Settling Accounts

Richard Castle paused at the threshold, his palms uncharacteristically sweaty, jaw unconsciously clenched. He ground out a slow sigh and backed away. He had other errands to run, he should do those first. This could wait. He just, it wasn't that. Well, maybe he couldn't. Surely admitting it to himself was half the issue? Now he could deal with it, right? Apparently not. He brushed his hands along his sides, drying the clammy tissue before stiffly shoving them into his pockets and retreating further from the source of his agitation.

It was errands for crying out loud. Simple, menial tasks, he should be able to cope. He was a man, a grown, strong, ruggedly handsome man, he should be able to handle going to the bank. It was just, the building loomed over him, daunting and dark. His mind was overwhelmed with flashes of memory from the last time he was in a bank. A gun at his head, his mother clutching his hand in fear, glimpses of Beckett – the touch of her hand, only to watch her walk away, wondering if he'd ever see her again. Ever get to caress the supple skin of her hand. It may have been a life and death situation, he may have been absolutely petrified but that didn't dull the fierce jolt of electricity that shot through him at her tender touch. Her gaze burning through to his very soul. It was all consuming. He needed it. He needed her now. He shouldn't. But, despite the knowledge that this was irrational and he was perfectly capable of banking solo, he needed – wanted – her here with him.

He somewhat reluctantly withdrew his phone from his pocket and dialled the detective.

"Castle, what is it?" she answered somewhat impatiently; he could practically see the furrow etched into her brow.

"I, err…" he cleared his throat. "Hi," he added weakly after a moment. She released a slow, steady sigh.

"Castle," she warned, but her tone had softened.

"Are you busy? You're probably busy. I should go," he managed to mumble foolishly before disconnecting the call, dropping his head into his hands with a groan. This was stupid. He was an idiot. He shouldn't disturb her just for this, the menial task of banking, it was pathetic.

X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X

Beckett stared down at her phone quizzically, as if it could give her answers after Castle's strange call. It was weird, right? He was usually so chatty and smooth. Charming, she added wryly as an afterthought, not that she'd ever tell him. His ego could do without it. So why the odd call? She was kind of busy with work, a body had dropped that morning and she'd actually been hoping Castle would make it in sometime today. He hadn't exactly been adamant he'd make it when she'd spoken to him earlier in the day, something about writing and errands comprising of groceries, the bank, a visit to the library, something else about his publisher or a bookstore. He'd been chattier this morning that was for sure. She spend several moments lost in thought, mulling over their earlier conversation, trying to connect the dots and glean if the exact dialogue held any deeper meaning for his current at-a-loss-for-words state. Trouble was, she hadn't exactly committed it to memory. It had seemed largely unimportant at the time, she'd just fixated on the delighted way he'd breathed her name as he answered the phone. Even the mere recollection of it set her nerves tingling with pleasure. That man. He really didn't know just how completely she was enamoured by him. Which was precisely why she had to figure out what was going on with him…

She forced her thoughts back to the conversation and not the man himself. Where exactly did he say he was going? His publisher? He could have had a fight with Gina. Although, he would have been angrier on the phone, not withdrawn and hesitant. He definitely mentioned going to the bank. Oh god. She shuddered with the memory of the last time she'd been in a bank. Well, the remains of a bank post explosion, rubble was a more apt description. It was probably the last time Castle had been in a bank as well. Oh. Oh, no wonder he'd sounded like that. The poor, stubborn man. It was only natural he'd be petrified. Hell, she was. Online banking certainly seemed like the more secure option to her these days (and as a cop she was innately aware of all the online fraud and identity theft that went on). She punched the call back button and waited tersely for Castle to answer.

He picked up almost immediately and she thought she heard an undercurrent of relief to his tone, in the –

"Uh, hey Beckett," that he oh so casually attempted to pull from his lips.

"Which bank?" she entreated gently. He laughed humourlessly.

"Don't worry about it. You sound busy. I'll cope," he aimed for nonchalant and fell short, she could practically feel the worry radiating from him over the phone.

"Castle, don't make me trace your phone," she scolded gently. With a sigh, he rattled off an address and she was out the door, on her way to him.

X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X

If he was shocked that she'd figured him out and come hurriedly to join him, he was beside himself when she took his hand without supplication and gently nudged him through the wide doors of the bank. He smiled tightly at her as they stood in line, her hand still fiercely encasing his. As they edged forward, his tension eased and smile grew more genuine. She traced soothing patterns on the back of his hand with her thumb and he intertwined their fingers tighter still in response. She tried to pull away as he approached the counter, but he tugged her along with him and with a hum she came willingly as they went about his business.

"Thank you," he managed as they stepped from the shadows of the building into the sunshine splaying the sidewalk.

"Partners," she smiled, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. He thought she'd release him with that. It would have been enough, for now. But she readjusted their hands, keeping their fingers lightly twined. "Want to walk back to the precinct?" she added, it was casual, but Castle caught the undertone of reluctance, like she was scared he'd refuse her. As if he could ever refuse her anything. He nodded earnestly and tugged her in the direction of precinct. She let out a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding. "It's a beautiful day," she mused as the sunlight danced around them through gaps in the skyline.

"It is," he agreed, eyes fixed on her and her alone. The way the sunlight caught her hair was stunning. "It's spectacular," he amended. She tried to keep the blush from creeping up her cheeks but she fell short and couldn't find it within her to care. She had her partner's back and he had hers. It was a spectacular day.

AN: Cops & Robbers probably remains my all time favourite episode of Castle. I wanted to write a slightly different post-ep fic for it and, well, here we are. As always, I'd love to know your thoughts.