She holds his hand to her chest, and she's never felt simultaneously more exposed and more safe. His palm is warm and large, fingers stretching easily to brush the base of her throat.

His free arm shifts from his side, wraps around her, and pulls her into his body. He cradles her thin frame, envelops her, supports her completely within his embrace.

As his hand rises until nearly his whole forearm rests against her spine, his fingers tracing gentle patterns at the nape of her neck, a vague recollection tugs at her brain, a phrase or a poem from her childhood. And then it comes to her - You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

It's out of the Bible, she thinks, one of the psalms. The one about being known completely by the Creator.

And though its been years since she attended any kind of church service other than a wedding or funeral, for some reason this passage still remains etched in her memory.

The rest of the words in the psalm made her nervous as a child, worried that if God saw everything she did, she'd be in a lot of trouble. She did have a rebellious streak, even as a kid, and the bit about you know when I sit and when I rise, you see my thoughts from afar - well, she didn't really care for the idea of that.

But now, now she sees the words differently. There's a security in being known so completely by another being, by her tower of strength, her Castle. There's a hope in realizing he could always find her, no matter where she ran. In the heavens or the depths - he'll be there, has been there with her already.

Maybe it's odd, perhaps even wrong, to finally understand the words in this particular context, to grasp them so clearly when she's standing half naked and cocooned in the embrace of a man who lost his pants a few steps back. But maybe not. This is love, right? - to know and be known.

And he does know her. He may say that she's a mystery he'll never solve, but he knows her better than anyone else. Sees her most clearly with all her strengths and her many flaws, and yet he loves her. He's in love with her.

His lips feather across her temple, his head lowering to speak into her ear, quiet and strong and certain.

"I'm so glad you're here with me."

She knows it's more than the excitement of having her breasts pressed tightly against his chest, more than the softness of her skin under his fingertips. It's having her alive and breathing in his arms, when she could have been in a coffin if things had gone differently that day.

Kate holds his hand tighter against the scar, feels the force in her bones. And then she pulls back just enough to lift his arm, to press a kiss against his palm. He closes his eyes at the action, tilts his forehead against hers, and lets his hand rest between hers against her cheek when she speaks.

"I'm glad you're here with me too, Castle."

He sighs, and the fingers at her back rises to caress her neck, thumb brushing at the wispy hairs, raising goose flesh on her arms. He continues the motion of his hand, slowly setting every nerve ablaze with his stroking. Yeah, she gets why Minnie gravitates toward him anytime he's near, why the kitten loves to be petted by him. It's intoxicating.

The detective herself could almost purr under his touch.

She keeps one hand wrapped around his at her cheek, but pulls the other away with a quick squeeze, dropping it to his front, back to the top button of the shirt that stretches tight across his broad chest.

Kate works the tiny disc between her fingers, pulling it free and revealing a little more skin to her intent perusal. Slowly she walks down to the next impediment, flicking her eyes up to see him watching her, studying her movements, absolutely absorbed, though his own hand has not given up its task.

But he's squeezing now, massaging muscles that tighten too quickly, taming the tension brought on by too much time hovering over paperwork and not enough sleep. His thumb presses down on a particularly tender spot, and she can't stifle the groan that escapes her lips.

He stills completely.

"Castle," she murmurs, and his eyes ascend from her hands, linger at her mouth and then finally meet her gaze. "Harder."

This is what a heart attack feels like, isn't it?

She stands topless in front of him, her fingers moving against his chest in the slowly devastating process of unbuttoning his shirt, and now she's groaning and telling him to press harder. The faithful muscle pounds under his ribcage and he's certain it's never worked this much in his entire life.

She gets the second button undone and looks him in the eye for a moment before she leans forward to brush her lips against his sternum, laughing at the shudder her action produces.

Actually, he must have suffered the heart attack already. Because surely this is heaven.

"Hey," she says softly, tilting back to look at him. "I was serious. That felt really good. But deep pressure would be even better."

It takes him a moment to restart his breathing, and when he finally does, she's regarding him with no small measure of amusement in her eyes. But affection resides there too, tenderness and love finding a home in her smile, in the laugh lines like parentheses on both sides of her mouth. Lines he's certain she didn't have when they met.

Both sets of hands resume their previous activities, his digging into her neck and shoulder, a little more strongly now, hers working at his still fabric covered chest, fingers light and teasing and torturous.

The pattern continues.

He compresses and stretches and manipulates her muscles, drawing groans and whimpers and the occasional gasp that all have his heart hammering and his mind going places he's never been with her. Not yet.

All the while, she unfastens buttons and kisses the newly visible skin, her lips descending ever lower, and all he can think is that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. If that's the case, then oh yeah, he's definitely getting stronger.

Somewhere around the fifth or sixth button (this is what she does to him - math has never been his strong suit, but usually he can at least count to ten), her mouth covers his belly button, his legs nearly buckle, and his eyes slam shut.



No, make that unbelievably hot.

Just as his hand rises from her noticeably looser shoulder to sink into the dark waves of her silky hair, he feels the swish of her tongue against his skin.

His fingers tighten at her scalp and she does it again, laves the inside of his belly button, swirling around the small crevice.

Air rushes out of his lungs, and he can tell by the feel of her lips that as she swipes her tongue against him one more time, she's smiling.

It's only then that he realizes her hands have left his shirt, migrated to the backs of his thighs to brace herself, and her fingers are slowly inching toward the hem of his boxers.

He opens his eyes to find her watching him, her gaze dark green and brown, sprinkled with gold - sunlight shining on the forest floor through a canopy of old growth.

She's gorgeous.

He pulls his hand from her curls, brushes an errant lock behind one ear, and feels a tightening in his throat when she closes her eyes under the touch.

"Do you know how beautiful you are?" he whispers, continuing to stroke her forehead, her cheek, whatever part of her he can reach.

Her face flushes and she turns slightly to press it into his stomach, her hands halting their climb up the backs of his legs. His fingertips follow the contour of her ear from the hard cartilage to the soft lobe and back, over and over as her warm breath washes over his belly.

After a long moment, her fingers move again, resume their ascent, and when they reach the bottom curve of his well, bottom, he can't help the slight forward thrust of his hips. He feels her grin against his abdomen.

She's copping a feel and apparently enjoying it quite a bit. Either that or she just loves to torture him.

Maybe both.

Her mouth opens against his skin once more, but instead of using her tongue, she nibbles her way back to his belly button, nipping sharply at the inward curve of his flesh.

His lips part on a quick inhale, and he's not surprised when she looks up at him with a mischievous arch to her eyebrow, chin still pressed to his skin.

"No lint," she pronounces.

Okay, maybe a little surprised. He laughs, watches as her face bobs with the contraction and release of his diaphragm.

"I try to practice excellent navel hygiene."

She nods seriously, and before he has a chance to process exactly what's happening, her hands have deserted his rear and returned to slide the last two buttons through their holes.

Kate slithers (because there's no other word his writer's mind can conceive to describe the hypnotizing undulation of her body) up his torso.

She hums as her hands skate over his shoulders, push his sleeves down his arms, her short nails scraping along his skin. His shirt falls to the floor with a barely audible flutter.

Her chest is already tight against his when she presses even closer, speaks into his ear, voice lower than he's ever heard it.

"Cleanliness becomes more important when godliness is unlikely."

He turns his head and takes her mouth in a burning kiss, all teeth and tongue and blazing ardor.

She's panting when he separates their lips.

"One," he says, the word rough with the heat generated by her proximity, "quoting P. J. O'Rourke? Incredibly sexy."

She purses her lips in that hidden smile that he loves.

"And two," he goes on, "are you implying that we'll be doing some sinning?"

She chuckles.

"I'm not implying anything."

He raises an eyebrow in question.


She shakes her head, drops her gaze to his lips for a moment and then brings it back to meet his own, her dark eyes smoldering and sending all of his blood rushing quickly south.

"I'm flat-out telling you, Castle," she says slowly, and suddenly it's nearly stifling in the room, and his remaining clothes are far too tight. "I'm gonna have my wicked way with you."

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