Another post-ep for "Eye of the Beholder." Couldn't resist.

Chapter 52: 4x5, Eye of the Beholder 2

The least the NYPD can do is buy you a burger.

Kate's halfway through her burger when she remembers his words from two years ago.

You wanna bite me? You buy me dinner.

Her face gets hot and she hides it behind her milkshake. He doesn't notice; he's busily trying to slurp up the very last dregs of his own shake, entirely too focused, a swipe of ketchup on his cheek, and it's utterly adorable.

It's been a long time since she and Castle did this – just went out for food, no case between them, just to spend time together. They did last year. It was different then. There was a different air, less intense, and even though last year it felt easier, it's better now.

Of course, last year, they were both dating other people.

She's not blind. Not deaf. And not stupid. She can see it in his eyes every day; even if she hadn't heard him whisper I love you, Kate, it's written all over his face these days, in the warmth of his eyes, in every word from Good morning to I'll see you tomorrow.

Her chest still gets tight when she thinks about him kissing Serena. Rationally, she knows he wasn't trying to pursue the gorgeous thief. She knows. Kissing is – well. It seems to be his go-to method for diversion. She knows from experience.

He's good at it.

But this is better. The man across from her, triumphantly slurping down a microscopic trace of chocolate and tucking fries against his teeth to make walrus tusks, makes no sense with some smooth international art thief. He never belonged with her.

He belongs with me.

Kate bites her lip, ducking her head as she smiles at her plate.


Castle's paused with his burger halfway to his mouth, watching her curiously.

She hesitates.

"You, uh - you have ketchup on your face."

They walk back to the precinct together; her car's in the garage, and he seems loathe to leave her just yet. It's still warm for fall, breezy and mild. The kind of evening when lovers should be strolling through parks. Lovers with bright eyes and soft smiles and normal lives.

"Thanks for dinner."

Kate glances at Castle, who's smiling at her. His whole posture seems more relaxed. "Anytime."

"I might take you up on that." He's got that brave little boy look on his face, the way he looks when he hands her coffee. The way he looked when he gave her the Temptation Lane photo.

She's swamped with the sudden urge to wrap her arms around him and not let go.

So she shyly, tentatively slips her hand in his. He flinches in surprise for a moment – this is new – but before she can pull back, pretend it was an accident, he twines his fingers through hers.

They finish the walk back to the precinct in gentle silence. Her heart is full, bursting, pressing up against her chest and drowning out the dull phantom ache that's been following her since a bullet tore her open. His hand is warm.

They stop outside the precinct. She's not ready to let go of his hand just yet; she tugs at him lightly, pulling him back to face her. "You want a ride home?"

He pauses. "No, I think I'll walk. It's a nice night."

Their hands separate, and she lets out a breath. Kate's half-ready to leave, but decides to do one last brave thing.

She stretches on her toes, steadying herself with a hand on his arm, and kisses the corner of his mouth, just shy of his cheek.

When she steps back, Castle's watching her with stunned eyes, his face so full of love and delight that she can't help but smile back at him.

You wanna bite me? You buy me dinner.

She'll save that for at least the second date.