This stems from a spoiler for the episode 2x23. Just the one though, and it's fairly minor.

Disclaimer – I don't own any of these characters


"Castle, about what you saw earlier…" Kate felt more than a little apprehensive as she broached the subject. This wasn't a conversation she wanted to have with him, but she had to clear the air now, before she lost her nerve. Castle's response was to lean back in the chair he was sitting in, waving his hands in what passed for a dismissive gesture.

"Beckett, he's a good guy, and you clearly like him." He paused as though steeling himself, "that's all I need to know."

Kate stared at him, lost for words for a moment. She'd been preparing this little speech in her head ever since she'd realised that Castle had been an unhappy spectator to her kiss with Tom that afternoon. And now he was telling her he didn't care?

He was returning her confused stare with a rueful one of his own. "He obviously makes you happy. You deserve to be happy, Kate." Castle broke eye contact and looked down at the floor, shadows falling across his face. Kate opened her mouth to say something, though she had no idea what. Before she could, he looked up at her again, a sad little smile on his face. "Goodnight, Detective." He stood up, and moved away from her.

"Castle," she called after him, and felt a loosening of the tension she hadn't even realised was there when he turned around. "Until tomorrow?" She hated the question in her voice, but had to know.

He looked at her for a moment, his face unreadable, then said "Maybe. I have that meeting with my agent at noon, remember?"

"Right! Right, your agent, I forgot." Kate tried for casual, but fell well short. There was an awkward silence that seemed to last an eternity before Castle broke the tension.

"Well…" he nodded at her, and left with what Kate took to be undue haste.

Kate had felt her stomach lurch when he'd failed to use his own 'hopeful' farewell, and now she could feel a dull ache, somewhere in her chest. She watched him leave, a frown on her face and a million thoughts running through her head.

This was typical of the man. He'd spent months now breaking down her walls, insinuating himself into her professional life, but showing a resolute refusal to do more than make the occasional joke about her personal life. And now, after all that time that she'd been full of a nervous excitement over him, she finally found a nice, uncomplicated guy who liked her and seemed reliable, and Castle had to go and throw her for a loop by somehow making her feel like she'd been unfaithful.

She wasn't Castle's girlfriend. He'd made it quite clear that he wasn't interested in an actual relationship with any woman. And he'd been more than happy to fall into bed with that tramp, Ellie Munroe. Kate shook her head, sighing. Richard Castle wasn't worth moping over. He wasn't. I'll see him tomorrow, he'll make a childish joke, reminding me he's really an overgrown 12 year old. Then things will get back to normal.

She checked her watch, and realised she'd need to get a move on if she was to avoid being late meeting Tom for dinner. Not that she really felt like going out, now, but she could hardly back out. With a put-upon sigh, Kate logged off her computer and retrieved her bag from her desk drawer. He said he'd meet me downstairs she thought, with a newfound sense of trepidation.

Rick opened the door to a dark apartment. His mother was still keeping up the pretence of having moved out, so he guessed she was at Chet's, and Alexis was studying over at Paige's. He had the place to himself. Usually, he'd take the opportunity to sit down and get some work done, but he couldn't face Nikki Heat and her world just now.

Instead, he gathered a bottle of single malt and a glass from the kitchen, and collapsed onto the couch. Time to wallow in my misery, the thought came, mocking his own sense of melodrama. He'd tried. He'd tried all day yesterday and again today, to impress Beckett and win some sort of victory over the man he had suddenly realised was his rival. All he'd succeeded in doing was getting on Beckett's nerves and acting like a child. He'd never felt so foolish in his life as he had when he'd gone back to talk to Beckett and seen her kissing Demming.

At that moment, his sense of purpose and defiance had withered to a small, impotent thing. He wasn't used to losing, but this time, the game seemed all but over, so the only thing left was to gather what remained of his dignity and concede. What was I thinking, honestly? He berated himself. Kate Beckett does not go for guys like me. She's told me as much time and time again. I just didn't want to listen. Cringing at his own arrogance, he knocked back a measure of scotch, savouring the sweet burn of the liquid as it warmed his throat.

This is what happens, Ricky, when you get emotionally involved. Stick to celebutantes and aspiring models in the future. They're much more your level. OK, now that nagging voice in his head was being downright cruel, but sadly, it was right. Rick turned on the TV in an attempt to drown it out, and found The Last Picture Show, just ten minutes in. Figures, he thought, and settled down to watch the teenaged agonising unfold.

He was still sitting there three hours later, when a small commotion at the front door heralded the return of his daughter. The half bottle of scotch that remained stood forgotten on the coffee table, and Rick was sullenly flicking through the TV channels, unable to focus on anything for long enough to actually attempt to watch it. He looked up when Alexis approached him, peering inquisitively at him in the gloom. "Dad? What are you doing sitting here in the dark?"

"Hey, Pumpkin. You have fun with Paige? What was it, history?"

"Yeah, a real barrel of laughs. The Wars of the Roses." She paused, glancing at the bottle on the table, "have you been drinking?"

"Maybe a little." He tried for a charming grin, but already knew it wasn't going to wash.

Alexis frowned at him, and sat down on the arm of the couch, her expression changing to one of concerned affection. "What happened now? Writers block, or did Gina call to read you the riot act about getting the new book finished?"

"No, nothing like that. Just had a long day, and felt like unwinding." Rick knew the sketchiness of his cover wasn't going to fool her, not much could get by his little girl, but he also knew she wouldn't push him.

His suspicions were confirmed when she tilted her head, examining his expression, before clearly deciding to drop the matter for now. "Fine, but just remember you've got to meet Paula for lunch tomorrow." He nodded agreeably and Alexis stroked his hair for a moment, before declaring "I'm going to bed. 'Night, Dad."

"G'night, sweetie," Rick said, pleased that he wasn't going to be forced into talking tonight, though he could tell from Alexis' demeanour as she retreated to the stairs that this was far from over. As if I could forget about that meeting, even if I wanted to. Am I ready for a change that big?

He rubbed his hands over his face, and roused himself. 11pm, as good a time as any to turn in. Sitting in the dark isn't healthy. Not when you've got a nice comfortable bed upstairs, and the dark is the same there as it is here. He set his glass into the sink, put the scotch back into the liquor cabinet and, feet dragging, headed for the stairs himself.

There will be more to come, though I'm not quite sure of the direction it's going to take yet. Please review.