book."

Kate narrows her eyes at him.

"So now that's two murders being staged in the same manner as your books, Mr. Castle. You're off the hook, but you can see why we have questions. Perhaps one of these hardcore groupies?"

"That's. . .I have some fans," he says, shoots a glance to Kate. She gives him a long, hard look, clearly indicating that he needs to shut the hell up. The DA is watching them both, his own gaze as calculating as a hawk. Castle's hackles rise, and he wants to pull Kate to his other side, put himself between her and Lyons.

Ryan flips his notebook to a new page, dictating the pace of the interview, slowing it down again. "You get disturbing letters from these fans?"

"Detective, all my fan mail is disturbing. It's an occupational hazard." He talks to Ryan, but he's watching the DA. He doesn't like the look on the man's face as he regards Kate. Contempt and competition all rolled into one.

"You know," Ryan says slowly. "Sometimes in cases like these, we find that-"

"The killer attempts to contact the subject of his obsession. Yeah." Castle sighs loudly, gets another squeeze from Kate for his petulance. But he's done with this. "I'm pretty well-versed in psychopathic methodologies. Another occupational hazard. And you know, you could have just asked me all this at the party. Or better yet, called my publicist and asked her. Because really, you've got nothing."

The DA wants to make something out of this; he's looking for re-election, surely. Famous novelist being implicated in a murder would do it. And obviously, there's some kind of bad blood between him and Beckett.

Ryan watches him carefully. "So you have no objection to us going through your mail?"

"Knock yourself out." He stares Ryan down, just begging the man to make something more out of this. He wants to pound on something; lacking that, he wants to run his smart mouth and say something cutting and clever that will put them in their place, but Kate's grip on his shoulder stays him. "Now. Are we through here?"

He calls the car service from the elevator and the driver is outside waiting by the time they get outside. In the car, Kate slides her hand over his knee, strokes his kneecap with her fingers. He looks pissed. And scared.

"Nothing will come of the charges, Rick."

"You shouldn't have been there," he says quickly, turning his head to look at her. The dark car forms a seal around them.

"I what?" She raises her eyebrow. "You clearly needed a lawyer. And don't worry, there was not a doubt in my mind that you didn't-"

"Not that. It's the conflict of interest-"

"You don't trust that I-"

"Kate!" He grabs her knee and squeezes hard, crushing the irritation that has risen up in her.

She shuts her mouth, watches him warily.

Castle lets out a long sigh. "You stuck your neck out on that one. I would've been fine. I didn't do anything wrong and that would've come out eventually. But Lyons. . .it's clear that man is out to get you."

She shrugs. "He can't do anything to me, Castle."

"Your job-"

"Is safe. You think he hasn't tried to get rid of me before? Yeah, he hates me. But he hates my mother more." She slides her hand under his, disengages his fingers from her knee. He lets her, slumping back in the seat. "I called him in on this because as soon as I saw the crime scene photos, I remembered the other case. Professional courtesy, let's call it. Also, I knew the sooner the police get it out of their heads that you did this, then the sooner they get on the right track."

"But Lyons-"

"He can't hurt me, Castle. No one can hurt me," she adds, and she's not sure why really, because that can't be true. It just feels like it's true. It feels like no one can touch her now, even though six months ago that wasn't the case.

"He can fire you. And what about the job in the Investigations division?"

"He can't fire me without my mother and the mayor giving him some seriously bad press. Besides that, I have the highest conviction rate in my department. He can't fire me. He might be able to stall a move into his division, but after this case. . ."

Kate trails off, glances out the window. She tries to get a grip on the all-too-bright excitement that touches her. Who gets excited about murder?

"After this case what?" Castle asks, squeezing her hand for her attention.

"I just gave the NYPD their biggest break. I made the connection. Lyons even admitted it. I get a kind of all-access pass now. This is. . .actually really good for my career. As selfish as that sounds."

She sighs and turns her head to look at him, expecting disbelief or at least some reproach, but his mouth fuses against hers before she even gets a chance. His lips are hot and furious, his teeth nipping at her tongue. She pushes back after a moment, her hands drawn to his chest, gripping the lapels of his suit jacket as if to hold him in close.

He slows, his tongue stroking, sucking on her bottom lip before he pulls away, not going very far, breathing heavily against her mouth. She licks her bruised lip and her tongue inadvertantly swipes at his skin. He gives out a shaky breath and grips the back of her neck with his fingers, his cheek pressing hard against hers.

"What. . .was that for?" she says, trying to catch her breath.

"For being so damn sexy," he mutters, his thumb brushing against her ear. "And because I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to explain to why I nearly asked Lyons for copies of those crime scene photos, explain why I'm taking you back to my loft so I can write for an hour or so."

She chokes on a laugh, her breath still erratic as his hand strokes her side, up and down, doing nothing to soothe her.

"I took pictures with my phone of their murder board."

"You're extraordinary," he groans, his hands gripping her ribs, brushing against the fabric of her dress and making sharp sparks of heat lance through her blood.

Extraordinary. She closes her eyes, tries to concentrate. "Back to the loft, so you can write?"

"There's all this stuff I have to get down, a whole scene for Tessa Wilde based off of that entirely too smoking hot showdown in the interview room-"

"Interrogation room," she corrects.

"Ah, yes. See? I need you for the details. And for your mouth," he murmurs and parts her lips with his, breath mingling, his hand traveling around to her back, scalding her skin, fingers ranging over her spine.

She wants to unbutton his shirt, wants to slide his jacket off and press her mouth to his collarbone, feel it under her teeth. Closer.

"But you understand, don't you?" he says, his voice in her ear both desperate and rich. She has a feeling the desperation is partly because of her, and partly because of the story he needs to write.

"That you need to write?"

"Not that exactly. But that you understand what the story does. Because you're excited too. I can tell, Kate. I can feel it in the way you kiss me."

Yes. Excitement. "It's so wrong. Two people are dead-"

"You think Lyons wasn't riding the same wave? You think that detective hasn't found the one thing he's absolutely great at-?"

"No, yeah." She shakes her head, pushes away from him to get clear, to escape the effect he has on her. But her blood is still buzzing. The case. The connection. The questions.

"You have a copycat?"

"Or. . .something," he murmurs, narrowing his eyes. "Those books are barely connected. Why pick those two scenes? Why not any of the Derrick Storm death scenes? Plenty of those."

She grins, tries to hide it behind her hand but even in the darkness, he sees it. He's been attuned to her since the beginning, she knows.

"See? It's got you too. I know it does."

"It does," she admits, trying to say it like it's no big deal. "But the weird ones always do."

"You got a thing for kinky, Counselor?"

Kate shoves on his shoulder, dislodging his hands. "Not kinky. Just. Strange. Don't make this gross, Castle."

He stays on his side of the car but takes her hand, laces their fingers together. "I'm serious about my place. If you. . .don't mind?"

"You want me to keep you company while you write?"

"For just a couple of hours. Then we can hash out the murders and get back to. . .this." He leans in and traces his lips along her shoulder, moving up to the side of her neck.

She struggles to keep her breathing even, to not let it affect her. "You think I won't, instead, distract you?"

"You can try," he murmurs, sounding pleased. "But you're my muse, Kate Beckett. Instead of distracting me, you inspire me."

"Call me muse again and I'll-"

He smothers her words with his mouth, soft and warm and tender, his kiss like himself, bright and unwavering. She draws her hand up to his cheek, the stubble on his chin abrading her fingertips.

Thus disheveled, all-night-in-a-police-station look is good on him, sexy. But his kiss isn't that, it's less the confident playboy and more the earnest supplicant. She opens her mouth to him and licks the corner of his lips, liking the way he shudders.

"Come home with me, Kate."

"I don't think it's a good idea."

"I'll write and then we can talk about these murders, build theories. Make our own storyboard for it and solve it ourselves-"

Her head buzzes with anticipation, her fingers tingling; the crazy thing is - she's not sure what it's for, him or the chance to work with the NYPD to solve this. She breaks away from his seeking mouth, puts a hand on his chest.

"Solve it ourselves?"

"Prove you belong in the DA's Investigative Division. Clear my name."

It's wrong in so many ways, but oh so right.

Why does it feel so right?


"Yes. Okay."

She gets one more searing kiss before he's gone. Muttering to himself in the backseat of the car, head tilted back, eyes closed. At first, his hand is on her thigh in a most distracting manner, but after awhile, she realizes his fingers are twitching and he's mumbling snatches of the interrogation, portions of dialogue. He's repeating it over and over, trying to put on hold the scene wanting to write itself in his mind.

He's the same as her, in this. When she starts thinking about her closing statement, the words come out, the phrases, all of it coming together perfectly. She has to get it down before it's gone. He's doing the same now for his novel.

He's nine weeks behind schedule. She asked a few weeks ago when he was moaning about another meeting with his publisher. Nine weeks can't be overcome in one night. Can it?

She opens her clutch and hunts for a pen, paper, something. She finds a faded receipt in the slim pocket for her phone, left there from probably the last time she wore a fancy dress and took the clutch with her. Years ago.

She smooths the receipt out, sighing at how small it looks, then leans forward to the driver.

"You have a pen up there I could borrow?" she asks softly.

"Yes, ma'am," he says and passes a cheap ballpoint back to her.

She smiles and takes the receipt and the pen and waits a moment, watching Castle. When it looks like he's at a pause, she presses the two items into his hand, trying not to interrupt the flow of his words.

His fingers curl automatically around the pen; he's adjusting the receipt on his knee and scribbling words without even looking at her. After a moment, after a flurry across the cramped page, he turns his head and captures her mouth in an intense but quick kiss.

He breaks away. "You really are perfect." And then he's scribbling over the receipt again.

She holds on to the sight, the feeling of this moment. She knows a year from now, two, this will be the very thing that drives her crazy about him, that he doesn't see her when he's in the middle of a story.

(A year from now? But she knows it's true. It's been only a few months, but she can't remember exactly how it was without him, or how it could ever be without him again.)

If she can hold on to this feeling now, to how good it is to be beside him as he works it out, as the words come, hold on to how right it is that he's still Rick Castle, still the writer, her favorite writer, then she knows it will be a talisman against that future frustration. That future hurt.

Soon she will need to explain. How Mike Royce ruined his entire life for her in a sorry parallel to the way her father lost his life for the people inside that convenience store. How she jumped into a relationship with Will after law school because he was entirely the opposite - unwilling at all to take her into account or consideration when he made his own choices.

But maybe not tonight.

Castle has flipped the receipt over and is scrawling across the purple ink of the register tape, his fingers dwarfing the scant paper. She wonders what will happen when he runs out of space-

He's shrugging out of his jacket and rolling up the sleeves to his dress shirt. He starts at the inside of his left elbow and makes dark marks against the skin, inking a scene into his own forearm.

She watches his lips move as he recalls the lines, the scene tumbling out too fast for his hand to keep up. Kate's breathless with his concentration, his hypnotic and mad dash for words.

Yes. This is what she wants. This man and his pen, his mind, his humor, his hands; the way he smiles at her; the curl of his finger over her wrist as he gets her attention; the intensity of his eyes as he memorizes her every move in front of the jury; the way he watches her walk into the bar and can't keep his eyes off her; the flare of need across his face when he thinks she isn't looking.

And this too: the absorption, the words, the stories that will take precedence over her, the bestseller lifestyle, the daughter she barely knows, the photographers, the book launch parties, the formal dress, the playboy coming out in him, the flirt.

All of it.

He switches the pen to his left hand and rolls up his other sleeve, hesitating over the skin, making a few crooked and sloppy marks. He reaches down instead for the cuff of his pants, starts to cross his leg over his knee when she stops him with a hand.

"Here," she says. "That way I can read it as you go."

She shifts so that she can bare both of her arms at him; he glances once into her eyes to be sure, and then takes her by the wrist, starts at her left shoulder and keeps going.

He adds words to her skin.

Even when the car pulls up to his loft, he's got one hand writing at the tender skin on the inside of her arm, the other on her elbow to keep her still. She guides him slowly out of the car and in through the front doors, realizing belatedly that there are a few cameras out here as well. People who saw them leave with the police at the book launch? Now there will be photos on page six of Castle tattooing her arm. And she's not sure she minds.

Once inside, she presses the call button for the elevator, touches his cheek when they step inside.

"Castle. What floor?"

He stops long enough to push the button. Penthouse of course. He goes back to writing, which she knows now is a cribbed shorthand that she can't decipher. The elevator goes up and he circles around to her right shoulder, starting at the top.

"Keys," she murmurs, the touch of his fingers both sensual and comforting. Her heart seems to reverberate with every beat. Who knew a pen could be so erotic? "Keys, Rick."

She's carrying his jacket and her own, plus her clutch. He doesn't answer, so she feels through his jacket pockets, finds his key ring.

She leads him off the elevator and down the hall. It's the only door on his floor, which means it's all his, the entire top floor.

She uses her left hand to unlock his door, steps carefully through it, feeling that it's somehow so fitting that she walks inside before he does. He pauses in the darkness, a hand clutched around her elbow.

"They. . .probably went to bed," he murmurs. "I texted Alexis that everything was fine and I'd be late. She has a test tomorrow."

Kate feels her grin widen, is glad the darkness keeps him from seeing her. Of course, thoughts of his daughter pull him right back to the present.

She takes the pen from his still fingers and shoves on his shoulder to get him moving. "You go start transcribing this. I'll show myself around, then come find you. So you can get the rest of the story."

The rest of the story on her arms. In her arms. Her breath catches.

"In the study," he mentions helpfully, looking torn.

"Go Castle. This is what you do." She looks down at her arms, covered in black ink. "You did me."

He barks out a laugh and she narrows her eyes, realizing how it sounded. "Yeah, yeah. Go."

"Going. Don't be long. It'll only take a second."

No. It will take him hours, and that's fine. She smiles at him and watches him disappear, then slowly prowls his loft.

Her dress is starting to wrinkle pretty badly now, and she wants nothing more than to be comfortable. She slides off her shoes, dropping three inches at once, and takes them in her fingers towards the back hallway. She passes his study where she sees him typing away on his laptop, the blank page filling with dark, spidery-looking words.

Then she opens the next door, stops breathlessly in the threshold.

His bedroom. She saw the stairs just off the entryway and assumed it was up. . .

She steps inside, noting the dark comforter, the black and white prints along one wall, the heavy bookcases filled with so many titles. A chair beside an open closet door, where it looks like he agonized over his choice in tie for tonight. She doesn't even remember now which tie he was wearing.

She steps into his closet and slowly draws the dress over her head, the silk smooth and liquid against her skin. She shakes it out and drapes it over the chair in his room, then makes a slow inventory of the things in his closet.

She settles on a white tshirt and a pair of his athletic shorts, the waistband rolled five or six times to stay up. She pulls out a sweatshirt as well, letting it drape over her, holding the waistband up some as well. She rolls back the sleeves and pushes them up over her elbows. She'll have to take it off when he needs the words written on her shoulders.

Kate grins to herself and steps out of his closet, taking one last look at his room, the made bed, and wondering, deliciously, if that's where they'll end up.

She thinks maybe so.

He comes out of his daze with a sigh, saving the document with the keyboard shortcuts, then saving it again twice more superstitiously. When he lifts his head, he sees Kate curled into the couch under the windows, watching him.

Oh, wow. How could he have forgotten she was there? There was a moment when she came back in the room in his goofy-looking shorts and pulled his sweatshirt off over her head, baring her arms, when he debated stopping and taking her right there.

But she deserved better than that. And his mind was still half on the story. But now-

"Damn. I'm so sorry-"

She waves him off. "No. I feel honored."

"Don't," he sighs. "I think we're way past polite here."

"I'm not being polite."

"This is a terrible first date," he sighs.

"Castle. You think I go home with a guy on the first date?"

He jerks his head up, not sure how to answer that one. What he wants to say is that she better never go home with any other guy again.

"This isn't our first date," she says with a slow, spicy smile. "This is like our. . .fifteenth. Twentieth. I think you know that."

He swallows hard and watches the spark of arousal reignite in her eyes. "Yeah."

She unfolds from the couch, leaning forward. The dress is gone; she's wearing his clothes. He blinks at her, can barely comprehend what she's saying.

"You don't know what it means to me. To be able to watch you lose yourself in it. Knowing that. . .in some way, it's because of me."

He scratches a hand through his hair, pushes it back. He can't quite grasp this conversation. His mind isn't all the way back yet.

"You're not finished are you?" she says softly, and a smile is creeping up over her mouth.

"No. But I need to stop, walk around a bit, collect my thoughts."

She stands up and comes for him, holding out her hand. "Then let me tell you a story, and we can get a snack. I'm starving."

His own stomach growls as if on cue and she laughs at him, wide and uninhibited, as if he's somehow made her so very happy.

And he has. He sees the truth of it on her face. He takes her hand and stands up, lets her lead him back out to his kitchen. She goes right to the pantry as if she knows where everything is, and he realizes she must have made herself at home during his fugue writing state.

"You were going to tell a story?"

"Yes. About Mike Royce." She turns her head to look at him, and even though he sees sorrow somewhere in her eyes, she is mostly still filled with light. "About why it's such a good thing you forgot I was even here."

He groans and scrubs at his face with both hands. "I'm not proud of that."

"I am," she says back, setting bread and peanut butter on the counter. "This okay?"

"What?" He glances down at her hands, already unscrewing the jar. "Sure."

"Mike Royce was the cop who came to tell us my father had been shot," she starts calmly, but he sees the white clench of her knuckles on the jar. "I was 22. I had already been accepted into law school, but suddenly it seemed ridiculous to even go. Everything in my life seemed ridiculous - meaningless. Nothing held worth, nothing penetrated. Mike was the one who showed me how to turn that grief into a - a mission in life. A crusade. I was drowning and he was - he was air."

His chest clenches. He wonders when this story will start making him feel better. "He was in love with you," he says, taking the knife from her hands so that at least he spreads his own peanut butter on his own slice of bread. At least he's not making her do all the work.

"Was. Is," she answers. "Still."

He swallows hard and lifts his eyes, but she's not looking at him.

"He was air for me. But I don't know that he should have been. I was in love with him too," she admits, finally lifting her eyes. "In a damaged kind of way. He held himself away from me. At least there's that. I was in law school and my mom was-" she shrugs it off "-he was there. And he made himself into everything for me. He rearranged his whole life; he made me the center. He worked my father's shooting against orders from his Captain."

Castle can't eat while she talks. He can only stare at her hands, still moving on the counter even though there's nothing to do.

"We worked it together," she says softly, shaking her head. "I couldn't see past it. He let me eat, breathe, sleep my father's death. I don't know that it was right. But I guess I needed it. I ruined his life, Castle. He made himself over for me, but after I could breathe on my own. . ."

"It wasn't healthy," he says gently. "You didn't do wrong, leaving him behind, letting him go."

She twists her mouth, turns her head. She clears her throat. "That's what I did. I left him behind. He started drinking. He got kicked off the force. He's. . .not great, but he's okay. But I could never get past all that terrible anger when I was with him. Anger at my father, at the idiot kid who held them up, at the police for not trying harder. He just fed it, kept it going, when what I needed was to move through the stages of grief, not live in them."

He gives her a half smile, surprised at how self-aware she is, even though he did know, on some level, that she's brilliant and amazing and extraordinary.

"So watching you disappear into that book," she says finally, giving him back the other half of his smile. "It's so good. It means I'm still me and you're still you, even though there's this."

He grins at her then, leans across the counter to press his lips hard against hers, tasting peanut butter even though she hasn't taken a bite.

"Thank you for that story."

She draws her hand across his cheek, her eyes tense but happy. "Now go finish."

He found her a pair of boxers that fit better than the shorts; she pulls them on with her heart in her throat, standing in his room to change. She leaves the shorts thrown over the chair next to her dress, the long expanse of her legs gathering goose bumps.

She needs to wash the ink off of her arms, but she can't bring herself to do it.

"When I first met you, I thought you were a mystery I was never going to solve."

Kate turns her head and sees him in the doorway, watching her with dark eyes. He looks scruffy and thin somehow, as if three hours of writing have sucked some of the life from him. He's just beginning to wake up, his face animate in front of her.

"Have you solved me?" she asks, everything in her turned towards him. If anyone can unlock her, it's him.

He takes a step into his room, his hands at his sides, one arm clouded with words. "Not hardly. Even now, after spending all this time with you, I'm still amazed at the depth of your strength, your heart-" His finger touches her chest.

She swallows hard, her breath disappearing.

"-your hotness." A quirk of his eyes.

She smiles, lips reflecting the amusement in his voice. "Not so bad yourself, Castle."

The moment stretches out, a smooth and endless horizon, shared between them like the start of a journey.

She should go. Before it's ruined, or no longer perfect. But-

Castle steps in closer, bringing his hands up to her shoulders and brushing his fingers over the words he stained her with. "Kate."

Erotic, his fingers over the words on her arms. All of the skin marked by him calling out to the hands that marked it.

"I don't want you to go," he murmurs and brings his mouth to hers, the words between them. His mouth is gentle and barely there, a ghost of what she wants.

He pulls back. His hands trail up her shoulders to her neck, feather soft and stroking the column of her throat, his gaze riveted to the sight. She swallows, just to feel the press of those fingers, to see the way his eyes flare and then narrow, the burn of arousal heating his irises to a molten gold.

She doesn't want to go. But she hesitates.

He swipes his thumbs along her jaw and sighs. "Yeah," he says, to her unasked question. "You shouldn't. We shouldn't. But I have a guest room."

Kate lets her lips ease into a smile, unable to contain it, shifting closer to slide her arms around him, still in his suit pants and dress shirt, tie loose but knotted, sleeves rolled up.

"You have a guest room," she echoes. "I like that."

"I like you," he parries, grinning against her hairline. She can feel his lips there, the sway of his body into hers. "I've got to admit, Kate, my intentions aren't pure. I'm gonna try to seduce you."

"Damn, I certainly hope so."

He laughs softly, fingers skimming her sides, drawing up her shirt.

She brings her mouth to his, finding the heat of him, urging him towards some goal she doesn't yet know herself. He draws her hips against him and she arches, feels his thigh between her legs.

She ripples with need and worries his bottom lip with her teeth, hands at his back for leverage as she feels him lift her off her feet.

Instead of towards the bed, he heads away, back through the door into the hall, letting her slide down his chest only when he gets them to the living room. He tears himself away from her mouth and clutches her hips with his wide hands, holding her apart from him.

"It's late," he says, both apologetic and needy. "And I don't think I could do this all morning without. . ."

Kate glances to the windows, sees the grey light filtering through. Nearly dawn. She feels her exhaustion now, what she mistook for giddiness in her cloud of lust; she leans into him to catch her breath.

He rubs his hands up and down her back, still a little breathless himself. "The murders, Kate. After-"

"Yes," she agrees, thoughtlessly, quickly, not caring. "After that."

His arms tighten. "I don't want to let you go."

"We both need to sleep. Start clearing your name tomorrow - or well, later today."

He nods, but his lips skirt her forehead and nuzzle the side of her nose, travel to her mouth. She parts her lips, licks his pout, makes him shudder. She smiles.

"Don't laugh," he mutters. "You do this to me. It's your fault I can't let go."

She breaks away from him, steps back, catching his hands as they drop from her back. "Tomorrow. And then after they catch this guy-"

"Yes." His look is fevered, but he reigns it in, closes his eyes a moment. When he opens them again, calm has returned. Or at least the illusion of calm. "You don't mind that I want to look into this?"

She does laugh at that. "Not at all. I'm. . .excited. This is what I want to do."

He grins back, an eyebrow dancing. "I know. I can feel how excited-"

She narrows her eyes, drops one of his hands. "Go to bed, Castle."

"Yours or mine?"

She gives him a look from under her lowered lashes, brushes her hand over the top of his forearm, just along those words. "I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to keep my hands to myself, if it were mine."

The calm instantly evaporates and she smiles darkly to see it, a thrum of power echoing in her.

"You know I want to," she gives back. "It's not just you."

"Yes, I know," he says, his voice like black coffee.

She jolts at the sound, remembers again the murders. Alison Tisdale. Marvin Fisk. "But first. There's a copycat killer out there. Using your books. Your words. To kill people. And I hate that; it's not right."

The desire drains out of his eyes; she watches the tension slowly grip him. "I've got to get Paula to send the police all the fan mail. What if he wrote me, warned me what he'd do, but I just blew it off?"

"Don't think like that. We'll get him. We'll do it together," she says. "Partners."

Castle lifts his eyes to her, some of that grief melting away now as well. "Partners," he repeats, giving her a lift of his mouth in a smile. "I like it. Is that a promise?"

She grins back but keeps her distance. Just too irresistible like that, ruffled hair and aroused eyes and scruffy jaw.

"It's a promise." The next word that rises to her lips, she's not sure she should say. Not sure it's time, but it wants out, it needs out; she wants him to know: