Title: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Summary: Castle helps Beckett clean up after a rough case.

Disclaimer: I don't own most of the characters I write about. If you recognize a name, odds are it isn't mine. But seeing as this is a fanfic website, you probably knew that already.

Thanks again to Sunshiny-Kate, the best beta a writer could ask for!


"Ugh!" Kate yelled out as she threw her apartment door open. "I still can't believe that guy threw paint on me."

"At least you got a confession out of him." Castle said as he followed her in and shut the door behind her.

"Yeah, but everyone was staring at me the whole afternoon. And the smell is starting to make me nauseous." She barked back.

"Well, look on the bright side. You now know that sunshine yellow isn't the best hair color for you."

She turned and gave him a look that he was sure took a few years off his life.

"Look, Castle, I appreciate the escort home, but I really just want to get cleaned up. Please just go."

"Oh no, I am here to help." He held up the bag that she hadn't noticed he was carrying. "While you were in with the suspect, I went out to get some necessities for getting that out of your hair." He grinned at her, trying to lighten her mood.

"I'm a grown woman, Castle. I can wash my own hair. And if I needed help, I wouldn't get it from you."

His smile vanished. He walked to the kitchen and set the bag down on the counter, then turned back to her.

"Beckett, that's oil paint. You aren't going to get it out just by washing your hair with shampoo."

"And how would you know?" She said as she crossed her arms.

"Alexis went through an artistic phase when she was about six. Let's just say the trees she was painting weren't happy ones." He sighed. "She got frustrated when she couldn't get them right, and threw a bit of a tantrum. Unfortunately, she didn't put her paintbrush down first. It took three days and a lot of experimenting to get it all out."

"Well, just tell me what works, and I'll do it."

"There's a lot of steps. It'd be easier if I just-"

"Write them down then." Kate interrupted him. "Just leave the list by the bag. I'll see you tomorrow."

Before he could say anything else she turned and stormed off towards her bedroom, slamming the door behind her. She knew Castle was only trying to help, but she was mad at the world right now. She was tired, the case had been hard to solve, and she smelled like a jar of paint. She felt sticky all over, and she was pretty sure her clothes were ruined. She walked to the closet and kicked her heels off, still surprised that they hadn't been hit by the paint.

She went into the bathroom and began to strip off her bright yellow clothing. Thankfully she was wearing a button down shirt, and so she didn't have to try to pull it over the mess that was her hair. It went into the sink to be dealt with later, and then she shimmied out of her jeans. She held them up in front of her and surveyed the damage. With a sigh, she threw them in the garbage and then decided to let her shirt join them. There was no sense in paying for dry cleaning. She was going to have to get a new bulletproof vest too, but she could worry about that tomorrow. At least she hadn't been wearing her coat when they'd gone in after the paint-slinging murderer.

Figuring it was time to get down to business she went to the shower and leaned in to turn it on. Then she remembered what Castle had said, and thought about the stuff he'd bought to clean her hair. She went back into the bedroom and pulled on a pair of yoga pants before going to the door. She didn't bother with a shirt due to her hair, but she felt weird walking around outside of her bedroom in no pants, even though no one could see in.

She made it halfway to the kitchen before she heard a noise that snapped her into cop mode. She ran to the end table by the couch where she kept one of her extra guns and pulled it out of the drawer. She pulled back the slide to load a round in the chamber and pointed the gun towards the noise. Now that she could see into the kitchen, she realized what she'd heard.

"Castle! What are you doing?"

He looked up, startled by her outburst, then set down the chair he was carrying that she recognized from her dinner table.

"I was trying to find the best seat for you." He said.

"What?"

"For in front of the kitchen sink. I know you said you don't want any help, but there is a ton of paint in your hair. I'm going to clean it for you. Here, in the kitchen. Like I intended all along. So I was trying to find the most comfortable chair for you to sit in."

She didn't know what to say. The slight guilt she'd felt for snapping at him was now growing into full-blown regret. Then she saw him glance down and it hit her that she was standing there only in skintight pants and a bra. She looked down at herself and then back up at Castle. She started to get angry again when she saw that he was staring at her chest, but then she noticed that his face was full of concern, not the lust she expected. She followed his gaze and realized he was focused on her scar. Self-consciousness overwhelmed her and she ran back to her bedroom and slammed the door once again.

She let out a shaky breath that she didn't know she was holding and became aware of the weight of the gun still in her hand. She walked over and set it down on top of her dresser. Her emotions and thoughts were fighting for dominance and the inside of her head sounded like white noise as she tried to sort it all out. A soft knocking at her door pulled her from the jumble.

"Beckett?"

She didn't answer him. She still didn't know what to say.

"Kate?" He said after a few moments of silence. "I'm sorry. About insisting I should help, and about just now, while you were out here. I should have left when you told me too. Give me a few minutes to write everything down, and I'll be gone. I'll call out when I'm leaving, so you'll know it's all clear."

She heard his footsteps fade away. Her mind began racing again. What was wrong with her? They'd been through so much together, including being nearly eaten by a tiger while cuffed to each other, but him washing her hair? That scared her. She'd talked to Dr. Burke about her feelings, and she knew she wanted more, but something was still holding her back. Suddenly, as if someone else were moving her hands, she found herself opening one of the dresser drawers. She took out an oversized tee-shirt that she normally slept in. She carefully pulled it over her head, making sure she didn't touch it to her hair. After what felt like forever, she had it on. Then she headed back to the kitchen with an odd yet satisfying confidence in her step.

"Excuse me, is the hair salon still open?" She said, which caused Castle to look up from the paper he was writing on.

He sat the pen down, stood up, checked his watch, and then he smiled at her.

"It just so happens that we have time for one last customer. Come and sit in my chair of hair repair." He gestured to the chair he had yet to move from in front of the sink.

She laughed and did as she was told. He rolled up his sleeves, took off his watch, and grabbed several bottles from the bag on the counter. When he came and stood next to her she reached out and placed her hand lightly on his arm.

"I'm the one who should be sorry, Castle. And I am. I was upset and I took it out on you. I shouldn't have."

"It's okay, Kate. I know." He flashed that dang smile of his that always made her knees go weak and her stomach tighten in the most delightful way. She removed her hand from where it still lingered on his arm and put it in her lap with its partner. He pulled a brand new towel from the bag and wrapped it around her shoulders. "Okay, first thing we have to use is baby oil." He said as he flipped the top off a bottle.

"Baby oil?" She said skeptically.

"Trust me." He replied simply as he poured some into his hand.

He set the bottle down and began to rub the oil into her hair, starting at the bottom. Every so often he'd replenish his supply, and after several minutes, he'd coated all of her hair in the slimy substance. Then he washed his hands in the other side of the sink.

"Okay, that has to soak for a few minutes. Is it all right if I go get your shampoo and conditioner from your bathroom? I'll have to wash your hair after I do all the treatments."

"All of them? How many are there?"

"Three."

"Oh. Yeah, it's fine. They're in the shower."

"I kind of figured that." He said with a grin before trotting off towards her room.

He retrieved the items quickly, not wanting to intrude on the privacy of her room any longer than he had to. Even in his hurry he took note of the haphazard placement of things in the bathroom. She may be an organized perfectionist at the precinct, but here, where she was free and had no one to impress, things just seemed to end up somewhere, anywhere. The insight into the world of the woman he loved made him smile. She really was full of surprises.

By the time he was back at her side, he figured it had been long enough, and he moved on to the next step.

He began moving his fingers gently across her scalp and down the length of her hair.

"Castle, why are you massaging my head?" She asked a few moments later.

"I have to. That's the next step. Soak, massage, and wipe off. Didn't I tell you to trust me?"

She trusted him with her life. She had on many occasions. But trust wasn't the issue here. What had her worried was how good it felt to have his large hands and tender fingers running through her hair. After a couple more minutes that passed in silence, he grabbed a large pack of highly absorbent towels from the bag and pulled one out. He gently began running it over her hair, over and over until he was satisfied with the amount of oil he'd removed.

He washed his hands again and picked up another bottle.

"What's the next treatment?" She asked curiously.

"Olive oil." He answered.

"Seriously?"

"Seriously."

"Okay." She said with a sigh.

Just like before, he worked until her hair was saturated with the olive oil.

"Want something to drink while we wait for it to soak?" He asked her.

"I'd love some ice water, if you don't mind. I keep some filtered water in the fridge."

"Coming right up."

He got down two glasses and put several ice cubes in each, then filled them with the water from the pitcher. He handed hers to her, and she took a long sip. The cold liquid felt good on her throat, which was a little sore. If she had to guess, she'd bet it was from the paint fumes she'd been breathing since that afternoon. She could have come home right after they'd arrested the suspect, but she wanted to be the one to interrogate him, mainly just because she was pissed at him. She regretted that decision now, but at least Castle was here to help her. Who knows how many times she would have tried washing her hair to get the paint out.

Castle was carefully watching her over the rim of his glass. He wanted to tell her that he thought her scar was healing nicely. And that she was even more stunning than he had ever imagined she would be under all those turtlenecks. And that without her heels, she looked like the perfect height to fit perfectly in a hug with her head just under his chin. But he knew better than to say any of those things. He could tell that she was getting closer to him, and that the time for them to finally be together was nearing. But he hadn't pushed yet, and he wasn't going to now. He sat his glass down and returned to the task at hand.

"Time for the last ingredient before we wash it." He said after he'd massaged the olive oil into her hair and wiped it off.

Kate's eyes widened when he pulled the last container from the bag.

"Turpentine?"

"I'm afraid it's a necessary evil." He frowned and shrugged.

She nodded, and he continued. He poured some of the paint thinner onto one of the cloths and began stroking it over her hair. Sometimes he would stop and hold it over a spot, and she assumed he was doing so because those spots had more paint than the rest. After he was done with that, he used another clean cloth to wipe away as much of the chemical as he could.

"Time to wash now." He said while turning on the water behind her. "I'll probably have to wash it a few times, to get all the oils, turpentine, and paint out. But soon you'll be as good as new."

She didn't answer as he slowly leaned her head back towards the now warm water. He used the sprayer to wet down her hair, then began to lather up the shampoo. It was the best hair washing she'd ever had. His fingers were moving so gently and the warmth of the water felt so good. He rinsed and repeated twice before turning off the water and moving on to the conditioner. Before rinsing it out, he combed her hair with a wide toothed comb. He turned the water back on and rinsed her hair, conditioned and combed once more, then did the final rinse. Before sitting her up, he grabbed another towel and handed it to her.

She stood, flipped her hair over, and wrapped it up in the dry towel. She smiled to herself when she heard him gulp. She knew exactly how high her shirt was going to rise when she bent over, and she'd gotten the exact reaction she hoped for. When she stood back up he had turned away and was cleaning up.

"Castle." She said quietly. "We don't have to do that up now."

He looked at her. She was smiling and there was unmistakable desire burning in her eyes.

"Well, I run a full service hair cleansing facility. Including cleanup. Why don't you go dry your hair and I'll finish this up." She was about to say something, but he kept talking. "It's best if you don't wait for it to air dry."

"If you say so, hair sensei."

They both laughed and she went to her bathroom. A relieved smile spread across her face when she took the towel off her hair and saw nothing but brown. Every trace of the paint was gone. That man really was amazing. It only took her a few minutes to get her hair dry with her super hot hair dryer. She washed her face and debated putting on more makeup, but quickly decided not to. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then she went back out to where Castle was waiting.

When he saw her he smiled and put his finger up in the air, twirling it in a signal for her to spin around. She obliged and he whistled.

"You clean up real nice, Detective."

"Thank you. I had help."

"Are you pleased with the results?"

"Very. In fact, I may get you to do my hair for Ryan and Jenny's wedding next week." She joked.

"After you get the bill for services rendered, you may rethink that." He retorted. She laughed and he smiled. "Speaking of the wedding, are we still going together?"

"I don't have anyone else to go with, so I suppose I'm stuck with you." She said slyly.

"Oh, okay. I see how it is." He crossed his arms. "I'm just a convenience date."

"If the shoes fits, Rick." She replied with a grin.

He licked his lips and saw her eyes watch him do so. She looked back up and they stared at each other for a few moments. He could tell she was even more tired than he was. It'd been a long day and she'd been on an emotional roller coaster ever since she got hit with the paint. He knew they both wanted the same thing, but tonight was not the night for it.

"Well, I'm happy to be your date. Even if it is just for convenience." He sighed and put his hands in his pockets. "I suppose I'll be taking my leave now. It's getting late."

She bit her lip. One word is all it would take, and he would sweep her up and carry her to her bed. One word would lead to a confession of four more words, and it was a confession she was almost ready for. But she knew that he knew she wasn't quite there, and she loved him even more for taking the pressure off of her. It would happen soon, but tonight was not the night for it.

"Thank you again. For my hair." She pointed up as she spoke.

"You're welcome." He said with a smile.

They started walking towards the front door and as he reached for the doorknob she surprised him by grabbing his arm and pulling him into a hug. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. Then he broke away and looked at her, locking blue eyes with brown.

"Your hair smells good."

She laughed.

"Well, if I ever need it washed by someone other than myself again, I'll let you know."

"Sounds good. But how about next time, we do it without the paint?"

He turned and was out the door before she could answer, although he did throw one last glance over his shoulder at her, his eyebrow raised flirtatiously. A smile found it's way across her face and she chuckled. She definitely liked the sound of that.