This is my first foray into Castle ff. Going into a new fandom is always a bit nerve-racking! Anyway, this is just a one-off-for-fun story that popped into my head and refused to leave. I'm still getting used to these characters' voices, but what better way to practice than a little scene or two. Fair warning, I really like Meredith's character. I don't think she's going to be winning any mother-of-the-year awards anytime soon, nor do I wish her to be any sort of competition for our lovely Kate. However, I love their history, their casual relationship we saw in season 1, and I have some ambition to explore that one of these days! That said, she appears here too. Anyway, hope you enjoy this one!

Castle's left hand slides into his pocket to bring his vibrating phone into view. Checking the number, he gives his right a light squeeze, signifying to his partner that he's going to step away to take it. He cuts his eyes to her, watching her soft eyes and shy grin fight to stay on her friend across the booth. Fighting to keep up the pretense of listening to Lanie's story. He knows her attention has been on him since he retrieved his phone and he can feel her focus following his movements. As he slides his hand off of her thigh, he gives one last squeeze. Rubs his thumb back and forth quickly, reassuringly. Watches as her cheeks tint the slightest shade of pink.

His heart swells with pride. Still somewhat amazed that he had convinced her to give them a shot. That her cheeks tint for his motions. That he's finally allowed to touch her in such an intimate way. Well, he concedes, as long as the touching is out of sight of their clueless friends.

Things are still so new between them. Two weeks in and the only people that have any knowledge whatsoever are his family.

They hadn't planned to tell them just yet. After a short discussion, they had decided to take things slowly. Keep things between them for a little while. A test run, she had called it. Time to get used to the new aspects of their relationship.

He knew she was still scared. She had said as much. It wasn't that he wasn't frightened as well - he definitely was. He knew that she held a power to break his heart that few before her had. Despite this, Richard Castle was nothing if not confident. He knew, given the chance, he could prove to her that they were ready for this step. Over the course of their so-far short relationship, he was pretty sure she was starting to agree.

Things had been going all too well - surviving their first fight, (he was too clingy and she needed just a little bit of space), remaining professional and appropriate at the station, (he had surprised her by being impressively mature about the whole "everyone at the precinct doesn't need to know we've seen each other naked" thing), and, well, the whole seeing each other naked thing. That aspect had been mind-blowing. Being partners for close to four years had really proven to be an asset in the bedroom. (In sync and all that.)

It had been two nights ago when Alexis had caught him giving her a, thankfully, fairly innocent goodnight kiss at his door.

Kate had come over for dinner after they had wrapped up a case. After a short discussion, done impressively through nothing but their eyes and a few hidden nods, he had conceded to see her tomorrow at the station. Alexis had started in on the dishes with a playful warning to her father that he would have dish duty the following night, while Castle had insisted on walking Kate out. To help retrieve her jacket, he had said.

After helping her into said jacket, he had pulled her lapels bringing her closer to him. She'd said, "Thank you for dinner, Castle." She'd used that soft tone he had come to know all too well. Flirty and happy. It made him feel much of the same.

He'd grinned pulling her farther into him, wrapping his arms around her back, pulling their lower bodies together but chests apart for the sake of speaking. "My pleasure, Detective. I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Don't forget my coffee." She teased.

He leaned in, brushing his lips against hers gently. "As if. I do value my life, you know."

She teased his lips with her words. "And what a lovely life it is."

He pulled her closer, effectively squeezing her tighter into his embrace. "Certainly been looking up these past few weeks, that's for sure." He kissed her grin then. Just as she had gone in for more, they had heard a none-too-subtle clearing of a throat.

Kate had jumped out of his embrace with impressive speed. "Alexis, hi."

He had been seemingly un-phased, turning towards her with a smile. "Hey, Sweetheart."

"Sorry guys, I was just - " She hesitated and a slow smile crossed her face. Deciding to drop the pretense, she forged ahead. "Grams was right!"

He had just smiled and shrugged innocently. "Right about what?"


He smiled, pulling a pink-faced Kate to his side by her hand. "It's true, Alexis. We need to start collecting goats. She's a keeper." He winked as Kate smacked his shoulder. He turned back to Alexis, happiness coming off of him in waves. So much so that Kate seemed to contract the same inability to wipe the grin off her own face.

Alexis rolled her eyes and lunged into her dad with a hug. "Finally! I'm so happy for you, Dad."

He had turned a warm smile to Kate then, her face an adorable mixture of embarrassment and relief, pulling his arm around her shoulder and dropping a kiss to her head. "I'm pretty happy too, Sweetie."

And his mother, well she claimed to know all along. Something about his bedroom being locked more frequently than usual. Frankly, he shivered at the thought of his mother coming into his bedroom while he was sleeping at all and vowed to lock it every night from now on. Different discussion for a different day.

The Old Haunt is loud this time of night so as he makes his way to the outside, he pulls one hand up to his ear to block out the noise. "Alexis?"

"I'm so sorry, Dad."

His heart drops to his feet. "What happened? Are you okay?" He picks up his pace, pushing through the doors quickly, the noise fading in the background. He glances back, catching Kate's eyes. Needing that connection in case the forthcoming news would shatter him. It must show on his face because her eyes worry between him and the friends in front of her. Debating on following him out.

"Yes. I'm fine. Sorry, it's nothing like that. I'm going out with Ash tonight and well, Mom's in town."

He sighs relieved, throwing a small smile to Kate, watching as she almost imperceptibly sags in relief as well. Then watches as she reluctantly turns back to the conversation at the table, keeping up pretenses. "Meredith? When'd she get in? I didn't know she was visiting this weekend."

"I didn't either. She surprised me tonight. It was good to see her, you know?"

He smiles. "I'm glad."

"I talked to her about Stanford and college in general. She insisted on taking me out to dinner. Wanted to hear all about the other prospects and discuss my LDR. It was fun."


"Long-distance relationship."

He gasps jokingly. "Do not take relationship advice from that woman."

She laughs. "It was good, Dad. I promise."

"Good. So what's this about an apology?"

"I, er, well, Ash is in town this weekend and we wanted to spend some time together, and I know it's crappy timing with Mom in town too, but to be fair I didn't know she was coming in and-"

He cuts her off. "Slow down. Breathe. Your mother will understand."

She sighs. "I know. And she did. That's not the problem."

"Well, what's the problem?"

"She's coming there."


"The Old Haunt. There. She's in a cab as we speak."

"Wha-" His mind starts racing. Crap.

"I'm sorry, Dad."

He sighs. "It's okay. It'll be okay."

"She wanted to, 'see the bar and catch up with your friends'. Probably would have been nice if she told you, but I didn't know what to tell her."

"Not your job, Sweets. She's always had a problem with boundaries."

"You think she'll behave? I don't want her messing up things with-"

"Nonsense. Don't worry about it." He takes a deep breath, glancing inside. He sees Kate watching him with concern, less conspicuously than he knows she'd like. He gives her a reassuring smile. "Kate knows how she is. She'll come, she'll see, she'll leave. No damage done. Don't worry about it. I'll handle it."

"I'm sorry. I just didn't know if you'd want me to tell her - I should have just lied when she asked where you were."

"I don't want you to ever feel like you have to lie to your mother for my sake, you know that Alexis."

She sighs. "Excruciating circumstances?"

"This is not one of those. No harm done. You go and have a good night with Ashley and don't worry about us."

"Thanks, Dad. I love you."

"I love you too. And Alexis?"


He winces. "Don't have too much fun please."

She laughs. "Goodnight, Dad. I'll see you in the morning."

He smiles. "See you in the morning, Pumpkin."

He hangs up and immediately dials Meredith's number. When it goes straight to voicemail, he growls. "Shit."

Sliding his phone back into his pocket, he eyes the streets wearily. Each cab passing a possible suspect. When none stop, he straightens, relived that he has time to warn the others. Kate. He steels himself and heads back inside.

His eyes meet hers immediately and he gives her a grimace. She looks a little concerned and he tries to reassure her with his eyes. He glances to the others and realizes that any attempts to ease her mind will have to be subtle.

As he slides back in the booth, he notices the conversation has ceased and all eyes have turned to him.

"Everything okay?" Kate asks.

He winces. "There's a small situation." He creeps his hand back to Kate's thigh, squeezing, hoping she reads his apology. "We're about to have an uninvited guest I'm afraid."

He feels Kate go still beside him. Holding her breath, he assumes. He doesn't make her wait long. "Meredith came into town to spend some time with Alexis." He pauses and gauges the tables reactions, spending an extra second on Kate's face. She is steeled with a poker face he wouldn't want to go up against in one of his high-stakes games. "Seems she wants to check out the bar. Cornered Alexis into the whereabouts." He grimaces and squeezes her once more underneath the table. "I'm sorry guys."

"Ah." Kevin leans into Jenny. "That's his deep-fried Twinkie."

Before Esposito can chime in as well, Castle cuts them all off. "No. No Twinkies. Alexis' mother. Unpredictable and inconsiderate ex-wife. Descriptors start and end there."

Kevin and Esposito raise their eyebrows at each other at his defensiveness. He notices Lanie taking stock of the still-silent Kate beside him.

He jumps into action and turns to face her himself, pulling up a recognizable grin. "Wanna pretend to be my girlfriend?"

She smirks and rolls her eyes. His heart lightens a bit. "In your dreams, Castle."

He glances around the table, glint in his eye. "Wanna make a run for it?"


"Shit. Too late. Save yourselves!" He squeezes one last time. Serious again. "Again, I'm sorry guys."

"Why do you keep apologizing? This is gonna be fun watching you squirm." Lanie says with a smile.

He groans.

"Richard!" The familiar voice rings out again.

"Pardon me." He sighs and stands. "Meredith, what a surprise."

"Alexis said you were here. I just had to come and see this place for myself. This is the writing bar you bought? Doesn't seem like you can get much writing done in such low light."

He raises his eyebrows, lips thin, annoyance skirting his features. "Always so practical." He steers her away from the table towards the bar. "Let's get you a drink, hm?"

"You don't even have waiters? I mean really, Richard."

Once out of earshot he lays into her. "What the hell are you doing here, Meredith?"

She frowns. "I thought you'd be happy to see me." Goes to grab his jacket, in for a kiss, but he swiftly moves from her reach. "What on earth? Why are you so jumpy?"

"I didn't even know you were in town and you just barge in here, catching us totally off guard-"

"What on earth did I do? I've been here for 2 seconds."

He sighs. "Look Mere, it's just really bad timing. What if I was on a date? You can't just show up places."

"You aren't on a date! Alexis said the whole group was here. I checked first."

He leans against the bar, raising a hand. The bartender scurries towards him quickly. "What would you like Mr. Castle?"

Meredith smiles at the handsome bartender. "Well, you certainly have a great staff here."

Rick rolls his eyes. "Meredith, drink?"

"Vodka tonic with a lime. Can't do sugar tonight, I'm up for a new role next week." She winks at the bartender.

Rick smirks annoyed. "Great. That's settled. Can you just not-"

"Embarrass you?"

He sinks into the bar. "Yes. No stories. Absolutely nothing sexual."

Meredith eyes the table again, recognition dawning. "You're sleeping with her."

"No! Well, yes. But no. It's more than that."

"Oh, look at you all flustered."

"Not exactly a night to remember. Ex-wife showing up and all."

"Rick." He brings his eyes up to hers. "I'll be good. One drink and I'll leave."

He sags in relief. "Thank you."

"How long?"

"New. Very new. Fragile."

"Hmm." She looks back to the table again.

Rick straightens. "Ah-ah-ah. Stop that. Not so obvious!"

Her eyes widen giddily. "A secret?"

He nods tiredly. Hand running down his face. "Please, Meredith. You're a reasonable woman. Don't make this more uncomfortable for her than it already is. I beg you."

"She's very pretty."


"Hmm." She studies him and he rolls his eyes. The drink appears in front of her. "Shall we?"

"I'm begging you-" He pleads again.

She points to herself. "Actress remember?" He grimaces. "Oh, have a little faith. Let's go."

He rolls his head back to his shoulders, popping his neck. Searches out for Kate's eyes. She seems to be laughing at something Lanie has said. He sort of hopes it's at his expense. He deserves it a little. He's got her attention though. She flicks her eyes up towards them as they start to walk back to the table. His eyes pleading. Hers seem thankfully soft. Unworried. He hopes she's right.

Always the gentleman, he pulls a chair up for Meredith. "Jenny, Lanie, this Meredith, Alexis' mother." He gestures around the table. "This is Jenny, Kevin's wife. And you remember Kevin, Javier, and this is Lanie, our resident medical examiner extraordinaire." Lanie lights up at the praise. Meredith looks a bit put off but hides it well. She's never enjoyed the whole blood and guts aspect of his stories. "And you remember Kate, my partner."

Meredith eyes Kate a little longer than he would have liked, but Kate just smiles politely. "Nice to see you again, Meredith."

"And you, Kate." He blanches as Meredith winks at her. He calms a bit when no one seems to notice and quickly slides into the booth, leg pressed against Kate's. His hand lingers between them. He almost sighs in relief when he feel her fingers curl around his.

"Very nice to see you all. Thank you for having me despite my dropping in unannounced." She has the grace to smile a bit ruefully.

Jenny leans in excited. "So Kevin tells me you're an actress out in LA."

Meredith looks falsely humbled. "Oh, well, I certainly try my hand at it here and there."

"That's so fascinating! I always wanted to be an actress," Jenny awes.

"What do you do?" Castle watches on with baited breath. His ex-wife is being surprisingly well-behaved.

"Oh, I'm a school teacher."

Meredith grins and raises her drink. "Ah, much more noble of a profession."

Jenny smiles and Kevin wraps his arm around her proudly.

"Well, thank you. I definitely enjoy it."

Everyone takes a sip from their drink as the conversation dwindles. Rick squeezes Kate's hand.

"So what are we celebrating tonight?" Meredith asks with a smile.

"No occasion really," Rick answers. "Just a rare Friday night we aren't on call."

She raises her eyebrows. "Look at you, 'being on call'. Sounds suspiciously professional, Richard."

Rick shifts uncomfortably. Grins sheepishly. "Ah, well these guys aren't on call. I just follow their lead."

Esposito smirks. "Beckett's lead really."

Kevin chuckles and she shoots them both an evil-eye.

Meredith grins knowingly.

Kate relaxes a bit and bumps her shoulder against his teasingly. "He's fairly easy once you train him."

Meredith laughs out loud then. "Don't I know it."

Castle pouts as the table laughs, this time definitely at his expense. He looks between Kate and Meredith, secretly pleased they seem to be getting along.

"So I hear you talked to Alexis about her 'LDR'." Rick says to Meredith with raised eyebrows, a little desperate to change the subject.

Lanie grimaces. "Oh, those are the worst."

"What the hell is a LDR?" Esposito asks.

"That's what I said," Castle laughs. "Long distance relationship. Her and Ashley. With him at Stanford things have been, well, a little rough for her."

Jenny frowns sympathetically. "Poor thing. My cousin and her husband spent three years in one of those."

"Sounds like it turned out okay though, right?"

Jenny nods and smiles. "Married fours years now. They are a true testament to my belief that if it's meant to be, things will work out, despite the hurdles and hard times. Now they're expecting kid number two in May."

Castle gives a look of appreciation. "I'll have to tell Alexis. Give her a little hope."

Meredith smirks. "She's not had the best examples of success in that department. Richard and I were in a long-distance relationship once."


"What? Oh Rick really, it's not like it's a secret we were married once." She chastises him and then leans in to the rest of the table. "I got a role in Los Angeles. And, well, there's no taking Richard out of New York."

Castle shifts uncomfortably. Focuses on Kate's hand in his. Bites his lip to keep himself from interjecting his version into the conversation.

"It worked for a few months," Meredith continues. "But LDRs are really difficult. Especially for people like us-"

Castle clears his throat as a warning. Meredith smirks and rolls her eyes continuing. "Big social lives. Jobs that required us to mingle."

Castle sighs, resigned. "Long story short, Alexis was too young to even remember, so hopefully we didn't scar her outlook too much. Besides, last I heard, they've been doing great, so I'm optimistic."

"Guys in college right? I don't know Castle -" Esposito says, leading. "I remember my first year of college." He goes off somewhere pleasant then, only to be abruptly brought back when Lanie smacks him with the back of her hand. He corrects with an innocent smile. "Distant memory."

Jenny chimes in. "I think it's cute. I know lots of high school sweethearts that made it."

"I agree." Kevin chimes in with a smile, pulling his wife closer.

"Of course you do, Honey-milk," Esposito faux-whispers into his drink. Castle laughs and raises his eyebrow to a pink-faced Kevin.

Kate rolls her eyes with a smile. "Besides, Ashley is a good kid. Studious. You don't exactly go to Stanford for the keg parties."

"That's what I said. Besides, I think it'd be great for her to come to California more often. Purely selfish reasons there though." Meredith smiles. "Told her they could come stay with me for a weekend."

"Separate rooms," Castle adds, serious.

Everyone seems to laugh at that. Castle grimaces.

"Oh really, Richard. So over-protective sometimes. I am her mother, you know."

He groans. "That's what scares me."

She smirks, shaking her head at the insinuation.

Castle smiles, feeling a little victorious at his jab. "Well personally, I think they've got a good shot. I'm not sure if that's just wishful thinking on my part but at the moment, I don't want to analyze." He raises his glass in his left hand with a secret smile. Squeezing his right meaningfully. "To making it."

"I'll cheers to that," Lanie says with a grin, eyeing Kate's pink cheeks.

Everyone lifts their glasses. "Cheers!"

Castle dares a glance in Kate's direction and gives a small wink. She rolls her eyes a little with a wide smile.

"Well I must say Richard, they sure know how to pour a drink around here. I can see why you like it. However, I'm afraid I'm going to have to say goodnight."

"Leaving so soon?" Jenny asks earnestly.

"Oh, I'm sure she's exhausted. You just flew in tonight?" He gives her a significant look.

She smirks. "Yes. I'm actually quite exhausted really. But I couldn't come into town without seeing this bar Richard kept going on about." Meredith finishes her drink and sets the glass down on the table. "Now I'm going to go get that handsome bartender of yours to call me a cab." She winks at Rick and he rolls his eyes, un-phased. "I'll see you back at the loft."

Castle nods, relieved. "See you, Meredith."

She nods to the rest of the table. "Nice to see you all again."

They respond in kind as she heads to the bar. A weight lifts from his shoulders as he watches her go. He takes a sip of his drink as he takes stock of how his body finally relieves itself a bit of the tight stress. Too wound up. Somewhat surprised they had come out unscathed. That Kate still sits beside him holding his hand tightly.

Lanie speaks up first. "So, your ex-wife is staying at the loft?" He can't help but notice she keeps glancing in Kate's direction.

It definitely hits a nerve and his grin falters. He responds a little defensively. "No. Alexis' mother is." Lanie holds her hands up in silent surrender. Esposito raises his eyebrows. He feels Kate squeeze his hand. Rubs her thumb across the bridge of his. It's comforting. He grimaces apologetically. "Alexis hardly gets to see her mother as is. The loft has a guest room that she uses. Allows them to spend more time together." He sighs. "Sorry."

Lanie shakes her head and glances to Kate with a concerned frown.

Castle takes a quick drink, looking to break the tension. "Anyone up for pool? Darts?"

Jenny and Kevin look at each other in agreement. Kevin pulls out his wallet. "Actually, hate to say it, but we need to be heading out. Jenny's parents are in town and we have an early breakfast with them in the morning." He starts to pull a few bills from his wallet.

Castle reaches his hand out in a stopping motion. "Tonight's on me, guys."

Kevin hesitates.

"Least I can do. Unexpected guest and all." He motions his head towards the door as Meredith leaves with a wave.

Jenny shrugs. "Well, I liked her. It's really a shame you two didn't work out."

All heads turn towards her then. She sinks a little, feeling a bit chastised by the traitorous accusations on their faces.

"Oh-kay." She says slowly. "I must be missing something."

Kevin jumps in with a secret smile. "No, not missing anything, Sweetie." He nods to Castle with an embarrassed grin, putting his wallet away. "Thanks man."

Castle raises his eyebrows as Lanie, Esposito, and Ryan exchange subtle glances. He feels Kate shift to his right. He glances at Lanie, who is grinning knowingly at Kate. Esposito nudges her, trying to hide his own smile.

Kate releases his hand abruptly and he hears her breathing change as if she's realizing something. Rick watches confused as she brushes her hair from her face self-consciously. Slanting her eyes in a familiar detective gaze as she takes in the three friends barely holding in their glee. She shakes her head disbelieving, lips pursed in a smile. "How long have you guys known?"

Castle starts, realizing the implication. He turns towards her quickly. He hears laughter from the three in his peripheral. She meets his eyes for a second, returning them to her friends with a blush on her face. "They know, Castle."

He frowns. "What? How-"

"Know what, Sweetie?" Lanie asks all-too innocently behind her smile.

Kate rolls her eyes. Kevin and Esposito fist bump silently beside each other.

Kate shakes her head. "You're really going to make us say it then?"

Jenny is genuinely confused. "Say what?"

Castle's own smile starts to appear. Kate looks at him again, conversing with her eyes. Castle nods towards their friends, raising his eyebrow.

Kate lets out a breath. "Fine." She elbows Castle's arm, motioning to him without further touching or even a glance in his direction. Castle smirks at her shyness. She hesitates, finding the right words. She spits them out quickly. "We're together. Happy?"

Lanie's face fills with feigned shock. Esposito and Ryan grin happily at her, proud almost. Castle figures they were probably the ones to actually crack this case.

"Wow. I did not see that coming." Jenny awes, genuinely shocked.

Castle laughs. "Me either."

Lanie smiles at her friend. Eyes filled with questions. Kate reads what she's willing to answer. "Two weeks."

"Fifteen days actually." Castle's arm reaches out to put his hand back on place on Kate's thigh. Lanie notices and raises her eyebrows. To Kate's credit, she doesn't move away.

"How'd you guys know?" Kate asks in disbelief.

Kevin points between himself and Esposito proudly. "Detectives." Esposito nods, now eyeing Castle with a hint of warning. Castle bristles under his gaze and Kate grins as she catches it.

"And I'm just that good," Lanie adds proudly.

"We were going to tell you guys once it became official," Kate explains, exasperated by her friends' unspoken questions.

"It's not official?" Lanie raises her eyebrows.

Kate narrows her eyes under the scrutiny. Castle jumps in. "We're taking things slow." He gasps as Kate elbows his side, signifying him to stop talking. "Ow."

"Girl, we got some talking to do." Her eyes cut to Castle. An unspoken warning. "On that note, we'll be heading out too."

Kate shakes her head. "I can't believe you guys figured it out."

They all shrug. Jenny speaks up. "In all fairness, I didn't."

"My first clue was that your hands have been suspiciously under the table since Meredith came in." Lanie pointedly looks towards them.

At this, Kate grimaces and watches as Castle guiltily pulls his hand up to the table.

"And that toast. Sweet, Castle." Lanie smirks with a wink.

Esposito nods to Castle. "And he's not exactly a hard-read. You should have seen his face when Meredith winked at you."

"It's true. You really need to work on your subtlety dude." Kevin chimes in.

Castle smirks at them sarcastically. "Thanks guys." He turns to Kate. "Sorry babe."

"Castle!" She shrieks embarrassed.

Castle looks genuinely confused at the four smiling faces across from him. "What did I do now?"

Lanie smiles. "Now that's just adorable."

Kate glowers. "Weren't you guys leaving?"

Kevin and Esposito tuck in their grins. Lanie does no such thing. "Look at those cheeks all pink."

"Isn't it adorable?" Castle smiles proudly.

The look darkens. Lanie raises her hands. "Okay, okay. We're leaving." The four stand up to leave, all smiles. Lanie turns back to Kate with a finger pointed at her. "I'm calling you tomorrow."

Kate tries to hide her grin under slanted eyes. Sighs resignedly. "I'd expect nothing less."

"See you two later!" Kevin wraps his arm across Jenny's shoulders.

Jenny smiles at them. "Congratulations you two."

Castle grins widely and Kate gives a polite smile.

Esposito wraps his arm around Lanie and nods to them as the four exit the bar.

Kate relaxes as they leave. Leans into him, resting her head on his shoulder. Takes a deep breath. "So, they know."

He raises his hand up to her hair, brushing through it gently. "Sorry about that." He grins. "They seemed happy about it at least."

"Of course they did. They've been rooting on this for a long time now."

Castle raises his eyebrows surprised. "Really?"

"Oh come on, Castle. Of course they have."

"You know," he starts, tucking her hair behind her ear. "I have too."

Kate burrows into his shoulder further, resting her hand on his leg. He can feel her cheeks tighten and knows she's smiling. "Oh have you now?" She asks innocently.

"Um, hm." He affirms with a smile of his own.

She raises her head to peck him on the mouth quickly. "You know, sometimes you're really sweet, Castle."

"Sometimes?" He feigns insult and she grins back into his shoulder.

He softens a little then. "Sorry about tonight. Meredith showing up."

She shrugs. "Could have been worse I suppose. I think you were more freaked than I was."

He smiles. "You handled it well. I know it was an awkward situation."

"Eh, she's Alexis' mom. She'll be around. I can deal. She's really not that bad."

He scoffs. "She was miraculously on her best behavior tonight." He sighs. "Is it okay that she's staying at the loft? I mean, if it makes you uncomfortable at all-"

"Believe it or not Castle, I trust you."

He grins widely. He had genuinely hoped that was the case, but the confirmation tightens his chest with happiness to the brim. "Yeah?"

She squeezes his leg affectionately. "Yeah. Besides, I was kinda hoping you'd come to my place tonight." He grins in her hair. "You know, to give Alexis and Meredith some quality mother, daughter time of course."

"Oh, of course. Very thoughtful of you, Detective." He pulls her closer, throat filling up with things he wishes he could say. Instead, he kisses the top of her head silently. "You ready?"

She raises her head tiredly, finding his hand and clasping it in hers. "Yeah." She smiles at him affectionately. "Let's go."