Disclaimer: All characters within are the property of ABC Studies and Andrew Marlowe.

Summary: Castle and Beckett will spend Christmas together that they'll never forget.

AN: I would like to thank Tango Mike Charlie and Jenn1 for their amazing and swift betaing skills. This story takes place during season 4 so the occasional reference to already aired episodes are within. Also, this is the second holiday themed fic for Castle that I posted today and if you haven't read, Castle's Night Before Christmas, feel free to do so.

The snow was lightly falling and even though it was still several days away, it certainly was beginning to look a lot like Christmas in New York. It also meant that the year was coming to a close. For one Kate Beckett, she would be happy to see this one come to an end. The past year had not been kind to the detective, especially with the loss of a mentor and friend as well as getting shot.

Luckily, seeing Dr. Burke was helping her through all that. She had realized that she did not want to define her life anymore by her quest to solve her mother's death which was part of the reason she got shot. Ever since that realization, her thoughts had been drifting toward Rick Castle a lot.

Kate had never let him know that she remembered him saying those three special words. Her feelings for her unofficial partner had been changing during her recovery and were a huge reason for her break-up with Josh. Castle had done what Kate had wanted to avoid, he found a place in her heart. It was then that Kate knew how much she cared for the author. With the cases they had handled lately, especially the one with her and Castle being handcuffed together, Kate began to see what was important in her life.

As she finished some paperwork, Kate came to a decision. I have to tell Castle that I know what he said at the cemetery and that I love him too, she thought. It would be the perfect gift to him and that brought a smile to her face.

Christmas was one of Castle's favorite times of the year. This year, he wanted to make it extra special since it would be the last one before Alexis would head off to college.

Thinking of his little girl being away the following fall was tough but he knew that day was coming, no matter what. Something else had crossed Castle's mind, or rather, someone.

That someone was Kate Beckett. She'd been constantly on his mind from the moment he'd told her he loved her. Another thing that made Castle think of Kate was his work on her mother's murder.

Ever since he talked to that mystery man about getting Kate to back off, Castle took on the responsibility of working the case. It pained him to not let her know about what he was doing but it was being done out of his love for her and to protect her.

If he wanted to pursue any kind of relationship with Kate however, Castle could not keep what he was doing a secret from her. Like his relationship with Alexis, Castle wanted to have one with Kate based on honesty. That meant there was only one thing he could do: tell her what he had been doing. The downside of that would be Kate's reaction.

It's a risk I think, I need to take, Rick thought as he rode the elevator up to the Homicide Division of the Twelfth. Whatever the outcome, the burden he carried would at least be lifted. So he took a deep breath, got off the elevator and headed towards Beckett's desk.

Hearing the ding of the elevator, Kate looked up and was surprised to see Castle approaching.

"I didn't expect to see you today, Castle," Kate said, wondering what had brought her shadow to the precinct.

Castle quickly replied, "I was in the neighbourhood and wanted to ask if you were free for dinner?"

"As long as we don't have a body drop, I don't see why not."

"Good, can you stop by the loft around 7pm?"

"Sounds good, Castle, did you want me to bring anything?"

"Just your beautiful self, Detective."

Kate shook her head while trying to hide the smile that graced her face. His compliments, especially lately, never ceased to amaze her. "I'll see you tonight."

"Until tonight."

That being said, Castle turned and left the same way he came. While she watched her partner leave, Kate began to wonder if the time to tell Castle how she felt was fast approaching.

At exactly 7pm, there was a knock on the door to the loft and Castle was not surprised to see who it was on the other side.

"Good evening, Detective," Castle greeted Kate as he ushered her inside.

Kate removed her coat and scarf and handed them over for Castle to hang up. Her attention gravitated towards the kitchen because of a most heavenly aroma floating her way.

"Whatever you are cooking smells delightful," Kate told him as they made their way to the kitchen.

"It's my world famous Chicken Parmesan," stated Castle proudly.

"Is there anything I can do to help? Where are Alexis and Martha?"

"If you could set the table, that would be much appreciated. Alexis is with Paige and mother is busy with her school. Afraid to have me all to yourself?" Castle waggled his eyebrows at Kate once finished with his question.

Playing along, Kate answered without missing a beat: "I don't think I'll be able to control myself but I'll give it a try."

Dinner went off without a hitch and Kate enjoyed every minute of it. She thought the Chicken Parmesan was amazing. Kate knew that Castle could cook but he really outdid himself here. Conversation while they ate was light, but she could have sworn that something was bothering Castle.

Once they were done, Kate decided to help him with the dishes. As they did them, Castle was as quiet as a church mouse. Over the years, there had been lots of times that she had wished Castle would keep his mouth shut. Now, she felt otherwise.

"Castle, what's bothering you? You've been a little too quiet," inquired Kate as she put the last plate away.

"There's something we need to talk about and I can't keep it inside any longer," Castle told her as he headed to the living room with Kate following right behind.

They sat on the sofa in the living room basking in the glow from the just decorated Christmas tree. Castle remained quiet as he was working his way to what he wanted to say, so Kate took the initiative and got the ball rolling.

"You certainly go all out when it's Christmas, because your tree looks amazing," Kate told him as she continued to marvel at the tree.

"Yeah, we really do," Castle replied with a smile as he turned his attention towards the tree. "I want to make Christmas this year a little extra special as it will be Alexis' last one before she's in college."

"Anything I can do to help?"

Kate's question made Castle's smile grow wider. Reaching over to give one of her hands a gentle squeeze, he replied: "Thanks for the offer. I'll let you know." He then grabbed her other hand and faced her with a serious look on his face. "I need to tell you something and I want you to promise me to let me finish before you say anything." Castle said, as he silently added, and please don't be mad at me.

"All right." Kate gave Castle's hands a reassuring squeeze.

Taking a deep breath, Castle dove right in. "I got a call from a man who was a friend of Roy's and he told me the only way to protect you was for you to stop investigating your mother's case. I was sceptical at first but he knew things that he couldn't have known, things we found out, but kept quiet. So I took him at his word."

He got off the sofa and lead Kate into his study. Once inside, he turned on his murder board that had everything on Johanna Beckett's murder. Kate was stunned at what she saw. She had no idea what she wanted or could say so she remained silent.

"Ever since, I alone have been looking into this. No one outside of my family, and now you, knows about this. Watching you almost die was the reason I took this on myself. I love you too much to see that happen again," Castle finished, relieved that he finally told Kate about what he was doing, not really realizing he just told her he loved her. Again.

Kate remained silent for a while as she tried to absorb what Castle had just said. When she did, it came out in almost a whisper, "I know that you love me."

"You… what?" he asked with a surprised look.

Clearing her throat, Kate repeated, "I know that you love me, Rick. I remember you telling me that after I was shot."

Now it was Castle's turn to be quiet. He turned the murder board off and sat in his desk chair.

Brushing a hand across his face, Castle asked, "How long have you known?"

"Since I woke up in the hospital."

Now that was a bombshell that Rick never thought that he would hear from Kate. For a man that made his living off of words, there were none that were coming to mind at that very moment. Right then, his mind was running through an endless swirl of emotion.

As the minutes passed by without a word coming from the writer, Kate, who was in a similar state because of what Rick had told her earlier, broke the silence. "I think I should go now."

Looking towards Castle and not seeing any type of reaction from him, Kate left his study. She got her coat and scarf out of the closet and left.

Hearing the click of the door got Castle out of his funk and he hastily went to the door.

Kate waited for the elevator all the while repeating silently to herself, I'mnotgoingtocryI'mnotgoingtocry. When the doors opened, she stepped in.

As he opened the door, Castle took one look towards the elevator just as the doors closed taking Kate Beckett away.

"Damn it!" Rick exclaimed as he slammed his door shut.

His mind was still in a daze and Rick had no clue on what to do. So he grabbed himself a tumbler, filled it with ice and poured a generous amount of scotch into it.

Looking towards the Christmas tree, he raised his glass and said, "Merry Christmas, Rick."

Several minutes later, Kate was back at her apartment and it never felt as lonely as it did then. Locking her door, she went to get ready for bed. Once her head hit the pillow, all the emotions that she had bottled up when she left the loft came out as Kate cried herself to sleep.

Martha was just coming down the stairs; she noticed a light coming from her son's study. When she looked in, she noticed that Rick was staring aimlessly at his laptop.

"Good morning, Richard," Martha greeted.

"And what's so good about it," Rick replied groggily.

From the tone, Martha knew something had to be wrong. Walking over to his desk, she perched herself on the corner and asked, "What's the matter, kiddo."

"I had Kate over for dinner last night and I finally told her."

Martha's eyes grew wide at this revelation. "And how did she react to that news?"

"To tell you the truth, Mother, I don't really know because she never said anything. I explained to her why I took it upon myself to keep looking into her mother's murder and let slip that I loved her."

"Oh, Richard, did she anything after that?"

"You're damn right she did! Kate told me that she knew, because she remembered what I told her in the cemetery. I asked her how long she had known and she answered she had known from the moment she first woke up in the hospital. All this time she knew how I felt and never said a thing. I was too shocked to say anything and after a while she left. Once I regained my composure, I went after her but she was gone."

"Oh, Richard," Martha sympathized, patting his hand.

"All I want to know is why she waited this long to tell me."

"The only thing I can suggest is talking to Kate about it. She didn't say anything about how she feels did she?"

"No, and it doesn't change how I feel about her. I just don't know what I should do."

"Affairs of the heart are always tough to work through. Somehow, you'll find a way. I take it you're not going to the precinct this morning."

The look Rick gave his mother gave Martha her answer.

"Thank you for seeing me on such short notice," Kate thanked Dr. Burke as she took her customary seat across from him.

"Not a problem, I'm just glad that I had the hour free. So, I assume something has happened since the last time we spoke," Dr. Burke said, ready to hear what Kate wanted to tell him.

"Firstly, Castle told me that he was working my mother's case by himself."

"Why was that?"

For the next several minutes, Kate explained Castle's reasons behind it, like him protecting her because of what that mystery man had told him and because he loved her.

When Kate was done, Dr. Burke posed this question to her, "Learning that, how did it make you feel?"

"I felt a little bit of everything from being angry to understanding. The thing is that I really can't be angry with him because he was doing it to protect me. I also thought it was sweet. It took me until now to see that.

"After he dropped that on me, I finally told him that I knew he loved me after he told me again during our conversation. He asked when I remembered and I told him."

"What did he say?"

"He didn't say anything. I kept waiting for him to say something but he never did."

"Okay, did you tell him how you felt?"

Kate grew quite at that question before saying, "No and when he remained quiet I told him I thought I should go and I did. I just didn't know what else I could do. Castle being so quiet was… I don't know."

"It's all right, Kate. Maybe Rick didn't know what to say after he learned you knew how he felt. I'd wager that he felt the same as you did when he told you about him looking into your mother's case."

Dr. Burke did have a point. What they talked about last night was pretty heavy for each to hear. Maybe leaving the way she did was not the best thing she could have done. Suddenly the solution popped into her head.

"I need to talk to Castle and tell him how I feel about… everything."

Dr. Burke gave Kate a reassuring smile. "That sounds like a good plan. I also think you're ready for that next step to truly move on and let yourself define your life."

"I think I'm ready too."

The next couple of days, Castle never showed up at the precinct. Ryan and Esposito had asked Kate if she knew the reason why. She did have a pretty good idea why the writer had not been around but she was not going to tell the boys anything. This was between her and Castle and it appeared that she would have to make the first move.

After her shift ended, Kate gathered her things and ventured forth to her desired destination, Castle's loft. With traffic on her side, Kate arrived at the loft in what felt like minutes as traffic was light. The ride in the elevator gave her some time to go through her mind on what to say.

Once at the loft's door, Kate took a deep breath and knocked.

It was not long before the door swung open to reveal the man she wanted to see. "Kate," Castle said a little surprised.

Kate quickly asked, "Can I come in and talk?"

"Sure, it's just me tonight. Would you like something to drink?"

"No, thank you."

Taking Kate's coat, Castle lead them to the sofa and they sat down next to each other. They were silent for a minute or two waiting for the other to get the conversation rolling.

"I'm sorry for the other night," they said at the same time and then laughed.

"Jinx, you owe me a soda, Beckett," Castle told her with a sly grin.

Kate could not believe she fell for that. "Seriously?"

Castle nodded his head in answer.

"Okay," Kate started getting their conversation back on target and took one of his hands in both of hers. "I'm not mad that you kept working my mom's case with what you were told. Doing that for me is very sweet of you."

"You know I'd do anything to keep you safe."

Wiping a tear away, Kate nodded her head, "Yeah, I know that."

"Why didn't you say something about when I told you that I loved you?"

Knowing what she would say next would be a game changer between them, Kate said, "I was scared and I needed time to work out how I felt about you."

"Have you? Figured out how you feel about me I mean?"

"Through therapy I've finally realized I should not let my life be defined by my mother's murder and that I need to live life the way I want to. That's where my feelings for you come in. Rick, you have always found a way past or through every wall that I've set up and I no longer want them up anymore."

"What are you saying, Kate?" Rick asked with hope that he would hear what he thought he was going to hear.

"Again, I want to apologize for not telling you about remembering and I hope you can forgive me. And… I love you too, so very much."

"Really?" he squeaked out in surprise.

Kate gave him a nod, cupped his face and brought their lips together in toe curling kiss.

"So, together at last," Rick said with a laugh.

Kate laughed along and snuggled up along side him. "Yeah."

They sat there, looking at the beautifully decorated Christmas tree and enjoying each other's company. Breaking the silence, Rick asked: "Do you have any plans for Christmas?"

"I'm not on call and Dad's out of state visiting a friend. You've got something in mind, Castle?"

"I most certainly do. Why don't you spend Christmas here with me, Alexis and Mother? They'd be glad to have you. Even better, you can come over Christmas Eve and spend the night. That way, you can see first hand what Christmas is like with me and my family."

"And I bet that you already have a place for me to stay." All Kate got in answer was Rick waggling his eyebrows. She rolled her eyes at him but laughed anyway. "Okay, I'll spend Christmas with you to experience how you celebrate the holiday."

Christmas Eve was spent at the loft by getting into their pyjamas to enjoy a marathon of Christmas specials and movies. The marathon was brought to a close with the viewing of It's a Wonderful Life. What made this even more special was how Kate snuggled up with Castle on the couch, which did not go unnoticed by Alexis who liked seeing her father and the detective together.

When Christmas morning came, breakfast was a host of eggs, bacon, sausage and toast which was enjoyed by all. Next came the presents.

One of Martha's gifts was the one from both Rick and Alexis, a gift certificate at her favourite spa, Serenity. She thanked them in typical Martha fashion.

The final present Alexis opened was one from her father. It was a book-shaped locket with a beautiful picture of Alexis and her father.

"It's beautiful, Dad, thank you," Alexis said happily as she went over to her dad and game him a kiss on the cheek.

With a smile, Rick returned, "You're welcome, pumpkin."

Rick pulled something from behind the tree and gave it to Kate. Opening the small box, she gasped at seeing what was inside. It was a silver angel with a diamond in its hands.

"This is beautiful, Rick, thank you," Kate thanked him as she went over and gave him a warm hug.

"I can't take all the credit for it. Alexis and Mother helped me pick it out," Rick told her, glad that Kate liked the angel.

Kate thanked Alexis and Martha with a hug each.

With that done, Kate grabbed the remaining gift and handed it over to Rick. "That's from me and I hope you like it."

"Coming from you, Kate, I have a pretty good idea that I'll like it."

Just like a kid, Rick ripped through the gift wrap like it was going out of style. Pulling off the lid from the box he found… a can of soda.

"See, Castle, I told you I was good for it," Kate laughed at him while Alexis and Martha joined in.

"Ha ha ha, very funny, Beckett," Rick whined in disappointment.

"There's more to it than that, Castle, keep looking."

Amongst the paper, there was a smaller box. Opening the box, Rick's eyes grew wide as he saw a pair of antique pens.

Kate explained, "They're replicas of the kind that Edgar Allen Poe used. When I saw them I thought of you."

"They're great, Kate, thank you." Rick gave Kate a hug and a loving kiss on the cheek.

With all the gifts handed out Rick and Kate went about cleaning the living room up, while Alexis and Martha started getting the turkey ready for dinner.

Once everything was cleaned up, Rick looked up and noticed with a smile what Kate was standing under. Clearing his throat, he got her attention and pointed up. Looking up, Kate noticed that she was standing under some mistletoe.

Rick leaned over and captured her lips in a sweet kiss. "Merry Christmas, Kate."

The End

AN: Another story has come to an end. Leave a review to tell me what you thought of this holiday tale. No flames, please.