Thanks for your patience, and thanks for sticking with me, guys. I really appreciate it.
He kisses her goodnight at her apartment door, a kiss that curls her toes and makes her eyes go starry and tempts her so very, very badly to ask him inside.
"Good night, Kate."
He smiles, kisses her forehead, and leaves before she can form a response, the words fading on her lips.
It takes her a while to fall asleep, and when she does, she dreams. She doesn't remember the details in the morning, but there's a vague impression of warmth, and softness, and gentle blue eyes and a giddy whirl of girlish excitement that leaves her waking up with her heart pounding. Summer Dark is lying on her nightstand, and for the first time since she found it, she doesn't feel the aching need to read it again. Because hearing the words is so much better than reading them.
It's early, but she has to work today, so she peels herself out of bed to shower and get dressed.
She's pulling on her jacket, almost ready to head to the precinct, when there's a knock on her door. She opens it to find a tired-looking teenager, a yawning boy in a knit cap who holds out a white box. "Miss Beckett? Delivery from Alexander Beckett."
She takes the box with a smile, biting her lip as she opens it to find a little cluster of delicate blue morning glories. She carefully rubs one of the silky petals beween her fingers, finding the little white card tucked beside it.
Good morning, Beautiful.
"Morning, Ryan. Any news?"
Ryan grins at her. "Nothing. Castle's here, though. Actually, he wanted you to go to the break room."
Ryan shrugs. "I don't know. Just said to tell you he's in the break room."
She walks into the break room to find Castle leaning back against the cabinets patiently, his hands stuffed in his pockets. When he sees her, though, he brightens, a smile lighting up his face. "Good morning, Detective."
She can't help but smile back. Castle's happiness is infectious. Even though she hasn't had caffeine yet. "Morning, Castle. Ryan said you needed something?"
He nods, his face solemn, but his eyes are still dancing. Kate suddenly gets suspicious. "What exactly did you need from me, Castle?"
He tugs the cord by the windows, drawing the blinds half-closed, just enough to shield them from the bullpen, and yeah, she has a pretty good idea what he wants.
He backs her up against the counter and kisses her, slipping his hands into her hair, drawing a pleased half-whimper from the back of her throat. She sighs in contentment, her head spinning as he nibbles lightly on her lips, his tongue tracing the outline of her mouth.
When he finally lets her go, it takes her a second to catch her breath, and she opens her eyes to see him smiling at her cheekily. "I really, really needed your mouth just now."
"Did you now." She rolls her eyes, but he steals another kiss and she can't stop smiling. "So you had me come in here."
He shrugs. "I figured you didn't want me to kiss you in front of the entire precinct."
Castle beams at her. "I know. It's a lot more fun to drag you into empty rooms and be secretive about it."
She attempts a disapproving look, but judging by the warm affection in his eyes, her 'glare' is ending up somewhere around 'gently adoring.'
(And oddly, it doesn't really bother her that much.)
She presses her lips together, narrows her eyes even though she's half laughing. "Better not try this too often, Mr. Castle."
"Or what, Detective? You'll punish me?" he teases, stepping towards her, boxing her in. His eyes are fixed on her mouth. A giddy rush starts tingling in her fingertips, her face flushing.
"I'll have you kicked out for inappropriate behavior."
She knows he doesn't buy it for a second. She's backed against the wall, and he grins, his gaze flicking to her mouth again as he invades her space, leaning in until he's sharing her breath, no space between them. "I wouldn't go."
"I'd make you."
His hand slips under the curve of her jaw, his fingers warm and light and adoring, his look reverent. "Kate. I'm never letting you go."
Before Kate can retort, his mouth is on hers again, effectively swallowing any words she might have come up with. Her hand curls around his arm, and by the time he lets her go, she's forgotten why she was going to stop him in the first place.
A noise from outside the break room reminds them of where they are, and they break apart breathlessly. She bites her lip, and he tries to lean in for another kiss but she presses a hand to his chest. "Castle. Castle, stop it. We're at work."
Castle tries a boyish pout, but she keeps her hand on his chest, gives him a resolute look. He sighs. "Oh, fine. Spoil all the fun."
Kate can't help but laugh, even as he moves away, because she's somewhat sure that this (playful, domestic kissing in the precinct kitchen) is exactly what he was hoping for since he asked her out, got turned down flat, and instead of taking No for an answer, planned an entire series of novels just so he could hang around her.
He busies himself making coffee, and she can't help but wonder. Coffee. That hasn't changed. Banter. Neither has that. Innuendo – it's Castle. Innuendo is a given. The only difference now, really, is that she's letting him kiss her.
It's not nearly as scary as she'd always thought it would be.
He hands her a cup of coffee, piping hot and perfectly done, which she accepts gratefully.
"So what now, Castle?"
He seems to get that she's not just talking about coffee. She watches his brow furrow as he thinks.
"Well, I'd like to take you on a date. A proper date."
He nods. "With flowers. And dinner. And wine. And pointless small talk. And you can fumble with your keys and I can awkwardly kiss you goodnight and everything."
Kate bites her lip, but she can't help smiling. "That actually sounds kind of nice."
While she spends much of the day reading, not speaking, Castle pretends to busy himself with his phone. He's thinking. Thinking hard about the board in his office back home. About what he's been hiding from her.
He doesn't know what to do.
He desperately wants to tell her the truth.
But he must protect her. Her father begged him. Castle is not about to break a promise to a father. Not for this. Not when it means protecting the woman he's been in love with since – oh, hell, he doesn't have a clear memory of not being in love with her.
By the time lunch rolls around and she pokes him to wake him up from his vacant stare, he's come to a decision: he's going to pause the investigation. With as little as he's figured out, it's not a huge setback. He won't risk this. He won't risk her.
It's not a perfect solution. He knows that. It's the least terrible in a series of terrible options. And he has no guarantee that it won't self-destruct. But it's all he's got.
And when she's ready, they'll solve it. Together.
When he knocks on her door the next night, Kate opens it and watches, amused, as he sucks in a long breath and stumbles over his words in his haste to tell her she's beautiful, finally remembering to give her the vivid red roses he brought.
She's pleasantly surprised to discover that for their first real date, Castle picks an elegant, understated, out-of-the-way Italian restaurant. Candlelight, soft music. No press, no crowds. Exactly what she wants.
He lets his hand linger just a few seconds too long on her shoulder when she leans over to slide into the limo.
As they begin their entrées, she slips off a shoe under the table and slides her bare foot lazily over his leg. He almost drops his fork, his head snapping up, his eyes dark and blazing with such blatant desire that she feels a flush spreading through her body, her cheeks burning. Because now she doesn't have to pretend she doesn't see it.
His hand falls naturally, easily to the small of her back as they leave the restaurant. Her breath catches, because his touch is so surprisingly firm, so possessive. He's telling the world she's his. And she is.
They slide into the backseat of the limo, the door shuts behind him, and it's only a few seconds and a single heated glance before they're on each other, all lips and tongues and hands and skin and hot breath and oh God, oh God Castle, yes –
The limo stops outside her building, and she reluctantly pulls her mouth away, panting, her eyes fluttering shut for a moment as she pulls her hands out from under his shirt. His eyes are hazy, glazed over, his mouth open, hair a mess, lipstick on his face and collar, tie askew. He looks perfect.
He looks delicious.
She leans into him, letting her lips just barely graze his ear, feeling the shiver that runs through his chest. "Do you want to come inside?"
She holds his hand as the elevator goes up. He laces his fingers through hers, and she smiles, that adorable shy smile he loves (well, he loves them all), and he can't help himself, so he leans in, presses a lingering kiss at the base of her throat. She gasps, her fingers tightening reflexively around his, and he smiles, sucking lightly at her soft skin, drinking in the delicate heady scent of her perfume.
Inside her apartment, she leads him down the hallway toward her bedroom, but he tugs her hand, pulling her back. She pauses, confused, and he takes the opportunity to pin her against the wall, threading his hands through her hair, kissing her slow, deep, his body pressed against hers, warm and flush and trembling. Oh God, Oh God Kate Oh God –
Before she can catch a breath, he slips his arm under her knees, sweeping her off her feet, shifting her easily into his arms. She gasps in surprise, reaching around his neck to steady herself, mischievous delight in her eyes.
He steals one last kiss before walking the last few steps to her bedroom, carrying her inside, and kicking the door shut behind them.
She wakes up early the next morning to find Castle softly kissing the bare skin of her shoulder. She smiles, eyes still closed. "Go back to sleep."
He curls his arm around her waist, pressing a kiss to her cheek before pulling her to his chest. "Love you."
She takes in a long breath, relief blossoming through her because she can say it back now.
"Love you too."
A month later, after waiting on the sidewalk until it opens one morning, Castle walks into Tiffany's.