Title: Coordination

Disclaimer: I don't own Castle. I'd love to just get to sit in a room with Terri and Andrew though. Man, to be a fly on that wall while they wrote Cuffed.

Summary: It's an interesting gathering this year for the 12th at the NYPD Picnic.

Author's note: This is just for fun. No spoilers, other than a line for Cuffed. Just an optimistic idea of where they all might be come June.

"Come on, Bro."

"No way." Ryan shook his head and remained staunchly on the bench.

"Come on, you can't just not show up. Partners, remember?"

Ryan scoffed. "Partners? You want me to willingly march us both into that? Seriously? You know we're gonna lose."

Esposito arched an eyebrow and squared his hips, adjusting the NYPD cap on his head. "You have that much faith in our partnership? Thanks, man. Thanks."

"Espo," Ryan sighed, glancing over to his left, where their competition was getting set up. "You know I do, and anything else, I'd be all there, but come on, man. You know we're not gonna win this one."

"He's right, baby," Lanie interjected, walking up and running a hand down Esposito's back. "There's no way you can beat them."

"I'm guessing he hasn't taken no for an answer yet?" Jenny added, plopping back down next to her husband and handing him a hotdog.

Ryan shook his head and took a large bite, smiling up at Esposito. "The women agree."

Esposito scowled at all of them. "You really want to just…let them win?" he asked, incredulous. The other three looked over at the pair across the field, already tied together, as they had been for most of the morning. And they'd won a kickball tournament like that too.

"Face it," Lanie laughed as he finally turned to watch. "You cannot beat that. I don't care how long you boys have been together."

Esposito glowered at them until Beckett raised her head and shot him a smile. Castle, noticing her lack of focus on whatever animated theory he'd been posing about a fancy bit of footwork, looked over as well. His smile was less warm and more challenging.

"No way!" Ryan called, making Esposito jump.

"What, are you scared you'll lose?" Castle taunted wrapping an arm around Beckett's back. The two of them, one in a gray NYPD tee shirt, and the other in an NYPD jersey, made their obnoxiously coordinated way over to the rest of the gang, walking together like it was something they did all the time.

"You know, you're not actually supposed to practice that before the picnic," Lanie said by way of greeting as they came to a stop a few feet from Esposito.

"What?" Beckett asked, looking around.

"That," Lanie said, exasperated, as she pointed to the bandanna that held their legs together. Beckett wasn't in heels today, but it didn't seem to be gumming them up.

"Practice?" the detective repeated. "Seriously?"

"You're trying to tell us that you're that in sync by nature?" Ryan demanded, giving his wife a small smile as she wiped an errant bit of mustard off his cheek.

Castle looked down at Beckett and she gave a small shrug. "Yeah," he offered glibly. He didn't seem proud or gloating, but more…accepting of it, like it was perfectly normal to be able to function with only one independent leg, while his other was attached to his partner.

Esposito let out a disbelieving laugh. "And last week, when the two of you toppled over because Beckett was trying to grab for the phone while you were trying to hand her coffee?"

A small blush ran up Kate's cheek and she averted her eyes from Esposito's assessing glare. That incident had been more about the fact that Castle had almost copped a very full feel than the fact that he'd been leaning over her as she was about to stand up. She felt fingers winding into her ponytail and then there was a light tug as Castle laughed next to her.

"That was my fault," he told Esposito. "Shouldn't sneak up on an armed cop."

"And you learned your lesson," Kate added. Trust Rick to get them out of that little bind. She'd twisted his ear for that one, and then, of course, there had been the touching of other things, which led to an abnormal detente of their 'Precinct Rules' and a heated make-out in the broom cupboard. But, no one else needed to know that, especially since no one but Lanie even suspected that they were together.

And Lanie had no proof. Granted, the fact that they had managed to be tied to each other around the ankle for the greater part of the morning, without injury, was probably giving the good Doctor plenty of ammo.

"But you're really not going to join us?" Castle asked, a slight pout in his voice. She laughed lightly as Ryan adamantly shook his head and Esposito slumped, glaring at his partner.

"Honey milk here doesn't want to," he explained over Jenny's tinkling laughter. She thought the nickname was cute. Ryan, however, was scowling at his partner.

"My dear Detective," Rick grinned, turning to look down at her, his arm settled back over her shoulders. "I think we've just won."

Kate gave a small shrug and look back at the boys with a bored expression. "That's too bad. I was kind of thinking we could try to take down the Vice Four, you know, seeing as they're so proud of that new coffee machine," she said. She brought her gaze back to meet Rick's. "But, I guess we'll just have to settle for the singles."

"Shame," he sighed dramatically. No one liked the "Vice Four," a new crew that had just come into the 12th and thought they were better than everyone. Homicide's coffee wasn't good enough for them, and having a tag-along mystery writer was lame. They were the middle school boys of the Precinct, and both Kate and Rick had actually been hoping to kick their asses back to Sunday.

"Well," Ryan hedged, glancing at Esposito, who looked ready and willing to take on that challenge. "If you want to try the teams race…"

"Great," Rick grinned taking a step back that Kate followed almost absently. "See you at the line in ten? Come on, Beckett, let's see if we can side swipe like this."

She shook her head but allowed him to pull her away, his arm still settled heavily over her shoulders. Here, she had no problems being a bit physical with Rick, and the guise of being tied together had allowed them to stay together all morning. Sure, they got a little flack for it, but even the toughest guys from Robbery and Vice couldn't really deny that she and Castle were the best partners of the 12th. Really, who else could be that coordinated with their partners?

"After the teams, you think we'll get them in the singles?" Rick asked as he drew her over to a clump of trees, idly pointing up at something with his free right hand.

Kate laughed a little at the poor cover, but let him guide her behind a giant oak anyway. "Probably," she smiled, turning her head to look up at him as they rested against the tree. The one issue of being tied together was that they were a bit limited in their interpersonal movement. Never one to step back from a challenge though, Rick was pinning her to the tree in a minute, leg bent at an interesting angle to manage it. "We could undo the bandanna, you know," she teased as his lips found her ear.

"Too much effort," he chuckled before gently tugging at her lobe. She sighed and wound her arms up around his neck, too content to bother with hiding, or reprimanding, or caring about anything other than the blue of the sky, the smell of the grass, and the feel of her boyfriend kissing down to her jaw.

Getting to this point hadn't been easy, and more than once over the past year, both of them had thought about walking away. He actually had, late one night, and it had very nearly broken her, to the point where she'd run out of the apartment, intent on finding him and…she still didn't know what she would have done if he hadn't been there outside of her door, waiting to accidentally trip her.

It was funny, what hospital rooms could do for an angry pair of friends who really should be lovers, but were nearly too screwed up to make it to that. The fall had fractured her arm, and she'd been kept overnight for observation of a possible concussion. And so they'd hissed at each other for hours, unable to yell, but unable to let it go, rehashing everything from that first case together, to her mother's murder, to the unheard, unremembered, but never forgotten "I love you."

He'd accused her of leading him on. She'd accused him of making life decisions for her. He'd called her reckless. She'd called him idiotic. They'd griped and glared and flat out eviscerated each other, until somehow, his lips were on hers and he was climbing into the bed with her. The heart monitor was the only thing that had, honestly, kept them from consummating their relationship in a single hospital bed, both too worn out and needy to care about protocol or propriety. But they'd blushed and he'd worked exceedingly hard to charm that poor nurse into letting him stay after she barged in on them, and then they'd just sat there, squashed next to each other in her hospital bed.

He'd written out a chapter of the next Nikki Heat on her cast. She'd swatted at him, but then he caught her reading it the next morning when she thought he was asleep, and she'd smiled sheepishly. He didn't rib her for it; instead, he rewrote a new chapter over it in a different color everyday until it came off, looking like something out of Marti Gras. Neither cared that much.

After that, it was his bed, or her bed every night. Didn't matter where, but they were always together. They fought, and sometimes, rarely, they slept alone, but something had shifted, and with it, all the baggage they'd thrown out, hissing at each other in her hospital room, had vanished. True, she knew he'd need time to trust her when she told him she remembered, or felt, and she needed time to trust that he wasn't hiding things from her. Those wounds were still fresh, still there, and they needed stability to heal. And, finally, they had the time, the patience, the love, the friendship, and the trust to create that stability.

"What are you thinking about?" he mumbled into her clavicle. Kate sighed and squirmed a little at the feeling, rolling her eyes at his delighted chuckle. "Other than how much you want me."

She scoffed but then squeaked as he muffled the sound with his lips, finally coming in for a kiss. It was surprising, how she remembered just how much she wanted to kiss him after being 'Partners, and only Partners' for the greater part of the day.

"Hmm?" he prompted as they broke apart a minute later.

"Just you," she shrugged with a small smile. She couldn't keep much from him, these days—not the little things, at least. The big stuff, she still had trouble with, but the little, easy gestures of love and happiness? Those poured out of her, to disgustingly large sums on occasion. But he just ate it up.

Like now, as he grinned and pressed a kiss to her nose. "We're gonna kick ass," he offered by way of reply.

She matched his smile and leaned forward to seal her mouth to his. Damn straight.

"You think they're off makin' out somewhere?" Ryan asked, glancing around for some sign of their boss and her shadow-turned-partner-turned-soul mate.

"Definitely," Esposito mumbled around a corn dog.

Lanie rolled her eyes and Jenny laughed. "Do they think they have you guys fooled?" she asked the group.

Lanie nodded emphatically. "Pathetic really," she said, giving Esposito a glance. "I think even we lasted longer."

"Nope," Ryan grinned. "But, to be fair, you guys weren't so obvious before, so it was easier to tell. Them," he gave his wife a little smile. "They've been something since our wedding, but it was only recently that we figured it out."

"How?" Jenny grinned.

"They stole away into the supply closet last week," Esposito chuckled. "Right after they fell over. Rookie mistake."

A whistle blew just as Lanie was about to make a remark, and Beckett and Castle emerged from the woods over on the left of the field. Aside from the smiles, there was no visible evidence of their tryst, though, Beckett had redone her hair.

"Alright, go make us proud," Lanie ordered.

Esposito and Ryan stood and squared their shoulders before marching over to meet Beckett and Castle, who stood at the edge of the racecourse, Castle extending a red bandanna to the boys.

"You think they'll win?" Jenny asked, scooting over to sit next to Lanie. It had taken some time, but Lanie had gotten over herself and found a friend in Jenny, especially because they now had the shared burden of worrying for their boys.

"Oh yeah," Lanie laughed, watching as Vince, Jerome, Leroy, and Smith lined up next to their team. "Those Vice boys've got nothing on our guys. Beckett and Castle will cream 'em, and Javi and Kevin will manage to pull ahead of Leroy and Smith."

"And Beckett and Castle are…what, now?" Jenny asked as the officers, and Castle, at the line bobbed up and down, waiting from the whistle from a surprisingly interested Gates.

She blew and they took off, Beckett and Castle taking an almost shocking lead as they sprinted across the field and hit the finish line, leaving the others with half a field to cross. They called for Javi and Kevin, who did an admirable job of not only getting to the line before anyone after their boss and Partner, but also managed to knock all of the Vice Four to the ground, seemingly by accident. The girls watched as the four high-fived and then Javi and Kevin took off for a victory lap, leaving Castle and Beckett to stand there, watching them.

Lanie noticed the hand Kate held on top of Castle's around her waist. "They're something," she laughed, pointing over at them so Jenny would notice too.

"Took them long enough," the blonde murmured, giving her husband a wave as he and Javi passed by again, flexing for them.

"You're telling me," Lanie sighed, her eyes still fixed on her friend, who was now clambering up onto Castle's back, her arms wrapped around his neck as he took off for the boys. She'd never seen Kate look that free before, laughing, her cheek pressed against Castle's. "But it's been a long time coming."

Jenny nodded thoughtfully, watching as Castle spun them around in circles. They could hear Kate's shrieks across the field. Whatever possessed that woman to climb onto his back was a mystery, but she looked like she was enjoying herself. "She looks happy."

"Yeah," Lanie smiled. "She does."

"He looks…"

"Like he'll propose before the year's out," Lanie grinned, turning to look at her friend.

"Yeah," Jenny laughed. "Maybe a little more?"

"Wanna bet on that?"

Jenny narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips for a moment, glanced at the pair, now lying in a laughing heap on the ground as the boys circled and jeered at them playfully. "You're on. I say February, next year."

"November," Lanie said decisively. "Twenty?"

"Sixty," Jenny grinned, extending a hand.

"It's on, Ryan," Lanie challenged. "Though," she looked back at the field and caught her friend as she and Castle fell into one of their little moments on the grass, her left arm extended above them and held in his as he tried to pry something out of her hand. "We're probably both going to lose."

"Oh, yeah." They whipped around and found Gates leaning against the side of their picnic table. "I give them three months."