Before I begin, thanks are due to Farscot, for technical advice; Jester's Pet Oriole, who asked for a different story but whose suggestion helped to inform this one; and DX2012 for all our discussions.
Very special thanks to Drdit92, for reading, encouraging, and ever-present help. I can't say how much I appreciate everything you've done.
Chapter 1: He's a sinner
She recognises the crime scene instantly. No question but that someone has copied a tableau from one of her favourite author's books. It looks accurate in every detail. It's spookily, obsessively weird. Of course Ryan and Esposito don't get it. Beckett's not sure they read anything beyond the sports pages of the New York Post. But there are crazed fans of every writer out there: she's seen wannabe Pattersons, a dozen Brett Easton Ellises. Normally those sorts of killers end up with an FBI profiling department. But this one's landed with her, and it's a good excuse to reread the books. Strange, though, usually fan-killers choose the well-known books. This one must be a serious geek. If she hadn't had the best possible alibi, she'd almost have suspected herself. Except she'd been where she always is, unless (and sometimes even if) she's asleep: staring at her murder board or at her desk, buried in the bullpen of the Twelfth. It's where she's happiest.
Procedure says she needs to interview the obvious suspect. Intrigue at the nature of the crime tells her to do it now. A rapid Google shows her that she will find her subject at a smart hotel, where he's launching the latest episode of his insanely successful franchise. It's the most popular crime writer event in town, because rumour has it that he's killed off the character and isn't writing any more. Vicious rumour has it that he's blocked. Beckett wonders if writers with writers' block might seek inspiration in a rather more direct fashion than simply using their imaginations. One never expects it, but she can't discount the possibility.
And under it all, as she goes alone to her cruiser and starts the engine, is the delicate stroke of something else, something a little darker. She's always liked the edge in his books, the hints of the darker side of many things. Strong men, brains and muscle, alpha males. She's never met him, because standing in lines at a single signing for three seconds of contact doesn't count. And now he's a possible witness, a possible suspect. She feels a midnight thrill of expectation.
Rick Castle is bored and petulant. He's quarrelled with his agent, he's fed up with his mother hitting on any silver surfer who isn't obviously wearing a ring, (if they don't display it they're fair game, Richard darling) and even his daughter is not providing him with the usual happiness and amazement that she's his. Nothing interesting has happened all evening. He could have his pick of gorgeous women, who'll – he is sure – do anything for him that he happens to want: there are flocks of them milling around him. There's alcohol, and if he were still that stupid there are undoubtedly various illegal substances available. He wouldn't even have to try hard. He can have anything he wants, any way he wants it, and he's still bored.
And under it all he's frightened. He'd got bored with Storm, killed him off before the critics could do it for him. He knows the last book isn't quite as good, could see the slow descent into formula writing coming – he's seen it in many long-running series by others – and took decisive action.
He's good at that: decisive actions, when he wants to be. He doesn't normally need to: when he's been a star for twenty years; rich, handsome, everybody's friend, pack alpha in oh-so-many ways; people just get used to giving him what he wants, and never even think to quibble.
He'd learned fast, little Ricky Rodgers. The publishing business doesn't take prisoners. He'd learned to read a contract and spot the flaws, negotiate like a corporate lawyer till he could afford his own top-of-the-line attorneys, lay down the law about what he would and wouldn't do. No long book tours – a fortnight at most, and only out of school terms, once he had Alexis. The tightest terms in the industry on his agent and PR rep – they'd screamed blue murder, but he wouldn't give in. This is his talent they're exploiting, and he's not giving up an iota of it without a hard bargain.
He'd learned in a hard school. Always on the move, always broke, makes you tough. Out for what you can get and keep. Scrounging and scavenging and charming with it, because it's so much easier to get what you want if people like you. Theatre people are ruthlessly competitive and egotistical, always trying to be top. He saw it all, through the eyes of the child he was, and learned. Be liked, be loved – and always, always, be in control.
He's got the playboy millionaire CV to go with the persona. Two marriages, both failed: one for infidelity, (not his. He keeps his promises. He may not make many, but he keeps the ones he does. It's a matter of pride, or honour.) one for incompatibility. Sleeping with your agent simply doesn't work. She'd thought it would give her more leverage, more control, and found that Richard Castle likes his own control, thank you very much, and wasn't prepared to surrender any of it to her, in bed or out. So now it's soft, pretty women, if he wants them, which is a lot less often than page six makes out; and total control of his own life. No-one tells him what to do, and only his own conscience keeps him from doing anything he wants, any time he likes. He's got long past enough money to buy anything he feels like: he's got the immense loft in SoHo, a bigger house in the Hamptons, the Ferrari, the trappings of wealth and fame. And to go with it, the edge of bad boy, a little danger, a little rough, a little hint of darker things. Just a little hint. Too much reality might frighten the fans.
Despite it all, the success and the money and the women and the status, he's bored. And scared. He exchanges a few words with his daughter, a joke about the pretty, pink plastic women with pink plastic minds, wanting their cleavage signed, and making it clear that they would be very, very happy to let him do far more than that. Anything he wants, in fact. Anything. He thinks bleakly, snagging another glass of cheap champagne and wishing it was whiskey to drown his fear, that some of them would be a little more uncomfortable than they'd like, if they saw the real Richard Castle, not the charming playboy.
"Mr Castle?" It's a clearer, sharper tone than he's used to, but still, it's going to be another plastic woman looking for a souvenir: a signature, or a one-night stand. The first she can have. The second, not so – Oh. Ohhhhh. Wow. This one can certainly join him for the night. She's stunning. Tall, dark, green eyes. Ohhh yes. And there's something else, an edge he'd like to explore, a quick flicker of arousal in her eyes.
She's - interesting. And he hasn't been interested in anything for months.
He's still brandishing the Sharpie, embarking on where would you like it? (anywhere she wants. He can make her feel so good, any way she wants it. And later, any way he wants it, when she's soft and pliant and purring and open. He gets the feeling she might be adventurous. That's fine, so's he.)
That's when she pulls out a shield, and he sees the gun on her hip, and he realises that this is not a game right about the point she looks him over with contempt (contempt? He's Rick Castle. No-one looks at him like that. No-one.) and orders him to come with her for questioning about a murder. No-one's given him orders for a long time now, either. He gives orders. Not that he often needs to, though in certain intimate situations he likes to. But here he doesn't have a choice. Go willingly, or go in handcuffs. He doesn't like that, either. He doesn't do handcuffs. Others have done handcuffs for him, when he wanted them to. On the other hand, this NYPD cop is seriously hot, and he's famously handsome and charming. He'll have her eating out of his hand in no time, and then they can move on to… other things. It'll be his turn to give her orders, and hers to answer questions. Such as Do you like this? And Want more? And similar. Turnabout is, after all, fair play. Especially in bed.
He starts to understand that it – she - won't be that easy when every attempt to flirt is shot down dead. She's angry and for some reason he doesn't understand she's not only taken an instant dislike to him, she's making it perfectly obvious. People – women - just don't do that to him. He hasn't been knocked back in nearly twenty years: it's he who knocks back. Well. Well, well, well. This Detective Beckett just gets more and more interesting by the moment. And with every spiky, angry comment she also gets hotter and hotter. Not just that, she's evidently got a mind under that edgy, irate shell. She's fast. She might even be as intelligent as he is. Mmmm. He's definitely interested. And aroused. Game on.
Except it's not. Game off, it seems. She's done with him, escorts him to the elevator and disposes of him with much the same expression as she'd throw a used Kleenex in the trash. Now he's offended. First contempt, then orders, then coldly aggressive questioning, and now she's finished with him she's shoved him out the door and made it clear that if she never sees him again it'll be ten minutes too late. Now he's not just interested, he's annoyed. And possibly just a little bit obsessed. She's not simply going to get rid of him. He's in charge of his life. What he wants, he gets. And now he wants this Detective Beckett.
By the time he's flagged a cab, which takes much longer than he'd like – another irritation, a reminder that he's not been in control at any point this evening: if he hadn't been hauled in for questioning there'd have been the usual luxurious limo to take them all home – he's worked himself into a state of intense ire. He pours himself the Irish whiskey he's been waiting for all night, and throws himself into a comfortable chair in the study. Two sips in it hits him. Inspiration. Somewhere in the irritation and annoyance and outright desire, he's found his new character. Writers' block has been demolished, and he's suddenly fizzing with ideas. She's right there in his head, demanding to be written, screaming to come out. He's sketching out connections, ideas, sentences, plans: layering on to the picture of Detective Beckett all the nuances he thought he could spot. This character will be hot. Intelligent. Stunning. Passionate. And all his. He'll mould her to be any way he wants her. He recognises for an instant that this is wish-fulfilment, born of frustration and desire, and not a little spoilt-child tantrum; but then he shoves that concept away from him and begins. With every word he writes, he turns the screw of his newest obsession a little tighter.
By dawn, he has his outline. By ten, he's sent it to Black Pawn. By eleven, Gina's told him it might work, which is about as close as she ever gets to outright approval at this stage.
And then he has his next brilliant idea. If someone's killing using his books as their inspiration – and abruptly he remembers that the irritatingly hot Detective Beckett had clearly recognised one of his early, less-than-excellent (still a best seller, though) efforts. Hmm. Fangirl? And she still felt able to treat him like that? His irritation and need to prove her wrong edge up another notch – then obviously he should offer his assistance. Who else, after all, would be able to provide the level of detail that New York's Finest would like? And it will help him with the background for this story, and – emphatically not incidentally – he'll get to be around Detective Beckett. He'll make her see that she should want him. He pulls out his phone, looks up a particular contact.
"Bob? Hey. It's Rick."
He'll have her. One way or another. He always gets what he wants. And no-one treats him as if he's nothing. Not any more.
Beckett is particularly irritated with life when she disposes of the great Richard Castle: playboy millionaire, tabloid darling, best-selling novelist - and arrogant idiot who clearly thinks he's just got to smile and be smarmy for women to fall at his feet. Disappointing, really. She'd thought, for a few seconds, that he might be… interesting. That there might be some edge. But then he'd started to put the moves on and honestly? Waste of time. He'd been too sloppy, too casual, too I-can-have-anyone-with-no-effort-at-all. Attitude like that, he'd be selfish in bed, too. So she'd indulged her inner bitch-cop and grilled him hard. He hadn't liked it. She'd seen it sparking in those baby-blue eyes. Not a man used to being turned down. Not a man used to being told what to do by others. Definitely not a man used to being on the bottom. Even if he had said I'd be happy to let you spank me. Somehow she doubts that. She suspects it might be the other way round, and just for an instant wishes she'd wiped the smile off his smirking face by saying so. Shame. It could have been good. He'd have been just her type, if he hadn't had such an uncharming personality. She regrets the lack of redeeming features for a moment.
She likes big men, bulky frames, some muscle. Someone she'd have to work to take down in a fight. She likes bad boys, too. There was a time she was a very bad girl, and she met a number of very bad boys. She's dabbled in the dark side, paddled in the shallow end of some interesting pools. She'd been – adventurous – for a while. Till her life changed. She's worked through that, a year and more of therapy had eased the majority of the pain, though not taken away the desire to solve the case. She's been single for a long time, now, and hasn't missed it: herself, and her dreams, are enough. Still, it's a shame. He'd have been just her type. Even some intelligence, even if he was doing his best to hide it. Oh well. Never mind.
She'll never have to see him again.
When she discovers that her Captain has got a consultant in on this case she's a tad ticked off. She and her team are the best in the precinct, and they don't need some shrink profiler to help. Still, she respects Montgomery more than any other cop, and if he thinks it's necessary, well, likely he has good reason. She thinks that right up till the moment the consultant swaggers in, smirking scruffily and with infuriating self-satisfaction. Montgomery won't even let her protest. Her fury is stoked when Mr Castle – she'll drown him in formality, if she can't get rid of him – whispers in her ear, too low for anyone else to hear.
"No-one treats me like you did and gets away with it, Detective Beckett." She shrugs, insolently, coolly.
"That supposed to worry me? You'll need to try a lot harder than that. Criminals worry me. You," she looks him up and down slowly, "clearly can't even handle a razor. I don't think I've anything to worry about." Although on the slow once-over, she's noticed a lot about his physique. Especially south of the belt.
"You'll see." His tone drops into one he's clearly used successfully on a lot of women. "You'll want to be – friends." Friends. Yeah, sure. Is that what the cool kids call it this week? Though the voice would cause angels to sin. She looks him up and down again, not failing to put on an expression of boredom.
"I don't think you have a big enough claim to be my friend, Mr Castle. I prefer a little more substance." She turns her shoulder and summons the team. The case requires her attention. The civilian does not.
Castle is severely unimpressed with Detective Beckett's lack of pleasant reaction to him, and rapidly returns to his previous state of annoyance. He's got plenty substance, and many women have been very impressed by his claims. He's well read, well travelled, and full of interesting conversation. He's quickly reaching the point where he's firmly intent on proving to Detective (ha!) Beckett that he's what she wants. There had been a suspicious, if almost infinitesimal, pause on the once-over, just below belt level. He won't be dismissed like a naughty, or tedious, child. He'll show her that he's at least as good a detective as she is – how hard can that be? She may be stunning but come on, she's only a cop. She can't possibly compete with his education, experience or wealth. He'll show her. And when she's suitably impressed, she'll be ready for the next stage. She'll be desperate for the next stage. He's quite sure he'll have what he wants, one way or another. It won't take much effort. It never does. He doesn't even need to start now. He can afford to wait. Let her stew, and wonder. And when he's satisfied, he'll walk away. And it will serve her right to find out what she's missing and be left. Nobody turns him down like that. No-one.
It quickly becomes apparent that he's an even bigger nuisance than she'd first thought. She can't leave him unwatched for a moment. It's like babysitting a giant, spoilt small child, with much the same attention span and definitely the same demands for her attention. He makes nice with the ME; who, when Beckett hisses at her, gives her a what-are-you-on-this-guy's-hot look and is only grudgingly detached from her flirtation with the oversize toddler to give Beckett the run-down. Fortunately the boys are as unimpressed as Beckett. A day spent in his company gives her a bad headache and an almost overwhelming desire to hit him. Or shoot him.
But under it all she can feel the current tugging at her. Because he may be an arrogant son-of-a-bitch, but he's sexy in the bad-boy way that's always turned her on. She can tell an alpha male a mile off. Like calls to like, and she knows what she likes. Someone strong enough to take charge, to let her give up control and let someone else lead. There aren't many of them around, and she hasn't met one in years. And now she has, and she tells herself she'd rather scrape dirt off her shoe than have to be in his company for one more instant.
I would be delighted to know what you think.