A/N: Again with the randomness. That's how I roll.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not fair.
"Bro! Open up!"
Castle rubs his eyes and shuffles his sleepy form to the door, hurries as the urgent knocking now has a voice behind it.
"I'm here, I'm here," he says as he opens the door. He runs a hand through his hair, can feel it sticking up every which way, even as his fingers attempt to smooth it down.
Lanie pushes through first and Esposito follows, not much further behind. Both of them look slightly panicked, probably feeding off one another. Hell, he's beginning to freak out a little just watching them.
"We can't find Kate," Lanie explains.
"She resigned last night," Esposito adds. Castle knows this and nods, but they're both looking straight through him, making no connection. Kate told him of her resignation last night-sometime between unbuckling his belt and pulling him to his mattress. She wouldn't elaborate, but seemed okay with it. More okay than he was. She said she'd explain more today. He was in no position to argue at the time.
"We might need resources, Castle. She's not at her apartment. She's not answering her phone. Don't you have bodyguards or spies or something we can use to track her down?"
"Spies?" He can't help his amusement, though it feels out of place amidst the seriousness. "You've been reading too many of my books, Lanie."
She looks like she may slap him. He's pretty sure Lanie would pack a good punch. "Don't flatter yourself. I think you're underestimating the urgency of this. Javi said she nearly died." Castle flinches at that; it sounds even worse being confirmed by someone else.
Esposito agrees. "She was relentless. Unstoppable. She could be anywhere in this town, Bro. She's chasing down something really dangerous. We've got to find her."
"You won't have to look far."
She's standing in the doorway leading to his study, framed by his bookcases and it's too many fantasies all wrapped into one vision. God, she's gorgeous. Her voice is still rough with sleep, and he wants nothing more than to show Lanie and Esposito the door ("See, she's fine. Come back later. Call first."), drag her back to his bed, and replace the obligatory awkward morning-after conversation with well…other things.
"Man, Beckett, thank God you're okay," Esposito breathes out, with Lanie nodding by his side, momentarily overcome with emotion.
"Girl, we were worried sick. We've been trying to hunt you down, looking everywhere." She swipes quickly at her eyes. "We even called your dad. We were desperate and—is that Castle's shirt?" Lanie quickly goes from alarmed to animated, gleaming at her discovery. He can see Esposito's face screw up in amusing revulsion.
The only thing potentially more awkward than having the morning-after-your-first-time conversation, is having to have it amongst friends.
But, geez, his shirt looks good on her. A pair of his boxers are peeking from beneath the button down and his stomach clenches in all sorts of delicious ways. They made love last night. And he really really wants to do it again. Soon-ish.
The M.E.'s wide-eyed gaze is volleying back and forth between him and Kate, and he looks down at his bare chest and plaid lounge pants and suddenly feels a little self-conscious under Lanie's scrutiny. At least Esposito has the courtesy to keep his mouth shut and head down. Smart man.
"You called my dad?" Kate sighs, more concerned than upset, completely leap-frogging the latest, more fascinating discovery of her friend.
"I'm sorry, honey. I told him not to worry, that we were sure everything was fine. We said we'd let him know when we found you."
"Done." Esposito wiggles the phone in his palm, indicating that he'd texted her father the all-okay.
"That is Castle's shirt." Lanie has her own phone in her hand and flashes up a picture of him (in his maroon dress shirt), his mother, and Alexis from her graduation. "Looks suspiciously like the one you wore last night," she flicks her brows and eyes him suggestively. His face feels heated, his blush a sure incrimination. "Little Castle texted me some pics. Said you may or may not have cried like a little girl."
"My tears were manly."
"No such thing, Bro." Ah, so much for keeping his mouth shut. Castle smirks, doesn't care. He cried at his baby's graduation. So, what? He also welled up some big, fat tears while arguing with Kate earlier that day. And he may have also been a little teary-eyed when he first joined his body with hers. Okay, maybe he does cry like a little girl…
"That's not what you said at Ryan's wedding, Javi." Kate jests, comes to his defense as she walks further into the room and stops at his side. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but it looks like she wants to touch him.
"For some strange reason, we keep stepping away from the fact that the two of you," Lanie waves her hand back and forth, up and down, "are half-naked."
"She's not half naked." He can't help it, he has to point it out. He wishes she was half-naked. Well, without the present company.
"It doesn't count if she's wearing your clothes. Especially if it's before sunrise."
"You're making up your own rules."
"You're avoiding the question."
"I don't think you asked one."
Kate is laughing at them, and it's completely beautiful, but unexpected. He thought she'd be a little more uncomfortable at being outed as…what? His lover? Girlfriend? Ugh. He hates those terms. If he wasn't sure she'd shoot him, he'd go ahead and make it official, skip the formalities. Fiancée has a nice ring to it. Wife is even better. Surprisingly, even though he's had two previously, this is the first time he's thought of that word without negative connotation.
Now, he and Lanie are basically arguing the semantics of how what he and Kate are wearing is directly related to why she's in his loft at six in the morning. She's being surprisingly indirect right now, but his spidy-sense tells him that the sex inquiries are coming soon. Kate is looking astonishingly unaffected by this conversation and he's totally taking advantage of that and letting her handle it.
"Anyone want breakfast?"
"Pancakes?" Esposito asks brazenly, bearing a wide grin. Castle glares at the private joke, his eyes begging Esposito to zip it. She seems fine now, but if one of these two spooks Kate out of his loft this morning, there will be hell to pay.
"That sounds good," Kate agrees softly and skims her fingers along the elastic at the back of his pants, hooks two just inside. He meets her eyes (dangerous plan) and she's got that same 'why aren't you kissing me' expression that her face held last night. He doesn't know what kind of self-control she thinks he possesses, but surely she can't forget what transpired when she flashed him that same look last night. He blinks hard and looks away with a step towards the kitchen.
"Your order, Dr. Parish?" He points to Lanie, then gestures as if he's scribbling her order onto a waiter's tablet.
"Anything is fine with me." Then she puts up her palm, indicating for him to stop. "Anything is such a broad term with you. Normal ingredients. None of that crazy stuff that you feed your kid. She tells stories."
"You wound me." He touches his palm to his heart and sucks in a deep breath, channeling his mother's over-the-top acting. "Espo?"
"Take him with you." Lanie shoos them towards the kitchen and pulls Kate over to the sofa.
She gives him one of those disarming smiles and he's toast.
"You know what I like."
He hears Lanie say "Oh, I bet he does" and Kate chokes a little, then Esposito spits out an "Ugh" before pushing him between the shoulder blades and out of the room.
"Huh?" Kate turns back towards Lanie. Sometime in the process of sitting on the sofa and turning her body sideways so she could still watch Castle in the kitchen, she's lost sight of him. Esposito is cracking eggs into a bowl, but Rick is nowhere.
"He probably went to get decent." Kate pretends like she isn't stalking him, but it's no use with Lanie, so she just nods. Makes sense; though him adding clothing to his body wasn't what she figured they'd be doing right about now. Sure enough, the man on her mind wanders back through the room, jerking a navy tee shirt over his head. He tells Esposito to use the whole dozen, then their conversation muffles a bit and she gives her attention back to her friend.
"So, you and Esposito seem friendly."
"Oh, no you don't. We are not talking about me, girlfriend. We're talking about you and him," she wags her finger in the Castle's direction, "and the way you're eye-sexing all over the place."
"Eye-sexing?" She laughs, can't help it. It's so good to have a friend that won't let you take anything too seriously.
"Uh huh. All that undressing each other mentally. You've been doing it for years, but this is the first time I've seen it actually look like you're about a second away from dragging each other to the nearest flat surface and—"
"Lanie!" She's loud enough to draw the attention of the men in the kitchen and she waves them off to continue cooking. Castle's smirking at her as if he knows exactly the topic of this interrogation.
"Like that," Lanie whispers, leaning into her personal space. She breaks her eye contact with Castle begrudgingly. "People only look at each other like that if they know exactly what they're missing. So, it was good, I take it?"
"I am not answering that."
"Silence is more incriminating."
"Yes, it was good," Kate sighs. "Very good." Not having this conversation now is delaying the inevitable. And, really, what is there to hide? She's just more used to talking about lack-of-relationships or relationship issues with Lanie, not squeeing like a teenager because the cute boy likes her back. "We only…just once last night. I might have been expecting bumbling and awkward just because we've been sidestepping this for so long, but it was perfect."
"I knew it. All those imaginative ideas swirling around in his brain…"
"I'm a little disturbed that you've put this much thought into my love life."
"Well, I had to have something to occupy my time while there was a break in my own love life."
"Had? Was? Is that implication that the break is over?" God, Kate hopes so. Both of them have been grumpy and pouty since they split almost six months ago.
"You're good. Nice catch. Javi and I have decided not to put a label on it yet. We're just having fun again. We had a pretty serious talk last night about all of that stuff we never discussed the first time around. It was nice. Interesting at times, but nice."
"Sounds like it. I'm happy for you both." She squeezes Lanie's hand, and gets pulled into an embrace in return.
"Me too. For you and Castle. You're glowing, Kate. Do you know that?" She purses her lips and shrugs. Yeah, she can feel a difference. "And with all the shit going on right now, you have every reason not to be. Hot sex can give you this kind of radiance for a little while, but I think you're going to have to admit that love might have its hand in here."
"Alright, enough with the mushy talk." Some of this sentimental stuff is tricky to discuss, really, especially when she and Castle haven't even had the opportunity to bring it up.
"So, have you and Castle had the talk yet? If not, I've been doing research on these 'Questions to Ask Before Getting Serious'." Kate snickers, and then realizes that Lanie isn't joking. Well, then. "Those are what I pulled out on Javi last night while we were waiting to hear from you. It was fun."
Kate rises from the couch and stretches with a yawn. "We haven't—"
"What's fun?" She turns, collides into Castle and his large hands span her waist to steady her, and her own end up sprawled across his chest. Instead of pulling back, she finds herself stepping into his personal space and bumping her hips into his. Her mind flashes back to last night, how those same hands and hips worked over her body and left her breathless. "Sorry I interrupted," his voice is thick with want, and her traitorous brain is coming up empty on valid excuses to leave the room together. "I was being nosy." He grins, all boyish innocence and manly intentions. "But, also, breakfast is ready."
"Oh, honey, you weren't interrupting," Lanie whispers in his ear as she loops her arm through his and pulls him away from Kate, leaving him looking back, smiling at her helplessly. "You missed all the good stuff already."
"Did I, now?" He chuckles, a deep sound that slides beneath her skin and pricks at her nerve endings. "How good?"
"That's what I was trying to find out."
It's entertaining to watch Castle go speechless, having met his match in Lanie. Kate meets his eyes across his dining table and you've got to be kidding me, he looks like he's really curious as to whether she thought last night was enjoyable. Surely he could tell that she was satisfied. Hell, she's never considered herself vocal intimately, but last night she was relieved that they were alone in his loft.
"Chica," Esposito warns as he bites into his omelet, "mind your own business."
"My best friend is my business."
"Mine too," Castle adds. It makes her heart thump heavily in her chest.
"I need to know that your intentions are pure." She says it seriously, but a smile is sneaking though.
"What about her intentions?"
Oh, she almost felt sorry for Castle. Let Lanie give him hell. "Mine?"
"Oh, you two so need the questions." Lanie tells her, pulls out her phone and starts typing into it. "I can pull them up."
"What questions?" Castle asks, curiosity overtaking him.
"Don't do it, dude."
"You hush," Lanie threatens.
"It's a trap, Castle." Esposito scoots his chair a little closer to Castle's, stares at him somberly. "There are no right answers to these questions. Say no."
"I thought you said you asked them to him last night," Kate adds, pointing to Esposito, amused.
Lanie starts to answer, but the detective interjects. "She didn't just ask. It was an inquisition."
"I'm not scared." Castle rubs his hands together, bounces in his chair a little. "Let's do this."