Oh jeez.

He's awake now.

Castle blinks hard in the darkness of his room and clutches at her hips, startled by the smile on her face, the way her body moves over him. His heart is pounding.

"You just - woke me up - like this?"

She laughs at him, shakes her head. "You kinda woke me first, Castle."

"I - I did?" He grunts at the way she - oh man. Oh jeez. "You're gonna have to stop that or this is all over."

"You really want me to stop?" She laughs again and leans over him, hands pressed into the bed just past his ears, her hair swinging forward and curtaining them. A bite of a kiss on his bottom lip, the rocking movement she's doing with her hips, and he has to slide his hands up to press her down against him.

"No, never mind. Don't - ah - don't stop."

She brings her forearms to his chest, her fingers playing over his face, his lips, almost absent-mindedly, like she doesn't know she's doing it. He pushes up against her and her eyes go wide, breath catching. She's beautiful. She's amazing-

She's in love with him too.

She's in love with him, but she doesn't know the whole truth.

She's in love with him, but he's still got secrets. He tried to tell her, but he got distracted by all his dreams coming true right then and there, distracted by the way she kissed and pushed him back towards his bedroom.

Somehow they've wound up all on his side of the bed. He's lying on his stomach, her head on his shoulder blade, her chest pressed to his back. Pulling his arm out from under his pillow, Castle strokes his fingers along her neck, the farthest he can reach, and smooths the hair from her face.

She sighs and her mouth moves against him. If she drools on him like this, she'll never hear the end of it. He will bring it up every single chance he gets.

Castle cups his hand at her cheek, despite it being awkward in this position, but the way she's draped over him, with abandon and ease, makes him want to cradle her. Protect her. But this is the feeling that's going to get him in trouble, isn't it?

It's sweet, Castle.

Yeah, he doesn't think she'll-

"Stop thinking so loudly," she groans, turns her face into his back with a huff of breath that brings goose bumps to his skin. Her teeth find him, then her lips soothe even as she wakes.

"Hey," he says softly, smiling even though he can't see her. "Thinking too loudly for you?"

"So loud you woke me up."

He can feel her body curl in and then she rolls off him, snuggling down into the sheets beside him. He can see her getting comfortable. Her eyelids lift; she smiles at him and slides her arm under his, moving closer, her heat against him.

"Hey," she murmurs, her eyes glinting in the darkness of his room. "You wanna talk about it?"

"What?" he says, not even trying very well to hide it. "Yeah. I think I should."

She lifts her thumb to his bottom lip, her fingers uncurl along his jaw. "You sure?"

Is that a warning?

Kate sighs, leans in to kiss him softly. "Don't look at me like that, Castle. Like whatever you're going to say will drive me away. Do you really trust me so little?"

"No," he breathes out, tries to shake his head against his pillow. "Of course not. It's just-"

"No, but? - that doesn't sound like you trust me." She's not frowning at him. Actually, she's - is she teasing him?

He turns onto his side to look at her better. "I trust you. I trust that there are things that are sacrosanct to you, Kate. And I trust that I've violated that - on more than one occasion-"

"But here we are," she says intently, her fingers curling behind his ear. "Doesn't that tell you something? You break all my rules, Castle."

His chest aches with it, the way she's looking at him right now, the strength in her eyes. "I do break your rules, don't I? So one more can't hurt."

She laughs at him, raises an eyebrow. "Can't hurt me now. So. Get on with it. Tell me."

Yeah, she says that, but he still doesn't. . .

"Your mom's case."

"Yeah?" She's using her fingers to circle his cheekbone, around and around.

"I started investigating it because-"

"Because you can't keep your nose out of my business?" she says on a smile.

He sighs and untangles their legs, tries to give her room to move, escape, if she needs it."No. Because someone called me."

Kate clenches the nape of his neck and tugs him back. "Someone - someone - wait. What? And where are you going, Castle?" She sounds irritated.

"Not going anywhere. No. Not going," he mumbles. "And it was some guy. Said he was friends with Montgomery, that the Captain sent some files over before - before he died." Castle stops trying to give her space, instead he stay where he is, waits for her.

Kate lets go of his neck, presses her hand to his cheek; his heart is pounding, but she's not moving away. "You didn't tell me about that."

"I wasn't supposed to tell you. Your life - the lives of Montgomery's family - this guy could only keep you all safe, protected, if you stopped looking into your mom's case."

"So he says."

Castle winces. "So he says, yes."

"And you took his word for it?" she huffs at him.

"In a way. I started looking into it on my own, Kate. If you couldn't, then I would. I asked you to stop to - to keep you safe - but I kept looking because I know it's important."

She narrows her eyes at him, fingers scratching lightly on his cheek and down to his neck. "So tell me. How does asking me to stop equate with not telling me?" she hisses, shoving on him.

He rocks onto his back, but she's crowding closer to him; she looms over him, her hands spread on his bare chest. "I - I - Kate?"

"Why couldn't you tell me?" she says, and in a completely unexpected move, she bows her head over him, her forehead to his sternum. "You told me to stop but you didn't tell me why. You could've told me why."

He draws his arms around her, his heart pounding fiercely. He has no idea what this means, her body pressed against his, her shoulders up around her ears. "I was afraid to tell you."

Her next word comes from the cavern of her hair, muffled against his chest. "But why?"

"Because you'd jump right back down that hole, Kate. Don't tell me - nine months ago? - you wouldn't have been all over this."

She lifts her head to look at him. No tears. No sad face, just exasperation. "All over this?" An eyebrow quirk, the smirk of her lips.

He laughs, breathless with relief. "You're making a joke? Are you kidding me? This is probably the biggest news I've ever had to break to someone, and you're joking."

"It's a defense mechanism," she deadpans. "You should know that."

"I'm rubbing off on you?" he grins.

"More than one way." She grins back, bites her bottom lip. "Okay, be serious again."

"Yeah, sorry, you've totally broken the mood."

"I can't help it. I mean, Castle, come on. You tell me that you got some mysterious phone call last summer, that the guy told you to keep me off the case, but you couldn't tell me about it? That's ridiculous. And I think you know how stupid that was too, how dangerous. You've been beating yourself up over it for the last - what did you say? nine months? - so what should I say to that?"

"Say you forgive me?" he says, smiling brightly at her but shame flaring in his guts.

"I'm not forgiving you. You're not sorry." Her fingers stroke his cheeks, her forearms balanced on his chest. Entirely dissonant with the steel in her voice.

He sighs. "No, I'm not sorry."

"See? So what am I supposed to do here?"

"I don't know," he says with a shrug. "I just - I needed to tell you."

"So you've told me. I still think it's stupid. And I don't want you to do it anymore." She traces the lines of his collarbone with her fingertips, her eyes not on his. "You hear me? If you need forgiveness, then just stop. Stop looking. Stop putting yourself in the crosshairs. We'll figure out something else."

His chest tightens at the touch of her fingers, the strident belligerence in her voice, the difference between the way she's caressing him and the way her voice sounds.

"Okay," he says, lifting his hands to stroke her back, letting himself touch her again.

"Okay?" she murmurs, an eyebrow raised. "See how easy that was, Castle? You couldn't have told me this any time before now?"

"Probably should have."

"Uh-huh," she says, and then her mouth closes over his, light and delicate. She lifts up to look at him, and the vulnerability in her eyes makes him breathless. "You probably should have. And I probably should have called you last summer, probably should have let you help, probably should have spoken up about what I remembered. So we're even, Castle."

"My one to your three? How is that even?"

She laughs and smiles down at him, her fingers curling in the hair at his temples. "Hush. Go with it. We're letting each other off the hook."

He grins and lifts his head up to kiss her, her lips so warm and encouraging, her body draped over his.

She breaks away from him, cradling his face, then slides her hands down his chest, lifts herself off of him.

"Where you going?"

"I'm hungry. And I think your mom has been hovering out there, waiting to talk to you."

He groans and slaps a hand over his face. "Are you kidding me?"

"I got up to go to the bathroom and I'm pretty sure she scurried off-"

"Oh jeez, this is mortifying."

But Kate laughs and pries his hand away from his eyes, tugs him to a sitting position. "It's not so bad. She's just looking out for you. When she asks you if I'm sure, you can tell her-"

Castle stops her with a rough kiss, his hand at the back of her neck. When he pulls away, she's smiling again. "I'll tell her you're sure. And that you love me."

She bites her lip, still grinning. The moon washes out the lines of her face, makes her look like the woman he met four years ago. Just for a second. And then she grins, the curls in her hair slide over her shoulder as she reaches for him.

"I do love you," she echoes. "So - nothing to worry about."

Kate watches him leave the room, slides his tshirt on over her head. It smells like fresh laundry. She puts her nose to her shoulder, closes her eyes, but her stomach growls.

Okay. Midnight snack, now that he's waylaid his mother.

She gets to her feet, trips over the edge of the comforter in the floor, has to catch herself on the doorway with a huff of breath. Ow. Her knee smarts. She probably bruised it; she smacked it hard.

Her back is bruised too. And other things ache. She bites her lip to hold back a laugh, heads out through his study-

He said he was working on her mother's case.

She pauses in the darkness, eyes flickering over his desk. Did he - is it here? The things he's found, has he just piled them up in a file folder or has he made his own murder board, just like hers, hidden in the window?

She lifts her eyes to the dark night just beyond, but of course there's no timeline, no photographs, no red question marks. Somewhere else then.

"You looking for it?"

She startles and glances over her shoulder, sees him in the doorway. She sighs. "Sort of."

He says nothing to that, just sighs and drops his head.

"Not like you think, Castle," she murmurs, ignoring the desk and heading for him. "Just wondering."

"But that's how it starts, right?" he says, lifting his head as she gets closer. "How it always starts. Just wondering."

"Yeah," she admits, her chest tightening at the resignation on his face. "It does. It starts like that."

"You see now why I didn't tell you."

Of course she does. She understands better than he might think. She knows how she gets. And after she was shot, she would've - well, if he had asked her to stop, she would have stopped. She really would have. Because she knew then that he loved her, knew he'd only ask because it was important. It might have taken her some time to let it go, but. . .

Yeah, he maybe should've have told her.

"Do you want to see it?"

"Yeah." She presses her lips together, her throat thick, closing up. "Yeah, but no. Don't show me."

"Kate," he sighs. "This won't work with us if I'm holding out. It makes it unbalanced."

She steps in closer, her fingers closing around his wrists, his hands limp at his sides. "Show me later then."

"I'll have to."

"I know."

"I don't want to."

"I know."

"But you need to see it," he continues. "And it's not fair of me to hide it from you."

"Yeah," she sighs, leaning into him to press her lips to his neck. "But can you feed me first?"

He chokes on a laugh. "Yeah. I can do that."

"You talk to your mother?"

"I told her to make herself scarce."

"Castle," she laughs, glances over his shoulder as if she might see his mother sneaking up the stairs.

"You sure you don't want to see it now?"

"We'll look at the case after you feed me. Actually, no, revise the agenda-"

"The agenda?" he laughs.

"I got plans for you." She grins at him, lifts up on her toes to kiss his mouth. "Let's eat first, then look at this sometime in the morning. But only after I've had my wicked way with you tonight."

He laughs at her, but his arms crush her against him, his mouth in her hair. "I love you."

Her heart catches; she draws her arms up to tighten around his ribs, holding on. When she opens her eyes, he's stroking the hair back from her face, so tender and reverent and happy.

How happy he is.

"God, I love you, Kate."

She smiles at him. "I hear you."

"Finally," he smirks.

She thumps his ear, then uses her thumb to trace the edge of his lip. She leans in to kiss him softly. "I love you too."

A/N: Sorry for the delay in posting - I got a sinus infection/allergy cold and it has only now let up. Whew, I can sort of breathe again.

Also, if you've subscribed to my ebook, Fences, there was a small delay in getting a login email. Apparently gmail shut down the publishers' accounts! But they've transferred everything over, and it should be working. If you still haven't received a subscriber login, then please contact me.

If you haven't read the free first chapter of my ebook, please do! (Take out the spaces): fences1saybooks . pressbooks . com/