Disclaimer: last time I checked, definitely not mine. I'm not sure I could do as good a job as they're doing this season, anyway.

Author's Note: So the long and short of this chapter, which I started out thinking would be a short couple of scenes, is that I seem to be incapable of writing anything short. That said, this is I hope part one of four, and I think that the title of the series will hopefully give you a pretty good idea of what's coming next. This particular chapter is what happened between episodes one and two, during her suspension. Thanks to Tammy for being the one I bounced this whole idea off, you're a star. Just one request from you all. I love reading every single one of your reviews, but I'm absolutely, completely spoiler free and loving it so if you could please not tell me about anything that's coming up, I'll love you forever. Requests over, I really hope you enjoy and would love to hear what you think, so on with summer in the Hamptons!

1. Summer

She's lying by his pool.

Kate Beckett. Bikini-clad Kate Beckett at that, is lying by his pool in the Hamptons.

It's like all his dreams have come true at once.

There was a time when he never thought this day would come. Never thought he would see her here, lying on a sun lounger and sleeping in his bed, sharing his world in a million other ways he truly thought were lost. Of course, he also never thought that she would be here battered and bruised, serving out a suspension and fresh out of a deal with the devil, but on the balance of things he'll take the positive over the negative.

Because this new and awkward and unnaturally comfortable fledgling relationship needs a chance to float before it can sink, after all.

And so after she had agreed earlier in the week that given the sudden and almost oppressive heat in the city, if she had to be suspended this really might be the perfect place, she had taken hesitant steps into his house, quiet and tired and more than a little bit strung out. Neither of them have quite lost that feeling, although the sight of her waking up (and doing a lot of things other than waking up) in his bed in the Hamptons has been doing wonders for him.

He hopes it's done the same for her, and judging by the fact that as he crosses the terrace she seems to be asleep, he thinks that might just be the case.

That said, she is lying by the pool at his house in the Hamptons in a very barely there black bikini, and sleep be damned he's only human. Curling his fingers gently around her ankle, he chuckles as her leg twitches slightly and she levels a sun and sleep dampened glare on him, pulling an earbud from her ear.

"Hi," he murmurs softly, reaching forward to pluck the iPad from her hands and grinning at her as he turns it off and sets it on the table.

"I was reading that, you know," she murmurs, eyebrow arched even as she props herself up on an elbow to accept the kiss he offers her.

"Sure you were, sleepyhead," he counters, deflecting her easily as she swats at his arm. "But it's my turn to read now," he adds, fingers sliding up her thigh, her smooth skin slick with her sunscreen and the heat as he reaches the crease of her thigh, "and there's still plenty more of you for me to read."

"Should've… known," she gasps, her knees falling open for him as his knuckles brush against her, "even your dirty talk would be literary."

"So hot when you say literary," he tells her, easing his fingers under material he knows isn't damp from the pool and sliding his finger into her smoothly. "Especially when you're this wet, Kate," he groans, pressing his thumb to her clit as he picks up a slow, thrusting rhythm with his finger that he already knows is guaranteed to drive her to distraction.

"Castle," she moans breathlessly, confirming his theory as he slides a second finger into her, her voice hoarse and thready as she writhes against his hand.

"Or that," he murmurs, curling his fingers as he presses his thumb beneath her clit until she all but whimpers, "the way you say my name, when you're desperate to fall." He punctuates his sentence with a twist of his fingers as her muscles clench almost violently around his fingers that has her falling apart easily, whimpering his name as she writhes against the sun lounger. He chuckles softly, slowing his pace and stroking her gently through her orgasm, thumb grazing gentle circles over her clit as she gasps out his name again, shuddering.

She could go again in a heartbeat but he smiles, gentling her until he can rest his palm flat against her stomach and let her ride the fading ebbs of her orgasm all by herself. Sometimes she opens her eyes and lets him really see her as she falls apart, but there are other times, times like this afternoon, when her eyes stay firmly shut and he feels like he's witness to something that's entirely more intimate.

Because watching her come when she trusts him enough to shut him out is one of the most beautiful things he's ever seen.

Her hips eventually still against his hand and he smiles, rubbing his thumb low against her belly with a touch meant to soothe rather than arouse. She opens hazy eyes to him eventually, taking a moment to focus on him before her lips curl into the soft, satisfied smile that she only ever gives him right after he's made her come entirely apart.

"I think you've read that bit already," she murmurs, sounding more than a little bit wrecked but proud of herself all in the same sentence and he laughs but oh, no one's ever got him this way quite like she does and really he's so in love with her that it's a little bit embarrassing, isn't it?

Literary dirty talk and all.

Her fingers curling round his wrist snap him out of it, and when he lifts his eyes her gaze has softened even further, almost like she knows exactly what he's thinking… and she's a detective. She probably does.

Sliding a hand under her back, he helps her move into a sitting position. There's a particularly stubborn bruise on her back that won't disappear even after all this time, and he fingers it gently as she lifts up and into him, her body limp and boneless as she drapes her arms over his shoulders. He presses his palm warmly against the bruise on her back and she nuzzles her nose into his neck in response, breathing deeply and he just… it just wants out.

"God, I love you."

"Hey," she whispers softly, warm arms snaking around his back as she pads up behind him a few hours later, quiet on her bare feet. He feels her push up on her tiptoes, her nose pressing into the skin of his neck just like it had earlier. Reaching a hand down, he curls his fingers around her wrist, squeezing gently as she presses a soft kiss to his neck. "Thanks for dinner," she whispers, leaning around a little to press her lips to his jaw before dropping back onto the balls of her feet. He doesn't know what it is about the height difference when she ditches the heels he's so used to, but it stirs a protective instinct in him that he knows he's actually only ever felt before where his daughter is concerned.

All he wants to do is keep her safe, even though she's shown him time and time again that she's more than capable of doing that all by herself. There's a side to her that he thinks she might only show him, and it just sparks something in him that he thought she'd hate and expected her to tolerate, but she actually adores.

Particularly when she's let him lay her down in his bed, soft and pliant and completely his, and have his way with her for the rest of the afternoon like she just has.

"You're welcome," he murmurs eventually, keeping hold of her fingers as she steps around him, leaning back against the window in front of him. She has on white shorts that make her legs go on forever, teamed with a loose, jet black silk top that flows over her curves and flutters against his skin as she slides her hands up his biceps, and he finds himself a little lost in her all over again because she's just so beautiful.

There are moments when they come together and it feels so right and so natural that he can't quite wrap his head around the idea that they haven't been like this for years. But as amazing as those moments are, there are still as many, if not more where this thing between them is still so awkward. In a fundamental way, they don't actually know how to talk to one another, and that's something that they're still working on.

They've spent so long putting the way they feel out of their minds, going out of their way to act professional around one another and not give into the attraction that curls around every moment they're together, that to suddenly be allowed to do all of that feels amazing, exhilarating, and like all his dreams have come true at once.

But at the same time, it feels awkward and forbidden and like something they're just not very good at. He allows himself a little smile at that, because neither of them are really very good at failing, which in his mind gives them pretty good odds.

Almost as if she's reading his mind, she nudges her hip gently against his. The intimacy of the gesture makes him shiver a little, but when he meets her gaze, her eyes look soft and pensive. Leaning down, he presses his lips softly against hers, tightening his arms a little around her waist and clasping his hands at the small of her back as she gentles in his arms, the pensive look fading a little as she trails her lips softly along his jaw.

It surprises him sometimes, just how affectionate she can be when the mood strikes her.

She can be confident and bossy and feisty as hell, but she can also be soft and sensual and affectionate, and he never would have expected it in a million years, but he finds the latter a million times more sexy because it feels like maybe she's only really ever been this way for him.

There's something she has to say to him though, and he smiles as her teeth graze his jaw, rubbing his thumb gently against the small of her back as he waits for her to find the words he can tell she's searching for.

"You said you love me," she whispers eventually, biting her lip lightly.

And there it is, the thing that they've been carefully dodging around since that moment by the pool. Even though she had stayed gentle and calm in his arms, kissing him in a way that more than spoke it back before letting him take her hand and lead her to his bed, it's been there between them all afternoon. She tilts her head up, eyes wide and more than a little bit scared, but he sees acceptance there too, battling for prominence. And so he nods slowly, hooking his arms a little tighter around her waist as he brushes his lips against hers, freeing her bottom lip from between her teeth.

"I did," he murmurs softly, smiling as she cants forward a little, her nose nudging his jaw as she sucks in a breath.

"You did," she repeats, tucking her arms between his and letting her small fingers span his sides, making him shiver. She bites down on the smile tugging at her lower lip at his reaction, pushing up to press an impulsive kiss against his lips. "You did," she says again, just a little more certain. A little more confident.

She hasn't said it yet, but in moments like this he doesn't really care. Because she shows him, even if she's not conscious of it.

"Did you think we'd be better at this?" she asks eventually, and again it's almost like she's reading his mind. She must see the grin that he can't quite hide, because she laughs even through the seriousness of her question. "Not that," she murmurs with amusement, "we're good at that." Brushing her thumb over his lips in a carelessly affectionate gesture that he's sure entirely contradicts the awkwardness of her words, she continues. "I mean this. The… relationship stuff." He can almost see her putting speech marks around the words, and she flicks his shoulder with her fingers before he can laugh. "Shut up."

"Kate, it's not even been two weeks," he tells her softly, cupping her cheek with his hand as she curls her fingers around his arm.

"I know," she sighs out, pushing up on her toes to replace her thumb with her lips, briefly. "But it's been four years too, Rick," she adds. "I guess I just always thought that maybe we'd skip the awkwardness when it eventually happened, but it's not… it is awkward, and I'm not so good with words, and I can't…"

"You will." He cuts her off fiercely, crowding her back against the windows so that he can kiss her properly, show her just how much they both feel. Show her how they can get through anything and come out stronger on the other side.

He doesn't intend it to start anything. He really doesn't.

But then her tongue tangles with his and his fingers slide up her thigh and suddenly he can't imagine it not starting anything.

"Castle," she gasps, her head thudding against the window behind her as her breath gets stuck in her throat. He groans, grazing his teeth against her neck as he tugs on her thigh, lifting her leg up to wrap around his hip as he pushes even closer.

"Tinted," he lets out against her neck, groaning at the indecent roll of her hips against his. The windows. He knows her well enough to know what she's worried about. "They're tinted."

"Then what are you waiting for?" she manages, her fingers hot and insistent against his zip. Her loose fitting linen shorts are easier to deal with, and he pops the button easily, dipping his fingers down and into the heat of her, swallowing her needy whine with his lips. "Cas…oh," she whimpers, finally yanking his zip down and tugging him free, her fingers curling greedily around him. He doesn't care that she's a little less smooth than usual, fumbling in her need for him even as he hikes her other leg up around his waist and sinks into her in one thrust, never happier with her choice of clothing.

Because he's exactly the same. Just as awkward, just as fumbling in the way that he wants her.

She's whimpering and incoherent against him as he rocks her back into the window, her arms vices around his neck as she clings on through the sensations flooding her body and making her clench around him with every thrust.

"Come on, Kate," he breathes against her ear, shifting the angle of his thrusts to hit the spot that he's watched drive her wild before. Her answering shudder tells him just how on the mark he is. "You're so close," he whispers hoarsely, pressing her a little further into the window and shifting his angle to free one of his hands from her hip. Dipping his fingers between them, he rubs tight, precise circles on her clit as he thrusts into her, touching her just the way he already knows she loves.

Intense and pressured.

She falls apart around him on an incoherent cry, her fingers clenching uncontrollably against his shoulders in perfect sync with the clenching of her muscles around him, her calves pressing into the back of his thighs as she pulls his orgasm from him right along with hers.

And he loses track of time, for a while.

It's only to be expected when she's around. Or around him.

When he can finally blink the haze from his eyes and focus, she has her feet planted on the ground again and her fingers are soft and gentle against his thigh as she tidies them both up, fastening buttons and dragging up zips with a quiet focus that it always amazes him that she can find. Her lips quirk upward a little when he slides a palm up to cup the back of her head, and she lets a full grin slide free.

"Hey there," she murmurs, pushing up to brush her lips against his, her breath still slightly laboured as she laughs softly. "Kind of adorable when you space out like that," she murmurs against his lips, sounding embarrassed even as she admits it.

"I feel like I can't get enough of you," he whispers, sliding his arms a little tighter around her as she lays her head against his shoulder. "Where did that even come from?"

"I think that was you," she counters, grinning softly. "You were the one who suddenly had me up against the window." There's no complaint in her voice, only sated pleasure, and he can't help himself grinning.

"Yeah," he murmurs proudly, letting his fingers settle against the small of her back under her shirt as he feels her heartbeat finally start to steady. "But you only had me less than an hour ago," he continues, grinning as he feels a shiver slip through her body, followed by the resulting spike in her heartbeat.

"We napped," she murmurs back, her lips barely brushing his collarbone. "That counts as a rest period." He can't help himself laughing and she pinches his side, even as she chuckles herself. "Are you really saying that you need to justify the frequency of our sex life?"

"No, no," he splutters instantly, squeezing her waist as she laughs at him. "Forget I even asked."

"If you were trying to prove me wrong though, you certainly did a pretty convincing job," she offers, smiling softly.

"We'll get there," he murmurs back, breathing in the scent of her shampoo as she relaxes against him. "We've both made mistakes and done things to hurt one another, and that's going to take a while to get past. I think I'd be more worried if it was all smooth sailing, because that would probably mean we weren't dealing with things."

"When did you get to be so smart?" she asks, sounding surprised and proud all at the same time. "Or how did I misjudge you so badly at the start?"

"You were working off what I gave you," he murmurs, smiling wryly. He's more than aware of his faults at the start of their partnership. "I gave you ruggedly handsome but reckless playboy author, what else could you possibly have taken from that?"

"Certainly not this," she murmurs softly, pushing up to brush another kiss against his lips. "I'm glad you've proved me wrong, though."

"Keep doing it, if you'll let me," he murmurs, smiling softly at the grin that breaks across her face.

"I'd like that," she whispers, curling her fingers around his neck. There's a slight bounce in her movement that tells him she might still have something to say though, and when she pushes up on her toes to brush a kiss to his lips before murmuring "time out?" he realises. Nodding, he mentally braces himself for whatever she's about to reveal that he can't react to.

She had started it their very first night together, when she realised that she had to tell him about the fight and her injuries and about quitting her job. They've kept it going ever since, and somehow, simple as it is, it's proved a balm for the often painful conversations they've had to have.

She has a habit of springing it on him out of the blue, though.

"I was going to come out here, that weekend," she murmurs. It takes him a moment to process her words, and before he can respond to that hell of a revelation that hurts a little bit more than he wants to admit because damn he was an idiot back then, she has cool, gentle fingers pressed to his lips. "Time out," she tells him softly. "Remember the rules. It's over and done and there's nothing either of us can do to change it now. You just… you deserved to know, and now I want you to kiss me." Her voice is soft and gentle and he's reeling, but he kisses her.

Can't do anything else when she's looking at him like that.

"We would've crashed and burned back then," she whispers eventually, her nose nudging the sensitive spot behind his ear as she nuzzles in close. "Look at us now. We're awkward and messy and hanging on by the tips of our fingers at times… sorry," she whispers, as they both wince at the associated imagery, "sorry. But think what we would've been like then, Rick."

"Thought time out was only valid for the thought it revealed, and by its very nature precluded any form of analysis," he murmurs absently, lips brushing her forehead because he's trying to digest everything and he doesn't really have anything else to say. She shivers and leans back against his hands where they're clasped at her back, lifting soft eyes to his.

"Mmm, my bad," she murmurs, picking up on his unconscious need to lighten the mood as she smiles. "And seeing as you expressed it so…eloquently, maybe I can make it up to you."

"By all means," he answers, tugging her close as she laughs softly. "Be my guest." She reaches up to seal her lips to his, winding her arms around his neck

"That's not the kind of making up I was talking about," she whispers, pressing a final quick kiss against his lips before dropping back down on her feet. He moves, sliding one hand to cradle the back of her neck as she looks up at him. That softness is back in her eyes, accentuated by the smile that tugs at the corner of her lips when she wants to tell him she thinks he's adorable but knows she shouldn't. "Tell me again," she whispers suddenly, looking as surprised by her words as he is.

Tell her… oh.

Tell her, and she'll make it up to him.

Does she mean…

"I love you, Kate," he whispers, feeling his heart start to beat a thousand times over in his chest as he watches her take the words in, her lips growing into that full smile that she only ever gives him when she thinks he's not looking.

"I love you too, Rick," she tells him on an exhale of breath, and he can feel her fingers shaking where they barely touch the back of his neck. He doesn't want to say anything. Not a word, not a single word to spoil the magic of the moment she's created for him. Given to him. "Wow," she breathes eventually, breaking the silence as she moves one hand to brush the tips of her fingers against his lips. "I haven't said that to anyone in a really long time."

"Feels pretty amazing when it's with the right person," he murmurs, kissing her fingers, "doesn't it?"

"Mm," she hums in agreement, lifting up to kiss him lightly. "Don't go getting too used to it," she whispers, grinning softly. "Just 'cause you got me into your bed doesn't mean I'm going to turn into some…girl."

"Wouldn't want you any other way," he grins, brushing a thumb against the corner of her eye as he kisses her again, because he knows that no matter how vehemently she might deny it, there's a lot more girl in her than she thinks.

And he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Such a… momentous," she murmurs, pressing her lips to his again as she pauses, "declaration, surely deserves some form of celebration, wouldn't you say?"

"I most certainly would," he murmurs, giving her back the gift of lightening an intense moment and grinning as he crowds her back towards the couch. Four little words stop him though; make him draw her back into his arms before she can tumble down onto the cushions. Because she just said she loves him, and surely that deserves more than a quick roll on his couch. She comes back to him easily, lifting up to press her lips lightly against his jaw with a smile.

I love you, too.

Wow. She really got that description right.

"We could always just cuddle, Castle," she murmurs eventually, her eyes wide and innocent as she watches him. He startles in surprise at the familiar words and she laughs at him, her eyes soft even as she's pushing him down, straddling his hips. "Guess you're not the only one who remembers things we've said, huh?" she murmurs, seconds before her lips catch his.

"Hot," he murmurs past a groan as she rolls her hips in oh, just the right way. "You're so…"

"Hot?" she asks, with a quirk of her lips. "Really, that's all you got? I tell you I love you back, and all you got is hot?"

"Oh that's nothing close to all I've got for you, baby," he leers, grinning widely at the honest to god giggle that escapes her lips.

Because Kate Beckett, fresh out of saying I love you and giggling, might be better than anything else he could dream up.