I just can't resist these post-ep fics! This season is so good! I literally just spend my days fangirling and writing fic. What have you done to me, Andrew Marlowe?

It doesn't hit him until later.

His mother is in bed upstairs and he's in his study trying to write but Alexis, his little girl, she's—

Not his little girl anymore. She's gone. Well, only five miles away, but it might as well be five hundred because she's not in her bedroom. He can't go check on her like he's done almost every night since she was a baby.

He sits there staring at the picture he keeps next to his computer, her little girl profile, her short legs, her puffy jacket, her head tipped back to look at him, her daddy, and him canting towards her, his large hand wrapped gently around her little fingers.

He closes his eyes, remembering that day and all the days like it. They seem so far away and he knows he shouldn't dwell on it, but he kind of can't help it.

He's a wreck.

He picks up his phone without thinking about it and calls her, because he knows, he knows, she'll make him feel better. Just hearing her voice will—

"Castle?"

Oh. He loves her. "Kate," he says, his voice quiet, a little rough. "How-how are you?"

"Your voice is weird," she says. He can hear her breathing, puffing a little, like she's walking up steps. "Castle, are you crying?"

"No," he says. Not yet. "I just…I said I'd call so…"

"You miss her."

Shit. He does. He really does. But be doesn't know how to talk about this without breaking apart. "Kate, I can't…I'm not sure…"

He trails off, but before he can gather his thoughts, quiet his scrambled brain, he's interrupted by a knock at the door. "Huh. Someone's at the door."

"Yeah," she says, laughing a little. "Let me in."

"It's you?"

He swings open the door before she can answer his mostly-rhetorical question. She grins at him, tucks her phone into the pocket of her jacket. "It's me," she murmurs.

He smiles, wraps his arms around her waist. Tugs her over the threshold, reaching out a hand to push the door shut behind her. "I'm so glad you're here," he breathes into her hair.

She hums softly, her lips at his neck, her fingers carding softly through the hairs at the back of his neck. "Thought you might like some company."

"Always. I always want your company."

He feels her smile against his collarbone. "That's pretty cheesy, Castle, even for you."

"I'm a mess," he admits, huffing out a slightly strained laugh. "My own thoughts sound like a crappy Hallmark card."

"That's terrible," she says dryly, but when she pulls back to meet his eye her gaze is mostly tender. She understands. She won't tease him for breaking down when his daughter is only five miles away. It's the principle of the thing. She gets it.

"What do you want to do?"

He gives her a crooked smile and tugs her close again, burying his face in her hair. "Cuddle," he whimpers pathetically.

"Castle."

He pulls back smiling. Quirks an eyebrow at her. "Sex?"

She grins. "Much better."

"What kind of woman would rather have sex than cuddle?"

"The awesome kind," she says cheekily.

He squeezes her hips lightly, his thumbs slipping under the hem of her shirt and brushing across the smooth skin of her stomach. "Mmm, you're right," he mutters. "How did I get so lucky?"

She tilts her head to the side, pretending to consider. Her hands are warm and sure as they slide down his chest, unbuttoning his shirt as she goes. "Don't know Castle. Maybe I'm just in it for the sex."

"I don't believe you," he declares.

"Ah, you caught me," she says, eyes bright with mischief. "I'm actually in it for the cuddling after all."

He chuckles, but the sputters out when she parts his shirt and presses her hands to his bare skin. "Cuddling," he whispers lowly. "Right. And the handshakes."

"Oh, I love the way you shake my hand."

He growls a little at the dark husk of her voice, bowing his head to capture her lips in a searing kiss, nipping teeth and the hot slide of his tongue against hers.

"This helping?" she gasps as he grabs the edge of her shirt and yanks it over her head.

He doesn't answer, just nudges her forward with his body until her back hits the door. He presses a thigh between her legs and she lets out a choked moan, dropping her forehead to his shoulder, her hips rocking against his leg automatically.

"Guess so," she murmurs breathlessly, reaching for the button on his jeans, undoing it quickly.

She yanks on his pants impatiently, but doesn't get that far because their bodies are plastered together, legs tangled, absolutely no room to maneuver out of clothes. She lets out an impatient whine, feeling it build in her, everything, the way it always does when they end up doing this against his door.

It never fails to remind her of that night, the first night, the desperation, fringed with frustration and the love oh the love that cracked open in her chest and spilled out. She came undone that night and she doesn't think she'll ever fully recover. She doesn't really want to anyway.

"Castle," she gasps, her lips at his ear, her chest heaving against his. "Castle, clothes."

"I don't—"

He stops, kisses her instead, hard and insistent and desperate, and she realizes suddenly that he needs this, needs the quick, dirty encounter against the door. Anything softer and he'd break apart at the seams.

She's more than happy to comply, but she does push him back long enough to push his shirt of his shoulders, revealing the smooth expanse of his chest, the firm muscle that ripples under her touch. He presses closer then and she sighs because that's really what she wanted, the whole reason she got rid of the shirt—the press of his bare skin against her bare skin, the heat, the connection.

He grips her hips and rocks her against his leg again and she sinks down against him with a low moan, her mouth open against his shoulder, her palms pressing into his back.

The buildup is quick after that, their hips rising to meet each other, the friction just right to make her trip over the edge, her body breaking apart against him. He follows her in the next breath, his body relaxing, pressing into hers.

He presses his forehead to hers, his breath ghosting across her face, and she lifts her hands, rests them against his cheeks, watching him, waiting on him.

He closes his eyes and slips his arms around her waist, pulling her tight against his body, his face buried in her hair.

"I can't believe she's gone," he whispers.

"I know," she murmurs and holds him.

They lie under the covers in his bed, facing each other, heads resting on opposite ends of the same pillow. She's close enough to touch and he likes it that way, likes the way her body feels under his hands, soft and boneless and relaxed.

"She doesn't hate you, you know," he murmurs suddenly.

She opens her sleepy eyes a little wider, pushing back sleep so she can focus on him. "Who?"

"Alexis," he says. "She doesn't hate you. She was just scared of leaving and you were just…the scapegoat."

She lets out a long relieved breath, lifts a hand from the mattress to press against his chest. "Thank god," she says finally, smiling. "That would've been…bad."

He frowns. "Bad?"

"She's your daughter, Castle," she tells him, like that's all the explanation necessary.

"I'm aware of that fact."

She rolls her eyes at him. "If she hated me then we…we might've…"

"I wouldn't have left you, Kate," he says, his tone suddenly serious when he realizes what she's implying. "We would've worked it out."

She looks at him, her eyes bright and still a little unsure. "I want her to like me," she says, her voice soft and uncharacteristically vulnerable.

Something catches in his chest, suddenly needing so badly to reassure her. "She does like you."

"She doesn't know me," she says, sounding angry with herself. She rolls onto her back, away from him and he resists the urge to pull her back. "It's my fault. I-I didn't let myself get close to her, or Martha. It was…safer that way."

"Safer?" he questions.

"Safer for me," she says. "You were important to me, but for a long time I was almost certain it would never work out, that I would mess it up."

"So you were okay with breaking my heart but not my daughter's?"

She turns towards him, her gaze startled as it settles on his face. "Castle," she breathes and there's so much pain in her eyes he immediately regrets ever saying anything. But then she rolls towards him. Tucks her head under his chin. "I-I never wanted to break your heart."

He sighs, presses his lips to her forehead. "I know."

"I wanted you. I wanted you so much. Even if there was a part of me that thought it might be better to…to send you away, I couldn't do it. And maybe that was selfish. But I wanted any part of you I could get."

"I wouldn't have left," he tells her, not wanting her to live in regret, wanting her to know he was just as deep in it as she was. "If you had sent me away, I wouldn't have left."

"Stubborn," she breathes, tilting her mouth up to press against the underside of his jaw.

"Determined," he says and she laughs.

"Just so you know," she says, "seeing you everyday—it helped. It gave me something to work for, something to grow and change for. You and your family, actually."

"Really?" he asks, his voice soft and wondering, because he could've said the same thing to her.

"I wanted to be better for you," she tells him.

"You're far to good for me," he says.

She grins and leans up to kiss him, doesn't contradict him which makes him smile.

"What are you smiling at?"

"You," he says. "Us. A lot of people grow apart but we somehow managed to grow together."

She smirks at him. Hallmark card indeed. "You better not say anything about how we fit together like puzzle pieces."

He chuckles, the sound vibrating against her, transferring from his body to hers. "You're the cream to my coffee. The peanut butter to my jelly. The macaroni to my cheese."

"God, we are such a cliché," she sighs dramatically.

"Only if falling in love is cliché," he retorts, grinning at her so wide that his cheeks dimple.

She rolls her eyes. "Castle, you need to stop talking. At least until you rediscover your literary mojo."

"Deal," he says. "But I think all my other mojo is good. Maybe we should test it out and make sure."

She kisses him lightly, her eyes intent on his. "No cuddling?"

"Later," he promises. "We can cuddle and I'll whisper sweet nothings in your ear."

"Oh, God. You better make this good then."

He spins them on the bed, effectively pinning her against the mattress. She lets out a startled yelp, clutching at his shoulders, and he grins, presses a hard kiss to her mouth. "Challenge accepted."