“What did I do?” she whispered, staring into her shot glass.
He stared into her. Found no more answers for her than he’d had when he suggested the bar in the first place. “We’ll start over,” he told her.
“We’ll figure it out,” he cajoled. But his words were falling flat. The whiskey did that to him every time, gummed up his mouth so that everything he said was damaged. He might have been drunk.
She groaned and hunched over the drink. There were four empty shot glasses beside her, and he couldn’t remember when that had happened. Or who had poured them. But the bottle was bright and cheerful in the dim lamp.
She gingerly touched her swollen eye. And then took the whole shot in one swallow. She whined as it burned and met his eyes as he tried not to look so worried.
He wanted to take the bottle from her but she was pouring another. “This really shouldn’t be our fallback.”
“Problem solver,” she agreed. Or disagreed. Hard to tell if she was heeding his warning or damning it.
“You’re drunk.” He snagged the fireball from her fingers and knocked it back himself, gasping as it burned burned burned. “Damn. Who knew the Canadians had it in them.”
“What?” she mumbled, lips thinning as she glared at him for the drink-stealing.
“Canadian. Fireball whiskey is cinnamon flavored Canadian whiskey.”
“Shut up, Castle. You owe me a drink, not a lesson.”
“I owe you a lesson too, don’t I?”
“I deserve to be punished.”
He raised the empty shot glass in salute but something was off in his execution and his arm slammed back down to the bar, rattling his teeth.
“You’re drunk too,” she said, sounding surprised.
He tilted his head, thought about it. “Haven’t stripped off my clothes yet, so no.”
She didn’t laugh. “Well, I am,” she answered. “And whiskey makes me mean, so - beware.”
“Not afraid of you.”
“Should be. What I did to us.” She slapped her hand over his and captured the empty glass, poured a sloshy fireball into it. And over the bar. He was gonna have to clean this up; they were supposed to be closing it down.
“Let’s go downstairs,” he muttered. “While we still can.”
“Might have to hold my arm,” she said, tipping back on the bar stool. Hold her arm? He had to catch her, too late, and she toppled into his chest as the stool went out from under her.
Her high-heeled boots caught in the rungs and she gasped, arching as her ankles twisted. He tried to help, but she had the bottle, and he had her arm and a glass and the stool and his own balance and not enough hands.
He went down with her.
The bottle hit his chest and rolled along the floor, came to a stop at the wooden kickplate of the bar. He watched the liquid slosh back and forth in the bottle, amber with hints of fire.
He was flat on his back. She was beside him.
Beckett grunted and flopped an arm on his chest, got a weak fistful of his shirt.
“We gotta stop doing this to each other,” she muttered.
“I fall; you fall.” Her grip on his collar twisted and suddenly she was rolling sloppily on top of him, her breath laced with cinnamon hell.
“Stop falling then,” he told her.
“I’m usually not so clumsy.”
“Graceful,” he admitted, lifting a hand to touch the bruise below her eye. “Except when it comes to matters of the heart. You’re quite accident prone - falling for me.”
“Shut up,” she sighed. And slumped down for a kiss.
She tasted like heaven.
He wasn’t nearly drunk enough for sad Kate tonight. Or for hot and heavy on the barroom floor.
Sex wouldn’t solve their problems either. They seemed destined to go on like this, Beckett taking the brunt of the repercussions for this secret investigation, shielding him when it was never what he’d wanted.
He cupped the back of her head and tugged her away, gathering her warm and loose body against him as he sat upright. “Off the floor,” he told her roughly. “Office downstairs.”
“Carry me,” she moaned, mouth fusing to his again, rapid and undeniable, that venturing hand.
It took effort - coordination he didn’t have and grace that always deserted him when she touched and rolled and writhed - but he stood up with her legs wrapped around his hips and her whimpers in his ear.
If this was the only way to shield her, if this was the only way to disperse the hits she kept taking, he would do it.
He would carry her downstairs and make her forget the black eye and the way it had all gone so wrong.