Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I watched the show.
A/N Because the site was inaccessible for so long–and oh, did I feel jinxed!–a lot of people missed the first chapter of this story. If you were one of them, I hope that you'll go back and read it before you start this one.
After Castle comes in and she steers him to the sofa, she busies herself with the wine, her mind spinning like a cyclone. Under ordinary circumstances, really any circumstances, if someone had rung her front doorbell at midnight she'd have grabbed her gun before looking through the peephole. But she hadn't. Why? By nature and by professional training she's wary, and yet she was not only unarmed when she peeped out, but scantily dressed. Scantily meaning very short shorts, and no bra.
Had she had a premonition that it was Castle? Of course not. That's ridiculous. Why would he be here? She hasn't seen him since May 28th, as he'd drunkenly pointed out. As if she hasn't kept her own mental calendar since he and Gina, all revoltingly goo-goo-eyed, stepped into the elevator at the Twelfth and disappeared from view. She hadn't given a damn about Gina's disappearance, but she'd given a lot more than a damn about Castle's. Work without him has been miserable. Life without him has been miserable. She'd been pissed off but not surprised by his silence, her brain suffused with unwelcome images of him cuddled up with Gina. Rubbing suntan lotion on her back by the pool. She probably doesn't go out in the sun, like a vampire. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Gina's blonde, so her skin probably burns easily, but she'd bet that blonde comes out of a very expensive bottle that's wielded by an even more expensive hairdresser.
She'd still be pissed off, since he's been in the city for eleven days and hadn't called or stopped by the precinct. But now that she knows that he'd thought Demming was still in the picture, any residual anger she might have had is gone. All the feelings she'd had just before everything went off the rails in May, when she'd planned to take Castle up on his offer of coming to the Hamptons for Memorial Day, are back.
He's here. In her living room. At night. A hot summer night. Very hot. Steamy, even. Definitely steamy. She's afraid to look at him. He's wearing shorts, too. They're not as short as hers, but they reveal powerful muscular calves and thighs that–. No. No. No. Not going there. And how is it that even in that grubby tee shirt he still looks so good? His hair isn't even messy. Well, a little, but really more tousled. Tousled is cute. Also sexy. It's a hot night. If only Castle had brought lemonade instead of this zillion-dollar wine, she'd have an excuse to bring out a bucket of ice. She's stalled long enough; it's time to face whatever it is she's about to face. Something about his writer's block. She doesn't know what she's supposed to do about that. Carrying the bottle in one hand and two wine glasses in the other, she strides to the living room.
It doesn't take long to find out. For someone as drunk as he is–and he must have had a lot of Scotch to be this drunk, because he holds his liquor well–he's surprisingly coherent. And surprisingly irresistible.
He wants to kiss her. Because she's his muse. Because kissing her will inspire him. That's what he's said. He's so close to her, his mouth is so close. She could just–. She could, but she's not going to.
"Castle," she says, pulling back a little. "That's the booze talking."
" 's not."
"Snot? Snot is talking?"
"Oh. Oh, that's good, Beckett. 'Snot is talking.' But that's what you do when you have a cold. I don't have a cold. It's hot. You know that? And you're hot. That is a teeny tiny tank top. You know I usually hate illiterate. Not illiterate. I mean I hate illiteracy." He runs one hand through his hair, which makes it even more tousled, and therefore more adorable, and he's looking a little befuddled. "I mean I usually hate, what's the word? Do you know the word I mean? Wait, don't tell me." He gazes up at the ceiling and then smiles proudly. "Alliteration. That's what. A bunch of words with the same first letter, all in a row. T, T, T, T. Right? Teeny tiny tank top. I usually hate alliteration, but not when it's about something that hot. That you're wearing."
"I'm glad that you seem to be finding my tank top, um, inspirational. You know what would be even more inspirational right now? Iced coffee. I have some in the fridge."
He blinks slowly as she stands up. "You have iced coffee?"
"Yup, made it a couple of hours ago. I'll be right back."
She's not going to kiss him for the first time when he's this drunk. She takes the pitcher of iced coffee from the fridge, then checks the freezer. Thank you, thank you, thank you, god of serendipity, she thinks. In between a tray of ice cubes and a bag of frozen peas that she's applied several times to assorted bruises and pulled muscles is the only other item there: an unopened pint of coffee ice cream. She uses both her thumbs to push off the top, then drops a small scoop in her glass and a very large one in his.
"Here you go," she says a moment later, offering him the caffeine-rich, alcohol-free confection.
"So we're not having wine?"
"Not right now." She sits down next to him, but a sofa-cushion width away.
"Cheers," she says, looking over the rim. Casually, she hopes.
"Try this," she adds, sliding a spoon across the table to him. "It's very handy for the eating ice cream part."
He picks it up and looks intently into the glass before taking a healthy bite of ice cream, and then another. "Mmmm." He smacks his lips. "Mmmm. This is amazingly good as a chaser to Scotch. I think I'll write Häagen-Dazs and tell them about that. They could market it. I could be their spokesperson for Scotch ice cream. Not butterscotch. Scotch. Ice cream for adults. This is Häagen-Dazs, right?"
"It is." She's not as horrified as she might be, having once seen a completely sober Castle happily consume a plate of sardines that he had smothered with a blanket of strawberry-flavored whipped cream.
"I tried a lot of things to unblock my head, you know," he says, and licks the spoon.
"You did?" Keep him talking, just keep him talking. There have been so many times when she's wanted him to shut up, but this isn't one of them. "Like what?"
"Well, um." He takes a long drink from his glass. "I took a whole bunch of my favorite books and dropped them on the floor. I mean on purpose, not by accident. Not all at once. I dropped them so they would be open and then I would pick one up and read the middle of the page it was open to."
"The left page or the right page?"
"The right. Because then it would be, you know, right."
It almost makes sense. "Uh huh. And then what?"
"Then I'd try to write the next sentence. Not the real one, one that I'd make up."
It was such a Castle-esque thing to do. She could see him, solemnly choosing a volume before letting it slip from his hands. Did he stare at it for a while, his eyes almost six feet away, or grab it up immediately? Probably both, depending on his mood, depending on how desperate he was. His worst writer's block ever? No wonder he hit the bottle so hard. "Do you remember any of them?"
"Yeah." He flinches suddenly, as if he's been slapped, then drains the rest of his iced coffee. He looks as if he's afraid to tell her. "It was." He stops. "It was from One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gabriel García Márquez." He stops again and silence descends awkwardly into the upholstered space between them.
"Great choice," she says at last, hoping that will encourage him to pick up the thread.
"I guess. Didn't seem so at the time."
"When was that?"
"This evening. Around six. Before I came over."
"Oh." Maybe uh-oh. He looks miserable. Her stomach does the little flip that it hadn't when he talked about combining coffee ice cream and Scotch. "Hey, your glass is empty. Want some more?"
She wishes she had a plan. She'd thought she had one, but she's not so sure. In the kitchen, she takes a ludicrously long time to make a refill for him, and when she walks slowly back to living room she sees that his head is tilted back and his eyes are closed. Is he asleep?
Shit. She'd wanted time, time for him to sober up at least halfway, but he's asleep? What should she do? For one thing, do something with this glass, which is too cold for her to hold on to any longer. She's turning towards the kitchen when she hears him. Hears his voice, but it's too soft for her to understand. Maybe he's talking in his sleep. She looks back over her shoulder and sees him looking right at her.
"The line," he says, this time loud enough for her to hear. "The line from the book was, 'There is always something left to love.' That was it."
He looks so sad that the cold from the glass somehow wraps around her heart. "And what was your line? What did you write?"
"Told you I had writer's block."
"It's a beautiful sentence." Not sure what else to do, she puts the glass down in front of him. To her surprise, he picks it up and gulps down almost all of it.
"It is." He looks to his left, then his right. "May I use your bathroom?"
"Of course. It's just around there–" she points to the far side of the room. "The door that's painted blue."
"Thanks. Thank you."
Maybe it's best to put the wine away. She has a VinoVac, so it's not as though this crown jewel of a bordeaux will be ruined. She'll just say he needs to go because she has to be at work in a few hours–which isn't much of a stretch of the truth. It's one a.m. and her shift begins at seven. She clears the coffee table and takes everything to the kitchen; puts the unused glasses back on the shelf; vacuum-seals the wine, and loads the iced-coffee glasses in the dishwasher. What the hell is keeping him? He must have been in the bathroom for almost ten minutes. Is he sick? She would be if she'd drunk what he has over the last few hours. All the more reason to send him home.
She counts to 100, but he doesn't come out. Maybe she should ask him if he's all right. Maybe he's not. Maybe he threw up and hit his head on the floor. Maybe he's bloodied and unconscious.
She runs to the door, but as she raises her fist to knock she stops. What the hell? The water's running? Not the sink, but the shower. He's taking a shower? "Castle?" she says. "Castle," she repeats so loudly that it might wake her 89-year-old neighbor down the hall.
"Just a sec."
Several secs but less than a minute later he opens the door. He's wearing his shorts but not his shirt; one of her towels is draped over his wet head, and water is beading on biceps that would stop her dead if she weren't already rooted to the floor. "I took a cold shower. Very cold. Hope you don't mind. Best thing in the world to sober you up."
It takes great force of will not to look at his chest. "So I've heard," she says to his shoulder.
"Best of all, it made me think of a sentence to go after the García Márquez one. It lacks his grace, but not the emotion. 'And more, someone to love.' He cups her chin with his wet hand. "That's why I'm here."
A/N Surprise! Couldn't wrap it up in two chapters. Thank you so much for your warm welcome back; it means a great deal to me.