Title: The Gravel in Your Guts (3/?)

Author: Spike Speigel

Rating: R

Classification: Castle/Beckett

Disclaimer: My fourth Castle fanfic. As usual, these characters don't belong to me. I'm just taking them for a joyride.

Spoilers: Everything up to and including Knockout is fair game. Also, you don't have to read The Continuing Day by Day or Love Let Her, but these do occur prior to events in this fic.

Summary: Castle's past comes back in the worst way. Luckily, Beckett won't let him face it alone.

Author's Note: Still setting up the plot, but I'm pleased at the Caskett in this chapter since Castle and Beckett are in couple mode. I thought I made it tasteful without neglecting the fact that this is clearly a time of mourning for Castle.


Martha's practically on her before Beckett knows what's happening. The women stand in the doorway to Castle's loft, Martha hugging Beckett tightly, Beckett wincing slightly at the pressure being applied to her still healing wound.

"Martha, I'm sorry. But would you mind?"

Beckett's eyes dart to her chest, Martha taking a moment to realize what Beckett's trying to tell her. Fortunately for Beckett, Martha eventually puts the pieces together before loosening her vice-like grip on Beckett. "Sorry, darling. I was so glad to see you that it completely slipped my mind that you were still recovering."

"It's okay." Beckett looks over Martha's shoulder, hoping to see and not see Castle and Alexis in that order. Her gaze moves back to Martha as she decides to survey the current situation. "Where's Alexis?"

Martha walks back into the living room, Beckett following a few steps behind, closing the door behind her as she answers Beckett's query. "Visiting Ashley. Summer term is over, so those two are spending as much time as possible before he has to go back to Stanford."

"Oh." Beckett chides herself silently for being relieved at the news that Alexis isn't there. However, she knows that she'll have to talk to Castle eventually about their working relationship when she's physically cleared to go back to work. But in the meantime, she's just happy to be in the moment. "And Rick?"

Martha catches the use of her son's first name, grinning slightly as she responds. "Richard is in his study. He's trying to make arrangements to get out to the funeral today."

"He told you." Martha nods as she picks up her coat hanging on the sofa. Beckett knows she shouldn't, but the curiosity about Castle's friend gets the better of her. "So, do you know anything about this friend? Because Castle wouldn't tell me when he left this morning."

Martha notes the change in Beckett's tone, as well as the fact that she uses her son's last name. There was a tell, if ever there was one, Martha thinks to herself. She'd have to remember that the next time Castle got the group together for poker. "I know they were close. She was there for Richard after Kyra left for London. That's all I really know. Sorry."

"No, it's okay." Another woman? Beckett knew about Kyra, and the ex-wives. But was there someone else in between? After all, there was a lull in Castle's published novels after Kyra left him. She'd have to ask him when the moment presented itself. "I'm just worried about him. He seemed so…" Beckett feels the word on the tip of her tongue, but it seems so odd to use it to describe Castle. "Depressed."

Martha nods as she slips into her coat. "Well, dear. His friend is dead."

"I know. But this feels different."

Martha squeezes Beckett's arm before responding. "Well, you could always ask him what's wrong. That's what normal people do when they're in a relationship." Beckett smirks at Martha's use of the word relationship. She was actually in a relationship with Richard Castle. Would wonders never cease? "Also…" Martha moves closer to Beckett, her mouth mere inches from her ear. "You're more than welcome to spend the night here. The walls are very think, if you get my drift."

Beckett's voice matches Martha's whisper, her surprise evident in her tone upon hearing Martha's suggestion. "Martha!"

"Oh, shush. We're all grown-ups here." Martha's eyes dart to the ceiling, her eyes narrow slits as she reconsiders her words. "Well, maybe not Alexis. But she is more mature than Richard. That's got to count for something."

"I'll, uh, take it under advisement."

"I hope so, Kate. It's been a long time since Richard's been this happy."

Beckett's voice softens, her reply honest in its tone. "Yeah, me too."

Martha squeezes Beckett's arm once more before walking back toward the front door. "Well, I'll leave you to it. I'm off to talk to my sculptor."

Beckett turns her body slightly, looking over her shoulder as Martha opens the door. "Sculptor?"

Martha turns back, her hand on the doorknob. "Yes. I'm about to give him a piece of my mind. I commissioned a bust to be made in Chet's likeness, but it looks more like Ricardo Montalban than my darling Chet." Martha sighs softly before continuing. "The school's about ready to open, and the last thing I need is people thinking that the person responsible for the school is the same person that ran Fantasy Island."

"Or killed Kirk's son." Martha gives Beckett a blank look, leading Beckett to expound on her statement. "Star Trek II? The Wrath of Khan?"

Martha rolls her eyes as she speaks. "It's like I'm talking to Richard. Goodbye, dear."

Beckett can't help but grin as Martha closes the door behind her.

Beckett can see Castle sitting on the edge of his desk, his back to her as she walks into his study. She remains silent as she makes her way into the room, listening intently to his conversation on the phone.

"There's nothing closer to Seneca Falls than Syracuse?" Castle looks over his shoulder when he feels the hand on his arm to see Beckett gracing him with a small smile. He returns the smile, sliding over a bit to allow Beckett to sit next to him as he continues his discussion with the person on the other side of the phone. "And the soonest is tomorrow morning out of JFK? Yes. That's fine." Beckett can hear the sullenness in his words as she leans her body against his. "Yes, I'll need a rental car. How long? I guess a week." The timeline garners Beckett's attention as she sits up, looking intently at Castle as he continues to book his flight. "Yes, I'll hold."

Castle presses the button to put the speaker on as he rests it at his side, turning to Beckett once more. "Hey. I didn't hear you come in."

"Martha let me in." Castle nods as he looks down at the phone, even though it's still emitting a cover version of Harry Connick Jr's It Had to Be You. And a particularly terrible one at that. "A week? "

"Yeah. I was going to see if I could help with the investigation."

Beckett sighs, realizing the scope of Castle's words. "Rick, I know she was your friend." Her hand finds its way over his as she continues. "But you're not a cop."

"I know I'm not." Castle's head hangs slightly upon hearing Beckett's words. "But I've helped you. I don't know. I thought that, maybe, I could help whoever's in charge of Carol's murder up there."

Beckett wants to hug him tightly when she hears his words, but decides to restrain herself. Instead, she squeezes his hand as she speaks. "You've helped me more than you know." Castle manages a small smile, but Beckett can see that his friend's death has visibly shaken him. After a moment of silence, other than the Louisiana inspired music filling the room, Beckett finally speaks. "I'm still on medical leave. And, if you're serious about looking into your friend's death, maybe having a cop at your side might open a few doors for you."

Castle shakes his head, his eyes moving to Beckett's chest, lingering there for a moment. Fortunately, Beckett knows that he's not thinking about what type of brassiere she's currently wearing. Instead, she knows that he's thinking about the bullet wound that, even during their lovemaking, he can't help but kiss, as though he's trying to take the pain away. "I can't. What about your physical therapy?"

"I'm pretty much all the way back. There's still some pain, but nothing that my meds can't take care of for a week." Her fingers lift his gaze back to hers so he can see the determination in her eyes. "Please. Let me help you."

Castle's gaze fixes with Beckett's, both looking intently at the other before Castle finally relents. "Okay." Castle's forehead finds respite against Beckett's, his voice a whisper. "Okay. Thank you."

Her voice matches his tone as she responds. "Always." From her position, she can see his lips turn up at the corners of his mouth. This was their word now. Now and forever.

"Hello, Mr. Castle?"

The voice on the other end of the phone stirs Castle and Beckett from their intimate moment, Beckett pulling away from Castle as both share a brief glance before Castle returns to the phone. He holds it between himself and Beckett, answering the woman's question.

"Yes, I'm still here."

"Okay. I've got your flight booked for tomorrow. When you reach Syracuse, there will be a rental car waiting for you. Again, I apologize about not being able to book a hotel room for you, but we currently have no listings for hotels in the Seneca Falls area."

Castle nods, satisfied with the travel agent's expediency. "That's fine. And I can print my ticket out as soon as we're done here?"

"Yes, sir. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

"Actually, there is." Castle looks at Beckett as he continues. "Could you change the reservation for two adults instead of one?"

It takes them almost an hour from Syracuse to get to the motel. And during the entire trip, Castle had remained quiet as he drove through I-90, keeping his eyes on the road while looking for the exit. She had tried to talk to him during the flight, but he seemed preoccupied. Even though Castle was sitting next to her, he felt like he was a million miles away. She tried again during the drive to Seneca Falls, but Castle still remained reserved, uttering a yes or a no whenever applicable to her questions.

So she left it alone. Beckett knew he wasn't trying to ignore her. This was just his way of processing. Most people wear their emotions on their sleeve, but it had taken her three years to figure out Castle. While he seemed flamboyant and outgoing to the person on the street, Beckett knew better. Castle hid his true self away from the rest of the world. She had caught glimpses every once in a while, one of the more recent glimpses occurring after Jerry Tyson left him alive before disappearing to parts unknown. She had asked Castle one simple question. Why had Tyson left him alive? Beckett would never forget Castle's voice when he replied, "To punish me."

And in that moment of raw honesty, Beckett finally realized the type of man Castle really was. He was a man filled with guilt. It had taken her months before she realized that his guilt was entwined with her mother's murder. Castle felt guilty that Coonan died before he had a chance to tell Beckett who had hired him to kill her mother. Later, that guilt would be compounded with the death of Roy Montgomery and Beckett's subsequent shooting.

And now there was this. It had barely been a month since Beckett decided to move her relationship with Castle to the next level. And her time with him had been extraordinary. They still acted like they usually did around one another, their friendly banter still as invigorating as it had been this past year. The only difference now was when they came home, they did so together. They made love until they couldn't move anymore. And when they could muster the strength to move once more, they found themselves in each other's arms, desperately yearning to show the other just how much the other truly meant. It was almost as if they were making up for lost time.

However, it was never just sex between them. Even though there were times Beckett had wished that Castle would be a little more assertive, she realized that he was still treating her as fragile. And rightfully so, since she was still on medical leave. Most of the physical damage was gone, and whatever mental ones were being treated by her mandatory psych visits. But it was her time with Castle that truly made her feel like herself again.

But now there was this.

When they got to the motel, he had taken her bag as well as his own, even though she told him that she more than capable of shouldering the weight. So, when his response was that her boyfriend had everything well in hand, she couldn't help but smile. Richard Castle was her boyfriend. He had been many things to her over the past few years, but boyfriend was something she had never really thought about until she placed the cards on the table when Castle asked her to give up on her mother's murder.

She defiantly asked him what they were to one another. And while he was honest, he was still unsure as to the nature of their relationship. Yes, he didn't want any harm to come to her, but he also didn't know what they were even though they had kissed and almost died frozen in each other's arms. It wasn't until the cemetery that Castle finally realized what she really meant to him. Likewise, it wasn't until after his trip to Dubai that Beckett realized what Castle truly meant to her. And that was the reason why she was currently in a less than hospitable motel room near the border of Prairie Rose, the reservation where Carol Two Trees' life had come to an abrupt end.

So Beckett stood in front of the bed, her suitcase splayed open while she began to unpack her clothes for the funeral later this evening. However, during her unpacking, she could hear Castle in the bathroom struggling with something. Curiosity getting the better of her, she lays her shirt on the bed before moving to the bathroom door. He had left the door slightly ajar, so when she peers in through the narrow slit, she can see Castle with a pair of scissors in his injured hand, grimacing every time he trimmed off a bit of his beard.

When she pushes the door open, her gaze locks with his in the mirror as she moves toward him, Castle frowning slightly as he brings the scissors back to the side of his face. "I just wanted to look more presentable, but my hand doesn't want to cooperate with me."

Beckett places her hands against his bare shoulders, only a towel around his waist separating the two. She gently turns him around in her arms before holding out her hand, palm up, to him. "Here. Let me."

Castle is about to tell her that he's more than capable of shaving his own face, but the look in her eyes tells him everything. She's here to help, for better or for worse. He nods slightly, their hands grazing as he places the scissors in her hand. They look at each other for a brief moment before Beckett's fingers gently grab the tip of his chin, tilting his head to the side so she can begin trimming the beard to a short enough length for a razor.

He closes his eyes, focusing on the sensation of her fingers on his chin as the sound of the scissors opening and closing as it cuts through his facial hair. Castle can hear Beckett breathing in the spaces between the sound of the scissors. It's a relatively new sound for him. The only time he hears it is when she's next to him, usually on her couch or in her bed after their lovemaking. This is the first time he's heard it in this context.

Castle feels the pressure on his chin and tilts his head to the other side, allowing Beckett to continue her ministrations. After a few minutes, he hears the metallic scissors resonate against the porcelain of the sink behind him. When he opens his eyes, he's greeted by Beckett with his can of shaving cream in her hand.

"Thanks. I think I can manage from here."

However, Beckett doesn't respond to his appreciation. Instead, she sprays a small dollop of shaving cream in her hand before lathering the gel in between her palms. Her hands move to either side of his face, moving against his short stubble as the soothing cream covers the pertinent areas. Castle continues to lean against the bathroom sink, tentatively looking at the woman in front of him as she picks up his razor. Beckett runs it under the hot water for a moment before lifting it up to the right side of his face. However, this time, Castle tilts his head to the side without any indication from Beckett and closes his eyes once more.

And once more he focuses on the sound of Beckett's breathing as she moves the blade methodically about his face. He can feel her fingers on the smooth side of his face as she begins to work on his upper lip, eventually moving down to his chin before moving the warm blade down the left side of his face. The faucet runs for one final time as Beckett washes off the remnants of Castle's beard mixed with the shaving foam. When he hears the razor hit the sink, he opens his eyes to a gently smiling Beckett.

Her hand moves along the side of his face, Castle feeling her fingers linger momentarily before she presses her hand against his chest. "There you are."

Castle returns her smile, turning around to see himself in the mirror. "Here I am." His eyes linger on a face he hasn't seen in well over a month. Unfortunately, the smile wanes from Castle's lips as his eyes drop from the mirror, now focusing on the sink in front of him. He can feel Beckett's lips against the top of his shoulder before she speaks.

"Go ahead and shower. I'll get my clothes ready for the funeral in the mean time."


Castle can hear the door shut behind him, Beckett rifling through her suitcase once more for an outfit for the funeral. However, it takes Castle a moment to step away from the sink. Instead, he continues to look down at the sink, unsure of what to do next.