A/N: This story is for Cartographical. Nobody loves season-one Castle and Beckett quite as much as Jessie ;).

Disclaimer: Not mineeeeee. I'm only doing this for fun.

He went home.

What else could he do? She escorted him out of the precinct and saw him into a cab, her fingers brushing lightly at her elbow in a parting gesture that silenced all the words clamoring in his chest. And if she'd been cold and distant, if she'd snapped at him, maybe then he would've had the guts to stand up for himself, tell her what the previous night meant to him. But he was made helpless by this new version of Beckett, the soft touches and knowing eyes that seemed to say, Just give me time, and before he knew it he was standing at the door of his loft.


Shaking his head against the strange longing that was so unlike him, Castle took a deep breath and pushed the key into the lock, was welcomed home by the bright, mocking voice of his daughter.

"The prodigal father returns at last," she said, even though he'd texted her the previous night that he'd be working late on the case and might not come home at all. "Detective Beckett finally got tired of you?"

He stared at her blankly, his heart stuttering in his chest, until his tired brain caught on to her meaning. Sending him home – Alexis was only alluding to Beckett sending him home, not – not-

Nothing else.

"What's wrong?" His too-perceptive daughter knitted her brow and sauntered off her stool, came closer. "Did something happen at the precinct?"

Not at the precinct, technically. He opened his mouth, hesitated, and of course Alexis interpreted his lack of answer correctly. "Did something happen with Beckett?" she asked, curious and – he wasn't sure, but it sounded almost hopeful.

Oh, god. It was like he'd meant to keep it a secret, but… Okay, maybe he had. Just for a little while. Just until he knew exactly where things stood.

"Alexis," he hedged, rubbing a hand down his face. Damn. He sucked when it came to lying to his daughter. "Ah. No. Yes. Maybe?" Great. Just great, Rick.

"Maybe?" she repeated, laughing at him, but even through her amusement he could hear lively, genuine enthusiasm. Uh-oh. He had not realized Alexis liked Beckett so much. "Dad, come on. If something happened, you should be the first to know about it." She blushed a little as she said it, but she didn't back down; he didn't remember the last time his daughter had been so interested in his love life. Usually she just – looked the other way.

"Fine. Something happened," he said, making it clear that he wasn't going to say anything more about it. This was quickly entering the awkward territory, and Alexis, for all her maturity and awareness, was only fifteen.

He shrugged off his coat and threw it over the back of the couch, toed off his shoes. The loft smelled great; tomato, he thought, and some kind of meat – maybe chicken? He could see from where he was standing that the oven was still on. "What'd you make?" he asked, his stomach grumbling in approval.

Alexis followed him into the kitchen, and he could tell from the time it took her to answer that she was looking for a way to bring the conversation back to Beckett. "Stuffed tomatoes," she said. Mm, not chicken then. Pork meat. "And there's rice in the cooker. I made more so we'd have leftovers, but if you wanted to invite Detective-"

"Alexis," he warned.

Her cheeks turned a vivid red; her hair fell like a curtain across her face when she looked down at her feet. She was still his little girl, even at fifteen, and he couldn't help the surge of affection that made him tug her into his chest.

"I don't know what's happening with Beckett, Pumpkin. It might be nothing at all – it's hard to tell right now. And it's great that you're so thrilled about the idea, but don't get your hopes up, okay?" He realized as he said the words that he'd spent the whole day telling himself that. Don't get your hopes up.

"I just think she'd be good for you," Alexis said softly, her cheek pressed to his chest.

Yeah. That was the problem.

He thought Kate Beckett would be good for him too.

He tried watching TV for a while, but he couldn't bring himself to pay attention: his thoughts kept wandering back to Beckett, to that poor woman who had died trying to make her fantasies come to life. He stood up and grabbed a book, changed his mind, sat down at his computer. The words wouldn't come. He gave up after ten minutes, opened Youtube instead, looking for funny videos. They made for a good distraction – people falling would always make him laugh – but as soon he stopped, the restlessness crashed over him again, pushed him out of his chair.

He wouldn't go to her apartment. He would not go to her apartment.

He would just – go to bed early. Yes. Get some quality sleep, go back to the precinct fresh and rested in the morning.

So he changed and brushed his teeth and stared at himself in the mirror, more nervous than he'd been in years. What did Beckett see when she looked at him? He knew he was attractive, yes – enough women had told him so, each in their own way – but he wasn't the classic type either, didn't have a square jaw or a prominent chin dimple-

Jeez, he was ridiculous.

To bed with you, he thought, but once he lay in the dark with his eyes open, the sounds from the street echoing in the silence, there was nothing to keep his mind from traveling over and over to the previous night, the way Beckett had looked at him, how she'd tasted on his tongue.

He'd never get any sleep.

With a sigh he rolled over, reached for the phone on his bedside table. He curled his fingers around it, his thumb hovering over the screen; the thought of calling her was enough to make his heart pound.

And what would he say, huh? Hey, Beckett, I couldn't sleep and I was thinking of you… Pathetic. He closed his eyes and dropped the phone next to his pillow, willed his body to sleep.

No such luck.

Outside a car honked, followed by an indistinct tangle of voices; they must have been really loud, he reflected, for him to hear them at all. Suddenly he yearned for it, the noisy bustle of people, the anonymity of New York's streets at night; before he could think it over he was already out of bed, throwing on haphazard clothes, grabbing his keys and his phone. His mother was out somewhere – something to do with her new play, he thought – and Alexis, reasonable as she was, had long deserted the living room. There was nobody to stop him, no one to justify to, and he savored the taste of freedom as he jogged down the stairs, walked out into the moonless night.

When he raised his eyes and Beckett's building stood in front of him, the brick almost yellow in the city lights, he couldn't say he was surprised.

He paused at the corner, shaking his head when a boy who couldn't be more than sixteen asked him for a lighter, and counted the windows. One, two, three, four.


Her lights were still on.

Her phone buzzed.

Kate glanced up from her book and winced, slowly worked the muscles in her neck as she considered whether or not she wanted to stretch, reach out her arm to the bedside table. It demanded effort, and she was tired, and if it were the precinct they would've called-


She curled her bottom lip between her teeth, dropped the hand she had pressed to her nape.


She rolled over, propping herself on her elbow, and she grabbed the phone.

I'm outside your place.

Ah. She closed her eyes briefly, considered ignoring him. For all he knew, she could've fallen asleep with the light still on; her phone was on silent anyway and it wouldn't have woken her.

If she'd been asleep. Which she wasn't.

She looked at his text again. It was surprisingly sober for Castle: no joke, none of those awful nicknames that made her want to break his arm, no cute entreaty for her to let him in. Only that one plain fact.

He was outside her place.

She sighed, ran a hand through her hair. She was going to regret this.

Come up, she sent.

He hadn't really expected her to reply; he startled so badly when the phone chimed that he nearly dropped it to the ground. Then he stared in disbelief at the two words on his screen.

Come up.


He hesitated, then felt like a moron for standing there even two seconds when she'd invited him up. To her place. For the second time. He ran across the street without looking, nearly got hit by a car in the process, and stood breathless at her door. There was a list of names by the intercom; he roughly remembered where hers was, but before he could find it again the door had already slid open with a click.

Huh. She'd buzzed him in before he could even dial her apartment number. He grinned to himself as he let himself in, pushed the door closed.

Real cute, Beckett.

Kate released the intercom button, reached for the door handle. There was no point in pretending: she'd thought he might show up, although she hadn't expected for it to take so long. She had vaguely considered going over to the loft herself, hours before, when she'd stood alone in the silence of her apartment – but the prospect of running into his daughter, of having to explain, had sobered her quickly.

She leaned against the open door and listened to the sound of his footsteps echoing in the staircase.

Richard Castle.

He saw the door open and slowed down, panic suddenly rushing back into him. He didn't know what to say to her; he would make a fool of himself; she would turn him away before he even-

He forced himself to move. Kate was standing with her back to the door, and her short hair seemed raven black in the dimness, her skin so pale and delicate. She was wearing an oversized t-shirt and a pair of jeans: she looked like she'd meant to get dressed for him and given up halfway. It curled in his chest, warm and tight, the idea that she was maybe comfortable enough around him to appear bra-less in her sleeping clothes.

They looked at each other for a long moment. Castle stood immobile on her doorstep, struggled to find his breath, and for some reason this felt like the most honest they'd ever been with each other.

"Hey," she said at last, so anticlimactic that he couldn't help a smile.

"Hey," he said back, stepping in close, pushing his luck. "Can I come in?"

She made a little wave with her hand he took to be a yes, and he walked into her apartment with the same breathless wonder as the night before. But this time she didn't head for her bedroom after closing the door – she sank gracefully into her couch, neutral ground, and he took the opposite seat.

Bad move, he realized immediately, wincing inside. He was too far away; he'd never convince her like this, the coffee table standing between them like an impenetrable wall. He needed to touch her, coax her body into believing he was serious about them. Kate Beckett didn't trust his words, did she?

He opened his mouth, found her dark eyes resting on him. Waiting.

Show no fear, he reminded himself. "So," he said, conversational. "You like being tied up." Her face betrayed nothing, remained that cool mask she used in interrogations. His insides clenched. "Any other…kink that I should know about?" Despite his best efforts, his voice wavered at the end of the sentence.

He wasn't sure, but he thought he could see her lips twitch for a second.

When she spoke, it was slow and deliberate. "You asking if I like to be choked during sex, Castle?"

He was suddenly glad she hadn't offered him a drink – otherwise he might have sputtered it out. As it was, he stammered some indistinct answer, felt the flush in his cheeks and hated her a little for the ways she could get to him.

The smile was definitely there now, dancing in her eyes, her raised eyebrows.

"I'm just saying," he answered at last, clutching the remains of his dignity, "that it would be nice to have a little warning. Know what to expect."

She looked away, her fingers tracing thoughtful whirls over the arm of the couch, and he wondered if he'd gone too far. But it was the only way he knew with her – if he didn't push, if he didn't ask for things, then Beckett would never give them to him.

And he wanted things. Wanted her.

"I don't know," she said, finally breaking the silence. "I think sometimes it's fun to be left…in the dark." She cast an arch look at him, and he swallowed, his body tightening. Did she mean – blindfolded?

"Fun," he echoed moronically, her smirking mouth so alluring. God, how he wanted her.

She hummed, and it was the last straw. He was on his feet, contouring the coffee table before he'd even thought about it; Kate sat up, her shoulders stiffening, but he didn't touch her. Yet.

He simply dropped onto the couch next to her, within touching – kissing – distance, and searched inside him for his most earnest face. "Kate."

He so rarely used her first name, but he liked the way it caught her attention, turned her clear focused face to him. She was still wary of him, so guarded; it shone in her eyes behind the sexy confidence.

"I don't want last night to be a mistake," he said, choosing his words carefully. "It wasn't, and I don't want to pretend like it was." She remained quiet, but she was listening. "And I don't care if you like to be choked, or blindfolded or spanked. All I want is a chance to find out."

Her throat worked and she pressed her lips together; he yearned to touch her skin.

"I'm gonna have to kiss you now," he warned seriously, and her beautiful, expressive eyes flicked up to his, flashing surprise, then amusement, then acceptance.

Affection, he thought boldly, and maybe he was right.

"If you have to," she said.