Gold in the Summertime

AN: We all remember the Season 2 finale. What if Beckett had ignored Gina showing up, bitten the bullet and said what she had intended to say? With that in mind, some lines in this initial chapter are directly from that episode.

"Oh let's keep this going
I wanna go all in
We'll never be lonely in the dark

Nobody loves you
The way that I do
The way you shine through
Gold in the summertime"

Gold in the Summertime, Matt Nathanson.

"Hey," Lanie shoved the boys, "you're gawking, it's rude and a touch disturbing." Ryan and Esposito grudgingly separated themselves from window. There were matching rounded patches of fog coating the window where they had had their faces pressed to the glass. Montgomery chuckled. Lanie, hero of privacy that she was, merely repositioned herself in what had been the boys prime position to watch the scene unfolding before her. What was her girl up to? Beckett stood in the hallway, hands twisting nervously as she looked at her feet. Lanie could see from the dips and dives of her cheekbones that she was speaking, but for the life of her, couldn't get a glimpse of her lips to try and make out the words. Maybe if she shuffled slightly to the left...

"Lanie, you're gawking, it's very rude," Ryan chortled. Lanie shot him an impressive stare, his grin ebbed slightly at the edges. She turned her attention back to the hallway, she had a clearer shot at reading Castle's lips.

"Me too..." she mouthed, attempting to replicate Castle's words.

"What you saying?" Esposito asked, moving back to the window, following Lanie's gaze.

"I'm trying to figure out what they're saying," she murmured, eyes still squinting at Castle's lips.

"Well, what are they saying?"

"I don't know," Lanie growled. "Anyone else think something weird is going down?"

"Definitely," Ryan motioned Lanie to look his way. "Now, I'm not a gossip or snoop like you two, clearly."

"Clearly," Montgomery pointed to the fading patch of breath from when Ryan's face had been pressed up to the window. Lanie laughed lightly, nodding in approval of the Captain's suggestion.

"I am or may not have witnessed a possible break-up between Beckett and Demming earlier."

"No way..." Lanie breathed, "my girl is finally going for it. About ti – "

"Lanie," Esposito hissed, gesturing wildly past the window. "What is that?"

"That... That is a spanner in the works," Lanie sighed as a busty, blonde woman materialised at Castle's side. Lanie couldn't read Beckett's face, but she could almost see her shoulder's deflate at the woman's appearance.

"Oh..." Ryan gaped. "That's Gina Cowell." Three pairs of eyes flicked to him. "Castle's ex-wife..."

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"Yeah, I wanted to say, have a great summer..." Beckett mentally berated herself, so not what she had wanted to say. What the hell was Gina doing here? Worst timing ever.

"You too, and like you said, it's...it's been really, really great," Castle smiled softly in response. But it was strained, it didn't reach his eyes, it didn't crinkle the corner of his mouth. Beckett could tell. That had to mean something. She could also tell that Gina had no idea that this entire conversation was a front, the unsaid burning beneath the surface, the words voiced merely a cover.

"Yeah, it has." At least that much was true. Better than great. Castle extended his hand. Beckett frowned, two years of friendship, partnership, whatever, and not even a hug. Maybe it had meant less to him? She took his outstretched hand in hers and fought a shudder at the tingling electricity that coursed through her entire body. Great. That was just great. She maybe, kind of, sort of had a little, tiny, insignificant thing for Castle and he was leaving with his ex-wife... and she was just letting him walk away... "See you in the fall?"

"See you in the fall," Castle mirrored, without meaning. Oh god. He wasn't sure. He was leaving. He had his arm around his ex-wife and was walking away. And she was standing here, gaping after him, eyes wide with shock.

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"How the hell did you know that?" Lanie murmured, shaking her head at Ryan.

"You are the biggest goddamn fan boy," Esposito muttered. Ryan glared at him.

"This just reflects that I am the most cultured amongst us and actually take the time to read the newspaper," Ryan replied smugly.

"Bro, I just don't waste time reading page six... Celebrity gossip is about the furthest away from cultured I can imagine." Ryan's smile slipped slightly.

"Well, maybe I'm just interested on what the tabloids report about Castle seeing as how he's our friend. Plus, his image is tied to the precinct these days. It's in our best interest to know what's supposedly going on with him," Ryan rambled, too late to save himself from Esposito's condescending chuckle.

"Oh," Lanie gasped. "Castle's walking away." Ryan redirected his interest in Castle to watching his friend's retreat.

"Did Beckett just – " Esposito gaped.

"I think so," Lanie almost squealed.

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"Wait," she half-whispered, the word sliding through her lips, without her conscious permission. Her brain caught up. "Castle, wait," it was still weak. She swallowed roughly. "Cas – " she started again, with some volume. It wasn't necessary, he had already heard her. He turned and gazed at her with an odd expression. She felt flushed. She hoped the colour was draining from her face as opposed to crawling up it. She swallowed nervously again. Castle strode back towards her, Gina following curiously in his wake. Excellent, they were all going to do this, how fun.

"Kate?" Castle questioned gently, reaching a respectable distance from her. His hand jerked and she almost imagined that he was fighting back the urge to reach for her. Maybe there was still hope?

"That's not what I wanted to tell you," she asserted, her confidence returning to her.

"Okay," Castle nodded, an invitation to continue.

"It's probably too little too late," her eyes darted in Gina's direction. The blonde, examining her nails in a studious display of not listening in on the conversation before her. Beckett sighed, but pressed on, "but, I was considering taking you up on your offer after all." Castle gasped, his hands flying to his mouth in shock.

"Are you kidding, Beckett? That's the greatest!" he beamed. His faced dropped, the glittering of his eyes dulling over. "Wait. What about Demming?" She could see him mentally distancing himself from the conversation, his smile fading. Beckett shrugged.

"I, uh, broke up with him," she whispered, her eyes darting to Gina once again. His ex-wife frozen now, intently listening to the conversation, her gaze still averted in feigned disinterest. Castle was nodding at Beckett, as if waiting for her to continue. "It just wasn't right, you know? He was lovely, but he wasn't right. Maybe, it was that Ying Ying thing you mentioned." Castle cleared his throat.

"Well, that settles it. You have to come. You can't sit around by yourself on Memorial Day and mope about your break-up. You need sunshine and good company. Oh, and marshmallows!" Castle absolutely grinned, his eyes shining an even brighter shade of blue. Gina tensed behind him.

"Rick... You have a novel to finish," Gina reminded him tersely, "I don't think guests will aide in that process." Her eyes flashed onto Beckett, harsh and unrelenting. Castle missed the bite in her tone, still beaming.

"This will do my writing wonders, Gina. I'm bringing my muse with me. How can it not improve my writing? I'm already feeling inspired," his eyes hadn't left Beckett since she'd told him she'd dumped Demming... for him. That was implied, right? She had dumped Demming's sorry arse for him, charming and ruggedly handsome, Richard Castle. Best day ever.

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"What's he saying now?" Esposito hissed, his breath warm at Lanie's ear.

"Shush," she chided. "I can only lip read as well as you."

"So, poorly?" Ryan added.

"Shut it, honey-milk," they trilled in unison.

"Nice, very Castle and Beckett," Ryan grinned. Lanie blushed, just ever so slightly, hoping that no one caught it. "Anyway, looks to me like Castle's saying something about marshmallows."

"What the hell, Ryan?"

"Why would he be talking about marshmallows?"

Ryan shrugged. "I'm just saying that's what it looked like. It is Castle after all, anything goes."

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"Uh-huh," Gina groused. "We're only entertaining your guest for the weekend, right Ricky?" Gina purred, "the rest of the summer is just for us."

"Right," Castle responded automatically, his eyes still locked on Beckett, who was beginning to flush an excellent shade of pink, the coloured skin crawling up her neck. "Although, Beckett, if you need more time to recover from your break-up, just say the word. You're welcome to stay as long as you like." Gina's scowl widened. This was not the summer she had in mind. Beckett's flush strengthened, it was a lovely shade of lobster. Castle liked it, somehow made her seem more human, more on his level. A lovely equaliser. "How quickly can you pack, Beckett? The traffic will be terrible later this evening, but if you need time to pack, we can wait." Maybe that was too eager? Oh, who cared. He was too eager. Plus, Beckett was smiling softly at him, like it was worth taking the shot and calling him back. He was so damn excited. He felt sharp fingernails dig into his arm. "Ow, hey!" He finally took his eyes from Beckett and faced a furious Gina. She was glowing too and in a completely different way to Beckett, more of a glower. It was way less cute.

"We need to go now, Rick. The traffic will be absolutely horrendous. Maybe the detective can meet us out there later," Gina smiled sweetly, her tone laced with venom. Castle opened his mouth to protest, but Beckett cut him off –

"Gina's right. You two should go. I'll drive out in the morning. I haven't packed a thing." Gina smiled triumphantly, her grip on Castle's arm tightening. He shrugged her off, stepping towards Beckett.

"Don't change your mind, okay?" he hugged her tightly, but briefly. "See you tomorrow, Kate." Not one to waste an opportunity, at least not today, Beckett pressed a chaste kiss to his cheek as he pulled away. Quick as it may have been, she could taste the excitement coating Castle's stubbled cheek. His hand unconsciously floated to his face, pressing to the spot that Beckett's lips had touched moments ago.

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"They're hugging?" Ryan gaped.

"We can see that," Esposito sighed.

"But what do you think it means? Is it a goodbye hug? Is it 'I just professed my undying love' kind of hug? Why can't we hear anything in here!" Ryan restrained himself from opening the door and interrupting the scene unfolding before him, although it was very tempting.

"If only we were better at damned lip reading. Marshmallows," she shook her head at Ryan. "Useless."

"Bro, would a conversation about marshmallows really lead to a hug like that?" Esposito flicked his thumb in the direction of Castle and Beckett, despite the fact that they could be clearly seen by all.

"It was just a guess," Ryan lamented. "Think about it, m-aar-sh-ma-ll-ows..." his mouth slowly forming each syllable. "There's nothing else that makes those shapes. Gotta be it." He continued mouthing the word as Lanie shook her head at him.

"How about we focus on what's at hand?"

"Oh my god. She kissed him!" Ryan squealed at a very masculine pitch.

"On the cheek..." Esposito hedged.

"Still," Lanie murmured, "good for her."

"Wait... He's still leaving? That Gina woman is grabbing at his hand." Esposito mumbled, eyes bearing into Castle's arm as Gina attempted to pull him away.

"What is happening?" Ryan groaned.

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"Until tomorrow, Castle," she almost whispered, before slipping from the hallway back into the party. He watched her go, his eyes following her as Lanie accosted her the second she entered the room. He saw the look of concern before Lanie was hugging her. The boys pretended not to be staring, but all eyes in the room were on her. He watched Esposito's eyes flick to him as Gina tugged him away from the window.

He was regretting inviting Gina so intensely, especially as she dug her talons into him and dragged him further away from Beckett. He wondered just how socially improper it would be to un-invite her right this moment. He released a strangled sigh; Gina continued tugging on his arm. It was fine. He'd just remind Gina that she was invited as an old friend, and a current publisher. Nothing more, nothing less. Their conversation the night before hadn't been that leading. It would be fine.

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"Kate?" Lanie entreated gently, hugging her friend. Beckett gave her a soft smile.

"Lanie. What are you doing tonight? Will you come over and help me pack?"

"Help you pack..." Lanie repeatedly lamely.

"Yeah," Beckett flashed her a lopsided grin. "I'm heading out to Castle's Hamptons house tomorrow." Esposito's shriek was muffled by Ryan's awkward squeal, the girls turned to stare as the boys both proceeded to cough loudly. Ryan patted Esposito's back.

"Bro..."

AN: This chapter is a bit rough around the edges. I haven't written in over a year. That said, I have high hopes the next chapter will be slightly more interesting so stick with me if you're interested in a Beckett/Gina throwdown (of sorts).