His bare back is to her. Arms pulled in front of him as he zips and buttons his pants. Muscles flexing around his shoulder blades and two strong lines running parallel to his spine. She can openly look at him now. It isn't something she's completely used to quite yet. Looking beyond the tall form of him, broad shoulders, smile that crinkles his eyes. Now each plane of him has a memory affixed to it. Has a new association. She knows the story of almost every piece of him. She can look at him and catalog the remembrances of times they've spent together. Sensitive spots, birthmarks, even her own imprints here and there. She is acutely aware of the smile that breaks across her face.

If it wasn't for the hunger rumbling in her stomach and the loud tick-tocking in her head reminding her that they're going to be late, she'd cross the room and touch him. Maybe make some new imprints and memories. However, they're supposed to be there in half an hour and seeing as he's still shirtless and barefoot, she's forced to appreciate the view from afar. He definitely does not need any more distractions.

He peeks over his shoulder at her then, smiling wide as he catches her gaze. "Are you watching me dress?"

She grins. "I'm starving. If this were a cartoon you'd look like a cheeseburger about right now."

"As much as I appreciate the oogling, when we get there you really can't do that."

She rolls her eyes. "If we ever get there, I'll dig down deep and try to restrain myself."

He smirks and turns towards her grabbing for the belt sitting on the bed beside her. He lifts it and his face falls in indecision. He holds it up to the dark jeans. "Is black okay or should I do dark brown?"

"Stick with the plan. Black shoes, black belt."

"But I'm wearing the blue shirt."

"Cobalt not navy."

"Okay, yeah." He slides the belt through the loops at his waistband, clasping it and then running his hands through his hair. He starts for the closet, only getting a few feet away before turning back anxiously. "Are you sure jeans aren't too casual?"

"It's lunch, Castle. I think a suit might be overdoing it."

He grins, attempting to at least appear calm. "Yeah. You're right, okay."

She smiles warmly at him. "I think the blue shirt and black belt will be perfect."

He leans down and kisses her chastely. "Thanks."

When he turns back to his closet pulling the shirt off the hanger, she glances down at her watch.

"We have to leave soon."

He returns to her, sliding his arms in and starting on the buttons. "So if he asks, I was the perfect gentleman and asked you out on a proper date and had you home by midnight."

"He's not going to ask."

"But if he does-"

She rolls her eyes. "He won't. Trust me. He doesn't want to know even more than you don't want him to."

He takes a deep breath and just as she thinks she has succeeded in calming him, his face falls again. "Wait, you're wearing blue."

"Very astute."

"We're going to match."

"Yeah, so? Look Castle, all your obsessing was cute at first but now it's just going to make us late."

"Do you think us matching is going to imply that we got ready together?"

"Seriously? You're thinking way too hard about this."

"I'll change." He goes to turn back to the closet but she grabs his wrist stopping him. Despite his motions being thwarted, his words continue nervously. "Maybe green? A green shirt will be complimentary but not too much so that it could be coincidental."

"It is coincidental."

"You don't know that. My subconscious could have thought blue because I saw you wearing blue."

"Castle, you aren't changing."


"No." She jumps off the bed and takes over the buttons on his shirt. "It has taken you almost an hour to settle on the belt, shirt, pants, and shoes. No way are we going through all that again. You look great. I promise you that my dad is not going to have even a second thought about the color of your shirt." She finishes the last button and lays her hand on his chest. "Now if you don't put your shoes on right now I'm going to strangle you."

He pulls a deep breath and straightens his shoulders. "Okay. I'm good."

"Good. Okay."

She starts for the door but he grabs her arm gently, pulling her back. "Just one last thing."

"Castle, we gotta go."

"You look beautiful."

She falls against him with a grin. "Thank you. You're not so bad yourself."

He looks down at her sweetly. "Yeah?"

She places her mouth next to his ear, whispering with a tempered smile. "Stop stalling."

He smiles as she pulls back from him. "Okay. Getting my shoes and then we can go."

She exhales, relieved. "Thank you."

"Castle, stop futzing with your shirt."

"Ah, sorry."

"You've met my dad before."

"Of course, but that was before. Things are different now." He clasps her hand in his as the restaurant comes into view. "I'm a dad. I know how it is to be on the other side of this."

"Your palms are sweaty, Castle. You really need to calm down."

"Is that him?"

"No, that's a busboy. You've met my dad before, remember? Tall guy, grey hair."

"Yeah. Okay, I'm good."

"You're fine. There is nothing to be worried about. My dad likes you. He was really happy when I told him you were coming with me today."

"He liked me when I was your friend. Trust me, his emotions can change when we tell him we're in a relationship."

She pulls him to a stop. "I really appreciate that this means so much to you, I really do, but you're driving me crazy."

He sighs. "I'm sorry. I'm insanely nervous right now."

"Yeah, I can tell. Look, if you want me to tell him alone, I can meet you back at the loft afterwards."

"No. Absolutely not."

She smiles. "Good. Now pull yourself together."

"I'm good."

"You've said that before."

He leans in and kisses her. Pulls back looking surprisingly calm. "This time I mean it. Really. I've got it under control." Leans in and kisses her quickly once more.

"Well it's about time you two."

Castle startles so hard, he nearly loses his balance as he pulls away from her. She holds tight to his hand, keeping him upright by her side. Once he's found his feet, she lets go of his hand.

Jim just smiles. "You alright there, Rick?"

"Yes, sir. I just – uh – sorry about that."

"Hey, Dad." She meets her dad for a hug, wrapping him tightly to her.

Castle stands to the side, eyes still a bit shocked, hands nervously finding his pockets. Over her shoulder, Jim's eyes meet his and he smiles tightly, embarrassed.

Jim pulls back from Kate, hands on her shoulders, eyes roaming her face. Smile breaking wider. "Good to see you, Katie."

"You too, Dad. You remember Castle."

Her dad's eyes dart behind her finding Castle's, giving him a slight nod, eyes twinkling with knowledge.

"Hi Mr. Beckett, er, Jim, sir."

Her dad turns towards her with smirk. "Is he okay?"

"Getting there I think."

Jim sticks out his hand and shakes Castle's with a grin. "I'm just teasing you. It's good to see you."

Castle's cheeks burn embarrassed. "Likewise."

Jim looks back and forth between them. "Seems we have a lot to catch up on."

"Yeah, sorry about that. I thought you'd be waiting inside. Not exactly the way we had planned to tell you."

He grins. "Your shirts would have given it away anyway." He glances between them with a knowing smile. "I mean, that can't be a coincidence."

Kate can't help but laugh as she feels Castle tense beside her and watches as the blush crawls up his neck. "Alright Dad, let's go eat."

He clasps Castle shoulder friendlily. "Let's." He turns and enters the restaurant as Castle turns towards her with an exasperated glare.

"That couldn't have gone worse."

She grins. "Oh, it definitely could have I'm afraid."

"Five minutes to change the shirt. It would have taken five minutes."

She laughs, loud and free. "Come on, Castle. The hard part's over." She grabs his sleeve and pulls him inside.