Post Season 3 AU

The Conspiracy: Chapter 7

The visit to the cardiologist's office had been built up like a terrible abandoned house of horrors in his mind, so long feared as it loomed in the distance. Of course once they were there, it wasn't nearly so scary. The wait wasn't quite as long as it had been for the previous appointment. Castle accompanied her again, sitting by her side and trying like hell to wordlessly convince her that he'd be there for her no matter what happened.

This doctor, youngish for a surgeon, had good news in her eyes as she gave them the final words: "Released from care."

In fact, the doctor told Kate it was, indeed, time to run again, time to train, and that her heart looked almost shockingly healthy given everything that it had been through.

There was no bad news, no harsh guillotine chop or shattering of dreams. In fact, if Kate wanted to be reinstated as a detective, she only needed to pass the psych eval and re-qualify to carry her firearm. Even if she wasn't fully a cop again yet, she appeared to feel fully human.

She took Castle's hand once they were in the elevator, and the near grin that she'd been wearing since meeting the cardiologist bloomed. "I'm fine," she announced as the doors came closed.

He just beamed at her, her elation feeding his joy and vice versa. She turned, facing him, her look so full of so many positive emotions that he didn't even know how to react. So many times over the years she'd smiled with victorious excitement close to him, just inches away, sometimes less, and he'd had to hold himself back. He didn't have to this time. He kissed her softly, not the lust-fueled kiss that was probably long overdue given their wait, but just a touch to make sure she knew how happy his heart felt.

Her eyes glanced over to the controls, and Castle gasped with mock disapproval, and accused with sheer glee, "You're thinking about hitting the brake and having your way with me on this elevator! You are! Admit it!"

"No, I'm not," she countered so defensively that it seemed he'd hit a nerve.

"Yea…you were."

The elevator only had one more floor to go, and she said, "I'm going to be completely honest…the thing I've been dying to do…really, truly aching to do…"


"I'm not sure if you can handle it."

"Now you have to tell me."

"I want to go train a little bit, do some fighting, running, conditioning, go all out…really push myself, you know?" she asked, her eyebrows gathered with sincerity. "Just an hour or two. You don't mind waiting, do you?"

"Uh," he started, too stunned to really respond, and then he tried to be respectful of all she'd been through recently.

But dammit he was dying to get this woman in bed, dying to spend time expressing their feelings without caution, and a bit hurt that she wasn't as eager to be with him. Then he saw the glint of a smirk on her face and realized she was jerking him around. He smiled back and nodded, "You almost had me."

She tossed her hair back flirtatiously, like she was beginning to feel almost as attractive as she truly was. That underlying confidence was part of what made her so intensely captivating.

Tugging the pocket of his jacket, she asked, "Wanna come back to the hotel with me and celebrate?"

"Very, very much so," he answered. And there it was, near thought-coma now that all he could focus on was her.

The elevator door opened, and she leaned out, still guiding him by his jacket and leading him into the parking garage toward the car. He stepped around to open the door for her, simply to be close to her, to make her feel important and cared for.

Beckett so often surprised him, and she did yet again, turning and shoving him until his back collided with the thick cement support beam closest to his vehicle. Her hands grasped at his shirt and the back of his head, holding onto him like a lifeline as she devoured his mouth. It was, by far, the hungriest, hottest, most urgent way he'd ever been kissed.

She felt certain, unequivocal in her choice to pursue him. It just made him love her more, made his heart and body ache and yearn to a degree he hadn't even known was possible. A nagging voice in the back of his head reminded him that they should relocate if they wanted to keep this party going, but too much of him was wrapped up, powerless to resist or pull away. When she finally backed down, her teeth tugged at his bottom lip before her tongue soothed the spot, eventually breaking contact but doing little to deescalate the situation. "Let's go," she demanded.

Once they were in the car, he had to concentrate just to remember how to shift the car in reverse. She possessed him, bewitched him, consumed him to the point where he could think of little else. She got out of the car and circled to the driver's side, opening the door and gesturing for him to give her the keys. It was probably the safest thing to do, since in some ways he was intoxicated.

As they drove, he let his hand wander to her leg, fingers touching the top of her thigh and knee in a way that was nearly innocent, except for the charged sparks between them that would make a handshake seem utterly indecent.

He remembered little of the ride except for her, touching her leg, staring at her lips and eyes, watching the way she'd smile subtly at him out of the corner of her eye, tensions sky-high with expectation.

He had to get her to the room, had to have her, and allow her to have him. Absolutely anything she wanted, anything he was capable of giving her, he knew he would. Part of him wondered if he was a parched man crawling for a mirage that would evaporate once he reached it.

Once in the room, they both halted for just a few seconds, staring into each other's eyes as both pondered their next moves. This pause starkly contrasted the roiling desire within them. Beckett had a moment of sanity, or maybe she needed something to do with her hands while she planned, so she locked the dead bolt on the door. That sound, that click, snapped loudly, ringing like a starter's pistol.

They launched at each other. She pushed the jacket from his shoulders and her fingers moved in from either side toward his shirt buttons until she had them all opened with what seemed like inhuman quickness.

He wondered for a moment if she was truly healed, if her body was up for this wonderful task, because he'd spent so much time operating with caution that it was hard to simply shut that off. It was time for their connection, their love, to finally express itself physically, for the pair to figure out how two such dominant personalities could find a balance of power in a whole new way. They'd managed not just to be good, but fantastic partners in work and in friendship, and he was certain they could figure it out in their romantic lives as well. That, he knew, would be the best mystery he'd ever have to unfold.

He placed his hands on her shoulder and hip, and pushed her back toward the wall, firmly but steadily. Anchoring one palm on the wall next to her head, he leaned in for a deep kiss, savoring the deftly gifted dancing of her lips and tongue on his mouth, jaw, and ear. He helped her out of her jacket, his hands roaming over the softness of her shirt, sliding over her sides, hips, and breasts, never lingering, just trying to feel the entirety of her under his touch.

His urgency was as plain as hers. She was his, and he hers, and in some ways the actions to follow were unavoidable, gloriously mandated by the universe, the expression of a connection that already seemed to exist in the world but just needed to manifest.

He'd dreamed of this, imagined, fantasized…like an adventurer searching high and low to find the object he'd sought, finally unearthing its secrets.

He pulled the shirt quickly over her head, without any resistance or negotiation. It now seemed she felt free to give herself to him, to surrender to this moment of culminating desire without self-conscious reservation. He wondered if he'd built that trust with her, or if she was just too damn horny to care about her scars anymore. His arms wrapped around her, the softness of her skin nearly against him as her arms moved beneath his dress shirt but still over the black undershirt he wore beneath.

She grabbed his button-down from behind him, tugging it off by fisting the back of the collar and yanking until he helped move out of it. Had he not been so dazed, he would have teased her about her manhandling of him. Damn he enjoyed that.

She reached under his other shirt, her forearms pressing against his torso as she slinked underneath to help him out of that, too. She whispered a hum as their nearly bare torsos touched. In that moment, he wished she'd tell him every thought in her head, whisper every tawdry desire, each amorous feeling. As her hands roamed his exposed body, he reached around her to unhook her bra, struggling to keep control of his faculties.

When the bra was finally off, she leaned back slightly, watching her own hands touching his body, tracing the shapes that formed him. It was so intense, so powerful, to feel viewed by her like this. He wondered if that was how she'd felt, being studied and loved the day before.

She kissed the top of his chest at the bottom of his neck, her touch navigating and roaming wherever it wished. Lifting to her tiptoes, she kissed him, quickly, once, twice, three times, just barely touching, and she whispered, "You're so fucking hot, Castle."

He just panted, mesmerized by her lips and the way they looked as she spoke or kissed, the way her eyes were nearly unfocused with arousal and desire, the way her chest moved heavily as she breathed. It was still staggering that the center of his fantasies could be looking at him this way.

"Give me a hand?" she requested, the tips of her fingers dragging down his back, the nails softly scratching and making his skin prickle.

"Anything," he vowed without hesitation.

She put her hands over his, guiding his palms over her lower back, barely onto her ass, and then bringing them around to the front and placing them on the closure of her jeans.

She looked up, the combination of almost innocence and love sent such a powerful surge through him that he had to bite back the urge to rip through both of their remaining clothes and wantonly fuck his way through the gathering storm of feelings. He loved her, more than he was prepared for, wanted to savor and make it last, wanted her to feel adored and valued and safe. At the same time, those primal impulses, rough, rudimentary, and powerful, propelled him to bury himself in her, claim her, make her his.

His voice was low and grumbly, barely speaking as he moaned, "You have no idea how badly I want you. How much I need to be with you."

"I don't?" she asked. There was that faux-innocence again. "Maybe you should show me."

She reached for his belt, gaze fixed on him the whole time as she steadily but unhurriedly slid it through the buckle and undid the clasp. That stare. Once the belt was open, she cupped her hand against him, outside of his clothes, feeling his erection, at this point hard as rock and thoroughly aching.

"And you," she alluringly spoke, "have no idea how badly I want you…how much I want to have you inside me." Her glance dropped to where his hands were hooked on her pants, and she leaned back again, just a little. "Your turn," she reminded.

His fingers felt clumsy and numb as he unthreaded the button, wishing like hell her pants were just snapped, or maybe tear-away. Her zipper, too, fought him, so he jammed his hands down the back of her pants and forced the zipper to let go. His touch landed on a handful of ass rather than panties, the thong she wore was not what he'd expected. He needed to see her in those before they were off.

He pulled her against him, still partially clothed, wondering if his frustration alone could expel the last few scraps of clothing from them like a strange, sexy superpower. His lips found her neck, kissing, nipping and sucking while he palmed her firm rear and pushed his pelvis against hers.

She moaned his name, a hungry "Castle," not "Rick" or anything so unnatural or forced. His name as she knew him, the man she wanted, the man who infuriated and teased her, who collaborated with her, who stood by her side until she wouldn't get rid of him.

He felt her hands twist and tug between them, opening his pants the rest of the way, her palms grabbing his ass and pulling him toward her, too. "Damn you're hard," she gasped, her words and tone praising. "And I'm tired of waiting," she commanded.

She put her arms back around his neck and hopped up, winding her legs around his waist, the main contact point between them was their groins. They moaned, or more accurately growled, simultaneously, both worked up and far beyond the standard excitement produced by scenarios like these. No, this was different. It mattered in a completely different way, with broader depth and fantastic magnitude.

He sat her on the back of the sofa, the same sofa he'd perched on the day before when he kissed and touched her without the intention of sex, and somehow drove her wild anyway. He couldn't stop pushing her body against him, desiring a closeness he wasn't even sure was physically possible, no matter how desperately they needed it or how hard they tried.

She reached beyond him, fighting with one boot she couldn't seem to take off. He groped behind his back to assist, refusing to relinquish his position between her legs. She chuckled with frustrated excitement, "Why in the hell did I wear these today?"

He replied against her mouth, "From now on, bathrobes and flip flops are your only clothes."

She nodded, too busy to answer. Together they managed to get the boots off, and he toed out of his shoes. They shoved his pants down together, using her hands and feet as well as his, completely lacking decorum or poise, swallowed up in this frenzy.

He paused to return his attention to her, his jeans still around his ankles, and she gently pressed low on his abdomen to move him back a step. "I want those totally off. Everything off," she ordered.

Damn right he obeyed.

She remained perched in place as she watched him disrobe with her untiring stare, all the while appearing far more inviting than any human should. As he returned to her, completely naked, he saw and felt her intense depth of admiration. She bit the corner of her lip, and he was convinced what was about to happen would indeed devour him entirely in the most wonderful way possible.

Taking down her jeans, he quite literally balled them up and threw them across the room. He brought her to her feet, turned her back to him, pausing a moment to appreciate the sight of her gorgeous ass in such slinky panties. Pulling her hair to one side, he kissed the back of her neck and shoulders, going down her spine while his palms outlined her silhouette, lower and lower until he was on his knees.

There were many stunning things about Kate, but her ass was truly a work of art. He hooked his fingers on her thong, one by each hip, and pulled them down, kissing the backs of her thighs, behind her knees and her calves before she lifted each foot in turn to allow him to remove the last scrap of fabric from her body.

He held her hips and turned her to face him, licking the inner side of her knee and up her leg. And she parted her thighs for him, willingly and unasked. Her hips tilted as she offered her body to him. His tongue moved with such loving intention that he heard her gasp before he even reached her molten center. When he was so close, so near he felt immersed in the scent of hot, needy, turned-on Beckett (his favorite scent on the planet now), he stood up.

There was a moment of fury in her eyes, sheer rage, as the thing she'd predicted was withheld. He enjoyed that. After all, why wouldn't he tease or torment her at least a little?

Ultimately he didn't want to irritate her as much as he wanted provoke more enjoyable sensations. His mouth returned to her neck, he couldn't stop kissing her, ravaging her mouth and breasts, neck and chest. Nothing was as delicious as she was. "Want a condom?" he asked, although he never paused.

"I have us covered," she answered, her hand groping for his dick as she clearly wanted this to continue as much if not more than he. Then she halted abruptly and asked with more concern, "Is there any reason I should want one?"

He felt her tense when he didn't answer, and it made him realize he should respond because she might misread his hesitation. He paused, lifted his face to hers. "No. No reason. Just…you know…I want you to feel comfortable."

"I think this is about to feel a bit better than 'comfortable,'" she purred.

He grinned, nudging her nose with his. "Anything you need…anything you want, just tell me." He spoke with the gravity of vows, heartfelt and somber, and it seemed to hit her hard. "If I hurt you, or—"

"You're not going to hurt me," she interrupted.

"We should still be careful. I'd like to do this a lot more often, so we should avoid athletic injuries that may slow us down."

"I'm done with careful," she argued in a way that seemed to close the subject.

He moved between her legs, his finger seeking the heat there, the back of his knuckle brushing her cleft just enough to cause her to call out and hang on. Castle paused, offering a few tender touches and reassuring kisses, but it was as much for him as it was for her. He tried to remember it all, to calm his racing imagination, to delight in this moment. He wasn't prepared for her legs to butterfly out, her heels pressing against the back tops of his thighs to bring him closer. Her fingers wrapped one by one around his cock, stroking a few times with deliberate and anticipatory intent.

In some ways he was still dazed, but the brazen way she claimed him was something he was certain he'd never forget. She guided him to her core, her legs and one arm around him, other hand directing his sex like it belonged to her. His mouth gapped and body went rigid as she brought him into her, her arms hooking over his shoulders for balance and legs locking him in, merging their bodies until the union was entire.

He would have scripted poetic words, something to pronounce his fondness, to make her feel admired, respected and revered. All he managed to say was, "Damn, Kate," and an honest "woa" that made him sound utterly inexperienced in the ways of women. He wasn't sure if he told her how damn tight and wet and hot and perfect she was. He either said it or thought it. Perhaps he said so much more, or nothing. He couldn't even keep track anymore of which things were thoughts and which were spoken words.

His body screamed at him to move, both because he needed this, and because he wanted so badly to bring her pleasure. His hand cradled her ass, the other hand touching her side, both stilling her, pinning her tightly against him. He encouraged her arms around him, and carried her to bed, her legs still hooked over his hips, cock still buried inside her.

She had no mercy, kissing and touching and gasping with each step, her words deliciously naughty as she told him exactly what she thought of him, and how he felt, and the things she wanted to do with him.

He wasn't sure how he ended up beneath her (had he known, he would have taken notes and been sure to repeat himself).

Her hair poured in soft waves over her shoulders, just slightly disheveled, but still gorgeous. Her eyes were so alive, a far cry from the woman he'd first seen after the accident, so defeated and hidden safely away.

She stayed still for a beat, the pair sharing a moment of emotion in the midst of the furor. He cleaved to her narrow waist, noting the way it looked so small in his hands, and bit back the urge to move her body for her, because as far as he was concerned, his patience was nearing the breaking point.

"I can't even tell you how beautiful you are," he said, feeling the need to say such things because even though he was acting out of desire, the love never wavered even as frustration peaked.

For a cycle of breath she seemed taken aback, and she smiled, her fingers walking up his chest with such scarce contact it would have tickled if every resource in his body hadn't been entirely diverted to their joining. "I'm a sure thing tonight," she teased, "you can save the flattery for next time."

"Not flattery," he began, "in fact—" his words were abruptly halted, captured by her, whisked from his lips as she began to ride him.

She looked awfully pleased with herself and the way she silenced him. She'd probably been hoping to do that for years, but any self-satisfaction on her part was quickly replaced by her own excitement as they screwed. Her hips moved like a dancer's, graceful yet powerful, her core clenching and tightening all around his shaft, squeezing him as she slid their bodies together and apart. The firm pulsing of her sex along with the steady coupling and uncoupling of their bodies was beyond enough to make him lose the last vestiges of discipline.

He brusquely locked his hold on her hips, imposing his will on their pace. She didn't even seem to fight him. He sat up to kiss her, to feel her body more fully against his because it wasn't enough to be joined in just one place, he wanted her against him everywhere possible. Her legs curled around his torso, her flexibility allowing their bodies to smash together while their fucking never eased or stalled.

His touch pressed against her back, moving up to her shoulder blades against her unbelievably soft skin, crushing her breasts and tummy against him. But still he was restless, desperate to find more and greater connection because nothing seemed to be enough.

He felt her teeth against his shoulder as she moaned ever more loudly in satisfaction. The fact that he was the one provoking these sounds only made him harder and nudged him closer to gratification. Quite urgently she grabbed his head and turned his face toward her, kissing so deeply and passionately that it lacked coordination. He'd never seen her so uncontrolled and untamed.

She craned with the intensity of the moment, her excitement nearing its crest, and he took those seconds to taste her neck and chest, to nibble hungrily at a breast, and those added touches drove her over.

As she came, he felt that surge of power as he, too, neared. It was every bit as powerful as the flood of adrenaline that allowed people to lift cars or perform other such feats of strength in times of need. He lifted her and flipped them over, wanting to plunge his body endlessly into hers, to disappear in her, to feel the pulsing of her body around his as they rode this wave together.

It was all a blur except for the explosion of sheer indulgence, the feeling of reaching destiny physically and emotionally, finally having this woman that he felt so strongly about.

He could hear her sounds through the thudding pulse in his ears as her delight stretched. He could feel it, the strength of her hands and thighs and sex all gathering him and steadfastly refusing to let him go. He was needed. Wanted. Enjoyed.

He collapsed on her as the passion abated, both because he was spent and because he was not yet ready to abandon her. Her breathing, slightly labored, echoed in his ear, and he remembered her condition, and felt horribly selfish for allowing himself to rest so completely on her.

"You okay?" he asked, lifting his weight onto his arms. The incredible strength that he felt moments before had left him.

She dropped her hand shyly over her face, her long fingers covering much of it. She nodded and laughed, a reaction to the dispelling of what felt like ages of tension. "God, yes. More than okay. You?" she asked.

"Me too," he answered, groaning as he rolled away, announcing his body's disappointment at the loss of her warmth a little too pointedly. She followed, lining his body with hers. He felt her body meld to his like a liquid poured into a mold.

They remained there in their places, still breathless long after they should have calmed. "I do love you, Castle," she declared as sincerely as if she were under oath.

For a moment, he wondered if her words were about to precede something greatly disappointing, and he wasn't sure if he possessed the defenses to protect himself in that moment. "I do love you," he replied warily. "Is…something wrong?"

She chuckled, her hand on his chest and leg draped over his thigh. "No. Nothing is wrong."

"Good." He closed his eyes and allowed his arm to relax heavily on her hip, taking a breath as he realized the apocalypse would not follow their first time together.

"But someone is obviously dying to talk to you," she noted, "and it's really annoying."

"What? Who?"

"I won't be offended if you check."

"What?" he said yet again, still groggy and slow in the wake of their encounter.

"Your phone, Castle," Beckett announced as she laughed.

"Oh." He lifted his head and looked around the room, lacking the drive to resolve that particular issue for the time being. "I'll get it later."

She settled against him again, then giggled after a minute or two, "It's buzzing again."

"Let it go," he chuckled, smiling gently at her. A few seconds later, he realized the phone was still busily whirring. Now that he heard it, it was hard to ignore.

"Maybe it's important," Beckett added. "They are blowing up your phone."

"Yea…I guess I should look." He used his hands to push himself into a seated position, his body still heavily relaxed. "Damnit," he grumbled. "It's probably Mother. I told her I'd let her know how your appointment went but I forgot. I got a little distracted when we left."

He rose, taking the sheet for a modicum of privacy. He couldn't seem to find his pants in order to locate his phone. Beckett stood on the bed, walking across it with such lightness and ease that he wondered if her feet even touched the mattress. She hopped down over the edge. It was amazing how much more healed her body seemed just from hearing the news that she was okay.

She found his pants and retrieved the phone, handing it to him without even looking at the display. Offering a kiss, the slow, seductive kind that promised things between them were far from over, she slipped off to the bathroom and allowed him to deal with it.

Castle just missed his mother's latest call, seeing that he'd missed seven calls prior. Dialing her back, part of him loathed the interruption while the other part hoped to hell nothing was actually wrong. As was so often the case, his mother was loud and abrupt and slapped him out of his easy mood.

Kate returned just as he hung up and he winced as he tried to figure out how to tell her the news.

"Everyone okay?" she asked, sweetly.


"Good," she replied, gathering the edge of the sheet he used to cover himself and yanking him back toward the bed.

"There is…one little thing."

"What?" she paused, her face concerned.

"It's nothing big…Mother took Alexis to a Women in Science thing in DC…turns out Alexis needs a letter of recommendation that's on her laptop at home."

"And you need to go get it?"

"Yes. I'm really sorry. She needs it by 3, and she wants me to email it to her. Would you mind taking this party home, just for a little while. Besides, Mother said she bought a little something for you and left it at the apartment."

"For me?"

"To celebrate your recovery."

"That's sweet."

"Yea. Look, I'm truly sorry," he began. "I know retrieving letters and emailing them to Alexis probably isn't how you were hoping to spend the day, and—"

"Relax, Castle. I know you have a family. I don't mind."

"You don't?"

"I may have…certain ulterior motives."

"Oh," he questioned, arms winding around her yet again.

"If they're in DC, we have at least a few hours at your place. Not that often we'll have your apartment all to ourselves. I thought maybe…you could give me the rest of the tour…show me your bedroom?"

"Yes," he nodded instantaneously. "That's an excellent idea."

The two drove back to Castle's apartment, the tension relieved for only a blip in time before they were again tempted by each other, the excitement of love and new passion flaming their desire. The made it into the apartment, just barely, before they were making out, pawing at each other's clothes.

"Let me send that email. Quickly. So, so quickly. Then I'm all yours," he determinedly whispered until he was distracted again by the woman before him.

"I'll be right here," she replied, slowly slinking out of her jacket and beginning to unbutton her shirt ever so slowly.

He tilted his head, frozen in place, and just as she was about to remind him of the task at hand, a strange and confused cacophony of noises emanated from the other end of the apartment. The sounds included a polite cough, and a very teen-like and disgusted "Dad!" that was somehow short and sharp but multisyllabic at the same time. Then he heard, "Richard, darling…" come through loud and clear as the lights came up, and several people announced in uncoordinated chorus, "Welcome back," as they unrolled a banner and produced balloons.

Beckett looked at him, shock and uncertainty on her face as she stated the obvious. "It's a surprise welcome back party."

"Of course it is," he nodded awkwardly. "How nice," he forced as he looked at the crowd and took attendance, "of Mother, Alexis…"

"Lanie and the boys, and Jenny…"

"And your dad!" Castle squeaked. "How great! Beckett, isn't that great?"

For some reason, being caught by Beckett's father made Castle feel like a kid seen crawling through a girl's window late at night. He knew well enough that Jim Beckett didn't interfere much in Kate's decisions, but Castle knew he'd surely not like any man touching his daughter like that. Still Jim was calm, always even, and exceptionally hard to read.

Kate said to the group, "Thanks, everyone."

"Welcome back," Ryan announced, an I-knew-it-all-along look on his and Esposito's faces. Neither saw the need to mask their enjoyment of this moment.

Lanie hurried over, hugging her friend and saying, "I'm so glad you're okay. And you're back!"

Castle watched as Lanie took Beckett for the moment. Alexis hurried over, a look of extreme unhappiness on her face. For a second, she chided him for his behavior until he said, "Hey, need I remind you that I only came here to do you a favor? You were supposed to be gone."

Martha approached with a happy squeal, "Richard! Are the two of you finally an item?"

"We were. Hopefully we still are after this party," he nervously half-teased.

"I'm happy for you…if this is what you want," Alexis admitted.

"Thank you," he nodded.

"And I'll avoid any surprise parties for the foreseeable future."

For a short while he enjoyed the party, forgetting the awkwardness, and sampling food and drink he was pretty sure his credit card had paid for. Still, Kate looked happy, honestly happy. He found his eyes often trained on her face.

"I asked you to go check on her," the elder Beckett commented, interrupting Castle's staring.

"I know," Rick began apologetically. "I know this may look a little—"

Jim held up his hand to stop Castle. "Katie is an excellent judge of character. She makes her own choices…and usually they're good ones. She doesn't need my approval. I just wanted to thank you…for going and finding her. I was worried about her out there all alone. She looks happy and healthy. More like herself."

It wasn't exactly a resounding approval from Jim, but it wasn't disapproving either, so Castle counted it as a win.

"I didn't intend for anything to happen when I went up there," Castle explained, his eyes locking with Kate's across the room, and the power of her gaze was enough to stop him in his tracks. He knew his expression was one of utter adoration. He could feel his face flush. When he realized what he was doing, he shook his head and looked at Jim. "I—I was…"

Jim smiled, watching while the boys approached. "She deserves to be looked at like that…cared about. Respected," he commented, his hand patting Castle's arm before he walked away.

As cool and non-interventionist as Jim Beckett was, the boys saw no need to pull their punches or refrain from stating exactly what was on their minds.

"He already knows what happens if he messes this up, right, Bro?" Esposito asked Ryan.

"Of course he does," Ryan chimed in. "He'd have to."

"We're cops. Partners. We look out for our own."

"Guys, look," Castle began, cut off when they were in his space like he was about to be threatened.

"He also knows it isn't us he has to worry about," Ryan added, standing down.

"That's right," Esposito continued. "Beckett can kick his ass all on her own. But we'd definitely come out to watch."

"And laugh."

"Definitely laugh."

"Well, more importantly," Ryan added, "why would any man want to waste an opportunity like this one? The chance to find a meaningful connection, love and—" he paused when Esposito shot a disgusted look. "And obviously he should worry about Beckett kicking his ass."


The three turned and watched as Kate crossed the room to join Castle, the pair locked in on each other in spite of all of the commotion around them.

Ryan whispered to Castle, "This is so great! I'm so happy for you guys. We should double."

The boys excused themselves as Beckett leaned her shoulder against Castle. "I'm really sorry," he said. "I didn't know they were going to do all this."

"I know," she answered with a slight smirk. "I'm pretty sure getting caught by our parents wasn't the afternoon you had planned."

"Well," he said optimistically, "At least we don't have to worry about figuring out how to tell everyone."

For a second her brow furrowed, then she went with it. "True."

They watched the party, appreciating the support, and Castle wondered exactly how long they'd have to stay, but didn't want to ruin her party. After a short silence, she asked, "Any chance we could keep that hotel room another night or two?"

He turned slowly, eyes flashing excitedly. "Definitely."

"Don't we have that thing?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "That appointment or meeting or…some excuse to leave? You're the writer, can't you come up with something?"

It took only a second for him to realize she was ready to get out of there, and he grabbed her hand and stated, "Damn I love you."

"You, too," she whispered, looking around to see if anyone was listening.

"Now let's get the hell out of here."


Working on my Season 2 "What-If" Scenario. It's a little longer than some of my other hypothetical stories, so I'm not sure if I want to throw it in this collection or on its own to avoid confusion. Either way, I'll try to have that one posted within the next few days.

Thanks so much for reading!