DAY SEVEN - Late Friday night / DAY EIGHT – Early Saturday morning

After he's said his piece he sits there, and his heart sinks. Kate's smart. Veteran of - how many love-triangle murder cases now? She totally read the signs. His and Jacinda's easy intimacy in that bar, his misguided hints to Kate that his relationship with the woman was ongoing, the fact he left the bar with her.

She knows what this is. She's not stupid.

"I can't say I'm all that surprised. She is your type, after all. Fun. Blonde. Uncomplicated." Kate seems to choke over the last word. She can't even manage a smile; her brow is furrowed, and he can see her eyes gleaming with moisture. "I was wrong to come on to you when you're with someone else."

"No. Kate-"

Her face hardens. "It's okay, Castle, that's the way it goes sometimes. You win some, you lose some. I sort of hoped we'd be able to work things out but not like this. I should have seen it coming."

His throat aches. This is on him. He left her with the impression that he and Jacinda were an item. That didn't come out of nowhere... He reaches out to her, but she ignores his outstretched hand, and it drops uselessly to his side. "Kate...I'm sorry. I made you think that, but that's not how it is at all. If you'd just give me a chance to explain-"

"Explain? Explain what, Castle? We weren't in a relationship. You're a free agent. I'm a free agent. I'm sorry, it probably seems like I've led you on tonight, but I can't leap into something with you when you've just crawled out of another woman's bed."

"Kate, you have to understand, I was hurt, confused, I'd had too much to drink. She was there and I thought I'd lost you. I-" He gulps down the panic that is building, closing his throat, making it hard to form the words. "She was there. I needed someone, but only because I thought I couldn't have you."

Tears are slipping down her cheeks now. She's been avoiding his gaze, but she fixes him now with a glare, eyes half-closed and glittering. "Castle, I guess I don't understand how you can tell someone you love them, and then go off and fuck someone else. If you suspected I was holding out on you, why didn't you just try talking to me? And what if we were to get together? Is that how you're going to handle conflict? Act like a self-absorbed jackass who goes AWOL when you don't get your own way?"

"Kate, please, I...I'm trying to talk to you now."

"Too little, too late, Castle. Whatever we could have had is a lost cause now." Her voice is hard, but has a tremor that betrays deep hurt. "You took something that could have been amazing, and you turned it into something worthless. I've got nothing left to say to you."

"Kate, please don't push me away, please give me a chance to try and fix-"

The look she levels at him cuts off his plea like a blade through silk. And he knows then he's lost her. She's a hardened warrior who fights for justice against those who would commit murder to keep the dead silent. And he's on the wrong side of the battle this time. For him, it's all over. He feels his chest crack open that there's a very real possibility he'll never see her again. He knows it with a conviction that's bone-deep.

"We are over, Castle. Think about the chance we had and how badly you blew it. Now, we're done. I'll see myself out."


But she's already left the room.

As he slumps, broken, on his sofa, head in his hands, there's a part of him that still holds out hope that she'll be back; part of him that half-listens for a bang of the front door; a sign that maybe it's just the anger talking. That maybe, with time, she'll come around?

But there's no loud slam of hardwood into a sturdy doorframe, just a solid, decisive click. There's nothing in it that betrays anger, just a devastating end.

That makes it so much worse.


"Kate...Please don't-"

"Castle, I'm here! Wake up!"

He sits upright, sucking air into empty lungs with the shock of awakening; there's another shock as he puts a hand down beside him and encounters smooth skin. He gasps. Kate. His heart speeds up again. Until he remembers-

She's here.

"Bad dream?" And the drowsy slide of her hand across his chest, as she rises from her sleeping position draped across him, tugs him all the way back into the world.

He struggles up from his crooked position wedged into the corner of the sofa in the living room of his beach house. "Yeah…"

Kate is blinking in the half-light, stretching her arms out, wiggling the kinks out of her torso. She's wearing exactly what she was wearing when she arrived, though the shirt, having seen many adventures tonight, is now all wrinkled and twisted around her.

He pulls in a lungful of air, and he tries to hold on to this moment. Because it's this moment that reminds him that she's been right beside him since they took this crazy dive together a few short hours ago.

Then she's smiling at him, she scratches her nails over the fabric of his shirt, and she curls her hand behind his neck, pulling his mouth down to hers.

Not long later, he breaks their kiss. She's in his lap now, seemingly content to just be there. He buries his face in the warm hollow of her neck, as he tries to draw her calm and warmth into himself. But he's still quivering, his gut roiling inside from the smack down he just got from a judgmental subconscious. And his dream sits looping inside his head like some malevolent newsreel.

And there was her real reaction… his chest still aches from witnessing it before they fell asleep here, exhausted with everything the last week has put them through. As he blundered through an explanation of something that can hardly be explained at the best of times, watched as she shrank in her seat as if the blow he delivered was physical. Screwing her eyes shut, lowering her head. Putting one hand on her forehead, as if to somehow stop from hearing the words. Then dashing tears off her cheeks with impatient hands like she was surprised and embarrassed to find them there.

He hates how he's hurt her. She never lets on the way she's feeling at the best of times, so one the one hand he realizes it's his privilege to see this. But her reaction, it's not surprising, makes him feel like a complete jerk. In fact jerk doesn't even begin to cover it.

If he never sees this kind of pain on her face, especially if he put it there, it'll be too soon. And while he can't fault her response ("Castle, it was just a screwed up misunderstanding.") it was way more understanding than he ever thought he deserved…

He wishes he'd spared her - both of them - this. This whole thing - Jacinda, the drinking, the mistrust, and trying to run away - would have been the last thing he wanted. If only he'd tried to understand better what was going on with her. Had they...just talked about it. Now there's no going back.

But with that kind of secret lying between them, there'd be no going forward either.

And what he got up to with Jacinda isn't the only secret he's been harboring. Barely a month after Castle made a deal with someone to keep her safe, Kate's shooter is still on the wind. And when the trail of his own covert investigation ran cold...well, things have gone the kind of quiet that makes him wonder where the kill shot's going to come from...

He just has to hope there's a break in the case before she uncovers his deception. And that she doesn't find herself in a sniper's crosshairs in the meantime.

He jolts back into the here and now with the soft pressure of her hand on his neck, and as she places her lips softly on his. "You okay?"

He's riddled with guilt, but has to get past this, so mindful of just how close he came to screwing this up; and he could well again if he's not careful.

He's just so torn. He hates this. Not being able to bring her into the loop. Despite all the nights he's spent staring at the smart board he brings out less and less often from the tiny, secret hiding space he had built in behind the walk-in robe, he's found nothing. Most of all, he'd like to share this burden with her. But he can't.

Now he pulls her close, and sighs against the skin of her cheek. "Oh, Kate..." It's not ideal to leave her in the dark, but he just can't get into this right now.

Maybe it can wait till morning.

He pulls back and tugs her in to recline against his chest. "I think I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or for you come to your senses and dump my ass..." He doesn't need to fake a smile that's a happy, soppy mess, and he can't bring himself to care.

She tips forward in amusement, the smile she's showing him wide and genuine, far from the angry version of her his subconscious just put in his mind. "Oh, Castle."

Then she yawns massively, and rubs her eyes. "Big few days," she says, by way of explanation, raising an eyebrow.

He chuckles at the understatement, while he scrubs at his face with cupped hands, feels the rasp of stubble on his fingers. "Yeah…So did you-"

"So we should-"

He halts, having talked over her; she does the same. Her awkward smile mirrors his.

Right here, is another turning point.

Where to from here?

He doesn't know. He doesn't want to assume a single thing. She could stay here; there's plenty of room. But he's really reluctant to ask. Something started between them tonight, but they've only now really tried to lay it all out on the table. In a way, it could mean they need to start again.

"So... Is it okay if I stay here tonight?"

"S-Sure." His heart feels like it's going to push out of his chest; he just needs to keep it normal. Not weird.

She curls up an eyebrow, a slight smile on her lips. "Wanna show me your room?"

"Uh...sure." Castle shepherds her out of the living area and down the wide corridor. "It's the one at the end. We'll get you all set up, then I'll go find a couch to crash out on." He nods earnestly, prepared to give her this space and time, and tomorrow they can start again...if she even wants him any more after this.

She looks back at him, and grins a grin that loses him his heart again, and he can't take his eyes off her, as she links her hand with his and tugs him down towards the room. "Oh, I think we can do better than a lumpy couch... "

He yelps as she pushes him into his room, closing the door firmly behind them.

At some point after that, after most things have been said, finally, finally there's nothing else between them, and even words fall away, and their hands and mouths and bodies take over.

And as her walls come down for good, she sighs words in threes into the dark that work on him as much apology as forgiveness, and fill him up with their fervent promise.

And from this woman, those words murmured into the sacred quiet of his bedroom after everything they've been through, have the weight of vows engraved in stone.

No more waiting.

I want this.

I love you.

The vibration of her cell phone on the nightstand next to her wakes her. She cranes her neck to see. While they've slept, they've moved together, and he's draped over her body, legs tangled with hers; she has one hand curled around his back, and at some point during the night, they've twined their mirrored hands together; entirely as if even in sleep their bodies are loath to be apart.

Makes it tough to reach her phone though.

She wiggles her torso out from under his, gently, so as not disturb him. He mutters in his sleep, still reaching for her. She grabs her phone and lies back down, unlocking the screen to see the message, squinting in the unaccustomed light.

Hey. So how'd things go with Castle tonight, hmmm?

Lanie. She grins as she responds, struck by a small twinge of... Embarrassment? Guilt? At having bailed on her and the boys. But she has a sneaking suspicion she was brought out to the Hamptons on pretexts entirely other than a stag party.

Fine... (grin)

Lanie's not even in the room, but Kate's sure her cheeks are burning red as she waits for the blowback. The phone buzzes again.

*SQUEEEEE*! BTW, wedding cake emergency, so boys & I are heading back early. Stag postponed. Sure you'll find stuff to do with your writer friend. Ryan says you're welcome. Drinks on you two at Haunt when you're back... & a message for Writer Boy-

"Who's gonna kick my ass if I don't behave?"

Kate leans back into his chest, looking back as he peers at her phone's screen over her shoulder, and the corners of her mouth quirk up. "Who isn't gonna kick your ass?"

"Hmm... Guess I'll have to watch myself." He snakes his arms around her waist, and pulls her back down to lie next to him, settling her on his chest, arms encircling her in a firm embrace. He catches her gaze, and he's not grinning anymore. He strokes her cheek, feather-light, with his index finger, eyes soft on hers. He sighs. The sweetly simple contact, and the sum of everything he's not saying - yet - and of everything she's feeling, makes her breath catch, her stomach flip-flop. "Everything good?"

"Yeah." She catches his hand, threads her fingers through his, tugs his arm around her tight, so there's no more space between them. "Everything's great."

She wakes, hours later in gray dawn, to a military tattoo of squally rain and wind puttering against the master bedroom window. She shivers, and goose pimples bloom across her skin, in spite of the body heat radiating from the man in whose embrace she's wrapped. She just can't seem to get warm. As she sits upright, groping for the comforter, she catches Castle's phone screen glowing and burring against his varnished walnut nightstand. She checks the time: five AM. Who the hell-? She's the one who gets the calls in the dead of night, and she is most decidedly not on call. She picks up the device gingerly. It'll be a while till she feels comfortable touching Castle's things.

Smith. Who's Smith?

She debates waking Castle. It could be important, right?

But he's dead asleep, and she wants to be too. She's cold, and after this week, she's done. Fighting her own battles, fighting her mother's, fighting to be with the one she wants. The sight of the man beside her in bed, the thought that she has a four-day weekend ahead of her, and for once she won't have to spend her holidays thinking about Castle and wishing things were different. It makes her giddy, and a lightness blooms in her chest, She wonders if it's ever going to get old. She doesn't think so.

She taps his cell screen and scans it again. No. Whoever it is can just wait.

She slips his phone back onto the nightstand, then fumbles down the bed for the edge of the comforter and tugs it up, up over them, letting its weight blanket them, block out the cold. She curls into his body, her shelter against the brewing storm, and when her movements make him stir, she lets him pull her in close.

Kate sighs, and as Castle's breathing settles again into a steady rhythm, her own body relaxes deeply as she lets everything go. And her eyes drift closed, and she lets sleep come to lure her into the black.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Yep, that's it. You know their story doesn't end there, but this slice of it does. And there, I got them together in ONE WEEK. I consider that pretty good going!

Too many thanks and all my writerly love to my friend and beta, KyinHI. I've learned SO. MUCH because of her generous support and help, and especially her willingness to read angsty!spoilery chapter draft after angsty!spoilery chapter draft while I worked out what was going to happen next. Heh heh. Allll the 3333333s.

One last thanks to the lovely Lousiemcdoogle, who gave me the prompt way back in early 2013. Hope this was what you wanted... Cops and Robbers is pretty much everyone's season 4 favorite and the last one I would ever want to mess up!

Thanks! for all of your support, readers, reviewers, favoriters and followers, past and present, and social media buddies, bless you and thank you. I wouldn't have even got started without all the love and flails I got from this fandom. Hope the show realizes what riches they have in all of you x

Really hope you enjoyed reading this even as half as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Let me know what you thought, if the spirit moves you.