Okay everybody, here goes the last chapter of this one. I WILL write more L/E, don't worry - hel-LO, it's ME we're talking about here. XD My next project will be an episode-style Castle story, and at some point you can expect to see a special surprise oneshot from Lanie's POV, so those of you who have me on Author Alert will be seeing that soon. (Not that I'm hinting or anything. XD )

Anyway, thank you to those of you who reviewed, and, in answer to some of you saying you know nothing about poker: here's a little secret, neither do I. The magic of Google. XD ALSO, in this chapter there are a few bits that subtly refer to my pair of oneshots, "Keep Your Finger On The Pulse" and "Downbeat," so if you've read those you'll know what I mean and if you haven't you'll be ever-so-slightly confused at some points. Just letting you know. ^^

So, enjoy the enjoyable fallout from what just happened, startiiiiiiiiiiing…NOW. No further ado. XD



The night air was cool as they stepped out into it, but it had a way of seeming warm against the harsh air conditioning of Castle's building's upscale lobby. Emerging from one into the other was kind of like an out-of-body experience, at least until your skin warmed up to the contrast and then got a thirty-volt reminder that it was stepping into a whole other out-of-body experience. That was how it worked for Javier, anyway, not that he'd…y'know…endorse it that way.

Dr. Parish had enough trouble keeping her mind in check as she stepped onto the sidewalk after him. It was one thing play-flirting with him when they were surrounded by colleagues whose idea of a good day was ribbing each other with every other sentence, but now…out here it was a whole different story. The boy had some seriously whacked ideas in his head and her wall was in serious jeopardy, here, alone together. Out in the city. At night. Whose bright idea had saying 'yes' been again? Oh. Hers.

Lifting a hand from the deep pocket of his coat, Javier pointed right. "I parked in the garage; 'bout two blocks down." He looked at her as if asking whether she minded, and Lanie's response was to nod in the direction he'd pointed. He shrugged - his form of acceptance - and started down the sidewalk, and she fell in step beside him. They kept a good foot or so apart, but somehow not as far as they could've been. There was no reasoning that one.

Finally - okay, so it had only been five or six steps, fewer for Javier because he had height on her, but it felt like a 'finally' - Lanie couldn't take the silence any more. Or at least, as silent as it got in Manhattan: trash cans, distant traffic, even further voices. She inhaled a deep breath she didn't know she needed, and on the let-out she spoke up. "So what's the idea this time, Mr. Subtle?"

Esposito was slightly lost. "Idea?"

"You know what I'm talkin' about. You ask me if I need a ride, get me to agree so you can…what?"

"…Drive you home?" Maybe it was just him, but that one seemed kind of obvious.

Lanie sighed up at the half-moon, then cocked her head toward Detective Spell-It-Out-For-Me. "Have you hit your head recently?"

"No - have you been inhaling the formaldehyde?"

"I'm talking about your little Freudian slip last week. The grown-up equivalent of the note in the locker."

…Oh. That. Had that really come out of his mouth? In front of her like that? Half of the time Esposito was sure it had, and the other half the time he was convinced it was a cold-med-induced hallucination. Apparently, hallucination had nothing to do with it. He knew better anyway, though it was a nice idea to use as a safety net. The detective shrugged, just the one shoulder. "Yeah, I remember. So what about that's making you think I got anything up my sleeve?"

Lanie scoffed. "Maybe the fact that you're you? A 'no' to you is like a starting shot to Seabiscuit."

You didn't say 'no,' you evaded the subject. Wonder where you got that. Esposito was smart enough to make sure that stayed in his head. Instead he half-shook his head once, answering, "Mm. Now that's just pathetic."

That threw her for a loop. Lanie crossed her arms and gave him a 'watch where you go with this' look, just in case he meant her. "What's pathetic?"

"A guy can't offer up a ride home to a girl he finds attractive anymore without her thinkin' he's got Motel Six tapped in his GPS."

"I never said that." The M.E. rolled her eyes, sending a few nice little death threats to tamp down the fluttery little flare in her stomach. In all the time she'd known Javier, she knew he'd never been a big player. Acted like one, acted up a storm, made everybody within a thirty-foot radius wanna smack 'im, but according to her source he was actually pretty much a gentleman. And all the little signs lately were pointing in the direction to confirm that.

"No? Then what were you expecting?" He could've acted insulted, but he didn't see the point in it, because he really wasn't; he just wanted to know.

"I don't know!" Lanie threw her hands up in frustration. "Some kinda…knight slays the dragon, save a buncha kids from a burning building, proof-of-valor crap I guess."

"Oh you think I need to prove myself." This was starting to get more amusing than anything.

"I think you think you do. When you wouldn't have any reason to, 'cause we're already friends," she answered stubbornly. Maybe there was a little unspoken underline on that last word, in her voice, and yeah, maybe she was saying it mostly for her own benefit.

A little chuckle worked its way out of Javier's throat, and he managed not to let it out too much. "Uh-huh. Friends."

There was the head-whip he was waiting for. Girl was going to give herself whiplash one of these days. "Oh, what now Curly, you know somethin' I don't?"

"No, hey, I'm just agreein' with you."

"Good. Bright idea."

"I thought so." Keeping his outward show of amusement down to about thirty percent or so, Esposito nodded at the upcoming crosswalk. "That corner right up there."

"Fine with me Detective."

Now he let out the chuckle. He couldn't've stopped it anyway. "Y'know you're cute when you're pissed."

Instantly she had a finger pointed at him. Incidentally it only made him grin more, since that was what he was going for. "Don't start."

"God, you are so easy to goad."

"Boy, I am not goaded."

He knew it was better to back off and let her have this one, or, at least let her think she had it. In his mind he won about a minute ago. He held up his hands in momentary surrender. "A'right, fine."

"Thank you. And not one more word about it or I yell 'help, stalker.'"

"And then I'll flash the badge and tell whoever comes runnnin' there's nothin' to see. If anybody does."

"What do you mean, 'if anybody does?'"

"I mean it's New York. You said it yourself: these people are famous for not caring. It's why I have a job. And why you have a job."

"Nope, you got one thing wrong - I'd have a job either way. They still do autopsies for natural causes. Not everybody on my table had a grudge-match with a murderer. Some just ran outta batteries."

He didn't know why it made him smile just a bit, hearing her talk candidly about her work like that, but it did. Lanie caught his silence and glanced over, unintentionally adopting a tiny smile of her own out of, if she had to guess, little more than curiosity. "What?"

"Nah. Nothing, forget it."

"No, I will not 'forget it,' what?"

Javier shook his head, but then he looked over at her as he walked. "Just…listenin' to you go on like that."

"What about it?"

He laid out what he was thinking point-by-point on the fingers of his left hand, a curious smirk evolving on his face. "You spend all day four floors underground, no windows; the place smells like a chemistry class on uppers; your only human contact is dead, unless you count Perlmutter - who by the way you're a friggin' saint for dealing with, if you ask me, I dunno how you do it - "

"Yes, we get it, thank you, he's psycho…"

" - and yet every time somebody asks you about the job you're all…satire. Like it's the most normal thing ever. How do you even do that? I'm just curious."

Well. Lanie couldn't keep a less-than-displeased smirk from creeping onto her face. "Hey, you cops have your gallows humor, let me keep my methods secret."

"Aw, c'mon."

"Besides; you didn't ask about the job, I just told you."

"Should I start?"

Lanie thought for a moment. "No," she decided. "It's a Friday night; why should we be thinkin' about work?" Before he could find her choice of words amusing and without even looking over at that raised-eyebrow face of his, she held up a finger, adding, "And that wasn't an invitation either. Watch it, boy."

"Fair enough. Never said it was." It was about now that Javier retrieved his car keys from the depths of his pocket, walking them under the cement awning of the level above as the parking garage swallowed them into the shadows. Normally, these were the kinds of places Lanie made a habit of staying out of at night, so she was secretly relieved that a cop was with her, and not only that, he was armed. Not that she was going to come out and say, 'Hey, by the way, glad you and your gun are here'…it was just a thought. What she didn't need to do right now was feed Javier's ego. To her mind, it was overactive often enough already.

The 'Roach Coach' was there in front of them in only a fraction of the walk it took to get there, and Lanie gladly went for the front passenger side…unable to keep her eyes from widening just a bit when a familiarly tanned hand came from behind her and pulled the door handle. She wasn't sure what surprised her more - the fact that he'd actually just opened the door for her or the fact that she hadn't heard him following, a bad sign in a dark parking garage - but she definitely didn't know how to respond to either, so she didn't, apart from a "Well…thank you" as she ducked into the seat.

To her, the soft slam of the door as he closed it might as well have been a metaphorical boot coming down to squash whatever these thoughts were in her head - because right now, she was pretty sure she needed one, and that was as good a visual to use as any. Disposing of those thoughts' bodies was her top priority in the few seconds it took for Javier to walk around the nose of the car, swinging his keys, and open the drivers' side door, sliding behind the wheel and shutting it after him. Luckily it was a priority she was good at.

She heard his voice again before she knew it, and turned to it, as he keyed the ignition and maneuvered the wheel to ease out of the space. "So. Doc. If not work, what was it you wanted to talk about?"

She couldn't help it. He was too ridiculous. A scoff/disbelieving laugh combination jumped out of her throat. "Me? No, no no. I'm not the one whose idea this was."

"But you agreed to it."

"Yeah, I did, because I'd rather not get mugged on my way home - "

"Would be a little ironic for you to end up on your own table, wouldn't it," he interjected, granting a half-nod and an amused flick of the eyebrows.

" - but that does not mean I had any kind of topic in mind. Especially with you."

"Oh, especially with me." To his credit, Javier really was trying to sound insulted, but it was so easy to lose himself in the semi-childish joy of this conversation in particular that he was sure his smirk must've given him away. Only if you weren't blind. "Gotta say, I'm hurt, Lanie, you really cut me with that one."

"Mm-hm, keep talkin' and I may actually cut you." Pre-empting his comeback for the thousandth time - a testament to both how well she didn't know she knew him, and how much she didn't know she was proving him right - she added, "And do not say you're 'lookin' forward to that,' because I can guarantee you, you're not."

"No, I actually don't think I'd go for that one. Those scalpels are no joke." Odd statement to make, or oxymoronic anyway, since that was a joke. One that earned him a scolding look. And, why did he love the scolding look? Probably because he knew way too well that it was a desperate attempt to mask the amusement underneath.

And how. But Lanie Parish was no novice, and she knew, like all women knew, that the best ammo was not to let them change the subject. Being extra experienced in all things 'hombre-y-mujer,' she clung to that like BP to bad press. "My point is, Shecky, I'm not the one who had anything to talk about. I'm fine with just silence. Nice, quiet silence."

"Had. Past-tense. So now you've got somethin' you wanna talk about."

Unbelievable. Lanie whipped her gaze from the windshield to his giant head in about half a second. "Do not interrogate me. This is not one of your collars, capiche? Don't be bringin' out those tactics on me, because whatever you're tryin' to get me to admit, it doesn't exist."

Was there some kinda scale for how fun this was? A meter, maybe…? There had to be. Still, Javier downplayed it, backed off. "All right, all right. Easy." Then, as he turned the wheel hand-over-hand and eased the car under the black-and-yellow armrail and into near-dead traffic flow, he softened a little, adding; "I wasn't trying to interrogate you. If you say there's nothin,' there's nothin.' I was just messin' with you."

"There is," she huffed, arms crossed over her seatbelt.

"Is what?"




"Loud and clear." Javier drove, neither of them saying anything else for a minute, but for him, it was only a pause. Turning his head a bit as if to look at her, even though his eyes were still on the road - and rightfully - he pointed out, "But you don't want silent."

Calmed down some, Lanie flicked her dark amber eyes toward him and back to the passing city again. "Don't I?"

Still facing traffic, light as it was tonight, he shook his head. "Nah. See; silent? That gets awkward. Gets real awkward real fast, then that tends to affect everything else until by the next time you see that person, you forget you ever knew how to talk to 'em."

…Would someone please remind her why he just had to be a detective. Reluctantly, her eyes shifting to him for the first instance longer than a nanosecond, she admitted, "…I guess you got a point."

It was because of that look that Lanie noticed a grin was starting to spread over his face, about as fast as Awkward over Silence. "Especially when there's an elephant in the room…"

"Boy, shut up," she laughed. …Wait…I'm sorry…laughed? Yep. Partially because, she knew that time - even if for his own health's sake - he was playing around, and partially because…oh, for God's sake, why not.

Her laugh was contagious - a thought that might have freaked him out about 'being ready for commitment' and all that crap, if he'd noticed - and it lasted him through a yellow and a green light. When both of them had settled, the smile on Lanie's face undeniable as she swiped a glance or two over that she didn't think her driver would notice, Esposito amended, "Seriously, Lanie, for real here. Just to go over the list; I'm not tryin' to get you in bed, I'm not implying you're thinkin' anything, all I want is to prove I can give you a ride home. Just like any good friend would do. I'm serious; no agenda." At a red light, he momentarily faced her, earnesty showing there. "You believe me?"

Suddenly, Lanie wished someone, anyone, could explain to her why she almost felt…disappointed. Not enough to notice, of course - she made sure of that - but still, she wasn't dumb enough to call a horse a pigeon; she was gonna call a horse a horse. That was a tiny pang of disappointment…but…there was sincerity all over his face, up until he turned it back to the road…and that was sweet enough to make up for it.

And she was really hoping that that train of thought was all alcohol.

"Yeah," she exhaled toward the window, just as earnestly. "Yeah, I believe you."

Esposito nodded once. "Good. Thank you. I appreciate that."

For once, he hadn't read her - or if he had, he was doing her the service of hiding it - and the M.E. thanked her lucky stars for that. She nodded too, more for her own benefit than anything else. "Well, you're welcome." Only after a good long pause did she allow her eyes to rove his way again, and, as if trying to figure something out, they held there.

Which he felt like a hot laser. And for the record, he'd read her like a book, finding exactly the disappointment he was hoping for.

Not-smiling had never been this hard.

Quiet fell over the car as they passed four more city blocks, countless storefronts, trash cans, parking meters, stoops - a.k.a. beds for the homeless. Yet again, Esposito caught the good doctor a bit off guard when he spoke - not having her usual control was really getting on her last good nerve, by the way - and she moved her eyes back out the front windshield as if they'd been burned…and now so was her face as it flushed. Luckily, it was dark and so was she and nobody was gonna know any better.

"See, now here goes that 'silent' thing again," he warned lightly.

Lanie could hear the baby grin in his voice, and she adopted one too. "Guess so. Are you gonna fix that or is it up to me?"

He almost, almost, had to laugh at his good fortune at the way she put that. Suddenly, he found his voice softening to a new stage of honesty he hadn't used tonight, and maybe his hands were trying to save him by concentrating totally on the gearshift and parallel-parking on the curb, that way he couldn't think too much about what would happen when he opened his mouth.

"It's all up to you. All the time you need."

Whoa. Holy motherfreakin' subtext, Batman. Even though her mouth was still firmly hinged closed - and mostly out of shock - Lanie still felt like, if she could somehow fly out of herself and look down, she'd see her own jaw hit the floorboard. She didn't even register for a few moments that the car was stopped, or that they were currently in front of her building. Blinking a few times as her brain scrambled to recover from the Whack-A-Mole mallet it just got, she hated herself for it, but her only initial response was to nod dumbly. Come on, where is Lanie 'you-go-girl' Parish. Stop actin' so…whatever this is. God.

It seemed like her brain actually knew what was good for it, because it listened pretty quickly, allowing a tiny smile to crawl onto the medical examiner's face, a familiar one, hinting of attitude and mystery. Her voice was a slightly lower volume than before. "Oh, so the pressure's on me; thanks a lot," she kidded. He wasn't the only one who could do subtext. She read.

Letting his seatbelt wind itself back, Javier's door opened, and he slid out of the car without replying, only for Lanie to look out her window and find him there a second later. "Don't think of it like pressure," he said once her door was no longer a boundary. As she got out, he elaborated; "It's supposed to come natural." Still very much subtext, still very much under the guise of discussing discussion.

"Mm-hm, so I hear." Her playfulness was coming back, and she wasn't going to bother questioning why; she was just relieved not to be staring like an idiot; it was freaky and un-her-like. "Thank you."

"Welcome." Esposito shut the door, and Dr. Parish was, yet again, a bit surprised when he appeared beside her. She didn't know why, after all of this, she'd half expected him to get back in the car, honk once she was in and drive off, or something. Mind just being crazy, she guessed. It seemed to be doing a lot of that.

A devilish smirk tugging at her dark red lips, she quipped, "Thought you didn't have any funny ideas?"

"Five minutes and you're already doubtin' me? That quick?" he grinned. "Ow. No, I just thought I'd walk you as far as the door."

"Uh-huh. Like the end of a date."

"Like the end of a ride. Besides, what if somebody jumped you, like, ten feet from your own apartment. After doin' so good all that way. It'd be totally anti-climactic."

"You're full of crap, you know that?"

"Now what kind of guy would I be if I responded to that in any way at all."

Unfortunately - yes, here was Lanie Parish, thinking things like 'unfortunately' - the distance to the front door of her apartment building was considerably shorter than the distance between Castle's place and the garage, the gate and the car, the garage and here. They were already stopped at the door, and Lanie took one of the little steps up the stoop, turning around there, giving him a look that she hoped would keep him wondering. "Guess we'll never know what kind of guy you really are, then, Detective."

Noticing the hint of her smile, Esposito lost any ability to tamp down his own, and a small one quirked his mouth into a grin. He shrugged one shoulder. "'Till the next chapter."

"Ohhh, looks like somebody's been hangin' around Castle too long," she accused with a laugh.

"Hey now, you're the one who reads the books. I'm just sayin.' There's always another chapter." There was a charmingly conspiratory glint in his eye…she could have sworn so, at least. Maybe it was a streetlight. Who knew. "A cop's gotta be optimistic somehow."

Swimming a manicured hand through her purse, Lanie fished out her keys and gave him that 'you're full of it' look again, but playfully. "Yeah, well get on home before I do what an M.E. does and all you get is an epilogue."

A chuckle came from Javier's throat, showed all over his face, and she liked the sound of it. The look of it wasn't bad either, you had to admit. "Yeah, yeah, I'm out of your hair right now," he promised. But before she could ascend the second concrete step toward that door, Lanie was stopped mid-turn, and turned back, as his hand lightly caught her wrist.

She had some kind of idea what he was doing as he lifted her hand, bowed his head just a little…it wasn't until she felt his lips actually meet her knuckles that she felt her breath climb out of her chest, halfway up her esophagus, and set up camp there.

It was brief, and then he released her, one step backward toward the curb…and, was it always this chilly out here? She couldn't seem to make herself ignore the gentle, purely electric smirk in his eyes, and he lifted a hand to about waist-level; a gesture that wanted to be a wave when it grew up. "G'night, Doc."

Slowly, yet suddenly, it was easy for her to duplicate his smile. He might know, but so did she. "…Yeah. 'Night."

Esposito pocketed both hands for the walk back to his car, what there was of it. That was the only way he could make one-hundred percent sure he wasn't about to jump up on a concrete block, swing around a lamppost and fist-pump Jersey Shore style. At least with his back to her, there was no way she could see the big stupid grin his little smirk had become… Man, you are pathetic. Nothin's even goin' ON there, you know it, yet all you can -

Little did he know, while he was internal-monologuing, Lanie was standing there, still, catching a very tiny epiphany. She looked up and called out just as Javier got his door open. "Hey, Detective!"

Stopping mid-thought, pre-car-entry, post-grin-erasure, Esposito looked up, finding her there on the porch, and waited.

"Thanks for the ride."

His grin came back easily, only this time as a subtler smile. "You got it." Nodding to convey he'd be seeing her again real soon - even if, yes, it would most likely concern dead bodies - Javier ducked under the roof of his car, stepped in, slammed the door, gave a rev to the still-running engine.

Lanie stayed and watched as he did, stood there until he pulled away and drove off into the path of his own headlights. It was only about then, realizing that now she was alone in a dark doorway, that she turned back toward it and worked her key, shaking her head, chuckling a bit to herself - or maybe at herself; who knew at this point. "You have gotta be kiddin' me," she mused, for no particular reason she could think of at all.




It was as lucky for the New York Police Department as it was for the city of New York that there were no more calls about bodies dropping for the rest of the weekend. Oh, sure, people still died - can't have anyone thinking the world isn't scary or plumb crazy, now, can we? - but the jurisdiction fell to other stations in other boroughs, leaving the fine people of Twelfth Homicide to do what people are supposed to do on weekends off. A little light drinking, some eating, a lot of sleeping, and probably other stuff in between.

As relaxing as those rare occurrences were, their end always left Kate Beckett itchy to work. Call her crazy - at your caution, of course - but they did. And she was. So it was perfect timing, the fact that just as she got antsy, it happened to turn into Monday morning. Not that she was rooting for a murder, mind you. She just had a need to feel productive.

Boy, was she ever about to.

The detective sat at her desk as usual - 'usual' depending on the day, anyway - and was just fine with engrossing herself in the stack of paperwork that had magically turned up there over the weekend. Most of it just needed her signature, some of it needed passing along, and all of it was looking like it was going to take up the better part of her morning. She was okay with it; it gave her mind something to use up its extra focus on. It always seemed to make too much of it, and if she was to believe what people said, that could eventually make her crazy.

Whether it was preventative maintenance or the thing that actually would drive her crazy, arguably, no paperwork was going to do itself. That said, it had Beckett's full attention for the first forty-five minutes and two cups of coffee of her day. Only when the elevator emitted a soft ding and the doors slid open did Kate look up - she was expecting Lanie anytime this morning; she needed her signature on a few of these as well.

Beckett lifted her pen-bearing hand partway into the air and gave a little wave, meaning to catch her friend's eye in a sort of, 'I'm over here,' a small 'hi' smile on her lips.

So it was just a little perplexing that Lanie didn't notice her at all. In fact she seemed to be taking a detour entirely first…

…Right to Esposito's desk. Beckett hadn't even noticed until now that he was sitting there.

The second she thought back to the poker game the other night, the happily disbelieving Oh my God flashing across Beckett's brain was unmistakable. Shut the front door. Not wasting a second of opportunity, she angled herself as subtly as she possibly could in order to watch the two of them…he was signing the chunk of pages she'd left for him; Lanie tapped the desk with a very suspicious-looking half-smile; he looked up, definitely a good surprise; they were chatting, probably not even about work, there was too much smiling and laughing for that… God, they're acting like they're alone together at Nobu instead of like six feet away from me… Still, with few exceptions, Kate had never minded being totally ignored less.

"Goooooooooood morning, Detective."

The way-too-familiar, definitely-too-chipper bellow made Kate wince. Apparently not everyone was ignoring her. She wished they would.

"Castle," she hissed. In the space of two seconds, she'd shot out an arm, grabbed a fistful of his Armani sleeve, and sucked the slightly-stunned writer down into his usual chair. "Quiet."

Catching on quickly to at least that much, he leaned in and adapted his voice to a matching whisper, though there was a lot of curiosity in there too. His cobalt eyes shifted where Beckett's were looking. "What are we watching?"

"We're not. Or…you're not," she stumbled, sounding awkward and irritable at the same time. More the latter.

Besides her oh-so-amusing tone, there was also the fact that she was still looking that way for Castle to pick up on. And he did. Easily. Author. Duh. "Ahh, I see; we're watching Esposito and Lanie." He looked at Beckett. "Why are we watching Esposito and Lanie."

In a few short seconds, Beckett would really come to regret letting her frustration answer for her without thinking first. "We're not - and if we were it might be because of the other night," she bit curtly.

"Other night…the poker game?" Just because Castle had been a little fuzzy by night's end didn't mean he hadn't picked up on a certain vibe flying between the doctor and the detective in the last round. In addition to his incredibly precise eye for the details of death, the Times and the Ledger had also praised his attention to steamy romantic scenes, just saying. Now, his eyes were moseying back that way too, as if looking for more cues he'd missed before.

Kate's eyes involuntarily rolled for the ceiling before she shoved them back onto the little play unfolding in front of her. Ohhh, yep, that was definite word-regret happening here. "Just…shut up, Castle. I'll hurt you later."

"Threat or promise?"

"Depends on if you're a good little boy."

"Thennnn you don't know me very well…oh my gosh, I get it; you're meddling, aren't you?"

His aghast-ness was almost twice as annoying as his lack of subtlety. "Castle," she warned.

"You totally are! Let me ask you something - "

"Uh, no."

" - that's why you wanted Lanie to come to the game so bad, wasn't it? And why you threw a perfectly good hand."

For a brief but ticked second, Beckett whirled on him. "You looked at my cards?" Nevermind the fact that she herself had looked at Esposito's, or that turnabout was indeed fair play.

"I had cleanup duty," he shrugged plainly, then jumped right back into his stupid, giddy suspicions. "You are so Haley Mills-ing them," he grinned.


"Parent Trap."

"I get the reference, Castle, it's your meds I believe I'm questioning."

"Uh-oh, B-Harmony is getting angry."

"Oh, you want to see angry?"

Smartly, the perpetually-twelve author was already inching out of his chair; mid-sentence, he booked, speed walking toward the breakroom. "Is that an offer?"

"No, that was a threat…" Beckett quietly jumped out of her chair too, her proximity on his heels causing him to speed up, and she stage-whispered after him. "Castle, get back here."

"Sorry; you'll have to catch me."

"What am I, your dog-walker?"

"No, you're my work-wife."

"Say that one more time and I send you to the rookies for target practice…"

Their exchange continued even as it faded with distance. Luckily for the grinning detective reclining in his chair and the M.E. perched amicably on his desk, they hadn't paid a lick of attention in the first place.



*takes a HUGE sigh of relief* YAYYYYY! I'm SO happy this is finally done! It went exactly where I hoped it would, and I hope you guys enjoy it too…it feels so good to actually not only update, but COMPLETE a story I've been working on forever. I feel like I never get to do that. XD

So, we've advanced the Lanie/Esposito relationship by a few more small degrees - they're not together just yet, but hopefully their cuteness in this new step they're taking is enough to satisfy. XD And of COURSE, had to have some Caskett. ;D

SO! As always, if there's anyone out there 14 and over who's interested in joining a free, Castle-based roleplaying forum, please see the bolded paragraph in my profile and take the link. New members always welcome, and AS OF the time of this chapter's publication, we still need people to play characters including Montgomery, Demming, Thornton and Perlmutter, so check us out! ^^

Finally, last but VERY much not least, PLEASE, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE (not that I'm begging, xD ) take a sec and drop me a review: I LOVE details, it REALLY helps me knowing your favorite parts and what you liked, and I love getting them, they make my day. ^_^

With that, dearies, thanks a TON for reading - more Castle fics to come! Peace and love!