The Only Light

The only solution was to stand and fight.
And my body was loosened;
I was set alight.
But you came over me like some holy light.

And although I was burning,
You're the only light.

Only if for a night.

-'Only If For A Night,' Florence + the Machine

He's so grateful that he's woken up first.

Castle finds himself sprawled over the left side of her bed, with Kate diagonal so that just her toes touch him. Kate's on her stomach with her face turned away, her back bare. He turns onto his side to be closer, sliding up so that their bodies are parallel, and rests his palm flat against her back - the only place on her body not criss-crossed with shallow wounds or purple with bruises.

He swallows hard; his wrist is bleeding again. He holds himself carefully away; his body aches - both good and bad - and he can't imagine how she ignored her own aches last night. And it wasn't just once or twice, but all afternoon, all night, once again at two this morning when he woke sweating from a dream he couldn't remember to find her draped against him.

She didn't want to talk to him, didn't want to hear it, and honestly, he's not sure he wanted to say anything either. He doesn't want to ever go back to that place, the reek of fish guts and blood, not even to talk about it. He still sees too much of it in her body, in his.

He brushes his hand down her back.

It's enough that they both know. That it's shared between them. No more needs to be said.

She stirs and turns her head to him, but her eyes are still closed. Her breath escapes on a long sigh and he brings his fingers up her spine to the curve of her cheek. She shivers, her shoulders hunching, and then her eyes slowly slide open.

He doesn't know what to expect.

Kate watches him for a long time, her lashes dark and fine, framing bruised circles under her intent eyes. She's not smiling, but then again, he isn't either. He hurts in strange places. His shoulders feel shredded down to nothing by a cheese grater, his body put back together wrong. He can't imagine how she feels.

He has no idea what to expect. He sees her throat work to swallow, then a flicker of pain across her face. But she brings up her arm between them, sliding the back of her hand against the sheets until her fingertips touch his elbow and stop there to curl at his skin.

She still looks at him; he's got his own hand at her shoulder, his fingers brushing her jaw, but he sees, when he really looks, the bruise there too, withdraws his hand to skim lightly down her arm. Bruises there too. Her bicep has lines of dried blood in even rows; he doesn't remember seeing that last night. He tried not to see any of it; she didn't want to be seen.

Kate is trying to keep it off her face; he sees that too. He stops touching; her eyes tremor shut.

"Hurts," she breathes out. And before he can even be sure she's said it, she's pushing up, out of her own bed, and heading to the bathroom.

He can see the discolored bruises, the edges of bandages, the black-red lacerations, the long and pale line of her mostly unmarked back. A black and blue kiss of a bruise at the base of her tailbone, a matching kiss at the sharp jut of vertebrae between her shoulders. She lifts a hand to her neck as she walks away; he catches the messy bandage over her wrist, half hanging off and exposing the black knots of the stitches, feels his heart twist in his throat.

She doesn't close the door, but disappears around the corner. The shower trembles on, growls through the pipes before the water gets up to its full force.

He rolls onto his back and closes his eyes, breathing slowly.

Okay, Kate.

He'll play this her way. Like nothing happened.

He's just not sure which part didn't happen. The butchering of her body or the worship.

He rifles through the linen closet in the hall, finds an extra tube of toothpaste but no toothbrush. He's put his boxers and white undershirt back on, but he's left his clothes in the floor where they fell last night. He heads for the kitchen and splashes water on his face from the tap, then squirts toothpaste onto his finger and works it around his gums, his teeth, wincing even as he does.

His shoulders are killing him. The half-moon slit at his wrist from the cuffs throbs. He wonders how Kate is managing the shower. She's got the stitches on her inside thigh that he took pains to avoid last night, sometimes not so successfully. No wonder she hurts. Still, he doesn't regret it, wouldn't take it back.

He tries to plan his next move. Is she going back in to work today? Of course she is. This is Kate Beckett. To be honest, he doesn't need to be there too. He can't even. . .can't fathom not staying at home, letting himself be made over by Alexis and his mother. Oh, well, actually, Alexis probably has classes all day; she often heads back to a friend's dorm room. But if he calls, she'll come. He shouldn't call though.

He shivers as the water runs over his wrist, jerks back.

He doesn't want to think about this anymore. Castle can understand Beckett now in a way he never imagined. He wants to bury this as far down as he can, ignore the reasons behind his mangled body, hers.

The scent of strong coffee assaults him. He turns in the kitchen and realizes she's got a timer on her coffeemaker; a fresh pot is waiting. Ah. Heaven. That's exactly what he needs, some normal routines again. He always gets her coffee.

He leaves the toothpaste on the counter next to the sink and pulls down a mug. A grin cracks his too-worried face when he sees the logo: Instant Human: Just Add Coffee.

Okay, so that helps a little. He makes her coffee precisely as she likes it and heads back for her bedroom. She's still in the shower; she might be awhile. All those cuts. . .

He won't think about it right now. Glancing around the room, he tries to find the perfect place. On her dresser in front of the bed is a wooden box with the top open; her gun and badge are inside, the chain with the ring on it. Her dad's watch. Castle trails his fingers over the ring, feels every link in the chain.

He settles the mug next to the box and takes a deep breath, trying to layer strength over himself from somewhere. From the feel of her empty bedroom and the sound of the water echoing on the tiles, from the touch of her fingers at his elbow this morning and the intensity in her eyes when she looked at him.

He makes breakfast then, listening closely for her once the shower shuts off, the sounds of her opening drawers, blow-drying her hair, the silence of her putting on makeup. It sounds familiar, even if he's never heard it before, comforting. It eases something in his chest.

She comes out of her room fully clothed, but with that mug in her hand, her eyes fixed on him. Castle watches her walk across the room towards him, dressed for work and her hair down in those soft waves. When she gets to the kitchen, he can see how carefully she holds herself, how she's pushing back the ache.

"Morning," she says gently, but a light is there in her eyes, buried under a few layers of shine and trauma, but still there. That it's there at all makes him proud, fills him with an equal light.

Kate cradles her mug to her chest, moves around the kitchen island to stand at his side. She rubs her thumb over his bottom lip, looks at him as if he's completely unexpected, then presses her lips to the corner of his mouth.

If he was thinking about this moment at all, he thought she wouldn't still be so enigmatic. But this is Kate, and she might always remain something of a mystery to him. As if testing the limits, he turns his head towards her, caressing her lips, not hesitant but definitely soft, nearly hovering.

She lifts her eyes to him, a trace of pain at the back of her vision.

Kate shifts away to grab plates from the cabinet behind him. She sets the dining room table, pours him juice and milk both, moving around him easily. He finishes the scrambled eggs and pulls the stack of pancakes out of the oven where he was keeping them warm.

When he places them on the table, her eyes meet his, her lips pressed together. He wants this morning as redolent with symbolism as possible, make sure there's no mistaking what he means, even if he can't say it. Even if the words are lost somewhere in the horror of yesterday.

Castle eats breakfast and watches her check messages on her phone, her hair falling over her shoulder. There's no syrup; she didn't have any and he didn't want to leave to get it. But he soaks margarine up with his pancake and finishes quickly.

He takes his empty plate to the sink, rinses it, puts it in the dishwasher. He starts cleaning up the kitchen, but Kate gets up from the table and walks over to him slowly, stays his hand with hers.

"You cooked; I'll clean. Go get a shower. Get dressed."

He meets her eyes, can't help darting in for a hummingbird of a kiss, light and quick. She lifts her hand and rubs his cheek with her fingers. He doesn't want to leave the room.

She shakes her head at him. "The shower will take longer than you think," she says with a grim look in her eyes.

He reaches up and gently grasps her fingers, pulls her hand down to where he can see it. Her long sleeves hide the bandages, but he slides the material back. She's wrapped fresh, clean gauze over the wounds.

"How'd you keep them from getting wet?"

She doesn't smile; a darkness flickers at the back of her eyes even as her fingers curl around his grip. "Hard to do. The. . .stitches in my thigh are waterproof. Helps."

He quirks a smile, can't help it; he just can *not* help it. "Sure does."

Kate presses her lips together, raises her eyebrows at him, but that something good is back in her eyes, some of the darkness gone. The line of her jaw and the light across her cheekbones makes her look nearly radiant, makes him breathless, even with the way things ache.

"Go shower," she says clearly, her voice rich with the only golden treasure that matters.

They go downstairs together; he's left his shirt untucked because he's going back to his loft to change clothes and spend some time with his family. She seems to find it disconcerting because she keeps narrowing her eyes at him as they walk down the stairs, then she flicks her finger at the tails of his dress shirt with a look.

He shrugs at her. He would say something inane like You don't have to go in today but of course she does. Castle knows he just can't do that, not after yesterday, not even to stare aimlessly at her. That would be a bad idea. Kate wouldn't like that, and he knows he would spend his free time dwelling on all the ways yesterday might have gone so very wrong.

They separate down on the sidewalk. She takes a moment in the early morning light to stop him with a hand fisted in the tail of his shirt. Castle watches her study him for a moment, then is taken by surprise when she lifts up, uses his shirt for leverage to press her lips against his.

When she pulls back, that ribbon of pain has reappeared. He frowns.

"Hurts," she murmurs, and instead of crossing her arms over her chest, she seems to cradle them against her. He has a flash of memory - the wicked edge of the filet knife carving around her belly button. His heart pounds, his vision narrows to a pinpoint - only Kate.

Castle wants to touch her, but she looks too ragged to touch. Something in her eyes warns him that touching her would be bad, might actually finish breaking her.

So he goes home; she goes to the precinct.

For the rest of the day, they don't talk to each other about what's happened, but she texts him yes to his dinner suggestion. He finds a website that sells pillows in the shapes of medieval weapons and buys a mace, sends her the shipping notice. She returns the email with a link to a video of the Ultimate Pillow Fight flashmob in Union Square.

It's not that they're not talking. It's what they're not talking about that still worries him.

He can't bring himself to go to the precinct to pick her up, but thankfully she comes over instead. He realizes when he opens the door to her that it might be a long time before either of them texts an address asking to meet.

Yeah. Still not talking.

He's made pasta and chicken, tossed a salad with cranberries and red vinaigrette dressing. His mother actually bought him a loaf of good French bread. Of course he didn't say much about what happened between him and Kate the previous night, but. . .she seemed to know. She disappeared an hour ago; Alexis called and cheerfully told him she had a mixer at the student center. He hasn't said a word to her about yesterday.

Kate shakes her head at the wine, but he's already poured it. They sit down to eat at the kitchen island because at least then, they're side by side. Also, the dining room table gives him strange flashbacks to a wooden worktable in a warehouse. He's got no idea if it would affect her the same way, but he's not willing to risk it.

They eat, she laughs at something stupid he does, her cheeks pink. She's taken a few sips of her glass; she tells him that the pasta is good and asks where he got it.

"I made it."



She does that lip pressing thing again, the side of her mouth quirks, and she leans in towards him.

He's about to kiss her when she gasps and jerks back, curling in on herself, lowering her head as her body bows.


She waves him off and draws her arms against her chest, breathing slowly.

He waits it out because he's certain that touching her would only make it hurt more. The only thing that keeps his stomach from churning is the regret he saw in her eyes the second she pulled away from him.

Her head is in her hand, her fingers scratch over her forehead. He slides his arm across the back of her chair, brushes his fingers over her spine. At least there he knows that her skin is undamaged, her bruises not as vivid.

After awhile she straightens up incrementally and flashes him a grateful look, taking her fork off the plate and going back to her dinner. He keeps his hand at her spine for the rest of their meal.

She goes home alone. Before she steps out of his loft, he gets to kiss her, slowly, with relish, his palms cradling her cheeks, keeping his body carefully away from hers.

And then she leaves and he doesn't get to follow.