To Kate: II

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

A/N: First things first, I want to say a massive thank you for all the amazing reviews, comments and alerts I got for the first chapter. This seems like a really amazing fandom and I feel quite privileged to be writing in it. I was stunned by the response for this story, especially as it was the first thing I've ever written for the show and written after watching only the first season. So thank you to everyone, I really do appreciate it. On with the second chapter now, which I hope will do the first justice. I'm actually up to about episode eight of season two at present (and falling even more in love with the show as I go), but this was written after watching only the first season so again please put any inaccuracies with what you know down to that. We've seen Alexis's discovery of their relationship, so I thought it might be interesting to have a look at another perspective. You'll notice that some parts correspond to the first chapter – largely I've tried to match the numbers (eight, ten and eleven, if you're wondering) but four here also corresponds with five in the previous chapter (I thought I'd matched the numbers, but when I read back it turned out I hadn't). This is it for this particular story, but I have two more loosely related stories which will be coming your way soon and also a separate story that I'm writing currently. Enjoy, and I'd really love to hear what you think of chapter two.

To Kate

The first time Javier Esposito sees them together, his very first reaction is one of true joy. Not joy for them, exactly. Rather, joy because this time he's really got one up on Kevin Ryan. Beckett and Castle could be the discovery of the century and he could ride on the back of this particular piece of gossip for a very long time. Become infamous as the one who provides the answer to the office poll, even.

Come to think of it, he's pretty sure he's got some money on something that will give him some sort of return, too.

There's something that stops him telling his partner straight away, though.

He's making coffee in the break room when he sees them, using Castle's fancy machine that has actually taken him far too long to learn how to use, although that's something else he hasn't told Ryan. As he raises the mug to his nose and inhales deeply, he glimpses movement in the hallway through the blinds, and his well-trained instincts have him alert instantly. Just in case.

He watches idly as two uniforms march their latest suspect down the hall, back towards the cell where he'll be spending the night. A minute passes, and he finds himself speculating about whether they've got the right man when Beckett steps out of the interrogation room, rakes a hand through her hair and slumps slightly against the wall. Esposito watched the first twenty minutes of her interrogation, and he knows it wasn't an easy task. From her reaction, he presumes that they've got the right man, but not a confession. He's about to turn away and give his boss what little privacy she can expect in the hallway, when Castle follows her out of the interrogation room, door banging carelessly behind him.

Esposito cracks a smile, because subtle is not the word to describe Richard Castle and that means the writer is probably about to clash with Beckett, big time. So like any good detective would, he leans against the counter and settles in to enjoy the show, because Beckett really doesn't seem to be in the mood to put up with Castle's jokes.

When she glances up for long enough to shoot a quick, forced smile in the writer's direction though, something flashes in Esposito's brain. Rooted to the spot, he watches them exchange words he can't make out. Kate's heel starts to thump repeatedly against the wall, and Esposito has worked with her long enough to know that means she's really pissed. Her anger doesn't seem to be directed at Castle though, because she keeps talking. She starts to gesture wildly to make her point, and Esposito hopes Castle knows how to dodge.

He almost drops his mug though, when the writer glances both ways down the corridor, reaches out, catches her hands swiftly in his and lowers them to her side. Checking the corridor again, Castle leans forward and kisses Beckett's cheek quickly before stepping away completely, breaking all contact between them.

And Esposito can do nothing but stare, dumbfounded.

Because even though Kate Beckett is glaring at her pseudo-partner, her expression, her posture and just about everything else has softened dramatically as she listens to whatever Castle is telling her, arms firmly by her side and feet still.

And somehow, even though it's nothing conclusive and nothing that couldn't be chalked down to the writer's over-zealous personality, Esposito knows.

They're not just friends anymore.

But he finds himself taking his coffee back to his desk and keeping his new discovery to himself, because somehow, it feels like it's not his story to tell.

The second time Esposito sees them is a stolen moment towards the end of a poker game.

He's started to notice in hindsight that she's been making excuses not to leave at the same time as everyone else at the end of the night, and he realises now that it's probably because she doesn't leave at all. She'll strike up a conversation with Martha, or Alexis if she's still awake. Esposito also realises that Beckett seems to get along a lot better with Castle's female counterparts than he's ever noticed before. If neither of the women are around when the game wraps up she'll excuse herself to the bathroom, telling him and Ryan not to bother waiting. It's subtle, and until he saw them at the precinct Esposito hadn't thought twice about it.

At their next poker night though, he finds himself watching them carefully and can't help but notice the way that Beckett seems just a little bit more comfortable in her seat than anyone else. They still flirt shamelessly over the table, but no one bats an eyelid because they're Castle and Beckett and that's just what they do.

There's an unusual game towards the end of the night though, where they both fold early. It comes down to a showdown of sorts between Ryan and the Captain, and while Esposito is paying attention and hoping his partner pulls it off, he can't help a glance to his left at a flash of movement.

They're sitting next to one another, and the flash of movement he sees is the red of her sweater as Beckett reaches over to touch Castle's arm. It's a brief touch and her arm is back against the table before Esposito quite registers the movement, but a grin crosses Castle's face and he leans to his left just a little. She reaches forward to grab her beer, and in doing so speaks quietly to the writer. Esposito can see him fight back a laugh before answering her, his words too quiet for anyone else to hear.

It doesn't look like an overly practised movement, and to anyone else it would look like they were merely commenting on the game panning out before them, but there's something in the way that Beckett reached across to get his attention that convinces Esposito otherwise.

Add to that the fact that as they leave, sans Beckett, he spots a jumper thrown casually over the back of the couch that he knows without a doubt belongs to her, and to a detective you've got something resembling proof.

The third time Esposito sees them they are arriving at a crime scene together. Which isn't odd, in itself. They've arrived together plenty of times before, generally because Esposito knows Beckett is worried about the trouble the writer gets into when left to his own devices. So there's nothing unusual about the way he lifts the crime scene tape for her to step under, although the smile of thanks he receives is pushing it slightly.

More, it's the fact that it's a decidedly anti-social time for a crime scene coupled with the decidedly sheepish looks that they try incredibly hard to hide when he asks that suggest to him that maybe they were doing something with their intended night off that isn't quite appropriate to share with present company.

Night in with the family, Castle offers eventually, a few seconds too late for it to be a truly instinctive answer. Really, lying to a detective? Not the way to go. I'm sure Detective Beckett was doing something far more interesting with her night off though, he continues, and Esposito has to remind himself not to laugh.

They call it a private life for a reason Castle, remember, she shoots back smoothly, and the writer laughs loudly in response. A little too loudly, Esposito thinks. Almost like they'd practised the little interaction. Ryan joins them at this point, whining about the fact that he was right in the middle of dinner, and as they move over to Lanie it's all business again.

Esposito doesn't miss the subtle touch of Castle's hand on her back when the writer thinks no one is looking, though. Or the hint of a smile that slips across Beckett's face in response. There's been something distinctly different about the interaction between the pair at recent scenes, he's started to notice. They've always finished one another's sentences and stories, but the awkwardness and tension that always seemed to linger have dispersed.

One might say they had been resolved, Esposito muses for a second, before shaking his head and blaming the anti-social hour once again for the fact that he sounds a little bit too much like a girl.

The scene they are faced is distinctly Beckett-flavoured, and within the space of five minutes Esposito can tell that both Beckett and Castle have lost any lingering resentment over the interruption of... whatever they were doing. He doesn't really want to think about it, if he's perfectly honest.

He gets enough disturbing mental images from the realities of their job. He has no desire to add any more.

He thinks he's happy for them, though.

The fourth time Esposito sees them is also the first time he actually finds them together. He also sees a softer side to Kate Beckett.

The case they're working is one of the worst he's seen in a long while, and as the crime scene unfolds it gets worse and worse. He can see that Castle is having a hard time, disadvantaged as he is without their years of training. Were it a 'normal' crime scene, or at least as normal as you could get when the words crime scene were involved, he knows that they would probably all be ribbing the author, just as they normally do.

He's sticking unnaturally close to Beckett though, so Esposito and Ryan don't get the chance. Not that they would, in a situation like this. Knowing what he thinks he knows though, Esposito almost finds himself expecting Beckett to mock the writer. Just to maintain the status quo.

She doesn't.

Instead, there's a quiet acceptance in her voice as she tells him to go outside and take a moment. He doesn't put up an argument, and it's less than a minute before Beckett quietly excuses herself and heads in exactly the same direction.

As he watches her go, Esposito thinks that he might be in the middle of watching them fall in love.

When he steps outside to put something in the car ten minutes later, they're both sitting on the sidewalk in the dark, knees pulled up awkwardly like a couple of overgrown schoolchildren. They're sitting so close that her shoulder is resting against his, but they're not touching in any way that might suggest there's anything more than friendship present. He has to walk behind them to get to his car, and as he does he hears something he's never heard before.

Rick, Beckett calls softly, and Esposito watches as he turns his head towards her instantly. He's never heard her call him anything other than Castle, and from the reaction he sees he suspects the author himself might not have at work, either.

I'm fine, Becks, he tells her quietly, answering the question she hasn't yet asked. Esposito has heard the nickname more and more often recently, and he now suspects it's a subtle reference to the fact that he too calls her something entirely different when they're at home. Really, he adds, before they sit in silence for a while.

You don't have to go back in there, she tells him eventually, and her voice is lower and more affectionate than Esposito has ever heard. I can make an excuse.

I want to, he tells her earnestly. There's a pause, before he continues. I just... might need a hug later.

You got it, she promises, and Esposito can hear sincerity radiating from her voice. She moves then, standing up and brushing the dirt from her pants before holding a hand out. Ready to go back, Castle? she asks, voice the picture of professionalism as she flashes him what Esposito can only describe as a grin as he takes her hand and stands up.

Ready, Detective, he answers, dropping her hand after little more than a moment. Esposito gives them a friendly wave as he moves from the car back towards the crime scene, and Beckett questions him about the evidence he's just stowed as they all walk upstairs.

The case only gets more horrific from there on in, and Castle is barely keeping it together by the time mid-morning rolls around. He's slumped in the chair next to Kate's desk, paler than Esposito's ever seen him, when Kate switches off her computer, orders him and Ryan to go home, pushes her chair back and says to the writer I'm driving you home.

You look like you can barely stand, Castle, she tells him when he has nothing to say in response, her voice quiet and kind. Let alone drive. No arguments.

No one else even bats an eyelid at the conversation or even at Castle's quiet acceptance, because Beckett's tone is not one to argue with. As he turns in his seat and watches them retreat down the corridor together though, Esposito is glad that they've both found someone to go home with.

The fifth and sixth time Esposito sees them, they're bickering over a case like normal, if you take normal to include flirting over a dead body. Which, with them, he thinks you kind of have to.

But it's the seventh time he sees them that he realises he's paying far too much attention.

They're driving out to question a potential witness, he, Castle and Beckett. Ryan is lying on a beach somewhere with his girlfriend because out of the three of them he's the one most willing to take vacation days, so they take one car. Beckett is driving, despite Esposito's protests to the contrary, and while he was arguing his case Castle had calmly settled himself in the passenger seat.

The fact that Beckett is driving also means that they're listening to Beckett's choice of music. And that's the reason Esposito was really arguing, because everyone knows that he thinks Beckett's choice of music is, quite frankly, shocking, and their journey is considerably less than short. Relegated to the backseat he settles for complaining, well aware of the fact that he sounds like a spoilt brat but knowing it will piss her off even more.

He doesn't get that many chances to do that to Beckett, unlike a certain writer, so he makes full use of them when they do arise.

She's glaring at him through the rear view mirror, and he knows he's about to be on the wrong side of one of her cutting comments when he realises something.

Normally, he's not the only one complaining about her music. Yet glancing to his right, he finds Richard Castle sitting calmly in the passenger seat, tapping his fingers against the window in time with the music that he mocked mercilessly the first time he heard it.

And suddenly Esposito realises. They must be spending far more time together than even he realises for the writer to have grown to tolerate music this bad.

The eighth time Esposito sees them, it's very, very public.

They're subtle at first. Of course they are, it is Beckett.

They're all congregating in a trendy uptown bar to celebrate Ryan's birthday. His girlfriend selected the venue, and it's a million miles away from the bars the detectives tend to favour when they're in need of some strong liquor after a tough case. The place is upscale and sleek, and exactly the type of bar where Esposito expects to find Richard Castle looking quite at home. What surprises him is how Beckett does too, although he suspects that might be due to the company more than the location.

They're both already there when Esposito arrives, a fact which isn't lost on him, sitting at the bar together with drinks in hand. Beckett is facing out towards the room, leaning against the bar and Esposito watches as she surveys the crowd with a hint of caution, detective mode seeming to cling on. He finds it hard to switch off too, so he doesn't blame her. She crosses her legs casually as her eyes continue to scan the room, and Esposito can't help but notice that she definitely doesn't look like a detective tonight. He's only human after all, and it's no secret that his boss is kinda hot. She's wearing a green dress that stops just above her knees and clings to everything, and heels that make her legs go on forever.

Something that is clearly not lost on Richard Castle, either. Sitting beside her, the writer has one arm resting on the bar and rather than survey the room as she does, his eyes are fixed firmly on the detective at his side. He leans forward to whisper something against her ear, and Esposito has to laugh as Beckett smacks him swiftly on the arm without even a glance in his direction. She's smiling though, and a few seconds later they both start to laugh as she finally fixes her gaze on his.

If they weren't so cute it'd be sickening, Esposito thinks.

Their friends and colleagues have started to arrive, and although he speaks to both Castle and Beckett regularly during the evening, Esposito has to focus all his efforts on mocking his partner on his less than manly choice of venue.

It turns out though, that Kate Beckett cannot hold her cocktails. When he finally spots them later in the evening, once most of their mere acquaintances have left and there are few outside their close-knit team left, she's honest-to-God sitting in the writer's lap, arm hooked casually around his neck, laughing. No, giggling.

And Beckett? Does not giggle.

Suddenly, Esposito feels a shove against his arm. Turning to his left, he encounters the diminutive figure of Lanie Parish, glowering at him. Do not make a big deal out of this, she tells him, enunciating her words carefully despite the brightly coloured drink in her hand.

You know? Esposito asks, surprised.

Of course I know, Espo, she shoots back, rolling her eyes. When are you boys gonna figure out that I know everything? Lanie pauses, waving her drink towards the couple for emphasis. But I also know that, aside from being drunk, somehow that girl is out of her mind happy with writer boy, so if you screw this up for her, I'll kill you.

Are we talking about our star-crossed lovers? Ryan joins them now, throwing an arm around both their shoulders and wedging himself in between them. Esposito snorts with laughter.

Very Shakespeare of you, he taunts, unable to resist the open opportunity. Doing wonders for the whole macho cop vibe you got going on. Ryan launches for him, and as Esposito fends off his partner's drunken blows, he forgets again about the couple in front of them.

As they're leaving though, Esposito hears Castle laughing as he tells Beckett that he's taking her home. She's wearing his jacket, having complained about the cold the second they stepped out of the doors, and she simply giggles and leans against the writer in response.

Esposito wonders if they'll deny it in the morning.

The ninth time Esposito sees them together isn't the morning after, or even the day after. Somehow, dead bodies always seem to get in the way. They've been working non-stop on a case for almost three days, and there's been precious little time for anything other than business.

That's not to say that Beckett and Castle haven't flirted over a host of inopportune moments, but really they've been doing that since day one so Esposito's not counting those moments, disturbing as they may be.

It's late afternoon on the third day when they finally catch a break in their case. He and Ryan returned from lunch to an animated writer and a quietly satisfied detective, and they were handed a warrant to pick up their new suspect without even taking their seats. As Beckett and Castle joined them in the elevator, Ryan had sarcastically enquired whether they needed mommy and daddy to babysit them on this particular pick up.

His partner bolts out of the elevator nursing a twisted earlobe courtesy of Beckett as soon as the doors open, but Esposito sticks around long enough to notice the way Castle bumps his shoulder against hers as he grins, presumably in approval of the fact that her tried and tested torture technique has been aimed against someone other than him, for once.

We're going to get lunch, Beckett offers at the door, striding off in the direction of their favourite diner without waiting for an answer or the writer. After a moment of indecision, Castle grins widely and darts off after her with a carelessly shouted goodbye that makes Esposito turn just in time to spot the way that that the writer catches Beckett's hand just as they turn the corner.

Think they'll ever actually tell us? Ryan asks from his side, alerting Esposito to the fact that he's not the only one watching. He shakes his head as they move towards their car.

He doubts it. Big declarations aren't Beckett's style and these days, Castle seems far more willing to stick to her rules.

Stay in the car excluded, of course.

The tenth time Esposito sees them, he's never seen panic like the panic that he sees on Richard Castle's face.

The case they're working has spiralled violently out of control, and as they arrive at a new crime scene accompanied by vice it turns just plain violent. As they walk out of the building once the worst is over, Esposito turns to look at Ryan. He's sporting what will turn out to be a spectacular black eye, but that's the extent of their injuries. The sheer fury in his eyes though, Esposito knows is mirrored in his own.

It always is, when it comes to Beckett.

They work in what's considered a somewhat odd tripartite by the rest of the precinct, he, Ryan and Beckett, but Esposito knows it works, and most days he considers Beckett his partner no less than Ryan. Which means they would protect her to the end.

Except sometimes, they can't.

He curses in Spanish as they prepare themselves to round the corner, and Ryan just shakes his head.

Beckett is leaning awkwardly against the hood of her vehicle as they stride over, one arm cradled against her body. Blood is streaming down her cheek from a nasty looking gash dangerously close to her eye and seeping into her shirt. She's paler than Esposito has ever seen her, and he knows he's seen her at her very worst. He also knows that the real injuries she's just endured probably can't actually be seen.

What says the most though, is the fact that she is not even trying to fend off the man in front of her as he invades her personal space in a way Esposito has never seen before.

He's a man of words, Richard Castle. Verbose and eloquent, even on a bad day and especially when he's angry. As they approach the couple though, all Esposito can hear is a string of swear words falling from his lips and he realises that when it comes to Kate Beckett, fear can render Richard Castle wordless.

Panic and concern are radiating off him in equal measures, and Esposito finds himself reminded yet again that Castle is just a civilian. They all forget, the more he's around, and treat him like a cop. This is the first time he's been exposed to the worst of the violent side of their jobs though, and Esposito realises that right now, Richard Castle is nothing more than a man who's witnessed too much of his girlfriend getting, for want of a better phrase, a beating.

Esposito shares a look of understanding with his partner, before waving Lanie over to them. There's more than one body, but to hell with that. Their own come first.

Beckett, he and Ryan greet as one, coming to a halt at her side. She looks up instantly, and an understanding passes between the three detectives even though they can see that she's dangerously close to losing it. They don't do the touchy feely thing. We got this one, Ryan continues, arm sweeping to indicate the scene behind them.

Thanks boys, she manages quietly, and when Esposito looks closer he can see her shaking. He had been half expecting her to fight them. She has done in the past, and it's part and parcel of the job, much as they hate it, that she's no stranger to being on the wrong side of an aggressive suspect.

He doesn't think he's seen it this bad in a long time, though.

Girl, you know I'm rusty at practising medicine on the living, Lanie chides, stepping easily between the writer and her best friend and leaving no room for argument. Esposito watches Castle let out another curse as he's forced to break contact with Beckett, and start to pace. He can see that the writer's reaction is starting to make Beckett herself panic and so he steps in, gripping the writer by the arm and steering him away, slightly.

You need to calm down, man, he tells him firmly, hating himself even as he says it as Castle turns a wild, panicked gaze on him. You need to calm down so that she can, he adds. Something seems to lodge in Castle's brain though, because he eventually sucks in a deep breath.

Esposito knows better than to offer platitudes to the writer and so they simply stand quietly, Ryan flanking him on Castle's other side. Lanie has positioned herself between Beckett and the men, and Esposito knows it's on purpose. There's a fierce bond between the two women, and Beckett looks decidedly calmer when Lanie steps back and announces that her work is done.

Let her make the next move, Esposito warns Castle quietly, a restraining hand on his arm even as they close the gap separating them from the two women. He has a feeling he might never be forgiven for this particular night, but he hasn't worked with Beckett for years and learnt nothing.

It's a question of control, and he suspects she desperately needs some.

Rick, he hears her speak eventually, her voice shaking almost violently despite her calmer appearance. He and Ryan step back at her use of the writer's first name, together in their desire to give their boss some privacy. They're close enough to hear her ask Castle for a hug though, and it damn near breaks Esposito's heart to hear the pain in her voice because Kate Beckett? Doesn't do vulnerable. He can't begin to imagine what's going through the writer's head, but Esposito watches as his gaze softens instantly at the question and he draws Beckett easily into his arms, like he's done it a thousand times before.

Like the fact that she's never sounded vulnerable like this before just doesn't matter.

Her fingers fist the back of his shirt tightly, and Esposito suspects that she might be crying when one of Castle's hands slides into her hair.

There's blood on the Castle's shirt too when he finally releases her, but their embrace seems to have worked wonders for them both. Beckett's eyes are calmer, if unavoidably red rimmed, and Castle's attention is solely focused on giving the woman in front of him as much comfort as possible. They work, with an ease Esposito hasn't noticed before.

He's heard Kate Beckett say one and done before.

He just didn't know she had found it.

The eleventh time Esposito sees them, Beckett is stepping out of an interrogation room that contains a man charged not only with murder, but also with assaulting two police officers. One of whom happens to be herself.

She's also stepping out of the interrogation room and straight into Richard Castle's arms.

The writer catches her easily, arms snaking around her injured body with an ease that can only come from the sort of intimate relationship Esposito now knows that they share. Her arm has been bandaged up expertly, and Esposito suspects that the writer had something to do with her visiting a doctor at all. She has her good arm wrapped around Castle as if to steady herself, but Esposito can tell that she's shaking.

He's seen the shaking happen after a tough interrogation before, and has always attributed it to adrenaline. This time though, Esposito thinks it might be a strange combination of anger and fear and the fact that there's someone there to hold her.

Whatever Castle is saying to her as they stand there is little more than a bare, unintelligible murmur by the time it reaches Esposito's ears, but it seems to be working. There's a smile on the corner of his lips as he speaks, and Beckett shifts almost imperceptibly closer. The writer tilts his head a little, lips closer to her ear as he continues speaking quietly.

When it becomes clear that she needs more than a moment in Castle's arms, Esposito steps forward with his partner and they form a subconscious barrier between the couple and the rest of the precinct. Esposito's meets the writer's eyes over Beckett's head and they both nod slightly, before Esposito averts his gaze and allows them the privacy they clearly want.

He's never seen Beckett need someone before, but he's glad the first time is Castle.

The next thing Esposito notices is the door to the Captain's office opening. The team turn as one, and Montgomery simply sweeps an arm across his doorway. Castle is the first to move with his arm staying firmly on Beckett's back, and Esposito flanks them with Ryan as they head across the corridor. By the time the door closes behind them Beckett is free from Castle's arms, easing herself into a chair as the writer hovers nearby.

He drops a gentle hand against her shoulder when Montgomery orders nothing more than the rest of the week, Beckett. Esposito watches carefully, but Beckett doesn't even flinch. She drops her head slightly, but nods.

Esposito's never seen her take an order that way before, but before he can consider it further, their Captain is opening his office door again and shepherding he and Ryan outside. Take your time, he tells Beckett.

It's not until the door closes behind them and they're out in the hallway once again that Esposito realises the Captain has left Richard Castle in there with her.

Montgomery's eyes give nothing away, but Esposito knows that none of them can deny the partnership developing before their eyes.

The twelfth time Esposito sees them, he is totally unsurprised to find Beckett answering the door to Richard Castle's loft, battered and bruised and with more than one part of her body still bandaged. It has only been 48 hours since the crime scene that went wrong, and there was no secret surrounding the fact that she had left the Precinct with Castle the previous day. What he is surprised by is the fact that she seems quiet and content, and answers the door with a smile on her face.

As he and Ryan step inside, they share a silent conversation. The topic of Beckett's relationship with the writer has yet to be spoken about explicitly, but she's barefoot and wearing a large hooded sweater that's undeniably his, so they both know she probably couldn't deny it, even if she wanted to.

He knows what we'll do if he hurts you, right? Esposito asks eventually, turning his attention back to Beckett as she fixes them with a slightly amused gaze.

Yeah, I think he's got that, she assures them, and even though she laughs Esposito knows that they all know that there's truth in his words. When Castle walks out of his office and asks what's so funny, they laugh collectively at the hurt look on his face and assure him it's nothing. The writer's hand falls against Beckett's back as he reaches them, pout in full force, and she tilts her head up slightly to look at him.

You joining us? Castle asks her, gesturing to the poker table. She shakes her head, and Esposito follows their gaze to find Alexis sprawled across one of the couches. She waves a hand in greeting before turning back to the array of DVD's in front of her.

Esposito sees the flash of indecision on Castle's face as his gaze flits between the occupants of his loft, and makes a decision. Make it something decent, and we could do movie night, he offers. When Castle had called earlier to invite them for an impromptu poker night, he and Ryan hadn't really said yes out of a desire to play poker. They had said yes to check on Beckett. Movie or poker, it didn't really matter.

You're more of a girl than Beckett is, Espo, so that rules you out of the decision making, Ryan shoots back smoothly, picking up on Esposito's plan without needing to be told as they head into the living room and start to bicker easily with the younger Castle about the best film to watch.

When he turns round to find Beckett standing quietly in the circle of Castle's arms, exactly where they left them, he knows they've made the right choice.

Less than thirty minutes later, he's greeted with a sight that reinforces that even further. Beckett is fast asleep, resting against Castle's shoulder. The younger Castle in turn is also close to sleep, her head resting against Beckett's legs as she continues to lie along the length of the couch.

And suddenly Esposito realises. He's not just watching two people fall in love.

He's watching the creation of a somewhat unconventional family.

Esposito sees the dedication in Castle's latest book somewhere around the twentieth time he sees anything resembling a relationship between the pair. After their movie night they came to a collective, unspoken agreement that the relationship would only be spoken about outside of work.

Poker nights, newly introduced movie nights and drinks after work were fair game, and to give them credit the pair have put up with a remarkable amount of ribbing. At work though, the four were the picture of professionalism and still the homicide team to beat.

It's in the middle of the bullpen however that the writer proudly hands both Esposito and Ryan advanced, signed copies of the book, and Esposito doesn't miss the fact that Beckett determinedly refuses to meet either of their eyes when they automatically turn to the dedication page.

Castle's gaze is on Beckett the whole time though, and even though she doesn't have a copy of the book to hand, Esposito suspects that she probably already knows this particular bit by heart.

The dedication? It's simple.

To Kate.