She awoke with a start. The bed beside her was cold, the room still dark save for the soft glow of the street light filtering in through the window as it reflected off of the steadily falling snow. She turned over, nestled in the sheets, a cocoon of warmth slowly leaching out. Her husband wasn't a morning person, so if he's up and out of the bed before her, it is usually for a very good reason. Most likely work.

She settles the internal debate by swinging her long, slim legs out of bed, quickly pulling on some sweat pants and an old, ratty sweatshirt of his that she'd appropriated some three months into their relationship. Or had it been earlier. She fancies it still smells like him, masculine and rich and oaky.

She can hear the tapping of the keys even before she reaches the gate of his study, guarded by his bookshelves. She's not being especially stealthy, so he looks up at her and smiles as soon as she lounges by the entry. The way his boyish blue eyes light up, the way his lips curl and crinkle- all of that never fails to make her heart beat a tick faster, warmth spread through her body. He will always have that power over her, and she knows she holds the same over him.

"What's up Castle? Nikki woke you up?" He saves and closes the laptop as she sashays towards him, and his lap looks ever so inviting and warm.

"Maybe." He breathes into her ear as she parks herself on top of him, nestling into the broad planes of his torso, his arms cradling her.

"That's supposed to be my job." She lets her fingers trail over the stubble accentuating his jawline, feeling her body stir and respond to his sheer physical presence.

"It isn't supposed to be work." His words wash over her, and bringing with them a sense of contentment she never wants to let go.

"But you know how I love my work. All aspects of it. I'm a total workaholic." Her lips find the attractively scratchy surface of his face almost of their own accord.

His eyes have grown darker, azure blue pools now, and she could stare into them for a long, long time indeed.

"No one can ever question your dedication, Detective."

Her hand stills, and she leans back slightly from his face, and something of her concerns must have showed on her face because he smiles warmly, to cheer her up.

"Oh Kate, are you still worrying about the interview?"

She nods, chin tilting down, and his eyes flicker with reassurance and strength for her to draw upon.

"You'll be fine; you're going to kill them out there." A beat. "Figuratively of course. Stack would be pissed if you got to Washington and…" He trails off once he sees she's not smiling along.

"But Castle, what will we do? I mean your mom and Alexis are both here and…" She can't quite stop the worry from creeping into her words.

"One step at a time. We'll figure it out, once it comes to that."

He shrugs, the muscles of arms and shoulders moving quite entrancingly under his t-shirt. But he is so matter-of-fact about it, about knowing they'll tackle it together and figure it out and it won't be an issue.

The tone, not the words, is what settles the butterflies in her stomach.

She leans into press her lips against his, grateful for his strength, for his love, for simply the fact he has always been there for her, through greater challenges than this. He accepts the kiss, her tongue delving into his mouth, knowing she is speaking to him without words, acknowledging the message and when his fingers curl around her neck in that way that never fails to shoot a bolt of pure heat through her, she knows they're moving past it.

She slides backwards reluctantly, onto her toes so she can keep kissing him as she pulls him up off the chair.

"Come join me in the shower, then I've got to finish packing while you make me breakfast?"

He nods his assent eagerly.

She can't think of many better ways to start the morning. And at least a bout of shower sex will help her burn off some of the nervous tension and relax her for later today.


He's looking a little weary, a little downcast. It is not surprising. The blue eyes have lost their usual sparkle, and she hopes what she says next will make them gleam again.

"…I've had a really good time." She can't quite keep her voice from quavering, and the way he looks at her, simply looks at her, makes the chasm yawn in front of her feet.

"Yeah, me too."

She pauses a moment, in case he has anything more to say, but no he's done talking. He's talked her ear off over the last few days, and now it is her turn. The moment weighs down on her shoulders like a ton of bricks.

Oh well, now or never. She'll never accuse herself of cowardice again if she can follow through here.

"So, I'm just going to say this and…"

Castle quirks an eyebrow, waiting for her to finish.

"If that invitation to the Hamptons is still open," she pauses to take one last breath before diving off the cliff, "I'dliketosayyes."

The words rush out of her before she loses her nerve, clawing for freedom, for her to reciprocate his interest before he leaves her for good, before she misses her chance.

She can see the impact of them land, each one a tiny punch, rocking him back on his heels, before a beautiful smile unfurls on his face, the light returning to his eyes as she'd hoped it would.

"Seriously, Beckett?" There is a note of disbelief in his voice, but also of happiness, and she breathes out a sigh of relief, letting go of the fear that was clenching around her spine like ice.

But then he frowns, face darkening again.

"What about Demming?" The words are soft, but the tone is dark. She can't blame him for that.

"We, uhh, broke up." She meets his gaze, his eyes wary but hopeful.

"Oh?" A lilt to his voice, a thousand underlying questions to that muted query.

"It wasn't…what I wanted. He wasn't right."

His lips curl invitingly, and she just wants to run her fingers along his jawline, tilt that face down to they are pressed to her mouth.

But they have an audience.

"Go home Kate. Pack a bag. I'll meet you at your place in half-an-hour."

"This doesn't mean I want to leap into anything Castle." She wants to tamp down any expectations, both on his part and on hers. "Just two friends, going for a weekend away."

"You'll get your own guest room, Beckett, don't worry." He shrugs lazily, accepting any conditions she'll lay on him. "Strictly platonic."

Well, not strictly. She doesn't voice the thought. Not yet, not here. It is too soon.

She packs a swimsuit, of course. Montgomery forced a couple of extra days of leave on her beforehand, so she packs enough for just under a week.

They don't talk much on the drive up. He drives, for once, and she sits back and relaxes, unwinding and soaking in the sun till they arrive at his house. Well mansion really, and for the first time she feels a beat of hesitation about whether this is a good idea. Ever since she accepted his invitation at the precinct, she's sort of been running on an adrenalin high, but the huge looming reminder of his wealth sends skerrick of panic bolting through her.

He must've sensed her hesitation as they walk out towards his front door, because he turns to her, brushing her arms with his fingers, reassuring her with a touch.

"Sometimes I forget that you're rich, Castle."

"Well, not James Patterson rich, but I do OK." He shrugs, turns back to look at his place with a critical eye. "Honestly Beckett, the money…doesn't really change who you are. Just magnifies things. I'm still the same guy who thought up the theory with the ice bullets, and the one who ran into a burning building for you."

"Oh you're never going to let that go, are you?" She doesn't mind. She won't ever forget it, or the way he opened his home to her without a second thought, the way she started fitting in around his family. The way it all clicked into place all too naturally, all too fast.

He waggles his eyebrows at her, blue eyes dancing with a smile.

"Hey, it made me a hero in Jordan Shaw's books."

"Shut up and show me around, Castle."

The house really is magnificent, complete with pool and private beach. Her room is luxurious but she doesn't waste much time in going for a swim shortly after they unpack. The way his eyes grow large and dark with arousal is just an added bonus to the tension leaching out from her skin.

"Sure you don't need me to put sunscreen on you, Beckett?"

"I think I'll manage somehow."

He joins her in the water anyway, strong and muscular arms stroking him through the water alongside her. For the first time, she lets herself look, really look and doesn't even mind when he catches her looking, her eyes tracing out the contour of his biceps, the muscular thighs and calves that power him through the water.

Something electric arcs between them as his blue eyes spark against her green.

She takes herself out of the water and wraps a towel around her before she starts something stupid, too soon and too prone to burn out. She knows herself, and she knows him. They'll have to be careful.

She kisses him on the third day. It doesn't come out of any special situation, any magical moment. One moment they're walking along the beach, enjoying the sunset, and he's collecting seashells with an adorably child-like glee and the next he's sort of looming over her, hawklike eyes piercing her and pinning her in place.

The only way she can think to free herself, the only thing she wants to do more than keep gazing into those eyes is to taste his lips, the ones her eyes keep flicking over when she can't help herself, in the middle of ordinary conversations, as they drink wine and eat dinner and he tells her about writing his books and she tells him about working vice and they fall into an easy domestic pattern. She's never ever imagined it could be easy, it was always work with Will and thinking and figuring and making herself fit and with Castle the dance just comes naturally, it is like breathing air, and he makes her laugh and forget her job occasionally and no one, actually no one, has ever managed to do that.

So standing on that beach, the sun streaking yellows and pinks and oranges into the sky, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. Pushing herself up onto her toes, curling her hands around his neck, fingers into his thick and dark hair as she pulls him down to her, his broad palms splaying against her back as he returns the embrace. He tastes like red wine and summer rain and dark chocolate- intoxicating, vivid and addictive. It could be seconds or it could be hours before they separate, she's not sure which, slightly breathless, his eyes darker and larger, lips fuller, face flushed. Fire runs through her veins, need licks at the base of her stomach, and she interlaces her fingers through his because she can't quite seem to stop touching him.

"Beckett." His voice is half-whisper, half-growl and all prayer. It is the most enticing sound in the world, and nothing can stop her from kissing him again thoroughly when it curls around her like a blanket.

They stumble back towards the house limbs entangled, stopping every few feet to make out like teenagers, his lips and teeth finding her ears, her neck, her shoulder, till she's reduced to incoherent gasps and more than slightly tempted to not even bother to make it to the bed.

Except she needs to be fair to him about this. About them. Regaining enough control to step away from his embrace on his back porch is hard enough, but the quick flicker of pain and rejection in his eyes is even worse.

"Castle…I want to do this. I do. But can we take it slow?"

"Ah sure. I'm going to need a cold shower now, but at any speed you want."

"No, not that part. I like that part. I want that part." She doesn't mean it to, but her voice drips with honey and arousal, huskier than she wanted. The way his nostrils flare and pupils dilate just ratchets up her desire in some kind of feedback loop. "I mean, not jump into anything. Take things too fast. Burn out. Rush into a definition. Tell everyone."

Words scatter from her before she can control them, spilling out too fast in an effort to make him understand. That she doesn't want to regret this, but to savour it.

He nods acceptance.

"Sure. Can I come to the precinct still?"

Her heart skips a beat at the thought of him not around, with his silly jokes and sillier theories, lightening the load on her shoulders.

"Yes, definitely. Just…try and act normal, if that's even possible for you."

She closes the distance between them as she speaks, till she's close enough to see the way his throat bobs as he sucks in air, can feel the heat off his body dragging her closer, and then she's draping her leg around his thigh, capturing his lips with hers again, till he bodily picks her up and presses her up against the doors.

She leans in to whisper against his ear.

"Take me to bed, Rick."

OK, so this in my Castle 2013/14 Winter Ficathon Entry. First attempt at this, let's see how it goes. This fic obviously goes AU from the end of 2x24, and will attempt to wind its way through various key moments in the storyline since. Inspired partly by BerkieLynn's wonderful fic 'Another Life', which I urge you strongly to check out.

The prompt I chose was of course Prompt 1: Your story begins with the following: "She awoke with a start. The bed beside her was cold, the room still dark save for the soft glow of the street light filtering in through the window as it reflected off of the steadily falling snow."

Reviews, of course, are wonderful and keep encouraging me to write so please leave one.