A/N: Inspired by 3x14, 'Lucky Stiff', but set after 3x17, 'Countdown'. For the sake of this scenario, Josh never returned for Beckett in the beginning of that episode.

"Come here, dressed in black now
So it goes
Scratches down your back now
So it goes
You did a number on me
But, honestly, baby, who's counting?"

-'So It Goes' by Taylor Swift

Watching Kate Beckett dancing in a club is nothing short of a religious experience. Witnessing it once isn't enough.

He's playing with fire, already singed with the burn of being too close, but he can't help it.

Luckily, he has an unknowing accomplice willing to strike the match for him.

"Come on, girl," Lanie pleads with her. He isn't trying to listen in from outside the break room, he's just… waiting for Beckett and Lanie to finish the conversation they're having so he can brew a fresh pot of coffee for her. "I just got dumped, you did too-"

His heart skyrockets with his eyebrows.

"I did not get dumped," Kate mutters, sounding far more annoyed than heartbroken. "I called him, after the freezer, and told him it was over. I can't… be with someone who I never even see."

"I know, honey," Lanie sighs, her voice a blanket of comfort. "He never deserved you and you definitely deserve better than him."

Beckett doesn't answer and Castle toys with the idea of how to slip inside, weave himself into the conversation without evoking suspicion. He could be what she deserves; he so badly wants to be deserving of her.

"Okay," she suddenly says, the resolve solid in her voice. "Let's go out tonight. You pick the place."

And there's his opportunity.

"What's this about going out?" Castle inquires, strolling into the break room with her empty coffee cup in his hand.

Beckett crosses her arms and glares at him. "How long were you standing out there?"

"Standing out there?" he repeats quizzically, but he can pull this off. He just has to channel the acting skills he's uses at book signings and press events, in meetings and past marriages. "I was going over that stack of missing person files with the boys, told them I'd brew some fresh coffee. I just grabbed your cup on the way in here."

Kate assesses him like a human lie detector, but he must pass the test.

"Lanie and I are going out. Girls night," she informs him, the 'no boys allowed' unspoken but prevalent in the curve of her eyebrow.

"Aww, why? I could make it twice as fun," he whines, drifting towards her and Lanie to access the coffee machine. "Plus, remember who I am? I could get you both into the best clubs in town."

"No thanks, Castle," Kate mutters, but Lanie perks up.

"Which clubs?"

Beckett cuts her glare to her best friend.

"How about the place that just opened downtown? It's been getting all positive reviews and I happen to know the owner. She's a fan." He wiggles his brow and Kate twists her lips in disdain.

"We don't need your connections to-"

"Hey, speak for yourself," Lanie pipes up. "Do you know how impossible it is to get in that place? I'm looking for a good time in a hot place with the best liquor."

"Check, check, and check," Castle assures her with a grin.

"We're in."

"Lanie," Kate growls, but the M.E is already strutting past the two of them, giving Castle a high five on the way out.

"As soon as you get off work, Kate Beckett. My place," she calls over her shoulder, shooting her a narrowing look. "And don't you dare try to back out."

Beckett huffs and rounds on him with that killer glare. "You're an ass."

"For getting you and your best friend into the hottest club in the city right now?" he questions innocently, but she fails to waver. "Okay, fine, I won't come. Better?"

She rolls her eyes. "Don't be a child. I don't care if you're there or not."

"You're the one who said girls night," he reminds her, but Kate waves him off.

"It'll still be girls night. Just because you're there doesn't mean I'll acknowledge you."

"Oh, ouch," he chuckles, tapping in the settings on the espresso machine. "We'll see how long you can resist the temptation of partying with me, Beckett."

Amusement flickers through her gaze. "What temptation?"

"Live in denial then," he shrugs, sliding her cup into place beneath the machine to catch the trickle of coffee. He reaches for the cinnamon, prepared to add just a pinch-

"You're adding cinnamon," she murmurs. He looks up to see the suspicion creasing her brow. "You only do that when you think I… you were listening the entire time, weren't you?"

Her eyes harden once more, steel ambers that glitter with anger.

"Because I put cinnamon? Do you not want any?" he asks, genuinely confused now.

"You only make me coffee like that when you think I need comfort or something," she mutters, shaking her head. "Which I don't. I'm fine, Castle. Like you said, one foot out the door, doesn't make for a great relationship."

She turns to walk away and he purses his lips.

"Fine, I heard," he calls back to her, hearing the click of her heels on the hardwood pause. "And Lanie's right. You deserve better."

She doesn't respond and he assumes she must have slipped out, but then the soft sound of her sigh is whispering through the quiet of the room.

"Thanks, Castle."

"You dressing up for Castle?"

Kate lets out a breath and slides Lanie yet another glare in the mirror. They're almost ready to go, just finishing up the final touches on makeup in Lanie's bathroom.

"No, besides, he saw this dress a couple of weeks ago," she mumbles, returning her focus to the stroke of black liner to her eyelid.

"Oh did he?" Lanie asks, too much intrigue in her voice.

"For a case, Lanie," she mutters, capping the eye liner and reaching for her mascara.

"Mhmm," Lanie hums, adjusting the low neckline of her dress. "I'm surprised he survived that."

"You know it isn't like that with us," Kate sighs, brushing her lashes in black. But she can't deny that she's a little more eager than she should be for him to see her in the short black dress again, for their attentions to be undivided by drug dealers and undercover work.

"It should be," Lanie huffs, dragging the v of her dress a little lower, accentuating her cleavage. "Girl, you're finally single again, so is writer boy. The time has come."

Kate shakes her head and drops the mascara back into her makeup bag. "No, it hasn't."

"We'll see."

"Yeah? Well, let's see how long it takes you and Esposito to get back together on that dance floor tonight," Kate challenges, her fingers curling around a tube of lipstick.

Lanie swats her hip with her clutch. "Hush and hurry up. The boys are probably already there."

Kate smirks and stains her lips in the soft shade of pink. Lanie still doesn't know about the dumb idea from weeks ago, how she already knows what it's like to have Castle's mouth on hers, to feel the press of his body into hers, his hands roaming her frame.

It isn't for him, she tells herself. But her lips are tingling with memory as she swipes the last of the lipstick across her mouth.

The music is blaring, the lights low and sweeping across the club in multicolored streaks. He's still waiting on her.

"Lanie just texted me," Esposito informs him. They're sitting at the bar, sipping on overpriced drinks and watching the door. "Bouncer just let them in."

Castle straightens on his barstool, his heart skipping beats in its search for her, accelerating once he finally spots her walking into the sea of dancing bodies and waves of light.

She's wearing that dress again.

"Damn, Lanie looks good," Esposito sighs, downing the last of his drink and dropping from the stool. "I've got work to do. Catch you later, bro."

"Yeah," Castle murmurs, but his gaze fails to stray from Kate Beckett weaving through the crowd. She looks incredible, loosening with every sway of her body to the beat. "Good luck."

But Esposito is already gone, trotting into view and sidling up next to Lanie. Kate smirks, nudging Lanie with her hip before her eyes lift to scan the crowd, looking for him. They spark gold when they find him and then she's working her way through the grind of bodies to reach the bar where he sits.

He signals the bartender as she strides up to Esposito's vacant seat.

"Thought you weren't going to acknowledge me," he quips over the thump of the music.

"That was before my girls night got turned upside down by Esposito," she chuckles, long legs crossing as she sits down next to him. "He and Lanie are in a break up, make up phase right now."

"Trust me, I heard all about it," he commiserates, watching her lips quirk a little wider. "So does this mean you're stuck with me for girls night?"

She sighs, accepts the drink he ordered from her with a softer smile. "I guess so."

But she doesn't look quite as put out by the idea as she did earlier.

"In that case, drink up, Beckett. I'm ready to dance. For real this time."

"For real, huh?" She grins around the rim of her martini glass, sipping slowly. The heel of her stiletto drifts imperceptibly closer to his calf. "You could barely handle the fake."

"I'm not sure you know what I can handle."

He swears her neck flushes with color, but it could just be the lights. He doesn't miss the bite of her lip, though.

"Okay, Castle." She sets her glass down half empty on the bar. "Let's dance."

It started out as dancing, it really did.

She isn't drunk, has no excuse, except that the breadth of his chest beneath the black stretch of fabric, the few buttons left undone and leaving skin unattended, calling to her. The fixation of his dark blue eyes roaming every inch of her body like she's something worthy of that dangerous mixture of lust and awe, too much for her.

They dance, his hands hesitant on her hips and hers safe on his shoulders. For a little while. But when her hips begin to sway, his fingers grow a little more confident, curling around the bones and following the sinuous rhythm. He doesn't pull, doesn't try to draw her closer, but she lets herself be tugged in by the magnetism she's tired of resisting.

"Beckett," he murmurs, holding himself away from her when she drifts in close. Her breasts are brushing his chest, hips a breath away from meeting his. His throat ripples with a swallow. "Maybe we should take a break."

"Can't handle it after all?" she teases, stoking the flames she feels crackling in the pit of her stomach, licking at her insides.

His hands splay at her waist, one gliding around to the bottom of her spine, the heat of his palm covering the small of her back and spreading. All he would have to do is press down, drag her lower body into his.

"I can handle you, better than anyone else."

Her brow arches. "Large assumption, Castle. One that has no merit."

His hand scales from her back, fingertips skimming the curve of her ass, traipsing over the tight satin of her dress and flirting with the edge of her outer thigh.

"I could change that."

Her heart trips. This is going in a direction she could have predicted, has imagined more times than she wants to admit, but… is this really something she wants? No, scratch that. She wants it, wants him. Badly. But is it a good idea?

"But not if it's just to prove I'm better than him."

Her body stops moving and he returns his hands to the respectable place of her waist. She glances up, sees too much in his eyes. They widen subtly, as if he's just realized what he said, as if he never meant to say it aloud.

Castle takes a step back. She lets him.

"Maybe we should take that break after all."

Kate retreats to the bathroom, probably to clear the deer in headlights look from her face, and he retreats back to the bar. To sulk.

He pushed too hard, went way too far, and he knows better. But she just - she messes him up, staring up at him with those dark eyes from beneath even darker lashes, an inch away from grinding on him, looking like she wants to devour him.

She just broke up with her boyfriend less than a week ago. He knows better.

"Hey there." Castle glances up at the voice, soft and seductive and belonging to a pretty brunette in a red dress. She's at least a few years younger than him, studying him with blue eyes that don't hide their interest in him and a seductive curl of her red lips. Almost as pretty as Kate, the kind of woman he would have indulged before. "Drinking alone?"

"Ah, no. Just waiting for a friend," he answers with a quick smile. "She's in the bathroom."

"Oh, it's a she," the other woman muses, sliding into Kate's spot with a grin. He does his best not to shift away, doesn't want to be rude. But the last thing he wants right now is a consolation prize.

"Yeah, she's my - my best friend," he gets out, like an idiot. His best friend? What are they, ten?

"That's so sweet," the woman purrs, balancing an elbow on the bar and leaning in closer. "But I've been watching you for the last few minutes and, in my opinion, your friend has left you alone way too long."

Kate pulls herself together in one of the luxurious empty stalls. Pacing back and forth for a few minutes to relieve some of the heated frustration coursing through her veins, between her legs, and dabbing at her neck with a damp paper towel.

She'll just stay a while longer, drive things back onto better terms with Castle, and then tell Lanie she's taking a cab home. Things got a little heated with him, but it's not a big deal if she doesn't make it one and she knows he'll loyally follow her lead back to normalcy.

Kate runs a hand through her hair and checks her face in the mirror, takes a deep breath, before she slips back out onto the dancing floor. She searches the mass of gyrating bodies for him, but doesn't have to look far. He's back at the bar.

But he's not alone.

Her legs lengthen their strides, get her to him a little quicker and more determined than necessary. Just in time to see his new female companion draping a hand too high on his thigh.

"Castle." He startles, but the woman's hand doesn't leave his thigh.

She glances up to Kate with disinterest, her red lips quirked. "Oh, you must be the friend."

But Castle is shifting, shifting away from the woman and off the bar stool to stand beside Beckett. Loyal, still loyal, even when he isn't hers.

"Aww, don't leave," she sighs, moving to rise, to follow him. Kate's hand curls into a fist, her body instinctively gravitating towards his, a wedge between him and the woman. She flicks her gaze to Kate, a challenge alight in the ice blue of her gaze. "Do you really mind sharing if you two are just buddies?"

Kate purses her lips and snags Castle's hand. "Yes, I do."

Castle sputters, but she's already turning on her heel and guiding him away from the alluring woman at the bar, back into the embrace of dancing bodies.

"Yes?" She lifts her eyes to his, hesitant but gleaming, swirling with desires of all shades. "Not good with sharing, Beckett?"

She huffs, stops with all the pretenses, and curls her fingers at his shirt collar.

"What do you think?" she grumbles, tugging him in close, bumping hips and chests and stealing his breath.

His hands cup her elbows, thumbs pressing hard into her bones. "I don't know what to think. I don't know what you want."

"I don't want a rebound," she murmurs, curving one of her palms at his shoulder and rising into the cove of his body. His chest shudders, his pulse thumping like the music, as she whispers her lips to his ear. "I just - I want-" She bites her lip, can't find the words, how to say it without-


She turns her head, finds him far closer than she expected. Her gaze falls to his mouth without permission and he leans in just a fraction more, the tip of his nose brushing hers.

"No rebound," he echoes, hands releasing her elbows. His fingers trickle down her sides, coasting along her ribs, and trailing to her lower back. Her hips roll forward at their own volition, her body rocking into his like a wave. No control, she's losing it all. "No mistakes."

"No," she gets out, digging her nails into his shoulder. His thigh eases between her legs, high and solid and flirting with the strip of lace between her thighs.

"I don't want you to regret anything," he murmurs, his breath hot and staining her lips, but his eyes are serious, boring into hers. "Not with me."

His mouth is practically grazing hers as he speaks. She tilts her chin, feels the buzz of his bottom lip touching hers.

"I won't."

Kate finally feels his fingers bruise at her hips, drag her up tight and firm against him, every piece slotting into place. She gasps, fingers climbing to skim his nape, twine through his hair, cradling his skull as he slants his mouth over hers.

She moans, sinks into him, and succumbs to the beauty of burning.

It's even better the second time.

He didn't think it was possible, but it is better the second time. She wants him this time, no ruse or false pretenses to explain away the ravenous work of her mouth on his, the moans she continues to release into his mouth.

Her hips twist, the heat of her bare thigh sliding over his leg and searing through the fabric of his pants. He groans, can't take it. Can't have her in his arms, hot and lithe and grinding against his body like this, in the middle of a dance floor.

"Kate," he gasps, unable to resist palming his hand to the ass that's been teasing him in this dress all night. Her lips part against his and she whimpers, a desperate little noise that shoots a flare of arousal straight to his groin. "Let me take you home."

Kate nods, but her hips are still moving to the music, her body a siren song of rhythm leading his to inevitable devastation. But her hands are slipping from his hair, tangling in the fabric of his shirt and tugging as she begins to walk backwards.

He stumbles with her, letting her lead until they're pushing through a doorway into cool air and street lit concrete. The deafening beat of the music fades behind them, muffled by the door she presses him up against.

He's painfully hard now, the hook of her knee at his hip not helping matters, but no way is he having sex with her for the first time in a back alley. But… the way she's kissing him, hard strokes of her tongue juxtaposed by delicate brushes of her lips, is too good to stop just yet.

Rick cradles her face in his hands, savoring the sharp slice of her jaw to the heels of his palms, her bone working against his fingers as she kisses him with intent. It really is better than their first kiss.

Kate Beckett is dedicated in everything she does, her focus admirable and her efforts never anything short of full forced. He's learning that she brings the same devotion to the investigation of her mouth over his, the exploration of her hands on his chest, flicking a button or two out of place and tracing fire to his exposed skin with her fingertips.

She kisses him ardently, thoroughly, and desperately all at once. She touches him, crushes her body against him, like she wants to climb inside of him. And he already knows he would let her without question.

"Loft's close," he gets out once they're forced to part for breath. Her eyes are a dazed shade of gold, pupils so dark and dilated he can barely catch the gorgeous color. "Let's go."

"Why?" she murmurs, flicking those eyes back to his lips and rolling her hips forward into the embrace of his. She fits so well between his legs, tangled around his limbs, it's almost uncanny.

"Because I don't want you in an alley. Not tonight, anyway." She arches an eyebrow, but her teeth are snagging on her bottom lip. "Kate, I want you in my bed. I want to be able to take in every inch of you and I want to take my time. Multiple times."

"I don't want slow," she groans, pressing into him. "I want this, now-"

Rick slides his hands down her back until they're skating over her ass, down to cup her in his hands and haul her in tight against him. She hisses, fingers coiling in his shirt again for purchase. Her lips part with a gasp as he allows himself one sharp thrust against her.

"I can change your mind."

She growls and darts in for a punishing kiss, all tongue and teeth and building need.

"My place is closer."