Disclaimer: All Castle characters are the property of Andrew Marlowe and ABC.

As Kate pulled away from the school, her phone chimed to alert her to a new text message. It was probably from Castle, she figured, glancing down at the screen expectantly as soon as she reached a stoplight.

Surprise flashed across her face when she realized the message was actually from Josh.

"About to board my flight. Just wanted to check on you. Everything good?"

She tapped out a quick reply, a smile gracing her features.

"All good. Thank you. Let me know when you make it there safely."

The light turned green, and Kate accelerated, but not before she saw his response flash onto the screen.

"I'm glad. And will do."

She made her way home, unaccustomed to both the size and smoothness of her current vehicle. It certainly wasn't what she was used to, but it was definitely nice. She turned on the satellite radio and found a station that was playing Norah Jones and blissfully sang along for the rest of her ride home.

As the detective stepped into her empty apartment, she noted how chilly it was, especially in comparison to the furnace known as Castle's loft. She cranked the heat a little and headed for the kitchen to make herself another cup of coffee. Opening the fridge, she saw how little it contained.

"I really need to go to the store," she muttered to herself.

She closed the fridge, picked up her coffee and the paper and perched at the breakfast nook to catch up on the day's news. She knew there would be nothing about the terrorist threat. That was how it should be if they were doing their jobs right, after all.

Kate finished scanning the paper and set it down on the counter, going to the sink to rinse her cup before replacing it in the cupboard. She stood for a moment and looked out the window, debating what to do next.

Finally, she decided the grocery shopping could wait. Today was a good day for a bath. Slipping her shoes off in the bedroom, Kate headed into the bathroom to start the water running and add a capful of bubble bath. She stepped back into the bedroom to look for a book to read, settling on "In a Hail of Bullets" and setting it on the table next to the tub. It had been a long time since she'd read Castle's first novel, long before the writer had begun to shadow her.

Leaving a pile of clothes in her hamper, Kate turned off the faucet and gingerly stepped into the hot water, sinking gratefully into its welcoming warmth. She picked up her book and began to read. It didn't take long, however, for her to realize she was fighting a losing battle. Carefully, she set the book back on the table, leaned back in the tub, and closed her eyes.

When she awoke, it was to pruny skin and Lanie's ringtone. She quickly stood and grabbed a towel to wrap around her dripping body. She sloshed out of the water and into the bedroom where her phone sat on her desk.

"Crap," she sighed, realizing she was a moment too late. She hit the speed dial for her friend and waited until the M.E. picked up.

"Hey Lanie, what's up?"

"Not much, just wanted to check on my girl. How you doing? I tried calling you a couple times."

"Oh, sorry. I just got out of the tub. I must have fallen asleep in there."

"You were taking a bath? Rats, I was hoping I might be interrupting something else!" Lanie said with a laugh.

"Like what, exactly?"

"Oh, I don't know. Javier said Writer Boy looked awfully happy yesterday afternoon."

"Well, he had just saved the city, you know."

"That's true, but my man thought this was a different kind of happy."

"You can tell your 'man' he'd better mind his own business or he'll be riding a desk for the next month."

"Okay, okay, take it easy."

"Besides, didn't Javier," she said his name with a distinct mocking tone, "tell you that I left with Josh?"

She heard silence from Lanie's end. Finally the detective chuckled into the phone.

"You still there?"

"Yeah, I'm here. I guess he must not have seen that."

"Well, next time you better get your facts straight before making any assumptions," Kate teased her friend.

Lanie seemed to recover quickly.

"Anyway, how are you doing? I know you didn't have much time to recover from the freezer before you were back on the case. You feeling okay?"

"Yeah, better. Still a little cold, but I've got the heat turned up and I'm about to go put on some warm clothes."

"Good. You just let me know if you need anything, alright? Hey, you wanna get together for drinks tonight?"

"Actually, I think I've got other plans. Well, I have plans this afternoon and for dinner. I'm not sure how late I'll stay."

"Stay where?" Lanie asked suspiciously.

Kate blushed and shifted her feet uncomfortably, even though she knew her friend couldn't see her.

"Castle's," she said, rushing to continue before Lanie could comment. "Alexis invited me over for movies and dinner."

"Oh ho," Lanie laughed again. "And just when did you see Little Castle that gave her the opportunity to invite you over?"

Kate could feel her face turning an even deeper red, but she knew she might as well tell her friend now. She'd find out soon enough. That was the problem about working with detectives. It was far too difficult to hide things.

"Um...this morning, when she and Martha came back from the Hampton's," she mumbled.

"Wait a damn second, Kate Beckett! I thought you went home with Josh last night! I happen to know you're off today, so what were you doing at Castle's place this morning?"

Lanie sounded so indignant that Kate couldn't keep from laughing.

"I said I left with Josh, I never said I went home with him."

"Well then, what..."

"We went to dinner, he told me he was leaving for Haiti today."

"Oh girl, I'm so sorry. I know you liked him."

"I did. But I guess it just wasn't right for either of us."

"So what, he drove you into Castle's arms?"

Kate snickered. "Well, technically, he put me in a cab into Castle's arms."

Lanie was not amused.

"Girl, you better quit playin' games with me and tell me what's going on!"

"Well..." Kate began, drawing out the word. "Long story short, Josh and I went to dinner, he told me he was leaving for Haiti, and he pointed out to me that Castle loves me." She paused, waiting for her friend's response to what she'd just unloaded. She didn't have to wait long.

"He what? He told you that Castle loves you?"

"Yep, that's what I said."

"Girl, I've been telling you that for ages! Why do you listen to some man and not to your best friend?"

Though her words were harsh, Kate could hear the smile in Lanie's voice.

"I guess it was just how he said it. I don't know, I finally got it."

"Well, what happened after that?"

"We said goodbye, he put me in a taxi and told me I should go see Castle."

"And you did?"

"Yeah. I showed up at his door. I'm pretty sure he wasn't expecting me."

"No, I imagine not. So what did you tell him?"

"Nothing really, not at first. He made me hot chocolate, and we just talked. About everything that's happened the past few days. I thanked him for everything he'd done and told him I was glad to have him as my partner."

"So he's your partner now?" Lanie asked, chuckling. "Ooh, girl, I'm getting all kinds of warm fuzzies."

Kate couldn't keep from smiling at Lanie's response.

"He decided he was my partner during the Raglan case. Apparently the plucky sidekick always gets killed, and well, we couldn't have that. So yeah, he's my partner."

"I'm hoping you told him you wanted him to be more than just your partner at work."

"Getting there," the detective said, smiling because she knew that little comment would draw a raised eyebrow from her friend, even if she couldn't see it.

"We talked about the freezer, how scary it was, and how terrified we'd both been for each other when we woke up."

Somber silence filled the air as Lanie waited for her to continue.

"He said he thought he'd lost me," Kate said as her voice hitched.

"Oh honey..."

"I told him how scared I was when he didn't wake up, that I couldn't bear to lose him..." She trailed off as the emotions rose to the surface once again.

Lanie simply waited, knowing that Kate would go on when she could. Finally, though, she decided she needed to break the detective out of her introspection.

"I hope you let that handsome man hug the crap outta you."

Her comment had the desired effect, and Kate laughed.

"I did. I even hugged him back. Don't ever tell him I told you this, but Castle gives really good hugs."

Lanie giggled. "I always figured Writer Boy for a good hugger."

"Writer Man," Kate corrected before she even realized the words were coming out of her mouth.

"Girl, you're dating him, aren't you?" Lanie exclaimed.

Kate could feel herself blushing, even though she knew her friend couldn't see her.

"I'm not sure if we're dating, per se. But we're together."

Lanie, like Alexis had earlier, squealed.

"It's about damn time, Kate Beckett!"

Kate smiled into the phone.

"So what? He hugged you and now you're together? Details, girl! I need details!"

"Well, he might have told me he loves me."

"Mmhmm...go on."

"And I might have said it back."


"And then this morning when Alexis and Martha got home-"

Lanie cut her off. "Hold on now, I do believe you're leaving out quite a few hours between heartfelt confession time and happy reunion time."

"We slept, Lanie."

"As in slept together?"

"As in slept next to each other, fully clothed, on his living room couch. We were both exhausted."

"Was there at least some cuddling involved?" the M.E. asked, sounding rather disappointed.

"Well, we kissed once, and we were both still cold, so yes, we cuddled under some blankets."

"You're not holding out on me?"


"Alright then. So tell me about this morning."

"Alexis and Martha came home, there was lots more hugging, Castle made pancakes, Alexis invited me over, and I dropped her off at school."

"How very domestic," Lanie drawled.

"Yes, well, she needed a ride and I wanted a chance to talk to her alone."

"About what?"

"I just wanted to make sure she knew that if she needed time alone with Castle I would understand."

"And what did she say?"

"She said she was happy to have me around, and that he tends to get clingy after bad cases. And uh," Kate cleared her throat and Lanie could tell she was slightly embarrassed. "And that she hoped he'd cling to me this time and not as much to her."

Lanie began to laugh. "Oh, I'm liking this girl more and more all the time."

"She's really something."

"So you've got his family's blessing."

"Well, I haven't actually talked to Martha, but she seemed happy enough, so yes, I think I do."

"How does this affect him shadowing you?"

"I'm not sure yet, we'll have to talk about it," Kate answered with a little hesitation.

"So can I tell Javier?" Lanie asked excitedly.

"Can you wait a bit? I should probably let the Captain know first. But after that, feel free to collect your money from the pool."

"Pool? What pool?" Lanie spluttered.

"Oh, cut the crap. I know you guys have been betting for ages on when we'd get together. Detective, remember?"

Lanie had the decency to sound admonished when she spoke again.

"Okay, it's true," she said, and then Kate heard the mischief return to her voice. "But only because it's the only way we could bear the anguish of watching you two dance around each other for two freaking years!"

"Alright, alright. Well, I just hope you'll do something worthwhile with your winnings."

"Maybe I'll just save them and use them to buy you a wedding present!" Lanie said slyly.

It was Kate's turn to splutter into the phone.

"We-wedding present?" she asked. "Don't you think you're getting just a little ahead of yourself? We just started dating or whatever it is, we're nowhere near even engaged!"

"You mark my words, Katherine Beckett...that man will have at least proposed by the end of the year."

Lanie's pronouncement was met with silence for a few moments and finally a shuddering breath.

"You really think so?"

"Girl, the man knows what he wants, and it just so happens to be you. Mmhmm, I wouldn't be surprised if he'd thought through how he'd ask you a hundred times before you even said 'I love you.'"

Kate was speechless. She knew she cared deeply for Castle, but she hadn't yet thought too far into the future. Could this relationship really be headed for marriage? Could he be her one and done?

"Girl, I know you're gonna start freaking out and overthinking this," Lanie broke into her thoughts. "But I'm telling you, don't."

"But, I..."

"Honey, that man loves you. He'd move heaven and earth just to see you smile. Can you really ask for more than that?"

"You're right, Lanie, I know. But do you think this is really the real deal, for both of us? I mean, he's been married twice already. And I do love him, but I've got my own baggage."

"Baggage that he's dealt with very well, if I'm not mistaken. And as for his marriages, well, you'll have to discuss that with him, but I suspect he was less at fault than he might appear."

"You really think so?"

"Girlfriend, we've all seen how he is with his daughter, and even with his mother. Despite the fact that he writes murder mysteries for a living, I don't think the man has a malicious bone in his body."

"It's not malice I'm worried about. It's his attention span."

"Kate Beckett, let me reiterate what I said before...two freaking years! He's been following you around like a lost puppy for two years now and hasn't gotten tired of it yet. Yes, you've kicked him out a time or two, but he's always found his way back, hasn't he?"

"What about last summer when he left with Gina?"

"Because he couldn't stand to watch you playing kissy-face with Demming! Girl, I could barely stand it, and I'm not in love with you!"

Kate realized two things: firstly, that Lanie was probably right, and secondly that she'd better stop the M.E. before she really got off on a rant.

"Okay, okay, you're probably right."

"Damn straight!" her friend nearly shouted, but then her voice softened. "Honey, you know I don't want to see you get hurt. You're my girl. But I think he's good for you, and I know you're good for him."

The detective smiled into the phone, and Lanie continued.

"Plus, he knows how much all of us at the 12th care about you. He'd be a fool to hurt you...he knows no one would ever find his body."

Kate chuckled at that, and felt a sense of calm and well-being wash over her.

"Anyway, I'll let you go. Have fun tonight, and tell Writer Man to come visit me tomorrow."

"Thanks, Lanie. And don't threaten him too much. I'll see you soon."

With that, Kate hit the end button on her phone, realizing she still wasn't fully clothed and that she'd begun to shiver. She headed back to her bathroom to dry her hair and put on some of her cherry lotion, knowing that if she and Castle ended up snuggling during the movie, he'd be sure to notice.

She put on comfortable clothes and shoes and walked into the kitchen, determined to check her fridge and cabinets and then get to the market for some groceries. It was just after ten o' clock, so she figured that Alexis would be back at the loft soon, but probably not yet, so she wouldn't be disturbing them.

"About to go to the store. Do you want me to bring dessert tonight?" she typed into her phone and sent the text to Castle.

His reply was swift. "Sure, whatever you want, though brownies and ice cream are always a hit."

"Okay, see you later." she responded, smiling as her screen quickly lit up with a last message from him. "Can't wait."

She grabbed her jacket and keys, locked her door, and opted for the stairs. Exiting the building, she headed for a small local store that she frequented. It wasn't the cheapest, but it usually had high quality produce and carried a few things she had trouble finding elsewhere.

After greeting the shop owner, who knew her by face, Kate grabbed a basket and wandered through the aisles. She collected the ingredients for the brownies, a recipe her mom had taught her many years before. She picked up some strawberries to go on top, and various other necessities—milk, eggs, a few frozen pizzas, and coffee, of course.

Eventually she reached the frozen foods and stood debating about which kind of ice cream to buy. The classic vanilla or maybe chocolate? Ooh, mint chocolate chip! Finally she settled on a pint of each, knowing that the different flavors would probably appeal to different members of tonight's little party. She wondered if Martha would be there as well and decided she'd better get an even four pints, so she chose a container of butter pecan. At the aisle's endcap she found a variety of toppings and picked up some chocolate syrup and chopped nuts. She was certain Castle already had at least one can of whipped cream in his fridge.

Scanning her basket, she concluded that she had everything she needed and made her way to the front to check out. The shopkeeper, a woman in her 60s with happy eyes and laugh lines, rang up her purchases.

"Let me guess…brownies and ice cream for dessert tonight?"

"How did you know?" Kate asked with a smirk.

"Oh, I have my ways. Four of them, really. My kids may be grown and out of the house, but that doesn't mean I don't remember what it took to make them happy when their friends came over after school or for a slumber party. I was the mom to all the kids in the neighborhood."

Kate smiled wistfully as she pulled out her wallet to pay.

"That's the way my mom was too. I was an only child, but there were always friends over. Looking back, I'm not sure how she had time to do it, but she never failed to have some kind of treat ready for us."

"That's just what moms do, dear," the woman said as she handed Kate her change. "But you're not old enough to have children, are you? So what's the reason for all the dessert makings today?"

"Technically, I'm old enough, but no, I don't have kids of my own yet. Actually, it's for my, well, I guess he's my boyfriend and his daughter. We're having a movie marathon."

Kate was surprised at how much she was opening up, especially to a near stranger, but seeing the kind expression on the woman's face, she decided not to worry about it.

"Sounds like just the kind of fun we all need. They're lucky to have you, my dear."

"Thank you. I'm lucky to have them too."

Again she felt that wave of contentment, and she smiled at the woman as she collected her bags and made the trek back to her apartment.

As she unlocked her door, she felt a buzzing coming from her pocket. Setting down her bags, she plucked out her phone to see Castle's picture on the screen.

"Hey," she answered softly. "I figured you'd be busy with Alexis by now."

"I am," he confirmed. "But she wants to know if you're making brownies."

"Yes, I just got back from the store, so I haven't started them yet, but that's the plan."

She heard him turn away from the phone to speak to his daughter before coming back to her.

"She wants to know if you could wait and just make them over here. She says they're better warm."

Kate laughed, "Sure, I can do that. I'll just bring the ingredients when I come over later. Maybe Alexis can even help me make them."

"Can I lick the bowl?" Castle asked hopefully.

She could picture the look on his face, his inner nine year old shining through.

"Raw eggs, Castle, remember?"

"Totally worth it," he responded.

"Alright, but don't come crying to me if your tummy hurts afterward," she warned him with a chuckle.

"You mean you wouldn't kiss it and make it better?"

His tone of voice, a perfect blend of innocence and his own brand of wickedness, created a perfect portrait of him in her imagination. She could see the way his lips would curve into a slight smile, the sparkle in his eyes, the way one eyebrow would be raised higher than the other.

"In your dreams, Castle."

"Mmhmm, you know it," he said, and she heard the leer in his voice. She couldn't help the blush that rose in her cheeks and was glad that he couldn't see her.

"Enough of that, get back to your daughter, I'll see you in a few hours."

"Alright," he said. "What are you going to do in the meantime now that you don't have to make the brownies yet?"

"I'm not sure, maybe go for a run. Probably take a nap. I fell asleep in the tub this morning."

There was silence for a moment on his end, and she could tell he was debating between compassion and innuendo.

"Well, get some rest then," he said, and she figured compassion had won out. "But next time, call me if you can't stay awake. I know of a few things that might help. Or better yet, I could just come over." And there was the innuendo after all. She rolled her eyes.

"You're rolling your eyes, aren't you?"

She held her phone at arm's length and looked at it in surprise until she heard his voice calling her name from the tiny speaker.

"Kate, are you still there? You didn't hang up on me, did you?"

She brought the phone back to her ear.

"I'm still here. Just wondering how you know me so well."

She heard him chuckle.

"Hey, I'm gonna get back to Alexis. We'll see you in a few hours."

"Okay, see you later."

She was about to hang up, but heard his voice once more.


"Yeah, Castle?"

"Love you."

Her heart fluttered and she closed her eyes, smiling into the phone.

"Love you too."

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