AN: First and foremost, Angela, happy birthday. For the fact that this present is 5 months late I am unendingly sorry.

This is a continuation of my first Killshot chapter because sparkyk1971 gave me the idea, thank you. It weaves in and out of canon, so you might recognize some of the dialogue.

Let me know what you think!

"I love you," Kate's hand trembled slightly as the pads of her fingers slid against Castle's cheek. "You deserve to know that."

Her heart felt like it was going to burst; too many emotions were coursing through it: fear, anguish, embarrassment, relief, and joy. Her mind couldn't pick one to focus on and the confusion was sending her pulse skyrocketing.

Castle's chest heaved against her, his eyes glazing as he stared at her blankly for a second. Then they cleared and he smiled with so much excitement that she could've sworn he actually radiated light.

She wished it changed anything, wished that she could simply look into his eyes and find peace, could see that smile and know that everything would be okay

Kate didn't want to leave this moment, but they had a case to solve; if she were lucky it wouldn't tear her apart completely. She swept her thumb across his jaw and sighed heavily. He nodded slightly.

"We need to get going; let everybody know about the paper dolls." He swallowed hard. "This can wait."

She didn't want it to wait. They'd waited far too long already and it was finally hitting her that she had actually just said she loved him and she wasn't sure she'd have the courage to continue this conversation later. She reached down and picked up her jacket and badge anyway. People were in danger; she didn't have a choice.

"If you see her, tell her she owes me about a hundred coffees. And," he gingerly placed a hand on her knee, "I'm here if she ever needs me."

Kate was stunned into silence for a few seconds as he stood and turned to go. She didn't want to just pretend that the last few days had never happened, but she was surprised that Castle had actually brought it up. Then again, he hadn't, not really. They were both so fluent in subtext, but she was getting tired of it.

"Castle," she called after him. "Thank you." She took a deep breath. She told him she loved him a few hours ago, why was this so damn hard now?

"For what?"

"For not pushing. For giving me space to work through this."


Kate didn't want to tell Dr. Burke that Castle had found her in her apartment, or that she'd told him she loved him. She didn't know why; maybe it was just too new and far too intimate. But it was important. She'd had a major panic attack and, even though she had to keep reminding herself, sharing was supposed to help.

He quietly listened as she told her story, forcing herself not to leave anything out. The alcohol was embarrassing, but she realized that if she really wanted to work through this, she was going to need to be honest.

"Every time I close my eyes I see the look on his face, the fear, and I'm so ashamed that I put it there. He's my partner; I'm supposed to be the one who keeps him safe, not the one who puts him in more danger."

"Doesn't the fact that he's your partner already put him in danger? You seem to trust yourself out in the field with him even though he could easily be injured. You've kept him safe up until this point, and you didn't hurt him last night either. How is this different?"

Kate stared at Dr. Burke a little incredulously. Not only did she know for a fact that he already knew how this was different, but he was also bringing up an argument she'd had in her head about a thousand times, once every few days since that damn shootout when he'd used a champagne bottle as cover.

"I know that there are certain risks when it comes to Castle and my job. He's proved himself capable of being relatively safe out in the field and I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not getting rid of him." Kate paused for a moment, knowing that the more she said, the more she'd get out of her time here.

"Even if he would let me get rid of him, I want him around. I have no doubt that I could do my job alone if I had to, but I no longer want to. And this whole thing is so much different than work because of what else I saw in Castle's eyes. I'm used to seeing him afraid; we've gone through enough that I can handle seeing his fear. But last night, beyond the fear was a trust that very easily could have killed him."

"His trust in you?"

"Yes. I pointed my gun at his face and all he did was step closer. How can he trust me so completely when most of the time I don't even trust myself?" Kate knew it was a stupid question, one Dr. Burke wouldn't give the answer to, even though they both knew what it was. Castle loved her, and to him that meant she was worthy of all the trust in the world.

"Why don't you trust yourself?" Well, now that was a can of worms.

"Since the night my mom was killed I've had this singular fear. I've let it define me, drive me. It's made me who I am. I don't trust myself to let it go, to let Castle in, to put anything, especially another person, above that mission. But now I, I want to be more than who I am." She tried to breath through the tears she knew were about to fall. Her desperate gasp for air only made her feel more like she was suffocating. "But I don't know if I know how to do that without letting my mom down."

"She's dead Kate. You can't let her down." How many times had she given this speech? How many times had she watched the family members of victims flinch? The words were so familiar to her, but they still made her heart ache every damn time.

"The only person you can let down is yourself. This doesn't have to limit you."

"How am I supposed to let go?"

"Do you trust Mr. Castle?"

"Yes." Kate was surprised how unequivocally she believed that.

"Then tell him; that might be a good place to start."

"Beckett, what... Is everything okay?" It was almost comical, how quickly Castle's face went from confused to protective and concerned.

"I'm fine Castle," Kate huffed as she stepped past him, but spun on her heel as he closed the door. "Well, not fine, but not... not bad."

"Okay," the way he stretched out the word made her think that he wasn't so sure he believed her. Honestly she couldn't blame him; he'd probably taken one look at her in her sweats and ratty t-shirt and immediately expected the worst.

But she had a plan; she needed to explain some things to him and she wasn't going to get sidetracked by the fact that they were both in their pajamas. She shouldn't have waited so long to do this, or maybe she should have settled for the morning.

Kate shook herself slightly as they went to sit on the couch. She was here now and she needed to get through this.

"I went to see my therapist today," she started slowly, starring at the ottoman. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Castle freeze for just an instant as he sat next to her. He said nothing, but Kate could feel him looking at her, waves of both concern and pride rolling off of him and she couldn't stand not seeing what that looked like on him.

She shifted quickly, orienting herself towards him by kicking off her shoes and bringing her legs up to tuck underneath her. It made her even more nervous, looking at him dead in the eye, but his expression sent tingles down her spine that were so not what she came here for, but nevertheless gave her a little more courage.

"I never told you I'd gone back to see him after he cleared me for active duty, but I was afraid, I'm still afraid you-"

"Hey, Beckett you've got nothing to fear from me." He took her hands in his and it hurt; his touch was so tender and understanding and loving that it physically pained her. She ran her thumb across his palm and hoped it wouldn't be the last time she'd have that opportunity.

"I'm afraid you won't understand the reason I needed to talk to somebody because I'm not altogether sure that I understand it. But I trust you, Castle, and I know that shouldn't be a big deal, but it is to me. I trust you, not only with my life, but with everything else too. And as much as it terrifies me, I have to trust that you'll forgive me."

She paused, trying to figure out how to move forward.

"Kate, if this is about what happened in your apartment, there's nothing to forgive-" She shook her head as tears began to well in her eyes.

"I remember you tackling me after I was shot. I, I remember everything about those few moments, the way the grass felt on the back of my neck, your hand at my side, the contrast between your horrified face and the serene blue sky, and I remember every last word you said."

Her words hung between them for a few seconds as Kate watched Castle realize exactly what they meant.

"Why?" Castle's voice broke as he spoke and it was all Kate could do not to burst into tears. The anguish on his face was worse than anything she'd imagined the countless times she'd had this conversation in her head.

"That day on the swings I told you that I couldn't be in the type of relationship I wanted until I put my mother's case to rest. That was the speech I wrote, edited, rehearsed, and rehashed for three months. In that hospital room I was in full panic mode and I knew I couldn't stand to lose you, but I also couldn't handle being anywhere near you. I said the first thing that I knew would give me time to process and I know now it was the worst thing I could have said because I needed you and you weren't there and it was my fault."

She took a shaky breath to calm herself, to no avail. As much as she wanted to grab her shoes and run, she knew that wasn't an option anymore; he deserved the whole truth.

"I still don't know if I'm the person I need to be to fully commit to the kind of relationship I want to have with you, but I'm past fighting the fact that I need you. Last night was the perfect example of that. I love you and I need you to know that because I'm working on me. I want to be more than the person I've molded myself into for the past thirteen years."

She was staring at her hands, not really sure she wanted to see Castle's reaction.

"Listen Beckett," she felt his palm at her cheek and she let out a watery laugh; he wanted her to look at him. She wasn't sure she trusted herself that much yet, but a swipe of his thumb across her cheekbone and a whispered "Kate" had her making the extra effort.

"I am unendingly happy that you're working on yourself, but I want you to know that, in my eyes, who you are is already extraordinary."

Though there was still pain in his eyes, he was smiling. Kate knew that a few words wouldn't erase her months of lying, but it was a start.

And then his eyes changed, darted down to her mouth and back, making her throat go dry. For an instant she thought this moment might end like all the others had, in disappointment and awkward glances. It wasn't until she watched him lean forward and felt his lips on hers that she truly believed the night might not end in heartbreak.

Kate's heart did several pleasant summersaults as Castle's fingers trailed lazily to the shell of her ear and down to her neck, pulling her more deeply into the gentle kiss. Her palms found his shoulder blades and her brain exploded as he leaned into her until she was resting between him and the cushions.

All Kate could think as her legs encircled his waist was that this was real. Castle was real and no matter what might have happened at Montgomery's funeral, or the night before in her apartment, they had made it to this moment. She finally had the freedom to kiss him and she wasn't going to waste it.

Out of breath, her lips slipped from his and across his jaw, finally just below his ear and eliciting a groan from his throat. She huffed a laugh and allowed a heel to trail down the back of his thigh before gasping as Castle found his revenge at the pulse point on her neck.

"I wasted so much time fighting you." The words came whispered and unbidden from her lips, the raw truth in them freezing them both for a few seconds. Then Castle recaptured her lips, exuding a pain Kate understood all too well to be regret for all their missed opportunities. Soon though, he broke the kiss and rolled to lie next to her and gave her a slightly crooked smile she'd seen countless times.

"I love you." Kate watched the words form on his lips, happy she now had a memory of him saying it that wasn't entangled with the death of her mentor and a bullet ripping into her chest. She really didn't think she'd ever get used to them.

Taking a breath, Kate pulled her focus from his mouth to his eyes.

"I love you too."