Title: Far from the Tree

Disclaimer: Overactive imaginations and time for writing are all you need. Though, we wouldn't mind having ownership too…

Author's Note: A co-authored story by Chezchuckles and FanficwriterGHC. Complete.

It occurred to him, as he watched her walk into his apartment, holding the door for the woman with the odd, nervous, contented smile, that he didn't have any food to make. Shopping had been his responsibility this week, and with the case and the disruption of the meet up, he'd forgotten.

It looked like he'd be making a romantic, game changing dinner of pasta and improvised sauce. Fantastic.

"No one's home?" she asked, spinning around to face him as he closed and locked the door, something finite in the gesture.

He couldn't quite read the expression on her face, couldn't decide if the idea of an empty loft made her nervous or excited, happy, sad, strange, mysterious. "Ah, no. Alexis is at Paige's for the night and Mother went…out." He sighed and shed his jacket, tossing it onto the chair by the closet. "Probably wanted to give me space."

Her eyes softened and then she walked toward him, smoothed down his collar. "I've got the coats. Get cooking," she added after a moment. They were staring, and she broke the spell, which was probably for the best.

He wanted to slide her jacket from her shoulders, caress her skin, clutch her back against him, revel in the little steps they'd taken. But they needed food, and he wasn't going to push her. The fact that she was here at all, hadn't really retreated, hadn't stopped the hand he wound between hers in that last taxi—it was enough for now.

He made his way into the kitchen, frowning as he grabbed a pot and filled it with water. Of all the things to forget, it had to be food. He liked feeding her, liked knowing that she was full and healthy, somewhat by his hand. Independent Kate Beckett could take care of herself, but she had this habit of forgetting, and with so little else to do for her, he took pride in keeping her nourished.

It sounded pathetic in his head as he found the pasta and container of garlic cream sauce he'd forgotten Alexis had whipped up. But, as he turned and found her leaning against the counter, watching his progress, he thought maybe it wasn't so sad that he took pleasure in providing what he could. She did look good in his kitchen.

"Pasta and garlic sauce. Really?"

The sarcasm in her voice threw him for a moment. Garlic. Oh, well, damn. "If we both eat it, we're on even footing," he defended, tossing the congealed mass into a second pot to warm. Seemed classier than nuking it.

She raised an eyebrow but didn't comment, choosing instead to wander forward and pour herself a glass of water. More pleasure surged through him at the sight of her, domestic and in his kitchen, heels forgotten somewhere by the couch.

"Water's boiling," she observed a few minutes later, still standing close, now leaning against the counter by the stove, the island no longer between them.

He startled, having been caught up in his confused head. So little had changed since the afternoon, yet it seemed like everything was different. Him. His life. His family. His woman. Kate Beckett, not his woman. His partner.

He shook his head and turned the burner down a notch, poured the pasta in, watched it froth. Something nudged his hand and he looked down, finding her extending a large spoon to him. He took it with a little smile and swirled it through the water, added a pinch of salt, let the process of cooking try to straighten out his mind.

"You're quiet," she observed.

His eyes flew to hers. She looked relaxed, thoroughly, no trace of hesitance there on her face, like he'd seen at Starbucks. She was just…Kate, glass clutched in her hand, socked foot scuffing the tile, hip propped against his counter.

"Thinking," he shrugged, honest. What use was hiding anything from her? She always knew. "You're quiet too," he added. Two could play at that game; she was thinking too. He hoped it was good thoughts, good feelings, good…anything, if it meant she'd stay here, dressed down in his loft, that soft smile on her lips.

She bobbed her head, took a sip, observed him. "Must be that connection thing," she said, twinkle in her eye, waiting for him to remember.

Connection? Well, they'd always had that. He didn't need to remember the specific moment to appreciate the comment. And appreciate it he did. As did his hand, which moved to tuck an errant curl back behind her ear. They both watched his arm retreat. The physicality, the freedom of it—he hoped, if nothing else remained after tonight, that would survive. Hugs, fingers, lips, ears, hips, touching. These little things were so satisfying, so normal, so real.

She opened her mouth after a moment to say something, but instead took a step forward, her own hand shooting out to turn down the heat on the stove. The pasta had boiled over in his distraction, but it was hard to care, not with her knuckles now pressed into his stomach against the cotton of his shirt.

Still quiet, but at least they had food. She smirked at him over her pasta, could taste the garlic at the back of her throat even though she'd tried to go light on it.

They'd sat at the table, which she was grateful for, but honestly, the expanse of dark wood and the chill coming in through the window wasn't the best. It only made her gravitate towards him, seeking warmth. When she finished the last of it, scraped her bowl clean (she'd resisted the plate when he had tried to hand it to her, reached past his head, brushing his chest, to get a bowl instead), she took her dishes back to the sink and rinsed them, loaded the dishwasher.

He came around behind her and did the same and suddenly they were both fed and there was no excuse anymore.

"Wine?" he asked. They'd had water with the pasta.

She shook her head because she didn't think she wanted to be any more disoriented tonight than she already was. Also, she wanted to kiss him, garlic or not, and she needed her wits about her.

Yes. She wanted to kiss him. She was in this. No way to stop it now.

Castle stood in his kitchen looking a little lost, but she dried her fingers off on the dish towel and laid it on the counter. Kate took a step toward him, ran her tongue over her hard palate just to check, but he'd said it first. Since they both had garlic...


"Yeah?" He sounded relieved, as if he'd been wanting to say something to prolong the evening, but he didn't know what, or how.

"Did I show you a good time?" she asked slowly, bringing her eyes up to his, taking the time as she did to peruse the slope of his chest, the cut of his shoulders, the hard-swallowing line of his throat.

He stared at her a moment.

She stepped closer, brought her hands up to his waist, let her thumbs hook into his belt. She liked the pin-striped dress shirt, liked even more the way it gaped open at his neck. Liked even more the way he was looking at her, both surprised and hotly aroused.

"You haven't answered my question," she murmured, raising an eyebrow. "Did you have fun tonight?"

"In between other things? Yes." He was struggling with a smile; she wondered if that was because he was still brooding over the man who called himself Castle's father, or if it was because she was standing so close and throwing off his game.

She liked the latter.

"So." Kate stepped into him, felt her hips brush his, canted towards him as she steadfastly looked at his face. "Since I showed you a good time. How about you put out for me?"

He gasped, actually sucked in a lungful of air and stared at her as if she had grown another head, and she laughed at him, felt it bubbling in her, all this delicious, compelling excitement.

Kate slid her palm up his chest to curl around the back of his neck. "Don't tell me you're not one of those girls, Castle. Because we both know you are."

He was dumbfounded in his stare, completely silly with it, and she grinned, felt even herself how evil her smile was, and slid her other hand up to join its mate behind his neck.

And then she tugged.

His mouth crashed down to hers, too much, but they jerked at the startling collision of lips, fell back to regroup. He breathed hotly against her cheek, his eyes too close for her to see clearly, and then she found her courage again and touched her mouth to his, lighter, caressing, questioning.

He murmured her name against her lips, pressed into her for a long moment that felt familiar (a dark night in front of a warehouse), and then he touched his tongue to hers, both of them seeking more at the same moment, startled by the moist heat of the kiss.

She pushed and felt his back hit the counter; she leaned forward and her body slid in between his legs, pressed too close, too good. She drew her hands down to his chest, resting there in closed fists, stroking his bottom lip as the kiss heated.

And then she pulled away, pushing off his chest. She meant only to pause the moment, take a second to breathe, but her hips tilted forward when she leaned back, his eyes slammed shut on a grunt and she had to clench her hands around his shirt and bite her lip to keep from throwing herself-


She sucked in a breath and tried to carefully peel herself off of him, but Castle tightened his arms and kept her there.

She was willing to wait it out.

He watched her for a long time, his breathing rapid, his mouth moving as if he had something to say that wouldn't come.

So she said it for him.

"I should go."

He eased his grip on her waist and she took a step back, not entirely out of his arms, but giving them breathing room.

Castle sighed, leaned his head down to hers to brush his lips over her cheek, light and barely there. She pressed her cheek into his, wrapped her arms around his back to hold on. Just for a minute.

"I think now I can say you showed me a good time, Beckett."

She laughed against his chest, felt his hand gentle at her lower back, his thumbs running against her spine. His eyes had shifted from dilated dark blue to a starker, pale powder. She watched him turn inward in a moment, the laughter gone.

"Don't think about it," she said gently. "You met him, you know what he wants. You don't have to do anything more."

He lifted his gaze to her, gave her a chagrined sigh, his hand pressing flat against her back, bringing her in closer. "I know. I should be thinking about how to keep you here instead."

"How about we let you keep your virtue for now, Castle." She waited until that registered, gave him a sly grin.

"I'm all for ruining my reputation, Beckett. If you wanna have a go at me. Get me alone somewhere without a chaperone."

"Don't I already have you alone without a chaperone? Unless you count garlic sauce as a chaperone-"

His chest rumbled under her hands as he laughed, giving her a breathless look at his happy and relaxed face: the crinkled eyes, the crow's feet, the way his smile sliced clean through and made everything seem good. They were good.

This was good.

And she was staring at his mouth. She should stop. She flicked her eyes back up to his, and he was smirking.

"You should go," he said softly, and his hands pushed on her hips a little to get her moving.

She backed away, trailing her hands along his arms to meet his palms, their fingers tangling. She didn't want to leave; he already had her convinced to stay. But-

"Later, Kate."

She chewed her bottom lip, studied his face. He'd just met his biological father, just discovered the man's true intentions, just had his stories turned upside down, proved wrong.

Kate shook off his hand and lifted her fingers to his jaw, traced the line of bone that resembled his paternal genetics, then touched her thumb to his bottom lip.

He watched her, intent on her, waiting for her conclusion.

"You're a good man," she said firmly. "No matter who he is, you know who you are. I know who you are."

She didn't know if he meant to do it, but he was showing her all the naked vulnerability at the back of his eyes, all the years of name-calling bullies and lonely boarding schools.

"Who am I?" he said roughly, his eyes bleeding need.

"You're my partner," she answered. "You're mine."