Hi again. Before you read this, I want to share my point of view for a second, so bear with me, please.

A lot of people thought Espo was being petty and stupid about Ryan's actions in 4x23. The general consensus seemed to be that Espo was just being a baby, and Ryan was the big hero. Well, yes, Ryan WAS the big hero of that episode, but I also happen to completely understand where Javi was coming from.

Here's a guy who values loyalty above all other things. He was a military man, so his whole life has been loyalty-or-die. Then his first partner on the force (Ike Thornton) betrays him. (Letting him think he was dead for three years). Then his Captain, his mentor, betrays him too. When Ryan told Gates about Montgomery's involvement (which we know he did because Gates would not have known in 5x01 otherwise), Ryan broke the pact between the Immediate Family. YES, Ryan's actions saved Beckett's life. That's true. But he didn't technically have to rat out Montgomery to get there. THAT was what Espo was so angry about (not about saving Beckett, which Espo would obviously never begrudge). The point is, he never thought Ryan, his best friend, would be on that list. So of COURSE he was hurt.

Then Espo goes and throws himself 100 percent into the Dragon case. He keeps digging completely on his own, pulling less-than-legal strings, not even letting a suspension slow him down. He's practically "down the rabbit hole" right alongside Beckett at her worst. (He walked into that abandoned building to confront Maddox, carrying two guns on his person, WITHOUT knowing that Caskett were there too. Until he saw their car, he'd assumed he was alone. Which can only mean he armed himself for something of a "last stand" of his own. He intended to pay his penance for letting Maddox escape the first time. He was going to kill Maddox without Beckett's help, or die trying. Which was a heartbreaking thought, for me.)

Then, suddenly, the case is over. Now he's got all summer with no job, no best friend (for the time being), no girlfriend, and suddenly…for the first time since before he enlisted, there's no fight to fight. He's got no goal. Nobody. No drive. And I just couldn't help but think…how immeasurably sad that was. I imagined he'd have privately felt very inadequate, as if he'd failed Beckett, as if he wasn't worth it, etc. That's one long, lonely summer for a guy who just risked everything for his friends.

So, I sat down, I happened to be listening to a song, and I wrote this. The song was "Fix You," which I do not own, but which fits this to a tee, and which inspired me profoundly.

I do not own Castle, either. I'm done talking now. Please read and enjoy.




When you try your best, but you don't succeed

When you get what you want, but not what you need

When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep

Stuck in reverse…




Four days had passed since Kate Beckett stormed a convention to confront Senator William Bracken. Four days since she'd let him go and gone back to her life.

Four days since Esposito had left his apartment. It wasn't something deliberate. It was just… Shortly after closing the door, he'd realized he wasn't sure what life to go back to.

The first day, he'd cleaned up. There wasn't anything else to do. Did a load of laundry, fixed an old chair that squeaked when it reclined, erased all the messages from his answering machine. Most of them without listening. Then he'd pulled the punching bag out of the back of the closet. He'd hung it from a rafter and given it hell, until sometime after dusk when the tether snapped. That night he'd lain on the living room floor and stared at the ceiling. Woke up the next morning with a backache like Satan had kicked his ass.

The second day, he wanted to go for a run. He'd planned to lap at least two of the five boroughs; anything that could keep him out of there and moving for as long as possible. When he'd looked out the window, a high wind threw the thunderstorm toward him. Thunder rattled the pane, and he went back to bed.

The third day, he'd rolled the dead punching bag out of his living room and down the hall to the garbage disposal. He'd stared impassively at the ringing phone on his kitchen counter for almost ten minutes. Then he'd ripped the jack from the wall, bleakly enjoying the moment the damn thing went dark. He'd powered off his cell phone as well. Not put to sleep; powered off. The storm outside still raged. With nothing left on the agenda, his best friend became the two six-packs of beer in the bottom of his fridge. Nobody ever said the third day wasn't pathetic.

And day four wasn't any better. Here he was, on the couch. What was he supposed to do? By now, he didn't know what time of day it was, where he'd left his watch, or whether he'd locked up. He didn't know what to be, how to get there, or whether he even wanted to. His head hurt. He just wanted to sleep.

So he automatically hated whomever thought it'd be funny to knock on his door.

He didn't have his Glock anymore. That was in Gates's desk, under lock and key. His Smith & Wesson was in his bedroom, and he thought about grabbing it. The Beretta in the end table was a lot closer. He didn't go for any of them. There was no reason anymore. Cole Maddox was dead, and he hadn't even been the one to do it. Beaten to the punch and left in his debt by a stupid, remote-triggered explosive. So no one was after him. He wasn't part of anything anymore. And thieves didn't knock first. For all he cared, whoever it was could turn around and leave.

Instead, there was the sound of a key scraping into the deadbolt. He didn't move. Maybe if he kept it that way, they'd get the hint.

Lanie shut the door softly as she took two steps into the apartment. "Your phone's never off," she said.

Javier didn't completely look at her. For a minute, he debated saying nothing, but then he spoke. His voice was coarse in his own ears, and he figured it was probably from either disuse or alcohol. "Didn't know you still had a key."

"I thought it was practical. Why? Should I get rid of it?"

He pursed his lips, shrugging one shoulder, like he couldn't possibly care one way or the other. "Do what you want. S'your key."

"It's your apartment."

"Keep it. Frame it. Hawk it. Throw it in the river. What're you doin' here?"

He knew from his peripheral that she took a few more steps closer. Vaguely he flashed back to a long time ago. He was on the job, had a day off sick, and she brought him an autopsy report. He'd flirted like some dumbass outta high school. God. "Like I said," came Lanie's voice again. "Your phone's never off."

He shrugged again, saying nothing. She was stating facts; he didn't see the need to agree. Lanie looked around.

"The place looks good."

"Thanks, I hired a maid, actually. She's German, says things like 'balustrade,' bakes little pies when you're not lookin'…"

She didn't dignify his sarcasm. She was studying him now. Without even watching, he could tell. He knew what that felt like. "…You lose a bet?"

"Narrow that down."

"You look terrible."

Without humor, he let out a dead chuckle under his breath, studying the remote to the TV he hadn't turned on yet. "Slow down. Gonna give me an ego."

"You're hungover."

He shook his head once. It didn't even make a return trip, so maybe it didn't qualify. "No'm not."

Lanie didn't say anything else. She walked straight to his window. With one hand on her hip, she used the other to jerk open one of the drapes. Violent sunlight shot in and assaulted his retinas, and he winced, turned away, and involuntarily let out something akin to the sound a baby bear might make.

"You're hungover," she restated.

Javier kept his hand over his eyes. "Whatever. Can you not? C'mon, little mercy…" He felt the shadow come back, and he put the guard down, pushing his hands through his hair. "Thank you."

She came closer; she was just a few feet from him now. For some reason her coat was off, and she laid it over the back of a chair, almost like she wasn't planning to go any time soon. Maybe she was gonna lecture him. Except she wasn't using that tone; not the one he expected. "Javi…"

"I don't want your pity," he cut her off. Not harshly, more like a mumble, but he did.

"All right, fine; Detective Esposito - "

He winced, sliding down a little further, the title putting him in physical discomfort. "Actually you know what? On second thought, do whatcha gotta do."

"Javier…" She gestured to the state he was in, and he half-glanced up, kinda. Her eyes looked sad. That was strange. There was no reason for that. "Why are you doing this?"

He tried to think of what 'this' was. Whether it was supposed to be broad or specific. Like, what? Why was he hungover? Or why was he home in the middle of the day? Why had he worn this shirt? Eventually, he shrugged, coming up with nothing. "Why are you here?" he countered.

"Okay, and again I ask: why are you doing this?"

"Why are you here?"

"Why can't you answer the question?"

"Because what is 'this,' Lanie? Huh?" Finally, he fully looked at her. He moved his head too quickly, and he wished he hadn't. "What else am I supposed to do? I'm serious, I'm actually asking. If you got an alternative, please, tell me. I don't know what people do. I've never had to stop and think about who the hell I am when I don't put on somebody's colors and go do my job. So what? I'm s'posta feel pathetic just 'cause I'm sittin' here alone? I was already at 'pathetic.' And look around." He spread his hands to the apartment. "Who else's here?"

"I'm here."

"Yeah, but what for, though? You got no obligation, I'm not your boyfriend anymore."

"I'm here because I care about you, jackass."

He kept looking at her straight-on. Not because of the 'jackass,' which might as well've been his first name, but at the fact that she's just said she cared. Huh. Did she really, though? People mistook caring for pity all the time. Sure didn't seem like she cared all those times she made him take the Walk of Shame home at three in the morning. Just an observation.

His gaze seemed to be making her uncomfortable; she lifted her arms and dropped them again. "I don't know, all right? …I want you back."

His face must've done something he didn't authorize it to, because she blanched about five seconds after saying that.

"I don't mean it like that. I don't want you back… Well." She swallowed, not looking at him now. "Not…necessarily. Maybe. I don't know." Lanie cleared her throat and brought back the eye contact, starting over. "That's…that's something else. My point is, I'm not here to talk about us. I just know that this isn't like you. …You're worrying me, Javi."

He seemed to have grown fond of shrugging. It worked for him. Or maybe his basic sense of muscle memory was deteriorating too. Probably. "Nothin' to worry about," he said quietly. He didn't promise, though, because he didn't tend to do that when it already felt like he was lying.

Lanie was silent for a moment, then she finally sat down, choosing the couch cushion furthest from him. She perched on the edge and pivoted so she could face him; he studied the coffee table. "Beckett called me."

"She tell you to come over here?" he muttered.

"You're high if you think I listen to everything Kate Beckett says."


Lanie moved on, let it go. "She told me all about that bastard Bracken." She looked down at her knees, slowly shaking her head. "I can't imagine what that had to be like…after thirteen years." But then she looked at him again. "You wanna know what else I can't imagine?"

Javier didn't respond. He supposed that his input on this was completely moot.

"I can't imagine why you would have been at that abandoned building when you were never on Beckett and Castle's trail until then."

He was right. She was there to lecture him after all. Not saying anything was definitely the smart move. Hopefully when she was done, she'd leave him where he belonged.

"Kate didn't say that. I did." She was quiet for a long time, and he wasn't watching her. But when she spoke again, she was way too quiet to be lecturing him. "You went there to take out Maddox, didn't you. That's why you didn't bother to call her even though you knew she'd still be investigating, wasn't it."

He leaned back against the couch, exhaling through the nose, wondering what she was doing and how much longer before she stopped.

"Because Maddox left the two of you for dead once, and you thought that was your fault."

Go home, Lanie.

"You haven't said anything."

"…There's nothin' to say. You seem like you got it all thought out."

"I must. Or you'd be denyin' it."

She knew him too well. She should; she was his ex-girlfriend. A fact he hadn't quite completely come to grips with yet. She shouldn't be doing this.

"Javier…it wasn't your responsibility to - "

"Doesn't matter anymore. Man's dead."

"The hell it doesn't matter - you could be dead, Javier! You knew that… And don't give me any bullshit about how 'maybe it'd be better that way,' because you've got exactly that look all over your face - "

"I wasn't going to."

Lanie stopped. Each pause she took seemed to stretch on longer than the last.

"…No…you aren't, are you. I've seen you throw a pity party, and this doesn't feel like one of 'em to me…"

Yes, that's right. This is what I am without a battle. Go ahead, notice that too. Same as you do everything. I am a grown-ass man with no goddamn clue in the world. I am pointless, and yes I am lost, so find what you can where you can get it.

"Oh, Javi…"

He closed his eyes; lifted a palm. He was barely audible. "Please. Don't. Okay? Don't. You're just makin' it harder."

"Making what harder?"

"Everything." He cleared his throat. "Look, I appreciate that you came by, but maybe you should go."

She was shaking her head already. He could tell from the corner of his eye, since he still hadn't made eye contact again. "No. No, I'm not leavin' you all by yourself."

Why break tradition? Somehow he caught that one halfway between brain and mouth. Instead, he rasped, "Lanie. Please."

Her mouth flattened into a fine line, and if he'd looked at her directly, he guessed maybe there'd be something going on in her eyes, too; something he'd wanna drown out. After what felt like the world's longest minute, she finally stood up. She walked past the chair with her coat on it, picked it up, and draped it over her arm. By the door, she turned around. Javier waited for her to say something. But she didn't. He didn't look as the front door opened and Lanie slid out of his apartment.

That was what he'd hoped for. To be left alone. No confrontation. Just the silence, and what was left of his mind. He had that back now. Now that he did, he felt monumentally worse.

He was just going to go to bed. He hadn't slept properly since the last case began. Maybe another shot would grant him that oblivion for a while.

The door to his bedroom swung toward the frame in his wake, but didn't click shut. His force on it must've been sub-par, which made sense, considering he could barely see six feet in front of his face. He dropped gracelessly onto his bed. The old box spring complained under his weight, then seemed to settle. After that, he didn't move again. He just lie there. And detested himself. Viciously.

This was the most pathetic he had ever been. There was no arguing that. Even his ex-girlfriend was taking pity on him. How had he even brought that on? This was stupid. Tonight, he would go back to sleep. He'd make himself ease out the hangover. Then tomorrow, he would attempt to put his life together. He'd shave, first of all, because he looked like his father and felt like a tree. Maybe after that, he'd take that run. He could look for volunteer options at the V.A, too. That would make sense. And if it didn't pan out, he could always go visit his mother, maybe see if she needed the house fixed up… He just needed a project. Something he could do with himself. First, God, first, he needed sleep.

For all the lying still and staring he did, the clock still showed him its intervals every few minutes. Too many dialogues were going on in his head. Too many faces. Maddox. Beckett. Kevin. Montgomery. Gates. He saw murderboards, not darkness. He saw Bracken's campaign speech on television, along with memorized photos of every life he'd brought to an end. He lay unconscious while Beckett dangled from a roof. He shot Maddox close-range, and tried not to let himself enjoy the imaginary sensation. Because what did that make him if he did?

A sound happened. A knock at the front door. Javier sat up, painfully pulling his eyes open, and he looked over at the clock. Just over an hour had passed. Had he slept? Or just lapsed into…whatever that was again? More importantly, the whole world just needed to butt the hell out right now, because this Grand Central Station trip was getting old already.

"Javier? Open the door."

Lanie. She'd come back.

He was never, ever, ever going to understand why, was he.

First he cleared his throat. Then he called out, "Nope," figuring it was at least worth a shot.

"Nice try, now come let me in."

"How come you don't use that super-practical key of yours?"

"My hands are full."

"Of self-help books? Thanks, already got a dealer."

"I brought pizza."

Damn. Why couldn't he remember when he'd last eaten? As if it just remembered to exist, his stomach growled almost on cue, and those words started to feel like an ace in the hole. Crap. She'd actually gone out and paid for food with the intention that he'd eat some. He had to let her in. She'd made an inherently bad idea indismissable. Letting out a sigh, he got off the bed and padded out to the living room.

Even though he was already unlocking the bolts she must've re-locked when she'd left, he figured he'd give practicality one more shot. "Just slide it under the door," he deadpanned.

Lanie didn't miss a beat. "Deep-dish. Wouldn't end well."

God help him, he cracked a smile.

It was gone, though, by the time the door opened. He let her in, mostly because he knew it was fruitless to try otherwise. She seemed bound and determined to force this whole interaction even though it screamed 'Don't go there.' Then again…well. He was one to talk.

She walked over to the coffee table with the box, and she sat down where she'd been sitting the first time, so Javier did the same. As a buffer, he pulled the box toward him, spun it so the lid faced him, and lifted it. Soon as he saw the contents, the ghost of another smile showed up on his face. "Double pepperoni, bell pepper, black olive. Bet you remember my drink, too."

"Mmhm, probably better than you do right now. Exactly why you're not getting one."

He was still shaking his head, almost bemused at this pizza and all the bizarreness it represented. "What're you doin', Lanie?"

"I believe they call it 'feeding the animals.' Thought I'd help out the local ass." She grinned, softening her gaze on him by just a little bit. "Just take it."

"Well, thank you, then. You didn't need to do this."

"I know."

"What do I owe you?"

Lanie blinked a few times. "Nothing. This is me, buying dinner."

He moved his eyes from the contents of the box to her face, assimilating one of his patent 'no bullshit' looks. "No, no - this is what 'you buying dinner' would have looked like if we were even remotely a couple. You keep acting like you didn't dump me. And I may not know what's goin' on with that, but I'm not takin' your money. Now how 'bout you give me the receipt and I'll make this up."

One of Lanie's eyebrows went full-on fishhook; she was not amused. "How 'bout you take that misogyny and shove it so far up your ass it can't see daylight. I bought. The pizza. Eat. The damn. Pizza."

Damn. He'd nearly forgotten she could get scary. "Thanks for dinner," he decided was the safe bet, and he pulled a slice toward him with a napkin, content to just drop the subject entirely.

"You're welcome." Lanie picked one too and settled in, and the 'dropping it' seemed to go without a hitch after that.

They ate in silence for a few minutes. Like basically any salvation, though, that obviously didn't last. She gave it one whole slice - exercising what he imagined must've been grueling patience - before she dabbed her mouth with her napkin and sat back, sizing him up. The whole concept of getting let off the hook was kind of foreign, honestly.

"I hope you didn't think 'eat' was code for 'we don't ever have to talk about it.'"

He tossed his crust back into the empty space in the box. "Well, Momma taught me never to talk with my mouth full."

"Don't you have anything to say, Javier?"

She was past serious. There was no more joking, not even as half-assed as he'd been doing it in the first place. If she'd come here expecting confessions from him…hell, forget it; no pizza was that expensive. He leaned back, exhaling heavily, rubbing the bridge of his nose, all to buy a minute. "…Look, it's not like I went there hopin' to get killed. I'm outta whack; doesn't mean I'm stupid. 'Sides, not like I coulda called backup, anyway. First time I've rolled like that off the grid."

All Lanie had to do was squint at him.

"Fine - that far off the grid," he corrected. "Point is, that was it. Beckett and Castle were already there - "

"Okay, but say they weren't?"

"What is the point of sayin' they weren't?"

"The point is that I saw Maddox's autopsy from the blast. They found two nine-millimeters with the remains; you weren't the only one in that building packing double."

Javier scoffed, closing the pizza box. "'Course he was; he was S.F. Nobody there plays."

"How can you be so goddamn flip about this?"

"What? You just said it yourself, Lanie. It's not like I went in there empty-handed - "

"No, you went in there ready to push the horses aside and holler 'draw.' You remember what happened the last time somebody we knew tried that? You had to call cadence at his funeral; you damn well should."

She'd gone there. He'd been shaking his head already since somewhere around the word 'happened.' "I don't hafta listen to this."

"Because I'm right and you know it. Jesus, Javier… Whatever you think your sins are in all this, they're not sins. They're not even yours. It was not your job to even be there."

"Oh, so I'm not allowed to help out Beckett anymore - "

"You know that is miles away from my point. And you're no help to Beckett or anyone else if you go makin' yourself a martyr." Lanie was the one shaking her head now, and she had to look away from him to do it. Her voice had risen, but she lowered it now, back to normal. "Sometimes I really wish I understood you."

Javier would have shrugged, but doing it just felt redundant. "Seems to me you're about as close as it gets."

"Some days, I think so too. But then somebody else's world falls down, and off you go like you're the one who knocked it over."

He got the feeling she was implying he was 'inherently good' or something. If that was her take, she really didn't know how hard he worked to get there.

Besides. It was all moot. Right now, he couldn't defend anybody. Stupid, justified, or anywhere in between. It was just him and this apartment…and, apparently, her. That part had yet to be clarified.

When he glanced toward her again, though, she was still looking at him.


"…Nothing." She sighed, then stood, giving her head a little tilt toward the hallway. "C'mon."

He blinked. Maybe it was the remnants of the hangover talking, but he'd missed the segue. "Where," he mumbled, guessing he probably sounded about eighty.

"Listen to you. Where do you think? You've got about a case of beer to rest off, don't you."

"Give or take…"

"Yeah, uh-huh, 'give or take.' Get up."

For some reason, apparently he was obeying tonight. He groaned a little bit at the unwelcome headrush as he pushed himself off the couch.

"There we go." She hovered at his side, keeping a hand on his arm the whole time, like she was fully prepared to keep him from taking a dive. In actuality he'd probably take them both out. "Let's get you into bed."

Javier chuckled; rubbed his eyes tiredly as they walked. "Hell, why not? Line worked on you, that time you jumped me in the parking lot…"

"The only thing that 'worked on me' that night was about a quart of tequila."

"I know. You jumped me in the parking lot."

She really had, too. Hands under his coat, her tongue in his mouth, and they'd been getting dirty looks from the bouncer of the place; he'd actually flashed his badge where Lanie couldn't see, just so the guy wouldn't hassle them before they could get the hell out of there. Of course then it'd started raining…

Uh-oh. Feelings. Nope, he'd never agreed to resurface any feelings. Abort.

"I did not jump you." She may've been walking behind him slightly, but he could hear her blush. Or rather, try not to. Trying to sound all Diplomatic Grown-Up. "I'm pretty sure you and I remember that one differently."

"Okay." It was simpler just to let her think she won.

"Anyway, that particular event is in the past."

He nodded. "Yep, it is." Now we just screw without calling it anything, which you're totally right about, by the way - it's so much simpler than anything with some label that, gasp, might make it easier to tell what the hell we are.

That first thought stuck with him.

Oh wait…that's why you're still here, isn't it? You figure I'm half a step away from the window ledge, so you'll spare me from actually havin' to make the phonecall… Well, hey, if that's why you're pushin' this. 'Least you bought me dinner first. That's somethin'.

Lanie steered him toward the bed, and if the clothes that he hadn't gotten around to putting away perturbed her, she was classy enough not to make mention of it. "Lay down." He raised his eyebrows for a second; this was all fairly clinical so far. Whatever, no complaints. "Move back some more, c'mon. Relax."

Javier did as he was told, managing to get as close to 'comfortable' as he'd been ever since life's little pleasures like sleep and peace of mind had disowned him. Satisfied, apparently, Lanie dictated nothing more. She shuffled in place for a second, probably getting her shoes off, and then she climbed onto the bed too, scooting over to him on her knees.

With one hand, she pulled her hair off her neck, tucking some of it behind one ear. She leaned over him, and it curtained down onto his shoulder. Her eyes were lined up with his. A sweet, private, infant smile curled her lips. He stared up at her, and he wanted to admit he'd missed the view from here. But then, that would be a lot like Feelings.

"Hi," she whispered. It sounded like her voice broke, just a tiny bit. This was too much like Feelings. But he couldn't help his eyes drifting to her mouth.

Slowly, kind of the way you imagine a fawn learns to walk, she came closer. The soft coolness of her forehead touched his own. Her nose grazed his cheek. There were a few more tentative seconds in which neither of them closed their eyes, just stared, but then her lips brushed against his. That was the kind of thing you gave all your senses to.

It started soft. But in seconds she pressed closer, overlapping his mouth completely. He took what she gave. If it was pity, he didn't have the pride or willpower to back her down. He saw what was coming and - even though he'd feel no better tomorrow, or the day after - it felt good enough to ignore the consequences. He was good at that.

It was less of a single kiss than it was several, all strung together into one, perforated by the short breaths she took every handful of seconds. She wasn't even leaving the window open for him to meet her halfway; each time he got a little air back to his lungs, she was back on his lips before he could form a straight thought. It was almost daunting. If it was pity, it was the first form of pity he'd decided to accept without question.

He tried to rise a little to meet her, but she dropped a light hand on his side, and he got the sense that she wanted him lying down. That was fine. He didn't try again. If she wanted the lead, she had it. She kept up what she was doing. He let her. Gradually, he let his hand drift to her hip.

She'd been wearing jeans the first time she'd come over. Now it was different. Sweatpants. No, women didn't call them that anymore. Yoga pants. That was it, wasn't it? As if the tiniest association with the word 'sweat' would imply that women did that, and that was illegal. Personally, that was a trait he didn't mind. But that was random. Why the hell was that part of his brain even still on? Alcohol. Yep. Probably that. Or, there was a significance there - that she'd changed clothes to come back here - and he just wasn't placing what it was. Why bother? He was stuck on finding motive, and that could bug him, if he let it.

So, he wouldn't let it. Why, anyway? Everything to do with questions, answers, good decisions and sound reason were already on the back burner. Might as well let the rest go too. His hand followed the hem of her top, sliding a couple fingers beneath the edge. Her skin was warm. He hooked his thumb in her waistband, tracing her hipbone down as far as the top of her thigh.

That was when she grabbed his wrist.

His eyes opened. She was looking back at him, having broken contact by just a few atoms, and she nipped her bottom lip, shaking her head exactly one very small time. "Nope."

Now he was definitely behind.

He knew what a prelude was. This, all of it, was a prelude. She had trained him without error, and somewhat humiliatingly, that this was only allowed to happen when ill-advised, definitionless sex was imminent. That was the arrangement. Everything she was doing here was now officially a blatant bitch-slap to that arrangement.

Was she actually kissing him just to kiss him? When had that happened last?

Maybe he'd invented this in unconsciousness. There were crazier mechanisms. He wanted to ask his thousandth question why, wanted to say something, but she tipped down and shut him up in advance with another. He noticed this time that it wasn't the kind you gave someone when you wanted to ignite them. More like the kind you gave because you didn't know what else you could give, but you had to give something, and yourself seemed the only thing acceptable. He'd kissed her like this the night after she'd kept Beckett alive on the gurney. He should have recognized it.

She gave him his hand back, and then she finally created some space between them, shuffling down a few more inches toward the foot of the bed. She propped her elbow on his extra pillow and rested her head on that hand, stretching her legs out, parallel to him, facing him. Still at eye level, just at a different latitude and longitude. Her free hand left her waist, reached for him, and gently brushed back what little excuse he had for hair.

"You should get some sleep. You need it."

"I…" He tried to understand how he could possibly sleep when hell had obviously frozen over. His eyes did feel heavy again, though. Why was he only noticing these things when she mentioned them?

For every single reason in the book, he just continued to stare back at her. A long few moments went by like that. When she seemed to get that he wasn't about to be sleeping, she sighed a little. Didn't speak right away, though. Her eyes cast down, and she twisted a loose thread around her fingertip.

"I realize I may have…contributed to the idea that… Well, I know I haven't exactly treated you like you mean very much. When the truth is that, you do." Now she met his stare. "…I know you're not okay right now. Maybe I can't fix that. But I couldn't think up a single good excuse not to at least be here."

Even as short as he was on hope, this was starting not to sound like pity…

"I…I do love you, Javi. I may not be spectacular at figuring out exactly which way, or how much I'm willin' to bet on that yet, but, one way or the other, I do. Believe it or not."

Incapable of either, he said and thought nothing.

"Anyway." This was all a lot more straightforward emotion than the Lanie he knew was used to. She tossed her hair a little bit, slid down some more and laid her head on her forearm, eyes still on him. "Go to sleep. I'm gonna stay. So. Don't worry about it."

Javier finally stopped looking at her. He let his eyes go back to the ceiling, where they'd been glued for so many consecutive nights. When he counted to ten, looked again, and found that she was still there, he decided to bury the notion of being pitied. He nodded.


That was all. Until, on a whim, he pivoted his back just enough that he could rest his head on her chest. And did. She let out sort of an 'I knew it' sound through her nose, and as he closed his eyes, he felt her fingertips gently stroking his scalp in a slow rhythm, lulling him away until at last he greeted the bliss of unconsciousness.



This was originally one very long, three-section story, so I'm going to break the three sections into their own chapters. (The next two will be quite a bit shorter than this one was.)

I'd sincerely love to hear your thoughts. Please review. That would be great.