A Bad Hurt
It's been another successful day, another successful close and they've been celebrating. The Old Haunt is loud for a Tuesday but the atmosphere is cheerful. Kate and Castle are making sex eyes across the table – as if no one's figured out they're in love and sleeping together. They work with detectives, people trained to notice things – and Ryan and Jenny have joined the impromptu dance floor near the back. Lanie sighs as she picks at the label of her empty beer bottle. Once again, it's her and Esposito.
More complicated than Kate and Castle could ever hope to be.
Lanie's had a lot of time to think about what went wrong. There are a million reason, but she's not blind or naïve. They panicked. Both of them. It was never about emotions or compatibility or chemistry. It was never about the little habits and quirks discovered over the course of a relationship. They had one double-date that was a little too focused on the future, and they both panicked.
After that, it was just a lot easier to fight with him. It was easier for her sanity and her own peace of mind to pretend that he was a bastard and an ass, so their break up must have been his fault. She's not quite sure when they agreed to the truce they currently have but she's glad they do. Everything else aside, she's missed him.
They're friends now, friends that laugh and tease and it's good. And if she goes home some nights and imagines his body against hers in the satin sheets, it's her problem and she can handle it. It's harmless, maybe even natural because, yeah, he is hot.
Nights like this are a different story entirely.
These nights are hard for her. It's not that she's not happy for her friends, or relieved she doesn't have to kick Kate's ass, it's just painful and sobering to be single and surrounded by couples. She feels so very alone and she knows that mixing sadness with too much alcohol is a bad idea. There's nothing stopping her from flirting her way into someone's bed if she's had too much to drink and she doesn't want the self-loathing and regret in the morning.
Because despite everything she plays at, sometimes she thinks she's too old for one-night stands anymore.
Okay, maybe it's more than that. Maybe it's jealousy that her friends all have something solid and of the 'forever' category while she flounders about. And, wow, she really is feeling maudlin tonight. It's the last straw. She's reached a point where she's just not suitable for public consumption anymore. She sighs, abandoning her shredded beer label as she reaches for her purse.
"You're leaving?" Kate asks, pulling herself away from Castle. Lanie snorts to herself at the idea that it's a monumental feat. She's a little impressed that she has enough of Kate's friendship to do that.
Crap. God, she knows that's not true. She's just being mean. In her head, but still mean.
Yeah, she really has to get home. She can drown her sorrows constructively with wine and a bath, or maybe she'll scream herself hoarse into her pillow. She just needs to get out of here.
"Yeah, I'm on early," she lies and it's kind of scary that she's become so good at lying to her best friend. It makes her stomach roll, but she forces herself to keep going. Any hitch and she'll be screwed. She absolutely refuses to ruin a good celebration because she's wallowed herself into a mood.
"Okay," Kate says and Lanie hates that there's reluctance in the detective's tone. Kate knows something's up, but she also knows Lanie well enough to let the ME do what she needs to do. In fact, Kate even elbows Castle when he goes to open his mouth, likely to ask if everything's okay. "Night."
"Night," Lanie parrots.
She emerges into the stifling New York heat with a heavy sigh. It feels like she can breathe again, even amongst the humidity of late August. She gives herself a moment, hanging her head, before squaring her shoulders, hitching up her purse and starting out towards her apartment. Maybe the walk will do her some good.
"Hey Doc, wait up."
She groans at his voice, and briefly entertains the idea of speeding up. It would send a clear message that she just doesn't want company, but with how far they've come, she's reluctant to even risk threatening it. So her feet stop and she turns half way.
"I can take care of myself," she says when Javier's close enough.
"I know," he replies, utterly unfazed by the irritation in her tone. It was something she'd enjoyed when they were together, the idea that he wasn't put off by her snappy moods. He's not intimidated. "But I couldn't stick around and watch the happy couple make googly eyes at each other."
"Did you really just say 'googly eyes'?"
Javier gives an exaggerated shiver in reply, designed to make her smile and she does feel the corners of her mouth tilting slightly. "See? Next will be 'soul mates' if I stay around that for too long. You're just a convenient excuse."
"Glad to be of service," she says with a roll of her eyes despite the pang in her heart. She closes the latter down quickly, however, because she had her chance and they both screwed it up. She can't let herself go down that path again. So she starts off towards home, torn between irritation and relief when he falls into step beside her.
"What are you doing?"
"Walking," he replies with a nonchalant shrug.
She glares. They're friends, sure, but that doesn't mean he gest to follow her home. And it definitely doesn't mean he gets to walk her home. "I've served my purpose, haven't I? So go home."
She thinks, for a split second, that she's gotten through to him but then he reaches out, grasping her arm. There's worry in his eyes and she hates it. Tonight's not a good night for worry when she's having a hard time drawing that line between knowing better and needing comfort. "You're not the type to leave a party."
Shit. He doesn't get to know her this well. Not anymore. "Early shift."
"Never stopped you before."
"Things change. And don't you tell me I don't."
He drops his hand from her arm and she hates herself for immediately missing the warmth and contact. She covers by folding her arms across her chest. It's the wrong move and she knows it the minute she does it. It's a tell he's beyond familiar with and she's never been able to shake.
He eyes her, sliding his hands into his pockets. "Something wrong?"
"No." Her second misstep. Too fast, too snappy and she knows she should just apologize and walk away, maybe blame it on exhaustion. She's got too much pride though, and walking away, telling another lie, will make her feel like a coward.
He doesn't give her the space or the choice anyway, snorting in disbelief. "That's a good try. Want to go with honesty this time?"
She forces herself to take a deep breath, to center herself. "I'm fine."
"Better," he concedes. He rocks back on his heels a little. "Look, Lanie, we're friends, right?"
"Yeah." They've worked hard for that.
"So something's wrong." It's not a question. "And as a friend, I give a crap. Since you don't seem to want to drown whatever crawled up your ass and died, let's get coffee."
It's a bad idea, a really bad idea, and one that's taken her too off-guard for her liking. She's vulnerable, and lonely and her feelings for him are still there because she did really like being with him. She's strong but she's not Superwoman and there's a serious risk her self-control will be short to hell, especially if he keeps being so damn Javier about the whole thing.
"Coffee," she finds herself agreeing regardless. If she hates herself in the morning, well, she'll find some excuse. She's been doing well so far. Mostly. "Just coffee."
He arches an eyebrow and she finds herself wondering what he'd heard in her voice to garner that look. "Just coffee."
They make the walk to a nearby all-night diner in surprisingly companionable silence, and she smile a little to herself when he orders a tea for her instead. She's overemotional, she convinces herself. That's the only reason she's touched by the idea that he remembers that about her. Or maybe it's habit. Either way, it's triggered a gentle warmth in her chest she shouldn't be feeling with him.
"Are we going to bother with small talk?" he asks as he slides into a booth across from her. He's never been one to mince words, something she'd really liked when they were together. There were never games. He knew there was a time an a place, understood that sometimes he needed to keep his mouth shut, but he told her what he thought. Most of the time.
Lanie offers him a shrug. She may have agreed to this, but that doesn't mean her loneliness is an easy thing to admit, especially to him. In some ways, he's the reason she's lonely and he is her ex. She doesn't want to feel anymore pathetic than she already does.
Eventually, though, it gets to her because he's only trying to help and she's being a bit of a bitch. "Googly eyes," she admits, looking down at her lap. She laughs, the sound harsh and much too awkward to be amusement.
He understands immediately, but that's all that shows on his face. The waitress chooses that moment to drop their drinks off and she wraps her hands around the mug offering a tiny smile and a quiet thanks.
"Those damn googly eyes," she says quietly once the waitress is gone. "I'm happy for them, ecstatic even, but-"
"Me too," he blurts out, interrupting her. He looks immediately away when her eyes snap to his in surprise. She chokes out another laugh, this one a little more on the amused side, because she feels less pathetic knowing she's not alone in the feeling, even if it is him making her feel that way. They fall into a silence that's both comfortable and uncomfortable.
"Want to be lonely together?" She doesn't know where the thought comes from, nor can she look at him. She'd said it the minute it had floated into her head and she's not entirely sure what she means when she asks. But the words are out there and she finds her eyes fluttering closed at the absurdity of the entire situation. That, and she doesn't want to see the pity in his eyes.
"Nothing," she back-pedals, digging in her purse for a handful of bills. "I'll catch a cab. Sorry."
He manages to catch her wrist before she's too far away. "Lanie," he says softly, in a tone of voice she's never been able to resist. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know," she answers honestly but she doesn't pull away from his grip. "Look, I'm tired, and I've been drinking and then watching Kate with Castle and Ryan and Jenny and-"
Her mouth snaps shut. Rambling isn't usually her style so now she's given away just how unstable she feels. She hears the creak of the vinyl as he stands, her arm relaxing as he steps in. His breath fans over her cheek, his mouth close to her ear. Her pulse is already starting to pound in her ears, her body reacting to his proximity, because yeah, she's still attracted to him.
"It's a bad idea."
"It is," she agrees, without hesitation, but his hand hasn't released hers.
He pauses, like he wants to ask another question or say something else, but then he releases her. Her heart plummets to the vicinity of her stomach and she plays with her purse strap until she hears the crinkle of bills. He throws a handful on the table, then he's steering her out with a hand on the bottom of her spine.
"Where are we going?" Because she hopes to hell she hasn't screwed this up.
"I'm taking you home."
Lanie chokes down frustrated, self-loathing tears. She clutches her purse as he hails a cab and she slides in when he holds the door. She's surprised when he slips in beside her, but keeps her distance for the ride to her apartment. She climbs out the minute the car pulls to a stop, telling herself that she just needs to get out of there. She can worry about splitting the fare with him tomorrow.
She's got her keys out and in the lock of her building door when she feels his presence behind her.
"You don't have to walk me up," she tries to snap, but she knows the tears are making the words sound hoarse and choked rather than snippy.
"No," he agrees. She stiffens when his hand settles on the curve of her hip. "Unless you don't want me to."
"Tell me to go, Lanie," he pleads in her ear and she realizes for the first time that he's no better off than she is. They both know this is a terrible idea, but their history and their loneliness is combining in all the wrong ways because sex between them, like this, is only going to lead to awkwardness and the feeling that they're going backwards. But she's safe with him, and she knows that, so maybe this is history and loneliness combining in all the right ways because she knows he won't judge her in the morning. They'll both go into work tomorrow and put on masks and bland faces and try and forget this is even happening.
Because she can't tell him to go and the grip he has on her hip tells her he doesn't want to leave either.
She pushes the door open slowly, slipping inside and holding it for her. She's got warm eyes, but nervous ones and he keeps his on her as he steps in. He presses the button for the elevator and she lets the door close behind them. He stands right beside her when they get into the little box and she can feel the heat of him, his hand brushing against hers. The heat floods her veins, pulsing at every gentle brush of their bodies. She swallows thickly, very familiar with this kind of pusling heat. She knows what's coming next, knows that this is more than sex to her and yet, even knowing that, knowing consciously how utterly dangerous this decision is, she finds herself unable to tell him to go.
Instead, she turns into him when she reaches her door, grasping the collar of his polo and pulling him right against her. She ignores the slamming of her back against the door as his lips meet hers, instead thrilling at the way he leans against her. Her hands slide down his strong shoulders, defined muscles, until she's gripping his hips. His hands must be holding him up by her head, she realizes, and the picture it paints in her mind's eye makes her moan.
They move together easily, like they never stopped and his hips press intimately against her as one of his hands cups her neck. The other takes one of her hands from his hip, wrapping it around his neck so he can reach down for her knee. He lifts, hitching her leg around his hip so he can grind himself against her. She gasps with the feeling of it, the heat of it, and he plunders her mouth rather than giving her the chance to catch her breath. Her hand, the one that's still at his hip, yanks at his shirt until she can get her hand on warm, bare skin. He swallows a moan and rips his mouth from hers.
"The door," he pants and she thrills at the heat in his eyes. He wants her, it's written all over his face, and the hunger she can see in his expression makes her fumble her keys. Still, he backs up and she turns. He's up against her immediately, moving her hair from her neck so he can kiss and suck at the juncture of her neck and shoulder.
She retaliates by pushing her ass against the bulge forming in his pants and it gives her enough time – just barely – to slip her key into the lock. Seconds later, she's got it open and they're stumbling through. He grips her hips, all but throwing her back against the door and following swiftly. He uses the position to lock it again while his tongue battles hers for dominance of her mouth. He's aggressive, taking what he wants and after a few moments of trying to fight him, she surrenders.
He rewards her by slipping his hands beneath her tank top, pulling back only long enough to tug it over her head. His hands slide up the curve of her waist as he looks down at her half-naked form, chest heaving, breath panting. She licks her lips, squeezing gently where her hands have wrapped around his neck. His thumbs sit tantalizingly beneath her breasts and he nuzzles at her cheek until she tilts her head. His mouth latches on to her throat, her shoulders, her clavicle, the tops of her breasts and she rolls her hips without conscious thought.
He grips her knee again and lifts, wrapping her leg around his hip again before mirroring the action on the other side.
"Hold tight," he murmurs into the skin of her throat and she complies, flexing her thighs and wrapping her arms around his neck. His hands slide under her ass, holding her up as he steps away from the door. His balance never falters, even as she nips at his ear and sucks at his jaw. It's one of the other things she'd really loved about being with him, the easy way he could carry her to bed.
She squeezes her eyes shut at the thought. This isn't about feelings and emotion. He's helping her out, giving her this, because she's had a rough night and she feels isolated. She can't let herself remember those good times because this is different. It has to be different.
She pulls his head down for a kiss as he dumps her on the bed, trying to use him to wipe the thoughts from her mind. It works, no surprise, and his fingers dig into her hips as her body undulates against him. He uses his grip on her to toss her up to the head board, her body bouncing. She laughs a little, despite herself and he crawls up after her to meld their mouths together again. Her hands slip down his body again, this time gripping his shirt to yank it over his head. He stares down at her as she lets her hands play over his naked skin, watching her chest heave beneath the plain blue satin of her bra.
"One of your less interesting choices," he says as he shifts his weight to slide a finger down the strap. He hooks his finger under the satin when he reaches the edge of the cup, nudging her bra strap from her shoulder. She laughs because, yeah, he's seen some of her more interesting choices in lingerie. But she hasn't been dressing for anyone else recently and while some days she goes a little daring, she hadn't felt it this morning.
He shifts his weight again, using his palm this time to slide the other one down her shoulder. Then he's up, bracing himself on his knees, gloriously naked from the waist up. She pulls herself up a little, enough that he can slip his hands around her back, heading for the clasp of her bra. She traces patterns over his chest in the mean time, feeling his muscles contract beneath her touch. To her, it's still a little surprising that she can make his muscles do that, that she can affect him that way.
Her bra gets tossed aside as they fall together again one of his hands sliding beneath her shoulder blade to play at the end of her hair while the other dances across her breast. She lets her back arch at the sensation, gripping his bicep with one hand and a beltloop in the other. She realizes, at that moment, that they are both still half-dressed, a notion that she doesn't like one bit. She sneaks her hands between them, reaching for his belt at the same moment he closes his mouth around the peak of her breast. She moans, her eyes fluttering closed and opening his belt with fumbling fingers. Still, she manages it, but can do no more than arch her body against him and grip the open edges of his pants.
Once her chest is a blushing pink, he pulls back and gets off the bed. She whimpers for a moment before she realizes he's reaching for his pants, shuffling them and his boxers down his legs. He reaches for her next, tugging her down the bed and making efficient work of her own denims and underwear. They're both bare then, and much to her surprise, he drops to his knees. Hers are spread and he can see up the vista of her body as he places his hands on her thighs. He spreads her further, and licks his lips self-consciously.
It's a move that leaves her panting, her head dropping back as she feels the pressure of his thumbs on her inner thighs. A moment later, he's spreading her open to his gaze and licking a long line up her core. She jolts and moans, her hands flying to her head. It's not the first time she wishes he had hair, but the coarse stubble of his head against her palms adds another layer of sensation to his fingers and tongue.
She remembers this too, though she knows she shouldn't. He loves – loved – reducing her to a puddle of molten flesh beneath him. Or above, him actually, because she can remember how he'd chuckle when she couldn't hold herself up anymore. Even now, she can feel his smirk as two fingers slip easily into her body, curling at just the right place to have her vision blurring around the edges. She holds on, barely, until he does it again. Then she's flying and for all the violence of the pleasure swimming through her veins she's quiet.
When she finds herself again he's switched their positions, lying back against the sheets so he can run his hand through her hair and down her back. There's something in his gaze that sets her heart beating faster, so she closes her eyes and kisses him. Now's not the time for emotion. Not anymore.
He returns her kiss enthusiastically, his hands moving with an arousing purpose where a moment ago they'd been soothing. She shifts until her hips are right against his, sliding over him and making them both groan. Then he's reaching for her side table and pulling out protection, his other hand gripping her hip tightly. He's on the edge, she realizes, and it sends her head spinning as she takes the small package from his hand.
Then she's rolling it on and following it, impaling herself on him with her hands resting on his chest. She pauses, feeling the hair on his legs brush against her own sensitive inner thighs, taking in how he stretches and fills her, how he presses against her just right. Then he's lifting her, and while that shouldn't be a surprise, her eyes widen with the strength he leaves on display. It pushes the breath from her lungs as she slides down again, but she gets the message. She lets him guide her body, rocking her hips on her down strokes as his hands kneed her ass. It's enough to send her higher and higher as he watches her.
Eventually, her rhythm stutters, erratic as his pelvis continues to brush against her. He flips them then, plunging into her and she's flying again, this time with a loud cry. She's just coming back to herself when she feels his breath catch. He stills within her, breathing her name into her neck as the pleasure overwhelms him.
They collapse. Well, he does, but she takes his weight willingly. Now it's her turn for her hands to be gentle as they stroke over his back. He moves when he recovers, tugging her up with him into the ensuite. He disposes of the protection and they clean up. She offers him a spare toothbrush from beneath her sink and he brushes a hand down her back in thanks. It's domestic, and it takes a lot for her to shove down all of the emotions that are creeping steadily up her chest.
She's the one to tug him back to bed rather than kick him out like she knows she should. He doesn't argue, just wraps her up in his arms and her sheets. They don't say anything as they drift off and despite the fact that she's running her nails over his arm with soft affection, she can't help but dread the morning.
She's going to regret this, she knows, because even though they've had tonight, tomorrow's light will bring regret, sadness and loneliness.
And it will hurt.
Wildly unbetaed, which is my own bloody fault for being impatient. As a result and hilariously enough, I'm not sure the sentences are in the right kind of mindframe. I've been writing Doctor Who recently, and watching it like crazy, which means my head's thinking in British-English cadences rather than American-English ones. And yes, there is a difference. It's been difficult to make the mental switch, even while writing this. And I've been writing Criminal Minds as I've picked away at this, so really, I shouldn't have an excuse.
It's also very weird to write a vulnerable Lanie. Like, supremely weird. There is a part of me that likes it and can see this almost vividly and a part of me that does truly believe this is wildly OOC. Obviously because the show is primarily about Beckett and Castle we don't see the reactions of Lanie or Esposito to the break-up the way I wish we could, so I'm playing partly with what I've written for the World 'verse and partly with the notion that while Lanie puts up a great front, she's not invincible. And I'm hoping her decisions – the ones she's making in this particular piece – make sense for where I want to get her.
Because, well, I'm me. And while I want this piece to stay a stand-alone for the emotion (I never feel like the punch to the gut feels the same when you know there's more ahead of you) I have a blurb for the next morning and thoughts in my head about where I kind of want them to go from here. Kind of, because season 5 hasn't aired yet (obviously) so we don't know where these two are going to go and thus, what I'm going to have to play with come September. So I'll write as this comes to me and maybe make a little series out of it. Time will tell.
Big loves to my Esplanie Twitter cheerleader, Marine, without whom this wouldn't exist. Love, your constant encouragement kept these two in the forefront in my mind. Bless your Esplanie-loving heart and I do hope you've gotten a chance to read this.
Leave a review if you'd like. Though I'd appreciate it, if it changes your mind.