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However long the night, the dawn will break.

~African proverb


He wakes all at once, consciousness startling him with its swiftness. The light trickling through her half open blinds is a sickly grey, the sun struggling to rise from its nightly respite. Stretching out an arm, his fingers grasp at the empty space where her body should be and he sighs, pushes up onto one elbow. The waning moonlight bends around the dent in her pillow, a lake of silver and shadows. He runs his finger through the divot, finds it cold and stiff.

With a low groan, Castle pulls himself out of the bed, body far less alert than his mind. He knows he needs to go find her but his feet are lead weights attached to the bottom of his legs, holding him firmly in place as he sways in the middle of her bedroom, his skin prickling in the early morning chill. Fumbling, he snags his t-shirt from the foot of the bed, fights his arms and head into the seemingly misplaced holes. Running a hand over his two day old stubble, he finally moves, makes his way out into her apartment.

Sometimes he thinks his blood has been magnetized to respond to the electrical field that sizzles around her body; it pulls him unerringly in her direction, a liquid divining rod that always hits its mark. He finds her standing in front of the window, a blue index card clutched firmly in her right hand.

"Kate -" His voice is strangled, the air in his lungs evaporating as he takes in the window. The shutters are bare, tiny piles of pictures and post-it notes stacked neatly at each corner Three of the four panes are empty as well, the dusty outlines of the removed cards and pictures glinting dimly in the yellow lamp light. He watches as she carefully folds over the piece of tape that was so recently affixing the card to the window and then places it with its fellows, lining the edges of the pile up neatly.

She doesn't answer him, doesn't turn around, just reaches out and plucks another card from her makeshift murder board, head tilted down. Castle moves up behind her slowly, carefully. His heart beats an erratic tattoo against his ribs, his lungs filling up with questions he's too scared to ask, unsure if he really wants the answers. Gently, he places a hand on her hip, the warmth of her skin caressing his palm through the thin cotton of her sleep shorts.

"Kate," he starts again, lips brushing against the sheet of hair spilling down over the side of her face, "it's six am. What are you doing?"

Her fingers close around his wrist and she tugs, pulling his arm low around her waist. Castle shuffles closer until his chest is pressed firmly against her back and he can feel her breathing, lungs expanding and relaxing in a slow, easy rhythm. She flips the card in her fingers, this one pink, and places it on top of the stack, tapping the leading edge until she's satisfied with the alignment. Her hand sneaks back to grasp his, slim fingers cool as they slip between his own. He lets her pull his arm around to join the other, her palm pressed to the back of his hand, fingers entwined.

"I couldn't sleep." Her voice is soft but strong and she leans back into his embrace, hair whispering against the side of his neck. "I woke up and I just - I needed it gone, Castle." He tightens his fingers around hers and waits, knows there's more she needs to say. She sucks in a deep breath when his lips skim over the ridge of her cheek and he watches her eyes slip closed. "I can't do it anymore. I can't walk past this everyday and - I need to put it away. For you. For us."

"I would never ask you-"

"Yes, you would." She cuts him off, the back of her head digging into his shoulder as she turns and presses her forehead into his cheek. "You have. And that's why I have to do this. It's not just for you." Her breath is hot as it skirts the front of his throat and he swallows thickly, pushes away the fear creeping up his spine. "I'm finally where I want to be. I've made peace with her death and am trying to move forward with my life. I want to be able to live in the present. I want to think about my future, not my past." Her fingers loosen around his and Castle tightens his grip on her waist, unwilling to let her pull away. She lifts her left hand and lays it gently along his cheek, her thumb sliding down to caress the underside of his jaw. "I want you to be able to look at me and know that I'm here. That I'm not going to run away the moment this comes up again."

"The case is still open, though, Kate. It will come up again."

"I know," she breathes, tilting her head back to brush her lips over the ropey tendon stretching down the side of his neck. "I know. And when that happens, we'll look into it. Together." She turns in the circle of his arms, her lips never abandoning their connection with his skin. Her tank top twists around her stomach, riding up to expose a thin strip of perfect, pale skin that he can't help but drag his fingers over. "But I don't need to live with it every day anymore. I want to live, Castle, not just exist."

He surges forward, lips colliding roughly with the corner of her mouth. Kate moans softly and tilts her head, bending her lips around his impatient need. She kisses him deeply, her tongue scraping along the ridges of his teeth, the length of her body pressed tightly against his. Restlessness sets in in his arms and he answers the call, smooths his hands over the plane of her back, fingers kneading into the tense muscles as she pushes up on her toes, chasing his mouth.

"I love you," he pants into her kiss, breaking off to trail down her cheek. The sharp line of her jaw slices at his tongue, fills his mouth with a watery desire. More. He needs more of her. All of her. Now. "Kate, I -"

"I know." Her fingers slip under the hem of his shirt and push, nails scraping hard over his stomach. "I know, Castle." Leaning back, she runs her hands up his chest, the soft cotton of his t-shirt pooling around her wrists. He lets her tug the shirt over his head, a gasp hanging in his throat when her lips fall to his chest, open and wet. Wanting.

Castle tosses his shirt on the armchair nestled in the corner of the room and yanks her closer, his hands gripping her ass firmly, hips colliding. She retaliates with a harsh nip to his collarbone, her teeth piercing and savage. Kate's hands skim down his back until her fingers bump into the elastic waist of his boxers; he can feel her lips curve into a smile against his skin as she slips underneath, trails her fingers lightly over the curve of his ass. With a feral growl, he rips her shirt off and tosses it after his own; her breasts are hot and heavy against his chest as he walks her back, his hands pushing at the tiny shorts still wrapped around her hips.

Kate grunts into his mouth when she connects with the wall, a shiver skittering through her body when he lifts her up and settles her on the deep ledge in front of the window. Her lips are swollen and raw, eyes bottomless with naked desire and need. For him. Castle's heart clenches and he slows for a moment, dragging the back of one finger over the hollow of her cheek. She stares back at him, her face and body open, skin glowing softly in the ever shifting light. Her fingers rest against the side of his neck, thumb brushing through the hollow between his collarbones.

"I love you." It's barely a whisper, more air than sound. Castle leans in and rests his forehead against hers, a hiccuping breath caught somewhere between his lungs and throat. "I love you," she repeats, the words washing over his parted lips as he struggles to gentle his stampeding heart. "I'm here." Her hand slips up into his hair, fingers curling against the back of his skull. "I promise. I'm here."

He swallows her vow with a fierce kiss, his tongue prying her lips apart, stealing the words that swirl at the back of her throat. Kate pushes at his boxers with her toes and he shoves them off one handed, unwilling to break with her body. A wet moan explodes in the air around them as he tilts her hips back and pushes into her and he's not sure whether it's hers or his but the sound drives him forward, sends him careening over the thin edge of his control. The hand in his hair clenches rhythmically as he pumps into her, his body bowing violently over hers. Her free hand hits the ledge, scattering the carefully arranged piles of her past, sending them flying over the edge and fluttering to the floor.

She bites his name into the curve of his neck, her hips rocking hard against him. Her orgasm rolls over him swiftly, again and again, pulling him deeper. Higher. Farther. He stutters into her, his mouth locked tightly around the hard slope of her shoulder. His eyes flutter as the pleasure starts, thin tendrils of dawn creeping through the bare glass of the window, bathing them both in the warm light of a new day.