Warm and smooth. Soft against her own. Softer maybe than she'd expected, but then she remembers his conversation with the boys a couple years ago about skincare products and the cursed "barber in a can" shaving cream that had gotten him in so much trouble with Ryan and Esposito.

So he likes to take care of himself. He dresses well. He knows how to cook (he offered her another s'morelet this morning but she turned him down, telling him to save it for special occasions and then ignoring the leer he sent her way along with the implications that he certainly considered today a special occasion; he made pancakes instead). He smells fantastic. And he has soft skin.

None of that makes him any less of a man. No, judging by the feel of him against her, he's all man, and more man than many.

Not that she has first hand knowledge just yet. He's taking his time. She knew he would. But this, this is agony.

They're still several feet from the bed. Moving closer, yes, but only an inch at a time, only when his mouth on her collarbone causes her to stumble back, only when her teeth at his jaw draw him forward.

She's close to frustrated. But he needs this, she thinks. Needs to show her exactly how much he loves her. Needs her to realize that his attention to detail applies to her too.

He must not realize that she knows already. She's known for years about the way little things she doesn't even consider catch his eye. She's known since that first time he showed up at a crime scene with coffee in hand - her coffee, made the way she likes it.

So she decides she can be patient. Her fingers map the topography of his bare back, following the trapezius from his left shoulder until it gives way to his spine and then tracing each ridge of his vertebrae. She scratches lightly at his lower back and he pushes toward her, hard and strong against her supple body.

She shudders - can't help it - when his teeth sink into her deltoid, and presses herself closer to him, lets herself fall further under his spell.

Skimming her hands across his shoulders and over to his biceps, she kneads the muscles, feeling the resistance under her fingers. His strength - it's something for which she hasn't given him enough credit.

There's the physical aspect, of course, and he has more than proven himself capable of backing her up as her partner at work. He's moved freezers and tackled suspects and beat a hired assassin senseless. His strength, his courage in the field merit no question.

But it's more than that. It's strength of character too. And though she'd initially perceived him as shallow and lacking any of the qualities she would seek in a partner (in either sense of the word), she can see now the good man who has been there all along. He made a way and a name for himself, quite literally in the case of the latter. He single-handedly raised an smart, amazing, confident daughter. He took his mother in when she had nowhere else to go.

And he's come back every time Kate has kicked him out, shut him down, and told him he didn't belong. He has persisted when no other man has.

"Castle," she whispers and he turns his head, nose brushing her shoulder before his lips slide open against her neck.

"Mmm?" he hums against her skin, fingers stroking at her sides, apparently unwilling to break from his careful tactile - and oral - examination of her body.

His fingers brush against the side of her breast at the same time as his tongue sneaks up to lash at the spot just behind her ear, and she forgets entirely what she was going to say. Screw patience.

"Kate?" he asks, removing his mouth from her neck when she doesn't answer. "What is it?"

She untangles her fingers from his hair (when did that happen, exactly?), and smooths the parts that are already messy and sticking up at angles.

"Castle," she repeats, sliding her hand over to his ear, giving it a little tug until his head pops up and his eyes meet hers. "Finish what you started. Undress me."

He won't make her ask twice.

He likes slow, careful, exploratory. At least, that's what he wants this time, this first of what he hopes to be many, many times with Kate. But he's sensing that maybe he's been taking it a little too slow, and she's getting impatient. So he'll speed it up.

Three steps, his body crowding hers, and he's laying her back on the bed, hands on her still-covered hips, intent on meeting her demands - and now.

But then her hair fans out across the pillow and he has to stop. Has to savor this and imprint it onto his memory.

He's imagined this moment hundreds of times since that fateful night at his book launch party. He's had visions of her dark locks strewn across the sheets, come-hither eyes staring up at him lustfully, pink lips curling in the tiny smile he knows she sometimes allows when she's enjoying herself but doesn't want him to see how much.

But this - his imagination doesn't even begin to capture this moment.

Her face is flushed, rosy with arousal and want and happiness. Her eyes burn into his, loving and gentle and needy. Her fingers dance up his arm, stroking their way over his shoulder until she can cup his cheek in her hand, the pad of her thumb brushing under his eye.

It's too much.

He closes his eyes, expects he'll wake up at any moment from the best dream he's ever had. Because she can't possibly be looking at him like that. Can't possibly be half-naked and already bearing mouth-shaped purpling proof of his attentions to her collarbone. Can't possibly have told him that she loves him too, is in love with him.

It has to be a dream. And if it is, he wants to go back to reality now before it gets any more difficult, before he has any more images in his head that he can't exorcise, any more aches that he can't ease.

"You going to make me do all the work?" she asks teasingly, her voice breaking though his thoughts.

He doesn't open his eyes, just shakes his head.

"I'm dreaming," he whispers. "I have to be dreaming."

Her hand on his cheek rises to card through his hair.

"No, Rick," she says. "You're not dreaming. Look at me."

He shakes his head again, and for a few seconds she says nothing, does nothing to refute his theory.

And then her hand deserts him and he knows without a doubt, that he's about to wake up.

"Castle," she calls, and there's the authoritative, slightly annoyed tone he recognizes.

Hmm, her voice is near, and if she's the one calling for him, maybe he fell asleep in his chair by her desk or on the couch in the break room. That would be...okay. At least he'd get to see her, talk to her upon waking, even if she did sound a bit miffed at him.

"Castle," she repeats, a little louder this time.

And then there's a sharp pain shooting through his chest, and his eyes snap open.

She's there, beneath him on her bed, nude from the waist up, raising one eyebrow and smirking at him.

"Now do you believe me when I tell you it's not a dream?"

He shifts to balance his weight on one arm, lifts his other hand to rub across his still tingling nipple.

"Did you have to twist so hard?"

She shrugs, an amused smile flirting with her lips, her eyes twinkling.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures, partner."

Oh, two can play at that game.

"Getting desperate, are you?" he leers, expecting a blush maybe, or a slap on the arm, or God forbid, another twist of his nipple.

Instead, she lifts her body and presses herself up into the vee of his legs. He groans, unprepared somehow for this side of her. Though really, he shouldn't be. Not when she tells him he can fantasize later. Not when she knows the difference between factory and custom leather cuffs. Not when she matches him innuendo for innuendo.

"I could just do it myself," she offers, and oh, that is not what he was expecting.

He drops his weight onto her, pinning her underneath him, and takes her mouth in a fierce kiss, hands bracing himself on either side of her head. He can feel her breasts flattened against his chest, heart beating faster by the second. His teeth nip at her bottom lip and then across her jaw, down to her neck.

She stops him with a tweak of his ear as he reaches her clavicle and he lifts his head to meet her heated gaze.

"So just to be clear, you don't want me to handle it on my own?"

He growls, and goes back for one more swift kiss on the mouth before returning to the task at hand of working his lips and teeth down her body.

"That won't be necessary," he tells her, the words muffled as he grins against her breast when she gasps at the wet slick of his tongue. "I'm more than happy to help."

He looks up for just a moment to find her watching him, lips parted, breathing more heavily than usual. She nods and her fingers delve into his dark hair, holding him closer.

"Mmm," she moans, hips thrusting upwards into his. "I was hoping you'd say that."

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