"Dad?"

No no no no no...Castle freezes. "Alexis?"

He's already sweating; it's all he can do to keep from blacking out, what with Kate being all feisty and frisky and missing him; what with her hands on his uh- everywhere, and her pelvis doing that thing-. Trying to remain upright as he reaches the conclusion that all of the blood rushing south doesn't actually help keep him on his feet, not at all. And he's fighting for supremacy with his inner horndog, the one that's become his outer horndog, brought on by a week's separation, that's stripping away all his critical faculties and egging him on to keep up the antisocial acts in public places despite the fact they can - and have been - interrupted at any time.

He chokes down on the lump of stress in his throat, which morphed into an invisible squeezing hand of panic the instant he became aware his college-aged daughter had walked in on them.

And by "walking in on them", let's be clear...Alexis has done nothing wrong, just walked towards her family home, where famous renowned playboy mystery writer Richard Castle is on the verge of performing almost completely pantsless sex acts up against the corridor wall, with his secret girlfriend, Detective Kate Beckett...

Outside the loft, where everyone who isn't supposed to know about the fact that he and Kate are- that he and Kate have been-...this...for the past six months, have gathered inside for some kind of snooping extravaganza, some kind of Secret-Busters' convention, with Esposito its keynote speaker.

Boy, does he feel silly.

Speaking of New York's finest (he always gets such a tingle at the base of his spine when he remembers who he's dating, and it's like that thing where your right brain catches up with your left brain and is all "Oh wow I forgot that awesome thing! That's so cool! Again!")...

Anyway, he knows Kate's been trying her best to stay still, but it's hard work clamping onto your boyfriend's thighs with your bare legs while trying to escape the notice of his college-aged daughter. He'd always suspected before they got together, but now he knows for a fact, Kate is totally like one of those deadly brunette assassin chicks in a Bond movie with the lean, bronzed, muscular - he takes a quick breath to refocus - amazing legs that could strangle a guy, or even snap his neck, maybe...But she's not an endurance athlete. Right now, she's trying to brace herself with her arms flat against the wall, but...

"Dad?!"

And Kate's legs give way, and her heels - Castle tries not to dwell too intently on the fact that she was getting naked and making out with him but she left her heels on - land with a loud thud and Castle is forced to lurch sideways to stay upright without the extra cross-bracing provided by her lower limbs.

But he needs to get back the all-important, dad-like, inner cool, else all will be lost. He tries to brazen it out. "Pumpkin! What are you doing back so early?" His attempt at an easy chuckle expires in his throat as Alexis squints down the dim corridor, peering into the shadows that mask exactly what he's doing. "Paige had a headache so we decided to give her a ride home and come over. What are you doing out here all by your-" Castle watches, with fatalistic dread as he pinpoints the exact moment that Alexis's investigations reveal the quantity of visible, bare lower legs emerging from the shadows to be well over the average for one human adult male. "Oh! Hey, Kate- what are you two-"

Then it's like it happens in slow motion...his daughter's brow furrows, then her eyes widen, her features distorting in a rictus of disgust. "Ohhhh! Daaad! God! Ewww!"

"Alexis, it's not what you...oh, okay maybe it's a little bit like what you think..."

He knows what it's like. He does. He grew up with a mother in the theater, when all the shows meant all the parties, which meant all the flirting and the kissing, and for a pre-teen boy to see his mother kissing old guys, with, like, facial hair and chunky jewelry; well, there's not enough brain bleach in the world to deal with that.

Admittedly though? His mother never, ever put him in the position of having to see her, pants-down, in a public place. That's a special joy he's reserved for Alexis.

He can't say he's particularly proud of that.

"Pumpkin-"

"Urgh!" She avoids his gaze, her features pulled down in an unhappy perma-grimace, as she pulls the loft door open and throws herself inside.

He watches her go, hands raised in supplication. "Ale-" The door slams shut.

Okay, so she's not in the mood for chit-chat. Castle slumps against the wall next to Kate.

By now he and Kate should have been able to take stock, decide their next move, whether to pick up the party and move somewhere more private, or continue where they left off, in Grand Central Corridor. It's not like there are going to be any more interruptions, right? Until...he feels Kate tense next to him. Lifting his gaze from the dark olive cut-pile carpet, and sees what's up: Alexis had not come to his party stag; five other college kids have trailed out of the elevator after his daughter left it; two girls and three young guys; all about Alexis's age.

And they're all hovering, goggling at the spectacle.


"Get rid of them, Castle..." Kate hisses as she wrestles with her pants. She has one leg covered, and is hopping around - in heels no less - trying to get the other in. Castle hustles to comply. Not that anything like this has happened before, but he doesn't have to ask: Kate's a private person who doesn't want to tell her closest workmates they're an item. The last thing she wants is an audience while she sorts out a wardrobe malfunction.

Castle flicks his hands to shoo the youngsters away, and jerks his chin to the loft door. Their little faces turn sullen, and they dawdle to comply. Castle watches as they all side-eye the two of them, aware of the picture they must represent, Kate more so than him, he's sure, as she struggles back into tight red leather, and everyone in the room can see all the logistical difficulties that present themselves in a situation like that. As they sneak peeks at a pair of impressively long legs, that go all the way down to lacquered toes strapped into impossibly tall high-heeled shoes. Yeah, they're getting an eyeful.

The baby Lotharios take longer glances between Kate and Castle as if to wonder what they have to do to entice the tasty, half-naked cougar to go party with them...At the very least, they've gotta be wondering what she sees in Alexis's ancient dad.

Alexis's ancient dad wonders that too, sometimes.

Kate isn't quite so relaxed about the situation. "Guys. Out. Now!" The teens find their sense of direction and make haste into the loft.

Castle reassesses. Kate: nearly fully dressed. Castle: Yeah, not so lucky. To be dressed one needs to know where ones pants are. And he's plumb out of luck.

He's still scoping the corridor when there's a 'ding', and the elevator door opens. He and Kate freeze in panic

Oh God. If this is another crowd of college students, Kate's gonna hit the roof, die, and kill him, in that order. She'll be able to, definitely, even in that order. Castle surveys his relative lack of pants dolefully, feeling lucky at least that Kate hadn't gotten around to removing anything further from him in the pants department. Boxers are intact.

He's somewhat less mortified, but...yep, still pretty mortified to see Martha enter the corridor, leading a crowd of hangers on. "Hello, darlings! Katherine! How wonderful to see you!" She wafts up to them and delivers hugs in a cloud of expensive perfume. She looks them up and down. "Well, it looks like you're having a moment, so I won't keep you any longer. Oh!" She sweeps over to the elevator door again, swooping down to pick up Castle's pants. "I just spotted these. They will be yours I expect, darling?"

Castle turns beet red, wondering how the hell they got all the way over there. "Very observant, thank you, mother..." He says through gritted teeth. Kate shrinks behind him.

"Well, carry on, forget we were even here! Come my dears, my son's wine collection awaits!" Martha shoos her friends into the loft. She comes back to them, murmuring with a broad wink at her son "you both look like you could do with a pick-me-up...on the house." She reaches into her spangled tote and retrieves a bottle, still dripping with condensation, of something French and expensive-looking. "Don't say I never bring you anything! Ta-Ta! Be good!"

And Kate and Castle are alone in the corridor again. Castle's looking at the carpet, unwilling to check Kate's reaction to...stuff. His mind revolts at the prospect of thinking too hard about what just went down. That way lies...a world of awkward. Also, Kate? She's got to be feeling pretty humiliated by now. He would be too. He is.

She's totally gonna kill him.


He speaks to the carpet and the wallpaper opposite where he's standing, not wanting to risk death-by-evil-stare. "I'm so sorry, Kate-"

"Shush, Castle."

He looks up in shock. Did she "shush" him while he was apologizing?

She smiles and lays two fingers across his mouth, pulling him back to lean against the wall with her. Huh. She's fully dressed, of course, cool and composed. Looks nothing like she's been paraded semi-naked in front of his family and some incidental complete strangers.

She looks him square in the eye. "Castle, don't worry. It's embarrassing, but it's okay."

"It is?"

"Yeah."

"But-"

"I'm not surprised. It was bound to happen. Not exactly like this. Your mother, your daughter; they've nearly walked in on us before and they're gonna do it again. It's the law of relationships and apartments. And if it's not them, the paparazzi are going to catch us doing something embarrassing. But...those college kids. Alexis will-?"

"Yeah, she'll impose the cone of silence. She's been dealing with my fame and protecting my privacy way better than me since she was seven."

Kate ducks her head to stare at her feet a moment. She looks up again. "Castle, this thing of ours, for me it's..." She trails off, a barely-there one-shoulder shrug.

Oh wow. He's been studying her body language for four years and shy smile, little shrug? Totally means she's hot for him. Or she's into him. But definitely likes him.

Her simple, microscopic gesture magnifies through his entire body. Everything she leaves unsaid, he wants to shout from the rooftops. Do a little victory dance. Kate Beckett likes me. She likes me a lot.

He looks at her, unspoken feelings bursting from his chest; he wants to return them out loud. But it's too soon for her, and he's in no rush. He has to be satisfied with saying: "Me too. Kate, you know that's how it is for me too."

He beams at her, grabs her hand, takes his mother's bottle of Cristal in the other, and tugs her toward the exit stairwell. "C'mon, it's a beautiful night. Got something to show ya."


Captain Victoria Gates lets herself out of the Castle residence without making a sound. Her detectives and Mister Castle's family have taken a shine to the karaoke machine and the champagne is flowing. It's safe to leave.

As she pauses outside the door to survey her surroundings, it's not even a sound she hears, more a shifting something perceived in her peripheral vision. A shadow puppet play that makes her turn and peer through the alternating arcs of soft light and dark to the end of the corridor. To see her lead detective and Mister Castle, barely illuminated by the green light of the "Exit" sign. And they're not just drinking wine and shooting the breeze.

She smiles gently. Oh to be young again...Time was, when she and James were starting out-. But that's a story for another time.

It's not as if she finds this turn of events shocking, given the way these two have of working together without words. It's the envy of the precinct.

But now she knows their secret. Plausible deniability being what it is. She has to keep them in the dark. She slips into a shadow and waits them out. Sure enough, before too long, Mister Castle does the sensible thing and takes the detective's hand, leading her out of sight up the staircase. The fire stairwell door clangs shut behind them.

Almost immediately she hears the loft door open behind her; she turns around.

"Evening, Captain...have you seen Castle and Beckett?"

Captain Gates speaks instinctively; she knows what impression needs to be left. "Detective Beckett developed a headache, so Mister Castle went with her to make sure she got home. He says you should all stay as long as you like, he'll be back soon. Drinks are on him."

"Oh." Esposito tilts his head to one side, clearly processing an answer he wasn't expecting. "Her luggage is still here..." He frowns, lifts his gaze to hers. But drops his eyes again and shrugs.

She knows he isn't about to argue with his boss. Which suits her, as it probably does Mister Castle and Detective Beckett. A couple needs its privacy, after all.

"Cool. You're not staying, Captain?"

"No, it's getting late. I must go. See you bright and early on Monday, Detective?"

"Yes, Sir. Good night"


She nods to the building man as he passes by her on the way to make his rounds, and steps out into the night, looking toward the sky to take stock.

The moment she steps out, the old moon reaches its apogee, and a single bolt of lightning claws at the sky; a thunderclap hot on its heels.

Despite the cooling, shortening days, tonight's got all the hallmarks of late summer. The damp, warm air rising, the orange-pink clouds absorbing and refracting a million city lights...

But that's summer's end for you. This time of year, things are never quite the way they seem.

The woman they know as the Captain smiles. Tomorrow the mask goes back on, but for now, she turns her face up, eyes closed, to welcome the last fat drops of summer rain that slap her skin and soak into the earth.

She salutes the dying year, before she turns east toward a new one, toward home.


(security audio recording time stamp Saturday, 27 October, 2012, 23:37:19)

"What about the others? What about your party?"

"Don't worry. My mother's got it covered. She'll keep everyone busy-"

"So where are you taking- Oh wow, Castle, this is gorgeous! How come you've never brought me up here before?"

"The condo board spent the whole summer re-landscaping it. Nice, huh?"

"Yeah, I'll say it is..."

"Here, have a seat...champagne? No glass, sorry..."

"(sound of laughter) No problem. Mm, thanks."

"Just wait till the spring bulbs come in in the new year..."

"Hmm..."

(sound of thunder)

"Wow, late storm...and I've sort of got this weird feeling of déjà-vu."

"Me too...spooky. So Kate?"

"Yeah?"

"C'mere..."

"Okay...Mmmm...(long pause in recording) So that was nice...what else ya got...?... (sound of zipper) Castle!"

"Hey, it's okay, relax, we're the only ones here. Just. Relax. So. Maybe you wanna get out of those tight...?"

"Hmmm...maybe I do...? Or maybe I could just..."

"Kate! (sound of laughter) Ohhhhhh...yeah, that's...oh...yeah...Oh, Kate..."

"You like that?"

(inaudible)

"Hmmm so where was I?"

"Well I was gonna...(sound of zipper) I think you were gonna... ohhhh..."

"Right there?"

"Ohhhh yeah..."

"Good?"

"Mmmmmmm...a little more...? Just with the...Ohhhh God...ohhhh Castle, if you ever stop doing that, I'll have to kill you..."

(inaudible)

"Wait a second- Did you hear something?"

"Mister Castle? Miss Beckett? Is that you?"

"Oh my god, Castle!"

"Eduardo?"

(security audio recording ends)


FIN


Author's note: That's all, folks! THANK YOU for reading, following, favouriting and reviewing. I literally couldn't have gotten past chapter one without you. Thanks to Ky for being the awesomest beta, and 1822andallthat, brookemopolitan, Fembot79, tshlw and NevynR for crucial early betaing and advice. Hope I remembered everyone!

Let me know what you thought, okay? xo