Hey! Sorry I've been slow with updates, guys, and I PROMISE the next thing coming is the new chapter of "Gambling With Fate," which should be very soon. But after seeing the season finale, I HAD to write this: and, no, before you assume it's the four-thousandth over-the-summer continuation, it's not. It's a little something I had in mind for Beckett and Esposito that I wanted to try on paper. Er…screen. XD I'm a sucker for those brother/sister-ish scenes between the team. ^^ If you haven't seen the finale yet, don't read it yet: there'll be spoilers and it won't make any sense. Definite Caskett undertones.

So! Go right ahead, enjoy, etcet-yadda etcet-yadda. I do not own Castle.




There was no one to steady her bag this time. Not that she expected there to be. She was a detective: she was used to disappointment. It was part of the job.

Just not from him.

The roundhouse that she'd just delivered had sent the bag rocking wildly, and it was just now beginning to steady itself. Kate didn't give it a chance. She flew at it with a barrage of jabs from her tightly-wound fists; left hooks, right hooks, rabbit punches, sucker punches. Every hit was a whale. A punishment. Whose, she didn't know.

Was that supposed to be Castle's head she was envisioning? When he'd left her there, standing, stupid, gaping, like a spurned schoolgirl, it had seemed at the time like the only safe place to go, the only refuge, would be the precinct gym. Just what the doctor ordered. Actually, no - the doctor would probably prescribe a night in with ice cream or a night out with margaritas and available men. Beckett always appreciated the offers, but she just didn't unwind the way Lanie did. She wasn't programmed to deconstruct that way. Oh, she had before, but there was something to be said about physical exertion.

It definitely wasn't advisable to take out your frustrations like this where it could really do damage; not when the person you wanted to hit was the one you knew you shouldn't be hitting. What happened when the person was yourself, instead? Another fist into the bag didn't give Beckett any magical answers, nor did it clarify the blurry mental image painted on it. For a few moments she considered it being Demming, but Demming hadn't done anything to deserve her anger, and he didn't have it now. In fact it only made her madder that he'd been an innocent victim in all this. You didn't have to be murdered to be a vic.

But yet… It wasn't really Castle she was angry at, was it? You couldn't blame the oblivious. Except, he hadn't been oblivious, not this whole time! Except, she hadn't exactly given him a foothold. Except he was supposed to be proving himself so that she would. Except he'd kind of been doing that the whole time.

There were a lot of exceptions.

The minute she'd declined the Hamptons weekend, she should have seen it coming. Castle was just exhibiting classic Castle behavior - this was the man that couldn't eat at a restaurant alone, let alone spend an upscale summer 'retreating.' She hated herself for even allowing the thought, but she might have been the one who pushed this. By knowing and yet not realizing at all. By remaining professional even when the temptation was there. And that only made her slam the bag harder.

How did everything happen this way?

Beckett let out a short, frustrated roar, whirling her body to a sideways angle, flying the heel of her foot into the canvas. It may not have been the most helpful outlet, but it was her outlet. The glisten of sweat on her skin was familiar, at least, and she had a feeling of control over it, over this domain. It was hers in a way that cases weren't and parties weren't and he wasn't.

Stupid wall. The one she'd carefully built up and made the mistake of letting him worm his way under. Obviously it hadn't worked, had it? And here she'd tried so hard. Again, another example of seeing the disappointment coming. Exactly the disappointment she'd been avoiding by not getting involved. Ironic cycle, wasn't it? Deny, allow, hurt, repeat; deny, allow, hurt, repeat.

The words kept time in her head, and her fists followed their tempo. It was surprising that the old punching bag had any fight left in it, the way its tether was frayed, the way it wore its three or four duct-tape band-aids like badges of war. Beckett had to guess vaguely that most of its wounds were probably her fault. After all, it was how she healed hers.

The room was quiet, except for her breathing; spent, but level. The detective lost herself the only way she consented to be lost - her focus was on the action and the action alone, so she was legitimately startled when the bag suddenly stayed put. Re-adjusting her focus, she noticed that it was being held firm by a strong arm on the other side. The arm was familiar.

"Go ahead. Don't try and tell me you're done yet."

Esposito knew how to do this. He didn't come up here too often - at least, not anywhere but the benches - but he'd had the training. He leaned into the bag with his whole upper body, shoulders squared, careful to hold his chin out of the way, the same way Demming had weeks earlier. Only, unlike Demming, the look he offered her wasn't flirtatious; it was understanding. Leveling, in a way. And she knew his decision to follow her up here hadn't been spontaneous, because the wife-beater and drawstring pants he wore were a sharp contrast from the polo and badge he'd had on earlier. But the quiet in the room told her it was a decision he'd made alone.

Up until now, she'd appreciated the quiet. Now, she appreciated the lack. Not that she'd acknowledge as much so easily. Right now, she had to be content just to function, as much as that sickened her. For the moment all she did was nod, accepting his presence. A silent understanding. A patient and a visitor.

Esposito spoke again. Something in his tone was a little bit sheepish this time, humbly poking fun at himself, like he was admitting he'd done something wrong. "You can hit me if you want." He offered up a half-smirk.

Beckett found her first words of the evening. "Why would I want to?"

"Because. If I hadnt'a come and talked to you about Castle you wouldnt'a been makin' that face back there." He shrugged. "Kinda feel responsible."

"Well don't," she instructed. This was ridiculous, other people already getting involved, trying to make her feel better by making it their fault. At this point she just wanted it to go away. Her reasoning came out matter-of-fact. "It was good that you told me. I needed to know, now I do, and if Castle comes back we can cross that bridge when we come to it."

"When he comes back."

"Weren't you the one that said he'd…what was it, 'done enough research for fifty books?' He's not a cop, he's a writer. He's got no obligation to us."

Again, the best thing Esposito could think to do was shrug. "Doesn't need one. What do I know? He's Castle; he'll be back."

See you in the fall. He had said that, hadn't he? The words were there, but their tentativity, their last-minute delivery like he hadn't even cared if he'd said them, that was what nagged at Beckett. Just because he'd said that didn't mean anything was set in stone. She rolled her shoulders, trying to get her mind back on her workout. "What happened isn't your fault. It's no one's fault and it's not important," she said, a little irritably.

That very familiar tone, he and Ryan had long-ago learned, meant that pressing the issue was useless. At least for the moment. Esposito gave a nod, bracing the punching bag again. Without the triviality of any more talking, Beckett assumed her stance again, sent her fists on a mission again, started railing on the bag. It was hard not to appreciate the fact that, this time, it didn't move; not once. Esposito still surprised her every once in a while, like now: he was better at this than Demming had been. She found she really didn't have the energy to argue with the offer, anyway. Instead she took advantage of it, gratitude unspoken.

A round of right-right-lefts into the canvas in quick succession, and she bent for another roundhouse. Esposito took the hits with skill, so that his impact on the bag was a lot like that of an airbag on a driver's seat. Beckett used the aid to put all of her force into swings that were much more controlled, sharp, and, on a suspect, debilitating. She found herself mixing it up, practicing her ways of escaping holds, bringing the occasional knee or elbow into the bag too.

While she did, while they were silent like this, there was nothing to stop her mind from wandering again. But it went to different places this time. Maybe it was some kind of metaphor that Esposito was stronger backup than Demming. She'd already known that Javier was one of the ones she could trust with her life, that she could rely on him - it went both ways - but with that came the reminder that he was one of the ones who wouldn't hesitate to do what it took to try to help. Who'd take it on himself to open her eyes to the situation, who'd stick his two cents in and change her life whether or not she asked for it -

"Mm," he winced, hissing in a little air. "Thought you said you weren't gonna hit me?"

Oh. Beckett stopped, the fact finally reaching her brain that her foot had gone a little wide on that last roundhouse. Maybe on some level she had known that was his arm, who knows.

"I'm…sorry," she exhaled, "I guess I'm just a little distracted. Or you were right, subconsciously anyway…"

But Esposito showed a grin, taking it in stride. "Hey, you're not the only one." He twisted to show her the purple mark blooming on his other bicep. "That right there's courtesy of the good doctor," he explained.

Beckett couldn't help but smile at that. "Wow. Lanie's a good hit."

"'Good's a real relative term," he grumbled, reliving it.

"Yeah, well, just remember that she only bruises the ones she likes."

"Or the ones who she thinks deserve it."

Kate's smile turned a little wicked, quirking up one corner of her mouth. "Maybe you do deserve it. That'll teach you to stick to invading Ryan's business."

"Oh, I see, you're tryin' to make me feel guilty now. I get it." He was kidding, of course, but he might have been right about that too. It was easy to blame him for shedding light on Castle's intentions.

It was easier, she was realizing, to thank him.

He didn't notice her semi-epiphanic staring as he went on, adding, "'Course, I'm probably gonna be getting a few angry late-night calls from my boy Tom if he ever finds out I had anything to do with this. So much for backin' 'im up, right? Guess there goes that cookout invite."

Beckett's smile cracked and became a laugh, and it proved to be contagious. "I know, you really wrote him out of that one, didn't you?"

"And dude's a cop - he knows people. He could make sure they don't find me till I can't be identified."

As she released another laugh, she released something else too: her urge to scream. To cause herself more pain. To rail on the world. A single thought crossed her mind, surprising her: distraction was a very, very good thing. And summer might be livable. Not that having the right company suddenly fixed everything - or anything at all, for that matter. But…it was what it was, right? Castle wasn't the only one in the world she'd let in. Unlike him, the others weren't that complicated. Thank God.

A smile crossed Beckett's lips. "I don't think you have to worry about that. You've got backup if he decides to go militant on you." A light wink identified her as one of them.

Javier smiled back, and he drove his shoulder into the punching bag again, standing at the ready. "'Preciate it. Now c'mon - you gonna keep goin' or what?"

Keep going. Would it be as simple as it sounded? She'd have the summer to find out. In response to the non-metaphorical version of that, she nodded, tightening the tape around her knuckles. Just keep going. She pulled back her elbow, and she swung.


That feeling was always satisfying, whether she was using it as therapy or not. With less frustration than she'd felt before, Kate let loose another barrage onto the dummy, each connect harder and more confident than the last.

Another silence had passed over, and that combined with her intensity must have concerned Javier, because his voice found its way to her again after a few minutes, more protective this time, milking the fact that no one else could hear this…because if there were witnesses to what he was about to say, her next punch wouldn't be on the bag and it wouldn't be an accident. "Katie. You know you can talk to me, right?"

Beckett stood back, eyes on the prize, bringing a wrapped hand up to shove tangled streams of hair off her forehead. She knew. And she knew he was speaking for Ryan, too. The option was always there for her, she knew that. That was enough. Catching her breath, she nodded. "I'll remember that. …Thanks."

That was all the communication that was necessary. They'd functioned together for three years like a well-oiled machine: they knew what and when to leave unspoken. The rest, as somebody might say, was fodder for another chapter.

'Somebody' was going to be gone for the summer. She'd wrapped her brain around that. Somebody else - a few somebodies, actually - weren't going anywhere. Not for the summer, not any other time, and that was what she would lean on.

Even if the punching bag didn't make it 'till September.



Points for those of you who caught my inner Espo-Lanie 'shipper coming out in there. ^^ Anyway, there you go, hope you guys enjoyed it - it's just a oneshot, so now I'm back to focusing fully on "GwF." After that, I've got another epic saga of Castleness in the works, but that's all the spoiler you're getting. XD

And I HAVE to mention, PLEASE, any writers 14 and over who're interested in joining a free Castle-based roleplaying site, go to my profile, the bolded paragraph, and take the link to "12th Precinct." We still need people to play Montgomery, Perlmutter, Demming, and a whole bunch of the other supporting characters (which are listed there), plus we accept OCs. Hokay? Hokay.

Anyway, thank you all for reading, and PLEASE REVIEW, okay? Much love from CV. :D