so it's been a while and i'm pretty sure it's noticeable. like no kidding the alternate title for this is actually 'boring conversations castle and beckett have in or near cars'. read at your own risk.


She drags him by his wrist into the women's bathroom, fluorescent lights above them flickering with their electric fly buzz. She lets the door slam before ripping into him.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Trying to look like he's paying attention, he realises he doesn't quite know where to stand; he doesn't make a habit of visiting women's bathrooms, especially not dingy holes in the back of seedy bars in Queens. The lights give the small room a white-green glow that hardens Beckett's eyes and makes her skin look harsh, her knuckles white against the skin of his wrist she's still holding; the weight of the last three months even more prominent in the lines of her mouth, the clench of her teeth.

"Don't talk to the suspect. That was the only thing I asked of you."

"Actually you kinda also told me to stick with y—"

"Castle, now really isn't the time for finer details, okay, when I give you an order obey it."

He swallows; nods wordlessly. She shuts her eyes, runs a hand through her hair; her grip on his wrist loosens, her anger dissolving. She looks tired.

"I think we need to get you out of here."

She trusts him less now. Doesn't give him such a long leash; spins it up around one hand and keeps the other hand on his collar so he can't do anything but what she wants him to. He'd find it arousing if she wasn't so serious about it. If it weren't so close to madness. If it were three years ago, and he was still following her from the car into the line of fire when he didn't know the first thing about the risk involved. Not now, not after everything that's been thrown at them. Her hand is still warm around his wrist.

"Beckett—"

"Shh. Someone's coming." She tenses, her hold tightening, and sure enough there is the sharp sound of high heels, a feminine giggle, the low timbre of a man's voice. "Shit."

Beckett pulls on his arm and he follows blindly. She hoists herself onto the bench in front of the mirror and he only has a very brief moment to wonder how hygienic a move that is before he's standing in between her legs and one of her heels is pressing roughly into the small of his back.

"Uh..."

But before he can do much more than that the door swings open and Beckett's tongue is in his mouth. She makes a small sound of appreciation, like she suddenly remembers how this goes, and pulls herself forward, her hands on his face and her body warm against his. The couple who have just walked in on them stare in surprise.

She breaks away from chewing on his bottom lip and all he can do is look at her in stunned silence as her gaze comes to rest on the people in the doorway. Underneath his hands she tenses again and he sees the smallest amount of anxiousness register in her eyes before she glares spectacularly. He doesn't look over to find out what caused her reaction, just slides his hands a little further around her, fingers slipping over the weave of her ribs. His head falls to her shoulder, breathing in the sweep of her hair.

"Do you mind?" she asks the couple, and the woman stammers out a quick apology before letting the door swing shut again. The sound of her sigh is louder with his ear so close to her throat. Beckett turns back and kisses him again for a few moments, light and soft, and he pretends it's not just in case they come back in. "That was our suspect," she says against his mouth. "Sorry for putting you on the spot like that."

Not looking him in the eye, she slips past him down to the floor and gives herself a quick once-over in the dirty mirror, straightening her button-down and resolutely looking everywhere but his face.

"Right. Um. I need to go and... apologise for my rudeness and get our suspect's phone number so we can GPS track it. You get to the car and I'll meet you there."

With that, she disappears. Castle simply gapes at his reflection in the mirror.

xxxxx

When she comes back out to the car her smile holds a faint trace of triumph, a napkin clutched in her hand.

"Sometimes it's just too easy."

A hot stab of something twinges in his gut. Definitely not jealousy, he reasons, just the combination of that scotch and disdain for the fact that she's had to resort to hitting on a slimeball like Gibson to further their case. That's totally it. No other reason at all. And his mouth isn't tingling from the reminder of kissing her twenty minutes ago. Not even a little bit.

Beckett tilts her head. "Everything okay?"

He plasters what he hopes is a winning smile on his face. "Lamenting the fact that my sex has no defence against the wiles of a beautiful woman."

She smiles back, almost blushing. He doesn't know why, but might be the happiest he's seen her in the last few months. His grin starts to strain with that thought, and she notices.

"What?"

He tries shaking his head, ready to drop it. "Nothing."

"Castle. I know when you're faking it."

Leaving that double entendre aside for the moment, he rubs a hand over his mouth. "I was just... I was thinking I'd almost forgotten what it was like to see you smile like that."

She freezes, suddenly somewhere else. He sees light flare in the back of his mind, the smear of blood on her shaking hands, and then she clears her throat.

"We should take this to Mont- to the Captain." She goes to her door and opens it without another look at him, and they're silent all the way back to the precinct, the radio appropriately playing Dancing in the Dark as soon as Beckett turns the key. Stupid Springsteen.


"He dropped out of Yale to grow a beard and move to Brooklyn, seems like jealousy's a pretty obvious motive."

"Yeah, but it's not like he's doing badly for himself, did you see that apartment?"

Ryan and Esposito continue their discussion, each perched on opposite ends of Beckett's desk. Castle sits in his chair and watches her pore over files, her forehead creased in concentration until Ryan gets particularly offended by something Esposito says and she can't stop a small smile from tugging at her mouth as he stalks off. He's missed this, little interludes of normalcy that almost make it feel like before, like the only bad things that happen around here are the murders of strangers that they can bring justice to.

He spends a lot more time at home these days, sometimes he texts Beckett and tells her not to call if a body drops for a week or two, choosing instead to sit around watching reruns of Saturday Night Live and wondering if he should turn his talents to sketch comedy instead of crime novels. It's hard. It's always been hard, but the ghost of that bullet in her chest haunts him, sits heavy over every case he does come in for and makes him wonder how long the timeline is until the next one needs to be notched in. And of course, they never mention a thing.

Beckett slaps an open folder down next to him, her finger pointing to a line in a file that's caught her attention, and consequently snapping him out of his thoughts. He grimaces almost immediately.

"Hope you haven't made any plans for tonight."

xxxxx

"I'll have you know I was a very skilled ventriloquist, even if you don't believe me."

"Can you just be quiet and get down? Blackwell might not miss your ten-storey ego but at least he won't be able to get a proper look at your face," she says grumpily, a hand pushing down on his shoulder. He doesn't know why she has to get so cranky about it. A stake out wasn't exactly his idea of a fun Friday night either. Slumping down further, he looks over to see her starting on a bag of pretzels, frowning as she chews (and most notably, not offering to share them with him).

"So."

Her gaze whips to him, a pretzel halfway to her mouth. And she thinks he knows hertoo well.

"How's... everything? How's Josh?"

Her hand drops to her lap and her gaze follows, her eyes closing.

"I'm guessing that was the wrong question."

She shakes her head. "There's no Josh. We broke up... I don't even remember. We broke up." He doesn't know if it's a medical kind of not remembering, he knows the doctors said there was always that possibility (and he knows at the time he was thinking Beckett already had enough psychological issues thrown on her to last two lifetimes, she really didn't need any more), and he pushes that unsettling thought away, just hopes she means she couldn't be bothered noting the length of time he'd been gone.

"I'm sorry."

She snorts derisively. "You're not."

He frowns, leans across the gearbox to cover her hand, the pretzel digging into his palm. "Maybe I'm not sorry about the loss of Motorcycle Boy – which, by the way, I'm reinstating as an appropriate substitute for his name – but I'm sorry that it didn't work out for you. You..." his thumb strokes over the thin bones in her hand, "You deserve to be happy."

Eyes finally meeting his she looks at him funny, her expression not quite readable. Then she shrugs. "Apparently just not right now."

He lets go of her hand, testing out a smile. "What, hanging out with me and a bag of pretzels doesn't fill you with joy and validate all your life choices?" He steals the one that's still sitting between her fingers.

"I'd probably be happier if it was Esposito and a bag of Junior Mints." She dumps the pretzels in his lap, the sly smile on her face cajoling him into retaliation.

Grinning, he simply begins to eat them and she scowls.

"If you finish those and we're still here in three hours Richard Castle, I will have your head."


There's a storm one night they end up having to drive almost from out of state back to the city. Out his side window the moon wanes, yellow face flecked by wispy cloud; out hers, a wall of darkness lit sporadically by bright flashes, the clouds iron grey. He opens the window and the air feels heavy. A few moments later she stops the car.

"You okay?"

"It's been a while since I left the city." She shifts in her seat, runs a hand through her hair, the other flexing around the steering wheel. Her gaze is on the storm.

"No kidding."

She runs her lip through her teeth. "I was terrified of thunder as a kid. I used to hide in my parents' closet until my mom said it was safe to come out."

He smiles fondly at the thought. "I never would have pegged baby Beckett for a scaredy-cat."

Glaring at him, she folds her arms contemptuously. "And you were never scared of anything, obviously."

He leans back in his head, smug. "Heights, tornadoes, maybe the occasional friend of my mother's, but never thunderstorms."

Beckett rolls her eyes. "Nice to see your fear of strong women has always stuck close."

"Strong? Possibly; I was more scared of how many margaritas they could put away before three o'clock."

There's a silence that might be awkward, or maybe he's just having trouble remembering what it's like to just be with her, the steady rise and fall of her chest that reassures him, her fingers tracing the ridges of the wheel in front of her. He knows he's staring, but she's still looking at the storm so he's taking a liberty where he can get it.

"You wanna go for a walk?"

He's startled to suddenly be looking into her eyes again. "In the dark?" he asks.

She raises an eyebrow. "Did you forget to list the dark as one of your childhood fears?"

In response, he gets out of the car, bending back down to look in at her. "Coming?"


"Is a parking garage really the place to be having this conversation?" he asks meekly, listening to the reverberations of her voice echoing in his ears.

"Where else do you suggest we have it, Castle?"

"It's just it's... very loud."

"If you'd stop being such an ass during my investigations then maybe I wouldn't have to be so loud."

For a moment nothing else is said, she just glares. Castle tries to think of an appropriate comeback. "You need to stop."

Not quite what he had in mind. Beckett momentarily forgets her anger. "What?"

"Stop being so afraid to let me be around you during cases. Let anyone be around you. You act like it's my first day every time we leave the precinct, it's like you've forgotten the last three years even existed."

For a split second, her hand flutters over her stomach, drawn to a scar tattooed upon her skin. "It's a dangerous job, Castle."

"And I knowthat. But you spend so much time thinking about how dangerous it is for me that's like you completely forget how dangerous it is for you. I know how to look after myself. You know I do."

She huffs out a sigh, the toe of her show nudging at a bottle cap on the ground. "I feel like I don't know how to do this anymore."

Moving to lean on the car next to him, she crosses her arms and her eyebrows knit together as she tries to find the right words.

"You just don't know how to do this the same way as before." He leans back next to her, their shoulders touching. "And the simple reason is that you can't."

Beckett frowns.

"A lot has happened, Kate. They're fundamental things that leave a mark you can't just erase, forget was there. You have to adapt, but you also have to know that just because circumstances have changed like that it doesn't mean I have, or your friends have, or that you have. You're still Beckett, you just need to figure out how to fit in with a different landscape."

"You're such a writer."

He shrugs, bumps her shoulder. "I guess I can't help it."

She looks at her feet.

"It'll be tough. But you know I'm always here, even if the Captain doesn't like me."

"She's not your biggest fan," Beckett agrees.

"So unfortunate. What was the word she used to describe me?"

"I think it was 'self-important'."

"Hmm. I thought it was 'supercilious'."

"I would have gone with 'narcissistic'."

"You would."

She smiles, leans her head on his shoulder. "Thank you, Castle."

Three word sentences prod at the edges of his mind as he presses a kiss to the top of her head, but he pushes them away, not wanting to potentially ruin the moment. "Anytime."