When Words Escape

And the heart is hard to translate,
It has a language all its own
It talks in tongues and quiet sighs, in prayers and proclamations,
In the grand deeds of great men, and the smallest of gestures,
In short shallow gasps.

-All This and Heaven Too, Florence + the Machine

She came by the loft with crime scene photos. They set up in his office and spent the late hours amassing details, the early hours being ridiculous. When it was too far gone and the sky was tending towards more grey than black, he drained the last of the decaf he'd made and leaned back in the couch.

He fell asleep; she didn't wake him. Just gathered everything up again in silence and quiet, letting the night drop away as the darkling dawn brushed timid color across the city. She stole his yellow legal pad with all their notes and his doodles, stuffed it under her arm as she walked out.

She locked the loft with the spare key, tucked it into her pocket on the elevator ride down. She kept the file and the notepad pressed against her chest and watched the numbers go backwards, then yawned as she stepped out into the lobby.

She made it to the curb without thinking and then her phone buzzed and she slid her long, cold finger against the screen to unlock it, reading the text.

Don't be stupid; come back upstairs.

And so she did.

They sacked out on the couch; no one was left in the loft to surprise them in a few hours, or be surprised, so he stretched out his legs in front of him, feet on the coffee table, and she settled next to him.

She yawned again and curled her hand up against her cheek to keep from drooling. He cupped the back of her skull with a hand too tender, just for a moment, like a good-night kiss, and then he dropped his head back against the couch and closed his eyes, hand falling away.

She watched him a moment longer, then laid her head back down against the cushion. She drew her feet up a little, used her toes to keep the blanket tucked around her legs, let her eyes close.

Sleep well.

She might have said it, she might have only wished to say it.

Early morning body drop. Her hands were chilled to the bone as the rain drizzled outside the car; the heater hadn't kicked in yet. She sat in front of his building, waiting for him to come out. She rubbed at the spot along her ribs, the scar too tight, and winced as her nail caught her skin.

The door opened, bringing with it a rush of cold air. He slammed it quickly shut after him and shivered, bringing his fingers up to the vents.

She dropped her hand to the cupholders and lifted his coffee out, handing it over to him.

He raised an eyebrow but tasted it, a grin cracking his face as he sipped.

She quirked her lips in reply and put the car in drive.

It was the first time she'd gotten him coffee.

Since he'd managed to think like a real cop, she figured she could think like a real writer. Or at least Castle.

She sighed and turned back to the bullpen, shutting the interrogation room door behind her. The uniform outside the door nodded to her and she gave him that terse nod back, then walked towards the murder board.

He stood as she approached, his face carefully blank but his eyes giving it all away. His sigh seemed to echo hers, his hand out as if he might touch her. She dropped to the desktop and stared at the board.

"He confessed?"

She nodded, felt the hitch in her chest as she breathed, the way her lungs wanted to gasp instead. She bowed her head for a second, closed her eyes against it, then stiffened her spine. When she looked up, he was already carefully dismantling the board, the evidence box open on her desk.

She didn't move to help.

She watched as the photograph of the boy's body disappeared into the box, all the involved players - mother, uncle, father, teacher, the student - those photos went inside the box as well. Usually she shouldered the burden alone, put the case notes and photos to rest in the box, symbolically adding her own stress, worry, sadness in there as well.

It worked. It was how she dealt. But he needed this more than she did. He needed it. And so she gave it to him.

She drank her coffee slowly and let him take the time he needed to put it all away.

Remy's was dark and quiet; the rain had returned.

Streaking outside the glass, it made patterns on her skin, her arms looked warped with shadows. She shivered and turned her back on the view of coldness and drizzle, pulled a french fry from his plate and dipped it in his ketchup.

He smirked at her but didn't say anything. He took another bite of his hamburger and she licked the salt from her fingers, tried to avoid looking out the window.

She hated winter cold. Winter itself might be all right if it weren't for the way the wind sawed down into her bones, the way the air itself froze in her lungs, made getting out of bed in the mornings a punishment.

She shivered and took another fry, liking the warmth. Her salad was long gone; she was debating ordering a plate of fries for herself when Castle nudged over his plate and nodded at it.

"Want half?"

She grinned and shrugged at him. Half? She wanted all of them.

"Come on. Salad's not enough for you. We'll get you your own."

She sighed, but he was signalling the waitress. The woman came over with a question on her face and he smiled, gesturing towards the fries.

She pressed her hand to her mouth, her eyes on him, berating him silently.

"She wants some fries too. Can we get another order?"

Their server disappeared with the additional request and reappeared moments later with a huge plate of fries.

He grabbed the glass bottle of ketchup and shook it, then waited while it oozed out and settled into a gap in the fries, down to the plate. She watched him prepare it, watched his wide palm and the long fingers, wondered what they looked like flying across the keyboard. Why had she never stopped to watch him write?

"Here you go."

He capped the bottle and slid it back towards the window, using it to prop up the menus.

She glanced down at the plate of fries, inhaled the scent of oil and potato and seasoning, crispy and tender and heavenly.

She heard him chuckle and opened her eyes to see him regarding her.

"Dig in," he grinned.

She took three in her hand and dipped them lightly in the ketchup, then shoved them into her mouth gracelessly.

She wasn't starving; it was comfort food. Still. She hummed and chewed, licking her fingers, wiping ketchup from her chin with the back of her hand.

He was smiling at her as if pleased with himself.

She wasn't happy about it, but he hadn't left her alone. He'd followed her here. Whatever.

She stepped up to the line, set her shoulders in the Weaver stance, narrowed her eyes at the target, and pulled the trigger.

Again. Again. Center of mass. Just as it should be.

To her right, she could sense him setting up, checking the clip, adjusting his stance. When he fired, she flinched and missed center of mass by a hair. Damn it.

She'd been coming off-hours to the range solely for this reason, and somehow he knew. She didn't know how he knew, but here he was, proving she wasn't all right. Wasn't fine. No matter how many therapy sessions.

She squared her shoulders and took aim again, centering herself, breathing in and out slowly, counting her breaths. She fired again on the out, watched the dead-on shot. Aimed-

He fired and she jerked so badly that she couldn't even pull the trigger.

Damn it.

She set down her piece and clenched her fists, breathing through it. Only he would figure it out, only he would push it-

"Here," he said softly and slid into the box with her, the weapon carefully held. He handled guns better than she expected, every time.

"Stop," she ground out.

"Here." He put her piece back in her hand and raised her arm, his body behind hers, surrounding her. She blinked and turned her head back to the target. When her arm steadied, he backed away, took up his stance right beside her, two hands on the grip.

"What are you-"

He fired and she twitched, one eye closing, heart pounding.

She caught her breath.

"You've got this. No hesitation. Fire it. Now."

She glanced at him, surprise drifting down like snowflakes, light and cold. "What?"

"Fire. On your mark."

Indignation flared in her, set her heart burning. She looked back to the target; he'd shot her target. She narrowed her eyes and gripped the weapon with two hands, prepared herself-

He fired and she fired right after him, gritting her teeth so hard her jaw ached. But she hit center of mass, shredding the already punched hole.

"Again," he demanded, and his body was so close that his hip brushed hers.

She fired before he did, heard - as if from far away - the echo of his own shot in the small box.

"Empty your clip," he said. "Now. Don't stop. You've got this."

He fired at her target; she tasted metal in her mouth, like blood, but she fired cleanly, mostly calmly, felt her control assert itself and take over. The duet of bullets.

She emptied her clip even as he did, felt the stress and edginess melting out of her like snow. She breathed again. For maybe the first time since she'd been shot in the chest, she felt her lungs working without having to think about the in and out of it.

She put her service weapon down and called for the target. He put his own borrowed weapon next to hers, took off his eye protection to look at her. She did the same, her mouth open to say something, but there weren't words.

She didn't know how to say it.

He took the target down and folded it up without looking at it, slipped it into his back pocket.

"Let's go. I think you've got it."

He discharged his clip and carried the pieces back along the corridor to the range master. After a moment, she did the same and followed him, the pain in her chest dissolving.

She brought him coffee again, handed it over when he got in the car. No hurry; he was earlier than she'd expected and the body drop was close. She waited for him to take a sip and smiled.

"Sorry it's so early."

"Pitfalls of the job," he murmured, popping the top off and blowing on his coffee. "Perils of following you down."

Her heart stumbled.

"There. Down there."

She wasn't fooled.

She glanced out the window and traced a line in the condensation that had already developed from the side vent blowing heat across her cheek, steaming the window.

When he opened his mouth and spoke, she never knew what he meant anymore. What she often heard sounded like another language dubbed over his voice, a language she half-knew and feared she'd forgotten in the three months she'd spent alone, a language she was meant to know but couldn't grasp any longer. She understood pieces, felt the meaning sifting down into her. Nothing she could articulate back.

She put the car in gear and drove in silence because anything she might say would be wrong.

She knelt over the body and studied the way the man's hand was twisted under him. Lanie pointed out the bruising and Esposito rehashed his notes, both of them pointedly not looking at each other. She sighed and wished Ryan might say something a little naive, a little stupid, and break the tension.

She used the end of her pen to move aside the man's jacket, nodded to Esposito who immediately wrapped his hand in an evidence baggy and grabbed what looked like airline tickets from the man's inside pocket.

She stood and regarded the room, her eyes finding him through the open doorway as he perused the man's shelves. She came up behind him and he handed her back her coffee. She sipped at it and watched his finger trail the spines.

"Lots of travel guides."

"Hm." He turned to look at her; she found his eyes at the same time. "Oh. Hi."

She smirked and shook her head at the childlike tone in his voice. "Hi. What're you doing in here? Dead guy's back there."

"I'm tired of dead people."

She laughed, thinking it a joke, and then sobered at the look in his eyes. "Okay."

"I might. . .know him."

"You what?" She jerked her head back to the dead guy.

"I might. I don't know. Familiar, you know? Could be nothing."

She let out a small sound and grabbed his elbow. "Maybe you should wait outside?"

"No. It's okay." He gave a shrug, but he didn't look like himself. Something off in his eyes.

She reached out and carefully clasped his hand, squeezing tight, before letting go and heading back to the dead guy. He didn't follow.

She took the drink from him and sipped it slowly. The Old Haunt was crowded and he was working behind the bar, filling orders as they came in. She drifted away at first, looking for a table, then came back as if drawn.

She watched the amber liquid slosh in the bottle as he poured, the dim lights making the alcohol glow. She sipped her drink and let the crowd press her down to one end.

After a few minutes, he came back to her, leaning against the bar on his elbows, his hand reaching for her glass and checking the level - half full still - before settling in. She took her drink back but laid it on the bar so she could face him.

"Need some help back there?"

"Called a guy. He'll be here in ten to relieve me."

"Still. You look slammed."

He grinned softly. "Yeah. Good, huh?"

She quirked her lips and glanced around. "It *is* Friday night."

He nodded as if conceding the point and lifted his head as he the other bartender called to him. "Ah. Be right back."


She finished her drink and snagged an empty spot at a two-person booth in the back, sliding into the bench seat in relief. She tilted her head back and cradled her empty glass against the ragged feeling in her chest where the scar pulsed.

It had, at least, stopped being so tight in the mornings. Instead it felt thick with blood, as if growing larger. It wasn't, but the cold glass felt good.

A hand brushed across her shoulder and she sat up, smiling at him. "Your guy here?"

He nodded and sat down across from her. The booth was a tight fit and his legs framed hers under the table. She felt him shift, but there was no escape. She reached under the table and touched his kneecap; he stopped, giving her an apologetic look.

She shrugged, sat back in the booth, and put her glass on the table. Her knees shifted a little further towards him. Unintentionally. She didn't try to sit up.

"Drink was good?"

She nodded. He'd made up his own concoction; she was his guinea pig.

He didn't keep at it, just watched her for a second, then reached for her glass. "More?"

She shook her head. Alcohol made her drowsy, and a little anchorless, and she wanted to hold on to this feeling instead. Whatever it was. Whatever might be the consequences.

She wanted to touch his knee again but she kept her hands on the table.

"Want something to eat?"

"No. I'm good."

He nodded and watched her still, as if waiting for the other shoe to drop. She didn't have anything else. This was it.

His legs closed around hers, squeezing, and she let her eyes study his face. His knees against her thighs, he leaned forward, hunched over so that his hands could touch. She breathed in easily, out again, watched his face as he brushed his fingers over her knees.

"You look tired."

She felt the way his touch traveled up her thighs and settled in her belly. She found herself sliding down in the seat, pushing her knees towards him. His thumbs dug into the tops of her thighs, his fingers feathering against the backs of her legs.

"Not so tired," she said, her chest aching with something entirely different now.

She expected him to grin, but he didn't. Only cupped the back of her knees and watched her for a moment longer, then released her, sitting back himself.

She found she was disappointed, and didn't know what to do with that.