The first time Kate wakes up, Minnie has moved from the swell of her hip to curl in the valley of her side, just below Castle's arm. But the kitten is sleeping peacefully, so that can't be why she's awake.

Then she hears it. The writer is mumbling something in his sleep about a bar. Is he having trouble at the Old Haunt? And why hasn't he said anything?

And then there's something about Nazis. Hmm...

The next thing he whispers as he holds her a little closer has the detective biting her lip and hoping she doesn't shake with enough laughter to wake him. We'll always have Paris. Really? She's smiling as she drifts off to sleep again.

The second time she wakes, Minnie is nowhere to be found, but Castle has moved a bit so his large hand is spread directly over her surgery scar. And oh, does it feel good. Sometimes she moves wrong in the night and pain from her scar, stiff with lack of movement, shoots through her sharply enough to jolt her from sleep, gasping.

She's noticed that the kitten occasionally gravitates toward that spot, instinctively knowing where her bit of warmth will be most appreciated. But this - the heat of his hand on her side - it's perfect. And there's no pain tonight.

Castle is still and quiet behind her, no more nighttime musings, at least not out loud. Her brain is grasping at the remnants of her own dream though, her writer in a trench coat and fedora. It's different from the norm, but he looked good, like he could easily become that character, play that role. She wonders what it would have been like if he'd followed in Martha's footsteps and gone into show business.

Would the two of them have ever met? Would he have been her favorite actor instead of favorite author?

She's thankful he became what he is. His books had been a lifeline for her, long before she met the man who now holds that title.

"'S'too early," his rough voice makes her jump. She didn't even know he was awake. "Stop thinkin' and go back to sleep."

She scoots back into him and he sighs, his hand sliding from her side to her stomach, skirting under her breasts and sending a tingle of electricity through her nerves.

It takes a moment, but the whoosh of his breath on her neck and the pound of his heartbeat at her shoulder pull her back under soon.

The next time, she just has an overwhelming sense of being cozy and secure and warm. It's been so long since she woke up warm.

Josh was never a cuddler. It always struck her as odd, knowing that he worked with his hands as a surgeon, that he could be so tactile in that sense, and yet not nearly so much when it came to their relationship.

Oh, he touched her, but it was always with a purpose. He'd throw an arm around her in public, especially if Castle happened to be around. She allowed it, even though she knew he was visually staking his claim on her. And he touched her when they had sex, obviously. He was skilled, maybe even particularly talented, in that department. There's no question that Kate found him hot.

But this? Curling up, snuggled together in bed with no purpose other than closeness? Didn't happen with Josh. He said he couldn't sleep if he was too warm. And he didn't want to have to untangle and wake each other if one of them had to get up in the middle of the night for a call. Simple consideration, really.

Yet she knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if she had to leave right now (even if it was just to go to the bathroom), Castle wouldn't mind being roused. Not if it means he's waking because she can't get up without unwrapping herself from his arms.

Kate loves him even more for it.

She hides it well, but she needs touch, thrives on it, even more since last May.

Despite the fact that so much of her desperately wanted to be alone this summer, she found herself seeking out her father's arms every few days, curling into his side to watch a movie or sit in front of a fire, letting him help her and hold her up after a rough physical therapy session.

Now that she's back, she's glad Lanie isn't upset with her anymore. Because she needs the woman's friendly hugs, the hand on her arm. She needs the ways the boys occasionally pat her on the back or include her in their fist bumps or high fives.

And she's never been so glad to be right as when she remembers what she told Agent Shaw about Castle nearly two years ago. He touches things.

He does. He touches her. He's always invaded her personal space, leaning into her when he wants to hear a phone call (there's a reason she almost never puts it on speaker). Standing close to her in the elevator. Bumping his hip against hers when he sits at her side while they theorize in front of the murder board.

And then there's the way their fingers brush when he passes along her coffee, the way he covered her hand with his after she found him tied up in a dingy hotel room, the way he held her in a freezer.

She has looked for ways to return the favor he unknowingly does her, looks for excuses to touch him on the hand or the arm, walking closer on cold days, sliding her fingers over his lapel when she found him alive in that bank.

So this - being enveloped by him - though it's much more than she's used to, feels like a natural progression of their normal dynamic - they were always going to get here someday. She just hadn't thought it would happen so soon.

He continues to breathe softly against the back of her neck, still asleep. But she's awake now, and light is filtering through the windows, telling her it probably won't be long before the alarm sounds.

Slowly, carefully, she slides her leg from where it somehow got sandwiched between his during the night. His arms are loose enough that she can turn within them. His fingers skating across her thinly covered skin nearly cause her to shiver, but she's able to repress the response, at least for now.

She lets her eyes survey him as he sleeps.

The blanket resting low on his hips, so close to her own. The way his white tee has ridden up to reveal the curve of his muscles, a wide strip of smooth skin and a thin line of dark hair that starts at his belly button and disappears into his sweat pants.

She moves up to his chest, the steady rise and fall as he breathes. His shirt isn't tight, but there's clearly definition under the fabric, and from what she's seen of his biceps, he's got to lift weights, and regularly.

Speaking of his arms, she takes a moment to run her eyes over the arm that stretches across and around her. She's seen him with his sleeves rolled up often enough to notice his forearms, but this is the first chance she's had to study one in detail. Okay, that's a little creepy, Kate. But well, she's a detective, she's trained to take note of her surroundings. And since what currently surrounds her is her partner...

She had a friend in high school who played the drums in a band (and who introduced her to wet flannel grunge rocker boy) and he had amazing forearms, strong and well-developed, the muscles rippling every time he moved his hands. As far as she knows, Castle has never played the drums.

But maybe with all the typing he does, he gets a workout that way. He has strong fingers, a tight grip, and she blushes when she starts to think in a little too much detail about certain things he could do with his hands. Aside from typing best-selling novels.

She knows his face so well already, can see it clearly even when she closes her eyes, both the book jacket version and the live version. She holds a mental catalog of his many different expressions and the feelings they portray: playfulness, sincerity, fear, hope, disappointment, confusion, sympathy, anger, wonder, and most often recently - love.

And she's seen him asleep, so she doesn't even really need to add his face to her survey, but she wants to anyway. She wants to know if his slack features look different when they've gone to sleep together, with her in his arms. Not drugged.

But as she lifts her eyes to his face, she stops, lifts her hand to her mouth to stifle the laughter that wants to escape.

The detective has woken up more than once in the past few weeks to find Minerva curled around the top of her head, one paw usually stretched across the woman's ear, little body partially covered in long auburn tresses.

But she's never had this particular experience. Not that she can blame Minnie. She found out last night that the skin of Castle's neck is especially warm, and it smells good with the remnants of his cologne and his own scent, and it vibrates pleasantly with his breathing.

Still, as much as she likes it when the writer wears scarves (and he did look entirely too good a couple years back with that blue striped scarf he wore a few times), she has to admit that he is even cuter with a kitten draped over his neck. Adorable really, as he dubbed her last night.

His hair is ruffled and hanging in his eyes, his face dark with stubble, but so peaceful. He looks more relaxed than she's seen him in weeks, months maybe. Probably since before her mother's case resurfaced, and it occurs to her suddenly how much of a toll all of this has taken upon her partner.

Her heart clenches at the thought. He may not have been the one who was shot, but she knows what it's like to see and friend go down. And it had to have been even harder for him not only because he loves her but because he had tried to get her to step away. And as he told her last night, he's been battling with the guilt, the feeling that he could have done more.

To add insult to injury, she herself had disappeared on him for the entire summer, pushed him away completely, left him to work her case and deal with the terror and the guilt without even knowing if she cared about him in the least.

And even after she did come back, she didn't exactly make this easy on him. She's been trying, she really has, but still finds herself pushing him away, not letting him in nearly as much as he deserves. They've made progress, especially since he showed up at her apartment last week and watched movies with her and played with her kitten and crashed on her couch.

But it's not enough anymore. It's not enough for her, and she can tell it's not enough for him, even if he has been incredibly, unfailingly patient. He's proven that he can and will wait. She just doesn't want him to wait anymore.

She doesn't want to lie to him anymore.

He loves her.

And he deserves to know that the feeling is so very, very mutual.

She lifts her hand to stroke one of Minnie's little cheeks, and sleepy green eyes slowly open for her. Honestly, she's not sure how the cat's position could possibly be comfortable. But then she doesn't have a cat's flexible spine.

The kitten stretches her front legs forward in what the detective has come to think of as the flying Superman pose. The movement causes gray fur to tickle against the writer's jaw and he twitches.

He doesn't wake, but his mouth twitches, and Kate can't resist leaving the kitten's soft fur to touch the roughness of the man's cheek. She slides her fingers along the smooth lines of his face, up to the little wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and back to the silky short hair above his ears.

Castle sighs, lips curling upward and parting.

"Mmm," he hums, and Kate can tell just by the hushed sound of his voice that he's not completely awake, not yet. "Feels good."

She says nothing, but continues to stroke his hair, waiting for him to depart from his dreams and come back to her. She can see the alarm clock over his shoulder, and it's only about half past seven. But she doesn't think he'll mind if she wakes him up a little early.

"Mmm, Kate," he murmurs again, making her heart flutter at the sound of her name in that sleepy tone. "Love you too."

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