The club owner never showed that night. The case would go on. As Castle sat in a taxicab on his way home, he couldn't get Beckett's performance out of his head. Is it possible she loved him? Is it possible he loved her back? Yes, he answered himself, and he felt a wave of relief and energy wash over him in the cab's backseat. He loved her. He'd always loved her, since they met. Who was he kidding denying it? Despite this realization, Beckett's seeming refusal to admit to her feelings ate at him. She had spent the entire time as the team reviewed the evening's events back at the precinct avoiding him. Could he have simply been taken in completely by a masterful performance given by a woman he admired and was attracted to? No, this was more. His feelings ran deeper. He knew it in every nerve in his body. And every fiber of his being told him that her feelings ran deeper too. Nevertheless, his mind would not be at rest on the issue. He told the cab driver to take him to Beckett's apartment building instead of his own. He would find out.
He stood in front her door and thought for a second. There's still time to change your mind. You can just let it be and let things go on as before. No, things couldn't possibly go on as they did before. Things were different now. He took a breath and knocked. No answer. He knocked one more time before she finally opened the door, wearing pajamas and rubbing sleep out of her eyes.
"Castle, it's late. What on earth are you doing here?" she asked.
"I'm sorry, but I can't sleep. Can I come in?"
"What? Do you need me to tuck you in or something?" she joked. When his face didn't return her humor, she quickly wiped the smile off her face and invited him in. She could tell that whatever was bothering him was a serious matter.
"Well?" she asked.
"I enjoyed your performance tonight," he began tentatively.
Her expression changed quickly from questioning to as serious as his. She looked down at the floor for a moment and swallowed hard before speaking.
"About that, um, it's just that it'd been a while since I sang in front of an audience and it felt good. Really good … to be on stage and in front of a crowd … singing," she explained nervously, her eyes darting all over her apartment.
"I'll bet it felt good. It looked like it felt good," Castle replied and took a step towards her.
"Beckett … Kate… just hear me out," he interrupted. "I may be a sucker for an attractive woman and I may not be the best at keeping my feelings to myself…"
Beckett grinned slightly and nodded, but Castle persisted.
"But I'm not an idiot. I know you weren't just singing tonight."
"What do you mean?" she asked, her eyes intensely searching his and waiting for the answer she desperately wanted to hear.
"You know what I mean." He took a couple more steps closer to her. "You were singing to me. Telling me something. Something you've obviously been feeling for a long time. Something that I've been feeling for a long time too. And it wasn't until tonight, when I heard you sing that beautiful song to me, that I figured out what it is."
Beckett's heart was pounding just as it was when his eyes met hers at the club. He knows, she thought. What am I going to do? We're partners. She had made up her mind a long time ago that dating someone you work with was never a good idea. But was it really, she wondered? Did she really believe that or was that just one of the defense mechanisms she always put up to save herself from getting hurt. She didn't want to, but she continued searching his eyes for an answer to her own question. How she wanted to lose herself in his embrace, to be closer to him, touch him, feel him, experience everything about him. Then she remembered his reputation. Could she trust him? If they were going into a run-down warehouse to apprehend a suspect, yes, but when faced with a beautiful, intelligent woman without any emotional hang-ups? She didn't know. How could she admit her feelings if she couldn't trust him in that way? She made up her mind about what to do.
"Castle, I don't know what you think you saw or experienced tonight, but you're mistaken," Beckett bluffed, trying as hard as she could to hide the difficulty she had in speaking. "I wasn't singing to you. I was playing a part. Performing. Like I do every day in the interrogation room at the precinct."
"Then why did your eyes well up when you finished? Why did you hurry off stage and why did you avoid me for the rest of the night?" Castle challenged.
"I was embarrassed because I just got caught up in things. I saw you looking at me and I was reluctant to tell you the truth. I thought you'd be hurt when I told you that it wasn't real," she finished, hoping beyond hope that she wouldn't have to put up with the charade much longer.
Castle did nothing but look her deeply in the eyes. He wasn't entirely positive, because he knew she had an excellent poker face, but he thought she was bluffing. "Your eyes tell me that it was and still is very real." Castle pushed.
Beckett could barely hold it together now. Castle had not only struck a nerve, but had seen right through her again. That was one thing that she both loved and hated about him – she couldn't hide when he was around. They hadn't worked together that long and yet he already knew her too well.
"Call me Rick."
"No I won't call you Castle … er … Rick, or … dammit the point is I just can't," she finally choked out.
"So I'm right. You do feel something," he answered excitedly.
"No! I just … even if I did have feelings for you, we work together. The last thing I want to deal with and to have everyone else deal with while we try to solve cases together is a soap opera. Trust me when I say that it isn't happening now and it's not ever going to happen in the future." Her bottom lip quivered momentarily as she finished, but she again recovered quickly and steadied herself, signaling that she wasn't about to change her mind.
Castle still refused to believe that she was being honest with him, but he also knew the look on her face. He had seen it the first time he had offered to help her solve her mother's murder. The discussion was over. The issue was closed. He would leave it alone from now on, only because he loved her so much.
"Fine," he said, hurt and angry. Then a thought hit him. There might be one more way to crack the Beckett nut. "Then there's just one thing left to do."
"What's that?" she asked somewhat impatiently.
He stepped forward, took hold of her upper arms and pulled her into a long, passionate kiss. Just as she had put all her unspoken words and feelings towards him into her song earlier tonight, he tried to do the same with his lips and his hands and his entire body. He felt her tense up initially and feared that his plan would backfire by causing her to run from him. But he didn't care. He, too, had come far and saw no reason to turn back.
He broke away, looked her in the eye one more time, then turned to leave for the night. As he did, he felt her grab his wrist to stop him.
"Wait Rick," she said, the toughness and stubbornness in her voice now gone. Just as he had thought, the kiss had broken the dam behind which she kept her strongest feelings of love. Having thought she had succeeded in convincing him that he was wrong, the last thing Beckett was expecting in that moment was for him to kiss her. And what a kiss that was. She found herself defenseless as soon as his lips met hers. Just as she did earlier, she allowed herself to be swept away by the outgoing tide of his passion. Then he broke away and started to leave. And without a thought in her head, other than a feeling of how empty she would feel if she wasn't honest with him right then, she reached out for his hand to stop him. It was the furthest she had ever put herself out there for any man, and for the first time in her life, she wasn't scared, but blissfully happy.
"What?" he asked.
"You're right," she said breathlessly, her eyes swimming with emotion. "Initially I was just singing. Actually, I was just teasing you, but then I saw you and looked into your eyes … and all of sudden nothing mattered, but you and me and … the fact that I love you."
Castle didn't say anything immediately, just stood still smirking. "Can you do me a favor?" he finally asked.
"What's that?" Beckett queried as every pressure point in her body tingled with anticipation.
"Remember this date every time you tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about or that I'm being crazy or that you can't stand working with me," he answered grinning widely.
"From now on this will be remembered as the anniversary of the date when I succeeded in getting you to admit that I was right," he mocked subtly.
She couldn't help but laugh as she fell into his arms. They kissed again, but more even more passionately than before because each knew the other's feelings were true. This time Beckett returned Castle's kiss, matching his passion and running her hands over his back while he stroked her hair. They surrendered to each other and to their own long suppressed desires. There was nothing else in the world that mattered to them except being in the moment. With their arms entwined around the other's body and mouths locked together, they were no longer Castle & Beckett, but one unit of kindred souls united after a long, lonely search for the missing half that would make them whole. After a few minutes, they broke apart, but kept their arms around each other.
"I love you Kate," Castle said sincerely. "I don't think I've ever loved anyone as much as I love you right now."
"Rick, I love you too. More than I ever thought I could love anyone, especially after Mom died," Beckett replied, her voice trembling slightly at the thought of her mother's death. "And I don't want to hide it anymore."
"Well, I don't know that we'll be able to after that performance, which by the way was H-O-T, hot."
Beckett blushed at his compliment.
"Besides, I'm pretty sure Esposito figured it out," Castle continued. "He did, after all, call you a babe."
Beckett raised her eyebrows in questioning disbelief. When Castle nodded back at her, she shook her head slowly. He'll pay for that one, she thought.
"And if he knows, then Ryan knows," Castle finished. "And if they both know, then…"
"Lanie knows," Beckett interrupted him. "I already called her and told her what happened. You know, because I'm a woman and that's just what we do," she finished matter-of-factly.
"Ah," Castle said and a smile crept across his face. "I guess I'll have to behave myself from now on when we go to the morgue."
"Not necessarily," Beckett said seductively and she leaned in towards him until her mouth was inches from his. "You see, I love you even more when you're naughty."
"Do you now?" Castle asked playfully and touched his forehead to hers. "Well then, shall I show you just how naughty I can get?" he said, eyes wide as a child's on his or her birthday and his voice matching her seductive tone.
"Bring it on." Beckett teased and Castle laughed and lifted her off the ground into a warm hug.