CLAWS

He leans back against the wall, scapulae bearing the majority of his weight and hers as he curves his spine to keep her hands and ankles from smashing against the brick. Her mouth works at his throat, his brain fogging further with every passing graze of her teeth.

Shoes. He's glad he didn't wear something with laces today. He shifts his balance to one side, lifts his knee to hold her up and tugs off one shoe, then repeats the series of motions on the other side.

He could have just taken them off when they reached the bedroom, but it was muddy out this morning, and he doesn't want to leave dirty tracks across her floor. Better to save the dirty for later.

"Castle," she drawls into his ear. "What did I say?"

It takes him a moment to realize what she means, a moment longer to understand that he's expected to answer. But really, how is he supposed to think coherently - much less speak? It's impossible when her fingers are twirling in the short hair at his nape, when her legs are tightening around his waist, when he can feel the pulse in her-

Yeah, moving to the bedroom now.

He adjust her position, pulls her a little higher, hands kneading her glutes, and she lets out a little noise that might have been a sigh, might have been a gasp. Either way, her hot breath on his neck startles him, and he falters.

He stubs his left pinky toe on one of the chairs that stand between the front door and her bedroom. He manages not to trip, a little surprised at his own good balance with the way it throbs. She swallows the pained howl that otherwise might have concerned the neighbors, plunges her tongue into his mouth until his agony is of a different variety.

"Want me to kiss it and make it better?" she asks after a moment, lips coasting across his cheek, her voice husky and dripping with the hundreds of loaded looks and thinly veiled come-ons that have passed between them over the past three years.

"Yeah," he gruffs, clears his throat. "In fact, I think I'm hurting all over."

Her arms loosen around his neck and she leans back, away from him, even as her legs squeeze him harder. Mmm...definitely harder.

"Are you now?" she inquires, voice rising in pitch as one finger toys with his earlobe, her other hand sliding around to skirt under the starched collar of his dark red shirt. "All over?"

Her mouth sinks to the hollow of his throat, tongue dipping as her teeth skate up to nibble at his adam's apple.

"Here?"

He nods wordlessly, his sole focus on not dropping her, though she might well have a tight enough grip on his waist that he could let go completely and she wouldn't fall.

"What about here?" she murmurs, shifting slightly, settling her ankles lower around him, one heel pressing against his tailbone as her lips glide against the top of his chest, nose nudging at the placket of his button-up.

Oh. He can't-

She's wearing a thin pair of dress pants and and a flowing green blouse and he can feel everything and it's nothing like his fantasies and it's more - immeasurably more - and how the hell are they both still fully clothed?

"Kate-"

Her legs release, but she gives him no warning. He thinks she's falling and holds her tighter, which - oh.

She lets out a shuddering moan that echoes through the empty apartment. It leaves his mouth dry, rattles in his chest, pools in his stomach. And then races lower, to the part of his traitorous body that her sudden descent has trapped between them.

His heart stutters and his lips part on a noisy exhale, all the air rushing from his lungs at the sensation.

He glances down, sees her doing the same, the expression on her beautiful face one of joyful disbelief, as if she can't quite fathom that they've finally reached this point.

When his eyes finally manage to look beyond the convergence of their bodies, he realizes she's still on tiptoes. She stopped. Halted her downward movement to rest right where she is.

"As I recall," she lilts, drawing his attention back to her face, to the lift of her eyebrow and the curve of her lips, "You told me you weren't able to get a concealed weapon license."


She loves it when she can get to him. It's one more button and I do this one thing, with ice cubes all over again, and the look on his face is worth any ego boost he might receive from the innuendo.

The hand at his collar slides down to fiddle with the first fastened button of his shirt. Nimble fingers work the fabric, twisting, as her other hand drops from his neck to smooth across his chest.

His heart pounds under her palm, and he still hasn't said a word.

She abandons the button, curls slim digits, raps her knuckles against his sternum.

"You with me here?"

His jaw slowly shuts and he nods.

"You okay?" she asks softly, a hint of teasing still infusing her voice, mingled with the genuine tenderness she feels toward the man in front of her.

He ducks his head swiftly and presses his mouth to hers. Long, slow, deep. And oh so incredibly right.

"I love your mind," he whispers when their lips part.

She looks up at him through dark lashes, finally letting her heels touch the floor. His eyes shut for a moment and then open again as she drifts down his body, friction and heat in all the right places for both of them.

"Just my mind?" she responds, letting her tongue flick out to moisten her lips, watching the way his eyes track the little muscle.

He shakes his head.

"Everything, Kate," he murmurs, sincerity saturating every word. "I love every part of you. But it was your mind I loved first."

That's…not what she expected. Not that she thinks he's shallow. She knows he's not. He's thoughtful and considerate, sees beyond the masks many people (herself included at times) wear.

But she thought it would be something else. Her passion, her drive, maybe the way she pushed through tragedy to become who she is or the way she empathizes with families of the victims.

One hand glides up her back, fingertips feathering across her spine until he can cup her neck in his broad, warm hand.

"You challenged me, from the very beginning, and no one had done that in a very long time."

She drops her eyes down to his chest, focuses on the way her fingers have been unconsciously scratching against his muscles.

But then his hand is at her chin, tilting her head up so she has to look at him.

"You made me think, Kate," he says, his voice vehement. "You made me examine everything from a different point of view. You made me tell better stories."

Heat rises in her cheeks and it strikes her that being wrapped around him, pressed against him didn't make her blush, but a few kind words do the job quite nicely.

"Plus," he continues, and she glances up to see the familiar twinkle returning to his eyes. "You have this wicked quick wit that keeps me on my toes. You always surprise me. I love that."

Lifting herself up on the balls of her feet, she drags her body against his once more (and revels in his pleased groan), kissing him soundly on the lips. Her head slants and she pulls her hand from his collar to curl her fingers around his ear, holding him firmly in place.

She works at his mouth, lips and tongue and teeth all doing their parts while the hand at his chest skims over his abs, feeling the muscles contract under her touch. Her index finger hooks into his waistband, and she tugs.

He takes in a startled breath and her incisors clamp down on his bottom lip, just enough to halt any further movement.

She shifts her hand between them, feels the tension in his frame as he struggles to remain still. Her teeth release his lip, soothing the slightly swollen spot with her tongue.

And then, in one smooth effort, his belt buckle is undone and she's thumbing open the button on his jeans.

He jerks toward her, and she presses right back, lowering her other hand from his ear to pull on either side of the fly until the zipper gives way and she can touch the fabric underneath.

Silk, by the feel of it.

She keeps his mouth otherwise occupied, gently caressing a freshly-shaven cheek with one set of fingers while the other marches around his hips and dives beneath the denim that covers the rear she once admired after he'd had a run-in with an angry guard dog.

She couldn't resist looking then, and she can't resist touching now. Doesn't have to anymore, she realizes, smiling into the kiss. He's hers, and she gives him a quick squeeze in honor of the occasion.

His smile answers her immediately. She can feel it, and her eyes open to find him watching her, all bright cobalt and joyful crinkles.

He bends his neck, leaning his forehead against hers.

"I love you," he sighs, brushing his knuckles to her temple, her ear, her neck.

"Love you too," she whispers, nuzzling his cheek and placing a soft kiss on his lips. "Your mind, your heart, all of you."

He skims both hands down her sides, and then lets them rest on her hips. Oh, that's *nice* - the way his fingers span her slim waist. That feeling brings up all manner of lovely images.

"Body too?" he asks, pressing forward against her.

She drops her other hand, tugging the denim over his hips until it falls to the floor, pooling around his calves. He barks out a little chuckle.

"Mmm," she hums, tongue darting out to sample the corner of his mouth. She wonders if he tastes different when he's laughing. "Let's find out."

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