It reminded her of baby powder, the way the soft cocoa drifted through the air and into her lungs, coating her mouth and nose with fine granules that smelt of comfort and cozy afternoons. Cozy afternoons had been baking with her mother, brownies that were so moist she'd been afraid they'd undercooked them, although Johanna Beckett's soft reassurances were that although theirs were perfectly baked, everyone enjoyed the indulgence of a little raw brownie now and again.

"Do you always let it get this out of control when you're baking?" Turning her head revealed more cocoa powder, a small pile beneath her cheek as she stretched out onto the smooth hardwood and caught the satisfied smirk as Castle languidly stretched his own limbs to wrap around her. "Or is this just a Kate Beckett seduction technique? 'How would you like to see my easy bake oven?'"

"Shut up." She kissed him gently, conscious of the gritty sugar that clung to his five o'clock shadow, the flour that coated his lips. "You're a bigger mess than I am."

"Tell that to the cocoa powder you've managed to work into every crevice I've had the pleasure of exploring." He wasn't one to mince words, her writer, and before she could stop him Castle had managed to dip down and gently work his tongue into her belly button. "Exhibit A. Or should I say 'B'. For belly button."

"I'm not interested in your kinky alphabet, Castle." But she was- she really was- and for all her intentions Kate Beckett was becoming well aware of the fact that freshly baked brownies were rapidly receding into the land of not-a-chance-in-hell. Then again few things had managed to remain in her world during the course of previous days, when bed and floor and shower walls took precedence over anything but air. Her suggestion to bake brownies had come at three am, when she'd woken up to his stomach growling and her own fierce need for a sugar high that could crash into something resembling a decent nights sleep.

The gentle nip to her thigh had her jolting back to reality, and her hand clamped onto his hair with an urgency she hadn't known until she'd come to his door and he'd thrown her against it. Desperate for something he'd wanted from her and something she'd wanted to give but hadn't known how. Until she'd resigned. Until death had dangled her from that rooftop and she'd screamed his name with more fear of never seeing him than falling so far down to die.

"Castle."

"Beckett." His face between her thighs, that goofy grin, and she nearly told him everything. That she hadn't just taken a day off, hadn't taken vacation time to roll around in bed, but was gone. Was no longer what he'd signed up for- a muse and a partner- but only a woman who wanted him for the man he was. At her expression he sobered, pulled up to his knees and kept his hands anchored on hers, waiting. "What is it?"

"I quit." Her hand reached up to stroke his face and she saw the fear strike into his eyes, a thunderclap of emotion so bare that she fought the urge to count the seconds before the lightning struck. He was afraid, she realized, of losing what he had so soon after gaining it, and she felt her own heart skip at knowing there was more pain to be caused with her wielding the sword. "Castle...I quit the force. I'm done."

"You quit...the force." The fear was replaced with something else, a reassuring calm that spread over his features and soothed her soul as she watched his shoulders slack, relax. "Beckett..."

"I'm yours now, Castle." Not a muse, not a partner...just yours. Her hand lingered on his cheek and he took it, placing a gentle kiss against the scratches on her palm, war wounds of her recent escape. His lips were so familiar now, so warm, like brownies, sunshine and the comfort of home, and Kate Beckett knew instinctively that she'd fight for every second to feel them on her own.

She'd fight like hell. Always.