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

"Hey," he whispered, smiling at her.

"Have you ever even seen the end of 'To Catch a Thief?'"

She shook her head at the gentle ribbing.

"I can't help it if your company puts me to sleep."

He pursed his lips in pretended offense and came to sit next to her on the edge of the bed.

"How are you feeling? Aside from tired, I mean?"

"Okay, just achy."

He nodded sympathetically.

"Anything specific?"

She hesitated a moment, and he could tell by the thoughtful look in her eyes that she was mentally cataloging her various aches and pains.

"Lower back, mostly on the left side. Calves. Arms are the worst. They had me doing pushups today."

Though she was healing well, and the extra therapy and experimental treatments he had paid for had considerably shortened her recovery time, she wasn't nearly back to full strength yet. It would be a while until she was chasing down suspects again or sparring in the precinct gym. For now, it was just a good thing that she could get up and go to work in the mornings. He was glad it was Friday night and she didn't have to be at work in the morning.

"Can I help?" he asked quietly, and she nodded, watching as he went to the nightstand and pulled out a bottle of massage oil with a woody, flowery scent. It was soft and sweet, a soothing fragrance that calmed them both and helped her sleep. He set the bottle into the warmer next to the alarm clock.

"You wanna stay in the sweatpants?" he asked, and she shook her head.

"Boxers, then?"


He retrieved a clean pair from his dresser and brought them over to her. He turned her on her back, and tugged on the leg of the sweats, watching her for signs of resistance. But none came. He pulled them off, chucked them over to the hamper, and lifted the boxers over her long, slim legs and purple cotton panties.

"Help me with my bra?" she requested timidly as she sat up, and he knew she must be hurting. Of the many intimacies they'd shared, that one was somehow crossing a line, and she usually did it herself, or if desperate, called for Alexis or Martha.

"Sure," he said softly, sliding his hands behind her under the back of the t-shirt and unhooking the clasps. He carefully maneuvered her arms out of the straps and drew it away, tossing the flesh-colored garment on top of her pants.

"Shirt on or off?" he asked.

"Off is probably easier," she answered, and he turned her body to face away from him before lifting the brown fabric over her head, setting it on the other side of the bed for later retrieval.

He placed one hand on her left bicep, using the other to drape her hair around the other side and pressed his lips to the uncovered juncture of her neck and shoulder.

"Lay down," he commanded, pushing softly, and she complied.

He reached for the now warm bottle of oil and poured a little into his open palm. When he had set the bottle back into the warmer, he rubbed his hands together briefly and then dropped them to her shoulders.

He began with broad, smooth strokes, meant to calm and sooth, and he watched while the lines in her face started to soften as she relaxed.

Gradually his touch became firmer on the areas she'd told him were bothering her. He eased his fingers into the low muscles of her back, the ones that had been weakened most by the injury as she was unable to exercise them for long weeks. She let out a low moan when he ran his hands over one particularly painful knot in her calf, and he quietly shushed her as he worked it out.

When he had finished with her back and legs, her breathing was deep and even, and she seemed to have melted into the bed. He considered just letting her sleep, but when he started to move away, he heard her soft voice again.

"Arms, Rick?"

So he stood briefly, placing a knee on one side of her and swinging his other leg over to straddle her backside, keeping a small distance between their bodies.

"This okay?" he asked, and she gave him a quiet "mmhmm."

He leaned over her back, starting at her neck and moving across her shoulders.

She twitched suddenly, and he paused.

"Are you alright?"

"Shirt's tickling my back," she mumbled, and he looked down to see that his loose shirt indeed was hanging down and fluttering across her back when he moved.

"You want me to take it off?"


He straightened up and pulled the shirt over his head, dropping it next to hers on the other side of the bed before leaning over her again. He moved her arms to circle around her head and began his work there.

He squeezed and kneaded her arms, feeling the tension leave the tight muscles. Little by little he moved down, until he reached her hands and placed his over hers. He threaded their fingers, squeezing her digits between his own with a rocking motion and then turning her hand to press his thumb into the meat of her palm and the abductor muscle below her own thumb.

As he finished up, he leaned his body all the way forward to kiss her hands, his bare chest pressing into her back. He began to raise his body but stopped when she groaned.

"Don' move. Warm."

He chuckled to himself.

"I don't want to crush you, sweetheart."

"S'okay," she murmured. "Jus' stay."

So he held himself there, his skin just flush to hers, for as long as he could before his arms began to shake from bearing most of his weight.

"I'm sorry, Kate, but I've gotta move."

He felt her nod, and he rolled toward the other side of the bed, landing on his back. She, in turn, rolled onto his arm until she was laying on her side and facing away from him.

"You want your shirt?" he whispered, and she shook her head.

"Just covers."

He reached for the dimmer remote on the nightstand, and hit the button to darken the room. Then he used his foot to lift the covers until he could snag them with his free hand, dragging the sheet and blanket up over the two of them.

He already had his left hand under her side and curled up to rest on her belly, but as soon as the covers were up, she reached for the other hand to wrap him around her like a cloak, angling his right arm between her breasts and settling his hand just over her heart.

She wasn't this clingy often, and days like this usually meant she needed comforting more than usual, but he considered it a gift to be the one she trusted when she was feeling this way. He pushed his right knee until it was sandwiched between her legs and then he nuzzled his face into her hair, pressing a kiss under her ear.

"Sleep well, beautiful."

She tightened her grip on his arm ever so slightly, and he heard a slurred "You too, baby" before her breathing evened out.

He lay there for a long time, taking in the feel of her skin against his, the friction and pull of every inhale and exhale, her soft warmth and the tiniest bit of scratch against his legs that told him she might not have shaved in a few days.

She had confessed to him, a few weeks ago, that she felt safe in his arms, and he had promised that she would always be welcome there.

They had yet to make love. She was still healing, and he didn't want to cause her unnecessary pain. They had slept together often. Over the course of lazy mornings and nights when she couldn't sleep and needed a distraction, he had lovingly touched nearly every inch of her body and she had caressed his as well. But there was an unspoken line that they didn't cross, and he refused to push until he knew she was ready.

But now, having her here in his arms, feeling her heart beat strong and steady under his palm, he was certain that even if they never progressed beyond the intimacy of this moment, he would be happy.

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