Kate opened her eyes slowly because her eyelids felt heavy. Once they were open and she was awake enough to focus, she frowned. That was not her bedside table next to the bed. Her eyes flickered to the sheets of the bed. Those weren't her sheets, either. Her eyes went lower, and she realized there was an arm snaked around her naked torso. A hairy arm. A strangely familiar hairy arm.
Memories from the night before crashed over her like a tidal wave, and she was helpless against the sudden pulsating of heat a few inches beneath the hairy arm around her torso. A faint blush crept over her cheeks next. Oh, God. The things he'd done. The things she'd done.
She replayed the night in her head. A game at the precinct. Italiano Joe's. The elevator ride up to the loft and then...Jesus Christ. The kitchen counter. She'd had sex with Rick Castle on his kitchen counter.
And then on his leather couch.
Then in his bed.
And goddamn, it was good.
Kate looked down at the arm still wrapped around her. She lifted one of her hands slowly and gently ran her fingers over the hair on his forearm. She smiled. A little part of her started laughing, mocking the fact that she was grinning like an idiot while stroking a man's arm hair after a night of wild sex. But another part, a much bigger part, was thinking about the man the arm hair belonged to.
He'd been nothing like she expected, but then everything like she expected too. He was sweet. Not overbearingly so, not in a way that made her want to bolt. It wouldn't have taken much. She was flighty, to say the least, when it came to emotions pertaining to men. But Rick had been…perfect. There was an image seared into her brain, possibly permanently, of them on his couch. Of his body on top of hers, his eyes locked with hers, and then his words. Breathy. Barely audible, but enough to make her heart riot. You're beautiful.
His sweetness vied with something else, too. Something that she could only label as assertiveness. She'd been with men before; she wasn't a nun. But being with Rick made her feel like maybe she had never really been with a man. He'd been daring, confident, aggressive in the best way possible. Time flew by and she'd slipped more out of control by the second, but it didn't matter. That was the point. Lord, he made her feel like a woman. Not a homicide detective. Not his muse. Not a giggly fan girl, or even his almost-best-friend. But a woman.
She looked down at herself. She was naked. Definitely naked. And if she was naked, she'd bet her entire pension he was naked too. Something glinted in the corner of her eye, and she realized that the necklace with her mother's ring was still around her neck. She'd never worn it during sex before. It was always the first thing she took off. Her mom's ring stood for a huge part of herself, a part that she rarely let anyone see. Especially men, since they seemed so temporary.
But for some reason, she hadn't taken it off last night. He'd even asked her about it. It's not like she could forget it was there. But she hadn't taken it off. He'd asked her if she would keep it on, and he'd asked because he knew it was a part of who she was. He wanted her to be vulnerable. He wanted her to trust him.
She had all sorts of reasons floating around in her head. She didn't want to think about them right now. Right now, all she wanted was some water. She was a little dehydrated from their…workout.
Kate shifted her body slightly, wondering if she would wake Rick up if she moved. She could feel him behind her, spooning her, and she let herself contemplate for a second how warm he was. Then she lifted his arm off her torso, slid out of bed as gracefully as she could, and set his arm back down on the sheets gently.
The moment she was without skin contact she was cold. She glanced around the room and spotted a dress shirt of his lying haphazardly over a nearby chair. It was simple, white, long sleeved. She reached for it and pulled it on, buttoning three buttons and leaving the rest. Then she padded toward the bathroom that was attached to his room.
She spotted a stack of Dixie cups by the sink and was reaching for one when she realized they were Bob the Builder cups. Bob the Builder? Really, Castle? She shook her head and smirked as she filled one with water from the faucet and drank it. The man was like a seven year old. Not all the time. Definitely not last night. Heat washed over her for the hundredth time. God, last night.
Kate heard a sound to her right and whirled around, her hand going to her hip automatically. As if she had a gun the morning after. Ridiculous.
Rick was leaning in the doorway in nothing but Superman boxers, his arms folded over his chest. He was smiling at her, and Kate felt a twist in her heart. Dear God, no. She could not be falling for this man. Not after one night.
"Hi," he said.
She smiled. "Hi."
He let his eyes travel up her body appreciatively, from her toes to her eyes. "You look good in my clothes."
She shrugged and tossed the Bob the Builder cup in the trash. "It's comfy. I think I might steal it."
"Fine by me."
Kate wondered why this wasn't more awkward. Wasn't it supposed to be awkward? They'd crossed a line in their relationship last night, a line they couldn't go back on. No more unresolved sexual tension. Now it was resolved. Well maybe not permanently resolved, judging from the way his eyes on her body made her feel warm and tingly in all sorts of places. But still. Things had changed, and they couldn't change back. They could pretend it had never happened, but pretending only went so far. Something had changed between her and Rick. And there it was; she didn't say Castle in her head anymore. It was Rick now. After all, that's what she'd moaned last night when he…
He was walking toward her now, and when he got to her he placed his hands on either side of her face and pulled her in for a kiss. Kate clutched his sides, pulling him closer as she kissed him back and felt a familiar rush of warmth, excitement, and maybe a little fear. Rick pulled away and smiled at her.
"Just so you know I have absolutely no objection to you wearing my clothes. It'll make my daydreams at the precinct that much better."
Same old Castle. Why was she surprised? Had she thought that he'd stop being Castle just because they'd slept together? She was relieved he hadn't. And also oddly turned on.
"You have sexual daydreams about me at the precinct?"
"Oh, absolutely. There's this one where you pull over your Crown Vic to lecture me on something and we end up steaming up the windows…" he trailed off and glanced up at the ceiling, his face thoughtful and lustful at the same time. It was an interesting combination.
"You know that would never, ever happen right?"
He looked down at her. "Never ever?"
He pouted for a minute, and then his lips burst into a devilish smile. "That's okay. I've got plenty of others."
She patted his chest. "Good for you. Nice Dixie cups, by the way."
"Hey, Bob the Builder is very inspirational. All about being able to do things. Speaking of doing things…" Kate couldn't stifle an eye roll. Rick kissed it away and then grew a little more serious. "You want to talk about last night?"
She avoided his eyes. "Do we need to?"
"I mean, I…" he trailed off, put a finger under her chin to turn her face back up toward his and make eye contact with him, and then continued. "I think it might be a good idea."
She dropped her hands from where they were still clutching his sides. "Listen, Rick, if you just want to go back to how things were-"
"How things were?" he sputtered. "Are you crazy?" Kate looked up at him, stunned. He recovered quickly. "I mean, if that's what you want. Whatever you want, Kate."
"What do you want?"
Yes, it was absolutely the coward's way out. But she'd be damned if she was going to stand in front of Rick Castle in nothing but his shirt and tell him that she'd really, really like to see him in a non-professional capacity, let alone do what they did last night at least, oh, a million times more.
She read his expression, wondering what he would say. "What do I want?" he repeated. She nodded, and he seemed to catch on that she didn't want to go first. He rose to the occasion, stepping up to the plate for her. He took a deep breath, looked her straight in the eye, and let the words tumble from his mouth in a flurry.
"I want to take you out on a date. I mean the whole nine yards. Pick you up at your door, bring you flowers, hold your hand. I want it all. I want to see you in a different one of my shirts every morning. I want you to do movie marathons with me and Alexis. But mostly, right now, I want to know if this was just sex for you. Because it wasn't just sex for me."
He finished with a sigh. Kate stared up at him, feeling a million different things, but she couldn't decide which emotion to focus on.
"Wasn't for me either," she whispered finally.
His grin was adorable. Sometimes he really was charming as all hell. "Really?"
"So? Can I take you on a date?"
It hit her then. An inordinate amount of pure terror. She was falling for him. Fast. He knew things about her that no one else knew. He could read her like a book. Even in bed, he knew not just what she wanted, but what she needed. Holy shit, she felt something for him. She hadn't felt something like this in a very, very long time. Maybe ever. It scared the hell out of her.
She ran her hands up his bare chest and wrapped her arms around his neck, because even as scared as she was she still wanted to touch him. "I can't do this fast."
He looked confused. "Okay…"
"Can we just…take it slow?"
"Kate, if you don't want-"
"I do," she cut him off gently. "I do. I just…I need you to be patient. Can you be patient?"
"For you? Absolutely." The sincerity in his eyes bowled her over. Serious Castle. She wasn't used to this yet. She liked it, though; liked it as much as she liked his other side. She didn't say anything in response; she just kissed him. When she pulled away he brushed some of her hair behind her ear. "So what now?"
Kate grinned. She disentangled herself from his arms and waltzed over to the shower, where she reached in and turned the knob for hot water on all the way. Then she started on the buttons of her shirt, agonizingly slow.
"Now?" she murmured. "Now, I need to shower." Her shirt fell from her body in a flutter of white. "Want to join me?"
She didn't have to ask twice.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed the ride…or rather, the game :) The sequel to this fic is called Hunted, and will be posted soon. It will be rated M. It's a little more angsty and dramatic than this one; can't always be smooth sailing for Beckett and Castle, right? Please, please check it out if you'd like. Thanks for all your lovely reviews throughout this story…they are much appreciated. Happy Holidays, everyone.