Word count: 822
Summary: Tag scene to "Sucker Punch." Beckett realizes there might another reason why Castle thought he should bow out.
Disclaimer: Not mine, but I love them anyway.
A/N: The title is from Alison Krauss's "When You Say Nothing At All."
They're halfway through the Italian, the Thai and the hot dogs already demolished, when something occurs to Beckett. She stops mid-chew and looks at Castle, who's busy winding spaghetti around his fork, about to spray little drops of tomato sauce all over Roy's post-incident evaluation and his own charcoal-and-white-striped shirt. He's apparently unaware of the scrutiny, and she takes advantage of the moment to look him over in a way she doesn't dare do when he's paying attention to her.
Your secret's safe with me, he'd said, and the familiar, knowing look in his eyes meant he heard everything she wasn't saying. Not that he makes her job more fun—he's much too smart to think that there's anything fun about being a homicide detective—but that he makes the job easier for her, makes it obvious that someone she's not related to or employed alongside of cares about her. Like the fact that he told her he'd do whatever she needed him to, even if it was to do nothing. Like the fact that they're sitting here at her desk munching on five different kinds of food because he was worried about her, even though he'd never put it in those terms and she'd shoot him if he did.
She can't help the shiver that sweeps over her at how close he came to actually being shot in front of her, and it distracts Castle enough to make him look up. "You okay?" he asks.
"Yeah, fine," she says distractedly. She stabs her fork into the take-out box and leans forward, putting her hand on his forearm. "I’m sorry, Castle, I didn't mean to make that all about me."
He cocks his head to the side. "What do you mean?"
Beckett draws in a breath. "I know that you didn't sign up for something like this when you started shadowing me. That's the third time you've been at the wrong end of a gun in just over a year, you know."
"Didn't know you've been keeping track," Castle says before popping the forkful of spaghetti into his mouth.
She rolls her eyes. Of course she keeps track. Sometimes the nightmares do it for her. "Look, just because I like—because it's not so bad to have you around sometimes doesn't mean you have to stay. I wouldn't blame you one bit if you decided this was too dangerous. Neither would Ryan or Esposito or anyone else."
Castle shrugs and chews his mouthful, making a rolling motion with his hands. She takes it as a cue to go on. "I know you have Alexis to think about, and so maybe it would be best if you stepped back or at least stayed out of the field."
He shakes his head and chews faster. When he can finally talk, he says, "We were in the middle of a police station, Beckett. If it's not safe in here, it's not safe anywhere. I could just as easily get mugged on the way home."
"Yes, but the odds of someone pulling a gun on you are considerably higher when you're hanging around with cops than when you're not." She doesn't want him to change his mind, but she can't shake the horrible thought that now that she's said she's used to having him around, he feels obligated to stay when it's not really in his best interest.
"That may be true," Castle replies. He pauses, the corners of his mouth quirking up in that fond almost-smile that means he's about to hide something meaningful in a throwaway statement. "But then I have you to watch my back."
It's not throwaway at all, and the baldly-stated trust is enough to leave her blinking at him. She can still see the surprisingly calm look on his face as he stood there with a gun at his back, watching her for cues and trusting her to save him. At the time, she'd appreciated his quiescence, but later, it astonished her how completely and trustingly he'd put himself in her hands. At least until he'd taken matters into his own hands—or head—but at that point, there hadn't been any clear way out of the standoff.
And then Coonan had raised his gun, and there was no thought in her head but keeping him from pulling the trigger, and she doesn't regret it for a minute, not when Rick Castle is alive and well and smiling at her warmly across her desk.
She has to acknowledge the sincerity of his words, so she looks him in the eye and quietly says, "You know that I always will." His eyes widen a fraction, and then she continues without changing her serious expression, "As long as you keep bringing me food."
His smile widens, cheeks almost dimpling, and he says softly, "Yes, ma'am."
They turn back to their food, and it's the best dinner she's eaten in a long, long time.