Author's note: Last one from the alter ego file. There'll be four chapters on this one. I've loved seeing everyone's response to these stories. Thank you, as always, for reading.

Original author's note (jeez, flirting much?): I've heard that stories like this are the way to win the affections of a certain sheep in the fandom. And, well, I've always wanted a sheep for a friend...

He looks so tired. So very weary.

The sagging lines of him arrest her, keep her still and silent on her stool in the kitchen. He hasn't noticed her yet, so she takes the opportunity to study him the way he's always studied her.

Is this how she looks when she's exhausted? Is this how he knows to bring her a refill on her coffee or order food or crack a terrible joke? She'd like to think she's better at hiding her tiredness, at appearing to remain alert and ready, strong. But he's always seen through her. So yes, this is probably exactly what he's seen so many times.

Her heart aches with it, with the four years she made him wait, the four years she made herself wait for this good man.

Not anymore.


His head snaps up, weariness disappearing from his features the instant he sees her. The change hits her in the gut, leaves her breathless. It's not that he's hiding it for her sake. It's that this is what she does to him.

Face breaking open in a smile that makes her heart pound, he strides toward her, keys landing in the bowl next to the door, jacket dropping on the table beside it. She's wrapped up in him before she realizes what's happened, surrounded by strong arms and a firm chest and his smell - woodsy and sweet and musky, hints of coffee and old books infusing the soft skin of his neck.

"Hey," he snuffles into her ear, nose brushing at her temple, breath tickling at the short curls along her hairline.

She winds her arms around his neck, pushing her body into his until they're fully aligned - a perfect fit. And then she stands with him, quiet and together. All she needs right here.

"How'd it go?" she asks softly when his hands have started to wander up and down her back, calming and gentle, making her feel safe until his fingers begin running along her waistband. That brings a whole other feeling to the surface, and she shivers in his arms, her hips meeting his.

He chuckles, but even through the richness of the sound, the pleasure and want, she still detects that weariness that caught her when he walked through the door.

"It went okay," he sighs. "They want to wait and see how Frozen Heat does."

She pulls back from him, lifts her hand to card her fingers through the short hair at his temple, thumb brushing the ridge of his cheekbone as she winks at him. "That just means you can ask for more money when it's another best-seller."

He laughs, and then his eyes soften as he smiles, tender and adoring. Hands sliding to bracket her waist, he leans in, tilts his forehead to hers. "What did I do to deserve you?"

She tips her face, lets her lips feather across his cheek down to his mouth, a gentle reverence. Fingers curling around his ear, she holds him in place, sips at the heat of him, heart jumping at the way he opens to her, inviting her inside.

"You brought me coffee every day just to see me smile," she whispers when they part, still close enough that his breath tingles against her lips.

He's silent for a moment, his eyes squeezed shut, and she just holds him, keeps him steady the way he's done for her all this time.

When he opens his eyes again, his gaze is clear, a deep ocean blue. Happy.

Oh. She makes him happy.

"I made you a cake."

It comes bursting out of her, unexpected, and he pulls back, eyebrows furrowed and lips parted in surprise.

"Oookay," he drawls, his hands still at her waist. She can feel her cheeks reddening.

He turns his face from hers, glancing around the spotless kitchen. His eyes rove over every surface and then he turns back to her. He's positively twinkling at her. "Let me guess: you eated it?"

"I did what?"

He shakes his head, laughter bubbling up from his chest. She can feel it under her hands, can feel his overflowing joy as it rises up. It pushes a grin out of her.

"Nothing," he says, shaking his head. "It's- on the internet, there are these cats..."

At her lifted eyebrow, he pauses. "I'll explain later. Where's this alleged cake?"

She shakes her head, but lets it go. More important things now, Beckett.

"In the fridge," she answers, unsurprised when he snakes an arm around her back and tugs her in that direction.

He throws open the door, and there it is. It's not perfect, not like her mother's used to be, frosting completely smooth. But when she chances a look at him, there's something undeniably awestruck about his expression.

"Kate," he murmurs, turning bright eyes to her.

She bumps his chest with her shoulder, ducks her head, suddenly shy. "It's just a cake, Castle."

Shaking his head, he pulls her against him until she's plastered to his side. A kiss lands on her forehead, even as he speaks through it. "Not just a cake."

He finds her lips with his then, kisses her slow and sweet, his mouth gentle and giving, and ohhh, she could live here in this moment.

She hears a hum as they separate and she rests her head in the crook of his neck. It's her, she realizes; she's humming into him, content with one of his arms wrapped around her while he holds open the refrigerator door with the other.

His hand strokes her bicep, his fingers trailing over bare skin. She shivers. When she looks up, he stares back at her with suspiciously shiny eyes.

"Castle?" she asks, worry leaking into her voice. "What is it?"

He shakes his head. "It's- nothing."

Poking him in the chest, she pulls out the glare that she's found still retains its effectiveness, even without the weight of a badge and gun behind it.

He lowers his eyes for a moment, and her gaze follows, watching him as he scuffs a toe against the floor.

"It wasn't a great day," he says slowly. "I just- I'm not ready to give Nikki up. There's so much more story to tell."

She nods. She doesn't want him to give Nikki up either, even if she's not sure what that means. He doesn't need an excuse to follow her anymore. Not that there's anywhere to follow her anyway. But still.

"I was really hoping they'd just tell me they wanted me to sign a contract for more books, you know?" he continues, his eyes lifting to hers once more, his expression beseeching.

"I know," she murmurs. "Me too."

"But they- now that we're together and you resigned and..." he trails off. "Black Pawn isn't sure there's more to tell."

"Moonlighting curse," she says, tilting her head as she nods.

He scoffs. "I never believed in that. There's-"

Sliding her hand up his chest, she cups his cheek, five o' clock shadow rough against her palm as she steals his words. "There's so much more."

He nods. "Yes."

"They'll come around," she says softly.

He lifts his hand to cover hers, turning his head to press a kiss into her palm. "I hope so."

There's more. Not just to their story - to Nikki's story as well - but to what's got him so worked up now. But she can be patient. And though she may not have an interrogation room at her disposal, she still has ways to make him talk if need be.

"It would have been enough that you were here," he says after a moment. "When I got home, it would've been enough that you were here. More than I could ask for, really."

A knot forms in her stomach. Happy as she is now, as many of her doubts as he's erased from her mind, he apparently still holds onto a few of his own. She doesn't want that. Doesn't want him question her wanting to be here, doesn't want him questioning his own worth.

"Castle-" she starts, but he cuts her off.

"But here you are, and you looked so glad to see me."

"I *am* glad to see you," she says, corners of her mouth curling up, a blooming happiness unfurling within her. "And I made a cake."

"And you made a cake," he agrees, tugging her closer before he turns to her, confusion etched across his face. "Why did you make a cake? And why are your ears so pink?"

Her ears?

She's blushing. Oh, she can feel it now.

"Kate?" he questions.

She dips her head, tucks her bottom lip under her teeth.

"It's-our-two-week-anniversary," she mumbles quickly, trying to twist out of his grasp.

He catches her, doesn't let her escape. "What?"

She sighs. "Our two week anniversary. It's today."

"It is?"

She nods. And then she looks up at him and finds delight painted across his face, happiness in every line, eyes crinkled. He's just about glowing. He opens his mouth, closes it again. Opens it once more. "It *is* our two week anniversary."

"So I made you a cake," she says, residual embarrassment still coloring her cheeks. "I figured that was better than some garish tie."

He shakes his head, teeth flashing in a pleased grin. "Yeah. Yeah. What kind of cake?"

She laughs then. Leave it to his sweet tooth to dispel her embarrassment.

"Chocolate fudge," she answers. "With a mocha whipped cream frosting. My mom's recipe."

His gaze softens, and he tugs her up for another kiss, all warmth and affection, and she can feel him vibrating with happiness.

"Delicious," he tells her when they break apart. "So, you want me to order dinner? Or should we skip straight to dessert?"

As if his tone of voice isn't enough, he's got that glint in his eyes now that tells her exactly where he's headed with that train of thought. She's pretty sure she'll like where he's headed too.

Squirreling out of his grasp, she ducks under his arm, letting her hips sway a little extra as she saunters away from him.

She turns back halfway to his bedroom, finds him with his mouth open, looking after her. She purses her lips and he runs his tongue slowly over his own, sends a hot curl of heat straight to her belly with the expression on his face when he speaks. "So...dessert then?"

Nodding, she continues on her path, pausing just before she passes through the doorway. "Castle?"

"I know," he calls when she meets his eyes over her shoulder. "I'll bring plates and forks."

"Good," she says. "And the leftover whipped cream is on the bottom shelf."

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