|The Frog at the Bottom of the Well
Author: chezchuckles PM
Kate Beckett wants no help from Castle.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship - Kate B. & Rick C. - Chapters: 15 - Words: 31,809 - Reviews: 233 - Favs: 161 - Follows: 70 - Updated: 04-25-11 - Published: 04-18-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6917863
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Apologies for any confusion on my first post: One and Done? I had edited out the 'part' designations but that "Part One" remained despite my best efforts. It is a complete story; it stands alone. Thank you for your generous and insightful reviews.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended with this work.
Title: The Frog at the Bottom of the Well
An early morning in the station, a rich cup of cappuccino, and the silence of six a.m.
Kate inhaled the steam from her mug and wrapped her fingers around the ceramic to take the edge off their numbness. She'd taken the subway in to work and the long walk from her month-to-month leased apartment to the subway station and then her stop to the precinct had cut to the bone. The bite of northern wind was made all the worse for the last two week's beautiful spring weather. It was cruel and unusual punishment.
Josh was gone; she hadn't even done it herself. Well, she probably had, but it had been Josh who called things to a halt. It had stalled out. She'd known that canceling a trip or putting off an obligation wouldn't solve their issues. Josh was involved with his work as much as she was, but the connection was just-missing. Anyway, it hadn't been true love, it never was for Kate, but letting him go was harder than she had expected.
Failure. That's what it stank of.
So the long walk to work this morning was to freeze out whatever lingering doubts or sorrows the break-up had left in her, and to punish herself for agreeing to date him in the first place. Because Kate did know better. She always knew better. She was solitary, and the alone-ness suited her. It wasn't this one. It wasn't Josh, for sure. It wasn't the guy she'd run off with her freshman year of college before her mom had died. It wasn't Demming. It wasn't Castle-
Speak of the devil.
He looked equally as surprised to see her, and if that were true, why the hell was he trying to sneak in to the station at six in the morning?
"Oh." His coat had wet spots from the drizzle outside, and he was rubbing his wind-chapped hands together. "I've got the car service waiting outside. I was just going to leave this-but since you're here-come on, get your jacket-"
As he came towards her, gesturing for her to hurry, she saw the little box in his hand and the bow on top, and her heart flickered with panic. "Castle."
"Come on, jacket, coat, something. Surely you wore more than that." He was checking the break room as he passed, and grabbed the sleek, black trenchcoat she'd worn this morning. Her silk scarf drifted to the floor and he stopped to scoop it up, and by that time Kate had met him in the middle of the bullpen, hesitant and wary.
"Castle. What are you doing here?" She had her customary frown in place; she was certain there were no telltale cracks. She'd become adept at Castle's own game-using the extreme of one emotion to cover the more vulnerable ones. For her, it was irritation. Irritation to mask the raw abrasion of her heart.
"I was going to drop this off, but this is better. Put your coat on." He was dressing her now, like she was Alexis at three years old, tugging the coat up her arms and adjusting the collar, her scarf in his hand. "Gloves?"
"No. Wait, Castle-"
"No gloves? That's crazy. You take the subway and you're not wearing gloves? At least the car will be warm-"
"Here." He had looped the scarf around her neck now and was tugging her forward, turning to lead her down the hallway to the elevators.
"Castle. Stop. I'm at work."
He laughed. "I know that."
"No, I mean, I'm working."
"Not anymore. Come on; it won't take long and you're not supposed to be here now anyway."
"Castle." She reached up and jerked the ends of her scarf from his hands. "No."
He was at the elevator, but he didn't push the button. Castle turned back to face her, one hand still clutching the little box with its bow, and gestured for her to hurry. "Yes. I've got something for you-for Christmas. You're going to love it."
"You're not supposed to get me things for Christmas." She stood her ground, shoving her hands into her pockets. "And Christmas is months away."
"What kind of terrible rule is that? Of course I can get you things for Christmas." And then his face brightened with mirth. "Wait, who says I got you things? I just said I've got one thing. But like you said, Christmas is forever away-I've got plenty of time to get you *lots* of things."
She was blushing; she knew it. "Castle. No. I'm not going-"
"Come on. You gotta see it to believe it."
"Tell me what it is first."
"Look. I got you this." He held out the box, his face so eager that it melted her resolve a little, just a little, and she swayed on her feet. "Come on, Detective. Aren't you curious?"
"What is it?"
"It's not inappropriate-?"
"No!" He grinned widely and wriggled his eyebrows. "Oh, but it can be, if you want it to be-"
She snatched the box from his hand, taking those two steps closer to him that it required, and he snagged the ends of her scarf once more, dragging her even closer. Now she was even with the elevator doors and he pushed the button, keeping her collared with the scarf.
Kate managed to untie the white bow just as the doors slid open and found herself being herded into the elevator as she opened the box.
It was a plastic card key. Thicker than the hotel kind, thank goodness (she would've decked him for that), and not a type she recognized. Maybe to an electronic gate?
"That's your key."
"To what?" Again, she yanked back on her scarf and stood apart from him in the elevator car.
He smirked. "You'll see."
The elevator was now at the lobby; she'd missed him pressing the buttons, and he was tugging her by the pocket of her coat, out past the few people getting buzzed through security at the front desk. He pushed open the door for her and herded her out onto the sidewalk, all before she could form some kind of response.
"Why did you get me a key?"
"Just wait. You'll see."
A key to what? A garage? Had he bought a new toy? Oh crap, had he bought *her* a new toy? She couldn't do that. She couldn't accept something like that, and when and where would she keep whatever might be in this garage-
Or it could just be a gate key. Maybe he had access to one of those private parks. Was he trying to take her on a date? Now, at six in the morning? He'd said he was going to leave it for her to find when she came in to work.
"Okay, here's the car. It'll be really fast. I wanted it to be close to the precinct."
She was baffled. Close to the precinct? "Is this some new place you've bought?" She narrowed her eyes at him, visions of laser tag facilities or heated swimming pools in her head. Who knew with Castle? He might have bought another bar. But she climbed into the back of the navy sedan and felt him settle next to her.
"Well, almost." He was grinning again. But she detected a faint note of unease in his manner, like he was waiting for her reaction. But why? What did she care if he bought a bar or an arcade or whatever the hell he wanted? He leaned forward and spoke quietly with the driver, who nodded and eased the car into city traffic. Eased being a relative term.
He was giving her free access to the bar? "Are you looking for my opinion before you buy it?"
His lips quirked at the edges. "In a manner of speaking." He'd sat back against the seat and seemed content to say nothing more, his eyes practically shining with glee, and she sat back as well, waiting for something more enlightening. If she'd had her wits about her, she knew she'd never have let Castle get her into his car. If this weekend had been a normal one-
It was six blocks away, in a warehouse district of Manhattan that looked like it was slowly being remodeled. Slowly. A restaurant, Chinese it looked like from this distance, was at one of the cross streets with a convenience store across the way, while the rest of the block was three or four story abandoned buildings. No, wait, one of the buildings looked like an actual warehouse still, containing auto parts. Or electrical equipment. Hard to tell.
But the car turned in to a hidden drive, and Castle's driver pulled up next to a small box and reached behind him as if waiting for them to hand something over.
"The key card, Detective."
She jumped a little, but put the key card in the driver's hand and watched him swipe the card in front of the sensor. The garage door went up smoothly, and the car inched forward into darkness.
Her eyes adjusted to the dim light and she realized they were in an underground parking garage. Fifteen or twenty vehicles were in various assigned spots and the driver pulled into slot 17, about six spots down from the elevators.
She was turning to ask Castle what the hell this was when he opened the car door and held his hand out to help her. Kate scrambled out the other side, ignoring him, and stood there in dumb confusion as he collected the key card back from the driver and came around the car towards her.
"Elevators are this way."
He took her elbow in his and she jerked it away, but found her own curiosity compelling her forward. She did have a job to get back to, but she wanted to end this mystery once and for all. "Where are we going, Castle?"
"Up," he said and ran the key card through a swipe station outside the elevator doors.
"This is a lot of security for a run-down building."
"Sure is." But he said nothing else. The elevator dinged open and she was surprised by the elegance of the car-chrome and wood paneling, done fairly recently.
"Do you own this building?" she said suspiciously, wondering if there was a club above them.
"I wish." He shook his head at her and pressed 3, causing the doors to shut and the lift to ascend. Smoothly. No jerks or stutters. New then. Or well-maintained.
"Where are we-"
She glanced at the panel. 3 out of 4 floors then, and the fourth was labelled S, whatever that meant.
"What's the S stand for?"
"It stands for suite." He looked chagrinned. "Sorry, but we're not going up that high."
Mysterious. "No lobby?" She had wanted to check for company names on a directory board.
"Not here, not exactly."
She looked at him in askance.
"It's kind of a back door thing. I hope that's not a problem."
"Why would it be?" She was truly confused now. What did she care if a building had a back door instead of a lobby? "Is this like your bar? I told you that you didn't need a foyer in the bar either, Castle. People are just fine walking right in to the main seating area-"
He reached out and pressed his finger to her lips, silencing her with a smile. It made her stomach plummet. Or maybe that was the elevator stopping and the doors sliding open. Either way, she gave him a fierce glare with a raised eyebrow. She knew it lacked force; she could sense his smirk at the edges of his lips.
"There are six on this floor. I couldn't get it more private than that. Not even with all my money and connections." There was the self-deprecating grin.
She backed away from his fingers, but he was already stepping off the elevator onto the third floor. "Wait-what is this? Six what?"
"Apartments." And he grabbed her hand before she could backpedal, tugging her just down the hall, then swiped the card on a flat matte display next to the solid wood door.
The door clicked and the display went green, and then Castle was shouldering open the door, which must have been as heavy as it looked, and tugging her inside.
"Welcome home, Kate. If you want it."