Title: If You Want

Disclaimer: My ultimate goal in life is to work in Hollywood, writing for television. My immediate goal is to make it to Friday and start my Thanksgiving break.

Summary: They've spent so much time racing toward the finish line, waiting to break down the wall. Now that it's broken, where do they go from here? Castle and Beckett find the calm after the storm.

Author's Note: This takes place roughly between season 4 and season 5, and ignores everything we've heard about 4x09 and 4x10. Given how they've interacted so far this season, this is one way I could see them in the immediate aftermath of solving the Johanna case. I'm not really making predictions about the outcome of the case, because that's not the point of this; it's just a small scene that begged to be written. This is the first 'current' Castle story I've written in 4 months. Let me know what you think because, I've gotta say, it was strange to write.


He wasn't sure what pulled him out of sleep, but his eyelids fluttered and he yawned, blinking a few times before fully waking, staring around at the hospital room. It was dim, but not dark, lit by the light from the bathroom and ambient glow from the street outside. He glanced over toward the window closest to the clock on the wall and inhaled sharply.

Kate was curled up on the window seat, her knees pulled to her chest, back to the stark white wall behind her. Her arms were folded around her legs and her head rested on her elbow, staring out at the street. He squinted and could almost make out her heels tossed to the floor beside her. She looked small and broken, and were he not hooked up to an IV, he'd have been clambering out of the bed to curl up beside her in a strange counterpoint to Nikki and Rook, watching Manhattan go by.

She turned at his intake of breath and found him watching her. He gave her a soft smile and a croaking, "Hey."

"Hey," she whispered, her voice carrying softly around the room. "Why are you up?"

"Why are you up?" he parroted back, reaching out with a grunt to find the water on his bedside. The bandages on his wrist caught the light, white against the blue of the blankets on the bed, and he heard her sigh. He took a hurried sip and put the cup back, finding her eyes with his in the dim light. "Kate?"

She watched him for a few moments, hundreds of emotions passing across her face before she uncurled, cat-like, and stood. She stretched and he watched as her dress shirt—the same one she wore earlier in the day—rose to reveal her pale skin to the moonlight. Were he not in the bed, and she not close to tears, he'd have let himself fantasize. As it was, he was tired and sore, and she was close to broken. It wasn't the night for that.

She walked over to his side and he reached out for her with his right hand, the one not connected to the IV. She took it, surprising him, and he brought their hands to his lips, pressing a kiss into the back of her palm. He watched as her tired lips twisted upward in what he'd come to know as her grateful smile.

"You look like hell," he offered.

She laughed and he couldn't help but smile back. "You really know how to charm 'em, Rick," she replied and it was his turn to wear that little smile. Something was different now; her use of his first name was the beginning, but it was her whole body. She was lithe and loose, free.

"I try," he chuckled, and then scooted over. She shook her head feebly but he tugged on her until she was sitting beside him on the bed, their thighs pressed together. "I don't really hurt, Kate," he told her softly, waiting for her nod of confirmation.

He didn't. They'd kept him for observation and dehydration. The bandages on his wrists, rubbed raw by the handcuffs and ropes that had kept him bound to a chair in a grimy warehouse, were the only real evidence of the last 48 hours—that and the bruise along her left cheek.

"You okay? Do you need more meds?" he asked.

"I'm okay," she mumbled, sinking back into his pillows, their hands still twined together. "You?"

"Feeling less lightheaded," he admitted. And sure, it had been partly dehydration, but more, it was having watched her fight for her life only that afternoon. It had nearly killed him, tied up and forced to watch her kick and punch her way out of that sociopath's arms, until they'd squared off, gun to knife. She won, and now the world had one less State Attorney General. He didn't think he'd ever forget the maniacal glint in that man's eyes as he stared Kate down, whispering horrible things about her and her mother, Roy, the boys, him. But she'd been Kate, and she'd taken it all in stride, until he'd come at her with the knife, screaming about ending it. She took one shot, and he fell, never to move again.

He knew there would be an investigation, but all that had mattered after that shot rang out was her, and her face, and her body as she shivered and quaked, watching blood pool beneath the man that had ripped her world apart. She'd taken a minute to breathe and clicked the safety on her gun. Then she'd uncuffed him and he could feel her trembling as she slid the metal off of his marred wrists, whispering an apology, for what he still wasn't sure. He'd called her name and she'd sunk to the floor in front of him, black pants soaking up the damp filth of the concrete in the windowless room.

He'd reached for her and she'd collapsed against him, her arms crossed over his knees, head buried in the hollow of her arms as he ran his battered hands through her hair. But she hadn't cried, and after a long moment, looked up at him.

"He's dead," she'd murmured.

"You got him," he'd whispered. "It's over."

And then the Feds and the boys had come in like the cavalry to the princess, only to find themselves useless. Because, really, after all this time, they should have known that Kate Beckett could do anything. Together, they'd suffered the questions and she'd handed over her badge and gun; she'd get them back sometime soon, they hoped. But they hadn't talked about it, and she'd ridden in the ambulance with him, since he couldn't walk without falling down.

And now here they were, one hurt and the other so close to broken, breaking, hurting, joyous, distraught.

"Kate," he said, his voice gentle.

"It's over," she replied. "It's over, and I…" she trailed off and tipped her head back to stare up at the ceiling. "I called my Dad while you were sleeping."

He knew she would. "What did he say?"

She gave a small huff and he was tempted to smile, knowing what was coming. "That he would come straight home."

"And you said no," Rick surmised.

She nodded and glanced over at him. "I know it means a lot to him too, but he's been planning that trip for months. I just…Why does everyone feel like they need to drop their lives for this?"

He heard the lightness in her tone, but the underlying question was serious, and he was staggered by it. "Because they love you," he said, hoping she understood. "Kate, this has been your life for nearly 14 years."

"Yeah," she sighed. "My life. I don't…I just…they're acting like…like…"

"Like you have this new opportunity for something?" he offered.

She was quiet for a minute and he waited, feeling her next to him in the bed. Alexis and his mother had gone home long ago, and he'd almost assumed Kate had gone with them, having fallen asleep almost as soon as his family had left the room. But here she was, sitting beside him, alive, real, and close to lost and losing it. But she was here with him.

"Do I?" she whispered, turning her head to meet his eyes. "Is that how I should look at it?"

"Is that how you want to look at it?" he asked. "Do you want something else? A different life?"

Kate blinked. "I…"

"I guess that's what they're thinking," he continued. "Some of them. The boys? No way. They'll be whining for the whole month." She laughed breathily at that and he smiled, squeezing her hand. Gates had mandated a month's leave and a psyche evaluation upon her return, assuming the investigation went according to plan. Kate didn't seem to mind, and Rick surely didn't. "But other people," he said, thinking of her father, and her friends, and his family. "I think they just want you to be happy, doing whatever it is that will help you get there."

Kate nodded slowly and stared at him. "And you?"

"Me?" he asked, surprised.

"What do you want?"

Her voice was soft and low, and there was a quality there that he couldn't remember having heard before. "Kate?"

"You promised me a long time ago that we'd do this together. And then I told you that I had to do this before…" she took a breath and wet her lips. He felt his chest tighten and something took off in his stomach. "Before the wall came down."

"All true," he murmured, unsure of where she was going, or what she wanted from him. Was she saying she was ready? Was she saying she wasn't? Did she want his confirmation, his support?

She sighed and squeezed his hand. "I…" she took a deep breath and he watched as she steeled herself for something, a strange sadness clouding her eyes. "You waited on me for over a year," she said quietly. "And I lied to you, and I yelled at you, and you…God, Rick, you solved my mother's case for me." The soft guilt there made his heart ache.

He shook his head and raised their hands to his lips again. "We solved it. And yeah, I had a head start this time around, but Kate, you got him, not me. I'm the idiot that got kidnapped, and you swooped in and saved me."

She met his eyes and brought their hands to her mouth, stealing his breath away as she placed her own kiss to his skin. "We need to get me a cape. I think we're even now," she whispered, making him laugh.

"I'll get right on that," he grinned, glad to see that somewhere in this mysterious woman was the Kate he solved crimes with. It was the rest of her that she'd need to figure out now, and he wanted to help her; he wanted to help her desperately.

"But I just…I made you wait, and now it's over and the wall is gone, but I don't…" she trailed off and he watched as her eyes began to sparkle.

"You don't what?" he prompted gently, wanting her to just spit it out so he could dispel whatever it was that was making her cry. He just wanted to hold her until it was all over. But he couldn't fix this one for her.

"I don't know who I am," she said on a breath that nearly broke his heart. "And how can I say, 'yes, okay, now,' when I don't even know what I want to do with myself, or what I should do? And how is that more fair than dragging you into hell with me?"

"Kate," he sighed, turning so he could look at her.

"Because you…you said you loved me over a year ago," she continued, sitting up as well so that they faced each other in the dim light of his hospital room. "And I couldn't say it back, but I…" she took a deep breath. "I do. I do love you," she admitted, like she was telling him a great secret. Problem was, he already knew. She plowed on anyway. "And so here we are, and you've waited but I…I'm a broken mess and you deserve so much more than that."

Did she honestly think that? He opened his mouth a few times to respond, but for once, words seemed to fail him. She blinked back, each second of silence making her frown deepen. He couldn't find the words to tell her how wrong she was, and how hearing that she loved him meant everything, and how he would stand by her no matter what, because she was everything he'd ever wanted. And so he tugged on her hands and drew her to him, bending his head down to press a feather light kiss against her lips.

She sighed into his mouth and one of her hands wound up to curl against his ear, holding him to her. "I'm sorry," she mumbled a minute later, when feather touches had turned to tender kisses.

Dragging his head back from hers to meet her eyes, he parted his lips and took a deep breath. "I love you, detective, scuba diver, dancer, astronaut or professional eye roller," he paused while she let out a breathy chuckle. "It doesn't matter what you do, Kate. You'll always be the woman I fell in love with, whether or not you're chasing bad guys in killer heels."

She bit her lip and looked up into his eyes. "What if I want to move?" she whispered.

"Then we move," he said immediately. Was that a question? He should make a list of the silliest questions she'd ever asked.

"You're serious," she said, taken aback. "But…"

Rick considered her for a moment, taking in her tired eyes and defeated body, relaxed there with him in his small hospital bed, in the sterile white room that smelled like industrial cleaner. Would that he could say all of this somewhere romantic, or hell, even at the loft. "Kate," he said softly. "If you want to roam around Europe for a month, we'll go. Alexis moved into her apartment last week, but I'm sure we could convince her to go on a little vacation. And if you want to stay here and hide out for a month, we can do that too."

"Rick…"

"If you want to pack up and go to California for the rest of our lives, then we'll go. Tell me where and I'll have a house for us tomorrow."

"Castle," she sighed.

He shook his head, he was on a roll now, and he could see her starting to give in; the softness of her eyes and the gentle curve of her forehead told him more than words ever could. "If you want to go back to school and get a Law degree, I'll be there to quiz you. If you want to go back for something ridiculous, like Early Baroque Counterpoint, that you've never studied before, I will be there to help you, and laugh."

"Hey," she protested, a small smile on her lips.

"Sorry," he grinned. He wasn't sorry at all. That little smile was all he was hoping for. "But Kate, really. Anything, everything, whatever you want—I will help you make that happen. Partners," he said firmly, waiting until she gave him a slow nod. "I don't care if we're partners in figure skating or trapeze flying, Kate."

"You're scared of heights," she whispered, her face finally fully relaxed.

"And unless you're planning on getting me a matching pair of neon skates, you'll look silly," he chuckled. "But I will follow you anywhere. I have all this time, and I'm definitely not going to stop now."

"I can't…I can't ask you to do that for me," she said, toying with his fingers where their hands were entwined in her lap.

"You're not asking," he assured her.

"What if you don't like who I become?" she asked very quietly, a deep-seated insecurity he'd never heard shining through her voice. "What if finding who I am means that I'm not who you fell in love with, in the end?"

"Kate," he sighed, tugging on her until she fell against his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around the woman who had stormed an armed warehouse to save him and held on tight as she shuddered into his body. Tentatively, she brought her arms up around his neck and he pressed a kiss to the crown of her head.

"Am I hurting you?" she whispered, her breath tickling his ear.

"No," he lied. He hurt, but the feeling of having her in his arms was greater than the pain. "And you? You will always be my Beckett," he said softly, listening as his own voice reverberated throughout the room. "Even if you decide that you never want to hear another thing about murder, and I have to type up my books in a closet, Kate, you will still be the woman I fell in love with."

"People change," she argued. "And…how can I…I wasn't willing to make you live through my struggle with my mother, and this shouldn't be any different."

She didn't continue and he felt hope blossom in his chest. "But?" he prompted gently.

"But I'm tired, Castle," she sighed, sagging against him. "I'm tired of hurting, and waking up alone, and going to the precinct and being scrutinized for doing my job. I'm tired of living for this one thing, and I'm tired of pretending that it isn't killing me. And I just want to…" she took a breath and he felt her back tighten beneath his hands. "I just want to feel normal, and like there isn't this gaping hole in my life all the time; because if it wasn't there, God, Rick, I…I've made us lose so much time."

"We have time now," he said against her hair. "We have all the time in the world now, Kate, and we can spend it doing whatever you want. And if that means that in a month, we walk back into the precinct and see how long we can hide this from Gates, then that's what we'll do. And I'll bring you coffee every day and you can pretend you don't like to hear my theories, and we can just live."

He hoped she could hear the sincerity in his voice. He'd followed her into hell and back and would do it again, so how couldn't she believe that he'd follow her now? What was an identity crisis compared to gunfire and assassins? "One step at a time, Kate."

She was silent and he focused on listening to her breathing, rather than thinking about the fact that she basically held his life in her hands; if she said no, he didn't know what he'd do. "First step is getting you back to the loft tomorrow," she asked said, breaking him out of his reverie.

His heart soared. "Yes," he murmured, breathless and weightless. Did that really mean? "Maybe we should have the guys over tomorrow night? Have a poker game or movie night or something?" he suggested hesitantly.

"Okay," she agreed. "I'm gonna kick your ass."

"I'm hurt, how is that fair?" he whined, grinning as she laughed into his shoulder.

"Don't play the pity card. I seem to remember getting my own ass kicked a few times when I stayed with you after my first apartment blew up."

"But that was days afterward," he argued, feeling playful and hopeful and grateful for the opportunity to just sit there and tease her. "How can you threaten me when I'm hooked up to an IV?"

"Don't be such a baby," Kate fired back, but he could hear the amused smile in her voice.

Castle made an indignant sound and lightly bumped her head with his where it had fallen back onto his shoulder. "You're harsh, Detective."

He felt her shake her head, and then she relaxed all the way into him. They were quiet for a few long minutes, almost as though they were sitting at the Precinct, mulling over a case, or doing paperwork and being creepy. But instead of filling out forms, her fingers toyed with the scratchy blanket that lay over his legs and beneath hers. And instead of watching her, he felt her, warm and solid against his side, her breath hot against his shoulder.

"How are your wrists?" she asked quietly.

"They're okay," he shrugged, jostling her head. In all honestly, they burned a bit, but there was nothing to be done for them, and damn if he was going to move.

"I guess you're not going to want to play with my handcuffs for a while, huh?"

He couldn't help himself; he laughed. She grinned into his shoulder, proud of herself. Then again, she was probably right. "Gimme a few weeks."

"I'm not the one that wants to play good cop bad cop, Castle," she chuckled.

"Can we play other games, then?" he asked. Were she not resting against him, he would have hit himself. Stupid. He was feeling bolder, but that didn't mean he needed to proposition her while they were sitting in his hospital bed.

"Sure, Castle," Kate drawled, her voice low and playful again. "We'll play Monopoly."

He let his head fall back against the pillows behind him and felt her smirking into his shoulder. A minute later, he felt her lips press against his gown-clad skin and he lifted his head to look down at her. Her large, hazel eyes met his and they stared at each other in the semi-darkness. "So," he said quietly, not wanting to break the stillness, but unable to stay silent.

"So," she repeated with a small smile. "What are we doing tomorrow?"

"Are you staying?" he asked, the question popping out of his mouth before he could catch it.

She bit her lip and considered him. There on her face he could see all the facets of her person—the ones she usually hid behind the 'super cop.' She was vulnerable and wanting, but reluctant and scared, brave but timid, strong but falling. He wanted to give her the answer—push her until she gave in. But this was not a theory about a dead body, and she wasn't something he could push, not after today.

"If you want me there," she concluded.

"I want you," he rushed out, and then blinked, watching as her cheeks flushed. "At my house," he added with a small laugh, waiting until she let out a little sigh. "But if you don't want to be there, I understand. I know…you might want space."

She stilled for a moment, her fingers stiff between his, and he waited, trying to convince himself that this answer couldn't negate her "I love you," from earlier. If she needed space, he'd give it to her. But hell if he was going to give her another summer full of space. A few days—he'd give her that much before kidnapping her and keeping her, wherever she wanted to be. He'd be there too; that much was certain.

"I've had space," she mumbled, turning her face down to press her forehead into his shoulder, her mouth moving against the fabric of the gown. "I'll stay."

"For tomorrow or…" he trailed off and waited. Too much? Too little? Was it too early to say, 'marry me?' She was it for him. He knew it. But…

"For the week, and we'll see," she whispered. "I could use the company, and you're fun, Castle."

He smiled and left her hand to bring his up to cup the back of her head, guiding her up to his lips without a second thought. She came willingly. After everything—after the blood and conspiracy and fighting—she was here with him, giving him a glimpse of forever. Her walls were broken, collapsed at their feet, and he was ridiculously excited to get to know the full Kate, this woman who laughed at his jokes and whose smile was full and bright, unfettered by grief.

"I'm tired," she murmured a few minutes later, and he could feel her breath coming in more even passes as she rested back against his chest

"Here," he said, shifting until he was lying flat, leaving her propped up next to him. "Lie down." He tugged the blanket out from under her legs and brought it up to cover them both.

"Castle," she sighed, glancing at the IV that ran into his left arm, and the monitors that made sure he was breathing and beating.

"Kate," he returned, matching her tone. "You're tired," he continued, finding her hand again. "And we can both fit."

"Metaphorically tired, Rick," she said, rolling her eyes.

"Oh," he stuttered dumbly. That made sense. But that still didn't mean that she couldn't spend the night curled into his side. He wondered if she was a cuddler. He hoped so. If she was going to let him touch her—really touch her—he never wanted to stop, and that would involve some pretty serious cuddling, and spooning, and clinging. Yeah, he was definitely the girl in this relationship. But, as she reluctantly lay down and curled into his side, tentatively stretching one arm across his broad chest, Rick decided that he didn't mind.

"Stop grinning," she said into the crook of his shoulder.

"Injury pass, Detective," he said immediately. "I get as many grins as I want right now."

"Don't call me Detective when we're in bed together," she replied just as quickly.

He moved his jaw for a moment, unable to find the words. That meant… "Fine. Then you have to call me Rick when we're in bed together."

Kate huffed into his shoulder. "I've always called you Castle."

He laughed softly. She had a point. "Fine. Then…you know what? Don't care. The in bed part's enough for me," he concluded, tugging her closer.

Kate laughed, the sound low and pleased as she relaxed next to him, tension pouring out of her. "We can iron this out in a few days."

"Whatever you want," he told her. If she wanted to keep it a secret for forever, she could probably convince him right now.

And, like she was reading his mind, she rubbed his chest. "Not forever, just until…we solved my Mom's case. I need a little while to get used to that, and then we'll decide…whatever we have, whatever it's been, what it's…"

"Sleep, Kate," he murmured, carding his hand through her hair, giving her an out. This was more than enough for him, and making her try to figure out what to call them, even, was a task too large for both of them at the moment.

"Trying to shut me up already, Castle?" she laughed.

He shook his head and let his hand find her neck, rubbing his thumb beneath her ear. "That's your job."

"I'm thinking I have new methods."

"Yeah, see how far those get you in the field," he volleyed.

She sucked in a breath and he let his out slowly. Damn. Open mouth, insert foot. "Kate…"

She shook her head and he fell silent, waiting. He didn't know if she'd speak again, and didn't quite know what to say. He'd follow her anywhere, but it would take time, if she truly didn't want to go back, to get used to that life. They'd been together on the job for so long; it would be an adjustment for them both.

"Anything?" she whispered, so softly that he nearly missed it. But the take off he felt in his chest erased any doubt he could have felt.

"Anything," he whispered back. "Anything you want. Anything you need."

She bit her lip and he watched her through tired eyes, her chin digging into his shoulder as she looked up at him. "Even ice cream, Temptation Lane, and a swim in your tub?"

He smiled at the shy way she asked, half excited, half hesitant. "Especially that," he told her. If that was all she wanted, he could give her that. He'd find a way to give her the moon if she asked. In fact, he should put her name on his property there. But he was missing the point.

"That's all I need," she offered after a moment. "Now sleep, Castle."

He laughed and tugged on her, watching as she fought for a brief second before sliding up his chest so that her mouth met his in a tender, timid kiss. "Goodnight, Kate," he said against her lips.

"Goodnight, Rick," she whispered.

"Rick," he repeated, hearing the awe he couldn't quite conceal in his voice as she settled down against him. She'd called him "Rick" before, but never after having said that all she needed was him, in his loft, possibly forever. And never as she lay next to him, her arm warm across his chest, her breath on his body, her smile pressing into his side.

"Castle," she growled softly.

He grinned and pressed his hand into her back. "Sleep, Kate."

She hummed against him and he lay there, feeling her fall asleep on his chest, her breath slow and steady, her scent permeating his senses. She was here with him, and it didn't matter what the next month held. Tomorrow, she'd go home with him, and as he stared up at the ceiling, he made a decision. She wasn't going to leave. This was it. The walls were down. They were laid bare to each other. No more running. No more hiding. Forever began right now.

"I love you," he spoke to the room, glancing down at her calm face. He could say it now; he could show her everything he'd wanted to show her since their second year together, when she'd become so much more than muse and temptation.

"Always," she breathed and he stiffened in shock. Her hand made a slow circle over his heart and he relaxed, smiling so hard that his cheeks ached. Always. "Sleep, Castle."