"Love, it is said, is blind, but love is not blind. It is an extra eye, which shows us what is most worthy of regard. To see the best is to see most clearly, and it is the lover's privilege."

The Little Minister by James M. Barrie

She snores.

A month into their relationship - well, their actual, recognized-by-both-parties and consummated relationship - he dreams about Canadian geese invading Manhattan, a flock of them somehow finding their way into his loft and setting up camp in his bedroom. He wakes to find the lovely Kate Beckett spread-eagle on her back in his bed, one arm flung haphazardly across his chest, her mouth half-open and an ungodly sound rising from the cavern between her slack lips.

He nudges her, gently at first, tries to get her to turn on her side, knowing that her airway is probably just constricted from the way she's sleeping.

Instead of turning away from him, she rolls toward him suddenly, curling into the fetal position and thrusting her knees hard into his stomach. She settles then, her breathing softening as he replaces the previous noise with his own wheezing.

Glancing down at her, he takes in the serene expression on her face, the hint of a smile that twists her lips, the adorable way she tucks one hand under her chin while the other rests against his chest.

He presses his hand to his abdomen. Her knees are bony and sharp.

But any bruise, any lost sleep - it's worth it to see her this peaceful, this comfortable in his presence.

He is such a metrosexual.

She calls out for the third time to see if he's ready to go. It's their first official date, and if they don't leave soon, they'll miss their reservation.

And yes, he's the one who made said reservation. And yes, he's Richard Castle. And no, she can't imagine any maître d' turning him away if they're a few minutes late.

But still. It's the principle of the thing.

She huffs, stalks through his bedroom and finds him in front of the bathroom mirror. Preening.

He *does* look delicious, she can admit that much. The black pants and black jacket with the deep purple shirt look good on him. Better than good, if she's being honest.

(Though she thinks they'd look even better on the floor as she pushes him into the shower)

But they're late enough as it is, and seriously - he has enough gel in his hair.

She steps closer, sees the moment he catches her reflection in the mirror. His expression drops.


That's- that's the first time he hasn't looked thrilled to see her since she showed up soaked at his doorstep. But then she notices the frown on her own face, the disapproval etched in the lines around her mouth.

He turns, takes a slow step toward her, palm out as if he's approaching a wild - possibly hostile - beast. "What's wrong?"

His voice is so quiet, so very timid, and it tugs at her heartstrings. Does her opinion mean so much to him?

Shaking her head, she reaches toward him, catches him by the fingertips and tugs him forward until their bodies meet, front to front.

"Nothing's wrong," she murmurs as she lifts her hand to smooth the hair at his temple. "Just can't wait to show you off."

It's for her. And she thinks she can deal with him wanting to look perfect for their last first date.

She leaves her shoes where he inevitably will step on them.

Sometimes it's next to the front door. Sometimes next to the bed. Sometimes next to the coffee table by the couch.

Once he woke with a sudden bout of inspiration and rushed to his office, opened his laptop and slid into his chair, only to let out a scream of pain when his bare foot caught the sharp edge of a heel underneath his desk.

She came rushing out of his bedroom wielding one of his lightsabers. Not very effective if he'd been in real danger, but it's the thought that counts, right?

He's grumbled at her more than once about her shoes, and she always flushes a deep pink, snatches them away from him and disappears into his closet.

But this time, this time...

He's just left Alexis at her dorm, is feeling the bone-deep weariness, the special brand of heartache that is fatherhood and his daughter growing up - his daughter grown up. The door unlocks with a click at the turn of his key, and he steps inside, immediately trips over the high-heeled boots just inside the entryway.

His knee slams against the doorframe, and he twists away, stumbles. Of course, he trips over the other shoe then and goes down completely. Sprawled on the hard floor, he blinks back a sudden rush of tears, doesn't bother to control the stream of expletives tumbling from his lips.

"I have a closet, you know," he seethes when he catches sight of bare feet and toned calves hurrying toward him and then stopping a few feet away.

He doesn't know if it's the stress of the day or just that he's fed up with not being safe in his own home, but somehow he can't stem the tide of his mutterings as she steps closer, reaches down to help him up.

He shrugs her off.

She withdraws then, and he glances up just in time to catch the flash of hurt in her eyes before she rushes away.

When he hears her return, he's already sitting on the couch, head in his hands, regretting.

He hisses at the sudden cold on his knee, looks up to find her crouching before him, holding the icepack in one hand and a glass of water in the other, a pair of aspirin tucked between her fingers.

"I'm sorry," they both blurt at once, and then he's reaching down to cup the back of her head and she's rising to meet him.

But instead of kissing him as he expects, she buries her nose in the crook of his neck, a hot trickle of moisture against his skin ripping his heart in two.

"Kate, no," he whispers, tilting his head to press his lips to her ear. "No, sweetheart."

Usually he avoids the pet names, but the snuffle against his throat has sent the rulebook out the window and he unfurls an arm, wraps it around her, tugs her body up into his.

"I'm sorry I yelled at you," he apologizes, and she shakes her head against him.

"I'm sorry I left my shoes out again," she returns, her fingers clenching at the back of his neck. "I'm sorry I hurt you."

Leaning against the back of the couch, he cradles her in his arms. He's still not sure what to do with this Beckett who loves him so openly, who lets him see the things that get to her.

He slides a finger under her chin, tips her face up to meet his eyes, smiles. "I'll live."

Pressing his lips to hers, he brushes away the remnants of her tears with his thumb, strokes her cheekbones and the strong line of her jaw, lets his fingers drift down the smooth column of her throat and over the collarbones he always longs to kiss until his hand rests against her chest, just over her beating heart.

"I want you here," he murmurs, his mouth feathering at her cheek. "I want you to feel at home here. I want you to take your shoes off and stay awhile."

The curve of her smile against his cheek lifts his heart; the rasp in her voice when she speaks sets it to pounding. "In that case, maybe I'll take off more than just my shoes."

He sings in the shower.

It's cute the first time she hears it. Adorable really.

He has an early meeting and must not have wanted to wake her, because she drifts into consciousness alone in the bed, roused by the sound of rushing water and his strong baritone.

He's positively crooning. Sinatra.

Her writer has a good voice, she'll give him that.

Nestling back into the pillows, she simply listens for a moment. But when he switches from "The Way You Look Tonight" to "Call Me Irresponsible," she pushes up on her elbows, throws off the covers, and slips through the half-open door to his ensuite, pads silently across the heated tile floor, and steps into the shower with him, wraps her arms around him from behind.

He startles at the intrusion, his voice faltering as his hands rise immediately to cover hers where they rest on his soapy chest.

She presses a kiss between his shoulder blades, then lets her own clear voice remind him. "But it's undeniably true-"

Turning in her grasp, he lifts his hands to cup her cheeks tenderly as they finish in unison. "I'm irresponsibly mad for you."

He's late for his meeting.

The next time it's not so cute.

She rolls over, tugs a pillow over her head, but she can still hear him.

"Bum bum ba da dum," he belts out, the familiar tune bouncing off the walls of his bathroom.

She adds another pillow. It doesn't help. "Bum bum ba da dum."

A few more seconds pass before she huffs, flings the pillows across the bed and stalks into the bathroom, just as he's reaching the actual words of the song.

"Start spreading the-" he gets out before she throws open the door to the shower.

His eyes light up when he sees her, his mouth stretching in a grin. She can tell the moment he realizes this is not a social call. She means business.

Frowning, he reaches toward her, but Kate crosses her arms over her chest, knowing that her naked form is not altogether threatening, but hoping that the glare on her face will serve to effectively convey her displeasure.

"What's wrong?" he asks, cocking his head to one side, foam dripping from his hair onto a broad shoulder.

She shakes her head. "Do you have to be so loud when I'm trying to sleep?"

He bristles, but she strides out before he can answer.

That night, as she leans against the back of her tub and closes her eyes, she can hear his voice.

She'd texted him, apologized for yelling at him, apologized for walking out, told him maybe they've just been spending too much time together, that she should spend a night at her own apartment.

He'd forgiven her and done his own apologizing for not being considerate when he knew she'd been up late the night before, helping his daughter pack for college. He'd told her he loves her.

She knows it's true.

She can hear his voice speaking the words, can hear the sincerity, the adoration in every syllable.

And then she realizes it's not in her head.

Opening her eyes, she finds him leaning against the doorframe, his face solemn, eyes burdened.

"I used my key," he says softly. "Is that-"

She nods. "It's fine."

"I'm sorry," he tells her. "I just- I..."

He pauses, and she lifts her arm from the edge of the tub, crooks a finger to beckon him closer. Silently he obeys, stopping when he stands next to her, when she can rest her palm against the back of his leg.

Tugging on his jeans, she looks up at him. "Get these off."


"Off, Castle. Take your clothes off."

He follows her instructions quickly, and when he's bare before her, she leans forward, sliding up to give him room to step in behind her.

It's a tight fit in her tub, his broad frame enveloping her. But then she leans against his chest, coasts her hands over his thighs, feels the press of his hands against her stomach. She decides her tub is the perfect size.

His heart pounds against her shoulder blade, and she turns her head, feathers a line of soft kisses over the stubble that covers his jaw. Scooping up some of the bubbles that surround them, his hands skate over her skin, gentle, soothing. He loves her.

She smiles when his chest vibrates against her back, his voice deep and rich and sensual as his lips brush against her ear.

"So deep in my heart that you're really a part of me," he croons, his palm smoothing across her stomach. "I've got you under my skin."

Shivering at his touch, she tilts her head, her mouth meeting his and stealing the song from his lips as she skips to the end. "And I like you under my skin."

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