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Back again! We'll get some of Javi's (NON-drunk) internal process this time, and FINALLY we come to a conclusion…read on. ;)

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He couldn't count the number of times he'd let his thumb hover over 'call' on his phone, her number highlighted on the screen. Maybe he should have. Maybe if he'd counted every time that that'd happened, then maybe he'd have to admit that everyone was justified when they looked at him a little sideways. Like they were making sure he was all right.

He wasn't 'all right.' Everything was wrong.

It was funny. Well, no, it wasn't funny at all, but…it was ironic that, after all the things he'd been through in his life - violence, war, betrayal, lies, looking death in the eye - this was the one that he couldn't keep in. Not that he was even trying to be outward about it. He'd been professional enough; he'd come to work every day since and done the job…but it must've shown. He was stoic. Joked less, or more dryly when he did. Cracked a lot fewer smiles. There was a lot less to smile about when you were goin' home alone, and you realized just how bad you hated that.

How much things'd changed.

Castle had been good to him, and he appreciated that. And Ryan…Javier owed the man more than he knew. But this wasn't behind them, either. It was affecting them too. He'd known that from his first morning back; the day after the hangover from hell. Beckett had shown up beside his desk, sat down on the edge of it, and, as he looked up, set down a cup of coffee.

"…I want you happy too," was all she'd said. Then, with a fragile half-smile of so much understanding, she'd gotten up, left the coffee, and walked away, back to the job that put them there.

Javier had stared after her for a few moments, too stunned to have thought of a reply quick enough anyway. He'd expected nothing less than a screaming match from Beckett about treating her best friend right. But, if anyone understood complicated messes, it was Kate Beckett, and, at the very least, Javier was relieved he hadn't made an enemy from a friend. She hadn't needed to say anything else. It was already more than she might've said to anyone else in his shoes. With one sentence, she'd made her loyalties to both parties clear, and made it just as clear that she wouldn't speak again on the subject.

When was Beckett ever not efficient?

It was an efficiency Javier wished he could borrow. Just for one day. Maybe then he'd know what to do. Maybe then he would realize that he'd been a jerk…no, no: he knew he'd been a jerk. She'd been scared, he knew that now, and he definitely hadn't made things any better… God, what was he thinking? He shouldn't have yelled at her. He should've gone home that night, even if that'd created an even bigger argument. It would've been better in the long run. Hell: if he'd even stopped at the damn drugstore that afternoon, none of this would've even happened

But it had. And this was where they were now.

All his life, Javier realized, he'd been afraid of one thing. It wasn't guns, it wasn't bombs, and it sure as hell wasn't the street he represented. It was vulnerability. It'd been why he'd been the damn 'man-about-town' for so long. When you were moving, it couldn't touch you. But now…that fear was the biggest thing he had in common with the one woman who'd become the exception, and they were both too stubborn - too damn unsure - to change where they'd ended up because of it.

So the days had turned into a week, and then another. Whether it was stupid pride or fear of cold rejection, that number remained un-dialed, both ways. This was what he had to do. Man up, give her her space, bottle it up and deal with it alone. When he found out the verdict, he'd deal with his responsibility then, when he knew more…in the meantime, it was work. Murder didn't stop. He sat facing his desk computer, supposedly running facial recognition, though - as much as he hated it - every face he 'recognized' was hers. And that was how he occupied himself.

Until she texted him.

It was like a moment in one of those crappy movies, the kind where either everybody has a happy ending - chyeah, right - or everybody dies. It was as if, the moment Javier's phone trilled, something in his gut already knew. Lifting the phone to the edge of his desk, he pressed 'read' without granting it a build-up.

Hey. Some evidence 4 u down in the morgue

It was her typical scrawl, all right; nothing cutesy, no embellishment. The only thing missing was the winking face she usually liked adding to the end. Then again, he could've expected that. Contemplation etched onto his face, Javier took to the keypad.

I'll send Bckt. Thx.

…Then he paused, and backspaced all of it.

Give me 20 mins.

His hesitation this time was only slight, and then he made himself. Send. Standing up, Javier pocketed his cell phone and snatched his jacket from the back of his chair. "Yo Beckett. I'm out."

The female partner looked up in concern, but he was already gone, stepping into the elevator. He didn't look back, though he was unsure just what exactly he was looking forward to.

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Okay. There. Deep in the bright white confines of the morgue, Lanie took in a deep breath, and let it all out again. She'd done it. After at least fifteen discarded drafts of the same text, she'd finally gotten up the nerve to make contact. It was up to him now.

She kind of had to marvel at all this. Even after all the crap she'd put him through, he was still being impossibly sweet: she'd told him in her anger that she'd 'let him know,' so he'd stayed away. He'd given her that space…of course, it was just as possible that…he wasn't waiting for her at all. He could've been over her with fourteen more women by now, for all she knew. Lanie chose not to believe that angle, because it was doing nothing for her stomach. The thing was already flip-flopping as it was, just by staring at the clock.

When the door to her exam room finally opened, all that nerve she'd been building up fell straight through to the subway tunnels on some other side of the world. He'd shown up. It was really him pushing open the door and walking into the autopsy room, not something her imagination had made up for her. Even a mental 'Girl, snap out of it' wasn't going to do it this time. She had more control now, saw clearer now, and she needed this. Seeing him was better than not seeing him, whether or not she was going to be miserable either way.

He didn't look different as he walked over to her. He just looked like him. From Javier's eyes, she'd never been more gorgeous. Maybe it was the twisted cruelty of wanting what you couldn't have. He stopped on the opposite side of the empty exam table she was leaning on, and as their eyes met within the same three feet of space, there was no chasm, no divine interruption in the continuum, even though it felt like there should've been. It was just Wednesday. And there they were.

"…Hey," Lanie started, making an attempt to sound like her usual, casual, un-hurting self. Well, someone had to, right?

Javier swallowed, hoping the motion looked as slight as it felt. "What've you got," he said, straightforward.

Something about that didn't sit well with Lanie, but another part of her had anticipated it coming. She deserved that. Now he deserved this. Resolutely, slowly, she took something from the covered shelf below the table and laid it on the surface, sliding it in his direction.

A clear plastic baggie. Two pregnancy tests were inside.

Both read negative.

Javier stared down at what she'd produced for him as if the answers to the world were on there somewhere. Lanie withdrew her hand. "…I told you I had evidence for you," she said quietly, ghosting half a smile. Then it disappeared. And she waited.

He didn't need to look for much longer. It was right there. The verdict was final and the answer was no. Evidence spoke. It should've been a reason to breathe. But…somehow, instead, when he looked up at Lanie, he didn't get that breath. There was something there that was still strangling him. "…Evidence of what?" he found himself saying.

It was Lanie who gulped now, hoping it didn't show. That we broke up for nothing. That we broke up for nothing. Say it, just say it… "That…I'm not pregnant. So, we're in the clear I s'pose."

Esposito looked at her, forcing all the want in his eyes not to go any further than that. After a moment, he slid the baggie back across the table to her. "Congratulations," he said earnestly. "Appreciate you lettin' me know." She nodded, and there was an excruciatingly long moment of silence. It killed him, but his next words came out just the same. "Is that all?"

What was wrong with them? Lanie had no idea how to just shake this off. As badly as she wanted to, her usual brand of sass and confidence just wasn't kicking in, and so the best she could do, feeling sick to herself, was nod. It was only when Javier turned to go that her mouth started working.

"No! …Hold on."

He turned, slowly, tiredly, daring to hope, and she climbed to the top of that bridge, and she jumped.

"I…think we both know that's not all it means…it means…that we broke up for basically nothing." So there it was.

As much as Javier had wanted this addressed, he never thought it would be. He thought the best thing would be to leave it alone unless she called on it. Now that she had, he turned right around, strode right back to her side of that table and suddenly had no control over how much he was laying on the line.

"There was no we, Lanie," he clarified. "I didn't want this."

"Neither did I! Look, I know I shouldnt've - "

"No," he interrupted, "don't get into that. I get to talk for a second. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for anything and everything that I did wrong. But you know why I didn't go? Because I wanted you too. And I'm not gonna take that back. I don't think you would either. But no matter what happened because of it - what is it gonna take for me to prove to you? I wouldn't leave you. And wouldn't be no obligation keepin' me there either. I thought you knew me better than that. When I said 'I'll let you know if I'm still around,' that was a lie. I'm not goin' anywhere, and if I gotta walk around here for another ten damn years waitin' for you to let me in, then I'll do that. Because I love you, Lanie - "

It was too much. She squeezed her eyes shut. "Don't say that - "

"Why," he demanded. "Why? Because it's the truth? No! If you're scared of it, if you're thinkin' you can't believe it as far as you could throw it, I don't care. Guess what - you're not the only fool here who doesn't know what the hell they're doin', but at least I'm not afraid to say it. Like it or live with it, you're gonna have to wake up and deal with it eventually; so no, I'm done playin', I'll say it again: I love you, I love you, I - "

"Javier Esposito, if you don't shut the hell up…"

They flew together, mouths colliding before they knew what was happening. The most deductive minds in the world wouldn't be able to tell who kissed whom first.

The craving had snowballed, and it dragged them under. Together they seemed to devour each other whole, caving to weakness, making up for the time they'd lost all at once. Javier buried his hand in her hair and brought the other arm tight around her waist; Lanie gripped onto his shoulders and slid her arms around his neck; both of them tried to cheat oxygen for as long as they were allowed to live in this moment.

Eventually, the oxygen won, and when Lanie pulled her lips away from his, she didn't make any other moves to free herself from his touch. She did look up at him with the eyes of someone who wanted to believe, but couldn't. "…It…it can't just be that easy," she tried reasoning. There needed to be another murder up in here, because that damn skeptical side of hers didn't seem to want her happy.

Javier kept his gaze intent, and on her, his lungs and all the rest of him on fire. "Why can't it?" he challenged.

"B-because…because nothing ends up working out like some…freakin' fairytale, all right? Last I checked this is the real world we're talkin' about here. You comin' in here and sayin' you love me…and…suddenly that's it? Everything all works out? Nothing's that…" What was that damn word… "extraordinary."

"You're right," Javier said bluntly, "Nothin's that extraordinary." There was no real measure for Lanie's bizarre disappointment level at hearing that… until he kept talking. "Yeah we're gonna fight; yeah, we're gonna have to go through a little hell now'n then. But you're not about to deny that we work, you and me. So it doesn't exist - so what? Good thing I don't want 'extraordinary.' Dunno about you, but I'd settle for 'perfect' about now."

And suddenly, in all its backwards glory, it fit. The one, defining word for what they were. Perfect. For each other. Screw clichés and all the standards. There it was.

"…Oh, perfect, huh?" Lanie began to smile, just enough, staring up into the dark brown eyes of this stupid stubborn jackass that she was never supposed to love in the first place. "You think we're perfect now."

His quipping ability was coming back, and some of it started to show, a grin playing from his eyes down. "Give or take, yeah, I mean some of us could use a little work, but…"

Lanie laughed, relishing what it felt like. "Boy, you are about fifteen kinds of sad right about now…" Just like that, she slid up onto her toes and gladly gave her mouth to his, and he kissed her back with everything he had.

Who knew. Maybe sometimes it was that easy after all.

They both had the feeling they could figure it out just fine.

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Yay! My fluffy 'shipper self is happy now. Hope you are too. ^^ I've had my angsty fun, so now I officially mark this story 'complete.' I NEVER get to do that! XD

As always, if anybody's interested in joining a writing-based Castle RPG, go read the bold paragraph in my profile, thankyamuch. 14-and-over welcome.

SO! Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts? I know you guys have 'em! Please, if you'd be so kind as to take a few seconds and drop a review, just to tell me what you liked or what you think or ANYTHING specific you feel like zapping my way, I would immensely appreciate that. You guys are awesome. ^^

So thank you for reading! Here's hoping Esplanie don't have another rocky period for a while. ;) There'll be more from me to come, so keep checking. Peace and love.

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