Confined Spaces

The Stakeout, part one

Kate's been gone for a while now and Castle is growing fidgety inside the surveillance van. She said she wanted to take a quick walk around the block, get the feel of this area where the crime rate has skyrocketed these last few months, take in the environment should they have to run after a suspect later on. He thinks it's very unlikely it will come to that but he's got to admire her professionalism, her focus, the way she always thinks ahead. Unless of course said professionalism puts her in the way of inordinate danger, in which case he has a whole long list of objections to her thorough attitude.

He reaches for his phone in his pants pocket and checks the time but she's only really been gone for fourteen minutes, and that's just three more minutes since the last time he looked. That's the way it's been with him lately. He can't help worrying about her. He knows it's all kinds of wrong, bordering on unhealthy. His behavior is clearly disproportionate when it comes to her – sometimes his heart is too full, his feelings flow over the brim – but although it's not something he can easily keep under control, he could beat himself up for overreacting.

He's long known, after all, the danger inherent in her job. He understands it, accepts it. The job is part of who she is and, paradoxically, he wouldn't have it any other way. Would they even have met if she had been, say, a lawyer? A lecturer in Russian literature? But the concern – always present in the dark recesses of his mind – it gnaws at him, it draws blood, feeds off his most intense feelings and eats him alive whenever he's at his most vulnerable, whenever he's without her.

He's her partner, so he should do what partners do, have her back, build up theories, bring her coffee and food. Donate his heart to her for a transplant when hers has been blown up in an explosion, frozen to a stop, smashed to smithereens by a bullet or ripped out of her chest by a tiger. Yeah right, maybe that goes beyond the original job description, but he loves her, and he can't help that either.

She's been through pretty tough times and lately she's been dealt more than she can handle. She's been known to recklessly follow a hunch and go places without backup – without him. Not that he considers himself proper backup material, but he would at least be able to help or call for help. Give his life for her.

He's seen the effects of her sleepless nights, the dark shadows underlying her eyes, that she hides from the world under carefully applied layers of make-up. That she can't hide from him.

He saw her die a few months ago. Could have been yesterday – the timeline is irrelevant. Losing her, unthinkable.

He could probably just send her a text and puts his overactive mind at rest but he doesn't want to risk annoying her. He has no doubt she likes that he cares – she lets him know with a hand on his lapel, in the brightness of her smile that is just for him – but she won't have him fuss over her. That's unacceptable. And frankly, they've covered so much ground recently, made so much progress towards acknowledging their connection for what it is, that he is unwilling to do anything – anything at all – that would cause her to step back. So he is careful not to cross the line between caring support and over protectiveness.

He decides against texting her. Oh, he will, in a little while, if she doesn't show up, something light and witty, inappropriate perhaps, that will induce an eye-roll and elicit a smile. Which she will try, but fail, to conceal. It will be so them.

Instead, Rick glances through the tinted windows of the unmarked van. Kate is nowhere to be seen but to be fair, the view is hampered by the traffic and the heat, unusual for this month of the year, is enveloping New-York in a veil of silk, and all things great and small seem to be silhouetted against the hazy blur draping the city.

The door that abruptly slides open has Rick snap out of his trance. A wave of relief washes over him, fresh and healing, as Kate steps into the van. He blinks against the sudden glare of brightness assaulting his eyes through the open door but even as she shoves it closed, the semi-darkness that seemed to surround him before has lessened, losing the fight against the beams of light that filter through the cracks of the vans and which were there all the time but somehow went unnoticed. The demons recede instantly in her presence. Everything is more luminous in her vicinity.

Kate herself is dazzling. Her hair is a little disheveled and her cheeks are flushed from running in the incongruously hot weather. He's thinking he'd like to kiss the healthy glow into an aroused blush when his eyes are attracted South, to her still slightly heaving chest and to the trickle of sweat dripping down under her purple T-shirt and losing itself between the soft curve of her breasts, and at this moment, there's nothing Castle would want more than morph into this patch of delicious moistness.

"Castle!" Kate calls him out of his thoughts of attempted transfiguration.

His eyes travel back up to hers and he knows he's been caught staring. But her rebuke sounds half-hearted and she's still a little breathless – from her run? And anyway, there should be a law against looking so damn hot in a NYPD surveillance van. He takes a mental photograph of her, which he stores away for later perusing under the ever-growing file he named "hot_Beckett_looks" (for purposes of clarity).

"You look hot." The words are out before he can call them back, eight free-spirited impish phonemes with a will of their own that won't accept restraint as an option.

Oh great. He walked right into that one. Doesn't even need help.

And the cute rosiness on Kate's cheeks – though she might shoot him for calling it that – is back with a vengeance as she draws her lower lip between her teeth, but she says nothing, like she is caught in the headlights of his stare.

"I mean, outside. It's hot outside. The weather."

Lame. Clumsy. Awkward. Best-selling author reduced to two-year old child struggling with his first words.

Shut up castle, why don't you? Just. Shut. The. Hell. Up.

But Kate seems to have recovered and is now sitting next to him on the bench, controlled and self-confident. She nudges his right arm with her elbow and… is that a smirk on her lips, her beautiful, ripe, oh-so-kissable lips?

And her voice, when she speaks, leaning into him, is low and sensual like the heady scent of the grass after a shower in the summer heat.

"And it's really, really, hot inside this van too, Rick

Castle is petrified, rendered speechless. Couldn't pick up his jaw off of the floor to save his life. He doesn't stand a chance against the sultry way she draws out her vowels and exhales air on the "h", lingeringly, aiming it straight at his lips, as his own breath hitches and he's suddenly in dire need of her kiss of life.

Hang on. Rewind.

Rick. She called him Rick. She hardly ever does. The damn tease.

She knew exactly the effect she would have on him saying his name – his first name – with this voice. With these lips.

Okay. It's a draw.

Castle shuffles uncomfortably on the bench. He's sure the windows are steaming up and he raises a finger to the glass to check his theory but it involves moving his body to the side too and he changes his mind, shoves his pointed finger into his pocket and digs it painfully into his hip to try to leash his wayward body back under control and ease out the too tight fit of his pants. He chose to wear jeans this morning over dress pants because he thought casual clothes would be more comfortable on a stakeout. Count on this gorgeous, extraordinary, exasperating woman to prove him wrong.

Right now he wants to tug her into his body and reduce the distance between them to nothing, melt her into him on the dirty floor of the van, the NYPD van, during work hours, it doesn't matter, nothing matters anymore but to kiss her mouth into oblivion, kiss her everywhere, translate into body moves the strength of his love. He can hardly contain the urgency of his longing, the need to growl her name –


Wait. That's not his voice. That's Ryan's. From the two-way.

Oh God. Close save.