I Hope You Feel It Too

AN: Episode reaction to 5x17, 'Scared to Death.' And nope, no ice cubes! ;) (For the kinky photos episode insert, read 'Picture This,' haha.)

Thank you, Joy and Holly, for your valuable and indispensable input and beta!

I'm the one who wants to be with you,
Deep inside I hope you feel it too.
Waited on a line of greens and blues,
Just to be the next to be with you.

(Mr. Big, 'To Be With You')

Kate sits back against the headboard, knees drawn up, her toes curled into the mattress. The sheet is draped over her legs and she pulls it closer, tucks it over her breasts to ward off the slight nighttime chill of the bedroom.

She tilts her head, letting her eyes roam over Castle who's sprawled out across his side of the bed and into half of hers. He's snoring softly, one arm slung out sideways, his naked chest rising and falling with each deep breath, the sheet having slipped, mostly tangled around his hips.

She smiles at how exhausted he looks, notices the rings under his eyes, how tightly his eyelids are clenched closed, and she knows he's deep under, no dreams or movements, just his unconscious heaviness anchoring him to the mattress. The last days took a toll on him; his constant concern for his life, their lives, his overactive imagination, his sleeplessness have drained him. Plus, she'd thoroughly worn him out tonight, the ice a dripping, cold contrast to the hot counterpoint of her mouth on his skin until his fingers were clenched so tightly into the mattress that his knuckles turned white; until he was shivering, his eyes almost black, until she had him pleading, begging for her.

Now he's sleeping like a log and she's wide awake, her blood still energized, her brain running a mile a minute.

'Be with Kate.'

She can't stop thinking about it. It's number one on his bucket list. Number one. The one most important, most vital thing he wanted to accomplish before he died – was to be with her.

She can't get over it. Her mouth dropped open at the long narrow lines of his handwriting that seemed to just lift off the page, reaching for her. Her brain blanked when she'd read the line, unable to form a coherent response, hit hard by the impact of the seemingly innocuous three words. And he'd been so casual about it, like it was the most normal, the absolutely obvious, undisputable choice for him to make.

Be with her… She guesses he could have just meant sleeping with her, being with her; the wording is ambiguous enough. He'd never made it a secret how much he'd desired her from the very start; she knew it from the moment he honed in on her, pierced her with his blue-eyed stare, with that smirk that accompanied the challenge in his eyes and 'do you know you have gorgeous eyes?'

But no, no. She shakes her head at herself, nibbles at the cuticle of her thumb. She knows better now, knows him better. If getting into her pants had been all he'd meant, he could've, would've added it to his bucket list five years ago. Back when he was a cocky and self-centered jerk, unable to take anything seriously. When he protected himself by hiding his compassion, his fierce intellect and his loving heart behind a devil-may-care playboy façade.

Three years ago. She thinks back through the months and years, her cases and moments with him playing out as if she's rewinding through a long movie. Three years. That puts it before his desperate 'I love you' as she lay bleeding out in his arms.

Before a quiet night in a hotel suite in L.A. where he'd laid it all out and she was this close to a choice she would've regretted, that would've dishonored who they both are.

Before a too-passionate undercover kiss that revealed a little too much about the intensity of their feelings, if only they had allowed themselves to look. Hadn't ignored it under the cloak of 'work' and 'significant' others that weren't nearly as significant.

Before the Hamptons and his months-long absence, before she had chosen him and he had chosen Gina instead. And had left, leaving her heart smashed to pieces on the precinct floor and that wall around her feelings fortified, seemingly impenetrable.

(Until he came back and smiled at her and found the small cracks in the foundation and snuck right back in.)

She'd thought she'd imagined it all, back then. The longing in his eyes she'd thought she'd seen, the careful, barely-there touches that she'd thought she'd felt, the spark of love rather than lust that she'd thought was alive and vibrant between them. She'd dismissed it all when he'd left, just a product of her imagination, wishful thinking, too much hope to survive reality.

Looking back she knows how there had always been more between them… Yet she never allowed herself to believe that it was love, so early on. Three years ago. When had it happened for him, when had intrigue and desire turned into love?

When he wrapped his coat around her naked body, rescued her from her burning apartment, offered her a place to stay and joked with her over breakfast as if they did this all the time, as if she already belonged in his home, in his life?

When he called her 'extraordinary' for all the world to see? Could've had Bond but chose Nikki, chose her?

When he offered to do anything she'd need him to, including nothing; throwing himself into the dangers of her mother's case, unequivocally trusting her lead? When he touched her, the warmth of his palm on her shoulder the only sensation that seemed to seep through the fog of her grief, and watched her closely, serious, caring. Or when she'd given him a sliver of her heart as she admitted that she liked, wanted, needed him around?

Maybe it was all those moments, melding together until the realization was just there, alive in his heart. Maybe it was none of them but rather a small, innocuous instant. Maybe she'd smiled at him at one specific moment and it had punched him in the gut, coiled low and hot inside of him until he could almost taste his love for her on his tongue.

Like it had happened to her. Still does, of course, more vibrant and brighter each time, each day, each moment she gets to have him.

She loves him. She's loved him for a long time, has probably loved him for longer than she allowed herself to acknowledge it. Probably longer than she even recognized it herself. It's the leap of her heart, the warm rush of her blood when he's close. The laughter that bubbles through her at his silly jokes and antics, his fun-loving nature, his adorable goofiness. The relief of knowing that she can lean on him when she needs comfort, count on him for support. The heat that curls and spreads when he touches her, the flush to her skin with every caress, every kiss.

She smiles to herself, the flash of warmth bright in her abdomen, sparking through her blood. She loves him and she treasures that feeling, holds it close and safe in her heart.

She knows that he knows, and yet she's not spoken the words, and he hasn't asked the questions.

She's wanted it to be perfect. Not a desperate revelation in the face of danger, not a rush in the throes of passion. A perfect moment that he could treasure forever.

Three years.

He's loved her for three years, standing by her side, holding her up, protecting her. Treasuring her.

And even when they fought, or worse, when they turned quiet, he never gave up on his dream, never gave up on her, even though she knows he tried to let her go. Yet his bucket list remained unchanged, a testament to his heart's desire.

#1 'Be with Kate.'

Maybe there isn't just one perfect moment. Maybe they are all perfect moments.

She turns, her heart thundering as she curls up to his side, his body strong and warm against her chilled skin. For a few long moments she just watches him, each inhale and exhale, the rise and fall of his chest, the flop of his unruly hair.

And then she puts her index finger to his sternum, guides it in a half-loop followed by a long line down, moving tentatively at first, slow and precise.

She writes it on his chest.

I love you.

Bolder now, each swing and line of her penmanship larger, she does it again, painstakingly impresses the words over his heart.

I love you.

He sighs deeply, his eyelids fluttering as he slowly drifts into awareness, awoken by the caress of her fingers over his skin.

"Wha' you doin'?" He slurs, blinking his eyes open.

"Writing." She smiles affectionately, her fingers following the now familiar path over his chest.

I love you.

He focuses on her, draws a hand behind his neck to better see her, curious but giving her her moment.

She does it again, precise as she outlines each letter and she knows the exact moment he gets it, when his pupils flare, darken, when his lips slacken in stunned surprise.

She shifts closer, draws one leg over his thigh, her stomach nudged against his side. She kisses him, first, a tender, slow kiss infused with everything she feels, so stark and alive before she pulls away, holding his eyes with hers.

And this time when she writes, she says the words along with the lettering she paints over his heart.

"I love you."



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