Notes: You can probably insert this anywhere into season 4 except right after "47 Seconds." If you need someone to blame for this ever seeing the light of day, you can point your finger right at Cora Clavia, and if you want to go read an actual, realistic story, then go read something by her or Jillian Casey or ChezChuckles, who are all so delightfully adept at feeding me huge, raw chunks of fic that I might need to go ahead and quit my day job so I can full-time stalk them like some type of feral, fic-eating leopard.

Disclaimer: If Castle and Beckett were mine, there would be absolutely no need for them to have this conversation.


"We're going to need to bang soon," Castle tells her.

She's just taken her first sip of coffee, and she nearly snorts it right out her nose. "Excuse me?" she sputters. The lingo for what bang means these days clearly has bypassed her.

"Screw," he says.

She must have missed the punch line. There's simply no alternative. She squints up at him.

"Make love. Fornicate. Copulate. Bump boots. Consummate. Fuck. You know. Have sex."

"I'm sorry, are you on drugs right now, Castle?" Her voice sounds remarkably threatening. That's good. She can work with threatening.

He stares at her mournfully. "Sadly, no. Well, unless you count the poppy seeds on my morning bagel. Or the caffeine in the coffee. And I was standing next to a smoker in the cafe, so maybe trace amounts of nicotine."

She tries to glare, but she's fairly certain she's not managing to produce much more than a gaping stare.

"You're looking for an excuse for my appalling behavior." He seems expectant, shifting from foot to foot.

"Yes," she says.

"I was – I was thinking –" he pauses for an instant, takes a breath, a flicker of hesitation and something else, something raw, chasing across his expression, but then it's gone and he's breezing ahead, totally nonchalant. "If I was reading our story – we'd need to bang soon."

She's not going to ask him to explain. She's going to walk over to the murder board, go get herself some water from the break room, move away from her desk as fast as she can. But somehow his words, so appallingly direct, have this steady suck, this traction, and she's already hopelessly mired in them. "Oh, God," she says, carefully keeping her tone steady, "just get it over with." She leans back, tries to project the same slightly skeptical air that she has when he weaves theories about murderers.

"Thought you'd never ask," he says, ever chipper. "We've basically run out of plausible reasons not to. I'm not dating anyone. You're not dating anyone. I love you and I'm pretty sure that you've figured that out by now, even if you don't remember my confession in the cemetery, which, by the way, I really think you might. And if you don't love me I'm fairly positive you're at least close enough to it."

"This is not real life," she murmurs.

Castle plows relentlessly ahead. "If this was a book, we'd need to move it along – get some steamy sex scenes, some horizontal tango, some naked pretzel, if you will, before your audience gets sick of waiting and throws in the towel."

This brings her up short. She blinks. "Oh," she says, throat tighter than it should be. She's going to continue, but the words she wants to say snag in her throat, wind into an embarrassing lump that makes her chest stutter when she tries to breathe around it.

He suddenly tones down, sinking into his chair, the tense lines of his muscles loosening, radiating warmth and gentleness where before there was only the sharp edge of his energy. "The audience, Beckett. Afraid you're stuck with me."

She's sure the unexpected heat in her stomach and rush of cool air through her lungs is just the caffeine hitting her system. Castle's caffeine. "Oh," she breathes again, the noise too much an exhalation of relief. He sees it, she can tell, the way his face brightens, the way the lines around his eyes crinkle into the echo of an understanding smile. She feels herself start to soften in return, but she stops herself, tries and half-succeeds, she thinks, in slowing the smile that's stretching across her lips. The least she can do is fight back a little. "You think your audience is awfully fickle, don't you?"

"Not exactly fickle. Just, you know. Not everyone is as stubborn as me."

"You don't think they'd hang on? Wait to see what would happen? Will they won't they -aren't there countless books built on that tension?"

He tilts his head, mulling over her words. "That's fun, for a while. Until it's not."

"Until it's not."

He leans back, and the slow and measured way he speaks lets her know just how carefully he's choosing his words. "I feel like the joy in reading is in the discovery. It's in characters, sifting through themselves and each other and finding different pieces, and after a while, in a relationship that's –-" he pauses, swallows, forges persistently ahead - "inevitable – you need to shift the playing field. Create new ways that you can rediscover everything again."

"You don't think there's more discoveries to be made?" She angles her chin defiantly.

He shifts, huffing out a slow breath. "I guess – I feel stagnant, now. A happy kind of stagnant. The kind that I could live in for a while. For forever, maybe."

"But not the kind that your readers would put up with," she says. "Nikki and Rook, hopping into bed by page 105 of book one."

He twitches, almost like she's seeing too deeply into his soul. "That might have been a little pre–" He stops, backtracks. "I think they could have held on for a while. A couple of books. Maybe three or four."

She decides it's marginally safer to leave Nikki and Rook out of this. "I never realized how many thoughts you were holding back, Castle," she says.

"Most would disagree, but I really feel that tact is one of my more prevalent characteristics." He grins at her brightly, but his too-sunny smile is underpinned with a ribbon of hesitation and worry that twists up against her chest uncomfortably.

She feels the fight leave her in a great, abrupt rush. "I do remember," she says, not sure how it could possibly become so simple. "I remember everything." His words laced through the cold grass, threading a gossamer net around her, pulling her up, up into a sky that was no longer a hard cobalt but instead a soft and endless mist.

Castle pauses, his energy flattening for the space of a breath. "I put Bailey's in my coffee this morning," he says, matter of fact, confession for a confession.

The laugh that overtakes her is so sudden and unexpected that it goes for far longer than she'd normally allow it. His face creases into a genuine smile, and he reaches forward, rests his fingers on her desk, a whisper away from her forearm.

"I meant it, you know," he says.

"Meant what?" she asks, feeling dizzy, feeling reckless. "The part about banging?"

He backpedals, but gently, radiating relief and tenderness. "The part about love. And your being stuck with me. And my being happy."

His words curl around her, seductive, and the offense she should feel at this entire conversation shears off in the face of something greater, something she can't quite yet shape into words. She glances at her desk. No paperwork that can't wait. She stands, reaches down, tugs up on his sleeve. "Come on," she says.

"Okay," he responds, reflexive. "Where are we going, exactly?"

She feels the churn of lust and dangerousness in her stomach inscribe itself into her smile. She doesn't even try to stop it. "We wouldn't want our audience to lose interest."


Reviews give me the sanity to keep from walking up to my coworkers and telling them we'll need to bang soon.