In which after the events of 'Wrong', Beckett and Castle talk about each other. But not with each other. Because that is how they roll.

Conversations

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His lips are soft against hers, gentle yet insistent. His hands are ghosting down her sides, gripping her, preventing her from reaching for her side arm. She nips on his bottom lip, seeking permission and her hands – oh, it's like she had no control over them, her fingers weaving through his hair, clutching his bicep, pressing herself so close. Her tongue touches his as he finally relents and she crowds into his space, deliciously –

Wait.

Beckett jolted awake, sweating, her heartbeat racing a mile a minute. She groaned in frustration, reached behind her head, pulled her pillow from beneath it and squished it over her face. She yelled into the soft material. Goddamn kiss. Goddamn warehouse. Goddamn Castle.

Castle and his dumb idea infiltrated her dreams almost every night, causing her to more often than not wake up in a state of utter desperation and dissatisfaction. At least when Josh was still around, she'd had some form of release. Granted, it was a release laced with so much guilt – but it was a release nonetheless and now she didn't even have that.

Castle's uncharacteristic burst of emotion at the precinct nearly a week ago hadn't helped matters much either. Her admission – and his, she supposed, had sent her subconscious into overdrive, conjuring up so many different kinds of resolutions to that evening, none of them even close to what really happened, and all of which involved some form nudity. Hot, sweaty …

Huh. Nope, not going there again.

She pulled the pillow from her face and tossed it haphazardly across the room and reached instead for her cell phone on her side table.

Lanie – be decent in an hour. I'll bring breakfast. –Kate.

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It took her slightly more than an hour but by ten past ten, she was waiting in front of Lanie's door, balancing a tray of coffee in one hand and clutching a paper bag of pastries in the other. She tapped her knuckles against the wood, careful not to jostle the pastries within the bag and stepped back.

The door was flung open almost immediately, revealing her best friend standing on the other side rubbing a towel against her still damp curls.

"Hey hon'," Lanie said as she stepped aside to let Kate in. "You're late, you know."

"Yeah, I went to see Maddy first – she was busy so I had to settle for the second class best friend," Beckett deadpanned.

"Oh babe, you wish Maddy's got time for your sorry ass," Lanie scoffed from behind her. "I've heard she's gotten busier since that 5-star review from that food critic."

"Yeah, only saw her twice in the last month. I got us some stuff from the bakery downstairs, by the way. Non- fancy cappuccino for you, fancy latte for me."

"I love you so much right now," Lanie crooned as she took her coffee, sipping it and gesturing vaguely towards her kitchen. "Put the other stuff over there, I'll be there in a second." She disappeared into her bathroom, presumably to put her towel back.

Beckett moved towards the kitchen, her eyebrow arching as she spotted something inappropriate from the corner of her eye. Shrugging, Beckett fished a bear claw out of the bag and made her way back to the living room, settling down onto the couch. She'd been there often enough to feel comfortable, but his time round she could noticed that there had been slight changes; the effects of having a steady boyfriend hanging around.

A picture of Lanie and Esposito stood on top of her liquor cabinet, both smiling cheerily at the camera. A black … thing was sitting next to her DVD player, probably some sort of game console that the boys insisted on playing with every weekend. A car magazine lay half open on her coffee table – all of the things that hadn't been there before the birth of Esplanie.

Oh, if Castle knew she was using that term she'd never hear the end of it.

She absent-mindedly thought back to a time when Josh was still around and bit her lip as she realised that even with the length of time they'd been together, her apartment had been significantly devoid of any of his things. She remembered running after him once just after he'd left her apartment to hand him the leather jacket that he'd forgotten to take home. He'd been slightly amused and said something about her keeping it, but she had insisted on giving it back.

Her eyes scanned the room once more and spotted a man's jacket draped across the back of one of the chairs in the kitchen area. Obviously Lanie didn't have the same aversion to clothing being left behind as she did.

Beckett's eyes widened in realisation as she put two and two together. That explained the thing she'd seen earlier.

As if on cue, both the door to her bedroom and the bathroom opened, and suddenly there were three people in the living room.

"Yo, Beckett," the Hispanic man greeted her with a large smile on his face, instantly making his way to the bag of food.

"I'm so glad you decided to put some pants on before coming out today," Lanie said drily as she shoved her boyfriend aside in an attempt to get to the food first.

"Um, hi."

Beckett's greeting was lost among the bickering in the kitchen. Apparently both had been eyeing the same Danish pastry and neither was willing to give up their hold on it.

As she got up to see if she could settle the argument (there were other pastries in there after all), she realised their bickering had descended into mere whispers. Half a minute later, Esposito strutted out, Danish pastry in hand, grinning widely at her.

"I'm gonna go shoot some hoops with the boys. If you two start pillow fighting, take some pictures, kay?"

Beckett rolled her eyes and waved. "I'll see you around, Esposito."

For as long as Beckett could remember, Lanie had been amazing at reading between the lines. As it turned out, her ability hadn't diminished over the years, and she'd been able to tell that Beckett's visit was more of a 'I need to talk to someone' kind than the 'Lets hang out and do nothing all day' type. Beckett guessed that she'd bribed Esposito into leaving by relinquishing her rights over breakfast.

"This better be good, I got stuck with a custard puff," Lanie groused, confirming Beckett's assumption.

"I'm going to say things are going really good for the two of you," Beckett said, nodding towards the magazine on the table. Yup, definitely no sign of any form of side-stepping the topic there. None at all.

Lanie saw right through her but held off on commenting on it. She pulled bottom lip between her teeth and nodded. "Yeah, it's goin' good."

"I'm happy for you, Lanie. I don't know if I've ever told you that."

"Hey hey, it's not like we're getting married yet – hold your horses there," Lanie smacked Beckett's arm lightly as she finished the last of her coffee.

"Still, you've got that thing – "

"Playstation. He insists on it being here if he stays the weekends." Lanie said with a hint of disdain in her voice. Beckett chuckled.

"You've got that Playstation here, and he's … I'm just happy you're happy." She said, squeezing the other woman's hand.

"Are you happy?" Lanie asked, and Beckett knew her time for stalling was up. "I heard about the fight that you don't seem to want to talk about, I'm going to guess it wasn't pretty."

Beckett studied her Lanie's face, trying to gauge how much she really knew. She hadn't talked to Castle since that night. They'd stayed outside for a few minutes before he apologised for making a mess in the bullpen and he'd followed her back into the precinct to help her clean it up. It had taken them about twenty minutes, but it had been twenty minutes of pure silence, only broken with the occasional 'Where do you want this to go?' as they replaced the things that had fallen to the ground.

Beckett remembered being jittery the morning after his outburst, wondering if their dynamic at work would change, knowing the things they knew about one another – but he hadn't shown up that morning. Or even the morning after that. By then, the entire precinct had heard about the screaming match they'd had that night, although thankfully they had the decency to refrain from mentioning it. In front of her anyway.

On the third day, she received a text message from him and while it hadn't been ideal, it had calmed her down somewhat.

I'm not avoiding you. Have lots of Heat Rises promo details to deal with. Would rather be at the precinct, but you know how it goes.

She'd sent off a quick reply about understanding and had had no contact from him since then. Before she knew it, she'd gone a whole week without seeing him.

"It wasn't pretty, no."

"Wanna tell me what it was about?"

She hesitated, blew her hair out of her face and began. This was why she was here for after all.

She told Lanie about keeping the break up from him, the text from Josh, the bad mood Castle had been in. Everything. It spilled from her mouth unfiltered, uncensored and it felt really good. She told her about the outburst, the broken glass – storming out, chasing after him.

And then she told her about her confession.

At which point Lanie, who up till then had remained politely silent and understanding, squealed so loudly that Beckett swore the windows were going to shatter.

"No. Freakin'. Way!"

Lanie's eyes were wide in excitement, her fingers digging deep into the couch cushions. Beckett sighed and rolled her eyes. She'd expected this.

"I haven't seen him since then, Lanie. He hasn't called, only texted once, and we don't have a case and I just … I don't know what to do," she finished.

"Oh, homegirl – you're such an adorable idiot," Lanie said as she pulled her into a hug.

"Thanks … I think," Beckett muttered into her friend's shoulder. "It's not even the worst part though."

Lanie let her go and cocked her head to the side enquiringly.

"I dream about him. It's horrible. I dream about him, about our kiss, and then I wake up and it's just so bad – I just … I mean, it's good – the dreams, they're good dreams. It's waking up that's bad. Waking up and facing the fact that he knows how I feel and I don't know how he feels – oh what? Don't look at me like that."

"Honey, you do know how he feels. Don't be silly."

"I know how he feels about me, I don't know how he feels about my feelings about him," she explained lamely. Even to her ears, it sounded ridiculous. He'd told her he would wait forever after all. How else could one interpret that?

"That's bullshit – and by that look on your face, I know you know its bullshit. So what now?"

"I was hoping you could tell me," she answered with an apologetic look on her face.

Beckett knew she'd done the right thing by telling him she wasn't ready. She knew that. She was still sort of fresh out of a break up from a relationship that had lasted longer than most relationships she'd ever been in and it wasn't fair to either one of them for her jump into another one straight away.

"I think the best thing you can do is to figure out where your head is at in relation to that heart of yours and go from there. There's no point in doin' anything when you don't know what you want yet."

"But I know what I want."

"You're kidding me."

"I just don't know when I want it."

"Duh, obviously at night, when you're makin' kissy faces with your pillow thinkin- HEY!"

A cushion flew towards her face and she barely had enough time to deflect it. Beckett was glaring at her, her eyes narrowed and dangerous.

"That information was not meant to be used against me, Doctor Parish."

"So why tell me, Detective Beckett? You know how much I want you and that man together. I've got a lot riding on you two knockin' boots by the end of the year. Just make sure he doesn't change his mind about you, and I'll split my winnings 70-30."

Lanie saw a look of horror cross her friend's face and regretted her choice of words immediately.

"… He won't change his mind, right?" Beckett choked out.

And there it was, Beckett realised. That there was the heart of her problem. She was afraid that he would change his mind about waiting while she was busy trying to get her feelings in check.

"What if he only said it because of the heat of the moment, or adrenaline, whatever? What if he woke up the next day and decided that I'm not … "

"Girl, slow down."

"No, Lanie. He's wanted to leave so many times. That time when he snooped around my mother's files and I told him to leave, he was ready to go then. When I shot Coonan he said he'd leave if I wanted him to. Then I was with Tom, and … it was going to be our last case – and then he left for the Hamptons. And after that, after our first case back together this year if I said I didn't want him back with us, he would have left, Lanie. He's wanted to leave so many times – what if he really does this time?"

She was surprised how she managed to sound so calm. Inside, she was nearly hysterical. The realisation of how many times she'd come close to losing him for good hit her hard and she found herself having trouble breathing.

Lanie noticed this and reached out to her, grasping Beckett's hands. "The point is that he came back."

"Wha-at?"

"All those times he said he wanted to go – he stayed, didn't he?"

Yes, Beckett couldn't refute that. He definitely stayed. He stayed because she said he could. He stayed and watched her back, stayed and pushed and shoved her away from bullets, stayed and watched her push him away, again and again, watched her parade Tom and Josh around the precinct, watched her … oh God.

Castle had told her as much that night, how he'd been content stepping back even if it meant that he had to watch her be happy with someone else, but she never realised how often she did it. How often she'd cruelly shoved her apparent happiness in his face.

"I'm such a heartless bitch, Lanie."

"Don't be so hard on yourself, Kate. He's not totally blameless too," her friend said gently. "But I'm not going to lie, it's been very hard watching him this year. His heart broke every time you mentioned Josh, you know? He comes into the morgue when Josh stops by and just sits on my slab in silence. And you and I both know how hard it is for him to stay quiet."

Lanie took one look at Beckett's expression and backtracked, adding hastily, "But the point is he stayed. And I think he'll wait for you and stay for as long as you want him to."

Beckett nodded and slumped into the softness of the couch. She hadn't realised it at the time, but letting it all out, with someone so ready to listen was exactly what she needed. It was as if some heavy burden had been lifted from her chest and suddenly there was a strange clarity in her world she'd never been able to enjoy before.

Of two things she was sure of now, one being that Lanie was an absolute gem when it came to girl talk, and two, Richard Castle was worth it. So worth it.

Lanie patted her thigh and curled up next to her, resting her head on Beckett's shoulder.

"I really like him," Beckett whispered.

"I know you do."

"He's really sweet some times."

"Yes, you've mentioned that."

"I need to fix this."

"Yes, you do."

"Love you, Lanes."

"Love you too, Kitty Cat"

Their laughs rumbled between them, momentarily enjoying the memories of the younger versions of themselves saying the exact same things to each other after their high school crushes broke their hearts. They stayed like that for a while, silent and curled up together on Lanie's couch.

"Just so you know, I'm not usually like this," Beckett murmured. "Like all I am is a mess of emotions and feelings and insecurity."

Lanie laughed.

"I'm going to put it out there and say it's about damn time you felt insecure about something though, honey. You were making us normal girls feel inadequate with all that self-confidence you're always swimming in. It's good to know that even the great Detective Beckett is susceptible to fits of womanly irrationality."

"I'm glad you find my distress amusing. I knew there was a reason you were my second class best friend."

"Huh. You're lucky I didn't call Castle and let him hear you confessing your undying love for him over the phone."

"You're lucky I didn't call you out on the dirty things you and Esposito were doing here last night – did you think I missed the bra sticking out from under there?" Beckett cocked her head to where she'd spotted the garment earlier.

Lanie blushed furiously, her eyes clenching shut in embarrassment as Beckett burst out in gales of laughter.

"Stupid man. I told him to clean up."

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On the other side of town that same Saturday morning, Richard Castle woke up to the beep of his laptop running out of battery and realised that once again he'd fallen asleep amidst Nikki Heat and her various crime busting adventures.

The last few days had been spent among executive bigwigs at Black Pawn, hashing out promotional details for the latest Nikki Heat novel and it had taken a toll on him. It wasn't as though he didn't appreciate the work that went into it, he did benefit from these events after all, but he had still had the final edits of his book to go through, and not enough time to do them. So for the past week, his days consisted of big meeting rooms and stuffy office chairs, and his evenings were filled with corrections and edits for Heat Rises leaving him with barely enough time in between to get anything to eat.

He'd sent Beckett a short apologetic message the moment he found out he was going to be unable to see her for a few days and had received an equally short reply. The few times he had a gap of time for a call, he spent it talking to Alexis who was knee deep in finals and college applications.

Richard Castle couldn't remember another time when he'd been that busy.

He sat up and stretched, wincing as his back cracked. Oh, he definitely wouldn't be doing that again anytime soon. He grabbed the cord dangling off the edge of his table and plugged it in as the screen winked out into blackness. He hesitated for half a minute, wondering if he should even bother to power the laptop back up, but shrugged as he left it charging and walked away to make himself a cup of coffee.

He picked up his cell phone from the desk, making a note to call Beckett later in the afternoon seeing as how it was the only day in the week when he was relatively meeting-free and finally had the time to do so. He stepped out of his study and made his way to his kitchen.

Alexis must have gotten up early; there already was a pot brewing, and not for the first time he thanked the powers that be for bestowing upon him the most perfect daughter a guy could ever have asked for. He heard the faint sounds of teenage chatter floating from down the hallway and he smiled to himself. And then he heard the voice of a man replying and he nearly choked on his coffee.

What the hell?

A minute of mad scrambling later, he found himself staring at his daughter in all her morning cheer, sharing what looked like his baby photos album with Ryan and Esposito. The three of them turned to him, shared a silent look with one another and burst out in another fit of laughter.

"Oh, c'mon Alexis, seriously?"

"The detectives insisted on waiting until you woke up so I had to entertain them. You were the one who taught me that there is nothing worse than being a bad host to your friends, dad," she shrugged carelessly and got up, replacing the album back on the shelf and walked towards him.

She hugged him and stepped back as she winked. "Good luck, dad."

He could only stare at her retreating back in confusion before his line of sight was blocked by the two detectives.

"Mornin' bro," Esposito drawled out, hands on his hips.

Ryan folded his arms across his chest and grunted, assuming what Castle could only interpret as Ryan's version of the 'tough guy' pose.

Yeah, Ryan couldn't really pull that off.

"What uh … what brings you two here on this fine Saturday morning?"

"Might wanna take a seat for this, Mr. Castle," Ryan said as he gestured to the couch.

Castle blinked.

Mr. Castle? Oh, this can't be good. That, coupled with the very dangerous looks they both were sending his way – scary. It had to be a dream. A sick, twisted dream that he had to quickly wake himself up from … nope, that pinch hurt. Not a dream.

"Uh, I'm fine standing, thanks."

"Haven't seen you around the precinct in a while, bro," Esposito said as he moved to stand closer to Castle. At least he was still calling him 'bro'; he was pretty sure 'bro' was a sign of affection and familiarity and that had to be some sort of a good sign.

"Uh, yeah. I've had Black Pawn business to deal with. I should be good to be back this week though."

The detectives exchanged a look and then narrowed their eyes at him.

"We're not here about that. We're here about The Incident," Ryan made air quotes in the air and leaned forward. "What have you got to say about that, huh, writer-boy?"

Castle sighed. Motives uncovered. Detectives Ryan and Esposito, Beckett's personal saviours and protectors, on a mission to castrate the man who had yelled so unprofessionally at her at the precinct. He grimaced inwardly. To be honest, he was mildly surprised they had waited a week before making the visit. He had to thread carefully here.

"I'm sorry for being unprofessional and for causing a scene?"

His innocent look was obviously failing as the two of them inched closer to him, identical menacing looks on their face. He took a step back and held his hands out in defence.

"Look, I sent Beckett a message! She knows why I've been missing – this isn't like the summer, I swear!"

"Word on the grapevine is that you had words with Beckett. Loud words, Castle. And we don't like it when people have loud words with our boss. And then you don't show for a week, dude, that's low. Even for you." Esposito eyed him warily and sat down on the edge of the couch.

"Yeah, dude. Low."

Castle shot Kevin an exasperated look. "Seriously? I had meetings, you know for my real job? Yes, I might have lost it that night, but we've sorted it out, and Beckett and I are fine, look I'll even text her and ask –"

"NO!" The both jumped up and snatched the phone from his hand.

Castle gaped at them bewildered.

"Uh, she's busy – "

"- with Lanie."

"Doing y'know, girl things."

"Yeah girl things. Don't wanna interrupt them braiding each other's hair or something, do ya, Castle?"

"… Dude, braids?"

"What? When Jenny's sisters come over that's what they do!"

Right. Castle smirked. It clicked. These two were on an unsanctioned 'big brother' visit and it was sweet, really. But if Beckett knew they were trying to fight her fight, they'd be in so much trouble.

"We're fine, Beckett and I. There will be no more shouting at each other, I promise you," he smoothed over.

Castle leaned back against his book case, assessing the two detectives in front of him. They seemed satisfied with his assurances, but still looked as if they had more to say. Esposito especially, his eyes tracking Castle's movements as he would a suspect in interrogation. They both sat down begrudgingly on the couch and Castle settled himself on the chair opposite them.

"Where does Lanie think you are anyway?" Castle asked, trying to divert attention away from himself.

"Basketball. And that's where I was all morning, got it?"

"Sure."

They descended into silence before Esposito gave up his grave expression and grinned at him. "What did you tell her anyway, Castle? Unis on duty said that feelings were discussed. Did you tell her that you want to make babies with her and that you love her and wanna kiss her – "

" – feed her, play with her, love her – "

"I already said that, bro."

"Yes but it deserves repeating, since his skull's so thick."

Castle wrinkled his nose at the two detectives. Sure, now they were teasing him. Before, they looked as if they were on the verge of ripping his manhood out of his pants. He shuddered. Bad imagery. Time for a little payback.

He shrugged and sucked in a deep breath, as if he was preparing to make an important declaration.

"I'm telling you this because you're my friends – but this does not leave the room, okay?"

The two of them leaned forward eagerly hands on their knees, the sides of their heads almost touching. They were such girls for gossip.

"The thing is …" Castle bent forward, whispering scandalously. "Beckett and I …"

He paused for effect.

"Are none of your business."

Castle ran from the room before his words were registered by the other two men.

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A/N: Didn't like it? Yeah, I didn't quite like this either (although I'm hoping you disagree), but its nearly five thousand words in, with about another ten thousand more waiting to be edited and read through, I thought I might see if people respond to this. Updates to this piece should be fairly regular. And let me know if chapters need to be shorter. 'Cause I can work with that :)

In any case, last exam for the semester today! Yay!