Disclaimer: I don't own Castle, Andrew Marlowe does and except for keeping our ship apart he's doing one hell of a job.

AN: I wasn't going to write a Castle fanfic, I was perfectly content to read the writings of others, but I wanted to read this story and unfortunately, no one else was writing it.

AN2: Posting this un-betaed as I don't yet have a Castle-beta at hand, if someone is willing and able to take on the job, give me a shout - might just be this one story, might be I get inspired again, who knows, but it's always good to have a beta at hand, right? Oh, and I live for reviews, btw ;)


It starts out small, nothing really noteworthy. Her name mentioned in passing in some interview, or in some write-up about the upcoming book. The boys sure love teasing her about it – leaving magazines open on her desk, her name circled. Sometimes they casually let a quote slip into their conversation. When they're feeling particularly brave they call her Nikki – by accident of course.

She finds it annoying – at least that's what she keeps telling him. Sometimes it is – when it interferes with her job especially. Not always, though. She'll never admit it in a million years, but she's visited the fan sites – just a couple of times, really – she's not one of those annoying fan girls who aspire to nothing more than having their chests signed by him. She does have a book signed by him, though – hidden away in her book shelf. He hasn't found it yet – part of her wonders what he'll say when he does – and when she imagines his cocky response she contemplates locking it away somewhere. His ego hardly needs inflating.

She hasn't decided yet if she's more flattered or annoyed that he's chosen her as his newest inspiration. As inappropriate as she found his comments and advances when he assisted her on their first case together – part of her couldn't help but get a thrill out of her favorite author lusting after her – not that she'd ever say yes – though she did thoroughly enjoy messing with his head.

If only she'd realized she was merely egging him on…

-x-

Before she knows it they've talked her into doing an interview – well, she'd say talk, but it's more of an order, from the mayor through her captain. She sits at her desk, doing her best to keep her answers polite and to the point – the reporter constantly bringing up what an honor it must be to be to have such a brilliant author shadowing her. She still can't decide if she finds it flattering or irritating. As she watches him doing a photo shoot in the middle of the precinct with two models at his side – both of them doing one hell of a job of undermining the image of women on the force, she bites her lip and settles on the latter.

At the very least the book coming out means his butting in on her crime scenes are coming to an end – right?

-x-

He writes a sex scene about them, well not about them exactly; it's Nikki and Rook – characters marginally based on the two of them – with an added dash of the author's own personal fantasies it seems. She sneaks off to the precinct bathroom to read it – completely humiliated to have him catch her in the act – it only gets even worse when she actually reads the scene. He partially makes up for it with the dedication – but not enough to justify the incessant teasing she has to endure at the 12th.

-x-

Then come the rumors – starting off with the blurb underneath his picture on the New York's Ten Most Eligible Bachelors list. They try their very best to set people straight, but neither the press – nor their friends seem very convinced.

She doesn't know for sure when exactly the paparazzi got their eyes on her, but suddenly there's a stream of pictures of the two of them making their way through the tabloids – each of them perfectly innocent – but together they depict a whole other story. One day it's her hand covering his – a brief moment of comfort after an emotionally draining case. Another time it's him leaning in to whisper something into her ear – what the picture doesn't say, of course, is that a few seconds later she's rolling her eyes at whatever insane theory he's presenting her. Each moment perfectly innocent – taken out of context and presented as something else entirely.

She wonders sometimes how these people can take a string of photographs – sift through them all and see with their own eyes that there's nothing to tell – only to pick out that one shot that insinuates otherwise and sell it off to the highest bidder. Well, being a cop, she can sort of understand the financial motive – she just doesn't understand the need to fabricate news this way – especially on something so… trivial.

He tells her not to let it bother her – reminds her that the press have their way of angling their stories in whatever way they believe will sell better – and there's nothing a common tabloid reader loves more than the love lives of people in the spot light. With an amused grin he leans forward across her desk. When his face is hovering mere inches away from hers, he teasingly points out that this here is exactly why she shouldn't have judged him by his press coverage back when they first met.

It's enough to make her re-evaluate everything she thinks she knows about him – but then again, she can't exactly forget his very colorful police record – and she makes a mental note to one day ask him about the police horse incident.

-x-

She stays with Josh, but the relationship is made harder when a blurry picture makes its way around the web. He's been good so far with the rumors, the insinuations, the never-ending stream of in-the-moment pictures of her and her partner splashed across the tabloids – but he isn't so understanding about this particular grainy image – and she can't really blame him.

She doubts it to be the work of a paparazzi – too pixilated – also it would have been printed in an actual magazine had that been the case – not floating around the web. It looks like it might have been snapped with a cell phone from some distance – most likely a fan stumbling upon them – determined to earn their fame by 'outing' the 'relationship'.

At first she contemplates explaining it; the pretense, the diversion in order to get the drop on Lockwood's guard – but then she'd be lying about that second kiss – the one that she herself initiated. She can pretend to Castle that it was only in the name of undercover – but she can't lie about it to her boyfriend – that wouldn't be fair to him.

She doesn't tell Castle about the break-up.

-x-

If she thought New York was bad, L.A. has it beat. Even in the city of drunken celebrities and new scandals every two minutes they make the tabloids within one day – not the front page – thank God – but it's not exactly a corner mention at the far back, either.

Maybe it's because of the upcoming Nikki Heat movie – it's very possible the paparazzi caught onto their trail as they exited the studio lot.

She knows what it looks like – her own work off the record she's currently neither sporting her badge nor gun – well, her back-up is concealed under her shirt for safety reasons – she isn't a complete idiot, after all. This time she can't blame them for assuming they are on some kind of romantic get-away – though why anyone would think they'd pick L.A. to do it is beyond her…

It also doesn't help that he's managed to talk her into staying with him at the studio sponsored four star suite.

After a long day of chasing leads only to uncover more questions than answers, they do what's become more or less their winding-down routine; spinning theories over take-out or sometimes a glass of wine. Today the wine wins out. As it often does with the two of them, the conversation slowly transitions from work to personal; she opens up about Royce, her now dead mentor – and he manages to stun her with his elegant way with words.

You were the mystery I was never gonna solve. Even now – after spending all this time with you, I'm – I'm still amazed by the depths of your strength, your heart – and your hotness…

She knows he tacked on that last part to coax a smile from her – and it works. It eases some of the impact of the rest of his words, makes it a little less suffocating – the smile still dancing on her lips she's compelled to return the compliment.

You're not so bad yourself, Castle.

It's here that she realizes this might go somewhere – her flight response kicks in and she quickly excuses herself, retreating to the safety of her bedroom. She only makes it past the doors – leaning heavily against them – her heart and brain heavy in battle. She no longer knows why she's still fighting it – Josh is long gone, so is Gina – anyone who cares the slightly about what they do either believes them to already be involved, or to be inevitably headed that way.

Her hand hovers over the door handle, unsure if this really is a good time to give into it having just suffered the loss of a once dear friend – but she can't seem to move away, either. She knows it's just fear that's still keeping her back – most of it irrational. They've had their moments before, stumbled very close to the edge – only to pull back in the nick of time – the moment lost almost as quickly as it appeared.

Finally pressing the handle down she's met with the image of him crossing the threshold of his own room.

Her heart drops as she chalks this up to yet another missed moment – and then he turns around.

-x-

They stand across the room from one another for minutes on – rooted to the spot. Two seconds later – just two mere seconds – and they really would have missed their moment. She will not make the first move – she can't. And she can tell from his eyes that he knows that. Still he stays on his side, giving her one last chance to back out – his eyes the whole time begging her not to.

Minutes later – or maybe it's just seconds – he moves towards her. Not fast, not slow – somewhere in between – his movement firm, his eyes locked on hers. Then she feels his hands cup her face – and his lips crash on hers. Everything that follows is driven by pure instinct – much like that first/second kiss – only now she doesn't have a guard to knock out. She tries to focus on whatever it is that he's doing, but everything – taste, smell, touch – all of it bleeds together in a lustful frenzy.

At some point his hands have found their way underneath her shirt, soon they're stumbling towards one of the bedrooms – she can't even tell which one. It's frantic – almost desperate – but she doesn't regret any part of it. Slow and tender will come later – she doesn't even doubt it. She should have realized he was a snuggler, though – she usually prefers sticking to her side of the bed – but tonight she'll allow it – tonight she sort of needs it.

-x-

What ends up surprising her is that it takes the press a whole four months to realize their 'fictional' romance has become real.


AN: Could be I decide to give it a second chapter later on, but as far as I'm concerned right now, this is a finished piece.