"We should go, babe," he whispers.

Oh, she could smack him! Maybe give him a taste of his own medicine first though.

"You're right, pooh bear, we've got a case to solve."

His hands shift to her shoulders to pull her away from him, but her plan obviously didn't work. Because he's grinning. Widely. Cheeks stretched by the strength of his joy.

"Does this mean I can call you 'honey buns' or something equally cute and embarrassing?"

Yeah, should have known he'd take it and try to run with it.

"Only if you want me to call you 'kitten' again."

He scowls at her, but there's such an adoration in his eyes that his glaring is basically ineffective. Cute, though. The way he tries.

"I'd prefer if you stayed away from that one," he says, shaking his head.

She leans into him again, resting her chin on his shoulder and pressing her temple against his. His arms tighten around her back, fingers lightly massaging her muscles and slowly turning her into a pile of goo.

"Can we...keep this between us for a bit?"

She turns her head to see his profile, surprised by his tentative question.

"You know I won't really call you 'pooh bear' in public."

He laughs.

"Not unless I deserve it, right?"

She winks, nudges his ear with her nose.

"Exactly," she says. "But what's this about, Castle? I thought you'd want to shout it from the rooftops."

He shakes his head, pressing his lips gently to her cheek.


She's a little shocked, to be honest. Not hurt. Not when he's holding her like this. Loving her like this. But she is curious. Maybe she can tease it out of him.

"Ashamed of me, Mr. Big Shot? Is the lowly detective not up to your usual standards?"

His eyes darken, and she quickly realizes she's made a mistake in poking him.

"Not ashamed of you, Kate," he says quietly. "Never ashamed of you. But afraid for you, yes."

Oh. Not what she expected. And she's not certain what he means either.

"Why, Castle? The press?"

They'd been standing, but he leans once more against the desk, tugging her to stand between his legs, his hands falling to her hips.

It sounds strange, even in her own brain, after the conversation they've just had, but his face is uncharacteristically somber. Whatever it is, it's something that seriously worries him. And that concerns her.

"After you were shot, I talked to Paula and Gina about you."

He did what? Why?

"I asked them to keep your name and picture out of anything they could. Anything Nikki Heat related, of course, anything related to me. And I asked them to keep an eye out for stories that mentioned you in other ways."

She doesn't understand.

"Why, Castle? Not that I don't appreciate the effort to give me privacy, especially while I was recovering, but it seems like this is something more."

He sighs, lifts one hand up to brush her cheek, to slide a rogue lock of hair behind her ear.

"I don't want you to be a target."

Her incredulous chuckle does nothing to lighten the expression on his face. If anything, he grows more solemn.

"Kate, there are plenty of people who wouldn't mind hurting me. Why do you think I'm so cautious with Alexis? And obviously, there are people who have it out for you."

She has to admit, she's never really thought much about how he must try to keep his daughter out of the media eye. Not beyond that conversation they had last weekend when he told her about his wedding to Gina and how things ended.

But asking his people keep Kate herself out of the papers? That's new. She'd noticed that she'd gotten far less ribbing after the release of the latest book than she did for the first two, but honestly she'd just figured it was because her coworkers knew she was still dealing with the aftermath of May.

It's not like she routinely scans the papers or the internet for her name anyway.

So does this have something to do with the possibility that her sniper (Her sniper? No. She doesn't want to claim him. Not the way she wants to claim her writer. The sniper, then.) could still be out there, watching? Although she figures that whoever wants her dead will still want her dead regardless of whether her name appears in the papers attached to Richard Castle's.

So, what is it then?


He shakes his head, hand sliding around to her side, rubbing up and down, up and down.

"Sometimes I get crazy fans."

Oh, she knows. Scott Dunn was a fan. A fan who fixated on her and almost killed her.

"And that's what you're worried about?"

He shrugs, drops his fingers away from her side as Minnie pops up on the desk, leaping from the floor to his chair to a spot right next to Castle's hip. The man reaches over to run a large hand over the kitten's whole body, earning a loud purr in return.

He doesn't look back at her when he replies.

"Partly. I just don't want to give anyone more reason or opportunity to come after you. And unfortunately, if we're publicly together, some of the weird ones will come out of the woodwork."

Really, it would be funny if he didn't seem so worried.

"Castle," she whispers, stilling his hand over the kitten's back. "It's fine. You're the one who knows the media and who knows your fans. Do what you think is best."

He looks up at her, and she can see the surprise in his face.

"I trust you," she tells him. "And I know you want what's best for me, for both of us."

The writer nods, eyes filling with something good, something tender, as he tightens his grip on her with the remaining hand. Amazing, what a simple phrase can do to him.

"What about Lanie and the boys?" he asks after a moment of just gazing at her. "And what do we do about Gates? Do we tell them?"

She laughs, not at his question, but at the fact that Minerva obviously does not approve of the halting of his affection.

The kitten worms her way into his lap. Except with the way he's leaning against the desk, and holding Kate, his lap doesn't really exist. So now the little creature has to settle in the small space between the two humans. She curls into a ball and lets out a loud kitty sigh.

Is this what it's going to be like? When we have kids? Always interrupted in the middle of a conversation?

His whole posture tenses, and she looks up from the kitten to find a deer-in-the-headlights expression on his face. Well, what's that about? But she doesn't have a chance to ask him.


Oh. She said that out loud, didn't she? Damn.

And she knows, she knows that he was reading her mind earlier, that he'd hinted at having children with her if she wanted. But she hadn't meant to be so blatant in bringing it up. Not when they'd officially been together fewer than 24 hours.

He's still staring at her though, still waiting for her response.

"It slipped out?"

He laughs, a full body laugh that warrants a displeased meow from the kitten between them.

"Is that going to be your response every time you accidentally say something like that?"

She shrugs, lowering her hand between then to stroke the little cat, her fingers brushing against his hip and his belly in the process. His legs tighten around her.

"Are you really going to complain about me calling you babe and implying that I want to have children with you?"

He shakes his head.

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