Reposted due to FFnet errors with alerts...fingers crossed.

Sit back and settle in. This is a ridiculously long chapter (11K+ words). But one of my favorites thus far. Hope you like it, too!

Chapter 52 – Duet

One dance with Mayor Weldon and he deposited Kate at the bar where she fully intended to start on her next drink, but instead found Paula, flirting with Brian and Amanda, Rick's event planner.

"Ah, Detective Beckett," Paula greeted upon noticing her. Kate accepted her drink from Brian.

"Please, Paula. You've done so much for me lately; I'd really appreciate it if you'd call me Kate."

"I saw your article, though," Amanda commented. "I hope you don't mind me saying that it was very nice."

"It was better than it could have been, for sure. And Paula's been a big help. And Castle." Kate paused and looked around. "This is nice, too."

The tall blonde waved her hand around like it was no big deal, as they walked to an empty table. "This is nothing. Rick knew what he wanted for a few things and then left me to my own devices."

Not like planning the Jamboree, Kate thought. She probably hated how involved we were in that.

"It's easier, too," a new voice joined them, "when you're not dealing with budget constraints." Stephanie laughed, while Karamagi leaned in to greet each of the ladies.

"There's that, too," Paula answered. "Good to see you, Steph. Magi."

"You, too!" they answered.

"And thanks for signing the checks," Amanda laughed, tipping her glass to Stephanie.

"And you! Look at you!" Steph squealed at Amanda. "Is that a baby bump?"

"It is. And I guess I don't have to ask about you, huh?"

Kate laughed while the two compared baby bumps, though Steph's was more like an all-around baby bulge. Amanda was only a four months along, but she was all front and center. She'd be small all through her pregnancy, at best looking liking she'd stuck a basketball under her shirt. Poor Steph. She was pregnant all over. That much was obvious as she leaned on her husband for help sitting down. Kate wondered what she was going to do when it was time to get up?

She watched as Karamagi stepped around his wife's chair. He knelt down beside her, looking up at her while she kept talking to everyone, giving them an update on the kids and their planned move back to Manhattan. Steph glanced at Magi, quickly, and gave him a short nod. At that, Karamagi took each of her feet in hand and slipped the ballet-style shoes from her feet. He lined them up neatly under the tablecloth and let Steph scoot her feet back under.

Karamagi made sure the tablecloth covered her feet before rising and sitting beside his wife. It was all so inconspicuous, she wasn't sure anyone had noticed. He could have been tying his shoe for all anyone knew. But she could tell by the relief on Steph's face that his gesture was very much appreciated—both that Magi cared to do this for her and to do it without calling attention to her red, swollen feet.

After sitting for a bit with the ladies, Karamagi rose and returned with a bottled water and a glass of ice. While he was pouring, Stephanie turned to Kate.

"You can dance, right?"

"Yeah," Kate said, cocking her head. "How'd—"

"Saw you earlier. It shows."

"Karamagi is itching to dance. I can tell. Loves to. Made me take lessons before we got married."

Kate knew instinctively that Karamagi, with his formal upbringing, would be an excellent, classically-trained dancer. And Eddie was playing something that would be quite right for a slow waltz or bolero.

"Dating," Karamagi said. "I arranged for dance lessons believing it would be perceived as romantic and not insulting. Plus, she had to take pity on me and commit a couple of hours to me each week. Always with a romantic dinner." Karamagi shook his head with a bent smile. "And the lady complains."

"He made me perform in front of our wedding guests."

"Dance. Not perform."

Steph raised her eyebrows at him, but Kate could tell she simply liked teasing him.

"At any rate," Steph continued, "I'm sure my husband would appreciate having a solid dance partner. Would you mind?"

Kate laughed. "You just want me to get him out of your hair don't you? I see how it is."

Karamagi held out his hand for Kate. "Come, Katherine. Best not to upset my wife. She's in a delicate state."

"I suppose," she sighed. "Anything to keep her happy, I guess." She winked at Stephanie.

"Anything at all," he agreed. Then, he turned to his wife, saying "Only for you, Dear," before dropping a kiss to her lips and escorting Kate to the dance floor.

"Do you know bolero?" he asked, stopping them just inside the couples on the edge of the dance floor.

Kate nodded. Karamagi smiled.

"Do you mind if they watch?"

Kate grinned. She loved to dance. And she loved the innocent and formal way he asked. Had the question come from Castle, her mind would be gutter diving before she responded with something saucy.

I was right, Kate thought, as she felt Karamagi's place his hand high in the middle of her back. She draped her left arm over his right. He took her right hand in his and paused a little, listening and waiting to step into her at just the right moment. He went so far as to give her a little bow.

They moved together smoothly, just turning in roughly the same spot at first. For the most part, backs stayed straight and arms didn't move. This dance was all about the legs and hips. Transitioning through the steps smoothly. With another partner, it could have been romantic and sensual. Thighs pressed together. Sweeping motions. Moving back when pressed upon and forward when asked, letting him take the lead.

But this wasn't like that. Well, he was leading. But it was far from sensual. It was fun, but not intimate. Their bodies weren't pressed together. There was no heat. Just the moves, as if they were in dance class together. Slowly, people moved aside and began to watch while they began to cover more of the floor. They had a good four-to-five foot diameter that was theirs now.

She knew Karamagi would be a great dancer, and he was. But he was so very technical. A little stiff. He didn't have as much fun with it as Castle did. Castle would make stuff up to keep her on her toes. He would add an element of silly that charmed her without her really knowing why. With Karamagi, she knew just what to expect.

When the song ended, they stopped in each other's arms, smiled and nodded their appreciation to one another. They turned and jokingly curtsied to the crowd that had gathered around clapping and cat-calling.

They looked up to Eddie on the piano. He was looking at them, conferring with Martha who looked like she was about to get into trouble…or get them into trouble. Eddie adjusted the microphone on the piano so that he could speak into it while Martha grabbed another wireless mic.

"Ladies and Gentlemen…give it up for Detective Kate Beckett and Mr. Karamagi Iacocca!" He paused for more applause while Kate and Karamagi blushed a bit.

"How about something a little faster?" Martha asked the crowd. Then she turned to Eddie. "Think they can handle it?"

"Oh, I don't know. We might be too hot for them."

Someone yelled, "Bring it on!"

Kate looked over at Karamagi and winked. They both shrugged at the same time. Neither was about to back down from the challenge.

"We're waiting!" Another voice yelled just as Eddie picked up the first notes of an up-tempo version of Sway.

At this, the two dancers turned to one another, and started to move together right away, finding the syncopation, even before Martha picked up with the first familiar lines of the song. It was a good choice, everyone had heard some version of it—especially since Michael Bublé and the Pussycat Dolls had made it popular again in recent years.

"Rumba or cha cha?" Magi asked. They were similar until it mattered.

"You pick," she answered, though she was secretly hoping for cha cha. She liked the energy of the three step.

The piano picked up, a little louder. Martha sang. "When marimba rhythms start to play. Dance with me." Eddie's voice joined Martha's. "Make me sway." Magi turned Kate out toward their co-conspirators and they all shared a smile; Martha waving to them to 'take it away.' And when Karamagi turned her back in to him, they were cha cha-ing. The pace faster and hands held between them lower than before. No embrace. And it was fun.

And funny. There was more space between them this dance, so Kate had the opportunity to observe her dance partner. For such a stout man, Karamagi was surprising quick on his feet. It was unexpected. Still, she had to hold back a laugh at times because, as much fun as she was having, it was a little amusing to watch the man shake his hips.

Magi was having a good time, though, and seemed to know that his boxy hip rolls were cringe-worthy. She thought for sure he was exaggerating it a bit for the crowd. It was there. That was the silly she enjoyed so much in others, but had a hard time allowing to surface within herself. It made Rick's influence in Magi's life more apparent. She wondered if that was what Rick meant when he said he'd taught Karamagi how to loosen up.

At first, it was just them and another, older couple. Quite a few people had gathered around. Even Stephanie had re-inserted herself into her shoes and found her way to the sidelines to watch her husband. They were moving quickly, dancing around one another, with Magi frequently turning her out to one side or another for them to dance side by side—allowing them to watch everyone else as more and more people joined them on the dance floor.

She heard Martha give a little "woot woo" followed by Eddie's "oh, my" and turned to find Esposito and Lanie doing a sultry salsa number—Esposito had from somewhere procured a black fedora-style hat and Lanie was none too shy about sidling up close to her man. Then she pushed him away, playing it up. Esposito feigned an insulted disinterest, until he saw Ryan sneaking in on his girl. While those two pretended to duke it out, Lanie grabbed Jenny and the two of them strutted across the floor. Kate was laughing and dancing and shaking her head all at the same time. When did they come up with this? Thankful her friends knew how to cut loose and have fun, but…how did she get stuck with those two clowns?

Kate was still smiling until she caught sight of Rick. Dancing. With Gina. It was nothing special. Just dancing, she told herself, but still seeing it—seeing them—caused her to falter. Kate and Karamagi were mid-rotation and she was meant to step into his left side as they turned, instead, she committed the worst mistake one could make while dancing: she stepped on her partner's toes. Hard. Thankfully, it was the ball of her foot on his, not her heel.

Karamagi, sweetheart that he was, immediately pulled her up and slowed them. But he was perceptive, too, and, when they completed their turn, he saw what she'd seen and knew what caused her misstep. He edged her away from the center of the floor. Kate thought they'd probably stop dancing. He'd be the type to claim he needed a break, just to give her an out.

But they didn't stop dancing. The just stopped cha cha-ing. Kate tried not to, but she couldn't keep her view from trailing to Castle. It was too easy, all she had to do was look up, past Magi's shoulder.

"It's not…" Karamagi hesitated, unsure about continuing. "He's not himself with her. Never has been."

Kate wasn't sure how to respond. She shrugged, waved her wrist at his shoulder. Tried to pull off that it didn't matter, but she failed. She could tell by the way Karamagi was looking at her.

"It's just…she seems so…nice." Why didn't they work? If she's nice, was it him?

"Yeah. Now," Magi scoffed, surprising Kate with the animosity in his tone. She distinctly recalled Rick describing him as "wouldn't hurt a fly. Never says anything bad about anyone"—and, up to now, in her experiences with him, it had been true.

Karamagi wasn't comfortable with the admission, though, and immediately looked apologetic. Kate couldn't let it go, however.

"He said you refused to be his best man," she led. She couldn't seem to get out of interrogation mode where Castle was concerned. First last night, grilling Rick about his childhood. Now this.

Karamagi considered her for a moment before responding. She seemed to need to know. Looked downright scared of the answer. Yeah, she needs to know.

"It wasn't right," he answered. "Never any passion. It was like you and me now, only less…friendly."

"Then why—"

"She came from a big family. Frequently traveled back to Texas to see them. Richard thought it was important to her."

Kate shifted her head and raised her eyebrow in question.

"It was an obligation. As soon as she started seeing more success here in Manhattan, she quit going to see them. Even started using Rick and Alexis as an excuse as to why she couldn't go—but that did not mean she was here, spending time with them."

Kate nodded.

"To me, it always felt like she was using Ricky as a launching pad for her career. To be honest, last summer was the best I'd seen of her with him, Alexis. Even Martha."

Kate cringed at the thought of them together. Especially at the thought of them happy together. She felt her stomach drop and her mouth water with that pre-vomit sensation.

"I think she was finally wanting what Ricky has wanted all along," Karamagi continued, not wanting to leave Kate in that state. He did have a point. "But he wasn't there. He wasn't in it."

Kate lifted her questioning eyes to meet Karamagi's. He nodded his reassurance to her.

"I will say 'yes' next time," he said, pulling her closer and into a little hug as their song ended. "Next time it will be right."

Kate would have said thank you or agreed with him, but her throat constricted around the words. Instead, she silently did both.

Kate had become quite a popular dance partner after her exhibition dances with Karamagi. She was returning from a well-deserved break and a trip to the ladies' room to freshen up when she spotted Castle talking to some of the people from his publishing house—the handsy creeper included. She debated avoiding the group because of him, but Castle was there, so she set her course. She didn't make it far, however, before a hand shot out to stop her.

She turned around to find an umbrella-adorned drink offered to her by a relatively tall, familiar looking man with dark swathe of hair.

"Long Island Iced Tea, Detective?"

"Oh, uh, Alex." Was he waiting for her? "How are you?"

"Very well, thanks." He shook the drink he held.

"No, thanks," Kate answered. "I'm not much for rum." Also, not very original. Kinda like your novel.

The next Richard Castle, my ass, she thought. They ought to let readers decide before the marketing talks. She'd read Dead Serious after she met him, and the courtesy copy of Seriously Dead he'd sent after it came out. What kind of titles were those anyway? She only read the second one to see if his time with them had made any impact at all. Unfortunately, Rysposito didn't make for a good muse.

But she was biased, and she knew it. And she didn't like seeing some no-name writer trumped up over her writer.

"Ah, well. Worth a shot, I guess." Alex turned and set both glasses on the nearest table, a few steps away.

"How about a dance instead? You could teach me a thing or two."

Damn right I could. How to face-plant.

Kate shook her head. Why was she giving him a silent tongue-lashing? He hadn't done anything wrong. Nothing at all. There was absolutely no excuse for her lack of good will toward him.

But she still didn't want to dance with him.

She glanced around for an escape plan. Checked her wrist. No watch. Shit.

"Actually, I've-uh…promised Martha I'd help with the cake. I should—I should probably go. Do that."

"Yeah, yeah. No. That's fine. Maybe later?"

Kate hummed her non-committal, and walked off toward the kitchen. In the opposite direction she'd been headed. A quick glance over her shoulder to be sure Alex wasn't watching and she slipped out the side door. She headed right, toward the back of the boat and stopped half-way down. She leaned her arms on the teak railing and took in the beautiful sight before her. The Statue of Liberty lit up in all her glory.

"I don't see any cake."

Kate turned her head to find a smirking Castle right beside her, hip propped on the railing. She hadn't even noticed his approach and wasn't sure how long he had been there. Couldn't have been long.

God, he looks good. His hair was all sheened and combed into place. His dark green shirt brought out the warm undertones in his skin and intensified his blue of his eyes. Kate was surprised he hadn't lost the tie yet.

"Heard that, did ya?"

Castle didn't answer; he merely shrugged, but he was studying her.

Not wanting to answer his unspoken question, Kate turned back to Lady Liberty. Rick leaned down onto his elbows next to her and bumped her shoulder with his. He watched her a moment longer, then looked out at the impressive statue with her.

He wanted to ask her. Wanted her to acknowledge it, but instead he kept silent.

Finally, Kate couldn't take it any longer.

"Why's he here, Castle?"

Castle shrugged. "He's my protégé. He needs to be. There are connections he needs to make. People he needs to schmooze."

Kate scrunched her face at his explanation. Something sounded off. She turned to question him, simultaneously pulling off narrowed eyes and a quirked eyebrow.

Castle lolled his head a bit to the side and she could see a hint of amusement crinkled in his eyes. He wasn't telling her the full truth—but he wanted to.

"What?" she demanded, not sure what he was laughing at.

He leaned in conspiratorially. "Paula's sweet on him."

"God, Castle!" Kate shoved his shoulder. "You're such a girl!" Kate immediately cringed thinking she probably shouldn't have said that after his "everyone already thinks I'm a girl" reaction to Sherlock, but Castle didn't seem to notice.

"How do you even know this? Pajama party?"

"Not hard. In case you hadn't noticed Detective, she kind of talks a lot."

"So, she actually told you this?"

"Well, no, but—"

"Then—there's no way. They're like night and day."

"Yeah, but—"

"You might want to stick to your day job. Even my day job. Clearly, matchmaking is not your forte."

"You have a night job? Moonlighting at the Pussycat Club?"

"Nah," Kate teased, "Escort service. Pays more, more intimate and we don't let just any 'ol jackhole with thirty bucks in."

"So, you've got standards?"

"Of course. Focus, Castle."

"I am."

He was staring.

"Paula and Alex?"


"I don't think he's interested. And she was flirting with Brian."

"She always flirts with Brian. With everyone. But, you just wait. She comes off as all crass and Jersey, but really? She's got old-timey values—the kind Alex was raised with. She just doesn't show it."

"Old-timey values? Paula?"

"No joke, Beckett."

Kate could tell he was serious, and she wasn't really surprised. She was learning that he liked the dichotomy in people. The complexities, the paradox. He seemed, even, to collect people who had more going on, more depth than one might initially expect.

"Besides, I'm not really playing matchmaker. I'm just setting the stage, providing the opportunity. Who knows what Alex wants? We aren't exactly chummy."

"But you've got Paula all figured out, huh?"

"Wasn't hard. A little alcohol and I know her whole life story."

"No more mystery, huh?"

Castle shook his head. "Not for a long time."

"And then there's me." She meant for it to sound more playful than it did. It came off sounding sulky.

"And then there's you." Rick agreed. He paused a moment. "You, who, as I recall, promised to help with cake."

"You know I promised no such thing."

Castle's eyes widened and he feigned shock. "So, you lied to poor Mr. Conrad?" he asked, cupping his hands over his mouth.

"You are your mother's son." Kate said smiling at his antics.

"No denying it," Castle laughed. "But, seriously, come on. I could use some help with the cake."

Rick pulled her forward, off the rail. They walked back into the main lounge, past the still-busy poker table and through the eight-foot tall swinging doors just to the side of the bar. Straight ahead, there was another metal door with large windows that showed a surprisingly large industrial kitchen—all well-lit and bright white, except for the stainless steel counters, cooktops and hanging racks. But, that wasn't their destination.

Instead, Rick guided her to the right where there was an alcove with a U-shaped metal counter. Kate immediately saw an array of cake boxes with the Cups-N-Cakes logo.

"You got these from Sheryl's bakery?"

"Yeah. You know. Good pastries and cakes, just the coffee's—"

"Not so good. Yeah, I remember."

"They couldn't make it."

"Dad and Sheryl?"


"Oh. I didn't know you'd invited them."

"I did, but they were going to a show with her sister. You meet Margo yet?"

Kate shook her head warily. She knew Castle understood and wasn't pushing her. Just asking.

"Well, my dear. You are gonna love her. She's very easy going." He suspected Kate would have an easier time with Margo than Sheryl—not because Sheryl was dating her dad, but because Margo just had that outgoing, bubbly, but non-invasive personality that was impossible not to like.

Rick lifted the lid on one of the boxes. "And she bakes," he added, holding up a chocolate cupcake.

"Those look delicious."

"They are. Hazelnut chocolate mocha cake with chocolate frosting."

"Already snuck one, huh?"

"Hey! They insisted! Besides, I couldn't let them all have one and not join them."

"So, what do you need help with? It's cupcakes. Not much work."

"Yeah. These are the easy part. Slap 'em on a plate and we'll call it good. But these aren't what I need help with."

Rick pushed Kate toward the back of the alcove where the other boxes were. "These are the ones I need help with."

"Geez. If this is a tiered cake and we have to stack 'em count me out. I did that once and it didn't end well."

"Nope." Rick grinned. "Even better."

Rick nudged her arm, encouraging her to lift the lid.

She did so—enough to peek inside. Then pushed it down again quickly and turned to Castle with look of delight.

"You! Tell me you did not get cheesecake!"

Castle schooled his features and lowered his voice to his most serious, manly tone. "I did not get cheesecake."

Kate laughed and lifted the lid again, smiling. "But you did."

"Well, we are New Yorkers."

"I'm sensing a theme. Yacht called the "Lexington," sailing around Lady Liberty and New York-style cheesecake."

"Which I'm assured is the best in New York."

"We'll see."

"How about we find out now?"

"You think?"

"I don't see the harm. It's just one piece. Who's gonna know? Besides…it's my cake, my party."

"And you'll cry if you want to?"

"Ha," Castle answered.

But he was already turned, looking for the plates—which were easy enough to spot—and utensils. The plates were stacked on open shelves above the counter, but, it being a boat, they were secured down. Kate was trying to figure out how to undo the clasps and locking mechanisms, while Rick looked for forks and a knife. They were assuming that utensils were in the locked drawers. All he was able to come up with were a couple of butter knives, aluminum foil, scissors, a spoon rest and a small cutting board. Kate hadn't fared any better unlocking the plates.

Not wanting to bother the folks in the kitchen, Castle gave up looking.

"All right," he said, taking a deep breath. "Stand back. I've got this." He made some sort of karate-air-chopping motion that had Kate leaning back out of the way along with a "hi-ya." He ended in a one-legged crouched stance with both knives pointed menacingly at the cheesecake.

"Oh, look," Kate said in a flat monotone. "You've subjugated an inert mass of gelatinous bliss. Glad it's not an armed suspect or anything."

"Gelatinous bliss, eh? Note to self: prefers cheesecake."

"Will you just cut it already?"

"The cheese?"


"You said it."

"I thought I was talking to a 40-year-old man, not a five year old."

Castle used one knife to cut a couple of slices and used both to lift one out. Once he had the slice balanced on one knife and leaned onto the other, he held it out for Kate. She reached for the delicate piece of confectionary, fully intending to take the whole thing, but it broke off in her hand. Only Castle's quick reflexes kept the heavier, crusted-edge piece from flopping on the floor.

"Ah, well. We share," he said, holding up the piece. "Cheers."

Kate smiled and air-clinked her piece with his. Her teeth had barely sank into her half and she was moaning around the creamy texture. "Mmm. 'Tso good."

Rick thought she was probably right, but he'd paused watching her. He loved how she appreciated good food and wasn't shy about eating. But…God! That moan. She didn't know the things she did to him. She couldn't. He watched her still, but suddenly it occurred to him that he could be partaking in and enjoying the same thing she had in her mouth. They could be feeling the same thing. Tasting the same thing. He shoved the piece toward his mouth and bit off more than he probably should have.

Kate had forgotten for a moment that Castle was watching her. She had been savoring the cheesecake. It might just be the best in the city. Then again, it had been a while since she'd had cheesecake.

She became aware, though, of his eyes on her again. Still. Her eyes popped open, immediately finding him. He was in such close proximity, facing her as the both leaned on the counters in the tight space. She watched his eyes make the slow, difficult path from her mouth to her eyes.

"You know what this needs?" she asked. "Berries."

It sparked movement from Castle. Movement in her direction as he murmured, mouth still full. He leaned into her, reached past her for the bowls she hadn't noticed. She looked over her shoulder to watch him knock the lid off a large bowl, only to see that it was full of berries. Strawberries. Blueberries. Raspberries.

She turned back to watch him. His jawline as he concentrated on the berries. His throat as he swallowed. She was fully aware of him pressed against her. A foot between hers. His knee higher than hers because of the way she was leaned back against the counter. Her hip sheltered between the warmth of his and the coolness of the counter. Both firm. Her right shoulder tucked into his chest. Also firm. She swallowed this time, having nothing to swallow.

He came back to her, plopping a plump raspberry and two blue berries onto the slice she held aloft so he wouldn't crush it between them. He dropped a strawberry onto his own, knowing her tiny sliver wouldn't have held its weight.

Kate breathed out a "Thanks."

"Wait," Castle instructed, he nudged her into the corner and leaned past her again—this time, more fully on her front, a move she was sure he didn't have to make. "Needs the fruit purée."

Castle pulled himself upright, but only stepped back enough to give himself room to upend the clear bottle and drizzle the purée over Kate's cheesecake…and fingers. He squeezed too hard and the sauce dribbled all down her hand and between her fingers. Kate popped the cake into her mouth, hoping to prevent more of a mess.

"Thanks, Castle," she said wryly, talking around her mouthful of cake. She turned her right hand to lick the sauce from her wrist bone all the way up the side of her ring finger.

"I could help with that, you know."

"Yeah?" she asked in a low teasing voice. "Think I got it." She made him watch as she licked between her knuckles. Then placed her whole ring finger in her mouth and wrapped her lips around it, slowly pulling it out and releasing it with a small "pop."

"You missed some," Castle said, a little awed.

"Just there." Her middle finger was the culprit, and she was left with a small purplish smudge, low on her cheek. He brushed his left thumb just under the spot.

"Yeah?" Kate asked on an exhale. She wasn't sure the whole short word made it out as she watched him lean toward her. He was going to do it. Finally. He was lowering his head to her cheek, and she was going to meet him half way. She was pushing herself off the counter, up to her full height. So close.

And then there was the unmistakable thwack of one of the swinging doors hitting the metal counter. Hard enough that she felt the reverberation. Castle bounced back like an uncontrolled jackhammer, head whipping around. Jumpy, that one. Kate thought again that he really was going to get whiplash. His strawberry hit the floor, but he still held onto what was left of his cheesecake.

Behind him, Kate saw the shiny gold shirt and red hair and knew even before she spoke that it was Martha. And friends, it appeared.

"Mo-ther!" Castle groaned, like she'd just walked in on him fresh from the shower. Not like it hadn't happened before. There were downsides to living with the woman. She knew no boundaries sometimes…especially when searching for his wallet to pay the delivery man.

"Oh, Dears. I'm so—"

"Don't worry about it, Martha. We were just, uh, trying to get the cake ready."

"Ah, yes," Martha said, glancing around. It was obvious they'd gotten nothing done. "Well, you two shouldn't be worrying about this. It's a party—go mingle! Have fun! I've found these two lovely lasses here," she said, gesturing to two young wait staffers, "who've promised they can handle it."

As soon as Martha looked away, still talking, Kate grabbed ahold of Castle's wrist. He was still holding the piece of cheesecake out and gawping at his mother. She popped the piece—his fingers and all into her mouth. Kate was aware of one of the servers' mouths dropping as she watched, but she didn't care. They didn't know her. Them. Castle's head whipped back around to her. To stare at his hand. His fingers in her mouth. She licked his finger as she pulled his hand away. It all happened so fast. He didn't have time to process it.

"Hey, that was mine!"

"Snooze, you lose, Old Man."

But, he'd called attention to it, and she was sure Martha saw that last bit. And she was quite eager to escape. She grabbed Castle's sleeve and pulled him toward the trio and the door. But Castle was dragging his feet, stuttering about how they could handle it. He wanted to push them all out of there. Except Kate. Kate could stay. Right where she was. He liked where she was. Well, not where she was now. Looking at him expectantly.

"Good?" she was asking.

He was staring at her. Thinking. Planning. Scheming. What the hell was I thinking having a party on a boat? There is no privacy! No blank spaces. No quiet crevices. No…no…maybe the Captain's quarters? Did this yacht even have that? I should offer her a tour. Find out.

"Yeah." He said automatically, not thinking. She was good. She was fantastic. A fantastic tease.

Kate dropped the napkin she'd grabbed from the server's tray to wipe any puree remnants from her cheek into the trash, and scooted out the door with Castle right behind her.

He had his hand at the small of her back. She could feel him nudging her right, toward the door they'd come in, and she'd have maybe gone, but she looked up and there were too many people. Nosy co-workers looking her way. She veered left instead, toward the high tables where the boys, Lanie and Jenny were. Who knew where Maddie had disappeared to? Maybe she was off distracting Ajax.

"'Bout time you two showed up," Esposito teased.

"Don't think I didn't see you two slink off," Lanie said.

"We didn't 'slink' anywhere, Lanie," Kate said. "I was just helping Castle."

"I can see you were helping Castle." Lanie smirked.

Kate looked at her confused.

"Still got a little cream there, Kate," Lanie said, tapping her own upper lip.

Kate glared at Lanie, flushed and wiped her index finger across her upper lip all at the same time. Then she slugged Castle's upper arm, sharp with her knuckles right in the spot where she knew it would hit the most nerves.

"Ow!" Castle exclaimed, grabbing his arm. "What'd I do?"

Kate stalked off without answering, well-aware that her so called friends were laughing at her expense. Hopefully Castle's, too.

"What'd I do?" Castle asked again, this time of their friends. "How come you piss her off and she hits me?"

"What's the matter, Castle? Can't handle being hit on by a girl?" Ryan asked.

"There's being hit on and then there's being hit. By Beckett. Ma-an, I'm gonna have a bruise." He whined that last part, still rubbing his arm.

They laughed at him.

"Next time, I hope it's you. All of you."

"Well, here, Castle," Lanie said holding a card out to him. "Maybe this will make it up to you."

"Lanie," Castle said, reaching for the card. "You didn't have to get me anything. Besides—you already gave me the shirt and the seat cushion."

"Well, this one's just from me. Your real gift. Trust me. You'll like it."

Castle nodded and slid his finger under the flap. The card had a simple design with just "Happy Birthday!" written over the top of a large cake. He opened it up to find a photo of a younger, bikini-clad Kate Beckett facing him. Despite all the skin, he was struck by her face and her hair. She looked so much younger, but she had determined eyes and a tightness to her posture. Her hair was styled in a feminine, but no-nonsense cut—even shorter than it had been when he first met her. It was just as dark as it had been when they met, maybe even darker, but the flipped-out tips were a yellow blonde. A style he remembered being popular not too long ago. It wasn't a Kate he knew. More like she was still finding herself and didn't know who she was.

Wherever they were, the place was crowded, but Kate stood out. Of course she would. She could have been wearing a burlap sack and she'd have stood out. But it wasn't a burlap sack. She was standing there in a black string bikini and black heels, posing for the picture with a hand on her hip and a look on her face that gave every indication that she'd been told to do just that. But he could see a hint of a smile in her eyes and slightly upturned lips. He flipped the photo over to find Lanie's handwriting: March 2005.

He flipped it back over to stare at Kate some more. Miami, he thought. Must be Miami.

"Kate." He said absentmindedly. "You're giving me Kate?"

"Well, she's not exactly mine to give, but inasmuch as I can, yeah. I guess."

"Lanie," Castle said, pocketing the picture in his left front pocket, "I do believe you'd like to dance with me."

Lanie gave him a look.


She glanced at Javier, who only shrugged at her. He didn't know what the hell she'd done, so he wasn't offering to help.

"Well…since you asked so nicely."

"Thank you," Rick said, taking her hand and guiding her onto the floor. He didn't say another word until he had her in front of him and her full attention.

"Lanie…what the hell's going on?"


"And where the hell's Josh? Why isn't he here with her? I mean, he just got back. What could be more important than seeing Beckett? But he hasn't. You know how I know he hasn't?"

Lanie shook her head. She could guess.

"'Cause she's been with me. At my house. Thursday night. Last night. And today she was at the precinct and then with Madison. Tomorrow? With me again. So, I ask again, where's Josh?"

"There's no Josh."

Castle drew back, in surprise. He had hoped. He had thought maybe. He'd wondered.

"He came back early."

Castle's shoulders sagged.

"Wednesday. When Alexis and I were there."

Castle nodded. Alexis hadn't said anything.

"She gave him his stuff then."

Castle's eyes went to Lanie's.

"But she broke up with him before he left. Motorcycle boy was just too dumb to know it."

Castle silently prodded her to continue.

"It was awful. The night we all went to The Old Haunt and you didn't make it? When you got sick? Made quite a scene. Not knock-down, drag-out or anything. But he got really pissy when he found out you owned the bar. Kept going on about how you weren't a cop and how you were gonna get her killed. Accused her of cheating with you and whoring herself out for—I don't know? Publicity?. We knocked him down a peg or two, but when Kate left to check on you, he said to us that it was just a hitch and they'd be fine. That is one seriously stupid man."

Castle felt anger rising in his chest hearing that Kate had to go through all that. In front of everyone. In front of everyone.

"You all knew? All this time and no one's said anything?"

"It wasn't our place, you know? And it's not like we were supposed to know. It just kind of worked out that way. We thought you were going to be there, too, remember? Kate was just so mad at him about the key thing, you know? And hitting you. And, it's kind of my fault, really, 'cause she was going to do it when they were going out for drinks—wanted to be someplace public, but I didn't want her alone with him if he was going to…possibly get violent. I know my girl can take care of herself, but—"

Lanie was getting flustered. She'd all but stopped moving in their little circle.

"It's okay, Lanie. You did the right thing."

"No, I just—I talked her into going to The Old Haunt with us instead. Told her to use your office. That you wouldn't mind. It'd be more private than some bar, and we'd all be there, Javi, Kevin, if something happened."

"It was good thinking. I'm just sorry I put her in that position."

"It was a long time coming. Trust me. She knew it, too. You were just the catalyst. Better that way, I think. Besides, she ended up at your place, right?"

"Yeah. I guess, but she never said anything. I knew they'd fought and then she missed out on seeing him off 'cause she was with me at the hospital."

"Yeah. Would have been better if she could have ended it for sure then. Nothing she tried while he was off in Mozambique—"


"Whatever. Nothing worked."

"So, she tried, huh? But couldn't reach him? No email? No phone?"


Castle stayed silent for a while, lost in thought. He was still dancing them around in pointless high school-esque circles in the silence between two songs.

"So why are you telling me all this?"

"She asked me to."

"What? Why?"

"Apparently, anything related to relationships—well, yours and hers, and especially yours together is a volatile topic for you two."

"That's—" Ridiculous. He'd love to talk about them. A real them.

"She says you have a habit of running—literally running and hiding—when she tries to bring it up."

"That's—I'd never—"

"When you were camping, Rick."

Realization dawned on him. God, I'm such an ass. We could have…If I hadn't…Ugg!

"One time, Lanie. One time!"

"Not one time. She's been burned trying to tell you these things before. I mean, I don't agree with her, but I can see where she's coming from."



"You're gonna have to give me something else to go on here."

"Demming," Lanie sighed. Kate owed her. Totally, owed her. And Writer Boy was lucky she liked him.


"She broke up with him. Was gonna tell you, say 'yes' to the Hamptons, then you showed up with Gina."

"Nooo." Castle shook his head in denial, but his eyes were wide with the truth.

"Yes. And what's worse? Everybody knew. Everyone talking behind her back. Guessing you two'd slept together and that the 'Ice Queen' wasn't good enough for you. Or that you'd finally given up, found a new muse. People can be cruel—even if they're not saying stuff directly to your face. People calling her. Reporters."

"I didn't—I didn't know."

"'Course you didn't. And I'm not blamin' you. We were mad at you for a while. 'Cause she's our girl, you know? And both of you. So damn blind. But, we realize it wasn't just you. Or just her. But while you were off with Gina, Kate spiraled. Worst I've seen. Wouldn't talk to anyone. Hid herself away."

"Her dad mentioned, but…What do I do, Lanie? I need to fix this."

"I don't know. All I know is, you make her happy, so you two damn well better figure it out."

"I want to."

"Well, knowing my girl like I do, she's not going to make the first move. She'll think this is it or something. Plus, even though she pretends not to, she cares what others think. She won't risk having people think she's left yet another guy for you. Won't want the people she knows thinking that she just can't stay away, that she's succumbed to your…charm" Lanie waved the hand on his shoulder like she didn't want to admit he was charming. "More than that, she won't want the people she doesn't know thinking she's some kind of tramp."

"No. No. I know. You're probably right."

"Yeah, I am."

"Thanks, Lanie."

"Yeah, yeah. Just don't forget, Writer Boy. Three strikes and you're out. Don't screw this up."

"Not to worry, Dr. Parrish," Castle said smiling, "Third time's a charm."

But his eyes were a little hazy from the Beckett information overload and from recalling all of his jackass-actions that led to missed opportunities. All this time, he thought. He'd been blaming her for not seeing it. Not taking the chance. Being unwilling to dive into what she claimed she wanted. Of closing herself off in no-where relationships.

But it wasn't true. She'd jumped. She'd risked it. She'd been more willing to give them a go when—let's face it—she had to feel like there was more to lose. He knew she wasn't one to open up. To risk getting hurt. And she had. She had gotten hurt. He'd hurt her. Intentionally or not. And embarrassed her. So if the going was slow now, he could at least understand it.

The song stopped. Lanie dropped her arm from Castle's shoulder, wondering if he was okay and if there wasn't maybe a better way to do that. She hadn't really been planning on following through with Kate's request—but then the photo—and she kind of saw it as an opportunity to give Castle hope, make sure he knew and get back at Kate for being so stupid about all this. But, she forgot about how perceptive Castle could be and his need for details.

Now, he didn't look so happy at his own party, and his mother was over by the piano, microphone in hand, and someone was rolling out a chef's cart with cake and lit candles. The crowd parted, left room for everyone to see Castle standing there, alone, in the center of the dance floor.

Martha led the crowd through a loud rendition of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." Kate watched Martha walk over to him before the song ended. She didn't know what was wrong with him, but Castle had a dazed look. Couldn't be all the candles, she thought teasingly. Martha nudged him playfully with her hip and brought him back the present, a genuine smile on his face.

When the song ended, Martha gave him a tight hug. The microphone picked up the "Happy Birthday, Kiddo" even though, from the scratchy sound of Martha's voice, it probably wasn't meant for everyone. Kate smiled as Rick kissed his mother's cheek and then bent and blew out the candles with the same exaggerated puffs he'd used on Thursday.

"Would you like to say a few words, Richard?" Martha asked into the microphone, not really leaving him a choice of 'no."

Rick took the microphone. "Thanks, everyone for coming. I'm glad you could be here to celebrate with me tonight. Are you all having a good time?"

Rick waited for the crowd response.

"Excellent!" he said, watching their reaction. "Then I say the only thing that can make this even better is—cake! Let's eat, shall we?"

His guests hooted. Martha took the microphone back.

"While these fine folks are passing out dessert," she said gesturing to a few servers with cake and cupcake-laden trays, "we have one more surprise for Richard—for all of you, really, if you could indulge us just a moment more."

Rick turned questioningly to his mother, but she was already moving back toward the piano. A server offered him a piece of cake which Castle waved off. The server pushed the cart away, but Castle—so intent as he was on what this surprise could possibly be—barely noticed.

Martha held out her left arm, "Ladies and Gentlemen, my beautiful and talented granddaughter, Miss Alexis Castle."

Castle looked to his right, and saw his daughter approaching. She had her violin case in hand. She stopped to open the case and set her music on a stand.

"For his birthday, Alexis has composed an original, beautiful piece for her father. And she'd like to play it for you."

Eddie was helping Alexis adjust the microphone on the stand in front of her. When she was set, she took a deep breath.

"This is, uh, the first time I've written my own piece, so I'm a little nervous." Alexis gave a little nervous laugh to prove her statement. "But," she said, glancing at Kate, "I had help."

Kate, who had picked a spot off to the side, where she could see both Alexis and Castle, gave her a little nod and smile of encouragement. Castle didn't take his eyes off his daughter.

Alexis turned to look directly at her father. "It's called 'Grow with Me.' I hope you like it."

Alexis stepped back and raised the bow in her right hand and drew it across the strings to produce the first of the low and steady notes of her composition. This part she was better at, less worried about, and she relaxed into it, letting her eyes appear to drift shut. She played and the room was quiet, attention aptly placed on the young woman surpassing them in poise and talent.

Kate had seen Alexis play, so she watched Castle, arms folded across his chest like he was holding something in. She could see the emotions play across and soften his face. His jaw tightened, then gave way to something else. She wondered what he was recalling? She saw him sneak a knuckle under his eye. She watched the way his body jerked with the later, punchier notes. And the final ease of his shoulders like he'd released the breath he was holding for her when the song came to an end.

She turned back to Alexis to see the girl's reaction. Everyone was clapping and hooting. Kate let out a loud, happy whistle, but she slowed her clapping when she saw Alexis' already pale features ghost even more. She wasn't smiling. She looked more…despondent than she'd ever seen the girl look.

Quickly, Kate turned her head to Rick. He hadn't moved from his stance—feet shoulder width apart, arms folded across his chest. He had such a serious look on his face. Come on, Castle. Don't be an asshole. Get it together!

The clapping cacophony died down, but Kate was already moving forward. She stopped when she heard Castle.

"Play it," he demanded. "Play it again."

He was loud enough to be heard over what noise was still left. His voice was low and gravelly. If she didn't know him better, Kate would have found the overall effect intimidating. In another setting, sexy as hell. But not with his daughter there, shifting her weight, looking absolutely devastated.

Castle seemed to recover himself. "Please. Play it again, Alexis. It's lovely. I want to hear it again."

Alexis gave him a small smile. "I made you a CD," she said quietly.

"Now, though? Live?"

"Well, it's…" Alexis looked hesitant. "It's really better as a duet." She tucked her head sheepishly.

Kate froze.


"Yeah. It's a…duet." She looked up at Kate beseechingly and found her still standing in roughly the same spot.

Kate shook her head. No. No. No. No. No. People were watching her now. She could tell. She had a sixth sense for it. Especially for Castle's eyes on her.

"Please?" the girl asked hopefully, gripping the bow in her hand.

Kate risked a glance at Castle. He knew now. There was no denying it. His look had changed from awe at his daughter to deeply interested and truly surprised at this turn of events. At least there's that, Kate thought. She liked surprising him.

Kate rolled her head back, wishing she had more willpower. She moved forward toward Alexis. She felt compelled to somehow get them out of this. She didn't know the song. I don't know it!

"Alexis," she started slowly, "I don't know it by heart. Not like you do. I can't play it with you."

"Oh, don't worry, Kate," Alexis said turning to her violin case. "I brought it with me." She held up the sheets of music Kate had created.

"You—you planned this?" Kate asked in a whispered, shocked shriek.

"Well, no. I just…I knew if I choked you'd be here to back me up. So, yeah, I brought it."

"I just…didn't want him to know. We agreed. And now everyone…the precinct…"

"Please, Kate? I'm sorry. I didn't mean to spit it out."


"Oh—kay. I'm—"

"No. No. I mean. Okay. You didn't mean it, right?"


"So, let's just get this over with. Maybe I can swim home."


"Kidding," Kate said as she sat down at the piano. "Maybe," she added under her breath.

Alexis spoke into the microphone, "Back by request. Because, who can deny my father, right?"

Or his daughter? Kate thought shaking her head. How did I end up here, again?

"I mean…he's still got grounding power for a few months. So, one more time," she said, "with my friend, Kate Beckett, accompanying on piano."

Kate lifted her right hand and gave it a little shake toward the crowd, but she didn't lift her eyes from the music. It's not like she hadn't performed in front of a fair number of audiences. But those pieces had been practiced to perfection and performed when she expected to play. In front of people who knew she played. The only people here who knew she played piano were Alexis, Lanie, Martha, Madison and Montgomery. The boys knew she played guitar. Castle might. She didn't know.

Kate waited for Alexis to get through her opening notes. Then she joined in. The keyed music accented and propped up Alexis' piece at every turn. Softer where Alexis' played softly, higher when Alexis played higher, but still lower. Faster in spots when Alexis played faster. The piece Kate played was never meant to outshine Alexis' piece. It wasn't even meant as an equal complement to Alexis' composition. It was to showcase Alexis' talent, the story she was telling about growing up with Castle. And she'd done it so well. Kate was nothing but proud of her.

This time, when the song ended. Kate looked at Rick. He was clapping hard as he approached his daughter. He crushed her into a hug. He smiled down at Kate still sitting on the piano bench and mouthed "Thank you." Kate nodded and snuck behind them, intending to get out of the limelight.

Castle turned around to face the crowd, keeping is left arm over Alexis' shoulders. "Isn't she wonderful, everyone!" he asked, his proud papa shining through every pore. Alexis reached out and snagged her wrist before she could get too far and dragged Kate against her other side.

"Kate, too," Alexis said, hugging her side.

"Kate, too," the papa bear echoed. He was looking forward, but he'd stretched his arm out to include her. She could feel him rubbing his fingers up and down her shoulder blade. She felt heat rise in her cheeks and she was thankful that if anyone noticed, she could chalk it up to embarrassment.

"Now, can we eat cake?" Kate answered.

Just like that, a server appeared before them, offering them their choice of cupcake of cheesecake. All three picked cheesecake.

"Not going to steal mine again, are you Beckett?" Castle teased as they walked over to join their friends. Alexis had gone the opposite direction in search of Ashley.

"You never know, Castle." She sat down at the table, amid their friends all talking at once. Castle sat away from her, all their friends between them, on the arm of the sofa where Ryan and Jenny were.

"I didn't know you played," Ryan said.

"You play piano?" Esposito and Jenny asked in sync.

"That was great, Girl."

"Becks! I didn't know you were playing again."

"I didn't either," Kate said, looking up at Maddie, who was sitting across from her. "Just sorta happened."

Castle laughed. "You make it sound like some sort of illicit affair."

"Well," Kate said, sucking the cheesecake remnants off her fork and winking at him, "It was kind of fun hiding it from you."

"Little Castle's pretty talented," Esposito said clapping Castle on the shoulder.

"Yeah," Kate and Castle sighed at the same time.

"How'd that happen?" Jenny teased.

"She gets it from Martha," Kate answered.


"What? Just being honest."

"I paid for those lessons."

"Suppose you practiced for her, too?"

"No, but I suffered through all the practice sessions." He shivered. "She wasn't always that good."

"Like you'd change it."

"No. No. You're right." He dropped it. For a moment.

"So, how long has this been going on?"

"Don't know. She started it before Mother's Day. I found out when—that day we all went shopping together. For her prom dress."

"Oh. So, a while, huh?"


"I can't believe I didn't know!"

Kate shrugged. She wasn't sure if he meant about the song or her helping or both. She picked at her cheesecake, let her thoughts wander. They went to her grandmothers. Both of them. Elaine Beckett—helped to her seat by her much younger friend, Rosemary Petersik. Sitting in the front row at her last recital before her Grandma Beckett passed away. Next to them, on either side, her grandfathers. Her Papa. Even her Grandpa Beckett had put on a nice shirt to come. There hadn't been enough room in the front pew for her parents. They'd been two rows back. But her grandmothers insisted on being there early.

"You know," she heard Maddie say. "I think you're taking turning forty better than I took turning thirty. What's your secret?"

Castle paused and looked up at Maddie thoughtfully. His eyes flowed to Kate. She hadn't budged, but he could tell she was listening intently for his answer.

"Let's just say…I think I'm getting closer to solving my favorite mysteries in life."

The party was over. It was late. Early, rather. The yacht was docked, but Kate couldn't bring herself to leave yet. Everyone had pretty much already cleared out. There may have been a few stragglers, but it was mostly wait staff left. Maddie had wanted her to go with her, maybe share a cab again, but Lanie had jumped in saying they were going the same way—she and Javi could drop Maddie. Save the cab fare. Kate smiled gratefully at her friend.

The night had cooled slightly. It wasn't cold, but as Kate leaned on the teak railing toward the ship's prow, the open deck behind her, she was thankful she'd worn sleeves. She was facing the water, looking across to lights on the opposite shore. The starboard, Kate thought. She remembered reading it once for one of her classic literature classes and having to look it up because she didn't know what it meant. She thought she knew "port," but found it, too, had a different meaning than the one she knew. Left side of the boat versus right side of the boat.

Kate laughed quietly to herself. At herself. It didn't matter. It had been a good night. She's supported Alexis and got off with not a lot of teasing about it. She'd had fun dancing. She'd danced with a lot of men. More than she thought she would when the night started. Karamagi, of course. Her Captain. Mayor Weldon. Judge Markaway. Patterson. Others she didn't really know. Old men, married men. She shook her head again. A lot of old, married men.

"There she is. The woman of many talents." She felt Castle sidle up next to her. She looked over at him. He was tieless now. Finally lost it about an hour ago.

"Good night?" Castle asked.

"Mm-hmm." She turned back, to stare down at the water.

Rick followed suit. He was glad she was still here, but he wasn't sure what it meant or what move he should make, or if it was too soon to even make a move. If he should say something? He was pretty sure mentioning Josh was a bad, bad idea. And he didn't want to rush her.

"I thought you liked dancing with me, Castle." It had been on her mind. She'd watched him dance with every woman in there tonight. Or close to it. Everyone but her.

She was so quiet, he wouldn't have heard if she hadn't turned to face him.

"I do like dancing with you, Kate. I didn't—didn't want to get the rumor mill running again."

"Oh." Kate's cheeks flushed. She should have known. "Right. Makes sense."

"But we could dance now." Rick turned his body to face her.

"No music." Kate turned with him. His hand found its way to her hip, lightly touching the material there.

"No, but there's the sound of the waves lapping against the side of the boat. The hum of traffic in the distance. The—"

Kate's hand slid up his arm to his shoulder. She stopped him before he got to "the beating of our hearts" or whatever other cheesy line was about to come out of his mouth.

"Talk about meta." Her right hand joined her left behind his neck.

He raised an eyebrow at her, moving them to an upright position and pulling her a little closer.

"Richard Castle channeling Jameson Rook channeling Victoria St. Clair."

"Well, you could always sing for us."

"You want me to sing?"

"Yeah. I know you can." He reached up and grabbed the hand that was playing with his collar. The collar she couldn't seem to take her eyes off. He squeezed her hand, nudged her feet into motion. A slow, slow dance. "Come on. It's my birthday."

"I already gave you your present."

"My amazing present." She felt his palm slide over her hip and spread low at the small of her back. "But I've been a very good boy this year."

"So you think you deserve another present?"

"Very good."

Kate thought about it. She couldn't believe she was seriously considering this. She'd never sung for a man before. Too intimate. Karaoke? Yes. Singing with others, for others? Yes. With music. But no one had ever written a book about her. Given her so many words. Called her "extraordinary." Stuck by her side through so much shit. Besides, she kind of had something in mind that was just a little bit perfect for the occasion. The words had crossed her mind a time or two this evening.

"Okay, Castle." She felt him stand taller. His eyes delighted at her words.

"Only if you close your eyes." She didn't want him watching her. She wouldn't be able to do it with him watching her.

"Okay. I promise." Castle closed his eyes.

She waited a moment, half a rotation, to make sure he'd keep them closed.

"Mmm hmmm," she started off with a hum, testing her voice.

"Maybe we could

Hit it off

Be a righteous pair of fools

Teach this world we'll not be knocked around

So let us dance our happy dance

Sing songs of

Ever after"

Kate paused, in time to a beat only she could hear. Without realizing it, she'd moved her hand to cup Castle's ear. She brushed her thumb under his left eye, over his cheekbone. She expected him to break his promise. But he didn't. He just leaned into her touch.

"And maybe when

The sun forgets to shine

We'll be tired of ourselves

But until then, my foolish friend

I'll see you in by flying ship

And we'll forever sail the sand of time

And reap the sky of stars."

It reminded her of Peter Pan. Of Castle.

When she was silent for a while, Castle slowly opened his eyes.

"I've never heard that before," he said in a low voice. "I'll have to look it up when I get home."

"You won't find it."

"A songwriter, too, eh?"

"Not really, Castle. Started out as a poem. I've just picked at it with the guitar quite a bit."

"It's lovely, Kate." You're lovely. "Like I said. A mystery."

"I'm not sure that's flattering, Rick."

"Why not? I love mysteries, and solving them."

"I thought you said 'Mysteries are all the same. Motive. Opportunity. Cover-up. Conscience.'"

"So? Tell me you don't have a reason for everything you do? That you don't have a conscience?"

Kate didn't respond.

"But, you're right, though. You're not like any mystery I've ever seen."

"Neither are you, Rick. Neither are you."

Kate pulled him closer, wrapped her arms around his shoulders and let her head rest against his. They stayed like that, swaying back and forth to a soundless rhythm. She was keeping time to the feel of his warm breath on her shoulder and her neck, trapped there by her hair. He had one hand pressed flat to the middle of her back, slowly pressing in and out with her fingers. The fingers of his other hand were slowly turning circles causing the fabric of her dress to lift a few inches then fall again when he reversed direction.

They stayed like that until they became aware of people clearing tables on the deck.

Kate leaned back. "I—I should go."

"Yeah. Yeah." He caught Kate's fingers, and pulled her forward, port side. "I've got a cab waiting for you, actually."

"You do?" she asked.

Castle didn't answer, just led her to the ramp. Made sure the cab was there waiting. Kate was in front of him, fingers still held in his. She was ready to get home. Maybe take him with. Not to…just to keep him near. It wasn't that she didn't want to be alone. She just wanted to be with him.

Kate felt a tug at her fingers while she walked ahead. She looked down at her left hand, joined with his, just at the fingers. She looked up at him, saw it in his eyes.

"You're not coming?"

"I would, but I promised to stay, wait for the cleaning crew."

Kate nodded. She hadn't imagined saying goodbye here. Hadn't actually planned a goodbye at all. A little flirting. Okay. A lot of flirting. Nothing like what she pulled in the alcove behind the bar. But her plans for the night hadn't gone right since Martha stole her cherries. It had all been improv since then.

"Well, Mr. Castle. You throw an excellent party. I very much enjoyed your birthday." She was quite a bit shorter than him, standing on the low end of the ramp.

"Me, too, Kate. Me, too," Castle whispered. She had the most beautiful eyes, looking up at him like that. Quite literally took his breath away.

Kate leaned into him and up on her toes. She grasped the back of his head with one hand and the side of his face with her other. Castle closed his eyes. He felt her thumb press into his lips as she held him close and kissed him. Right on the corner of his lower lip. No hesitation. Unmistakable.

Rick kissed her thumb not really thinking about it. Not even wishing for her lips. He wouldn't change the intimacy of this moment for the world. Kate drew away, pulling his lip with her slightly. She leaned forward and whispered in his ear, "Good night, Castle"—still rubbing her thumb over his lips.

And then she was gone. Walking down the ramp. Steady on her feet when his breath was away. Way away. That sweet, sweet seductive mystery.

Looked like Lanie was wrong.

Can I get a "Finally!"? Anyone?

*Promo Spoiler Alert* And seriously. This show. Secrets come out after the secrets explode convo in an ep about a bomb?