I had such a devastating moment today when I was all excited about watching "Lucky Stiff" and then I saw that the airdate wasn't actually until February 7th. Seriously, all these hiatuses are going to kill me.

Also, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who has been leaving me such amazing reviews for my other stories. You guys are awesome, and your love has officially gotten me addicted to ficwriting.

In regards to this story, I'm a little worried that it might be bordering on cheesiness. If so, please let me know so I can attempt to fix that, because I simply cannot stand the idea of writing a cheesy fic. Oh, and there's a possibility that some of the characters might also seem a little OOC, so again, if you think so, tell me which ones and I'll try to fix them up.

Edit: I reread the story and decided I didn't like the ending, so I've rewritten it and I'll try this new ending out for a bit. It's a little more serious now (because I just felt it was over-the-top fluffy before) so I'd love to know whether you think it's in or out of character for Castle & Beckett's relationship, because I will seriously keep rewriting it until I think I've got it right haha

Anyway, that's enough from me now.

Sitting in the interrogation room, Castle watched guardedly as the blood pressure cuff was wrapped around his arm, joining the odd black straps that already encircled his chest. As Ryan continued prepping him for the test, he felt his heart begin beating just that little bit faster, and he took a slow, steadying breath, reminding himself that he'd done absolutely nothing wrong.

"Are you sure this is really necessary, guys?" he asked for the second time, attempting to sound nonchalant, but knowing they all heard the slight note of concern beneath his words. Leaning over against the wall, Esposito simply smiled at him, clearly enjoying himself.

"It's the quickest way to clear your name, Castle. So chill, you got nothing to worry about."

"Unless, of course, you actually did have something to do with that guy's death," Ryan added unhelpfully, his brow furrowed in concentration as he carefully fastened a clip on Castle's finger to measure his sweat levels.

"Very amusing," Castle said sourly, glaring at both of them. "We all know that the whole thing was honestly just a case of wrong place, wrong time," he insisted, then looked around hopefully. "Where's Beckett? She'll back me up."

"She's got a briefing with the Chief. She said she'd catch up with us after she's done," Esposito answered, then grinned when he saw Castle's face fall. "What's the matter, Castle? You scared now that you don't have Big Bad Beckett to protect you?"

Castle's scathing retort was interrupted by Ryan, who had just finished setting him up for the test.

"We're ready," he said, settling himself in the chair closest to the laptop and moving it so that Castle could no longer see the screen. Casually pushing himself away from the wall, Esposito unhurriedly strolled the few steps towards the table to take the empty seat beside Ryan.

Facing the two of them, Castle couldn't help but feel a little bit daunted. You haven't done anything wrong, he reminded himself firmly, refusing to allow them to draw them into their little game. They knew as well as he did that he was innocent, but thanks to department procedure, he would have to endure this pointless ordeal before they would admit it.

"Now, Mr Castle…" Esposito began, his voice suddenly formal but his eyes glinting with mischief. Ryan sat silently beside him, wearing his poker face to hide his smile. Castle glared at the two of them, trying to ignore the disconcerting sight of his own reflection in the mirror behind them.

Damn them, they were actually enjoying this. Jerks.

"You may be unfamiliar with this kind of test, so I'll briefly explain the process," Esposito continued, speaking politely and professionally. "Firstly we're going to ask you a few basic questions, to establish a baseline for your responses. I'll ask you to please only respond with 'yes' or 'no' for each question, and please refrain from trying to elaborate, because it will only interfere with our results, causing us all to be in here much longer than necessary."

He paused to give Castle a meaningful look, then continued, "once we have obtained a reading of your baseline, we will then proceed to asking questions pertaining to the incident in question. I will remind you only to answer yes or no to each question. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Castle responded, attempting to sound casually confident. At his answer, Esposito turned to Ryan and nodded, and Ryan flicked the switch on the machine. A quiet whirring filled the room as the equipment all over him began measuring his physiological signs, monitoring his breathing and heart rate, blood pressure and sweat levels.

"Let's begin," Esposito said formally. He paused to give Castle another serious look before asking the first question.

"Is your name Richard Castle?"

Castle paused for a moment, considering whether he still also counted as Richard Rogers, because of course, that might influence his answer. He thought about asking them to be a little more precise, but somehow he got the feeling that Ryan and Esposito wouldn't appreciate his attempt at being factually accurate, so he simply answered, "Yes."

Ryan and Esposito made a show of studying the laptop screen before asking the next question.

This time it was Ryan who asked, "Are you a mystery novelist?"

Castle didn't like this question any more than the first. He felt that simply calling himself a 'mystery writer' was a bit of a narrow statement, especially since he'd often been commended on the action, suspense and romance aspects of his books, not simply the mystery. But again, he decided that it would probably be best to ignore the details in this case.

"Yes."

Another check of the screen. Castle was really growing to dislike that laptop.

"Are you currently in New York City?" Esposito again this time.

"Yes." At least this was one question that had a clear answer.

Once again they consulted the laptop screen, then proceeded to ask him a several more obvious questions, studying the onscreen results with every yes or no answer.

"Now, I'm going to ask you a question and I'd like you to deliberately answer it untruthfully," Esposito explained clearly. "So if the true answer is 'yes', I'd like you to tell me 'no'."

Castle rolled his eyes. Not only were they forcing him to do this stupid exercise, but now they were treating him like an idiot while doing it. He nodded to show he understood, and then waited for them to continue.

"Do you have a daughter named Alexis?"

Castle had to bite back the reflexive "Yes" that had almost escaped his lips, instead pausing briefly to frown at the two detectives. Even though it didn't mean anything in this instance, the idea of denying Alexis' existence simply felt wrong to him.

"No," he answered eventually, displeased. Ryan and Esposito simply nodded, their eyes glued to the laptop screen.

After several moments Esposito turned back toward him and resumed professional mode.

"Now, Mr Castle, we're going to ask you some questions relating to the incident this morning. Please answer only yes or no."

Castle nodded impatiently, feeling very tired of the whole situation. He wished Beckett was here; although he doubted she would stop this whole charade, she would at least have made it less painful.

Interrupting his thoughts, Esposito asked, "Were you at all acquainted with the victim?"

"No." Which was true. He had no idea who the guy was, only that he'd managed to wind up dead in a place where Castle had had the misfortune of stumbling upon him.

Ryan took the next question. "Were you in any way involved in the victim's death?"

Castle shot them a you've-got-to-be-kidding-me look. "No."

Esposito leaned forward, getting in Castle's space.

"Did you kill the victim?"

This was simply getting ridiculous. They knew he had nothing to do with it, so why put him through all of this?

"No," Castle responded tightly, his annoyance clear. He saw the two detectives share an amused glance and made a mental note to start planning his revenge as soon as they set him free from these goddamn wires.

But that didn't appear to be happening anytime soon. Instead, they asked him all the same questions in a variety of different ways, repeating themselves over and over and forcing him to answer again and again.

Controlling his frustration, Castle comforted himself with the fact that he was most definitely going to make them pay for this. And when he did, they were sure going to regret this little joke of theirs.

He would make sure of that.

###

Finally, Esposito looked at Ryan, who nodded. Castle didn't quite catch whatever look they shared, but suddenly Esposito was turning back toward him, his expression serious.

"That will conclude our official interview, Mr Castle. We appreciate your cooperation with this process."

Feeling relieved, Castle gave them a wry smile.

"I would say 'anytime', but you wouldn't have to look at your laptop to know that would be a lie," he responded dryly, then paused in confusion as the two of them actually did glance at the laptop in question, which still appeared to be actively measuring.

"Uh, guys…" Castle began worriedly, "I'm ready for you to unplug me now."

"Actually, Mr Castle…" Esposito began, sending a grin in Ryan's direction, "we just have a few final questions for you."

Now Castle was truly concerned. "Seriously, I'd like to go now," he said, half rising out of the chair.

"Please sit, sir, or I will be forced to cuff you," Ryan said seriously, placing his cuffs on the table for added effect.

Castle reflexively sat back down, then wondered what the hell he was doing. He should just leave now. But the goddamn straps and wires were still all over him, and he knew he wouldn't be able to remove them without help.

Looking around uneasily, he searched vainly for Beckett to help him. A briefing with the Chief should definitely not have taken her this long. Surely she was done by now, so where the hell was she when he needed her? She was his partner; she was supposed to have his back.

So why wasn't she here?

"Just a few more questions, Mr Castle," Esposito said, grinning devilishly as he leaned closer.

"Guys…" Castle attempted, but Esposito cut him off.

"Are you in love with Detective Beckett?"

For a moment, Castle simply stared at them, frozen in shock. Then his heart kicked into overdrive, and he opened his mouth wordlessly, suddenly unable to find the ability to speak. Knowing that his current reaction would be sending the sensors off the charts, he looked around desperately for a way to escape.

But there was none. Grasping at straws, he looked at them pleadingly.

"Seriously guys, this is not cool. Please, just– just let me go. Please."

"I'm sorry, sir, but I'll remind you to please respond with yes or no answers only."

Esposito's voice was carefully void of emotion, his expression masked by his best poker face. Neither of them said anything more, but simply watched him, waiting.

"I– I have the right to remain silent!" Castle said suddenly, his eyes darting from one to the other. " You can't make me talk like this. Let me go. I'm not saying anything more."

The two detectives turned to look at each other, then turned back toward him as one, both leaning in close.

"We're prepared to wait here a very long time, Mr Castle," Ryan assured him, somehow making the casual words seem like a threat.

"Now, we're going to ask you again. Are you in love with Detective Beckett?"

For a full minute there was silence in the room, as Castle searched for something, anything, that would enable him to get out of this. His panicked gaze skittered around the room, looking everywhere but at the two detectives who simply sat silently, staring him down.

Eventually, Castle realized the terrible truth. There was only one possible way he would be allowed to leave this room.

He had to answer the question.

Swallowing, he closed his eyes and concentrated on calming himself, keeping his breathing as steady as possible. Then, opening his eyes, he gave his answer.

"No."

He watched anxiously as both detectives immediately turned toward the laptop screen,desperately hoping that, by some miracle, he had been able to fool the accursed machine.

Watching the smirks form on their faces, Castle felt his stomach lurch sickeningly. Oh god. They knew.

And they would tell her.

Closing his eyes for a moment, he felt his heart squeeze painfully. She'd probably never speak to him again.

Trying vainly to control his distress, he pleaded with them once more.

"Guys please, that's enough. Really, just let me go."

Controlling his smile, Ryan put on his most professional voice.

"Actually, sir, we're still not quite done yet."

"Wait, what?" Castle choked out, disbelieving. Never for a moment had he imagined that they could possibly have further torture for him.

"We're a little concerned about your intentions toward our partner," Ryan began, and Castle felt his heart sink.

Oh please, no.

"So, we'd like to know," Esposito continued, "do you plan on marrying Katherine Beckett?"

"Goddamnit, guys, stop it," Castle responded vehemently, fuelled by panic and frustration. "Stop. Right now. And let me out of this goddamn thing."

The two detectives looked at each other for a moment, eyebrows raised. It seemed they were beginning to realize that their little game was not so much fun for all parties concerned. Still breathing a little fast from his panicked outburst, Castle closed his eyes briefly, hoping desperately that they'd finally show some mercy and set him free.

"Okay, Castle, we'll let you go," Ryan said quietly, and Castle opened his eyes, relieved.

"After you answer our last question, that is."

Glaring at them both, Castle controlled himself. He knew that really, this was well-deserved payback for all the pranks he'd played on them in the past, but that didn't stop him picturing the expressions on their faces when he got his own revenge.

That is, if Beckett hadn't had him kicked out of the squad by then.

Esposito broke the brief silence, prodding him. "So, Castle, do you plan on marrying our Detective Beckett?"

Calling on every meditation and yoga class he'd ever attended– which really wasn't very many, unfortunately– Castle forced himself to relax, breathing out slowly.

Staring straight at his reflection, he answered flatly, "No."

Keeping his eyes locked on his reflection, he ignored the glance they sent at the laptop screen and the little grin they shared over whatever they saw there.

Sighing deeply, he dropped his gaze and said quietly, "Guys, please, you can't tell her."

He heard the fear in his voice and cursed himself for it, staring miserably down at his hands because he couldn't bring himself to meet their eyes.

"Whoa, Castle, slow down," Esposito began, his voice surprisingly gentle. "We wanted a little payback on you, sure, but we're not total assholes. We would never tell Beckett about this."

Surprised, Castle lifted his head, looking first at Esposito, then Ryan. Both appeared genuine, and as he met Ryan's eyes, Ryan nodded, then deliberately reached across and switched off the machine.

The sudden absence of noise from the equipment left the room in total silence, until Castle exhaled shakily.

"Geez, guys, you had me pretty worried. But really, all things considered, I guess I kind of deserved it," he admitted, looking up at them with a small smile.

Leaving his seat, Ryan came to stand beside him, carefully removing the various pieces of equipment strapped to him.

"Really, Castle, we didn't learn anything today that we didn't already know or suspect," Ryan commented understandingly. "But, no matter what, we're your bros. The only person Beckett is going to be hearing any of this from is you."

Castle nodded. "Thanks, guys."

Ryan finished removing the last of the wires and Castle stood, feeling suddenly free. Ryan gathered up the equipment and together the three of them headed toward the door, but when they reached it, Esposito halted, looking genuinely concerned.

"We seriously didn't mean to freak you so bad, Castle. You know we always got your back. Your secrets are safe with us."

Castle grinned, his first real smile since entering the room. "I know, guys. I should have realized that from the start, but at least I know it now."

Putting a hand on both of their shoulders, he added, "Come on, I'll make you jerks a coffee."

As they headed to the break room, Ryan suddenly remembered something.

"Oh, and by the way, Castle," he said with a mischievous grin, "you definitely didn't have anything to do with the vic's death this morning."

Laughing, they disappeared together into the break room, the events of the interrogation room already far behind them.

###

Alone in the darkened observation room, Kate Beckett leaned silently against the wall, her eyes closed. Breathing slowly and deeply, she thought about everything that she'd just seen and heard.

It appeared that Castle had faced his own truth today. And finally, it was time she faced hers.

Pushing away from the wall, she slipped silently out the side door of the observation room, taking the long way to the break room so they wouldn't realize where she'd come from. Taking a deep, steadying breath, she stepped into the break room, calling on all her acting skills to make herself appear completely calm and relaxed.

"Hey guys, finished with your test already?" she asked indifferently, wearing what she hoped was an expression of mild disinterest.

It was Esposito that answered her. "Yeah, we're all done," he said, then grinned, sending a quick glance at Castle before adding, "and don't worry, he passed."

Knowing exactly what he was referring to, Beckett focused all her energy on maintaining her image of nonchalance, praying they wouldn't notice the slight blush that was heating her cheeks.

"I'm a bit disappointed, actually," she said with a theatrical sigh, leaning against the doorframe. "Could have been our fastest solved case ever."

"I'm touched by your support," Castle said dryly, causing Ryan and Esposito to grin.

Knowing it was now or never, Beckett mentally steeled herself, carefully choosing her next words.

"Oh hey Castle, I almost forgot. Alexis called for you while you were busy."

Castle's brow furrowed and he quickly pulled out his phone, frowning at the screen. "I haven't got a missed call from her. She called you? Why?"

Beckett shrugged noncommittally. "Dunno, I was with the Chief when she called so I let it go to voicemail. It's just some message about wanting to talk to you, and something else that I can't remember. Come on, I'll grab my phone and you can hear what it says."

Without waiting for an answer, she walked past him to the doorway and headed to her desk, knowing he would be right behind her. Pausing at her desk, she picked up her phone, then pretended to think about something.

"You know, it's kinda loud in here, and the message was pretty hard to hear," she told him, looking up at his concerned expression. "Come with me, I'll find somewhere quiet so you can listen."

"Yeah, good idea," Castle agreed, following after her as she walked away from the desk. She'd already run through a mental list of the few possible locations in the precinct where they would be able to talk privately, and this had seemed like the best option.

Holding open the door to the stairwell for Castle to enter ahead of her, she silently thanked both the existence of elevators and the utter laziness of cops for ensuring they wouldn't be disturbed here.

Closing the door behind her, she turned to face him, feeling the butterflies in her stomach ascend to a whole new level of activity as she fully realized the magnitude of what she was about to do.

For a brief moment she considered bailing out, but she'd waited too damn long for this to back out now, especially when she was so very close.

"Uh, Beckett…?" Castle asked uncertainly, finally seeming to realize that there was something more going on here than just a simple phone message. Watching her with a confused expression, he asked hesitantly, "Alexis did call you, right?"

Her phone was still clasped tightly in her hand, and for a moment she looked silently down at it before slipping it into her pocket and meeting his puzzled eyes.

"Castle…" she began, but paused, suddenly at a loss for what to say. How many times, in all the time they'd known each other, had she imagined telling him how she felt? Far too many to count. And yet now, when the moment had finally come to say it, she found she simply couldn't force the words out of her mouth. She took a deep breath, then paused, and let it out.

She couldn't do it. She couldn't tell him. The entire time they'd known each other, they'd danced around the truth, hiding their feelings within subtle gestures and meaningful expressions, but never overtly admitting anything. After nearly two years, the habit was hard to break, and- even after everything they'd been through together- she simply couldn't bring herself to say the words out loud.

Instead, she took a tentative step forward and gently placed her hands on his chest, her fingers closing around the lapels of his jacket. Then, leaning up on her toes, she closed her eyes and lifted her lips to his.

For a moment he was absolutely still, and in that moment she experienced the tiniest flicker of fear that he would pull away. But before she even got a chance to fully process that thought, his arms were wrapping tightly around her and he was kissing her back so passionately that she forgot about everything else.

They'd kissed once before, as cover during a case, but that had been nothing compared to this.

This time, neither of them were holding back. Deepening the kiss, Beckett hungrily explored his mouth, then moaned when he took it even further, kissing her back almost fiercely. Unable to think about anything beyond her need for him, she lost herself in the kiss, pressing herself tightly against him, her arms clinging tightly around his neck.

When she finally regained the ability to think, Beckett forced herself to pull away, dropping her forehead to rest against his shoulder. They were both breathing hard, his chest rising and falling rapidly against her breasts as she clung to him.

"So," Castle said eventually, his voice more than a little unsteady. "I'm going to go right ahead and guess that that was not the message that Alexis left for me."

Beckett laughed quietly against his shoulder.

"Yeah, I'm sorry about lying to you like that," she admitted a little breathlessly, "but I needed to talk to you alone, and since Ryan and Esposito watch me like goddamn hawks whenever I'm around you, I had to do something to throw them off."

"Although," she added wryly, "considering the amount of time we've been gone, they're going to know something's going on anyway."

Castle's arms tightened fractionally around her, and she felt his chest expand as he took a deep breath.

"Not that I want to question a good thing," he began carefully, "but what exactly is going on?"

Beckett pulled away slightly so she could look up to meet his eyes.

"Castle, if you really haven't figured that out yet, maybe I should just go now," she said dryly, lifting an eyebrow.

Immediately his grip around her tightened slightly, despite the fact she'd made no move to leave.

"Don't go," he said quietly, his normally playful voice sounding uncharacteristically serious.

Looking down at her with a searching expression, he said softly, "Beckett, I need to know."

Meeting his eyes squarely, she said nothing, instead letting him see her answer for himself.

Castle studied her gaze, then blinked slowly, looking down at her with a hopeful but uncertain expression, as if he still couldn't quite allow himself to believe her.

"You're sure?" he asked in a low voice, and Beckett smiled softly up at him, knowing without a doubt just how sure she was.

Raising herself on her toes, she put her lips close to his ear, her words emerging as a seductive whisper.

"How about you strap me to a lie detector and find out?"

Hope you liked it, and make sure to check out chapter 2! :)