"You," Castle says, walking into the room with purposeful strides, "are a detective."
"What do you want, Castle?" Becket queries testily, her head snapping up to stare at him.
She's curled on the bed, her leg propped up on a pillow, her torso leaning awkwardly against a lump of blankets so that she can face the laptop that Alexis carried into her room hours and hours ago. Castle had spent the majority of day working (or, as his lovely daughter put it, "hiding and sulking like an unproductive coward in your office instead of trying to repair your entirely fixable situation"). Alexis had scrounged up the old Toshiba for Beckett (who had stayed holed up in the guest room), she had cooked and fed her some sort of organic tomato bisque, and then she'd managed to weasel her way into the guest bed for a special laptop viewing of Vertigo. (Castle had not been spying. It was his house. It was necessary for him to know what was going on. And he had to leave his office to go to the bathroom sometimes. Every half-hour wasn't too much. Maybe he'd developed a sudden-onset prostate problem.)
"A fairly brilliant detective," Castle continues, nonplussed. He's not going to let himself get tangled up again. Beckett's duffel is neatly packed at the foot of the bed.
"Thank you," she responds, acerbic. She's staring at the laptop screen instead of his face.
"And you're really, really hot," he adds. Goal accomplished – she looks back up at him.
"I'm sorry, Castle, is there a point to this?"
"Yes. I'm getting there."
"Well, you might want to move a little faster. I have a taxi coming to pick me up in half an hour."
He winces. Score for Beckett, but he won't let that dissuade him. "And you're tenacious. And sometimes you're a little bit nice, when you're not busy being mean. And did I mention you're kind of gorgeous?"
Beckett shifts herself into a sitting position on the bed, not taking her eyes off him. At first he thinks she might just be trying to figure out where he's going with all this, but the more he looks, the more he recognizes her slight squint as the beginnings of a glare. Regarding him silently, she lets him squirm. His Beckett, she knows how to push a suspect. He presses on, trying not to be terrified.
"So I'm sitting in my office all day, having a terrible time doing anything, and I can't quite put my finger on what's got me so upset other than the fact that you're clearly upset and leaving, which, obviously, could be enough right there, but then it comes to me – I feel like an idiot for feeling like an idiot for being in love with you."
Come on, Beckett, he thinks. Blink. Shrug. Cry. Fling yourself across the bed and into my arms and declare your eternal love for me as you rip your shirt off. But she just sits there, frozen in the same position with the same expression.
"I mean, who wouldn't be in love with you? Especially after hurling themselves around after you for a couple of years. I challenge anyone to not be in love with you after watching you work for that long."
She keeps staring. He plows relentlessly ahead.
"Which brings me back to my original point. You are a very, very good detective. You had to know. I mean, Alexis knew. Gina knew. Hell, even I wasn't completely unaware, retrospectively."
He pauses, trying not to be too pathetic. She hasn't moved or twitched or given him any sign of anything since she first started watching him. He stumbles on. "So, there you have it again. My confession. I'm re-confessing. Please stop looking at me with that steely detective glare."
"You're usually so good with words, Castle," Beckett finally says, her voice low and throaty.
"Be nice. After I was finished with my several hours of sulking I spent the next several hours figuring out what to say to you."
"And came up with 'really hot' and 're-confessing'?"
"You're lucky I spit anything at all out. You terrify me, Beckett."
A corner of her mouth twitches a little. "And you're one of the ones I like."
"But how much?" he responds, playfully. She flinches, and he immediately wishes he could take it back. "Sorry."
"What do you want me to say, Castle? I break a leg and get stuck at your place and you find out I'm not quite as physically or emotionally together as you'd like to think, which causes you to suddenly decide that you're desperately in love with me, only that declaration doesn't even stand up to my implying that you were sleepy during its recitation."
"You don't think I'm serious."
She shakes her head, ducking to stare at the comforter. "I know you're serious right now. I just think it's been an overwhelming weekend for everyone."
Castle takes three steps forward and sits in front of her on the bed, leaning forward to catch her eyes. "I don't buy it," he whispers fiercely. "You're too smart. I bet you knew, at least a little, before I did, and I bet you're deflecting now because you're in a shitty situation with the bruised ribs and the cast and the nightmares and you don't want anyone but anyone seeing you like this, but it's too late because I have and it doesn't make me think you're weak and it doesn't make me pity you, Beckett."
She leans back, and regards him critically for what feels like hours. Finally, she bobs her head a little. "Last spring, when you walked out of the precinct with Gina, I was about to tell you that I'd broken up with Demming."
He fishes for words, but he can do nothing but gape.
"I would have gone to the Hamptons with you."
He deflates, casts about for words, comes up with nothing but a kind of empty, hollowed-out feeling. "I hate myself," he murmurs melodramatically.
She tilts her head. "Mmm. I hated you too, just a little."
"You really know how to comfort a guy, Beckett."
She smiles sadly at him. "I had a pretty awful summer, and it wasn't for any one reason. But I wouldn't have – it wouldn't have been – if I hadn't felt –"
He understands what she's saying in a sudden flash, and he responds the only way he possibly can, because they've been talking around the issue for the past two days, the past two years, really, and even though he's a novelist he feels he's big enough to acknowledge when words can only keep you at a stalemate. So he leans forward and forward some more, and she watches him but she doesn't shift away. He's so close, and it's not new, he's been this close before, but every time it makes his heart thud unevenly in his chest and this time it's no different, but then it is, because he grazes his lips over hers, gently, not really a kiss, just a question.
"Yes," she breathes out.
He smiles. "You just can't stay out of my brain, can you?" When he talks, their lips skid together. It is already driving him insane.
He can feel her smile back. Oh, God, they are in bed together and she is smiling against his lips. "You don't want me in your brain?"
"Crazy. You are making me crazy in so many different ways right now."
"What a noble mind is here overthrown." As she says it, she slowly lowers herself until she is lying on her back, gazing up at him, her eyes dark, her hair haloed around her face.
There is not enough oxygen in the room.
She's exhibiting her own gravitational pull, he thinks, as he slowly lowers himself over her, his elbows coming to rest on either side of her chest, carefully holding himself up with his knees to keep himself off her bruised torso. "I now will forever recall," he murmurs, his head slowly dropping toward hers, "that here I was, trying my hardest to seduce you, and of all the Shakespeare that's out there, you went and quoted Ophelia at me."
"Pray you, love, remember," she exhales.
You are deliberately defying me, he tries to say, or Stay away from any streams, but he can't force any words past the tightness in his throat because she has just said the word love and it was directed at him. As always, Beckett saves him, reaching up and grabbing the back of his head and pulling him down to her.
Her tongue is in his mouth two seconds later, and he's trembling like some Harlequin heroine, shudders reverberating through his arms. He's working so hard to keep from collapsing onto her, but then her hands slide from his head to his back and tug him down anyway. Her body is long and lithe and warmer than he'd expected.
"Oof," she says into his kiss, and he suddenly remembers her leg, her ribs, and here he is rolling around on top of her like some gigantic buffoon.
He immediately draws back up onto his elbows. Her mouth follows his, so that he has to murmur his question into her lips. "Are you okay? Did I hurt you?"
She rolls her eyes at him. "How about we call my safe word pineapples and it's a go?"
He kisses her chin, her eyebrow, her ear. "From the greatest playwright that ever lived to the greatest novelist."
"But can you live up to the ego?" Her eyes flick down between them.
He kisses her forehead, her cheek, her nose. "Not tonight I can't. Maybe not for a while with those ribs and that leg of yours. But I am a champion cuddler."
"You're trying to trick me into staying." She smiles up at him as she says it.
He kisses her neck, her jaw, her mouth. "Do I have to trick you?"
"I'm not the one running our conversation in circles this time."
He kisses her mouth again, rests his forehead against hers, murmurs, "Stay."
"Yes," she says.
Thanks so much for reading, everyone! All of your happy feelings and positive vibes and rainbows and butterflies have made this a really, really fun experience.