A Good Hurt

The next morning she wakes with a warm hand on her stomach and heat pooling low in her abdomen. She spreads her legs on reflex and his hand is there, stroking and stoking the heat that's flared to life. She gasps, one hand fisting in the sheets where it rests, the other reaching down to grip his wrist. She wants to tell him 'no', to stop because they can't do this, but her hand does nothing of the sort. Instead, she simply clings as his fingers dance across her heated flesh.

Her hips buck, her leg bends outward and she digs her head into the pillow beneath her as he flings her over the edge. The climax leaves her breathless, blinking away lights. His face is smug above her and she tries to glare, but she knows her face is too sated for it. She's probably glowing, the idiot, even though she knows she shouldn't be.

He shifts above her, sliding between her legs, then within her before Lanie can so much as utter a 'good morning', let alone tell him he needs to stop. Her body betrays her anyway, and her leg lifts to wrap around him, her arms looping over his shoulders as her hips move against him. He leans down, pressing his mouth to hers in little fleeting kisses while his hips rock gently. She shifts, flexing her leg, trying to move him with more purpose, but he is undeterred.

The problem is this kind of thing leaves her boneless and helpless. It always has. Quick, fast, she can absorb that as need and move on. He's stoking a different kind of pleasure in her chest, one that speaks to gentle emotion and hand-in-hand walks in the park. Emotion that she can't handle right now, in and amongst all the loneliness and emotional upheaval of the previous night.

He drops his head beside hers, like he's unable to look at her while he pushes in and out of her body. She's matching him unconsciously, digging her nails into his spine as her breath comes faster and faster. He slides one hand beneath her head, cupping her skull and using his forearm for balance as he slips his other hand between them. Now every inward thrust knocks his fingers against her just right and she's flying again a moment later. He follows with a quiet groan, his head buried in her pillow.

A few minutes later she lets him pull her up into the bathroom. She even lets him kiss her while they wait for her shower to warm. She has no idea what's going on, but she can't seem to make herself stop. She doesn't want to stop. She wants to hang onto this with everything she can because she doesn't feel alone. In fact, a deep part of her heart would argue that he makes her feel loved. Cherished. The same way he'd always made her feel when they were together.

But they're not. She has to remind herself of that. Because if she doesn't, she's going to lose herself in this and she's just going to get hurt again. She can't afford that. They have different ideas for the future, or maybe different ways of thinking about the future, and they can't build anything lasting on that. She wishes that there was laughter, wishes that it was the playful intimacy that had characterized so many of these early morning romps.

He nudges her into the shower and she slips immediately beneath the spray. She lets the water soak her hair as his hands skim her hips, her waist, the side of her breast. He doesn't try to arouse, however, and much to her surprise. His lips skate across her shoulders, yes, but they're gentle, butterfly kisses. That emotional warmth grows again, choking her and making her heart clench hard in her chest. She turns her head into the spray as she feels tears flood her eyes.

He doesn't ask. Instead, he reaches around, pressing his lips to her shoulder as he grabs her sponge hanging from the tap. He doesn't reach for her usual wash though, the one she's got hanging with her shampoo. He reaches for the little bottle, the one she uses on bad days, the one she only ever indulges in. The smell wafts through the steam, it's thick and sweet. Berries.

He starts at her bicep, using it to work up a lather. His other rests warmly on her hip as he uses the sponge, moving in broad circles down her back, then around her front. Each touch is gentle and careful. She leans back against him as he keeps going, washing her with a touch that has her breath hitching. He knows, he has to know now. Her chest is heaving, her arms shaking and she knows the tears she didn't want to cry are rolling down her face at an alarming rate.

"Shh," he whispers against her skin. "Come on, Lanie."

She wants to glare at him because if she could make herself stop, she would. If she could push him away, push him out, he'd be gone by now. And he knows it, which might just be the worst part. The problem is if she pushes him away, she's alone again. Alone in her shower, alone in her apartment, alone in her left and even with everything exploding within her – and not in a good way, apparently – she cannot bring herself to do it.

She'd known it would hurt.

She hadn't predicted it would hurt this much.

She tries though, valiantly, biting down on her lip and closing her eyes, trying to focus on the feel of the sponge rather than his heat behind her. But then he shifts and the sponge drops to the floor as he wraps his arms around her. Her head falls forward, and she wishes she hadn't soaked her hair, just for a moment, so she could hide tearstained cheeks. He pulls her in, though, and she feels his forehead rest against the back of her skull.

"Please, Lanie. Don't."

She digs her nails into his arm, the only form of anger she can express with her emotions forming an uncomfortable lump in her throat. In the bright light of day, the previous night seems like so much of a worse decision than she'd though. Here and now, it doesn't feel like he wants to let go anymore than she does. Either that, or he just can't stand to see her cry.

Emotions flood them both and the shower. The hazy light of the morning is dimmed by what's transpiring between them. She pushes away, only to turn and wrap her arms around him, holding herself to him as she buries her face in his throat. He surprises her – though she shouldn't be, really – by returning the embrace, pulling her as close as he can without sliding through her skin. His cheek rests against hers and she's not entirely sure if the wetness she feels is solely a result of her and the shower.

She's not sure how long they stand like that. Eventually, however, when her trembling has calmed, he takes her by the shoulders. She steels herself for the pity and the mask, the one he's worn with her for the same reason she's worn one with him. They tried and failed. They can't try again.

But there's no pity in his gaze, nor is there the shuttered eyes of a man who knows how to wear a poker face. His face is ravaged by emotion, a look she's so rarely seen that she's not sure she can keep herself from crying again. She can feel it and she bites viciously on the inside of her cheek. She tastes blood and it's the only thing that keeps her grounded.

"You are not alone," he tells her and she can feel the sentiment in her bones. "You will never be alone."

He doesn't really mean it, not the way she wishes someone did – him, maybe, but she refuses to let herself travel that path. Their friendship is strong, is what he's trying to say, strong enough that even with this, with their history, with sex thrown into the mix and complicating the hell out of their lives, if she needs him, he will be there.

Because he's Javier Esposito, and loyalty, that kind of unwavering support, is just what he does.

She nods, even though there's a myriad of things she wishes she could say to him. His hands cup her cheeks, brushing at the moisture hanging there and he leans forward to press his mouth to her forehead.

"I'll see you at work."

She catches his wrist without realizing it and she has no idea what she looks like, but when he finds her eyes again she sees so much sadness. Like he's lost something beautiful. She goes to open his mouth and he shakes his head. She realizes she must have the question, the hope, written all over her face.

"We can't."

Then he's gone, almost before she can blink, and she's left alone in the shower, with only the ghost of his touch.

She makes it into work for her shift, feeling worse than she had the night before. She's early enough that she has a few minutes before shift change and once she's in scrubs, she heads to her office. It's a tiny little thing but it's enough space that she doesn't have to write her reports in the stifling smell of preservatives and death.

She stops dead once she's unlocked the door, taking in a bright blue Post-It and the take away cup. She drops her bag in the doorway, taking slow careful steps towards her present, like it's a bomb about to blow the place apart. It's still warm when she picks it up, the little tag of the teabag tucked carefully into the sleeve. It's a recent delivery, she realizes. Very recent.

She's out of her office in an instant, heading for the main autopsy suite. Perlmutter's there, with Alexis assisting and they both look up when the door opens.

"Did you let someone into my office?" She's surprised at how accusatory her tone is, shocked at herself for being so good.

Perlmutter just scowls, though Alexis looks a little taken aback. "Yes."

"Damnit, Perlmutter-"

"It was just Esposito," Alexis speaks up quickly, as if sensing a battle. Lanie's noticed her aversion to confrontation. "We didn't think anything of it."

Esposito.

Javier.

Well, okay, she'd figured that part out. The man has the writing of a seven-year-old. But hearing it confirmed…

She hopes her scowl is convincing as she turns on her heel and heads back to her office, her fingers toying with the Post-It.

I lied, it reads. We can. If you want.

She knows exactly what he's referring to, exactly what he means. She's got butterflies – no, humming birds. No. What's bigger than both of those? – in her stomach and her head is spinning. Her heart is beating triple time in her chest and she knows, as she closes her office door and leans against it, she's probably got a rather stunned look on her face.

She chews her lip for the fifteen minutes before she's on shift, looking at the Post-It note she's moved to her blotter, sipping the tea she's been sweetly provided. She thinks about putting it aside as she clocks in, but the choice is almost taken entirely out of her hands when she's called to a scene twenty minutes into her shift.

He's there. So is Kate. Ryan and Castle off in a corner debating the finer points of building jumping. A suicide, which she always finds sad, but there's something buoyed in her chest as she finds his gaze across the scene. She strides towards him, pausing to set down her case as she gloves up. She meets his gaze slowly, deliberately and while they're shuttered – Detective's Eyes – she can see something else beneath. Maybe he's nervous and anxious, maybe he's just really proud of himself, but she ignores it as she goes about her preliminary findings.

He comes to crouch beside her as Kate yells for Castle, assigning her detectives to canvassing. He nods once before Kate turns and strides away. It gives them a moment, a little bubble of time, and she turns her head slightly, though she doesn't take her eyes from their jumper.

"Santa Clause came early," she murmurs. It feels forbidden, thrilling, to have this conversation with so many milling about around them. She should feel nervous and on-edge, worried that the entire scene will know what's going on, what they did last night, in just a glance. But the tea's given her hope. The tea and his little note.

"Oh?"

"Mmhmm. Didn't know he specialized in hot beverage delivery in the off season."

He gives no indication he has any idea what she's talking about and she has to bite her cheek against the grin that wants to escape. She knows it's her move and she understands it. It was hard enough, she'd bet, for him to bring her the tea, let alone put himself out on a limb again. She's holding all the cards, and she knows exactly what move she's going to make.

She stands. He follows. She props her clipboard on her hip and he crosses his arms over his chest.

She arches an eyebrow and says, "So. Dinner?"

He grins.

Her body warms instantly, with a glow she's sure isn't just internal. The terrible pain from the morning is washed away by a flash of teeth and a sparkle in his eye and she feels hope flair in her chest. It's almost overwhelming in it's intensity but she knows that this kind of hurt is the good hurt. She lets it infuse her body this time as she averts her eyes and goes about her job.

Her phone chimes as she climbs into the truck almost an hour later and she pulls it out with a frown. The frown transforms immediately.

Pick you up at 7.

"Wow, Doctor Parish. Sexting on the job again?"

She shoots the summer intern a glare that could melt steel. "That's none of your business now, is it?"

The kid goes silent as she settles back in her seat, a secretive smile playing about her lips.

She types back, Can't wait.


This did not work out the way I'd thought it would. Which is okay, because I might actually be happier with this than what I originally anticipated. It's also relatively unbetaed, 'cause that's the way I roll and I'm sorry for that. Mostly.

I don't know what's going to happen with this now. I know I said in the previous one I'd like to make a little series out of this, and I still do, it's just I'm not quite sure how. These two together work pretty beautifully and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do anymore without taking away from how I feel about these. And I don't want to be repetitive. I've been doing a lot of little series pieces recently (or maybe it just feels like that between Needs and Nuances) so I'm a little wary about starting another one. Maybe the little bit I've got later in the full document I'll just turn into a piece of it's own. I have no idea.

Either way, this was finished much faster than I'd thought. I cannot put into words how happy it makes me to know that. With how sketchy the muse has been over the last 6 months or so the idea of having two chapters (4 if you include the Years pieces I've got essentially ready to post) on top of a handful of Doctor Who pieces done in the last month or so, I feel so much better about my life in general. I missed writing.

And hey, though I make no promises, maybe I'll get to the next World piece soon. I'm not entirely sure if it's going to be a oneshot of Lanie meeting Javier's parents or if it's going to be the full story, but maybe I'll be able to pull something out of my little hat.

Knock on wood.

Anyway, thank you so much for the feedback on the last one, especially since I was a little concerned Lanie was almost too vulnerable. I wanted this one to stay in the same vein (which is hard because the POV it's written in meant that I couldn't really tackle what Esposito was thinking through all of this the way I could Lanie) so I hope it's done it's duty and it makes sense. Or at least you guys can feel the emotion.

I hope you enjoyed this little coda too!