Clear liquor and cloudy eyed, too early to say goodnight
Our dreams assured and we all will sleep well
I watch you spin around in your highest heels
You are the best one, of the best ones
We all look like we feel

my heart

-Stolen, Dashboard Confessional

He loves the arch of her eyebrows when she looks at him, the smile that spreads quick and beautiful, loves the look on her face. Loves her.

He loves her. She's here. It's okay.

I'd get you out, Castle.

She has never-

she has never let him down.

Kate waits for him by the car, still parked close to the barricade, watches Castle kiss his daughter's forehead and hug her again. Kate's taking it for granted that he wants to come with her, instead of going home with his family, and she has a moment of doubt.

But he doesn't let her down.

He gestures back towards the barricade, then turns his head to scan the crowd for her. She sees the moment his eyes find her, the relief and the smile, and then he looks at his family. Alexis flicks her eyes towards Kate; Martha shoos him away. Kate has her heart in her throat until he turns back around and walks towards her, heading her way. Finally.

She knows she's smiling too wide for the bombed out building at her side, for the rush of emergency personnel and SWAT members and police. She knows she's smiling too wide for everything she knows but isn't supposed to know, and she doesn't even care. He doesn't seem to care either.

When Castle gets to her, she can't speak. Can just stand there by the car, aware, painfully, of the mass of people, the news vans parked only a yard away, the professionals doing their jobs, when all she wants to be aware of is him, just him.

Everything clenches in her chest, her scar, her heart, her need. She reaches out and finds the lapels of his jacket with both hands, tugging him closer. His smile never falters; he steps in, his face soft and gentle and waiting.

She slides her arms up and around his shoulders and embraces him, her cheek to his, her chin buried in his clavicle, closes her eyes on a drawn-out, grateful sigh.

His arms around her ribs are too tight, but she breathes through it, her hands in fists at his shoulders. He laughs softly and squeezes, rubs his hand up and down her back.

"You're okay," she says finally, answering her own question.

He lets go, entirely too soon, but she realizes she stopped breathing and needs that air back. Her scar flares tightly, her ribs stretch, but she's still grinning at him.

His lips twitch. "We going back to the 12th?"

She nods. "You ready?"

"Yeah. Dreaded paperwork." His words come around a grin so wide that every syllable is twisted by his joy. So that even though he meant that as a joke, all she hears is his smile.

"Get in, Castle. Stop dallying."

In the elevator up, his fingers twitch next to hers. She gives in, hooks her pinky around his and catches his eye, smiling at him.

She can't stop smiling.

He follows her out, watching her walk through the bullpen to her their desk, her desk. He sits in his chair; she tucks a stray strand of hair behind her ear and uncaps a pen, chewing on her lower lip. Her eyes flicker up to his, stare for a moment.

"He said my girlfriend was a hellcat," Castle blurts out, blinking in the unwavering light of her eyes.

She quirks her lips. "I did promise to hunt him down and put a bullet between his eyes if he. . .yeah," she says.

He was just about to add But I told him you're not my girlfriend. He doesn't now, doesn't dare. Not with the way she looks at him, half fragile, half overjoyed.

"I'll take hellcat," he says then. "Any day."

In the car on the way to his place, she stops at a red light and pulls the clip out of her hair, the darkness of the night around them. Her hair falls over her shoulders, in her eyes, and she brushes it back, scratching at her scalp, before pulling just half of it up, clipping it again.

Castle's arm stretches across the seats; his hand comes up to the back of her neck; she feels his fingers sliding through her hair. Her heart stutters; the light stubbornly stays red.

He twists her hair into his fist.

She breathes through it, turns her head to look at him, stopped short by the grip of his hand. His face is too serious, too intense. She wants the joy back.

He lets go of her hair, squeezes the back of her neck, then nods towards the light.

"It's green."

Yes. It is.

In the elevator in his building, he doesn't let a second pass before he wraps his fingers over her hand, mirroring the grip she had on his when she played the paramedic. None of that pinky fingers crap she pulled in the precinct. This is what he wants.

She shifts away, but he still has her hand, stubbornly refusing to let go.

After a heartbeat, she shifts back.

His heart lifts.

She flips her hand in his, palm to palm now, and the back of his hand brushes her hip.

His heart lifts right out of his chest.

She doesn't want to leave.

Of course not. Why should she want to leave him, this man who loves her? Everything in his face, everything in his body, the lines around his mouth and eyes, the broad reach of his shoulders, the stretch of his thigh, the hard edge of his knee against hers on the couch.

She watches Martha flicker on the edges of the room, finding things to do, throwing her hands up at the dishes in the sink, pushing Alexis to the stairs even as she tries to help clean up.

Castle has his arm stretched along the back of the couch so that she can feel the heat of him at her shoulders. Almost an embrace.

The wine from dinner has spread pleasantly to her limbs, her fingers light, her chest heavy, her whole body drowsy. She doesn't want to leave, and somehow, she's sabotaged herself and made it impossible now.

She drove here, but she can't drive back, not like this.

She could walk, or take the subway (if the line is still running, and it might not be if she keeps delaying like this). Come back early for her car, drive in to work.

She leans forward and picks their wine glasses up off the coffee table, slides off the couch to take them into the kitchen. Martha looks like she's throwing in the towel; Kate hands her the glasses when she reaches for them.

"These have to hand-washed, but I'll do it in the morning," Martha says, putting them beside the sink.

Kate feels Castle come up behind her, then he's leaning past her to kiss his mother's cheek. Martha leans in to pat his back; Kate is somehow caught in between them. She slides to one side but Martha is already backing away, heading for the stairs.

"You two can stay down here and have fun; I'm exhausted. And a very nice man gave me his card; I think I'll give him a ring."

"The bank manager?" Castle says and raises an eyebrow at her. Martha just laughs and waves him off as she leaves.

Kate closes her eyes and gauges her soberness. Not drunk, but not quite sober either. She feels her body swaying on her feet.

A hand at her elbow makes her open her eyes; his concern only makes her smile. "Don't worry. I won't drive. I'll walk."

"Clean sheets on the guest bed."

She opens her mouth to say no, but someone has stolen her tongue. She watches him a moment, unable to speak, her body quite still suddenly, no movement.

She nods once, and he pulls her against him for another bone-jarring hug.

Kate finds herself stepping closer. Her tongue loosens.

"Then let me load the dishes-?"

"I'll help."

Castle doesn't want to watch her walk up the stairs alone, but she goes slowly up the steps as if she's just as reluctant.

The curve of her hips, the long hair curling at her back, the thin fingers trailing on the bannister. The profile of her cheek as she looks back at him - once, twice - before getting to the top.

She turns and waves her fingers at him, just like he did in the bank, and he cracks a smile.

"Good night, Kate."

She smiles back. "Night, Castle."

He's not imagining the soft sigh.

Early in the morning, she wakes to the alarm on her phone, slides out of bed. She dresses quickly, scrapes her hair into a ponytail, and rubs her thumb under her eyes to get rid of the smears of mascara and eyeliner.

She flips the comforter back up the bed, fluffs the pillows, and slips out of the room.

Down the stairs, to the door-

She hesitates, glances at her phone. 5:16. She has a little bit of time. To say good-bye at least.

She pads softly down the hallway to his study, walks through the entrance made by the bookcases, then to the door leading to his bedroom. Her heart flutters.

She twists the knob, steps inside.

He sleeps on his stomach, his face mashed into the pillow, a hand dangling off the side of the bed. The unbidden smile flickers on her face as she hesitates in the doorway.

Kate slips her phone into her pocket and treads softly to the side of his bed, leans down to brush the back of her fingers along his cheek. His arm twitches but he doesn't wake.


She runs her fingers through the hair hanging in his eyes and he jerks awake.

"Hey there," she whispers.

He lifts his head and stares at her.

"I've got to go," she says softly, kneeling down beside him, brushing his hair back to see his eyes.

The hand that was dangling off the bed comes up to her back, trails up to her neck. His fingers curl.

Her heart pounds; this was a bad idea.

"Gotta go?" he says, confusion and sleep making his voice rough.

Oh, bad bad idea, Kate.

She takes her hand away from his forehead. "Yeah. Got to change clothes."

He hums something like agreement and tugs on her neck, knocking her off-balance and bringing her against the bed.

"Ok," he sighs and steals a kiss, brushing his lips across hers in good-bye. "See ya later."

She freezes there, but his eyes are already closed; his hand drops from her. He slides his arm under his pillow and turns his head on a sigh, falling back asleep.

Kate presses a hand to her mouth, staring at the back of his head, gets clumsily to her feet.

He kissed her.

She thinks. . .she's smiling.

She leaves his bedroom, leaves his loft-

and leaves her heart behind.