Word Count: 2,739
The kiss was brief, teasing he'd say. Not to say it wasn't pleasant. Or effective in capturing not just his attention but others as well. She'd known the camera was there and decided to have some fun with it. She drew away almost before he could react. Almost. He did get the opportunity to kiss her back just enough she'd have to know he didn't mind her doing that in the least. He ignored the camera and drew her a little closer as dancing allowed.
"Well now, I'm not so sure I care what he thinks about that," he said as quietly as he could. The difference in height made it difficult for him to whisper in her ear.
"Not in the slightest."
"He might get mad." There was a pout there, but he sensed it was fake by the glimmer in her eyes.
"I think I'm more concerned with why you'd do that."
"Can't I just want to?"
"Well, sure, but now you're going to cement yourself as a focus for the gossip rags. For a little while at least."
"I'll deal. Besides, won't it help you?"
"Sure. The whole 'who's that girl?' thing. It'll help your books sell."
He chuckled a little. "I guess you're right. You go around kissing men to further their careers often?"
"Mm, no, never had the opportunity to before tonight."
"Well then, I guess that means I'm special."
She let her head rest against his chest then and he took his queue from her, letting the rest of the song play out without further conversation. He did take the opportunity to glance around the room. If Nathan or Peter had seen the kiss neither were waiting at the edge of the dance floor to do anything about it.
"Have I mentioned that I think you're one of the prettiest women here?" he asked once the song had ended.
"No, I think I'd remember that being said."
"Well, I've been sorely neglectful then. I apologize."
"Come on, Castle, there are plenty of women here that are prettier than me."
"I'm sure you're right, but those women have been practicing the art of putting their faces on for years. You're just who you are."
"Is that a compliment?"
"Yes! I get the feeling that if I saw you tomorrow you'd look much the same way you do right now. Just not in the fancy gown. Which, by the way, looks good on you."
"I've always wanted something like it. And I believe you."
"Phew. I wasn't sure how that'd come out sounding."
"A little corny."
"Yes! Of all the women here… I mean, your ex-wife."
"I stand by my observation."
"Well, thank you," she said, looking every bit as if she was flattered by his words. "Where are you going?"
"I was going to get us something to drink," he said, pointing in the direction of the bar.
She shook her head and crooked her finger at him.
"I'm not done dancing just yet."
"I can't dance to this," he said. "At least not and look like an idiot doing it."
She grabbed his hands, lifting them up as she moved her hips to the beat of the music.
"You won't look like an idiot. I promise," she said.
She was a better dancer than he'd given her credit for. He responded to her easily enough and that made him forget that anyone was watching. She clearly liked the song judging by the way that she was moving. And her enthusiasm wore off on him, paving way to him leading her into a dip. He knew he wouldn't be able to name the steps or moves he'd done later, they'd done a mish-mash of things. And yet it worked, leaving him not caring if anyone thought he looked like an idiot. The smile on her face and laughter that bubbled from her at the end of the song was worth any amount of looking foolish.
"That was fun," he said when the song ended.
"I'm glad," she said, sounding out of breath. "People are starting to leave."
"Yes, the night's drawing to a close."
"Well, since I don't know when I'll get the opportunity again…"
"Oh, right, so you can look back and lay claim to having danced the night away."
"Well, you certainly do it well enough."
"So do you. You've had lessons?"
"Oh God yes. More than I can count. My mother is an actress and she took me to all sorts of things."
"Well, it definitely paid off."
"You think so?"
"Thank you," he said, taking her into his arms again as the next song got underway.
"Probably won't be as many cameras going as there were coming but there might still be a few."
"All right," he said.
He was stopped from saying more by the doors to the ballroom opening, a mass of police officers blocked the exits. There was a flurry of commotion in the ballroom as most everyone there wondered what had brought New York's finest here tonight.
"NYPD," someone Claire couldn't see said. "Everyone in the room will need to leave their name, address and phone number on your way out. You won't be able to leave through the outer doors without the stub showing you've given us this information."
"Wonder what's going on," Rick said, taking her hand and starting toward the doors.
"No idea," she said, stating the obvious. She let him lead her through the crowd, though. Some had already started going through the doors by the time they got toward them. Only, Rick didn't head toward the doors.
"Detective Esposito," Rick said.
"What are you dressed like that for, Castle?"
"Believe it or not, Esposito, I have a life when I'm not with you."
"Oh really," the detective quipped. "Could have fooled me."
Rick knew when Claire had been spotted by Detective Ryan's low whistle accompanied by an appreciative glance. Glance was putting it nicely. Not that Rick hadn't noticed Claire's attributes, he was just more discreet about looking. Holding her close as they'd danced had not been a hardship in the least.
"Man, and what a life it is," Ryan said, joining in on the conversation. "Tell me again how rough you have it, Castle."
"I know, right," Castle said with a wink. "Claire Bennet," he added. "Detectives Esposito and Ryan."
"Hi," Claire said simply.
"Nice to meet you, though what you're doing out with this clown is beyond me," Esposito said.
Claire laughed. "He is kind of funny, but I don't know that I'd call him a clown."
"You obviously don't know him very well," Ryan said.
"Thank you," Castle said. "Maybe you should look in a mirror before you start accusing other people of acting like clowns. And stop belittling me in front of my date."
"You worried she might have a headache later, Castle? I'll tell you what the cure is for that problem," Esposito said.
"Castle," Detective Beckett said, cutting Esposito off. She was apparently just now noticing him. She gave him a once over, not returning his smile. "I take it you were already here."
"Do you really need me to answer that?"
"That explains why your phone went straight to voicemail."
"Ah, yes," he said, pulling out the cell phone in question. "Sorry," he said, turning it on now that the event was over. Some kept theirs on, but Castle didn't like doing that unless he was expecting a call. And he hadn't been expecting a call from Beckett tonight.
She eyed him and then Claire. In a crowd this size it normally wouldn't have been so obvious she was with him. Except, as soon as the police came onto the scene people sort of scattered. Castle and Claire were the only two to approach the detectives so far. He noticed when it dawned on her that Claire was with him.
"So, what's going on?" he asked, not able to hide his curiosity at the situation.
"Someone's been murdered."
"I sort of assumed that by you being here and all. That doesn't really fill me in on the details, though."
"Well, come on."
"This side of the scene."
"I can't do that, Detective. I have to get Miss Bennet home."
"I'm sure you have a car lined up that can take your date home safely, Castle."
"Absolutely not," Rick said simply.
Not that he didn't trust his car service, but there were some things that just weren't done. He wasn't a police officer and as curious as he was, it wasn't part of his job description to bail on his date. Who was attractive and seemed somewhat attracted to him. Not that he was going to try anything, but it didn't mean he wouldn't be interested in seeing her again.
"Ah," she said, lips tightening in the frown-thing she did with her mouth often when around him.
"First date then?"
"I'm not sure what that has to do with anything," Castle said. "I'm responsible for getting her home, and if there's been a murder on the premises you'll excuse me for being concerned for her well-being."
Beckett just shook her head, though he knew his reasoning couldn't be faulted. She knew it, too. She eyed Claire curiously before looking at him again. She gave a soft sigh as she regarded the rest of the crowd.
"All right. It's not as if we can't do this without you, I just thought you'd want in on the action. Stay put, though. We're not done with you. I might need your help talking to some of these people."
"Don't worry. We're not going anywhere. If all you're doing is collecting names, though, that shouldn't be a problem."
"You'd think not, but most of these people don't like having to be accountable for their comings and goings," she said before walking away. Esposito and Ryan went with her, leaving Claire and Rick alone for the moment.
"She's not too happy."
"Well, I'm not sure she actually looks forward to getting this type of call."
"That's not what I meant. Are you two involved or something?"
"What? No. She's good people. She just doesn't like that I'm present at a crime scene, that's all."
"Do you think she'll keep us here long?"
"No telling. We didn't see anything, so it's not like we have any answers to give. I'm sure she'll cut us loose as soon as she can."
"You in a hurry to get home? I didn't think I was showing you that bad of a time."
"Don't be silly." She slid her arm through his and smiled at him. "That's not it at all."
She rested her free hand against his shoulder, leaning toward him so she could talk against his ear. "I was really looking forward to getting into the limo and being able to take my hair down."
He chuckled, drawing her a little closer instinctively at her touching him. He was not sure whether she was pulling his leg.
"Really," she said, blushing a bit.
"Well, go ahead."
"People will see."
He shrugged. "Who cares?"
She worried on her lower lip as if considering his suggestion. "I'll see how long they keep us."
"So, now I know you're not used to wearing your hair up."
"At least not styled like this, no," she admitted. "Dotty put so many hairpins in it and I would be surprised if she didn't use a whole can of hairspray."
"Well, it was well worth the effort. I guess I never gave thought to a hairstyle being uncomfortable."
"You try it one day."
"I'll take your word for it. Somehow I don't think it would be nearly as becoming on me as on you."
He reached for her head, finding and drawing one of the hairpins in question out from the updo.
"What are you doing?"
"Just seeing what will happen if I take one out. Is it like a house of cards, I wonder? You remove one and the foundation weakens?"
She laughed a little. "Kind of, yes."
"Hmm, so if I took out another one," he said, reaching for a second one as he spoke.
"People are going to look."
He shrugged. "I don't care." He met her gaze. "You worried Nathan might see?"
"I don't think he's here anymore."
"So, no one around to get jealous."
"He wouldn't get jealous."
"You sure about that?"
"Positive," she said as he slid another hairpin out. "It could have waited until we got to the car."
"We could be here for an hour yet. Longer, depending on what's going on. And it's just your hair."
"I know I just don't see anyone else taking down their hair."
"I'm not with anyone else. Besides, it gives me something to do to pass the time."
"Oh well, in that case," she said.
Wordlessly, he removed the rest of the hairpins. He'd never really taken the time to think of doing such a thing as intimate. He'd brushed Alexis' hair before and it never garnered a reaction out of him. Of course, this wasn't his daughter. She wasn't even a friend he tried to remind himself.
There were, indeed, a good number of the offending pieces of metal in her hair. He hadn't realized it was so long. Whoever had done her hair - Dotty she'd mentioned - had done it very well. He remembered his mother complaining over the years about her hair coming out of its style before a show was over. That hadn't happened here.
"Better?" He dropped the last of the hairpins into his jacket pocket, taking her in like this.
"You liked it better up," she said, running her fingers through her hair. Whether to be sure he'd gotten all the pins or something else he wasn't sure.
"No, it's just different. You look younger this way."
"I get that a lot."
"Castle," Detective Beckett said as she approached them a good while later. She apparently had no comment about Claire's hair now being down. He had no issue with it, didn't see what the big deal was about taking it down. It wasn't as if they were in the company of the president or something.
"Who's your friend?"
"Claire Bennet," he replied.
"And how old are you, Miss Bennet?"
"What does that have to do with anything?" Castle asked.
"Just wondering. She looks awful young."
"I assure you, she's legal. Now you have my contact information, Detective. Can we go?"
"In a hurry?"
"Not particularly, no, but we didn't see anything. I don't even know what's going on. I'd just like to get Claire some dinner before everything is closed for the night."
"All right, let me get Miss Bennet's information then you can go."
"You can get a hold of her through me just as easily."
"No, Castle, that doesn't work tonight."
"It's no problem, Rick," Claire said and starting relaying her information to Beckett.
Castle took the opportunity to pull out his cell phone and call the driver, letting him know they were about ready. Detective Ryan hit him on the shoulder as Rick hung up the phone. Claire was still answering Beckett's questions, but Rick didn't think they'd be much longer.
"What's that for?" Castle asked, grabbing his arm as if Ryan had caused a great deal of pain with the light tap.
"Looks like you're going to score tonight with that one. You've already got her hair down and everything."
"She's not a one, Ryan. You ought to get out more, Detective."
"I get out plenty."
"Perhaps not to the right places."
"Can't afford them."
"There's a remedy for that."
"And give up this glorious job?"
Claire and Beckett returned their attention to the two of them. Esposito and Beckett headed toward the doors.
"Well, you two have fun," Ryan said. "Let us know if we should contact you at her place in the morning instead of yours."
"Detective Ryan," Rick said softly. "Have some manners. Don't you have a crime scene to look at anyway?"
"Yes, sir," he said, heading off toward Esposito.
"Good luck, Detective," Castle said to Beckett as they passed through the doors finally. They weren't the last to leave but pretty close to it.
"Good night, Castle."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com