Her name escapes his lips on a breath. Her name - and nothing more.

Kate's eyes close, waiting for a response, any response beyond the vague ambiguity of her whispered name. But none comes. He doesn't speak. He doesn't step away.

And she's scared, petrified. Maybe he's changed his mind. Maybe after everything she's put him through over the last months, after pushing him away and pulling him back and surely confusing him to the point that he doesn't know which way is up, maybe he's decided she's not worth it and he's trying to think of a way to let her down gently.

She nearly startles when she feels his lips against her forehead. But it's the kiss of a friend, the comforting kiss of a father, and that's not what she wants.

Her hand moves from his cheek down to his broad chest, ready to push him away, ready to end this humiliation, this rejection. But then his own hand covers hers, enveloping it in a warm grasp, holding it over his heart.

"You love me?"

The words are spoken with such timidity, such apprehension. She's not used to that in this man. This man who never follows orders, who rushes in where angels fear to tread. He is brash and bold and confident and cocky. And yet so fearful when it comes to her.

She opens her eyes to meet his. There's a wariness still in his deep blue gaze, but hope finds a home there too.

She nods, not trusting her voice. His warm exhale washes over her, his breath smelling of spearmint and coffee. He teases her sometimes about her caffeine intake, but he matches her cup for cup.

"Kate," he whispers again, his voice desperate and needy as he leans down to press his forehead to hers. It's an intimate gesture, this act of being close enough to share the air they require to survive.

"I love you," she murmurs. "So much it scares me. I cannot lose you."

One hand tightens over hers on his chest even as his other hand slides around her shoulders, crushing her into his body.

When he says her name again, it's muffled by her hair. His nose brushes her ear and she hears a quick hitch in his breathing, almost a hiccup.

"You won't," he husks into her ear and then she feels the bob of his Adam's apple when he swallows to clear his throat. "You won't lose me."

She shakes her head, bumping her cheek against his before she pulls back to see his face.

"You said it yourself. Everyone associated with this case is dead. They're all gone."

Like that night in her apartment, before he convinced her to step back, the thought paralyzes her. She feels the tears well up, powerless to stop them. But unlike that night, she can't hold him at arm's length this time.

He lets go of her hand to wrap both arms around her, pulling her in tight, so close that she can tell where curves meet planes, how their bodies fit together, his broad frame and her own lithe figure.

"We're not," he whispers. "You and I...we're still here, together."

Her face is tucked into the juncture of his neck and shoulder, flesh against flesh, the wetness in her eyes moistening the skin over his collarbone.

"Whatever you want," he's rumbling into her ear, over and over and over. "Whatever you want to do, I'll do it. We chase this together or we let it go together. Whatever you want, Kate."

Part of her is still furious with him for breaking her trust, for going behind her back, for not having enough faith in her to do this with her. Another part recognizes that he is right. That she was spiraling out of control, lashing out at shadows, and that she would have gotten herself killed if he hadn't pulled her back from the precipice.

It's a battle with him, always, and even when they're on the same side, they seem to fight against each other. But she's tired, and she's scared, and she knows deep down that she can't do this without him anymore.

So maybe it's time to stop fighting. Maybe it's time to stop pushing him away and let him hold her as he is now. Maybe it's time to let him in.

"I'm still mad at you," she whispers against his skin, and he lets out a sound that could be either sob or laugh, she can't tell.

"Me too," he mutters, his lips pressed to her temple. "At both of us."

She is too. She wonders sometimes how she runs bravely into danger every day and yet hides from the man who would never try to hurt her. But she knows. She knows that every man she's truly trusted since her mother was murdered has betrayed her at some point.

First her father with his drinking, too lost in his own grief to see his daughter's needs. Then Mike Royce, tempted and tainted by greed. And her captain too, driven by the demons of the past, trying and failing to make amends. She'd forgiven him that night in the hangar, but it still hurts.

And this hurts. Castle has wounded her in the past, betrayed her trust first by looking into her mother's case and now by looking into it again behind her back. But it's not greed or shame or self-absorption in his case. And maybe that's what makes the difference. Why she can be so angry at him and still want to be here in his arms.

Because even though it hurts, he's done it for the right reasons, believing that he was acting in her best interests. To protect her. To keep her alive. To give her time to build back her strength.

"I need you," she says, her voice so low it's barely audible to her own ears. "I can't do this without you."

But he hears her, as he always does, and his answering words stir up both courage and dread within every cell of her body.

"I'm with you every step of the way."

I want to see us work, dear
To reach the other side
My treachery is love, dear
We're on both ends of the fight

We're fighting for ourselves
We're fighting for our lives
Would you let me see the world behind your eyes?

-Jon Foreman, "Behind Your Eyes"

Back                         Home                              Castle Main Page                          Next

Your Name or Alias:      Your E-mail (optional):

Please type your review below. Only positive reviews and constructive criticism will be posted!