Disclaimer: I don't own Castle or any of the characters. Andrew Marlowe & Co. are doing a fantastic job...I'm just having some fun.

He hadn't been there long when it arrived.

By the time Castle had escaped from a painfully long meeting at Black Pawn, Kate had explained that there was no reason for him to go to the precinct just to stare at her while she did paperwork and that she'd probably be leaving early anyway. He had been about to invite her over to the loft for dinner, but she beat him to it, asking him to head over to her place. He agreed quickly and promised to have something wonderful cooking by the time she came home.

He had barely laid the ingredients on the kitchen counter when he heard the knock at the door; with a quick glance through the peephole, he figured out that it was some sort of delivery. While it wasn't his apartment, he didn't see any harm in accepting the package, so he opened the door to the courier, signed for the plainly wrapped box, and tipped the young man.

Now Castle was busying himself with dinner preparations, trying hard to stifle his natural curiosity as he cooked. Still, he really liked mysteries, even mundane ones in the quiet of his girlfriend's apartment, so he couldn't help but wonder about the total lack of an identifying logo, return address, or company name. After a minute of staring into space, he rolled his eyes at himself (Beckett would be so proud) and refocused on dinner.

When he finally heard the click of the front door, he looked around the corner in time to see Kate inhale deeply, smiling at the scent of his culinary masterpiece. Castle didn't bother to hide the wide grin that still hijacked his face whenever he saw her, an important reminder that he would never be in control of his inherent response to her. She kicked her heels to the side and dropped her bag on the stone steps before greeting him with a soft kiss.

"It smells so good in here, Castle. Thank you for doing this."

"You're welcome. It should be done soon, if you want to grab some wine for us." He paused, conjuring up some nonchalance. "Oh, and there was something delivered for you…I put it on the coffee table."

She didn't quite manage to hide the sharp intake of breath, nor the flash of nervousness across her beautiful face. "Ok, great. I'll open a bottle and get the table set."

"You don't want to open the package before we eat?" He knew his curiosity was getting the better of him, but he was more than a little intrigued by her reaction and the fact that she was avoiding the package entirely.

Kate bit her lip, but kept moving, hurrying to pour the wine. "No, it can wait until later. I'm starving."

He decided to let it go and they sat down to an incredible dinner, filling each other in on the hours they had spent apart. He found himself thinking back to all the laidback meals they had shared before they became a couple, and he was grateful that the laughter and friendship was still so present. Kate really was his best friend and even something as simple as a quiet night in her apartment was enough to make the years of shadowing worth the wait. It didn't matter that he had fallen in love so much more sooner than she had; they were here now, together, and Castle was sure the feeling was mutual.

Once the table was cleared and the dishes washed, they made their way into the living room. He stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder. "So, is it time for you to open the package now?"

"Gee, Castle. You'd think this was Christmas morning or something. How do you know I didn't just order some boring shirt?"

"Nope, it's too heavy to be a shirt."

"Ok, then shoes."

"Too flat to be shoes."

"Patterson's latest bestseller?"

He laughed. "Hmmm, could be. Yeah, that explains the secrecy. I mean, you wouldn't want to hurt my feelings or anything, right?" He turned her around in his arms, kissing her deeply. They got lost in each other quickly, his hands in her hair, her nails trailing down his back. When he pulled away, catching his breath, he tilted her chin up to him and held her eye contact. "Hey, Kate. I'm just giving you a hard time. If it's something you want to keep private, you know I don't care."

"Yeah, I know." She looked down for a second before meeting his eyes again. "But it's not private. It's actually for you."

"Me? You got me a present?" Now it really was like Christmas morning. But before he could get too excited, Kate interrupted.

"Yes, but I…I wasn't planning on giving it to you right now." The nervousness from earlier was back, and he couldn't figure out what kind of gift could possibly make her so unsettled. Castle reached for her face, cradling her cheek in his palm.

"Can I convince you otherwise?"

He knew her well, and the moment she leaned into his touch, there was no going back. She was silently agreeing to play his game, to let him talk her into sharing the package with him. "How exactly are you going to do that?"

"With an interrogation, of course." He lowered his hand and whispered into her ear. "Isn't that the best way to get cooperation from people who are being difficult?"

Kate simply hummed her agreement, her body pressing into his. They kissed again, and he began to walk her backward into the bedroom. As they stood by her bed, he unbuttoned her blouse and let it slide down her arms, the soft silk teasing her. Castle couldn't resist the opportunity to taste some of the newly exposed skin, grinning at the goose bumps that appeared on the surface. He sucked on the sensitive skin below her ear as he unfastened her bra, bit into her shoulder as he unzipped her pants.

Once she was wearing nothing but her purple lace panties, he guided her down to the bed and situated her in the middle of the mattress. Kate's eyes were wide and dark with arousal as she waited to see what he'd do next. The moment he pulled the handcuffs from her nightstand drawer, she sat up.


He swallowed her question with a thorough kiss, using his weight to push her back down against the sheets. "Careful. Anything you say can and will be used against you."

She lifted her hips, seeking anything else that might be used against her in the course of the interrogation, moaning when she made contact. Ignoring her attempt at distraction, he snapped the cuffs shut, attaching her wrists to the headboard. Now that she was secure, he removed himself from the bed and unbuttoned his dress shirt while Kate watched hungrily. Castle left his undershirt and pants on, but did take off his belt and socks. His erection was evident, even contained by two layers of fabric, but he had no plans to do anything about it for a while; this was all about her.

He started by positioning himself over her, the heat between them nearly tangible. He met her mouth with his, exploring the familiar warmth with his tongue and sucking gently on her lower lip before he moved on. Castle took her earlobe into his mouth, licking it and breathing hotly against her skin.

"Remember, if you'd like to stop this, all you have to do is give me the package." Kate's eyes flashed with defiance and want, but she said nothing. "Okay, then I guess I should start by taking a baseline pulse…I need to make sure you're telling the truth."

Sucking on the side of her neck produced another moan; his lips felt the vibration before he could hear it. He stayed there for a long moment, lost in the intimacy of her vulnerability. Then he kissed his way down to her collarbone, trailing the tip of his tongue along it until he had reached the center of her chest. Dropping a couple of inches, Castle acknowledged her scar chastely, before moving to her breasts. Kate shuddered when he closed his lips around her nipple, but stayed silent. He flicked it with his tongue, teasing it to a tight peak, then smiled and looked up at her.

"When did you order it?"

She groaned at the loss of contact, but forced out an answer. "A week ago."

He showed his appreciation for her quick response by taking her other nipple into his mouth and paying it the same attention. From there Castle travelled back up her body; he knew she expected him to go lower, so this would draw out the delicious torture. With her arms stretched above her head, the skin that was exposed was the most sensitive and he took advantage of that. His tongue left a long, wet line along her the underside of her arm and she arched into him, the sensation surprisingly erotic. He finally arrived at her wrist, nudging the cuff out of his way and sucking on the pulse point tenderly.

"Was it expensive?"

He found her finger and took it deep in his mouth. Kate gasped. "No. I…I called in a favor."

"I'm impressed."

Slithering back down her mostly naked body, Castle stopped to let his tongue tangle with hers again before releasing her and leaving a path of open-mouthed kisses down her sternum, eventually landing at her belly button. His hands were splayed across her sides, a light grip on her hips. He looked up at her, fascinated by the juxtaposition of sharp angles and soft curves, the very contradiction of Kate Beckett herself. That gave him pause, and he worked to swallow back the awe that threatened to overwhelm him in that moment.

She was here, open to him and so trusting. He had imagined a lot of things when it came to Kate, dreamed of sharing these intimate moments, but he had had no idea how truly bare she could be with him and he closed his eyes in reverence.

When he opened them again, he nuzzled her flat stomach and continued to tease her with an unpredictable series of bites, licks, and kisses. The more she squirmed beneath him, the firmer his hold, though they both knew he'd never hurt her; she was simply testing her limits. When she had calmed a bit, Castle let one finger slip below the lace waistband of her panties, tracing the delicate horizon until she was trembling once more.

He finally released the fabric and skipped down to her upper thighs, gently nudging them further apart, increasing his access and her vulnerability. Just before lowering his mouth to suck the tender skin there, he asked another question.

"Is it battery operated?"

She jumped, but he managed to maintain contact with her. "Castle!" He couldn't tell whether she was reacting to the question or the fact that he was getting increasingly close to leaving a mark.

"Okay, okay. Sorry." An apology for both should cover it.

He moved down her legs, letting his fingertips dance along the surface in his tongue's erotic wake. Castle was careful to spend several seconds on the back of each knee, bending her legs enough to allow him room to maneuver. He worked his way to the edge of the bed, where he could reach her ankles and grip them as he placed wet kisses there.

Having sufficiently acquainted himself with her body, from limb to limb, he saw no reasonable option but to return to her center, the scent of her arousal calling him home. Castle released her legs and slid his hands forward until they were wrapped around purple lace, tugging the material down and tossing it onto the floor. He positioned himself in the apex of her thighs and smiled at her adoringly.

"Does it have anything to do with Nikki Heat?"

Kate moaned, desperate for the pleasure that was just out of reach. "Tangentially, not directly."

Rewarding her for another answer, or perhaps just overcome by his own need, Castle pressed the flat of his tongue against her opening and dragged it up to her swollen clit. He delighted in her unique tang, closed his eyes in focus. She was already so wet, but he was happy to add to it, keeping his open mouth against her as he feasted like a man starved. Kate's hips lifted off the bed and he pushed her back down, unwilling to interrupt her slow climb, the tension he knew must be building within her. She eventually held still and let him keep control, moaning as he continued to make love to her with his tongue. He dipped into her for a long taste, then returned to her clit, alternately sucking the bud and rubbing it with the tip of tongue until she came, a new wave of her flavor flooding his mouth.

He pulled back, the lower half of his face glistening until he sheepishly wiped one large hand over it. "Is this something that I'll be able to keep on display at the loft, or does it have to remain between us?"

Castle met her eyes as she spoke softly, nearly melted by his attention to her body and still catching her breath. "It's private. For you. Only you."

As he took in the slowing rise and fall of her chest, and the honesty in her response, he questioned his need to know about the package at all. He had never been good at keeping his curiosity at bay, but he had to stop digging with her. Kate was giving him everything she could right now, and he realized he was truly okay with her keeping the rest to herself. Even his gift.

He leaned over her to unlock the cuffs, and he had barely set them on the nightstand when she wrapped her arms around him. Castle's weight pinned her against the mattress, but she seemed to need it, the heaviness of him. She grabbed the hem of his shirt and struggled to pull it over his head in between hungry kisses; he rose up enough to fumble with his pants and boxers in a frenzy of need. The moment he was undressed, he looked at Kate and nearly drowned in her want.

"Please, Castle. Please."

The teasing was long gone, replaced by carnal desperation. He buried himself deep inside her without hesitation, one smooth stroke that caused them both to groan. She clawed at him to move quickly, her muscles already tightening in response to the welcome intrusion. He felt Kate's legs clasp behind his back and she rocked her hips to meet him thrust for thrust. Castle might have worried about finishing too quickly, but she was panting in his ear, begging him for harder, faster, deeper, more. He was losing control, his movements sloppy amid the wet slap of their joining. When Kate slid her hand between their bodies to rub her clit, he let himself go, filling her up as she clenched around him.

Castle stayed there for another minute, his forehead resting against hers as he felt the final flutters of her orgasm fade. Then he kissed her softly before slipping out of her and rolling to the side, staring at the ceiling, lost in thought. When the silence finally got to him, he broke it.

"You don't have to give me the package, Kate. I shouldn't have pressured you and I'm sorry."

She turned toward him. "Castle, you didn't…I'm not…ugh." She shook her head and started over. "I want to give it to you. It just took me by surprise tonight and I'm not good at this sort of thing."

"At what sort of thing? Gift giving?"

He expected a smirk, but she stayed serious. "Feelings."

Before he could respond, she was out of the bed and hurrying to the living room; he couldn't help but admire the view as she left. Castle sat back against the headboard, propped up on some pillows, and welcomed her back with an encouraging smile. She crawled to his side and handed him the package, keeping her eyes focused on the sheets gathered around his lap. He reached for her chin and tilted it upward until she was looking at him, then brushed his lips against hers.

Castle saw that she had already cut through the thick tape on the top of the box, so he was able to simply tuck his fingers into the opening and push the cardboard aside. He removed the rest of wrapping inside and pulled the leather-bound book out with both hands. Running his thumb over the letters embossed on the cover, he looked up to her in confusion. She shrugged her shoulders and offered a timid explanation.

"You showed me your bucket list, and I was number one on it. You basically admitted to me that I've been your number one for three years. You've loved me for so long and I just need you to understand that you weren't alone, Castle. You've never been alone. I've been right there."

As she spoke, he began to turn the pages, trying to read the handwritten words through tear-blurred eyes. Her gratefulness for a hundred thousand dollar offer, her unexpected jealousy of a smart and successful FBI agent, her confession of a break up and her decision to go to the Hamptons, her fear when she ran into the motel room that had hidden a killer, her more palpable jealousy at the presence of the actress portraying her alter ego, her inability to believe that a decoy kiss was fooling anyone, her regret over withholding the truth while trapped in an icebox, more regret in Los Angeles, and even more during a fight in her apartment, her guilt about months of silence and undeserved pain, her now predictable jealousy of a sexy art thief, her terror in the clearing smoke of a bank explosion, her fantasies born of a day of being handcuffed, her suffocating jealousy of a lying CIA operative, her inability to truly enjoy her time with an attractive man from Scotland Yard, and her rain-soaked decision to knock on door of the loft and change everything.

He was reading Kate's journal; it was her story, but it was their relationship. And in each graceful cursive loop, in each fierce punctuation mark, was the tale of how she had fallen for him…over the past three years. He managed to pull his eyes away from it and stared at her, still speechless.

"I know it's not very neat. I mean, I never meant to show it to anyone. But I wanted you to see it, to have it. So I asked someone to help me rip the pages out of all my notebooks and bind them together for you. And I was going to remove the extra stuff about my dad and my mom and Montgomery and the boys, but, Castle…you're tied up in all of it. You're part of everything. And I love you."

He set the journal aside and pulled her into his arms, finally letting a lone tear fall. "I love you, too, Kate. So, so much." He kissed the top of her head, unwilling to loosen his embrace. "Thank you."

He may have decided that he didn't need all her answers, but this unexpected gift was something he'd treasure for a lifetime. Their lifetime.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts!