Happy Birthday to jenlovesbones :) And in true Twitter family tradition, here's a fic for you! It's set in the upcoming episode, 4x21, Headhunters, but holds no spoilers outside of what you see in the promo. Hope you have a fabulous day, you deserve a fun one :) Also hope that this fic isn't held hostage by the website. Eep!

Thank you to the lovely lalaurala-bones for her positive feedback and to the ever wonderful eitoph for her beta skills.

Disclaimer: I just like making them yell at each other…I don't own them or anything.

Enjoy :)

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Time after Time

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It's like someone has picked her up, put her in a time machine and transported her back to 2009.

Castle sits across the bullpen laughing with his new Detectives. It's that fake laugh though, the one he uses for the media and press conferences. It's that laugh that pulls on every woman's heartstrings with its booming quality and charming mirth.

It makes her sick.

"It feels like he's cheating on us." Ryan's voice cuts through her thoughts and pins her to the moment.

That's exactly what it feels like. This is worse than watching him parade around with some young blonde thing on his arm. This is watching him spit on their partnership.

They've always had difficulty defining what they are. After talking to Lanie she's not even sure if they're really friends. But she thought they could always count on being partners. When all else failed, they would still have each other's backs.

She thought.

"Ugh, just shut the door, Ryan." She can't even watch anymore.

His fake laughter comes through anyway, sounding muffled and distorted. It just serves to infuriate her. "You know what, boys, it's knock off time. I'm going home."

She knows Ryan and Espo are perceptive and can probably figure out the reason for her very sudden shift in focus, but at that moment she finds she doesn't even care. She just has to get out of there; away from his taunting laughter.

..:::..

She considers turning around at least 17 times on the way to his place. It's been hours since they left the precinct, she knows he'll be home and really, that's most of the problem.

Is she ready to face this? Whatever it may be.

She can hear chatter from inside before she knocks and her heart sinks as she hears a female voice. For the 18th time that night she begins to walk away, but something pulls her back.

His laugh. It's real.

Her legs feel numb beneath her and she has to lean against the wall to get her balance again, to regain some form of composure. She's come here for a reason tonight and she will not leave until she's said what she needs to.

Raising a fist, she knocks.

The scent of basil and garlic assaults her sense of smell in a pleasant reminder of comfort. His home brings warmth and security. She sweeps the loft with her eyes, looking for the offensive blonde to whom he must have been talking, but finds only evidence of something far more salacious.

"You're watching Temptation Lane?" She steps into his apartment, walking to stand in front of the TV to be sure her eyes aren't deceiving her, "And it's on DVD?"

His voice is cold and hard when he answers, "Yeah. It's easy to watch and I find it funny after a hard day."

Well, that explains the laughter.

"I have a date tonight, Beckett."

She hears him, hears him suggesting that she get out of there, but his icy tone has her fuming again in an instant and she swings around, poking him the chest. "No. No, you do not get to call the shots tonight. We need to talk."

He stares blankly at her, not even a shell of the Richard Castle she knew a month ago, "Beckett, you need to go before my date gets here."

She steps into his personal space, backing him up, "No. You need to listen here. You got all worked up when Alex Conrad was tailing me, telling me you were jealous and hazing the poor kid."

"We weren't haz-"

She shushes him, "It's my turn to speak." She pokes him again for good measure, "You do not get to run around with other cops pretending you're one of them. You're gonna get yourself killed."

She sees anger flash in his eyes. Good. She could use a decent sparring partner, "I can-"

"Take care of yourself. I know. But you can't, Castle. You are not a cop; you're not trained for this."

"I'll get the training then."

She rolls her eyes, "You don't get it, do you?"

He turns the tables and steps back into her space, "No Beckett, I get it. You're like a child who wants the toy she gave away a minute ago." She tries to stop his advancing, but his body is imposing and she finds it easier to just take step after step away from him as he keeps moving forward, "You don't want me, fine. But let me move on."

She lets confusion take her over for a moment, stopping her movements as Castle crashes into her. They steady themselves and she looks up at him, "What makes you think I don't want you?"

His anger is briefly extinguished as hurt takes its place. But as he speaks, she can still hear the bitter sting, "I know, okay Beckett. I know about you remembering your shooting and I know that you haven't told me because you don't feel the same." His voice cuts through her, "I just wish you'd had the guts to tell me months ago. Would have saved a lot of unnecessary pain." And he turns his back on her.

It's only a flash of a memory, but she can see a coffee in her mind's eye; a coffee left on her desk by Castle on the morning that everything changed. He must have seen her interrogation. And he's just assumed…

She grabs his shoulder, "Oh, this is far from finished, Castle. You better call your date and cancel; we are talking about this now!"

"You have a date tonight?" Their heads both whip to the door where a very confused looking Alexis is standing.

Castle's eyes flick between his daughter and Beckett, "Yeah sweetie, with you."

Alexis smiles, "Are you joining us, Kate?" she asks as she steps into the kitchen, sampling the pasta dish on the stove and adding a little more salt before turning the heat off.

"I can't. Just here discussing a case with your father. I won't be long."

Calmly assessing the tension in the room, Alexis simply nods and tells them she'll be upstairs until dinner so they can yell as loud as they want.

"Oh so now you're using your daughter to try and make me jealous?" She grabs his hand and tugs him toward his office, "Pfft, date," she scoffs.

"Why are you taking me in here?"

She lets him go, "Because your daughter is upstairs and whether she wants to or not she's going to hear us if we're out there. At least we're further from her room here."

He can feel the argument bubble up inside of him, but holds his tongue, "Beckett, I really think you should just leave. You don't have to explain yourself, I get…"

Her lips on his silence him. He doesn't give her anything back, but she holds firm until she's sure she'll be able to speak without him interrupting, "You don't get it at all, Castle." She sits down, "And stop calling me Beckett. You've been calling me Kate for long enough now."

He nods, his fingers finding his lips. Good. She's finally got him to shut up.

"Apart from that, I just need you to quit all the conjecture." His height should be intimidating, especially considering he's standing and she's sitting, but right now, she feels in control, "You assumed the reason I didn't tell you about my remembering was because I don't feel the same? Well did you even consider that I might have been waiting until I was whole enough to say it back?"

It's slight, but it's there; the shake of his head.

"And did you even consider that I was scared, not embarrassed?"

His head shakes again. And she feels good, "So you made an assumption based on zero evidence." She pauses, standing up again, "And you think you could be a cop."

She pats his chest and goes to walk out of the office but he grabs her hand, twirling her back to him, "Hey, you don't get to walk away either. I made an assumption, sure. But you still lied."

"I explained that!" She feels the fire returning to her anger, pushing her closer to the edge.

"Yeah, you're scared. But I'm going through stuff too, Kate." The way he accents her name makes him wish for him to call her Beckett again, "I face my mortality every single day and I worry myself sick about losing you or about dying without you knowing what I feel for you." He steps into her personal space again, "And then I find out that you do know. I just can't even…" Tears prick at his eyes as he tries to maintain his strength in this argument.

"You seem to be coping alright." She can't help but soften under his tear filled gaze, bit she will not stand down, not when they're finally openly talking about their issues.

"Jacinda?" She nods, "She's a show pony, Kate. She will never be you and it's always gonna be you."

She smiles, her icy façade cracking a little, "You know I'm not one of those girls who's going to turn to mush at your words, right?"

"Yeah. I know."

"Good."

He chuckles, the tears that were threatening to fall already fading, and she's relieved to hear it's a real laugh, "You should stay for dinner."

She smiles and shakes her head, "You have this one with Alexis. I'll see you tomorrow at work, right?"

He nods as they step out of his office, neither one of them sure how the tension could have eased so much in such a small amount of time, "Of course."

And as he sees her out she can't help but feel like there's a little promise hanging in the air. His eyes hold that 2012 twinkle again; the one reserved just for her.

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Thank you for reading.