It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. - Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat
He frowns. She hasn't even looked up. "How did you-"
And then she does look up, all disapproving eyes and furrowed brows. "I can tell when you're staring, Castle. You go quiet."
He leans forward in his chair. "Quiet?"
"I realize it's usually a foreign concept to you, but yes."
He kicks her gently under the desk. "Hey now, that's not fair, I can be quiet."
She raises an eyebrow. "Really, when?"
"Well, I'm usually quiet when you tell me-"
She quirks a lip upward, finishes his thought when he pauses, her voice low, teasing. "Yeah, but not for long."
He leans closer, matching her tone, and waggling his eyebrows. "So it bothers you when I'm quiet? Would you prefer loud?"
The detective leans back, rolling her chair slightly away from the desk, keeping one eye on her partner.
"Not necessarily," she says. "Just...it's creepy. You stop playing with your phone. You stop tapping your feet. You stop rearranging my desk. You just sit there. Quietly."
He shrugs. "Well, it's not my fault you're so...fascinating."
Any other woman would be flattered. However, the steely detective is like no other woman he's met. And yes, maybe a part of her is flattered. But he also suspects that though she knows he's sincere, that's not all there is to the story.
"You're procrastinating again, aren't you?" she asks, leaning back toward him, balancing an elbow on the desk between them and pointing an accusing finger at his chest. "Am I going to be getting another call from Gina?"
What? He sighs. "Another?"
Kate nods. "She called me last week. I don't know why. It's not like I'm your keeper."
One corner of his mouth curls upward involuntarily as he regards her. "Well, you sort of-"
She shakes her head. "I mean, you're a big boy. You can handle yourself."
He opens his mouth, looks at her. Then she smirks and he swallows his retort.
"Anyway, are you dodging her calls again?"
"Yes," he admits grudgingly.
"Are you...blocked?" she asks, looking vaguely worried.
"Nooo," he draws out with a grin. "Plenty of inspiration."
"Then what?" she prods, dropping her hand to the desktop to nudge against his. "Everything okay, Castle?"
He smiles. She's concerned, and it's sweet, even if he's not completely sure if she's more worried about him or about her alter-ego.
"Fine," he assures her, knocking his knuckles lightly against hers. "Everything is fine. More than."
"You sure?" she questions him, letting out a small sigh when he nods.
"Promise," he says. "Just been...busy."
She hums quietly, and her eyes soften just a bit. He loves that look on her. Well, loves every look on her, really. But that one just tugs at his heart.
"You don't have to stay, you know," she offers. "You can go home and write if you want. It's just paperwork from here."
He shakes his head. "No, thanks. I'll stay."
There was a time when he would have taken the opportunity to skip out on paperwork. Because as enthralling as he found the beautiful and savvy detective, even she struggled to liven up the endless process of filling out forms.
But not now. With Alexis off at college, the loft is entirely too empty.
Kate nods, gives him that tight-lipped smile, the one that's laced with not quite concealed gratitude. Odd, since he'll probably distract her so she ends up staying here longer, and anyway, she's the one saving him from an evening alone.
"Proofread for me then?" she requests, sliding a sheet of paper across the desk to him.
He leans back, waves his hands in front of him, grins. "Hey, I never said I'd help with paperwork."
She ignores his outburst, setting a pen on top of the paper.
Castle doesn't pick it up, not until she glares at his silent protest, that look that tells him he'd better step up or go home. It's been a long week, tricky back to back cases, and he knows she must want to go home as soon as possible, relax into a bubble bath and a glass of red wine.
"Fine," he grumbles, and though she's turned back to her computer already, he sees a hint of a smile reflected in the smudged screen. It still makes his heart beat faster.
They work in companionable semi-silence for a while, though she levels him with a stare when he starts tapping his fingers on her desk in a rhythm that distinctly resembles the Can-Can.
The two share an amused glance when Ryan and Esposito - who've been diligently working on their own paperwork - begin arguing over a piece of the case and how it should fit into their reports. It takes a wadded up piece of paper thrown by Castle at Ryan's shoulder and a rubber band expertly launched by Kate at Esposito's head to get the other two detectives back on task.
Another hour passes, the only break for Castle a quick trip to the breakroom for drink refills - water now, since he figures it's already too late for coffee.
When she signs off on the last form (why they still keep paper copies of everything is beyond him) and shuts down her computer, he's already left his seat, pulled on his coat, and is grabbing hers.
She stands, lifting her arms over her head in a languid stretch. He takes the moment to appreciate the sleek lines of her body, the way her shirt clings to her curves, the way her pants emphasize certain assets.
When he glances back up, she's watching him over her shoulder with laughing eyes, one eyebrow arched. He blushes, sees a hint of her tongue pushing through pressed lips. He wants-
"Mind if I put on my coat?" she asks. "It's cold out there."
Her voice jars him from his fantasies and he holds out the thick wool garment, pulling it carefully over her shoulders. She turns toward him, sliding a hand under the collar to arrange her hair.
"Shall we?" he asks, crooking his elbow.
Her shy smile answers him, that pleased little girl smile that never fails to send a flutter through his chest. Sliding her hand through the space and curling her fingers lightly around his forearm, she nods.
"Until tomorrow, gentlemen," he calls, nodding at Ryan and Esposito when they turn to say their farewells.
"Night, boys," she echoes. "Good solve."
Matching grins spread across the two detectives' faces, and the writer has absolutely no doubt about what will come next.
Sure enough, their teammates answer in unison. "Night, Castle, Castle."
Kate rolls her eyes, shakes her head at them, and tugs on his arm, directing him to the elevator.
"They do realize I didn't actually change my name, don't they?" she growls, but there's no heat, no anger in the sound.
Trapping her close to his body with their linked arms as they wait for the metal car, he laughs down at the unwillingly amused expression on her face.
"They're just having a good time," he says, guiding her into the elevator as soon as it arrives. "They've waited a long time for this."
She smiles up at him, adoring, and he feels his heart jump into his throat, tight with the sense of rightness, the wonder of finally.
"They're not the only ones," she murmurs. "Take me home."
Pulling his arm from her grasp to slide it around her waist, he tilts his head, feathers his lips against the shell of her ear. "Gonna put me to work there too?"
She turns and twines her arms around his neck just as the elevator door slides shut. "Mmm, you know it."
He grins, feeling every nerve react as she scrapes her nails along the nape of his neck.
She licks her lips slowly, pushes up on her toes to whisper to him, her whole body pressed to his. "You can start by making me dinner."