A/N: Hi guys. I've been off the FF scene for a while due to several factors including a crippling case of writer's block. I have three unfinished oneshots on my computer right now that in a word, suck, and aren't worthy of human sight. So in the grand tradition of authors, I've instead decided to rehash an old fic that I probably should have left well enough alone (It Takes A Village) and write a sequel.

This story is set in an undetermined time period after season 3 of both shows, and I suppose it's probably a bit AU. Rating is T. Pairings are the obvious. I hope you enjoy.

Movie nights were a serious business at the New York high-rise apartment affectionately known by its inhabitants as 'Chez Castle.' After all, one didn't purchase a state-of-the-art home entertainment system and then not make the most of it.

Kate stretched luxuriously on the soft couch and grabbed a handful of popcorn. A DVD of a family favourite 'Forbidden Planet' was primed and ready to go, and a glass of red wine within easy reach on the coffee table. She had to admit; this was way better than going out to the cinema. There were no crowds, no set times, and the refreshments were free.


The disconsolate voice of Richard Castle drifted through the apartment, breaking her peaceful silence.

"I'm in here," she called back softly, and heard his heavy footsteps begin to approach. Soon, he reached her, his cell phone in hand, staring at it as though it might disappear, should he take his eyes off it. She shifted aside, and he sank onto the couch beside her, slipping an arm around her waist with a deep sigh.

"Is it too early to call her?" he asked.

"Yes," Kate said gently, pressing a firm kiss to his cheek. "She said she'd call us, remember?"

'But what if something's happened to her?" he protested. "What if something's gone terribly wrong? My baby…out there all alone."

"Castle, it's college, not an expedition to the Alps," she said, patiently. "Alexis is the smartest kid I know. She'll be fine."

It had been a big year for the Castle family, beginning with their wedding nine months previously, followed by the grand opening of Martha's acting school, the release of Castle's 28th best-selling novel, and now Alexis, leaving the nest and off to college.

Nine months since she and Castle had become husband and wife in front of 300 guests, only about 50 of which they actually knew well. Nine months since she'd ceased to feel like she was alone in the world, had found her 'one and done.'

Mrs Castle. Kate Castle. It still sounded alien to her. Even now, she continued to address herself as Kate Beckett at work. Rick didn't mind. He said that she was a Castle where it counted.

But today, their household had been reduced by one member as Alexis had packed her bags and moved out. Castle had managed to keep up a façade of eagerness and excitement as they'd all helped to pack up her things, and he'd only held on slightly too long when the time came to say goodbye. However, the moment the door had closed behind his daughter, his smiles and good humour vanished, and the misery set in.

"I want her back, Kate," he said now. "I want my baby back. She can do all her work by correspondence. I'll even give her my office if that's what she needs."

"What she needs is to go out into the world, Castle," she pointed out, reasonably. "To stand on her own two feet. And you need to let her."

"I should have gone with her; helped to settle her in-"

"If you'd done that, it would've been even harder for you to say goodbye. And anyway, it's not like we're never going to see her again. She'll come and visit, even if just to mooch dinner off us, like I used to when I was in college."

He smiled a tiny bit, and she was glad he seemed to be cheering up at last. She'd always known that the separation from Alexis was going to be difficult for him, but it was slightly disconcerting to see how hard it had truly hit. She wondered idly if her own parents had been this way after she'd left home.

"Got any more stories about your college years, honey?" he asked, with sudden interest. "Preferably of the salacious variety?"

She giggled, as the familiar glint reappeared in his blue eyes.

"Oh, hundreds," she said. "Come on, let's watch the movie and afterwards I might tell you some."

"You're going to make me wait?" he whined. "Seriously?"

She put a hand on his thigh and squeezed. "I'm building suspense. I thought you of all people Mr Bestselling Author, would know all about that."

He leaned toward her and captured her lips in a brief, but passionate kiss. He drew her against him until she lay on his chest, feeling his heartbeat quickening, and his fingers brushing against her neck.

"Suspense is great in a mystery novel Kate, but in real life, I think it's seriously overrated. I had quite enough of it over all those years of chasing you." He kissed her again, grunting in displeasure, when she broke it off almost instantly.

"Even so," she said, pressing a button on the remote. "Movie first."

He frowned, but complied, wrapping his arm around her again as she snuggled into his side.

After about ten minutes however, it dawned on her that 'Forbidden Planet' hadn't been the greatest choice. Yes, it was one of their favourites, and yes it held a special place in her heart as the film she and Castle had gone to see on their first unofficial 'date.' Unfortunately, she'd forgotten it was also a film he and Alexis used to watch together a lot; therefore it wasn't surprising when his thoughts drifted again to his daughter.

"Who's going to play laser tag with me now?" he said, quietly, almost to himself, as Leslie Nielson's spaceship landed on the planet of Altair IV. "And how am I supposed to have kick-ass lightsaber battles without an opponent?"

She supposed she could offer herself as laser-tag and lightsaber fighter, but it would hardly have been the point. It wasn't about Voltar ruling the omniverse, or being the first to five hundred he was lamenting, it was the vast reduction of time he could spend with Alexis. For a long time, all they'd had was each other. Martha had moved in, and then she herself had come along, but the bond between father and daughter had remained as strong as ever. Castle seemed to feel that now she was out of the house all that would be over. She knew that would never happen. Alexis idolised him, adored him, and always had. That wasn't going to change.

She'd never been as close to her own father in her teenage years, at least not until they'd lost her mom. It was only after she somehow managed to pull him out of the grip of alcoholism his grief had driven him into that they really, truly, connected. She'd never dreamed that she might have a real family again; she'd thought it would just be her and her dad for the rest of their days. Instead, she'd wound up a bonafide member of the Castle clan.

This loft had felt like home long before the day she moved in here. Countless nights had been spent here, dinners, drinks, analyses of tricky cases that carried on long into the night, and that was before they'd started dating. She moved in after they'd been together two months, and had never once regretted it. Sure, some people thought it was a little fast, but they'd wasted enough time finding each other. They had a life to start living.

The front door unlocked and in sailed her mother-in-law, fresh from a day of tutoring the young hopefuls at her acting school. Kate thought that this new business venture was doing Martha the world of good. She said it felt good to use her skills again after so long in retirement.

"I'm sorry, Mother," her son had quipped, after she made this proclamation. "At what point did the drama in your life ever stop?"

"Hello darlings," she greeted them, in a swirl of diamonds, animal print, and Chanel No. 5. "Oh, I had the most terrible day at school today. One of my students got cast as an understudy in Wicked."

Kate and Rick exchanged glances. She could almost hear him thinking 'don't ask, don't ask," but curiosity got the better of her, and she just couldn't help herself.

"But Martha," she began, ignoring her husband's frantic headshakes and the slicing motion he was making with his hand across his throat. "That's wonderful!"

"Yes, I suppose so," she replied, waving an airy hand. "But they interviewed her for the Ledger, and she didn't even mention what school she came from." She sighed. "Actors. They get the smallest taste of success and then they forget about the people who got them there. The people who taught them, nurtured them-"

"I'm sure she didn't do it on purpose," said Kate.

"Oh Kate." Martha shook her head almost pityingly. "You don't know actors the way I do. They're ruthless, and they'll do anything to get ahead."

"Yes, I'm sure when she was offered the role the first thing she was thinking was 'how can I use this experience to inconvenience Martha Rodgers?'" chimed in Castle, rolling his eyes.

"Snort if you will, Richard, but we'll see if you're still laughing when the school goes bankrupt and I start spending all day here again."

Castle paled, and Kate clapped a hand over her mouth to muffle her laughter.

"Did Alexis get off OK?" asked Martha, her indignation turning to concern as her son's face fell even further. "I could have taken the day off, but she insisted that I didn't."

"Oh, you know," said Castle, with a miserable attempt at breeziness. "Packing, arguments, tears…mostly mine," he admitted. "I can't believe she's gone."

"Have you called her yet?"

"I can't. I promised her I wouldn't."

Just then, Castle's cell phone, set on the armrest of the couch, burst to life. His eyes lit up when he saw the caller ID.

"It's Alexis!" He put the phone to his ear in a rush. "Hi sweetheart, is everything OK?"

Martha smiled a little to herself as Castle became engrossed in his phone conversation.

"What is it?" Kate asked her.

"Oh nothing really, this just reminds me of something."

"What?" asked Kate again, as Castle strode around the apartment, beaming, and with more animation then he'd had all day.

"Well, darling, this is the way he used to look when you called. Back before you were together."

Kate blushed. "Really?"

"Oh, yes. Even if you'd spent the whole day together, he'd see your picture flash up on his cell and his eyes would light up just like that. Alexis and I had never seen anything like it."

"He never told me that," she admitted, quietly, feeling a sudden rush of affection for her husband. She knew he'd loved her long before she had been in any kind of headspace to love him back and he had waited a long time for her to get her act together. But she was so very grateful that he had.

"There's a lot of little things like that he hasn't told you," said Martha, fondly. "I could give you a hundred examples."


Martha smiled at her. "Who do you think he poured his heart out to every time you two had one of your little spats?" She reached for a glass and the bottle of red wine and poured herself a generous helping. "Oh, Richard and I spent many a night discussing you."

"Sorry," she said awkwardly. No doubt Martha had grown as weary of the constant dramas in those days as she had. Before they became a couple, she and Castle's relationship had never been stable. Instead it went up and down, up and down, like a rollercoaster, furious with each other one day and attached at the hip the next.

"Someone had to do it," said Martha, kindly. "It was a tough situation for him, with the woman he loved and his best friend being one and the same. He didn't really have anyone else to turn to."

She watched as Castle said a falsely cheerful goodbye to Alexis, and hung up the phone. "Letting Alexis go is the hardest thing my son has ever had to do," she said. "He's going to need you, Kate."

"I know."

For the longest time, Castle had been her number one means of support. From working through her mother's case to things as minor as small office arguments, he had always backed her 100%. And she had taken it all for granted. She treated his unwavering loyalty to her as a right, rather than a privilege, which had nearly ended them before they'd even begun, but she'd learned her lesson. She may not be perfect, but she loved this man with the kind of fierce intensity she used to think only existed in cheap paperback novels. He needed support right now. It was time to step up, and be the wife and the partner he deserved.

Her husband ambled over to them, looking thoroughly depressed. "Alexis sends her love. Apparently she and her roommate get along really well, and she can't wait to start classes." He sighed. "I guess a small part of me was hoping she'd hate it and want to come home. Stupid, right?"

Martha flicked a glance at Kate as if to say "You're up."

She knew what to do. She wrapped her arms around him, and felt him melt into her embrace. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Martha quietly retreating, leaving them alone.

"It's not stupid," she whispered. "I know this is hard for you, but it's the right thing to do. Besides, it's not like you're going to be on your own. Your mom will still be hovering in and out."

"Don't remind me," he said, and she chuckled.

"And you've still got me," she went on. "Always."

He squeezed her tighter. "Always."

"Come on," she said, when he let go. "Let's call Ryan and Esposito, and have them join us at the Old Haunt for a drink. We'll toast to Alexis' bright new future."

"And ours," he added, kissing her softly, before a grin crossed his face. "I guess it's true what they say about wives. Third time lucky."

She scowled. "Keep talking like that and I guarantee that you won't be getting lucky anytime soon."

"Lies, Detective. We both know that you can't keep your hands off me-"

"Excuse me, I wasn't the one who had the idea of doing it in the supply closet at the Old Haunt Christmas party," she said, with a smirk.

He smiled. "OK, I know the concept was a little clichéd, but in my defence, I was pretty drunk. And you were wearing your red dress with the thigh-high split, and you know what that does to me."

"You weren't drinking that much," she recalled. "Remember, we had the 12th party the next night and you didn't want to be hungover in front of Gates. Admit it, you just can't control yourself."

"I can too!"

"Fine," she said, moving closer to him, tilting her head towards his, but stopping just before their lips touched. "Prove it. I'm going to go change. Call the boys, and then we'll go. If you can't keep your hands to yourself until we get home, you have to help me with the paperwork on our next three cases."

"Fine," he said, closing the distance between them some more, but deliberately not touching her. She knew he was forcing himself not to by the way his fingers were twitching uncontrollably. "But if I win, when we get home you have to do whatever I want."

"Like what?" she asked, feigning innocence.

"Believe me, I'll think of something."

Pleased to see him in better spirits, she went off to change as he looked for his mother to give her an update on Alexis. In their bedroom, she riffled in the closet until she found the dress she was looking for. It was a deep, midnight blue, clingy, with a plunging neckline (she hadn't been so sure about that part, but Lanie had insisted she looked fabulous in it.) She'd been saving this particular dress for their anniversary, but suddenly, winning this bet took much higher precedence. After all, scoring points against each other had been part of their relationship since day one. And she could always buy another dress.

"The guys said they'll meet us there in twenty minutes," Castle shouted through the closed door. "Ready to go?"

"Almost." She slipped into the dress, matching shoes, and reapplied her makeup. Just before leaving, she spritzed on some Fracas, the perfume Castle had once said he was partial to.

Nobody said she had to play fair.

Was it possible to love somebody more than anything, and yet still feel an uncontrollable urge to kick his ass at the same time?

It was a familiar sight in the CBI to witness Teresa Lisbon storming through the bullpen in search of her consultant. People jumped out of her way when they saw one particular look in her eyes, a kind of 'seek and destroy' attitude, which was only ever aimed at Patrick Jane.

She reached the brown couch, only to find it empty. She spun around angrily and spotted Rigsby, who unconsciously shrank back a few inches.

"Where is he?" she demanded, hands on hips.

"Breakroom," her agent said, hurriedly. "Getting tea. He said he needed to recuperate."

"Recuperate," she snorted under her breath as she headed for the breakroom. "I'll give him something he'll really need to recuperate from."

She flung the door open to find him sitting there, nursing a cup of tea, eyes closed, as though he were some kind of Chinese yoga master, finding inner peace.

"Hello, Lisbon," he said, without moving a muscle. "Lovely weather we're having."

"I don't know, it's looking pretty stormy from where I'm sitting. I just had my ass handed to me by Bertram over last week's incident with Giles Maroney. You know, the one you tied to a chair in his own basement so he wouldn't spoil your big plan to trap his wife's killer."

Jane tilted his head, considering. "You know, I would've thought he'd be grateful that justice was done. That's modern society for you, everything's a law suit." He shook his head in mock-dismay, before looking up at her for the first time. "But I'm sure you managed to smooth things over, didn't you?"

She sighed, and dropped into a chair next to him.

"Yes, I did. With great effort."

He beamed at her. "Aren't we a great team?"

"Do you seriously not understand how difficult you make things for me? Why can't you just apologize to Maroney?"

"I have nothing to apologize for."

"You held him against his will, Patrick. That's an offence."

"I gave him perfectly adequate warning, and he wasn't even tied up that long. It was twenty minutes, tops. And," he added as an afterthought, "he punched me in the nose."

"You deserved it."

He took a long draught of the tea then put down his cup with a soft clink.

"The way I see it, I did wrong to him, and he did wrong to me. We're square."

"Not in the eyes of the law, you're not."

"Well, you know, Lisbon, the law and I just don't get on that well."

Lisbon knew there was little point in arguing this topic any further. When Jane made up his mind about something, getting him to change it was about as likely as Cho performing a dance routine on his desktop. Jane was a great detective and a generally brilliant man, but why did he always have to be so…damn…stubborn?

Eighty percent of the time, she adored her fiancé, but at times like this, she often found herself looking around for a suitable implement with which to throttle him.

Something changed in his expression, and the smugness disappeared. "I'm not sorry for what I did to Maroney," he said. "But I do apologise for making things hard for you, love. I know I make you deal with a lot more than you should."

She sighed again. "Apology accepted. But please, try and remember this conversation next time, preferably before you start causing mayhem."

He reached for her hand, and ran his finger over her diamond engagement ring.

"I really wish you hadn't had this recut," he said. "Do you have any idea how long I spent picking it out for you?"

She looked down at it too, and smiled at the memory of him presenting it to her onstage in the middle of their friend Castle's wedding last August. Also the way she had berated him in front of everybody before finally saying yes. She knew a few of the onlookers had been horror-struck at the way she'd laid into him but she could tell by the look on his face that he'd loved every moment of it. Bickering was a cornerstone of their entire relationship. It was them.

"Patrick, that rock was so big it could've been classified as a weapon."

He shrugged. "I bet some women would kill for a diamond knuckleduster."

"Maybe. But I'm not one of them."

She'd had the stone recut a few weeks after they'd returned to Sacramento, after becoming irritated beyond belief at being constantly harassed by the other women at work. When they weren't exclaiming over the size of the diamond, they were firing questions at her, non-stop. When was the wedding? Who was going to be her bridesmaid? What kind of flowers was she going to have? It just went on and on and on. It got to the point when she started to feel like she was becoming "Teresa Lisbon, Patrick Jane's fiancée,' as opposed to 'Teresa Lisbon, Senior Agent and human being." When she accepted his proposal, she was willing to stand by him and love him forever, but she'd never signed up for losing her own identity in the process.

It didn't take him long to figure out what she'd done. She knew the moment he noticed it, by the way his face fell faster than a dropping stone. He said he understood when she'd explained it to him, but at moments like this, she knew he was still a little upset about her decision.

He brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it.

"I just wanted to give you the ring you deserved," he said. "I want the whole world to know you're mine."

She looked deep into his eyes. "The important thing is that we know that. Everyone else can go to hell."

He chuckled, and then let her hand go.

"Want some coffee?" he asked her, noting her tired eyes, and the small yawn that escaped from her. It had been a long day for her, what with sorting out the Maroney debacle and filing all the paperwork from their most recent closed case, she'd barely even left her office today. He'd noticed that the days they spent at the Bureau seemed to exhaust her a lot more than ones out in the field. She just wasn't built for sitting around an office all day; she was happiest when she was running and shooting guns and kicking criminal ass.

He brought a cup over to her, and she accepted it gratefully, sipping it quickly so as to get the hit of caffeine as soon as possible. She seemed to be calming down now, and when she looked up at him again, she smiled for the first time since she'd entered the room.

"You know, that stuff is a drug of dependence," he said, as she polished off the cup.

"Well if I'm a junkie, then you are too," she said.

"Tea has many documented health benefits."

"Not the way you drink it. Sometimes I think your body must be about 25% tea."

"And what's the other 75%?" he asked, with interest.

"Hot air." She said it with almost a perfectly straight face, betrayed only by the tiniest little twinkle in her eye. If she hadn't expressly forbidden any such behaviour at the office, he'd have loved to kiss her right now. He compensated by shooting her the megawatt smile, which to his delight, still made her blush.

A lot had changed between them since they'd met, but he was glad that some things were still the same.

The door opened, and a couple of the guys from Organized Crime plodded in, and began jostling each other to get to the coffee machine first.

"Jane. Lisbon." Jeremy Kepner, who had lost the fight, inclined his head to both of them.

"Kepner," Lisbon greeted him. "How's things?"

"The usual. Drugs. Mobsters. Leads that go nowhere. Same old, same old."

The head of Organized Crimes, Drew Marley, turned to face them, holding his coffee and adding liberal amounts of sugar. "Actually, I was wondering if I might pass along the case file to you to look over," he said, addressing Jane. "We could use a fresh take on it. If you can spare him, of course?" he added, smiling warmly at Lisbon.

Jane's eyes narrowed. He'd never begrudged Marley his puppy-dog crush on his fiancée (at the very least, the man had excellent taste) but he'd probably like the guy a whole lot more if he'd transfer his affections elsewhere. Preferably onto someone available.

"I'm a little tied up at the moment," he lied.

"I get that you're busy," Marley persisted. "And believe me, if I were you I wouldn't be spending any more time in the office than I have to-" he cast another sidelong glance at Lisbon, "-but you could really help us out, and we're running out of ideas."

"It wouldn't kill you to do some actual work for once, Jane," Lisbon put in. "Maybe remind Bertram why he puts up with you."

He sighed, but relented. "Fine. Put a copy of the file on my desk."

Marley smiled. "Thanks. Much appreciated. And thank you, Agent Lisbon. You let me know if there's anything I can do for you." With another glowing smile, he led his team out of the breakroom.

"On your desk?" Lisbon said the moment they'd left. "You don't even have a desk anymore."

He grinned wickedly. "I know that, and you know that. But he doesn't, does he?"

She frowned at him. "You really don't have to be such a jerk, you know."

"I just wish he'd go find some other woman to pester. You're off the market. And we're definitely not inviting him to the wedding."

It was as if he'd fired a shot into the air at the last two words. Her whole body seemed to tense, and her eyes flashed.

He cursed himself for his idiotic slip of the tongue. Their upcoming nuptials were something of a touchy subject between them. He and Teresa had been engaged for nine months now, and still had yet to make any plans regarding their wedding. Every time they had tried to discuss it, they ended up in a huge argument and refused to speak to each other for days at a time. So far, they'd managed to disagree on everything from the date, ("I told you, Patrick, we can't have it that weekend, it's the CBI team leader's retreat! Yes of course I have to go to it this year, how would I look if I was the only one who didn't?") to the guest list ("We're not inviting Bertram, Teresa. I don't care if it seems rude and unprofessional; I see enough of him at work.")

Privately, he was starting to get a little concerned. After he proposed to Angela they were married within three months, (and expecting Charlotte by the fourth.) While not in such a hurry to rush down the aisle this time around, he'd feel a lot better if they could agree on just one thing without it turning into a fight.

Sometimes, when he was resting on his couch, pretending to sleep, he wondered if Teresa even wanted to get married at all, or if she'd just felt obliged to accept him in front of all those people at Castle's wedding. Maybe he'd jumped the gun when he proposed. They had only been dating for a year after all, which wasn't all that long in the grand scheme of things.

He'd thought long and hard about asking her to marry him. He got the idea of asking her at the wedding the day they received the invitation, but thinking about it and actually doing it…it was a big step. For weeks before they'd left for New York, he agonized over it, almost reverting back to his old insomnia problem as he wrestled with his dilemma.

It was the night before they left that made him sure.

It was seven thirty in the evening, and she was rushing around their bedroom, packing her suitcase in a frenzy. She'd wanted to do it earlier but she'd had to testify that day. He still remembered her flying around in her black court suit, panicking, and cursing him for not helping as he lay on the bed, watching her.

"Sweetheart," he said, as she blew past him for the third time. "Slow down."

"I think you're doing enough slowing down for the both of us!" she snapped. "You do nothing at work all day, aren't you rested enough by now?"

"We're not flying until tomorrow afternoon," he reminded her. "You don't have to do this right now."

"Yes I do."


She'd just pulled a pair of high heels that looked as if they'd never been worn out of the closet, and she turned to face him, one in each hand.

"I really not in the mood for one of your rambling philosophy lessons right now," she said. "I just want to get this done, and then I can relax."

"You can," he said. "But you won't."

"I will," she retorted.

"No you won't."

She raised the shoe in her left hand, threateningly. "Are you saying that I don't know how to relax?"

"I wouldn't dare," he said, with a grin. "I don't want to die from a stiletto to the head. Very embarrassing."

She threw it at him anyway, but he moved his head away so it hit the headboard of the bed with a thud. They both followed it with their eyes as it bounced off and landed on the floor.

"You really need to relax," he said, holding out his arms to her. "Come here."

The fight seemed to go out of her at these words, she dropped the shoe in her other hand, and crawled onto the bed next to him. He held her close, feeling her heartbeat start to slow and her breathing evening out.

"You must think I'm insane," she whispered, as she swung her leg over his waist and turned her face to his so she met his gaze.

He stroked her cheek. "I do."


He chuckled at her outraged expression. "You settled for me."

She scowled at him. "I chose you," she corrected him. "I love you. But I hate it when you talk about yourself like that. Like you're nothing."

"It's how I feel," he shrugged.

"You're not nothing," she said, almost fiercely. "Anyone who's been through what you have and still manages to have any faith in humanity is certainly not nothing."

"I have no faith in humanity. I have faith in you."

She kissed him then, and he clung to her like a limpet, holding onto her like she was all he had left. Which of course, she was.

She pushed back a few unruly curls from his face. "I used to fantasize about doing this," she said, as her fingers gently grazed his skin. "Sometimes, while you were sleeping, I just wanted to reach out and find out what it felt like."

"I know exactly what you mean." He used to torture himself, wondering if her skin was really as soft and silky as it looked. There were times, especially when they were alone together in her office, that it almost became too much. It had taken all his self-control (and considerable amounts of biofeedback techniques) to keep himself from reaching for her.

Her fingers played with the buttons on his shirt.

"This is our future now," she said. "Just you and me, forever. Are you sure this is what you want?"

He kissed her in response.

That was when he'd become certain that he wanted her to be his wife.

"We're going to have to talk about it sometime," he ventured, now. "At least we need to try and a set a date."

"Not at work," she said. "We'll talk about it at home."

"Will we?"

Recently, they'd simply been avoiding the subject. On the upside, they spent less time arguing, but on the downside, nothing was resolved. For the first time in a long time, he had no idea what was going on inside her head. Was she just nervous about getting married, or seriously having second thoughts?

He knew she'd been engaged to someone else once, long before they'd met. That poor bastard had ended up with a bruised ego and a broken heart. He could only hope he wasn't going to suffer the same fate.

"Of course," she said, but he didn't really believe her. He knew the look in her eyes. She was hiding something.

"Liar," he accused. "What's wrong?"

"I'd hate to tell the all-knowing Patrick Jane how to do his job."

Grace popped her head through the door, cringing at the raised voices.

"Boss?" she said to Lisbon. "Phone call for you. Line two."

"Thanks Grace. I'll take it in my office." She turned back to Jane. "We'll finish this at home."

She strode out the door with Van Pelt, and didn't look back

Castle reached for the next form in the twelve-inch high stack, with a groan. Kate reclined in her desk chair opposite him, as pleased with herself as the cat that got the cream.

He made a resolution. From this point on, he was never, ever going to bet against his wife.

Victoria 'Iron' Gates came striding out of her office and directly to them. Castle immediately tried to appear immersed in the paperwork, to save having to speak to her. In the few months since she'd replaced Montgomery, the new Captain had never really warmed to him. She acknowledged his usefulness in cases, and she allowed him to remain at the 12th, but he could tell that they were never going to be friendly.



A pause. "Castle."

He glanced up from the page. "Captain Gates."

"Good work on the Stagg case," she said. "An excellent result. I trust the paperwork will be filed this afternoon?"

"I'm not sure, sir," said Kate, trying not to laugh. "You'll have to ask my new assistant."

Gates spared Castle a split-second glance. "Do I want to know?" she asked Kate.

"Probably not."

"I see. Anyway, there's another reason I wanted to talk to you two. The city is throwing a big fundraiser for the NYPD in a week's time. We've been asked to choose one team from each precinct to attend. I'm sending you."

Kate groaned. "Why?"

"I'd rather not send you guys either," said Gates, bluntly. "But seeing as your husband-" she threw a dirty look at Castle "-seems to have styled himself as the new poster boy for the 12th, the mayor insisted he be there. You might as well all go. Make a night of it."

"Thanks, but no thanks," Castle said. "Send the mayor my apologies."

"I'm sorry, what part of that order sounded like a request? As you so aptly proved Castle, when you forced your way back into this precinct, when the mayor says 'jump' we say 'how high?' Am I making myself clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good." She handed Kate a sheaf of tickets. "There are a couple of spares in here. Invite some of your filthy rich writer friends, and tell them to bring their chequebooks." She turned on her heel and stalked off.

Castle scowled after her. "I really don't like her."

"Keep being nice to her," said Kate bracingly, risking a quick kiss on his cheek. "You don't want to give her an excuse to kick you out again."

He inspected one of the tickets. "Ugh, another stupid charity event. These things are always so boring. And I'm supposed to invite people? Don't they have party planners for that?"

"There must be someone you can ask," said Kate. "Even just one person, to get Gates off your back."

Castle pondered this for a while, as Kate continued to trawl through the paperwork, until suddenly, he slammed his fist triumphantly onto the table, surprising her so much that she punched a hole in the paper.

"What was that for?" she demanded.

"I've got it!" he crowed. "Who do we know who always livens up a party, and has cash to burn?"


"Other than me."

"Your mom."

He rolled his eyes. "Seriously?"

"Well, who then?" she asked, starting to get irritated. Castle dialled a number on his cell phone. He smiled as the line connected.

"Patrick Jane? Rick Castle here. I know it's been a while since we caught up, but how would you feel about crashing a party?"

A/N: I'm really not sure how I feel about this story. Was it OOC? Did it even make sense? I'd like to hear your thoughts.