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

Blearily, he blinked his eyes and wondered what had woken him. A glance at the alarm clock told him it was only a little after two. He slowly became aware that Kate was jerking in his arms. They had shifted in their sleep, one of them had kicked the covers down, and he was now on his back with her upper body draped over him. Her chest was sweat-slicked and uncomfortably stuck to his. She was grimacing, little lines creasing the bit of her forehead that he could see in the moonlight shining in through the window.

"Kate," he said gently, bringing a hand to her cheek.

But she didn't wake. She had the occasional nightmare, even when she was with him, but this was the first time that his calling her name hadn't brought her out of it.

"Kate," he tried again, and this time got a response.

Her hand flew to his wrist, grasping it with vise-like strength as she pulled it away from her and cried out a single phrase: "Castle, let me go!"

He recoiled as if burned, their skin drawing apart with a soft pop. He retreated from underneath her to the far edge of the bed, surprised and hurt. The sudden movement jarred her enough that she woke with a start, and he could tell she was disoriented.

"Rick?" she asked, looking toward where he sat watching her, his shoulders trembling a little.

He met her eyes and saw concern flash through them.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah," he answered roughly. "Are you?"

"I'm fine. What happened?"

"You-you had a nightmare, I think."

"Why are you all the way over there? Was it that bad?"

He cast her a baleful look and hesitated before answering.

"You pulled my hand away from you and told me to let you go," he whispered and watched for her reaction.

Her brows knitted and she reached out for him, catching his fingertips where they rested on the sheet.

"I'm not sure what I was dreaming," she said softly, running her thumb over his knuckles and tugging on his hand to bring him closer. "But I didn't mean you."

He struggled with his next words. Her waking self was obviously okay with his presence. Hell, she was half-naked in his bed and either hadn't yet realized it or just didn't care. But some part of her subconscious hadn't wanted him to be touching her.

"You said my name," he choked out, feeling the beginning of moisture in his eyes. "You said, 'Castle, let me go!'"

Her eyes widened in surprise and he was horrified to see them filling with tears. He wanted to comfort her but felt like he was rooted to the spot.

"I am so sorry, baby," she whispered, her voice thick with emotion.

Her words and tone unfroze him and he scooted back to the middle of the bed, pulling up the covers and gathering her into his arms.

"Hey, no," he murmured, wiping away the tears that had begun to trickle down her cheeks. "It's okay, sweetheart."

"It's not okay," she wept into his chest. "God, Rick, I'm so sorry."

"You were asleep, Kate," he gently rationalized to her. "You couldn't help it."

He held her tightly, and she clung to him, her nose pressed into his shoulder. Finally she took a shuddering breath, lifting her head to meet his worried gaze.

"I love you, Rick Castle," she said quietly and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. "I don't want you to let me go."

He closed his eyes in relief for a quick moment before opening them again and leaning his forehead against hers.

"I love you too, Kate," he returned. "But some part of you must feel like I'm holding too tight, like I'm smothering you or something."

She shook her head vehemently.

"No, Rick."

"But..." he began before she cut him off.

"It was a dream, a nightmare, that's all."

She paused and lifted a hand to smooth across his forehead before dropping it to cup his cheek tenderly.

"I wouldn't have made it these past few months if it hadn't been for you," she said, using her thumb to wipe away the single drop that had leaked from his right eye.

"You saved my life," she continued. "I wouldn't even be here if you hadn't dragged me out of-"

"What?" he asked when she stopped talking. "What's wrong?"

"I think I was having a nightmare about the hangar," she whispered, and recognition dawned on her face. "That's the only time I can think of when I wanted you to let me go and you wouldn't."

He looked at her in anguish.

"I couldn't, Kate, I just couldn't," he forced out. "I couldn't bear the thought of losing you, of watching them kill you. I'm so sorry."

He heard the note of defeat in his own voice along with the pleading for her to understand.

She slid her hand up over his cheek and into his soft hair, lifting up to kiss away the tears that had multiplied on his cheeks.

"No, Rick," she whispered. "I don't want you to be sorry. You saved me, you saved me from myself. I wasn't thinking clearly, and I don't even want to think about what that would have done to my dad."

"It would have killed him," he affirmed and she nodded, and he spoke again, so quietly that he knew she could barely hear him. "It would have killed me too."

She wrapped her arms more tightly around him, resting her chin on his bare shoulder.

"Thank you," she whispered, and he shivered at her breath on his ear. "Thank you for knowing me better than I know myself. Thank you for putting your life on the line to save mine."

"I can't lose you, Kate," he sighed out, his voice shaking. "I just can't."

She pulled back to look him in the eyes.

"I can't make any promises, Rick," she said soberly. "I can't promise that there won't come a day when I don't make it home to you."

He closed his eyes, willing his active imagination not to create the scene in his head. She smoothed her hand over his cheek and he opened his eyes again to find her watching him solemnly, emerald eyes bright with unshed tears.

"I don't even want to think about that, but it's a very real possibility," she said, and her voice sounded lower and a little raspier than normal. "But I promise not to be reckless, not the way I have been in the past."

He nodded and pressed his lips briefly to hers in acknowledgment of her vow.

She let him linger for a moment before she pulled back to look at him once again.

"I know that's not enough," she said, searching his face. "You want everything and always, but that's as much as I can give you."

He crushed her to his chest and held her there for a few seconds, marveling at her heartbeat, strong and steady against him. Then he gently rolled them over until he was hovering over her, propped up on his elbows, her legs spread to make room for him.

"If I lost you," he began, pushing her hair back from her forehead. "I would never recover. But I knew that was a risk worth taking when I fell in love with you."

He lifted both hands to cup her cheeks.

"If there's one thing I've learned from shadowing you, it's that life is too damn short and unpredictable. All we can do is make the most of the time we have."

He paused and pressed his lips to hers once more, relishing the feel of their softness. He stroked his thumbs across her cheeks and spoke again, his voice husky.

"I fully intend for our always to last until we're old and gray and living in a home where the nurses call you 'Dearie' and bring me soft foods so I don't have to put in my teeth."

She let out a quiet chuckle that was music to his ears and he smiled down at her before he became serious again.

"I will do everything in my power to make sure we get to that point," he promised. "But as long as I have your heart, Katherine Beckett, I'll be happy, and whether we have days or years or decades together, I'll consider myself a lucky man."

She reached for him then, tangling one hand in his hair, and pulled him down, invading him with a passion he hadn't known existed. Her teeth rasped over his bottom lip and her tongue met his own, firm, yet supple, gentle, yet demanding.

He felt her other hand digging into his back, compelling him downward to meet her skin, flattening her soft breasts against his chest. One leg hooked around his knee to draw him closer, as close as they could be without sharing the one connection they hadn't yet experienced together.

Finally, she released him, panting as she brought her small hands to his face, her palms cradling his cheeks while her long fingers stretched back to caress the skin right below his ears.

"You must be a lucky man, then, Mr. Castle, because you have my heart, now and forever."

She drew him down once more, and he took the opportunity to press a small kiss to her mouth, following it with more to her cheeks, her forehead, her closed eyes, and finally the tip of her nose, causing a sweet smile to quirk her lips upward in enjoyment of his ministrations.

She opened her eyes then, and he was pleased to see the joy in their viridian depths.

"I think I must be a lucky woman too," she said with a smile.

He nodded.

"You have my heart, Kate," he whispered. "No matter what happens, you will always have my heart."

Then he lowered his mouth to hers, and it wasn't until the orange-pink of dawn came streaming through the window that they decided they could probably do with a few more hours of sleep.

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