Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine, although I will take full responsibility for what I have done with them.

A/N: The title for this piece comes from a poem by Pablo Neruda, who does angst better than anyone. If you wish to read it in its entirety, you can find it online under the same title as this story.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Pablo Neruda

He's sitting across from her at the tiny high top table in the crowded bar. He's talking, but the combined noise of the wide screen TV, the music that filters in from the karaoke in the next room, and the chatter of over thirty patrons in various states of inebriation makes it almost impossible to hear him. Not that she's listening anyway.

She knew as soon as she got here that this was a mistake. No, she knew even before then, back when she suggested this bar, knowing all the while that it was better for forgetfulness than for intimacy. But it doesn't seem to be deterring him. He leans closer and she realizes that he must have asked her a question and is waiting for her to answer. She shakes her head a little, gesturing towards her ear to indicate that she didn't hear him, and he leans in even more.

"I asked if this is what you usually do to let down after a case."

She flinches a little, startled by the feel of his breath against her cheek and momentarily flustered by his question. Is this what he thinks she does? Dragging a near stranger out to a crappy bar and getting drunk? Then she realizes that is her own conscience speaking. Her own disappointment that fuels a vision of this and other meaningless nights awaiting her now that Castle has pulled away. All he wants to know is if she likes company or recuperates on her own. Poor guy is probably wondering why she asked him here only to spend most of the time staring into her own drink.

"No," she answers, "not usually."

"Then I'll consider myself flattered that you called me."

He leans back into his seat, his knee sliding in between her legs as he stretches his lanky frame out under the tiny table. She has to steel herself to keep from jumping away, from feeling like that simple contact is some sort of violation of what she has - what she had - with Castle. She grabs her drink and downs it in one swallow, gesturing towards the bar for another before the burn of the alcohol can spread through her.

A few drinks later, all of twenty minutes given the way she's trying to drown her emotions, and she's the one leaning across the table. It's not that she wants to hear what he's saying. She just wants him to stop talking because if she hears one more word in that accent that is so clearly not Castle, she might start crying.

But she doesn't want to be alone, so she tilts her head, avoiding his eyes, and says, "Let's get out of here."

He can see her mouth moving, and even catch a word here or there, enough to know that she's telling some risque story about her life as a flight attendant. The sort of story that would have prompted an innuendo filled comment from him in his previous life. The sort of story that he used to relish because of all it implied about where an evening was headed. But now he barely hears it. Instead he is watching her lips move and thinking that they look nothing like Kate's.

It's why he chatted her up on that plane when he was heartsick and hungover, still running from the fact that everything reminded him of Kate. Even Vegas hadn't helped, but then she bent over him to deliver the Bloody Mary he ordered in the hope of muting the pounding in his head, and he looked up to see blond hair and blue eyes and made some comment that caused her to giggle in a distinctly un-Beckett sort of way. He smiled at her and thought that maybe, just maybe, un-Beckett was exactly what he needed.

He refuses to admit he was wrong.

So he grabs his wineglass and pours the contents down his throat far faster than the excellent vintage deserves, but it doesn't matter because he barely tastes it anyway. Then he refills his glass and drags his gaze back up to meet hers, giving her his trademark bad boy grin and letting her words continue to wash over him. He tries to be thankful that murder, suspect, and witness do not appear to be part of her vocabulary.

By the time their server comes by to ask if they want coffee, Castle has polished off the last of the wine and a heavy lethargy has settled into his limbs. Which is a good thing because it means he is only vaguely aware that her right foot is no longer in its shoe and her toes are caressing his calf. His first instinct is to pull away but then he remembers telling his mother to watch him while he gets over Kate. He is determined to make it true and if banging a flight attendant is what it takes, then it's time to get busy.

He catches her gaze and raises an eyebrow. He can tell she gets the message by the way her foot creeps even higher up his leg. With a slow smile that he is pretty sure will look genuine to anyone who doesn't know him well, he turns to the server.

"Just the check please. And if you could hurry …"

She can't wait for the cab ride to be over. She is acutely aware that he has his hand on her thigh and his fingers are creeping ever higher, but she doesn't object in the hope that the contact will be a sufficient substitute for the conversation she feels incapable of maintaining. He reaches out towards her cheek in an attempt to see her face, but she rests her head on his shoulder instead, unwilling to meet his eyes. He seems satisfied with that.

She tells herself that it will be better when they get to her apartment. Then she'll know what to do, she'll know the drill. She'll hand him a bottle of wine to open, get two glasses from her shelves and lean back against her counter. She'll watch his fingers twine around the goblet's stem and wonder if those fingers will be as careful with her as they are with that slim length of glass.

She feels as fragile as crystal right now.

But she doesn't break. Not when they leave the cab and she feels his hand warm against her back, his fingers just a few millimeters below the area propriety might dictate. Not when they drink the wine and not when they leave their glasses, still half full, on the counter. She keeps it together right up until he moves in close and kisses her.

His mouth is authoritative and despite the fact that she knew this was coming, she gives a little gasp of surprise and he takes the opportunity to slip his tongue into her mouth. She clenches her fists in his shirt and fights the urge to push him away.

He doesn't taste like Castle.

A small sob rises in her throat, but fortunately, he mistakes it for a sound of passion. She pulls her mouth away from his, away from the evidence that there is no trace of coffee on his tongue and no hint of the crisp aftershave that has become so familiar over the past four years clinging to his cheeks. He tastes of wine and smells faintly of the cracked and worn vinyl that covered the seats of the cab.

And all she can think is not Castle.

So she tilts her head and offers up her neck, letting him kiss her all the places that Castle hasn't. And she doesn't resist when he guides her toward the couch. She just closes her eyes and tries not to think of anything but the raw feel of his hands beneath her shirt.

She is slim and supple in his arms. Willing. He tries to tell himself that this is how it should be. That after you kiss someone they should press themselves up against you, not stare in shock, looking like some half-broke horse about to bolt. He closes his eyes so that he can't see her, but he has to bend down to kiss her and that tiny difference is all it takes to burn the thought of just how un-Beckett she is into his mind.

He's grateful that they have already had several dates and are past the need to ease their way into the bedroom by way of wine and conversation. He doesn't think he could hand her a glass and not see other hands cradling the bowl, or sit with her on his couch and not remember another leg pressed up against his, other fingers twining with his own. But his bedroom is safe. His bedroom is a place that Kate has never gone and so he guides this other woman towards his bed.

When he turns to close the door against all the unwanted memories hovering outside, she wraps her arms around him from behind. He rests his head against the door as her nimble fingers splay out against his stomach before dipping towards his waistband. When she cups him, her painted nails feeling for his zipper, he is relieved to find that his body responds. Apparently, thankfully, nerve ending have no memory. Skin doesn't think, it just feels, and that is what he tries to do. Shut off his mind and find a short while of blessed peace within the grasp of hands that have never held a gun.

He wonders if an hour of thoughtlessness counts as success.

The way they lose their clothes seems far too easy. There have been enough others in her past to teach her hands what to do, to school her body in how to arch against him, and her months alone make her skin shiver beneath his fingers. But still, her arousal has a vague undertone of something else, something that makes her want to squirm away - not from him, but from herself. When his hands slide down into her panties and find her wet, when the friction of his fingers against her draws an involuntary moan from her lips, she realizes that her body is far more traitorous than her mind.

She thinks she might hate herself for that.

It seems that self-loathing and passion are not mutually exclusive. She cannot stifle the moan that rises from her when he finally enters her or shut down the shaft of heat that flows to her core when his lips close around her nipple. But her hands stay on his arms, her fingers afraid that if she maps his unfamiliar contours she will know, once and for all, that this is not Castle.

So she digs her fingers into his arms, loses herself in the slap of flesh against flesh, and gasps when his rhythm quickens and his fingers find her core. Where once her goal was not to break apart, now all she wants is to shatter mindlessly beneath his hands. She is so close, she can feel the haze rising within her. His arm pulls her in tight, his mouth nestled into the crook of her neck. She can feel his hot breath as he exhales in ragged gasps. Then he moans her name into her ear and his voice, so different from the one she wants to hear, washes the lust right out of her.

But it's too late to stop now. His thrusts have become uneven and his breath stutters against her as he nears his release. She just wants it to be over so she forces the sounds he needs to hear past her lips and tilts her hips into his. He doesn't seem to notice her subterfuge, just shudders out his climax against her, inside her.

She bites her lip until it bleeds and the metallic tang of blood tastes like defeat.

It's good that she's aggressive in bed because right now, volition seems beyond him. But she doesn't need volition, just permission, and his groans as her lips work their way down his torso give her that. His eyes close as her tongue strokes the crease of his thigh, his breath hitches as her fingers wrap themselves around him. He shudders as arousal mixes with alcohol in his

veins and his tortured thoughts fade into an almost narcotic haze. When her lips finally close over him, he gasps and opens his eyes.

He wishes he hadn't.

The spill of her golden hair across his thighs is the last thing he wants to see. Briefly, he wonders if it would be wrong to ask her to dye it. Maybe he could do this again if only her hair was the color of another. Then he reaches for the lamp and turns out the light, hiding them both.

In the dark, she won't see his tears.

Before the sweat that slicks their skin has had a chance to cool, he lifts himself off her, an apologetic look on his face.

"The plane," he murmurs by way of explanation.

She nods and flings an arm over her eyes, unable to watch as he dresses. Wishing him out of her life for no fault of his own. He bends back down to her as he tucks in the tail of his shirt, seeking her mouth for a goodbye kiss. She turns her head and his lips fall against her cheek. He must finally get the message because he stares at her, naked on her couch, for a moment longer and leaves without another word.

She doesn't realize she was holding her breath until it leaves her lungs in a rush when she hears the click of the door closing behind him. He body still quivers with the tension of a spring wound too tightly so she reaches down between her legs, slides her fingers into her folds and seeks her release, her relief. But it is his name that she cries as her back arches, bow-like against the cushions.

Wet with tears, tendrils of her hair cling to her cheeks, a desperate calligraphy written on her skin.

A/N: I'm sorry for this. It is nothing I ever intended to write, but when I tried to write something else, these images kept coming back until I put them down on paper. I almost didn't post it, so for good or ill, I would love to know what you think.

Also, sorry for briefly deleting and then reposting this, when I checked it, it had a weird format error.