There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved

~Charles Morgan

The key feels weird in his hand.

No, not weird. Unfamiliar. Which makes it weird because not so long ago this key was as familiar to him as his own. But he hasn't used it in months. Not since the afternoon in June when she was already neck deep in training and he had to let the movers in for the last of the boxes.

The elevator pings and Castle steps out into the hall, the cream colored walls and stained wood floors exactly the same as the last time he saw them. A wreath of leaves hangs off the door of Mrs. McKenna's apartment, the muted oranges and yellows making him long for the coming Fall. He makes his way down to her door, keyring clutched in one hand as he fishes his cell out with the other, rereading her message for the third time.

Babe, I can't find my black sweater with the little silver buttons and I'm kinda freaking out. Can you please go to my place and see if it's there? I think I might have left it in the front closet.

Her place. Not her old place. Not her place in New York.

Her place.

The lock sticks a bit when he slides the key in and turns, the tumblers stiff with months of disuse. Castle jiggles the handle as he pushes and the door swings in, filling his nostrils with the scent of her, warm and soft and perfect. The toe of his boot catches at the threshold and he stumbles inside, fumbling on the wall for the light switch. Soft amber light washes over the hall and he wants to shut it off again, cast the emptiness back into darkness.

Shaking his head at his own melodrama, Castle opens the closet door. Empty. Of course it is. He snaps a picture of the bare bar and pastes it in the message, watching the little blue line progress across the top of the screen. Her response bubble pops up almost immediately.

Can you check the one in the bedroom, please?

The closet door closes with a quiet snick. He keeps the phone out, ready to snap a picture of yet another empty closet because he is ninety-five percent sure that the sweater she's looking for is at her place in DC, probably buried under the pile of laundry she hasn't gotten around to doing since he was there last month.

He meanders on the way to the bedroom, takes a slow lap of the rest of the apartment, his eyes lingering on the empty bookshelves and walls. Castle drags his fingers over the arm of the plastic covered couch, the place where she used to keep that godawful fuzzy blanket a shade whiter than the rest. Light from the street lamps leaks in through the closed shutters in her office and he can't stop himself. His nails scrape at the paint as the grips the little knobs and pulls.

Still here. All of it.

His phone pings.

You find it?

Castle shuts the shutters with a soft sigh.

Looking now.

Quickly, he crosses back through the living room and into the short hall that leads to her bedroom. He checks the closet there because he knows that one will be next on her list even though all he's ever seen her keep there are towels and sheets. And - nope. No sweater. Just bare shelves covered in a thin layer of dust.

His phone pings again and he swipes at the screen, not looking up as he passes through the bedroom door. Muscle memory carries him to the closet as he reads the message from Alexis and types back a response that no, Pi cannot use him as a reference on his job applications because he barely knows the kid and he has a reputation in town and will not have it ruined by a fruit eating hippie with horrendous body odor.

Shit, he can't send her that. Not if he wants to maintain some semblance of peace with his kid. Castle presses and holds the backspace button, watching as his angry rant disappears first letter by letter then word by word.


His phone his the floor with a thunk and Castle spins on the spot, one hand flying to his chest and other lifting to protect his face. Peering through the spaces between his fingers, he squints into the darkness, heart jackrabbiting against his ribs. Seconds pass and he relaxes as the realization sinks in that if he was about to be attacked, it would have happened already. Hands dropping from their protective stances, he flips the switch in the closet, bathing the room in light.


She waves at him from her perch on the end of the bed, hair loose and long legs crossed.


"You're here."


"And you're -" He swallows, eyes skimming down the length of her body, her skin almost glowing in the light. "You're naked."

"Again, yes."

"What's - Why - Are you - Beckett?"

She laughs, her bare breasts swaying softly from side to side. He watches, hypnotized, as she uncrosses her legs and stands, tossing the phone he hadn't noticed in her hand to the bed. On her toes, she stalks toward him, the light cutting across her skin, casting shadows in the dips of her clavicle and the valley between her hips.

"McCord caught a case in the city," she explains, her fingertips crawling up the buttons of his shirt. She smoothes her hands over his pecs, slipping under the collar of his jacket and up over his shoulders. The fabric slides down his limp arms, landing in a brown puddle at his feet. "She invited me to come along."

"You're here on a case?"

Beckett nods, her hips pressing against his thighs. "Yeah, some actor from a 90s TV show -"

"Charlie Reynolds?!" Beckett steps back, her head cocking to the one side. "I tried to get the guys to let me in on their investigation but Gates said no. But you're here now so that means it has to be big so maybe she'll -"


His jaw clicks closed as her eyes narrow. With one hand, Beckett motions up and down the length of her body. His eyes follow her fingers, from the tips of her pink painted toes all the way up to her curled hair. He falters on the downturned corners of her mouth, his own lips pulling down in a mirror image.

"Naked fiancée," she reminds him, the engagement ring he picked out exactly six months after their first night together shining on her left hand. "Maybe focus here now and on the case-" she waves her hand toward the door - "after?"

He can do that.

"I can do that," he nods, stepping forward with outstretched hands. His fingers slide across her waist, slipping around to meet at the small of her back, and she shivers. Her nipples brush against the front of his shirt and Castle lowers his head, lips hovering millimeters above hers. "I can definitely do that."

"Prove it," Beckett hums, lifting up onto her toes.

Her tongue slides over his bottom lip and he steps forward, one hand sliding down to cup her ass and the other skimming up her spine until he can tangle his fingers in her hair. That little moan he loves, the one she can never control or force, echoes up out of her chest and he smiles into the kiss, the grip on her hair tightening until her neck arches back and her nails dig into his flanks.

He walks until the back of her thighs hit the bed and leans forward, guiding her body down onto the bare mattress with the weight of his. Her hands pluck at his clothes, pulling fruitlessly at the buttons on his shirt and the buckle of his belt. With one hand, he gathers her wrists together and pulls, hoisting her arms up above her head. Dragging his mouth down the column of her throat, Castle tightens his fingers around her wrists until he feels her nod, her chin bumping up against his temple.

They don't need the words for this. They never really did. Not even on that first night where every touch was a live wire and both of them were too eager. They came together the way they always had at work, they way he'd always imagined they would if they ever made it there- easily, smoothly. In sync. Push and pull, give and take. Working the best way they know how, the only way that ever got them anywhere - together.

Her knees lift to bracket his waist as Castle continues his slow descent down her body. She rocks under him, urging him on with the quiver of her abdomen and the buck of her hips, arms still lifted over her head. His lips close around the tip of her right breast and she lifts off the bed, back arching and his name rolling around in the back of her throat.

Castle's knees crack as he hits the floor. One hand lifts to replace his mouth on her breast, thumb and index finger twisting and plucking as his lips skim down through the valley of her stomach. He crests her pubic bone and veers to the left, tongue dipping into the shallow cuts of defined muscles. Beckett whimpers, her legs falling wide and he grins against her skin, chin angling back toward her obvious invitation.

The heel of her foot digs into his thigh when he presses the flat of his tongue against her and he grabs her ankle, lifting until her foot rests against the cap of his shoulder. Her other leg rises on its own and Castle leans forward, pressing her bent knees back toward her chest as he devours her. A single finger slides in under his mouth and she cries out, heels pressing hard against his collarbones.

He carries her through it, mouth and fingers working and working and working until she squirms away from him, her whole body shaking as she curls into a ball in the middle of the bed, one hand reaching out for him. Toeing off his shoes, he climbs up behind her, one arm slithering around her waist and his face buried in her hair, nuzzling through until his nose hits her earlobe.

"That enough proof for you?" She quivers against him, hips rocking back into the cradle of his. "Or do you need more?"

"Always need -" Beckett huffs, taking hold of the hand he has spread across her stomach. She pushes down until he curls against her and they both groan. "Always need more."

"You are relentless in your pursuit of evidence," he agrees and she lets out a rasping laugh, the hand clutching his releasing. "It's one of my favorite things about you."

"Gotta find that next big piece," Beckett hums, her hand snaking back between their bodies until her fingers curl around him, massaging through the fabric of his pants.

Castle groans and she twists, craning around until their mouths can meet. Teeth nibble at his lips and he lets her play, matching the flex and curl of his fingers to her level of aggression. Sound rumbles low in her chest and she bucks away from him, turning herself over before his hand even hits the mattress.

Her fingers make quick work of his pants, popping open the button and pulling on the zipper as she throws a leg over his hips. She tugs the tail of his shirt out of the way and sinks down, her feet hooking into the hollow spaces behind his knees as she starts to roll. Gripping her by the waist, Castle plants his feet on the bed, socks slipping a little against the little embroidered flowers, and rocks up to meet her, eyes roaming.

Head falling forward, she looks down at him with wide, glassy eyes and he smiles up at her, that little piece of him that will never ever get over being the person who gets to make her feel this way lighting up inside his chest. Beckett grabs for his hands and he gives them to her, lets her lace their fingers as she leans forward, pressing the backs of his down into the mattress. The tips of her breasts sway against his chest and she flips her hair over to one side, lips grazing across his cheek.

"I miss you." She breathes the words against his skin and he nods, eyes falling closed as he turns into her, his lips crawling along the hinge of her jaw. "So much, Castle."

"Me too," he whispers, squeezing her fingers. "More than you know."

Her teeth sink into the side of his neck and Castle shakes a hand loose. Pressing the flat of his palm to the small of her back, he thrusts his hips up to meet her downstroke, his jeans-covered thighs rasping against the curve of her ass. Mouth opening and closing against his throat, she sobs out his name, body shuddering. He follows her into the abyss a dozen strokes later, nails carving into her spine and teeth nipping at her collarbone.

Beckett sprawls out on top of him, chest heaving. He brushes a lock of hair from her cheek and she gives him a lazy smile, that one crooked tooth she hates catching at her lip.

"I needed that," she says, eyelids drooping. "Badly."

His laugh makes her body shake and she rolls to the mattress, curling into his side. Goosebumps rise up along her skin and he rubs at her arm, mentally cursing the lack of bedclothes.

"Are there any blankets left here?"

Beckett shakes her head, the tip of her nose brushing against his shirt. "All in DC or at your place."


Another shake of her head.

"And no pillows either." He looks down at her. "Why are we here again?"

"You know -" she lifts her hand off his chest and wiggles her fingers like a Rockette - "surprise," she sing songs, giggling.

"Right," he chuckles, rolling onto his side. He throws a leg over hers, pulling her in closer as she shivers again. "And why didn't you surprise me at the loft? You know, where there are sheets and towels and pillows and a shower?"

"And too many people," she reminds him, tapping at his chin with one fingernail. "I couldn't naked surprise you without running the risk of naked surprising your entire family. Plus Pi."

Oh. True.

"Fair point," he concedes, hands running up and down her back. "Pi has already seen me naked, he doesn't to see you too."

Her head rocks back, a new light shining in her tired eyes. "Pi's seen you naked? When? How? Was he naked too?"

Castle presses a kiss to her cheek as she laughs and rolls off of the bed, straightening himself. "Get dressed," he says, pointing a finger at her as he stoops to pick up his phone, "and I'll tell you all about it on the way home."

Beckett slips off the bed, heading for the dresser. Pulling up the email app on his phone, he half-watches her as she dresses, making a mental note to ask about the bruise on the back of her thigh. Castle scrolls through his inbox until he finds the week old conversation with the realtor in DC.

Patsy, I'm ready to make a move. The sooner, the better. Let me know something as soon as you can.

The email swooshes out and he smiles to himself, tucking the phone in his pocket. Taking Beckett's hand, he lets her lead him out through the apartment, neither of them looking back. He locks the door behind them, thumbnail scraping along the scratched brass. Soon, he'll take it off. Replace her key with another.

With theirs.

Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.