If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
And measles were nice and a lie warn't a lie,
Life would be delight,-
But things couldn't go right
For in such a sad plight
I wouldn't be I.
If earth was heaven and now was hence,
And past was present, and false was true,
There might be some sense
But I'd be in suspense
For on such a pretense
You wouldn't be you.
If fear was plucky, and globes were square,
And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee
Things would seem fair,-
Yet they'd all despair,
For if here was there
We wouldn't be we.
(If she hadn't said yes, they wouldn't have kissed)
Kate thinks things through. It's what she does. She doesn't particularly like the feeling she gets when she doesn't; that horrible sinking in the pit of her stomach when she realizes she's unprepared, or in a situation that she could've prevented if she'd just used her brain.
But when he (Castle, that is—because really, who else would he be anymore?) asks her to come to his loft for dinner—with his family—she doesn't think it through. She knows that if she thinks about it, she'll pull another stunt like she did this summer and shut him out. She's not willing to do that anymore, not after how steadfastly loyal he's been since she told him she wanted her walls down first. Especially not after today, when the bank exploded and her heart imploded because she'd almost lost him right when she'd started to find him.
So, she doesn't think. He says he'll do her one better, he tells her of the feast and how his mother and Alexis would love to see her, and the panic she's so familiar with threatens to go high tide. But then it ebbs away, and she breathes and smiles and nods, even manages to speak. Okay.
And it's more than okay. She feels more than at home, the food is more than good, the company is nothing less than magnificent. Rick is still an entertainer, of course, but it's a softer, more subtle type of amusement than what he specializes in at the precinct. He lets Martha and Alexis run the show and is content to fill in the gaps and laugh loudly and often. The three of them are nothing short of a well-oiled machine, playing off of each other and finishing each other's sentences. Kate wonders if she should feel like she's missing out because she doesn't have a family like this, but she doesn't have a chance to feel left out. All she feels is included and delightfully warm.
The warmth remains even after dinner. Maybe it's the wine. Maybe it's the fireplace that Alexis flipped on (because come on, would Castle really want to deal with logs and matches?) before she went to bed. Maybe it's Martha's incredibly sincere thank-you hug before she glides off to bed.
Maybe it's Castle's smile when she sinks onto the couch next to him.
"Mother worships you," he says.
Kate smiles and brushes her hair out of her eyes. "After-glow of the day. She'll be fine by tomorrow, I promise."
"I probably won't be."
Kate feels the moment screech to a halt. She's afraid to look at him, so she just stares at the coffee table with her bottom lip tucked under her teeth. The silence builds to an almost deafening crescendo.
"Sorry," he finally murmurs.
She shakes her head, opens her mouth to say something, but nothing will come out. She presses her lips together. She tries to remember their conversation on the swing set, but it's too far away, hazy because of the warmth of his body that's close (but not close enough) and his words that are still hanging in the air. She tries to force herself to stand up and leave, but instead all she can do is braid his most recent confession with the one that's haunted her for months.
I love you, Kate.
"I should go," she finally manages to say.
"Do you want to?"
She can feel him staring at her. She closes her eyes for a few seconds, wishing she could take it back. No. No, she doesn't wish that. She doesn't want that, she wants…what does she want? What does she—
She stands up so fast her head spins a little. Maybe she had more wine than she thought. "Hell of a day," she says. Her voice sounds cold.
He stands up too. "Yeah."
"I should go."
She sounds like an idiot. He doesn't call her on it. She all but runs to the door, grabbing her coat on the way. When she gets there and pulls on the handle, it won't open all the way. She's in panic mode so she isn't thinking clearly. She tugs harder, but it won't budge. She looks up, realizes that Castle's hand is on the door. She traces her gaze over the back of his hand, his wrist, up his forearm, and then stops when their eyes meet. She swallows.
"Thanks for coming," he whispers. He gives her one of those looks that makes her toes curl. And then he moves his hand back down to his side.
She drops her coat and lunges. She latches both of her hands on either side of his face just to make sure she doesn't miss his lips because of how hard she throws herself at him. He makes a soft oof sound, but before she can feel ridiculous, he wraps his arms around her tightly. She slips her tongue in his mouth. She can't catch her breath. His hands are sliding downward, closer to her ass. Heat erupts in her abdomen.
She shoves him away with a groan of frustration. He's panting and so is she, and when the lustful haze lifts from her vision she sees his chest rising and falling. She puts her hand up to her mouth.
"Shut up," she says through her hand. He stares at her. She stares at him.
This time they both move. He whips her around, shoves her back against the door, and it slams shut behind her. She wraps her arms around his neck. He hikes one of her legs up around his hips. One of them moans, she's not sure who, but it makes her body jolt in pleasure.
It's enough to bring her back to reality. She shoves him away again, harder than the first time, and he all but growls in frustration. He runs a hand through his hair and gives her a look. She points at him.
He grins. "Bad dog?"
"Go stand over there," she says, gesturing toward the couch.
He opens his mouth and she already knows what he's going to say, so she fixes him with one of those looks. He immediately closes his mouth and shuffles toward the couch. When he turns around to look at her again, he smirks.
"Is this okay, or do you need the couch between us, too?"
She glares at him. His smirk deepens and he moves around to the other side of the couch, holding her eyes purposefully. She resists the urge to make a joke, because it's not an entirely appropriate one and if she gets them going again, she won't stop it.
He slides his hands into his pockets and stares at her. She leans back against the door and sighs heavily. They stand there for a while, silent and ridiculous because they're on opposite sides of the room and there's still an electric current surging through the air. She tries to remember if she's ever wanted anyone this badly before. Eventually she comes to the conclusion that he's in his own category, and that's probably because he's already inside of her in every way but one.
"I won't apologize for that," he murmurs, finally breaking the silence.
"Of course you won't," she says. She looks at him.
His expression darkens. "Do you want me to?"
She can't help the small smile that tugs on her lips. "I'm the one who jumped you, remember?"
He grins. "Oh, I remember. It is permanently etched into my…Kate? What is it?"
She must not have concealed the look on her face very well. She shakes her head. "Nothing."
She sighs. "After-glow is real, Castle." He doesn't answer, so she keeps going. "It's a real thing. I've experienced it before."
"And this is after-glow?"
"I don't know. But do you really..." she trails off with a sigh. She stares at the floor for a while, and he waits. "I almost lost you today." She looks up at him. The seriousness of his expression nearly knocks the wind out of her sails, but she keeps going. "I was afraid I'd lost you for real this time."
"But you didn't."
"But I could have. I was scared, Castle. And I don't want…this shouldn't start with fear."
He nods. "You want something more organic."
"I want something more us." His smile is blinding. She shifts against the door. "What?"
"Us. I like the sound of that."
A beat passes. She looks at the floor. "Me too."
She hears him moving and looks up in time to see him walking around the couch and toward her. "What are you doing?" she demands.
"What do you think I'm doing?"
"Castle, I can't think when you—"
He stops in front of her, cuts her off with a finger over her lips.
"I don't want you to think."
Their gazes hold. He trails his finger down over the curve of her jaw, lightly down her neck and then lower, past her collarbone, down to where her shirt buttons start. He moves his face slowly toward hers, but just when she thinks he's about to kiss her, he ducks his head and presses his lips to her jaw. She tilts her head back, and he kisses the hollow of her throat gently.
"You think too much," he murmurs against her skin.
"One of us has to," she breathes, punctuating it with a sigh when he darts his tongue out to taste her. He puts his hands on her hips.
"I think about you all the time."
"That's not what I meant."
"It's not what I meant either. Get your mind out of the gutter."
She laughs. She can't help it. He grins against her skin. She drapes her arms over his shoulders. She knows that later she's going to wonder how she became comfortable enough with him to let this happen, to sink into physical contact instead of pushing him away. But right now, she isn't capable. Right now she wants to revel in the fact that he's alive and she's alive and they're alive together and even if she's still got walls, he's got a wrecking ball hiding in his goddamn smile.
And then he's kissing her and she realizes that yes, she was right, she has never wanted anyone this badly before. Even though the heat is building, this kiss isn't like the first two. This one is languid, more of an exploration, though the undercurrent is still decidedly a rumble of take me against this door now. For a second she thinks that his only purpose is to kiss her senseless and then laugh while he watches her leave on unsteady legs, but when their hips connect as he pushes her back against the door again, she realizes he's enjoying himself as much as she is.
"Wait," she breathes, pushing against his chest half-heartedly.
"If you're going to say it, mean it," he breathes back, moving his hips against hers.
It takes her a second to convince herself that she means it. Finally, she moans softly, and then pushes him harder. "Wait."
He stops. Their faces are close, and she knows when she opens her eyes, he'll be looking at her, waiting. That's why she doesn't open her eyes. She doesn't do eye contact, not when she's hanging on to her resolve by half a thread.
"I meant it," she finally manages to say. "Not about waiting. Well, I meant that, too. Just about…I mean, I don't…"
"About the fear," he finishes for her.
She nods. She feels him place a soft kiss on her temple. "Okay," he says.
He steps away, and she immediately misses the contact. She opens her eyes. He smiles. He bends over, picks up her coat, and then holds it out to her. She takes it.
"Try to stay away from the bank," she says, softly. "At least until tomorrow when I can keep an eye on you."
"I'll do all my banking online from now on," he answers. "Save myself and save some trees."
She almost doesn't say it. She almost turns away to leave and not look back and think about ways to tell him tomorrow that it was just after-glow and not something she's wanted to do for years.
She's tired of almost, though.
"It'll save me, too," she whispers.
She swears there's an audible spark.
"Don't," she cuts him off hastily. "Don't ruin it. I'm going."
She's halfway to the elevator when he calls out after her. "I won't pretend this didn't happen."
She smiles to herself. When she turns around, she's straight-faced. She hopes. "Of course you won't."
And then she smirks, and he smiles, and it's so very them that when the doors to the elevator close, she doesn't even feel afraid of what will happen tomorrow.
Thanks for reading. Chapter Two is on its way. Thanks, also, to my betas. Carto, in particular, for her absolutely charming demands for fic. Constantly.