He opens the door softly, wants to surprise her.

It's been too long. Just three weeks. Less than, actually. But too long, all the same.

Their first real time apart for more than a few days since that last summer.

He misses her. Desperately.

The loft is quiet when he enters. It's not that late, and honestly, he expected to find her up, maybe watching tv or reading a book or going over a casefile. But the kitchen is empty, and so is the living room.

A light still shines in his office. Hmm.

He slips his shoes off, steps carefully across the space, leaning slowly through the open doorway, a grin plastered on his face.

But she's not there. The room is empty, lonely city lights reflecting off the shiny surface of his desk. He glances across the room, through the other door, but his large bed stands alone, still made.

He wonders briefly if she might have stayed at the precinct, poring over notes at her desk or tapping a marker against her chin in front of the whiteboard or sleeping with her mouth half-open and her nose scrunched up in that adorable way on the couch in the breakroom.

Just on the verge of turning back, replacing his shoes, and going to the twelfth to find her, he hears a quiet sound from the bedroom, notices for the first time a thin line of light breaking the shadows on the far end.

She *is* here.

And she's in his bathroom.

And that noise sounded distinctly like a splash.

Oh. Ohhh, even better. He can surprise her in the shower. Or the bath. Either one.

Just the thought of her soapy and wet, and well...

It gets his heart pounding.

He strides across the room, unbuttoning his shirt as he goes, sloughing it off his shoulders and letting it fall to the floor. He pauses for a moment, sits on the bed to peel off the jeans that have molded to his legs with a long day's travel, altogether too restraining at the moment.

His watch is deposited carefully on his nightstand, socks and boxers landing on the floor in a heap next to his pants.

And then he pads quietly across the remainder of the room, pressing his ear to the door for a moment and listening intently.

Another splash, and that odd slurping sound that comes from the squeezing of a bottle. Probably just getting ready to lather herself up with that cherry almond body wash. Maybe he can help.

His hand on the doorknob, he pauses as another sound enters his ears. Is she-

She is.

She's singing.

Her voice is soft, crooning words he can't quite make out. Not all of them sound like English even.

He tilts his head against the doorframe for a moment, just listening to the beautiful creature beyond the barrier, unaware of his presence, uninhibited.

Not that she's not free when she's with him. She is. She laughs, she touches, she even sings sometimes. She loves him, and he loves her, and they're both well aware of the gift they've been given.

And yet-

And yet he loves to catch her off guard, loves to observe her when she thinks no one's watching. He still learns the most about her in these moments.

When he can wait no longer - all of him needing to see her, to touch her, to hold her in his arms - he turns the doorknob, slowly so as not to alert her.

He peeks around the edge, catches just a glimpse of long leg pointed straight up in the air, a swath of white cream on said leg, and a furrowed-brow look of concentration on her beautiful face.

But then she turns her head just slightly, screams, and he jumps, bangs his knee on the door frame, and suddenly there's a cacophony of splashing and cursing, and he thinks that maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

He stumbles into the en suite, knee throbbing as he hobbles to sit on the - thankfully - closed toilet lid.

"Castle?" she finally splutters, and he turns his attention from his own pain to his wife who holds a sea sponge in one hand and a back scrubber in the other, her arms crossed over her chest and hiding - hiding very little, if he's honest.

"Honey, I'm home?" he says sheepishly.

Her entire face breaks into one of the widest smiles he's ever seen and the sponge slips from her fingers into the bath, splashing water over the edge of the tub. His eyes flick from her mouth to her chest, to the water droplets trickling down between her breasts.

When he meets her gaze again, the smile in her eyes has transformed into a glare. Amused though, as if she wants to be mad at him for leering at her but can't be, the apparent joy at his presence winning out.

"Hey," he whispers then, forgetting his wounded knee entirely and dropping to the floor next to the tub. He lifts one hand to brush a damp curl from her cheek, grins at her.

Without any warning aside from the widening smile on her face, her arms encircle his neck, pulling him close. He laughs as he leans in, hooking an arm around her lower back and tugging her upward, their chests meeting as he buries his faces against her shoulder.

"You're here," she murmurs, and he shivers as her fingers trail down his spine, not stopping until her palm rests on his left cheek; she gives him a quick squeeze. "Oh, and you're naked."

He chuckles against her skin, turns his face to open his mouth over her pulse point. His tongue traces the fluttering spot, once, twice, and then he lifts his head, nipping at her earlobe as he rumbles. "I might have been doing a little wishful thinking."

She pinches his rear, and he yelps, giving her a reproachful look. Her fingers smooth over his skin, soothing the offended flesh, and she laughs, dark and throaty. "Mmm. Doesn't have to be."

He pulls back enough to press his lips to hers for a long moment, all his gratitude, all his hunger flowing into her before he breaks the kiss. "Is this where you say 'come on in, the water's fine,' or something like that?"

She nods. "Or something like that."

And then her grip on him tightens. She hauls him upward with a surprising amount of strength. It's all he can do to keep a measure of balance, to not sprawl face first into the large tub.

But they're in sync, even after twenty days apart. He stretches his body along the length of hers, lets himself settle into the cradle of her thighs.

She smiles up at him, raising a hand to map the laugh lines at the edges of his eyes. "You came back early."

He nods, dipping his head to graze his teeth over her collarbone. "I wanted to surprise you."

"You certainly did that," she says, her breathy laugh washing over his scalp. "I'm lucky I didn't cut myself shaving when you peeked around the door. You scared the crap out of me."

He lifts up to meet her eyes, grimacing. "Ah. Sorry about that."

She shakes her head, fingers curling around the back of his neck and tugging him closer.

"Would have been worth every nick," she whispers, pressing her whole body tight against his as one foot hooks around his calf, drawing him in as he groans. "Welcome home."

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