SPOILERS: mild-Knockdown

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Javier knows Lanie wants to hit him the second he steps into her apartment.

He doesn't know why, really. There was no way he could have stopped what had happened and, more than that, he has no idea how she found out. Ryan's dealing with mild hypothermia, Jenny hovering over him. It was the only way Javier had finally agreed to leave. Beckett… well, considering the entirety of the case, he's almost positive Beckett can barely figure out what's going on in her own head, let alone have enough anything to spill the beans to her best friend.

He knows he has the injuries to show for being half strangled. The cute paramedic had mentioned it to him, maybe in an attempt to hit on him, but he knows he was too focused on the almost to think about what was in front of him. He'd called Lanie to tell her he was coming, but she hadn't asked questions on the phone. Plus, no one knew they were together. Or, they hadn't admitted it anyway.

But she still looks like she wants to hit him as she sits, curled up in the corner of her couch.

She's thrown a blanket over her lap to ward off the winter chill, but he knows she's taken to wearing one of his old t-shirts to bed. He likes it better on her anyway, but, for once, he's not focused on the gorgeous picture she makes. Or the domestic one. He's thinking about the million things that could have gone wrong, the pain he knows Beckett's in and the horror of trying to keep it together while his partner went through freaking water torture.

She catches it in his eyes. He knows, because her entire persona changes. Now, she doesn't look like she wants to hit him. Part of him wonders if she should.

"…hell happened?"

He only catches the end of her sentence as he closes and locks the door and she's pushed off the blanket to come to his side by the time he throws the deadbolt. Her fingers come up, gentle, soft and they run over the bruise that is forming on his neck. He sighs and follows instinct. His arms wrap around her, feeling how small she is against him and he holds on.

"I don't know," he says finally, and it's true because he's really not sure where things went wrong. "I really don't know."


Of course her first concern is her best friend. "Fine. Almost got shot, from Castle's story, but he got the guy. Knocked him out cold."

Her body shakes in a bit of a laugh. "Nice ego boost." There's a pause. "Ryan?"

"A little worse for wear." And he's not sure if it's his tone or the way his hands automatically clench against her back, but she doesn't ask more than that. They stand there for a little while longer, then he feels her suck in a deep breath. He wonders if she feels how shaken he is because when she looks up, there's something resolute in her eyes. And something he's pretty sure there's an unwritten agreement that he's not supposed to see. But she doesn't seem to care about their 'rules' at this point.

Instead, she tugs out of his embrace. It's far enough that he feels the loss, even though she grips his hand to pull him towards her bedroom. He follows, figuring she's exhausted and he's exhausted and she can probably tell he's just about at his wit's end. It still surprises him that Lanie can read him so well and with so little effort. And then she turns to him at the end of her bed and pulls the t-shirt straight over her head.

He's shocked enough that he doesn't move and it's enough time that she has his pants undone. He thinks for a minute this is going to be speedy, life-affirming, but the minute they're both naked she slows down completely. Now her hands are skimming, soft, barely brushing the warmth of his skin. His follow her lead almost without the permission of his brain as he finally leans down to kiss her. She responds, but refuses to let him deepen it. Instead, he feels the build start to slow and burn, ache in a way that he's not sure they've had before. So much of their relationship is based on snatched snippets of time in between cases and when their schedules permit that he feels how different this is.

It's in the stroke of her fingers, in the gentle movement of her lips and in the way she steps closer, pressing against him as much as she can. This is life-affirming, he realizes, just not the frenzied, crazy stuff he's used to. This is the one that he knows he's supposed to be afraid of. This is the one that speaks of more than the physical need to feel something. This delves into the emotional and though they've been doing this long enough to definitely call it a relationship, he can't help but look at this as yet another step towards a permanence neither of them anticipated.

And yet, he totally doesn't care.

Because he is feeling and he is living and this is… God, it's her. And he's been with women before, and he's done it in the aftermath of particularly difficult cases, but he's in touch with his emotions enough to know this feels different. He feels alive, because the heat is licking through is blood at a pace that's staggering, but he also feels that clichéd right-ness. He'll probably be terrified of it, maybe later tonight, maybe tomorrow morning, but for now, he's willing to live in the moment.

When her mouth leaves his to press against his collarbone he realizes it's the best idea he's had all day.

She tongues her way down his chest, but there's nothing particularly passionate about it. There's passion there, hidden in with the arousal the feel of her tongue generates, but it's a quiet passion, one that shows this is about more than just feeling. He goes with it, lets her do what she needs to do, because, and he's surprised to realize, he needs it too. He needs to remember good things, not Ryan's head in a tub of ice-cold water.

So he focuses on her, on her hands gripping her hips, on the way she takes him in her mouth. He groans when she does, but her pace is slow and she grips him while she lets her mouth wander his length. His hand threads into her hair, really just so he has something to hold on to. He doesn't steer her, doesn't urge her to speed up or hold on for control. He lets her do what she wants, reacting to every touch of her lips, her fingers and her tongue.

Eventually, he does want to feel her. He doesn't want this to end in her mouth. So he tugs on her hair and she knows what it means. She stands, gracefully and with a glint in her eye at how good she is at leaving him mindless. But he's not. Not really anyway, he has enough presence of mind to want to do more than feel her clench around him. He kisses her and turns, leaning back until he can't lean any further. He drops her then, far enough to jolt a laugh from her before crawling onto the mattress after her. She shifts up, up, up, until she's against the pillows. Then she seems to settle in and he grins as he looks down at her.

She smiles back, warm with a hint of that underlying something they refuse to name. He leans down and kisses her, settling his weight comfortably against her. She cradles him between her thighs and wraps her arms around his neck. When he releases her mouth, he moves to worship her neck, her breasts, her stomach, until his tongue touches her heat. She arches against him immediately and he winds a hand under her thigh and around so his palm rests just above her core. It's perfect enough that he can press just the slightest pressure to her clit as his tongue sweeps through her folds. She jerks against him, her mouth catching on a gasp and he wants to grin again. Instead, he keeps his pace maddeningly slow, the same way she'd done for him.

Eventually though, when her hips buck insistently, he knows they can't take anymore. He raises up on his knees and the calves originally wrapped around his shoulders fall to wrap around his thighs instead. He applies his fingers to her clit at the same time he slides two inside her body and she doesn't seem to mind the drastic change of pace. His fingers are quick, precise and he's on a mission. She flies within moments and he presses kisses against her neck and shoulders as her trembling eases.

Her arms wrap around him as she shifts, eyes so dark he's sure he can see himself in their depths. He can feel her, wet as she slides against him and he meets her eyes. They've been using condoms as well as her birth control, but if he slides into her, it wouldn't be the first time they forgo the condom. She nods and he slides inside, slow enough to torture them both.

The difference in them is even more profound as he nestles into her heat. He knows their history and more often than not, the lack of latex has everything to do with a frenzied need. This time, it's something so much deeper than that, if no less emotional. He has to lean his head against her shoulder as he starts to move, too concerned that this is going to rip him raw. She's letting out breathy whimpers every time he slides into her and her fingers dig into his shoulders. Part of him would prefer the nails, just for a brutal counterpoint to the slow, steady, delicious slide into her.

But this isn't about point-counterpoint, nor is it about need. It's about something else that he refuses to think about, let alone name. The analytical part of his brain that is totally not working would tell him that he's diving head first into a situation they'd both agreed to avoid. They couldn't work together and sleep together. That was too much pressure on both of them. They weren't ready for something more serious than a serious fling. This is proving that it's more. This is ripping them both open.

And it's most obvious when his eyes meet hers.

There's understanding there, concern and the sharp heat of arousal that he knows is echoed in him. He knows he's not hiding behind the usual mask of cocky cop. He's just a man that's had a hard day, coming home to the arms of a woman he knows he cares about. He's always cared about her, even before they slept together, and maybe he should have seen this coming. But he didn't, and it's here and yet he's still moving at a torturously slow pace in and out of her and she's still whimpering with every thrust. Her eyes slide closed and he grunts his discontent.

Because if she's feeling anything like he's feeling he wants to damned well see it. He's feeling vulnerable and he wants to see if she does too even though she has no idea how close they all were to death just hours ago. When she does open her eyes, his forehead falls to hers and now it's his turn to make sure his eyes don't shut. Instead, it's all there, on both sides, for either of them to see. He knows that for the first time, they're actively looking for it.

And yet, even as he sees it, recognizes it, revels in it, he knows that neither of them are really sure what's going on. There's a shift, and one they probably won't talk about for months and maybe never name out loud, but it's there and it's as real as it can be. He can feel the hold on his restraint straining, and knows she can feel it in the way he picks up the pace. She sighs her pleasure and moves against him with every thrust, wrapping her arms solidly around his neck to hold him to her. Not that he was really planning on moving away, not when he's surrounded by her, feel, smell, sight… Everything is focused on her.

The pace keeps going, keeps increasing, and so does the heat an intensity. They're moving together, finding a rhythm without any false starts or awkward shifting and then she's flying again, her back arching and pushing her breasts into him. But it's the look in her eyes that sends him over the proverbial peak.

He doesn't move when he finally comes back to himself. His head is pillowed beside hers, pressing him cheek-to-cheek with her. He almost wonders if he should move, should take some of his weight off of her, but she seems happy, almost desperate if the grip on his neck is any indication, to keep him there. So he doesn't move and he stays wrapped around her, with her, in her, reminding himself without conscious thought that there's reasons he's still alive, reasons he comes home every day.

He has This.

Even though he's pretty sure neither of them know what This is anymore.

So I have a funny story. This feels like it's really confusing and convoluted and confusing and interestingly enough, that was actually the point. There were so many things left open at the end of Knockdown and I actually surprised myself at the feeling at the end of this. Because I realized half way through that I wanted to write something that was as uncertain as the episode felt since it was really only a few little things that were resolved instead of the big ones. I mean, great, we found some guy who was involved in killing Johanna, but really, we didn't find out who hired the hit. We just added a few more bodies to the casefile.

And, to be honest, as much as I loved the partnership parts, and absolutely adores the parts with Castle and Kate in her apartment, I was disappointed with the lack of Lanie. I think they could have done some awesome things with the relationship between Lanie and Esposito if they'd thrown her into the mix. But alas, we can't have everything.

So, I don't know how I feel about this piece, which, oddly, is the point, so it makes what you guys think just that little more important. And maybe Rick and Kate'll cooperate now and I can get Prove It done tomorrow so I can actually get some school work done.

I need a gremlin. Or a freshman. We still haven't decided which is more economically friendly.