The Partners' Code

Beckett wakes up with a jolt and sits up straight in her bed, the pounding in her head proof enough that the last shot of vodka had been a bad idea. She hadn't had that much to drink since before she was shot, and she's paying the price for it now.

She gets up and starts the shower, detouring to get a glass of water while she waits for the water to warm up. Snippets of last night's celebration run through her mind, filling her heart with joy: Ryan's face while he watched his bride walk down the aisle towards him, the newlyweds' first dance, getting a drink with Lanie, bickering with Espo, laughing with Castle... The writer had turned out to be the best plus one she had ever taken to a wedding. He had been polite, charming and sweet from the moment he offered her his arm to walk her inside the church, to the goodbye kiss he had planted on her cheek.

She can't help the smile that takes residence on her face while she proceeds with her morning ritual, performing the tasks almost on autopilot, overwhelmed by memories of what had been the best night she's had in months.

Absentmindedly, she swallows a couple of Advils for the headache and sets the glass of water down in the sink, when one particular memory hits her with the force of a freight train.

No. There's no way... She couldn't have said that... Her mind has to be playing tricks on her.

But, as hazy as her recollections were, deep down she knows that the memory rings true. She has to make sure it happened the way she remembers it. She briefly ponders about calling Castle, but he was too close, she can't do it. That only leaves one alternative.

Lifting her phone with trembling hands, she presses the call button. It only takes a moment for the call to go through, and a hoarse voice greets her from the other side of the line.

"Girl, I'm gonna kill you. Do you have any idea of what time it is?"

"Sorry, Lanie," she tries to placate her friend. "I needed to ask you a question about last night."

The melodious laugh of the other woman rings through the earpiece for a moment, and Beckett can only groan in response.

"So," her friend finally says, "do you remember?"

Twelve hours earlier

The party was still in full swing, the dance floor packed with sweaty people moving to the beat of the music, but Beckett and her closest friends weren't among them. After several hours of dancing, the gang -Castle, Beckett, Esposito and Lanie- retreated to their table to take a breather, and soon, they were joined by the groom and bride themselves. Castle's arm had found its way to the back of Beckett's chair a few minutes ago, and the writer and Esposito were enthusiastically firing double-entendres at the newlyweds, apparently in a competition about who could make Ryan blush harder.

"Bro, when are you going to make me an uncle?" asked Esposito.

"Jeez, Espo," Beckett jumped to Ryan's defense. "They've been married for like ten hours, leave them be!"

"I'm just saying, I'm willing to bet we're going to meet Javier Ryan before the end of the year."

"Javier Ryan?" questioned the Irish detective.

"Of course. That's going to be his name."

"Ehm... no, it's not," Ryan refused.

"Come on, bro! It's standard protocol to name your baby after your partner."

"Since when?"

"It's on the NYPD's regulations."

They kept bantering back and forth while Jenny chatted animatedly with Lanie, who was inching her fingers towards Espo's glass, keeping an eye on him to make sure he didn't realize she was taking his glass away.

"That's an interesting rule," a deep voice murmured next to Beckett's ear. She jumped and turned to see Castle's dopey grin only inches away from her face. The writer had had at least as much to drink as she had, and they were both relaxed and content in their little bubble.

"You know that's not a real rule, Castle," she slurred, tripping over her own words.

"Still... Rick Beckett. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"

She pretended to think for a moment.

"And here I was," she said, inching closer to him, licking her lips while her eyes traveled to his mouth, the alcohol running through her veins making her bolder, "thinking that you'd prefer my kids to have your last name, Castle."

His eyes widened in shock, and his arm slipped from the back of her chair, making him stumble forward, spluttering as he gasped for air.

She laughed for a moment, patting his back until she noticed the sudden silence around her. Turning around, she found all her friends staring at her like they had seen a ghost.

"What?" she asked, raising her brow in challenge, and the others quickly resumed their respective conversations, clearly intimidated by her glare.

The writer had recovered by then and he stood up, offering her his hand.

"Wanna dance?" he asked, and their night kept on like nothing had happened.

Present day

The ding of the elevator signaling her arrival to the homicide floor takes her by surprise, and she scolds herself for her childish behavior. It has been two days since that ill-advised comment, and surely, Castle wouldn't remember it. After all, he had had a lot of drinks that night.

She makes her way to her desk, nodding politely at the officers and detectives she crosses paths with, and plops down onto her chair, turning the computer on in a practiced move.

Castle arrives only ten minutes after she does, a testament to how in tune they are with each other. They seem to have reached a new level in their relationship, one in which they can sense the other's presence when they enter a room. That ability fails her today, though; the appearance of a warm cup of coffee in front of her almost making her gasp in surprise.

She takes the offered item and turns to her left, smiling at the sight of the writer looking so at home in his old and battered chair.

"Hey," he greets, but it's tentative, shy, and she wonders if he remembers. His next words confirm her suspicion. "How was the hangover? Still recuperating?"

"It wasn't too bad, I guess I didn't drink that much, after all," she shrugs. "Yours?"

"Good," he answers. "I had a great time at the wedding."

"Me too," she says, the smile threatening to split her face in half.

"So," he begins, and clears his throat before continuing, "do you remember much of that night?"

The question is an echo of a distant memory from a different time, of a grim meeting in a hospital, but unlike that day, this time she feels the need to give him some reassurance.

"Yes, Castle, I remember," she states calmly, smiling, and she watches as he arches his eyebrows in surprise, so they rise up almost to his hairline. It's as though he hadn't expected her to admit it, and it's satisfying to know that she can still surprise him sometimes.

She gets a call from dispatch about a fresh victim before he can respond. She rises from her chair and gives his shoulder a gentle squeeze in passing, before she turns to Castle, still immobile and staring dumbfounded into empty space.

"You coming, Castle?"

Beta work by Griever11.