So, this nearly didn't get posted tonight, because I had thought the other day that I was pretty much finished... but then I ended up writing probably over another 1500 words, and so I haven't had the time to do as much editing as I'd like. But I think it's turned out well all the same.

But yeah anyway, I promised I would get this up by tonight, so I wanted to stick to that.

And as usual, please let me know if anything needs fixing :) Especially if anything is OOC! You should all know by now that I absolutely hate the idea of writing out of character. So never feel bad about giving constructive criticism, I'm a big girl, I can handle it :P

A final note before I let you go- I'm not normally one to beg for reviews, but I have seriously put so much goddamn work into this story that I would just love to hear back from you guys. So if you like it, let me know :)

So, here we go, the second and final chapter.

I hope you enjoy it.


As the band struck the final notes of the spirited tango, Castle expertly twirled Beckett back towards him, then swiftly turned and dipped her, her body curving lithely over his arm, her head thrown back and arm outstretched in a final, spectacular flourish.

For a moment they held the pose, then, panting slightly, Castle gently pulled her upright. Breathing fast, she leaned heavily against him, and they shared an exhilarated grin.

There was an enthusiastic round of applause for the band, immediately followed by the smooth, rich notes of the next song, a classic waltz.

"So," Beckett began breathlessly, raising an eyebrow at him, "I guess you do know how to tango."

Castle chuckled, then nodded. "It would appear so."

"Well, I don't know about you, but I think I'm going to need a drink after that one," Beckett said wryly, lifting an eyebrow at him. "What do you think about sitting the next few out?"

"Oh, thank god. I don't know if I could survive another dance like that one," he responded dramatically, adding, "I think my heart would probably explode."

They both laughed, still slightly breathless, and then, seized by a sudden impulse, Castle reached out and grabbed her hand.

"Come on," he said with a grin, and together they moved swiftly towards the edge of the dancefloor, laughing as they ducked and weaved between the other couples filling the floor.

Feeling bold, he kept his grip on her hand even after they'd left the dancefloor, only reluctantly releasing it once they had at last reached the drinks table. Handing her a champagne, he raised his own glass, tipping his head slightly in salute. She grinned and tipped her own head in response, and they both drank, eyes locked.

"So," he began, lowering his glass and raising an eyebrow. "You've heard my secret, and now I want to hear yours."

Her forehead creased slightly in confusion, and she suddenly seemed almost wary.

"What do you mean?"

Her caution intrigued him, but he resisted the urge to investigate further, knowing better than to press her. Instead he simply grinned, and asked his original question.

"Where the hell did you learn to dance like that? I thought I was pretty good, but I honestly nearly tore a hamstring just trying to keep up with you. You've clearly had some pretty serious training."

Beckett smiled up at him, looking slightly relieved.

"Try five years of weekly dance classes at Susan Quinn's Studio Of Dance," she said wryly, quirking an eyebrow at him with a smug smile.

Castle felt his own eyebrows lift in surprise. The studio she'd named was one of the most high-profile in the city, run by the legendary ageing primadonna Susan Quinn and widely known for catering exclusively to the extremely rich and famous.

"Susan Quinn's? I'm sensing the presence of a very interesting back story here."

"Mmm-hmm," Beckett said nonchalantly, taking a sip of her drink and looking casually around the room. Knowing exactly what she was doing, Castle narrowed his eyes at her.

"So...?"

"So what?" Beckett asked innocently, looking back up at him with mischief in her eyes.

"Come on, Beckett. Don't make me beg."

Beckett laughed, and for a moment Castle honestly thought she was going to make him do just that. But thankfully, she simply shook her head, relenting.

"A couple of years out of the Academy, Royce and I–" she hesitated, her eyes darkening slightly at the mention of her old training officer, but quickly recovered and continued.

"So we got called out to a Robbery In Progress at the studio. We were close by, so we were first on scene, and luckily we got there just in time to prevent Susan's husband Jonathan from getting shot for refusing to give up the combination on the safe."

She paused briefly, as if remembering, then went on, "Anyway, long story short, we did our jobs and the bad guys went away for a long time. And I thought that was the end of it. But then not long after, Susan came to the Precinct– I was stationed over at the 6th back then – and gave Royce and I both an extremely expensive bottle of wine and a lifetime membership to her studio."

Beckett snorted softly. "Of course, Royce had no interest in taking dance lessons, but I'll admit that I was intrigued, so one night I just decided to do it. And I went."

"And discovered an ardent love of dance?" Castle suggested mischievously, quoting her earlier words with a playful smile.

Beckett grinned. "Pretty much, yeah. After that first time, I just kept coming back. It was a good way to relax, to wind down after a long day at work. It was an escape, you know?"

Castle nodded, showing he understood. With the things she faced in her job every single day, he could easily appreciate the need to get away from it all for a little while.

"Anyway," Beckett finished lightly, "I still go sometimes, just to dance or occasionally to help instruct the beginners. Susan and Jon are great people, and they've been very good to me."

Taking another sip of her drink, she fell silent, and for a few moments neither of them spoke, lost in their own thoughts.

"Well then," he said suddenly, raising his eyebrows with a grin, "All things considered, I guess I'm even luckier than I thought to have made it off that dancefloor alive."

Beckett arched a brow. "I thought I'd better go easy on you," she said teasingly, and he glared at her in mock indignation.

"Such concern you have for my poor feelings, Detective," he responded dryly, and she laughed.

For a few moments they simply stood together, sipping their drinks in a comfortable silence, until Castle had a sudden thought.

"So, Beckett… exactly how many more surprise layers are there to that onion of yours?" he asked, raising his eyebrows and adding lightly, "Just curious."

Beckett grinned. "Oh, not a chance, Castle. That's something you're just going to have to wait and figure out for yourself."

Her words were spoken lightly, casually, but somehow they still managed to make his breath catch in his throat, his heart beating just that little bit faster.

"I look forward to it," he said quietly, and something in his voice must have caught her attention, because she shot him a quick glance, her eyes swiftly searching his.

After a long, silent moment, Beckett looked away, her gaze travelling slowly around the rest of the ballroom, and he couldn't help but feel that she was avoiding his eyes.

Suddenly she gave a small, surprised laugh, and grabbed his arm.

"Castle, look!"

Momentarily distracted by the warmth of her fingers around his forearm– which he could feel even though his shirt and jacket– it took him a few seconds to direct his attention to whatever it was that she was exclaiming at. Seeing it, he felt his eyebrows rise in surprise.

"Is that both Ryan and Esposito that I see out on the dancefloor?" he said disbelievingly, his eyes alternating between the two couples as they moved around the floor.

Watching them for a few moments, he felt his eyebrows lift even higher.

"You know," he said with a slight note of surprise, "Esposito and Lanie are actually pretty good."

"They are, but oh god, poor Ryan is terrible," Beckett answered, looking like she was trying not to laugh.

After a moment, she looked up at him, seeming slightly bemused. "Is it just me, or does it look a little bit like Jenny's leading?"

Castle focused more closely on the shuffling couple, then put a hand up to his mouth to try to mask his grin.

"It would appear that way, yes," he said in a mock-thoughtful tone, fighting to keep his face straight. Then he looked down and caught her eye, and neither of them could help it. They burst into laughter, and Beckett had to turn away in order to get herself under control.

Watching her, Castle found himself trying to remember the last time he'd enjoyed an evening so much. Nothing came to mind, and for some reason, that made him smile.

Just at that moment, Beckett turned back toward him, grinning broadly in amusement. Her eyes met his, and she must have read something in his expression, because her grin faded slightly and she took a quick sip of her drink, looking out over the dancefloor once more.

After a few moments of silence, she said lightly, "I can't believe you're still wearing that jacket. This ballroom is warm enough as it is, but after all that dancing I would have thought you'd be roasting right about now."

Castle had to admit that she made a very valid point, probably even more so than she realized.

The ballroom was rather warm, and on top of that, he was still feeling more than a little hot and bothered after that dance; Beckett most certainly knew how to tango– which made more sense now that he knew about her famous teacher– but even more than that was the way she danced. She didn't just dance with technical precision and skill, but with such fire and passion and pure sensuality that those few minutes had probably been some of the most erotic of his entire life.

Remembering the expression in her eyes and the way her body had pressed so closely against him as they twirled around the dancefloor, he swallowed, feeling the temperature in the room rise another few degrees.

Oh yeah, he was definitely feeling the heat.

"I admit I am slightly toastier than usual," he conceded with a grin, then added more seriously, "You know, if you're feeling uncomfortable, we could always take a walk, maybe get some fresh air outside for a while. That is, if you wanted."

Beckett nodded slightly, her eyes still focused on the dancing couples. "Yeah, I think I'd like that."

They both took a final sip of their drinks, then placed them back down on the table, turning towards the door. Castle offered his arm to her– something that he was secretly very fond of doing– and was quietly pleased when she took it without hesitation.

Winding their way through the scattered guests, they passed through the large double doors, strolling towards the foyer in an easy silence. That was one thing that he loved about being with Beckett; it was always so effortless. Whether they were deep in conversation or not even saying a word, he never felt uncomfortable around her, never felt the need to speak or act a certain way. He could simply be himself, which was something he'd experienced with very few people in his lifetime.

Crossing the foyer's marble floor, they had almost reached the great glass doors when Castle finally roused himself from his thoughts, noticing something that could definitely disturb their plans.

"Uh… looks like this idea isn't going to work out the way we'd hoped," he said quietly, his steps slowing.

Clearly having been equally lost in her own thoughts, Beckett looked up at him, frowning in confusion. "Why not?"

Before he could reply, they reached the entrance, and the doorman was swiftly opening the door for them.

And suddenly, Beckett got her answer.

"Oh," she said shortly, staring out into the pouring rain. Seeing her forehead crease in consternation, Castle couldn't hold back an amused grin, shaking his head slightly at the doorman.

"Actually, I think we're going to stay in here," he said wryly, and the doorman smiled.

"A good decision, sir."

"Well," Castle began lightly, as the two of them turned reluctantly back towards the ballroom, "So much for that fresh air."

"I know," Beckett said, dismayed. "I really wish it wasn't raining. I'm not sure I'm ready to head back into that oversized oven just yet."

Frowning thoughtfully, Castle looked around the foyer. "Well, surely we could find a third option. This is a fairly large hotel, there's bound to be a lounge or a bar or something around here somewhere."

"Yeah, you're probably right," Beckett said distractedly, then paused, her eyes fixed on a point in the very corner of the large foyer. Halting, Castle looked down at her inquiringly.

"Beckett?"

Meeting his eyes suddenly, she grinned up at him, tugging lightly on his arm.

"Come on, I have an idea."

###

"Beckett, you know I have complete faith and confidence in you, but I just have to ask one thing," Castle said suddenly, and Beckett looked up at him, curious.

"What's that?"

"You know we're in a stairwell, right?"

Beckett laughed. "Yes, Castle, I am quite aware of that."

"Just checking. Another question?"

"Yes, Castle?"

"Why are we in the stairwell?"

"Firstly, because I've been on my feet almost all night and I want to sit down," Beckett said, settling herself comfortably on one of the steps and looking up at him with a patient smile.

"Secondly," she continued, "Because it's quiet. And thirdly– and most importantly– you might also notice that it's several degrees cooler in here than in the ballroom, and even a little cooler than the foyer."

Castle tilted his head, appearing to consider her words. After a moment, he nodded, apparently satisfied.

"You make a good case, Detective."

Beckett smiled. "I know."

Tugging off his jacket, Castle perched casually on the step beside her, stretching his long legs out in front of him with a small sigh of contentment.

For a few minutes they simply sat quietly, enjoying the silence and the easy company, before Beckett was struck by a sudden thought.

"So, I totally forgot to ask– what did Alexis have to say when she called? Everything okay?"

"Oh yeah, everything's great. She just wanted to make sure I was having a good time. Well, that, and she wanted to ask if Ashley could come over for a few hours. I told her it was fine as long as she didn't forget that a chaperone is required at all times."

Beckett stared at him incredulously, sure she must have misheard him.

"You're seriously having Martha chaperone them?"

Castle grinned. "No, they're chaperoning her. It's a Saturday night, you have no idea of the crazy things she could get up to if someone doesn't keep an eye on her."

Beckett laughed. "Oh, never a dull moment at the Castle household."

"Never," Castle agreed happily, then added, "Oh, and before I forget, Alexis also wanted me to tell you that she thinks you look beautiful tonight."

Beckett glanced at him, bewildered. "She hasn't even seen me."

"I know. That's what I said, and she told me that she didn't need to."

Beckett smiled, touched. "She's a great kid."

"She is," Castle said simply, then hesitated before adding, "And she adores you. So does Mother. In fact, it seems to be one of the few things that every member of my household has in common."

Beckett stilled, his admission catching her by surprise. A moment later, she heard him sigh quietly beside her.

"Kate…"

Before she even had time for conscious thought, her body reacted, and she was suddenly on her feet, hastily putting some space between them.

"Castle…" was the only reply she could manage, her suddenly unsteady voice turning his name into a strained, desperate plea.

She could feel her breathing coming more quickly, her heart thundering wildly in her chest, and experienced a flash of irritation at herself. He hadn't even touched her, and already she was on the edge of a heart attack. And though she hated to admit it, she thought she knew why.

She was afraid.

As a detective, she regularly came face to face with the very worst of mankind, murderers with so little humanity left that they had become little more than monsters. But no matter how sick or twisted, how vicious or evil, she had faced them all without fear.

To be honest, there was only one person in the world who truly frightened her.

Because he was the only one who possessed enough of her to destroy her completely.

Trying to steady her breathing, she watched out of the corner of her eye as he slowly got to his feet, then approached her cautiously, as if she were a were a frightened animal that might bolt at any sudden noise or movement.

Which, to be fair, was pretty much how she felt.

"Kate, please," he said quietly, his voice low and imploring. "We can't keep running from each other like this."

He was close now, far too close. She couldn't think clearly with him standing right there in front of her, and even worse, she couldn't trust herself not to reach for him. Forcibly controlling herself, she was just about to take a large, hasty step back when he suddenly stunned her, his hands lifting to gently cup her face.

Involuntarily she looked up, meeting his eyes, and immediately cursed herself for her stupidity. His blue gaze was piercing, his expression wrought with such uncharacteristic seriousness that she found she simply couldn't look away.

Making a last effort to exert some kind of control over the situation, she reached up, her hands closing firmly around his wrists. But then she hesitated, not knowing whether she intended to push him away, or pull him closer still.

As if sensing her hesitation, he slowly lowered his head until his forehead was resting gently against hers, her eyes fluttering shut as she felt the warmth of his breath feathering gently against her lips.

For several long moments, neither of them moved, aware of nothing but each other. Eventually, Beckett heard Castle give a soft, tiny sigh before lifting his forehead from hers, drawing away slightly. Reflexively her hands tightened on his wrists, a silent, involuntary plea which he immediately answered, gently tilting her face up to meet his kiss.

As his lips moved softly against hers, slow and sweetly tentative, her response came without conscious thought, her lips harmonizing with his in a gentle, silent acquiescence that stunned them both.

But this was not simply a kiss.

This kiss radiated tenderness and vulnerability, exposing a suppressed longing so deep and compelling that left her feeling shocked, and even a little awed. She had never been kissed like this before, nor ever even imagined that such a depth of emotion could possibly exist in the meeting of lips.

Somewhere, in the corner of her mind, she was aware of her grip around his wrists loosening, then releasing them altogether in favour of clutching the front of his shirt, her fingers digging into the soft fabric. She felt him flinch, as if startled, and then draw closer, one hand leaving her face to slide slowly down her back, leaving a trail of tantalizing warmth in its wake.

Leaning in just a fraction closer, Beckett parted her lips for him, the kiss tentative and no less gentle than before. Pushing his fingers up into her hair, Castle followed her lead, softly deepening the kiss. She felt his arm tighten slightly around her back, and responded instinctively, drawing in even closer.

But suddenly, it wasn't close enough. Releasing her grip on his shirt, she slid her hands up his chest to wrap tightly around his neck, pulling her body flush against his.

They both jolted at the contact; Castle tore his mouth away, his breath suddenly rasping and uneven, and Beckett felt her own breath catch in her throat, her body tensing. There was no mistaking the firmness that was pressing against her lower stomach, and the knowledge that she was the cause of it spread throughout her body like wildfire, burning through her veins.

Opening her eyes, she found him watching her, his breathing ragged and that familiar old fear in his eyes. For all his flirty exterior and playboy reputation, he had always been the gentleman, restricting his affection to subtle gestures and meaningful expressions, always so careful to never push her beyond the borders of her comfort zone. And she could see he was terrified that this time, he'd pushed too far.

What she was suddenly realizing, though, was that when it came to Castle, her comfort zone extended far further than either of them had ever guessed. And she certainly planned on exploring every inch of it.

Pressing her body firmly against his, she tightened her grip around his neck, pulling his mouth back down to hers once more. Closing her eyes, she kissed him deeply, her lips moving over his with a new depth of passion which he returned eagerly, and just as intensely. The kiss was still heavy with emotion, but burned with a new, uncontrollable fire, one that soon consumed them both.

Beckett clutched him still tighter, a low moan vibrating in her throat as his tongue explored her mouth, tasting and taking. The sound seemed to spur him on, and he deepened the kiss even further, claiming her mouth almost fiercely, pulling apart only long enough for them both to gasp in a quick breath before their lips were fused together once more.

Wrapping his arm even more tightly around her back, Castle suddenly turned them both, and in two steps had her against the wall, his body pressed close against hers. Her surprised gasp never made it past her lips, because Castle's mouth still covered hers, his lips moving over hers with a hunger and passion that left her breathless.

Digging her fingers into his hair, she kissed him back just as hard, instinctively lifting herself on her toes so that the hard bulge of his erection pressed against the juncture of her thighs, the new, heightened contact sending a flood of blazing fire through their already flaming bodies.

Crushing her mouth against his, Beckett arched her back, drawing an audible groan from his throat as she pressed her body harder against him. Suddenly he surged against her, trapping her firmly against the wall, pressing so close that, if not for the barrier of their clothes, he would be inside her.

And suddenly, that didn't seem like such a bad idea to Beckett. Nearly two years of pent-up desire and frustration was finally finding its release, overwhelming her with a flood of fiery passion and need, and goddammit, she wanted him. Now.

Kissing him fiercely, she manoeuvred one hand between them, yanking at the topmost button of his shirt, the only one within easy reach. Suddenly he froze, then tore his mouth from hers, breathing hard.

"Wait, stop," he rasped, his voice hoarse and uneven as he struggled to find the words. "We shouldn't. We can't. I don't want to have to tell our kids that the first time we hooked up was in a stairwell at Uncle Ryan and Aunty Jenny's wedding."

This time it was her turn to freeze, her body suddenly going rigid with shock. Her eyes shot open to see him staring down at her, looking utterly shocked and horrified.

"I- I mean, uh, I didn't–" Castle stammered, looking panic-stricken at his admission, trying desperately to find a way to take back the words that he had clearly never intended to voice out loud.

Beckett felt her heart pounding wildly against her ribcage, her whole body trembling violently. Looking up into Castle's terrified eyes, she finally realized something she should have known a very long time ago; that Castle feared her rejection just as much as she feared his.

And, in that moment, she knew that there was no reason for either of them to be afraid.

Tightening her grip around his neck once more, she dug her fingers into his hair, pulling his mouth back to hers. They were both shaking as his lips covered hers once more, kissing her deeply, consumed with relief and disbelieving hope. She kissed him back just as intensely, the kiss less fiery than before, but with a new, raw edge to the passion that caused a glow of warmth deep within her. To her surprise, she felt the sudden burn of tears against her closed eyelids, and clenched her eyes more tightly shut, pressing herself deeper into Castle's embrace.

Just as she was thinking that she would happily stay here like this with him forever, the sound of approaching voices drew her back to reality, and she reluctantly pulled back just in time to see the stairwell door crash open as two giggling people stumbled through the doorway.

"Whoa!" Esposito burst out, staring at the two of them with wide, astonished eyes. "Yo Chica, back up, back up, this stairwell's taken," he added hurriedly, looking over his shoulder at the giggling figure close behind him.

Peering around Esposito's broad back, Lanie's eyes widened, her gaze travelling swiftly over the two of them, a wicked grin forming on her lips.

"Finally," she sighed dramatically, and Beckett glared warningly at her, her message clear.

Seemingly noticing Beckett's expression, Lanie grinned even wider, but took the hint.

"Come on, Baby, let's give the kids some privacy," she said slyly to Esposito, who was still staring at Castle and Beckett, mouth slightly agape. Seeing his stunned expression, she rolled her eyes, tugging gently on his arm and urging him back toward the doorway.

Seeming to recover a little, Esposito closed his mouth and gave them a curt nod, before allowing Lanie to pull him away, the two of them disappearing swiftly out the door.

The door swung quickly shut behind them, suddenly leaving Castle and Beckett alone once more. For a few moments there was complete silence before they both began to laugh, grinning at each other in embarrassed amusement.

"Well, there goes any hope of secrecy," Beckett said wryly, shaking her head with a small sigh. Chuckling, Castle drew her closer, then gently rested his cheek against her hair.

"Lanie would have sniffed it out soon enough anyway," Castle admitted with a smile, then added, "I swear, that woman has even scarier witchy powers than you do."

Beckett snorted softly, trailing her fingers idly through his hair.

"I guess I'll take that as a compliment."

"As you should."

For a few moments neither of them spoke, content to simply be with each other. But then she felt Castle take a deep breath, and he lifted his head to look down at her.

"Kate…"

His tone was utterly serious, and Beckett looked up, meeting his eyes questioningly. Seeing his solemn, concerned expression, she felt herself tense, feeling suddenly worried.

"What is it, Castle?" she asked softly, her eyes never leaving his.

"Kate, are you–" he paused, took a breath, and tried again, "Are you sure that this– me, all of it– are you completely sure that this is what you want?"

Biting back a sigh of relief– his grave expression had make her think something terrible was coming– Beckett tilted her face up, putting her lips within millimetres of his.

"I'm sure, Castle," she answered, her words little more than a whisper, but she knew immediately that he'd heard her clearly, because his whole body suddenly relaxed, and he breathed a soft, relieved sigh against her lips. Gently pressing her lips to his, she gave him a brief, tender kiss before pulling back slightly to meet his eyes once more. His question had answered her own, but she still wanted to hear him say it, so she asked anyway.

"Are you?"

"I don't know," he said slowly, looking uncertain. Then, looking down at her shocked expression, he grinned suddenly and added, "I might need a little convincing…"

"Castle," she choked, half laughing, half indignant. Glaring playfully at him, she slapped him lightly on the back of the head, making him laugh, before he controlled himself and attempted to sound apologetic.

"I'm sorry. I couldn't resist, especially since you don't have your gun so I knew you wouldn't kill me."

Grinning despite herself, Beckett leaned in close to whisper seductively in his ear.

"For future reference," she murmured huskily, her lips brushing softly against his earlobe, "You should know that I could kill you with my bare hands."

He laughed in surprise and she pulled back, grinning teasingly at him. He grinned jubilantly in response and drew her closer, kissing her softly before eventually pulling away again, looking down at her with such tenderness and sincerity that she felt her breath catch in her throat.

"I'm sure, Kate," he said softly, "About us. And I don't want to frighten you away already, but I have to say this. It's okay if you can't say it back yet, because I'm willing to wait however long it takes, but I just want to make sure you know this now."

Swallowing, he took a deep breath, his eyes focused intently on hers.

"I love you, Kate."

For a moment she could do nothing but stare at him, unable to speak past the sudden lump that was blocking her throat. Then she leaned into him, hiding her face against his neck and clinging to him tightly.

She knew that subconsciously, she had been expecting him to say it, but still his admission left her reeling, barely able to think or breathe. She'd heard the words before, but never had they held so much honesty, so much meaning. Blinking rapidly, she forced back the tears that were once more threatening to spill over, then drew a deep, shuddering breath.

"I love you too, Castle," she whispered, feeling his arms tighten around her, drawing her closer against his chest as he pressed a soft kiss to her temple.

For a few minutes they simply stood and held each other, locked in their silent embrace, until finally Beckett gave a quiet sigh, opening her eyes.

"We really should get back in there, you know," she said resignedly, pulling back slightly to look up at him. "We've been gone far too long already."

Castle gave her a small, rueful smile, then nodded, reluctantly releasing her and stepping back. Immediately she felt cold without his warmth surrounding her, her arms feeling strange and uncomfortably empty now that they were no longer around him.

Shaking her head slightly, she pushed the feeling away, concentrating on straightening her dress and ensuring she was at least moderately presentable. A mirror would have been useful, but hers was in her purse, which was back at their table, so that was out of the question.

While she was straightening herself up, Castle had grabbed his jacket from its place on the steps and was tugging it on, watching her with an amused expression.

Catching him looking, she couldn't help but smile.

"What?"

"Well," Castle said in a low voice, stepping in closer and wearing a soft smile that did funny things to her heart rate, "You know that incredibly sexy hairstyle that you probably paid a hairstylist a lot of money to create?"

"Yes," Beckett responded, attempting to sound casual but knowing they both heard the slightly breathless note in her voice.

Castle smiled down at her, twirling a strand of her hair around his finger. "I kind of broke it."

Beckett laughed, then put a hand on his chest and rose up on her toes to press a brief kiss to his grinning lips.

Pulling back, she smiled up at him, then began pulling out the pins that secured her hair. Once she'd gotten them all, she shook her hair free, finger combing the long locks and relying on faith that it would look okay.

Looking up, she found him still watching her, his lips curved in a grin.

"What now?" she asked, a slight note of suspicion in her tone.

"That was hot," he said simply, then promptly added, "like one of those sexy shampoo ads."

She rolled her eyes at him, but couldn't suppress her smile.

"Easy, tiger. Let's not get too excited. We have a wedding reception to get back to, remember?"

Castle chuckled, then held out his arm to her expectantly, but she put up a hand.

"Wait."

"What?" he asked, lowering his arm and looking confused. Giving him a small smile, she stepped in close and spent a moment straightening his tie.

"There," she said with a smile, and he grinned, then leaned down and gave her a brief kiss on the cheek before stepping back.

"Are we ready now?" he asked mischievously, holding his arm out to her once more.

"About as ready as I'm ever going to be," she said, taking in a deep, slow breath to steady herself.

Castle didn't need to ask what she meant; she knew they were both feeling a little nervous about facing the others because by now– thanks to Lanie and Esposito and their mutual love of gossip– the fact that the two of them were now more than 'just partners' was probably common knowledge. She grimaced slightly, knowing that a lot of teasing and smirking and stares were in store for them.

Entering the ballroom, they stopped briefly by the drinks table to take a glass each. Releasing her hold on Castle's arm, Beckett took a slow sip, scanning the large room for the others. Almost immediately, she spotted Ryan and Jenny standing off to one side with Esposito, Lanie, and Montgomery. And, from the way they all turned to look in her and Castle's direction, she knew she'd been right in assuming that Lanie and Esposito wouldn't hesitate to share the news.

"Don't worry," Castle said quietly beside her ear, "If they get too annoying, just remind them that you could kill them with your bare hands. Trust me, it's very effective."

Beckett laughed, then smiled up at him, appreciating his attempt to ease her nerves.

"I'll keep that in mind."

He smiled back down at her, then placed a reassuring hand against the small of her back, gently urging her forwards.

Together they wound their way through the scattered guests, stopping to greet a few here and there– and being stopped by quite a few, thanks to Castle's never-ending popularity– before finally reaching the others.

"Hey, guys," Ryan greeted them, a little too cheerfully. "Haven't seen you around for a while. Been having a good time?"

Seeing the glint of mischief in his eyes and the poorly hidden smirks on the others' faces, Beckett suppressed a sigh, reminding herself that they would have to tire of the jokes eventually. She just hoped she didn't die of old age first.

"Of course," she answered sweetly, turning to Jenny as she added, "It's been an absolutely lovely reception, Jenny. You two must be very happy with how it's all turned out."

"Oooh, yes," Jenny gushed, beaming. "Everything has just been so perfect."

"I think you made an excellent choice with the band," Castle said smoothly, and Beckett smiled, knowing her partner was following her lead. "They're actually one of the best I've heard in a long time."

"My cousin Molly is the singer," Ryan said proudly, then lifted an eyebrow, adding teasingly, "I'll let her know you're a fan, Castle."

"Please do. I know from experience that it's always nice for an artist to hear that their work is appreciated," Castle answered cheerfully, then added casually, "Plus, I'm a real sucker for a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice."

Seeing the confused looks on the others' faces, Beckett had to suppress a laugh, taking a sip of her drink to hide her smile. Before they had a chance to figure out his meaning, however, Castle spoke again.

"Actually, speaking of the music, I seem to recall seeing you guys tearing up the dancefloor earlier. You know, Esposito, for a guy who says that he never dances, you sure seemed to have some serious moves."

"Yeah, well I said that I don't dance, not that I couldn't," Esposito replied with a wolfish grin. "But don't you go talking to me about having moves. We aren't the ones who cleared the whole dancefloor."

Beckett lifted an eyebrow, puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"You seriously didn't notice?" This time it was Lanie who spoke, looking at them both dubiously. Apparently seeing the genuine confusion in their expressions, she smiled, clearly amused.

"You two put on quite a show with your little tango," she explained, her smile growing into a broad, teasing grin. "Most of the other couples moved straight off the floor to watch, and you probably had almost half the other guests watching as well."

Pausing, she raised her eyebrows, then asked skeptically, "Are you two seriously saying you didn't hear them applauding when you finished?"

Beckett looked up at Castle, the two of them exchanging a frown.

"You remember that?" he asked quizzically, and she shook her head.

"Nope."

"Maybe you were both simply too... distracted," Esposito suggested mischievously, and Castle nodded, deliberately choosing to misunderstand his meaning.

"Most likely. I was so out of breath by that point that I could barely see straight."

"So where exactly did you two learn to dance like that?" Montgomery asked interestedly, speaking up for the first time.

Castle answered first. "I come from a long line of performers. It's simply in the blood," he said with a grin, and Beckett felt herself smiling at his unwillingness to divulge his true secret.

Montgomery shook his head ruefully, seemingly realizing that trying to get a straight answer out of Castle was a pointless effort. Instead, he turned to her.

"What about you, Beckett?" he asked, then arched an eyebrow. "Or is dancing in your blood too?"

Shaking her head, she responded, "No, sir, not at all."

Then she paused for a moment, before grinning and adding simply, "But I did watch Flashdance a lot as a kid."

The others laughed, and gradually the conversation flowed on, the seven of them talking and joking easily together and simply enjoying the pleasantness of the evening.

At one point, when the others were suitably absorbed in their own conversations, Beckett leaned in close to Castle, speaking quietly in his ear.

"Hey Castle, can I have your phone for a sec?"

He looked down at her curiously, but immediately reached into his pocket, handing her the phone without question. It was only when she began typing a brief message that his curiosity seemed to get the better of him, and he tilted his head, trying to see the screen.

"So… what are you doing?"

"Texting Alexis," she responded simply, without looking up.

"Any particular reason?" he enquired, his voice low and intimate.

"Just letting her know you won't be home tonight," she said casually, her voice pitched low for only him to hear. But then, suddenly doubting herself, she paused, her thumb hovering over the 'SEND' button.

Looking up, she began quietly, "Unless you don't want…"

Seeing his intense expression, she trailed off, suddenly finding it difficult to breathe. Inadvertently, her gaze lowered to his lips, and she stared, transfixed, as he mouthed three small words.

I love you.

Lifting her gaze, she silently mouthed the words back, her eyes never leaving his.

Then she smiled, and hit the button.


So it appears I have a bit of a thing for stairwells. They just seem to keep popping up, don't ask me why. And I also seem to enjoy making Beckett whisper things seductively in Castle's ear a lot. But then again, who wouldn't? :P

Anyways, I hope you all enjoyed it, and if you did, I'd love to hear it :)

Thank you all so much for reading!