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This day more cheerfully than ever shine

This day which might inflame thy selfe old Valentine

~ John Donne, Epithalamion Vpon Frederick Count Palatine and the Lady Elizabeth marryed on St. Valentines day

She can't stop smiling.

It reflects back at her from the mirror when she moves and every time she finds her lips spreading just a little more, the tight pressure in her cheeks increasing. The bubble of uninhibited joy floating her chest threatens to carry her off, her toes dragging across the floor as she floats through her apartment, the bright glow of her smile lighting up the darkness. Turning to face the mirror, Kate lifts her hand, traces the tip of her index finger along the deep curve of her mouth. She'd been nervous about his present for days. Weeks, actually. Ever since she'd walked out of the loft on December twenty-sixth, the weight of her discovery sitting heavily on her chest.

He'd been squirreling away random pieces of her clothing for months. A shirt here, a pair of yoga pants there. It'd taken her an embarrassingly long time to notice, to realize that she had left her clothes, her mark, in his home. She'd found them - a neat little pile that smelled like a delicious combination laundry detergent and him - stacked in his linen closet, the folded edges pressed up against his spare towels. Neither of them said anything when she walked back into his bedroom wearing a shirt she hadn't seen in two months, her legs covered in the mistletoe pajama pants he'd given her, claiming that novelty items didn't count as gifts.

The nightstand on what she'd come to think of as his side of the bed had been her first stop when she arrived home. Her bag bounced off the chair in the corner as she pulled open the bottom drawer, found nothing more than a single pair of his boxers and two wrinkled t-shirts. With the shirts clutched in her fist, Kate sunk down onto the bed, the duvet cold against her thighs and the pillows collapsing under her weight.

The utter lack of his presence in her home made her chest ache. He'd never said anything. She'd never noticed. Three pieces of clothing, a disposable razor, and a spare toothbrush. That was it. All the evidence of him.

Of them.

After dumping the contents of her bag out on the bed, she'd gathered up all the soiled clothes and carted them to her laundry room, tossed his in with hers. The thought of their clothes rolling around together in her washing machine made her heart flutter and Kate scoffed at herself, shook her head in an attempt to erase the ridiculously cheesy thought. He'd done this to her; with his soft hands and wide smile, his deep eyes and romantic words, he'd tapped into her, found the vein of romanticism she worked so hard to keep hidden and turned the knob. Once the flow started, there was no shutting it off.

She'd put it away after the new year, locked the fear behind a sturdy door and carried on with her life. With just enjoying what they had. She loved him. Loved that he was willing to take things at her pace, allowed her to determine their course and speed. It wasn't until her talk with Meredith that she admitted to herself what she'd already known. He would never ask her for more than she was willing or able to give. Never push or demand. And unless she was willing to take those steps on her own, he'd continue to hold himself back, only sharing with her what he thought she wanted. He'd erected his own walls long before they'd ever met and now it was her turn to go climbing.

Castle told her once that keeping one foot out the door made it hard to know where you stood. She didn't want to make him uncertain of his footing anymore. He needed to know there she stood. Where they stood. Once she'd gotten home, she'd sat down on the end of her bed and spent the rest of the night examining the contents of the room, rearranging it all over and over in her head in an effort to find the perfect spot for him.

She'd cleaned out the drawer earlier in the week, heart hammering in her chest the entire time. Worry bred in her lungs, flowed out into her veins, made her hands shake as she'd pulled the drawer out and emptied it of its contents. The tank tops and workout shorts were relocated easily, shoved into the bottom drawer with her pajama pants and the boxers and t-shirts she'd liberated from the nightstand. Her bottom lip was red and raw by the time she finished cleaning the drawer, wiping out all the stray fibers and polishing the wood, and slid it back into the dresser.

Despite her assertion that he was going to love her gift, that it might just be better than his, Kate spent the entire week with her stomach in knots. Couldn't stop the constant loop of fear and doubt running through her mind. Maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe it was too much. What if it didn't mean as much to him as it did to her? What if he didn't understand that by inviting him into her space, she was giving him another foothold on her heart? She'd almost run out and bought him something on at least three separate occasions.

She's so glad she didn't.

The way he looked at her when it had sunk in, when he realized what she was giving him and what it meant - She wants to put that look on his face more often. Wants to leave him stunned by the parts of herself she's willing to share, the things no one else is allowed to see. Has ever been allowed to see. She wants - needs - him to know that she's just as invested in this as he is. That she wants all the things she can see hidden in his eyes, the dreams he can no longer keep confined to his unconscious mind.

Kate runs her fingers through her hair one more time, scratching over her scalp, teasing the roots to inject a little volume. He loves her hair when it's unruly, falling into her face and brushing over his skin when she leans down to kiss him. Flipping off the light, she opens the bathroom door, ready to meet him in the bed and work on putting that stunned look back on his face.

A bright peel of laughter rings through her chest when she sees him still standing next to the open drawer, his shirt half off and the front of his pants hanging open. Walking over to him, she kicks his discarded shoes out of the way and reaches out, stilling his fumbling fingers. The sound he makes when he sees her, takes in the short satin robe with red lace peeking out at the top and the wild mane of her hair, makes her stomach flip, desire flooding hot through her abdomen.

"Havin' some trouble there, Castle?"

She hears him swallow when she pushes his hands out of the way, her fingers plucking at the buttons on his shirt, nails scraping over his skin as she slowly slides the discs from their holes. Castle groans when she leans forward and presses her mouth to his chest, her tongue outlining the gentle definition of his pec.

"I - Just got a little tangled up," he stutters, fingers gripping at her hips as she reaches the last button on his shirt.

Kate tosses him a saucy grin and skims her fingers around his middle, freeing the tail of his shirt from the loose waist of his jeans. His hands slide around to her back, pulling her closer until the cold silver of his belt buckle digs into her hip. Reaching behind herself, she grabs his left wrist and pulls it back around, his bent elbow nudging her ribs. She nips at the thick muscle along the outside of his hand and slips the button on his cuff, spreading the material with her chin as she drags her mouth over the base of his palm before sucking forcefully at the pulse she finds pounding in his wrist. His eyes go dark when she repeats the process on his other wrist, tongue flicking playfully over his skin.

Once free, Castle wraps his hand around her neck and pulls, swallows her moan when he sucks her bottom lip between his own and bites down hard. Kate runs her hands up his stomach and across his chest, a tremor of excitement rumbling through her body. Sometimes she still has trouble believing that she gets to touch him like this, gets to feel and taste all the parts of him that she had fantasized about for so long. Her fantasies had been detailed and explicit but nothing - oh, nothing had prepared her for the reality of him. The hard muscles of his chest and shoulders, the way they feel under her hands and thighs. How his ass, so high and round, fills her palms and supports her calves as she pulls him closer and begs for more. The strength in his thighs, the span of his hands, the deep dimples at the base of his spine. She loves his body. Loves how he can take her from feeling precious to powerful with just the twist of his hips and the sound of her name in his mouth.

Breaking the kiss, she cups her hands over his shoulders and slides her palms down the length of his arms, pushing the shirt off as she goes. Catching the warm fabric with the tips of her fingers, Kate quirks an eyebrow and lifts it up for him to see before slowly lowering it into the drawer, a blue puddle that laps at the edges, the tiny buttons shining like pearls in the low light.

"Now," she lets him pull her close again, runs her hands up the muscled plane of his back, "was that so hard?"

Castle hums, hands running over the satin of her robe as his mouth finds the crook of her neck. "I don't know. It still looks a little complicated to me." He licks his way up to her ear, traces the tip of his tongue over the shell. "And I have been known to be something of a slow learner. Perhaps you ought to show me again."

She gives him a breathy laugh and tilts her head to the side, an invitation she's extended many times before. Kate works her hands into the waistband of his boxers, the silk covered elastic slippery against the back of her fingers. Her knuckles curl reflexively when he bites down on the base of her neck, her nails digging sharply into his ass as his teeth and lips form a powerful vacuum against her skin.

"Don't you dare give me a hickey," she growls, shoving her hands all the way into his boxers and yanking, slamming his lower body into hers.

The pop is audible when he releases her, runs the flat of his tongue over the patch of tingling skin. "You have plenty of turtlenecks and scarves. That blue one looks great on you." He's back on her then, hands kneading at her hips as he sucks at her neck in earnest.

"You know the rule," she scolds, slowly working his boxers and pants down over his hips. "One hickey per week. You cashed in on Monday."

Castle leans back and catches her eye, a sly grin flirting with his lips. "The rule, Detective, is one potentially visible hickey per week." Kate sucks in a hard breath when his hand slides between their bodies, fingers slipping into her robe to caress the still purple patch of skin that rests high on her inner left thigh. She hasn't been able to cross her legs all week without thinking of his mouth and his fingers and the absolutely mind numbing things he did with them while she clung desperately to the hard edge of his desk, her knees bent tightly over his shoulders. "The one I gave you on Monday hardly fits that criteria."

Taking advantage of the angle of his body, Kate bends her knees and slides down, her mouth trailing over his stomach as she sinks to the floor, pulling his pants and boxers off as she goes. Gripping the edge of the dresser, Castle stares down at her with hungry eyes, tongue flicking out to wet his lips. She bites and licks at his thighs as she pushes the pants the rest of the way down, fingers sliding into the tight elastic at the tops of his socks. She tugs at his left ankle and Castle lifts his bent knee, allowing her to slide the layers down over his flexed foot. The right foot follows and Kate sits up straight on her knees again, the heavy mass of his pants clutched in her left fist as she presses her satin covered chest to his thighs.

She watches his knuckles blanch against the dark stain of her dresser as she draws a line of wet kisses over his hips and stomach, the fingers of her right hand fluttering lightly between his legs. Castle moans out her name, a dark and primal noise, when she drags the flat of her tongue up the length of his shaft before taking him into her mouth. The rough fabric of his jeans trapped between their skin, she grips his thigh with her left hand and wraps the other around his base as she takes him in, lips pulled tight around him. Her hips thrust into thin air, moving in time with her tongue and hand. Castle buries his hand in her hair, the tips of his fingers hooked over the base of her skull.

"Fuck, you are so good at that," he grunts, hips bucking slightly. Kate grins around him, sliding back to hold just his tip between her lips. She lets her hands drift back between his legs, cupping him in her palm as she leans forward again, letting him fill her mouth. Castle howls out a strangled cry that shoots straight to her throbbing clit when she swallows, dragging him down into her throat until her nose is pressed into his pelvis.

His hands fly to her shoulders, fingers digging hard into her muscles as he tries to pull back from her. Kate opens her eyes to find him staring down at her, the tendons in his neck bulging and his face stained red. "You have to stop that now unless you want this to end before we - shit, Kate - before we actually make it to the bed," he spits, his fingers applying more force to her shoulders.

Never breaking eye contact, she slowly pulls away from him, the hand between his legs going slack at the same moment he slips from her mouth. She's flying to her feet in the next second, Castle hauling her up against his chest and attacking her mouth. The jeans fall from her hand and she has no idea where they land, doesn't care. All she wants right now, all she can feel, is him. His skin against hers, his hands and mouth on her body.

A disappointed whimper that she will deny making later slips off her tongue when Castle breaks the kiss. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he spins her around, presses the length of his naked body along her back. The searing heat of his chest burns through the thin satin of her robe, scalding her skin and leaving her aching. His hands slip down to her ribs as he buries his nose in her hair, mouth laying claim to another tract of skin along the side of her neck. Kate runs her fingers over his forearms as his hold moves to her waist, tracing over the flex and play of the muscles and tendons hiding below his skin.

Grasping the belt of her robe between an index finger and thumb, Castle slips the loose knot. His hands press into her abdomen as he slides under the flowing fabric and she sighs at the feel of him on her bare skin. Lightly, his fingers traverse the arc of her ribs, skirting around the edges of her breasts before coming to a triumphant halt at the peak of her shoulders. The robe flutters silently to the floor and she shifts against him, grinding her ass into the cradle of his hips. Castle laughs at her obvious need, slipping one finger under the thin strap of her bra and sliding it down to hang limply against her bicep.

"Were you wearing these all day?" He growls the question into her ear, the words dripping with desire, and she shudders, her knees turning to water as she lifts her arms, looping them backward around his neck to hold him close. Kate's head lolls against his chest when his hands start drifting, tracing over the lace cups of her bra, dipping down below the scalloped edges of her matching underwear. He drags the remaining bra strap down over her shoulder, chasing the delicate red fabric with his lips. "You didn't answer," he whispers into her skin, pulling a gasp from her throat when his hand slides down into her underwear, fingers twitching. "Were you wearing these all day?"

"Yes."

Her voice is high and full of air and all she wants is to have him inside of her, to feel the burn of his thick fingers stretching her apart. Loosening one arm, she drops her hand down to cover his, the lace of her panties rough against her palm as she presses on his fingers, tries to push him where she so badly wants him to be.

"At the precinct? Are you trying to kill me?"

She squirms against his hand, a whimper of displeasure hanging in her throat at his continued refusal to give her what she wants. "You didn't even know, Castle."

"No, but I do now." Her fingers fall into the space left by his when he dips down into her arousal, a groan rumbling in his chest. Cupping her in his palm, he pushes two fingers inside her, curling up for a moment before sliding back out. "And all I can think about is you wearing this," his free hand closes over her breast, fingers plucking at the edge of her bra, "while you were flipping that table. Do you have any idea how fucking hot that was?"

The frantic pump and twist of his fingers robs her of the ability to respond, to think, to form sounds other than his name and a string of expletives as his erection presses into her ass with every stroke. Moaning, she reaches around behind herself to grip him, her back arching away from his chest. Turning her head, she uses the hand still fisted in his hair to drag him down into a brutal kiss. The muscles in her legs shake dangerously as he pushes her higher, his palm grinding ruthlessly against her clit. She comes with a violent shiver, the quiet Castle she groans echoing back to her from the damp cavern of his mouth.

Castle slides his hand out of her underwear, fingers leaving wet trail over her skin as he caresses her stomach. The kiss slows, shifts from frenzied to reverent, and she turns to face him, her arms wrapping tightly around his waist. His back flexes under her palms and she smiles as he glides one hand up her spine, releases the hooks on her bra with a flick of his wrist.

"You couldn't get your shirt off but that you can do one handed?" She laughs against his cheek, hands drifting down to roam over his ass.

"You had me flustered," he huffs, nipping at the angle of her jaw, "with the drawer and the 'take off your clothes and meet me in the bed'. I lose control of my fine motor skills when I'm flustered."

Kate hums against his neck, smiles at the way it vibrates through his skin. "I don't know, Castle. I'd say that was a pretty dexterous performance you just put on there."

"Stop trying to logic me."

"Logic you?"

"Yeah. Stop it." He catches her lips in an achingly sweet kiss before leaning back and giving her a smile, full and sloppy, his eyes shining brightly. "Can we do that 'meet me in the bed' part now?"

Kate nods and takes a step forward, directing him around the corner of the bed. The pillows bounce when she pushes him down on the edge of the mattress and Castle watches as she slips the useless bra down her arms, tossing it in the general direction of the dresser. She hooks her thumbs into the waistband of her underwear but Castle shakes his head, reaching out to still her hands.

"Let me."

His lips float over her abdomen, fleeting kisses that stir the nest of butterflies in her stomach, the tiny wings beating wildly. The scrape of his nails at her hip raises goosebumps on her skin and she leans into him, seeking more. Castle follows the descent of her underwear with his mouth, sliding his tongue across her as the fabric passes over her knees. Letting the panties fall, he reaches between her legs and spreads her with two fingers, his tongue flicking over her clit. With a grunt, Kate fists her fingers in his hair and tugs, pulling his head away.

She shakes her head. "Not right now."

Castle nods and leans back in, pressing a quick kiss to the crease of her thigh. Kate pushes on his shoulder and he leans back, uses his bent elbows to scuttle up the bed until just his feet are hanging over the edge.

Planting one knee between his calves, Kate crawls up the bed, her open mouth dragging over his skin as she ascends. She watches his eyes roll back when she flicks her tongue at the base of his erection, smiles into the warm skin of his stomach. Hands planted on his chest, she swings her leg over his hips and lowers herself down, her ass resting high on his thighs. His hands fondle her breasts as she takes him in hand and shifts, dragging herself against the length of his erection over and over, coating them both in her arousal.

"Why are you teasing me so much tonight?" There's a poorly masked whine in his voice and she smiles, her hips still rocking. She loves doing this to him, turning him into a quivering pile of muscle and bone. Loves the needy twang in his voice when he grips her hips and begs her, the words thick and heavy on his tongue. "It's Valentine's day, Kate."

"I'm not seeing the correlation." She alters the speed of her roll, shifts it down to a barely discernible movement. Castle's hands move to her waist, gripping tight as he tries to thrust up into her, searching for the connection he wants.

"Valentine's day," he repeats, staring up at her. "It's about hearts and chocolates and sappy letters and lov-" The words die in his throat when she sinks down over him, tipping her pelvis into his as she leans back and plants her hands on his thighs. "Fuck," he spits out when he opens his eyes, his fingers digging hard into her flesh.

"That's the idea."

She rides him expertly, rolling her hips and tilting her body, shifting over him as they both groan and pant. Castle's hands slide up her sides, hooking under her arms and pulling. She grants his silent request and leans down, drapes her body over his chest. He thrusts up into her, hands spread wide over her ass and she bites down on his shoulder, affirmations trapped in the back of her throat.

Groaning, Castle rolls them over, sitting back on his haunches and dragging her legs up over his shoulders. Kate's hands roam over her breasts, plucking and rolling her nipples as he strokes into her, the wet sound of their connection filling the room. His teeth sink into her right calf and she jerks, her toes curling next to his ears.

"Fuck, Castle," she pants, her legs falling further open, dropping down until her knees are curled around his elbows.

"That's the idea," he smirks, moving his left arm and letting her leg fall to the bed as he bends down over her.

Heavy pressure builds at the base of her spine and she digs her fingers into his ass, carves divots into the back of his neck with the other hand. "Yes." Her voice sounds foreign to her own ears, a high pitched whine that she wants to stop but can't. "Yes, Castle. Right - Don't stop. Need you. Don't stop."

He slows, a devious grin curling at his lips.

"Castle." It's both warning and plea.

"You know I live to defy your orders, Beckett," he laughs as he stops moving.

"I hate you a little right now."

"I'm okay with that," he grunts, leaning down until her thigh presses hard against her ribs.

His mouth tears across her chest, sharp nips and long licks that make her body arch into him. Leaning to the side, Castle lifts his arm, lets her leg fall gently to the bed. Wedging both hands under her body, he leans back, pulling her up to sit in his lap. The tangled ends of her hair tumble over her shoulders as she lets her forehead fall heavily against his neck. Her body rocks from side to side as he shifts under her, arranging his legs. Gentle fingers sweep the hair back from her cheek and she lifts her head, meets his gaze.

"Hi." It's barely a whisper, a single syllable full of so much love that her heart stutters, fluttering high in her throat.

"Hi," she replies, brushing her mouth over his before pressing their foreheads together.

They rock into each other slowly, the sound of their shared breaths all she can hear. Her hands roam over his back and shoulders, mapping out the shapes she memorized long ago. Castle's head falls to the side, forehead landing in the sweaty curve of her neck. She can feel his lips moving against her collarbone, silent words that burn her skin, and she twines her arms around his neck, fingers running through his damp hair.

Pressing a kiss to his temple she opens her eyes, meets her own reflection in the mirror standing against the wall. She takes herself in; the tangled mess of her hair, her mouth red and swollen, cheeks flaming with heat.

She doesn't think she's ever seen herself look so happy.

Her eyes flutter closed again when Castle slips a hand between their bodies, urging her on as he circles her clit with the pad of his thumb. She shudders, her body turning liquid in his arms. Castle follows her a minute later, the vowels of her name stretched out in a song of celebration.

They fall over together, landing in the scattered pile of her pillows. Castle folds her into his side, his lips pressed to the top of her head, ragged breath rustling through her hair. Kate kisses his chest and looks up, smiles at the blissed out look on his face.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Castle."

He hums, stares at her with hazy eyes. "Thank you for my drawer."

Kate laughs. "Thank you for not putting my name on that note." His ribs shake against hers as he chuckles. "What'd it say, anyway?"

"'You are beauty, passion, and fierce intellect. Be my Valentine.'"

A tidal wave of emotion crashes through her chest, breaching the dam of her ribs and drowning her heart. The way he loves her so unabashedly - no doubts or reservations just pure, unadulterated affection - never fails to leave her feeling astonished and so very lucky. He believes in her when she can't do it for herself, supports her even when she tries to push him away. She fought it for so long but this man with his kind heart and giving nature, his silly jokes and crazy theories, his light and his love - he is what she wants. What she needs.

Castle.

"Kate?"

She clears her throat and looks up, gives him a watery smile. "With a line like that, maybe I should have given you two drawers."

Craning his neck, Castle leans down and gives her a lazy kiss, his lips soft and slow. "It's okay," he whispers. "I'm angling for closet space for my birthday."


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