Disclaimer: All these characters belong to ABC and Mr. Marlowe


Ten.

That was how many dates she has been on with Castle so far, and on the verge of number eleven, Kate was smiling.

Oh boy. She was smiling.

Pausing in Castle's apartment hallway, Kate quickly smoothed her features. It wasn't like she was looking forward to today or anything. Cause that would mean that she actually wanted to spend time with him. That he made her happy- No. She definitely wasn't looking forward to today. Well, at least not that much...

Shit.

This wasn't good. Not good at all.

Arriving at his door, Kate straightened her shoulders, let out a breath, and knocked.

"It's open!" she heard someone yell from inside the apartment.

Pushing on the handle, Kate cautiously entered and looked around the seemingly empty loft. "Castle?" she questioned, unable to spot the writer.

"I'm down here."

Curious, Kate followed the voice to the front of the couch, a slight smile forming on her lips as she stopped, her eyes locking on a mass on the floor. Lying flat on his stomach, was Castle. His cheek was pressed against his cream colored rug with his head facing her, and his arms and legs uncoordinatedly spread out around him.

"What on earth are you doing?" she questioned skeptically, frowning her face in curiosity.

"I'm experimenting," he mumbled, unfazed by her presence and remaining still on the floor.

"With what, your sanity?" He was like some sort of road kill, the way he managed to starfish himself against the flooring. "Castle, you look like a squished iguana. You haven't been listening to your imaginary friends again have you?"

"No, don't be absurd," he huffed. "Their advice is terrible."

Providing him with an eye roll, Kate moved to sit on the arm of the couch as Castle let out a sigh. "I'm pretending to be dead," he informed matter-of-factly.

"Oh," Kate sarcastically began, widening her eyes. "Well thank goodness for that. Here I was starting to think that you were crazy," she finished with a teasing tone.

"It's called research, okay. I need a character to pretend to be dead in my last Storm novel, but I wasn't sure how long he could realistically last for," he justified.

"And how's it all going for you?"

"Well, it seemed like a perfectly rational idea when I first started," he began to reflect, his words slightly muffled against the fluffy wool and cotton. "But that was before I lost all feeling in my legs and my right arm started to tingle. Not to mention how itchy it is having pieces of rug stuck up my nose. Alexis has been feeding me water through a straw to keep my hydration levels up, but she left to go dress shopping for my book launch about forty-five minutes ago, so-" He slowly trailed off his rant as he caught onto her expression. "What?" he questioned.

Pursing her lips, Kate attempted to hold her laugh. She had spent a lot of time with him over the past month, so nothing he did should surprise her, but that still didn't prevent her from finding amusement in the situation. Besides, he looked absolutely ridiculous.

"Nothing," Kate sighed, shaking her head and catching her smile. "Nothing at all. You know, for a dead body you certainly complain a lot."

"Hey, this is a lot harder than it looks, not to mention how uncomfortable it is!" he adamantly defended. "You try it!"

Giving him a long look, Kate scrunched up her face and considered his offer, before letting out a sigh. "Castle, you're hogging the entire rug. There's no way I'm lying on the floorboards."

"That's easily fixed. I think it's time for some repositioning anyway." Slowly twisting his body, he rolled onto his back, wincing at every movement, and scooted to the edge of the rug. "Ow, ouch. Okay, this is slightly better."

"Oh, so not only does the dead body talk, but he moves too," Kate teased as she grabbed a cushion from the couch and moved to lie down beside him.

"I will have you know that I have been in that one position for a very long time, so I think I deserve a bit of leeway," he informed. "You see the kind of sacrifices I make to ensure my books are authentic?" he reflected after a few moments. "I can't imagine James Patterson doing this," he mumbled.

"Right. So the scene in Storm Clearing where you had Derek Storm take down eight armed assassins with his hands tied behind his back, what would you call that?" she sarcastically questioned, turning her head to face him.

"A highly skilled character," he retorted, before displaying a satisfied grin. "Good to hear you've finished reading it though."

"I haven't finished it," Kate dismissed, quickly looking back up at the ceiling.

"Kate, that scene was in the last chapter."

Remaining motionless, she kept quiet, silently cursing herself and attempting to come up with a logical explanation. He already knew she read his books, but he didn't need to know exactly how quick or eager she was to do so.

"So..." Castle cautiously began, twiddling his thumbs. "What did you think?"

Maintaining her silence, Kate pursed her lips as she stubbornly attempted to hold it together, but she didn't last long as her resolve disappeared and she sat up. "I can't believe you just ended it like that!" she huffed, using her arm to support her weight as she looked down at him.

"What are you talking about?" he chuckled, gazing up at her. "It's called a cliff hanger. One of the greatest plot devices of all time," he justified.

"Yeah, but-" she began, before letting out a sigh and tucking a few strands of hair behind her ear. "Judging by your experiment you've got going on, I'm guessing you've already started writing the last book, right?" she hesitantly questioned.

"Yeah..." Castle slowly responded.

"Well..." she hinted, raising her eyebrows, gesturing for him to elaborate.

"Well?"

"What happens?"

Laughing, Castle scrunched up his face. "I'm not giving you such major spoilers for my next bestseller!"

"Why not?" she genuinely questioned.

"I'm not ruining it for you! You're just going to have to patiently wait like every other fan until it's released," he chuckled. "Besides," he began, "It's fun watching you squirm."

Kate glared at him before frowning her face in disappointment. "Stupid," she scoffed, as she moved to lie back down with a huff. "And call me a fan again and I will break both your legs."

"Noted," Castle smiled, entertained by her frustration. "So, how was work this morning?" he queried, moving the conversation along.

"Pretty good. We closed our case."

"Oooh," he admonished, eyes wide. "Was the murder Castle-esque?"

"Castle-esque?"

"You know. The victim was found half eaten, or had a mutant body part sticking out of him, or was maybe even found in some unknown radioactive sludge-"

"Nope. Our victim was the janitor at the local school," Kate informed, before she noticed Castle opening his mouth to respond. "Who was very much human and found in one piece. Died of a single gunshot wound to the chest," she soon continued, preventing him from butting in.

"What?" he squeaked in disappointment. "Where are people's sense of creativity these days?" he sighed. "What about the killer? Let me guess, it was the butler."

"Yes, Castle. The school janitor's butler killed him," she sarcastically replied.

"Really?"

"No."

"Was it aliens?" he asked after a moment.

"No."

"Magneto?"

"Oh, that would be cool," Kate smiled, turning her head to face him. "I like that one."

"Yeah, how awesome would that be!" he replied, matching her grin. "Although by using his powers to commit murder it would definitely be hard to catch him," he quietly reflected. "So was it?"

"No," Kate sternly responded, accompanied with an eye roll.

"Darn," he replied, the smile dropping from his face. "Ghosts?"

"Do I look like a ghost buster to you?" she questioned, voice raised a level.

"Well maybe if I were to get you one of those awesome jumpsuits..."

She turned her head and offered him a glare, just as the sound of a key being placed in the front door echoed off the walls.

"Hey, Dad," Alexis greeted as she entered the loft and made her way to where she last left her father. "Oh. Hi, Kate."

Sitting up, Kate turned to the teenager. "Hi, Alexis."

"So, Dad. Can you feel your legs yet?" Alexis questioned as she moved closer to the pair.

"No, not really," he mumbled, shifting his gaze away from Kate and to his daughter instead. "Should I be worried?"

Ignoring her father, Alexis smiled at the detective. "Don't tell me that he dragged you into his experiment too. You know he's been lying there all morning."

"Ah, no. He wouldn't stop whining, so- wait," Kate noted, turning back to Castle. "You've been here all morning?"

"What?" he nervously chuckled. "I've done other things today. I've simply been doing this in between my very important job of...well, actually writing, and roaming the streets, making sure New Yorkers are okay, looking out for any hints of danger or Bat signals..."

"Oh, so what? You're saying you're secretly Batman now?" she questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"Well have you ever seen us in the same room together?" Castle casually responded.

Taken aback by his comeback, Kate could do nothing but offer him with a frown.

"See. Now it's gonna mess with your mind," he overdramatically whispered.

"Don't worry, Kate. He sings in the shower. I can assure you he's definitely not Batman," Alexis intercepted as she began to make her way out of the room.

"And then my daughter goes and ruins the fantasy," Castle sighed in defeat, as Kate laughed at their interaction. "Wait, Alexis. Where are you going?" he quizzed as he noticed his daughter's retreat.

"Ah, I'm just going upstairs to do a bit of work," she casually replied.

"What are you doing back already anyway? I thought you said you and Lauren were going to spend all afternoon shopping?"

"Well, we were, but there was a change of plans," Alexis hesitantly replied, before spinning around to make her way to the stairs.

"Hold on," Castle pressed, slowly moving to sit up. "You two had this organized ages ago. What happened?"

"Nothing, Dad. It's fine," she tried to dismiss.

"Alexis," he sternly reiterated.

Stilling, Alexis turned. "She didn't show," she sighed on a deep exhale. "And when I sent her a text asking where she was, she said she forgot and was going to a day spa with Christie and her mom instead."

"Sweetie-" Castle began, his voice softened and laced with comfort.

"Dad, it's okay. I mean, at least this way I'm able to get some work done this afternoon," she informed with a trying smile.

"But what about your dress? You've been saying all week that now was the only time for you to go."

"I'm sure I can pull something out from my wardrobe. It's no big deal, really."

"Yeah, but you were so excited," he reflected sadly, before a look of determination crossed his features. "You know what, I'll take you."

"What? Dad, I know you and Kate have to go on a date today. It's fine. I don't want you getting in trouble with Paula. And besides Kate's already here-"

"No, Alexis. Don't worry about me," Kate was quick to interrupt, not wanting to intrude. "You two should go shopping," she said, pushing herself up and off the floor.

Alexis shook her head. "Yeah, but-"

"No, Alexis, really," Kate reiterated, dusting stray bits of wool off of her jeans. "And I'm sure if your father explains the situation to Paula she would understand-"

"Unless you come too, Kate?" Castle questioned, hesitantly looking up at Kate.

Stilling her hands and lowering her gaze, Kate blinked at the writer. "What?"

"You should come with us."

"Castle, you don't have to-"

"No, I want you to," he admittedly blurted out, before quickly elaborating. "I mean, you can keep me company while she tries on dresses, and I'm sure Alexis would appreciate a female opinion. And it will also be another chance for us to be seen in public, so..." he fumbled, before taking a moment. "Unless of course you don't want to come?"

Kate didn't answer straight away, her gaze fixed on him as she detected almost a hint of nervousness in his waiting expression. She was literally being shown a fire escape, an exit route that gave her permission to flee so she didn't have to finish their date, and a part of her was screaming at her to take it. It wasn't her place after all, so logically she should just decline and go home to her apartment. Although, if any sense of logical was ever present, it probably disappeared the moment she chose to lie next to her pretend boyfriend as he pretended to be dead on the floor.

Rotating her head to find Alexis' almost pleading expression, Kate answered. "No, ah, I don't mind."

"Really?" Castle reiterated somewhat surprised.

"Yeah," she swallowed.

"Great," he smiled, relief washing over him. "Okay, well Alexis, how about you leave first and we can meet you there. That way you can miss all the press and it would give me a bit of time to allow the blood flow to return to my legs," he said, scrunching up his face as he attempted to unsuccessfully lift the limbs.

"Okay," Alexis smiled, her spirit uplifted. "I'll just go grab my bag."


"Does my butt look big in this?" Castle questioned to Kate as he poked his bum out, analyzing his reflection in the mirror.

"Dad, put the dress down."

"Yes. Sorry, sweetie," he replied, removing the sequined green dress from his chest and returning it to the rack.

"Argh," he exclaimed, a look of shock horror on his face.

"What?" Kate questioned.

"Look at this one!" he said, pulling out a flamboyant, feathery dress. "This thing is practically alive!"

"Since when were you an expert?" Kate mumbled, as she stepped around him to get to a row of accessorized hats on display. They were still well into winter, but gazing over the collection it seemed as though retailers were already preparing for spring.

"I'm not, but it's just so...wrong," he rationalized, scrunching up his features. "Those poor birds."

"It isn't made out of real birds, Castle," she replied, removing a canary yellow hat from the shelf and briefly spinning to face him. "The feathers are fake. Look, it even says so on the tag," she noted, holding up the small bit of paper dangling off the garment with her spare hand.

"Fake or not, it's still disturbing," he replied, placing it back amongst the other frocks. Rotating around and placing his hands in his jacket pocket, he let out a thoughtful sigh. "You know, I've always wondered what it would be like to be a bird."

Hearing him, Kate lifted her eyes from the piece of headwear in her hands and raised an eyebrow, slowly turning her head to face him.

"I mean, just the freedom they have. All they have to do it flap their little wings and they can fly to wherever their little birdy hearts desired," he began, slowly getting lost in his euphoric daydream. "And just imagine what it would feel like to soar through the clouds, feel the wind brush across your face-"

"Castle, if you were a bird you'd fly into the ceiling fan," Kate spoke, narrowing her eyes playfully before placing the hat down on his head and walking off.

Laughing at their interactions as she searched through the dresses, Alexis turned to the pair. "Are you two always like this?"

"Yes," they replied in sync.

"Although sometimes she can be worse. You should see her some afternoons," Castle began, taking the hat off his head and returning it to its shelf. "She can get a little cranky," he whispered, bringing his hand up to cover the view of his lips from Kate.

"Hey!" Kate scolded, spinning around to face him with a glare.

"See. Oh, and right on time too," he noted to his amused daughter, holding up his watch and confident in his assessment.

Shaking her head, Alexis pulled out another dress.

"Ooh, I like that one," Castle said with a flashy smile, watching as his daughter eyed the purple garment in her hands.

"Dad, you've said that about every dress," she sighed.

"Well that's because everyone has been my favorite," he justified. "And I want you to know, that you look beautiful in anything that you wear," he informed, the seriousness displayed through his tone. "Even if you want to go back to wearing that pink tutu with odd stripy socks like you did in kindergarten."

"Dad, the only memories I have of kindergarten are the tears."

"You weren't a fan?" Kate questioned, turning to Alexis.

"Oh no. The tears weren't from me," Alexis clarified. "They were from my dad."

"Oh, really?" Kate smiled, briefly spinning to face Castle with a teasing expression on her face.

"No joke, after my first day he cried for a week. He was even one of those creepy parents who waited outside the building all day until it was time for me to get picked up."

"That is so not true!" Castle exclaimed in shock.

"Whoa, Castle. You're just a big softy, aren't you?" Kate teased, twisting her lips.

"Okay, so maybe I waited outside," Castle admitted, straightening his shoulders as he looked straight at Kate. "But I definitely didn't cry. And even if I did, I can assure you one-hundred percent that they manly tears. Made from sweat, and dirt, and...manliness," he finished, puffing out his chest a little.

"He was a blubbering mess," Alexis contradicted, shaking her head at her father.

Opening his mouth, Castle gawked at his daughter as he narrowed his eyes, "Traitor," before steping up to Kate. "You know," he began. "Maybe while we are here, we can get you a dress for the book launch too," he offered, suggestedly lifting his eyebrows at her.

"Not happening, Castle," Kate sternly answered.

"Why not?"

"Because I already have one. Captain Montgomery's 25th wedding anniversary six months ago. I've only worn it once," she informed. "Besides," she boldly continued. "I don't think you could handle the sight of me trying on dresses for you."

Okay, what was that? Seriously, she shouldn't be flirting with him in front of his daughter. Wait, she really shouldn't be flirting with him at all…

"Okay, what about this one?" Alexis questioned, as she held out a streamline, strapless number.

"Ah, I don't think so," Castle replied, peeling his stunned gaze away from Kate and plucking the dress out of his daughter's grasp.

"Why? I thought you said I looked beautiful in anything," she retorted, using his previous words against him.

"Yes, anything that contained a decent amount of fabric," he strongly clarified.

"Dad, it's barely above the knee," she pointed out. "Besides, I'm going to be going off to college soon, so-"

"Uh, I don't want to hear it," Castle frowned, slapping his hands over his ears. "We still have a few more years left, so just leave me be in my little protective bubble."

Briefly smiling at his antics, Kate spoke to Alexis. "Do you know what college you want to go to yet?" she questioned.

"I have a few in mind, but I can't really decide. I don't even know what I want to be once I graduate," Alexis admitted.

"Well, it's important to find something that you're passionate about, so then it won't really feel like work. Maybe you could start there?" Kate offered, as she felt Castle straighten up besides her.

"That's funny," Alexis smiled. "That's what dad always says."

Briefly looking to her right, Kate caught Castle's line of site as he smiled at her. "What about you?" Alexis questioned, bringing Kate's attention back to the teenager. "What made you want to become a cop?"

"Yeah," Castle quizzed, his eyes wide and enthused. "Did little Kate Beckett seriously dream of being a detective?"

Darting her eyes, Kate suddenly felt her heart rate quicken. "Ah, not exactly," she attempted to dismiss.

"Well what made you change?" he pressed.

"It's complicated, Castle," she replied, hoping not to draw too much attention to the topic as she tried to appear busy observing the dresses in front of her.

"Come on, you can tell me," he smiled, stepping closer to her.

"Castle, some things are just private, okay?" she warned as she spun to shoot him a glare, internally apologetic for the harshness in her tone.

She held her stare, and after a moment, Castle nodded his head, almost agreeing with her defensiveness. "No, you're right. I'm sorry," he swallowed. "Forget I asked. You know what, I think I'm going to go look for a coffee," he informed, somewhat uneasy. "You ladies want anything?"

"No thanks," they both responded.

"Alright, well I'll be back soon," he shyly smiled, before heading to the exit.

Watching him walk out of the store, Kate let out a cooling breath.

"I'm sorry for prying," Alexis timidly spoke from beside her. "And Dad's really sorry too. He didn't mean to push you either."

"No, it's okay," Kate replied, trying to reassure her with a smile. "I just don't talk about it really."

A moment of silence passed, before something crossed over Alexis' face, and her features softened. "You know, he acts differently with you."

Hearing her, Kate cautiously held Alexis' gaze. "Of course he would," she began, "I mean, we were strangers when Paula conjured this whole thing up-"

"No," Alexis interceded, slightly laughing at Kate's oblivious reaction. "I mean, compared to all the other women he's seen, he acts differently when he's around you. He actually acts like himself," she smiled. "The man that appears in front of the press, that's not really him, and once he gets home, he's just my dad. He plays guitar hero in his underwear- actually," she continued frowning her face, "He does a lot of things in his underwear," receiving a laugh from Kate. "But the point is, despite you two being in this whole pretend relationship, he's probably being more honest with you then he's ever been with anyone. He's a good guy," she hinted, "A bit of a goofball, but still a good guy. Just, give him a chance and he might surprise you."

Taken aback, Kate shyly smiled, shaking her head in amusement as she thought of Castle and his antics.

"Anyway," Alexis smiled. "I'm going to go try these on," she informed, holding up a collection of coat hangers and material over the crook over her elbow. "Do you mind holding on to these for me?" she asked as she peeled her gloves off her hands and held them out to Kate.

"Sure."


With Alexis' words ringing in her ears, Kate tried to keep herself occupied by searching through the nearby dresses.

"Hey," came a voice, as she turned around to find herself face to face with Castle. "How's Alexis doing?" he questioned, gesturing to the change rooms behind her.

"Good. She's trying on a few dresses that she liked."

"Here," he said, pulling a coffee out of the disposable holder in his hands and giving it to her. "I know you both said no, but I got you and Alexis one anyway. Besides, since when did you say no to caffeine?" he nervously chuckled, as she took the warm cup from his grasp.

"Thank you," she smiled.

Slowly dropping his smile and shuffling on his feet, Castle hesitated. "Hey, I'm sorry about what happened before. It's your private life and it's none of my business. I had no right to intrude like that."

Chewing the inside of her lip, Kate briefly looked away. She shouldn't tell him. She had no need to open up to him at all, let him in like that-

Just give him a chance and he might surprise you.

But deciding to take a risk, she looked up at him. "It was because of my mom."

"Your mom?"

She could see him shift, silently encouraging her to continue, so sucking in a breath, she did. "When I was nineteen, she was murdered," she informed, narrowing her eyes as she briefly gazed over the displayed dresses. "Stabbed in an alley from random gang violence."

She didn't open up to anyone, didn't allow her vulnerable side to see the light, but as soon as the words passed her lips, she felt an odd sense of comfort rush over her. Somehow, telling him felt different, almost somewhat natural, despite it being against everything that they were used to.

She could see his features softening as he gazed at her tenderly, before quietly clearing his throat. "Was it a robbery?"

"Nope. She still had her money and phone. But the killer was never caught. So that's why I became a cop," she informed, inhaling a deep, relieving breath and now holding his gaze. "I know what it feels like to not have any answers, to only be left with questions, so every time I cross the crime scene tape I do so to not only find justice for others, but to provide some sort of closure to those left behind," she finished, avoiding his stare as she rapidly blinked her eyelids, desperately trying to prevent the tears from pooling in her eyes.

"So, I guess all of this emotional baggage wasn't part of the deal, Castle," she said, clearing her throat. "You should probably advise Paula to select your next girlfriend more wisely," she sighed with a slight smile, as she wiped her hands over her eyes.

Castle took a moment to consider her. "Hmm, I don't know. I normally don't agree with most things she does, and I mean, those initial dates were kind of tough," he sarcastically began, trying to lighten the mood. "But," he paused. "I think she did a pretty good job."

Kate lifted her eyes to his as he offered her a comforting smile, his eyes sparkling and slightly crinkled around the edges. "Although I must admit it helps when you don't get angry at me," he added, receiving a shy laugh from Kate. "And when you laugh at my jokes. I like that too," he quickly mumbled.

Standing amongst the racks of dresses, they both were unsure of what to do with the honesty and sincerity they normally weren't willing to share. So instead of trying to interpret it, they simply soaked up the moment, their lips curved into matching smiles.

"So," Alexis spoke from behind them, causing Kate and Castle to turn around as the teen nervously stepped out of the change rooms, smoothing out the edges of the powder blue dress. "What do you guys think?"


So I know this wasn't exactly soon like I said it would be, but it was done as quickly as possible. Thanks for still reading!

BareWriter