They're both muddling through life. Her days are full of politics and paperwork. His are spent surfing the web in his underwear and buying gadgets to drive his mother crazy. Could a charity auction be what Captain Kate Beckett and novelist Richard Castle need to find their way together? Or will fumbles and stubbornness keep them apart? A Castle 2015 Hiatus Ficathon story.
Cover art by the fantastic prosemeds!
Our Best Selves
Of all the things Kate Beckett has had to do since taking over as head of the 12th Precinct, this party probably ranks as one of the strangest.
No, that's not really true. It's not the party, it's what the party entails. She'd always known about the party, the annual charity event; it's actually considered one of the NYPD's more enjoyable functions, but she'd hoped when the time came, she'd be able to claim other plans and avoid the spectacle. Of course, that hadn't happened, and here she is, dressed to the nines and playing nice with the upper echelon.
In the forty minutes Kate's been here, she's seen her boss, her boss's boss, and three of the judges who sign warrants for her detectives. Even the mayor is here, though they haven't crossed paths as of yet. He's making a run for governor at the end of his term, so he's been spending time amongst the guests with the deepest pockets first. It was the way of politics, really.
It doesn't help that as she schmoozes she's constantly being reminded of her decision to sign up for the date auction. She'd only agreed to participate after Esposito saw the memo in her email and called her chicken. Now she wishes she'd backed down from the challenge and let the others have their fun. Yes, the money raised goes to a good cause, one that's near and dear to her heart after what happened to Montgomery on the eve of his retirement, but it's still embarrassing. She still has to stand on stage with over a dozen other precinct captains while strangers decide whether they'll share an expensive dinner.
It's a spotlight she doesn't want to be in, not even a little bit.
At least the buffet is stocked and the city has apparently spared no expense on the open bar tonight. Not that she intends to have more than one or two cocktails, but it's nice to know the liquor won't be cheap.
As much as the food and the drinks have called her name, she's made sure to mingle and be seen mingling. Once she's played her part, she has every intention of getting a plate, piling it high with food, and taking her vodka and soda to relax until the auction begins.
She stops a few times on her pass through the outskirts of the party, shaking the commissioner's hand and greeting the deputy commissioner warmly. Seeing them both gives her the opportunity to give them a heads up and discuss the promotion paperwork she'd passed along just before shutting her computer down and leaving her office for the evening. Her team, her former team, does great work day in and day out, and they deserve the accolades that go along with it.
A pay bump and a slightly altered title won't fix everything, but maybe it'll show them that she knows how hard they work and how grateful she is for it.
Thankfully, Dave says he'll take a look at her recommendations, adding that everyone is impressed with the squad's numbers this quarter. It's not the largest compliment she's received since taking over command, but Beckett can't help but feel her chest expand with pride.
"It really helps to have a good team, sir. They do the leg work, after all. I just sign off on things."
The men are called away before they can respond, which works well enough for her. She wants to give the credit where it's due; her biggest contributions lately have been her ability to sit on her ass and manage. Everyone else does the hard work.
Another scan of the room has her nodding to familiar faces. She offers a smile to an old academy classmate and a few of the detectives from her own precinct before moving to survey the crowd at the center of the room. That's where the big wigs are, it seems.
A broad back in an expensive, tailored tux catches her eye, but she's not ashamed to say it's the incredible ass attached to that back that keeps her attention.
At least until a passing waiter forces her eyes to lift and she finds the owner of said ass smirking over at her.
No way. No freaking way.
She just ogled Richard Castle while he talks to the mayor of New York City. A blush stains her cheeks, no doubt creeping down her neck to her chest. Subtlety, thy name is Kate Beckett.
He doesn't look offended, though. He looks amused more than anything else, holding her eyes even as the blonde – the incredibly young blonde – he's with murmurs something into his ear and sashays away. It's only when the mayor's easy chuckle echoes through the room that he turns his attention back to the other man.
Releasing a breath, she forces herself to walk away. She's just going to pretend that didn't happen.
Once upon a time, Richard Castle had been her favorite author. His books brought her solace when her life was angry and tormented. The good guys prevailed and the bad guys were locked away with a flick of the wrist and a snarky quip, and that's what she'd needed at the time. And then he killed off Derrick Storm, wrote a tome she could barely read once, let alone multiple times like she has all his other books, and hasn't released a word since.
She's seen him in the papers, of course, out and about with actresses and models and the like on his arm. She's even heard the reports of him being arrested for various acts of insanity – the most recent being the Macy's Parade fiasco – but it's surprising to see him here at a charity event for the NYPD.
Then again, he is rich and this is a fundraiser. She supposes it makes sense for him to be here if he's friends with the mayor. Mystery solved.
Halfway to the food, she feels eyes on her. Appraising, interested eyes. His eyes, she just knows it. Richard Castle's eyes are following her around the ballroom.
She tries not to be flattered that he's watching her now. He'd been sweet the first time they met, but that was over a decade ago. After everything else she's seen and heard about him, it's probably safe to assume that was part of the act, the charm of the author.
He's not inconspicuous in the least when he joins her at the buffet, but Kate smothers the urge to smile and continues loading her plate as if she's oblivious. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees him doing the same, barely looking at what he's choosing while his eyes are on her.
Until she snickers.
"Might want to rethink that last handful, bud," she warns, licking her lips quickly. He looks up, somehow shocked that he's been caught. Apparently nobody's told him that 'spy' isn't his forte.
"Why? I mean, excuse me?"
Snorting quietly, Kate points to the sprig of green on his plate. "It's the garnish."
Her lips smooth together as he returns the offending leaf to the tray. Smooth, Mr. Castle. Very smooth.
"Thanks for saving me from that." He replaces it with actual food this time, smiling lopsidedly in her direction.
"Anytime, Mr. Castle." It pops out without her permission. Damn. She didn't want him to know.
Delight slides across his face at the recognition. Of course it does.
"You know me? Well that's not very fair; I don't know your name."
And there's the flirt she's heard so much about. "That's okay. I think you can survive."
His smile deepens. "That's okay," he echoes. "I can guess."
Lowering her plate to the table, she turns to face him, eyebrow already arching toward her hairline.
"Let's hear it."
"Well, there's no ring to say you're married, but you also haven't been acting too familiar with anyone, so all of that makes me say you're not the wife or a spouse of anyone in here. You've been working the room subtly, talking to some pretty important people. Friendly, but professional. People are practically falling all over themselves to talk to you. Which makes sense, because you're beautiful, but you also command respect with every word."
Heat floods her cheeks. He's been watching her that long?
"So my guess," he continues, looking her over carefully, "is you're one of the fine members of the NYPD. A… lieutenant? No, a captain. That was a captain conversation you were having with the deputy commissioner."
It takes a moment for her to find her voice. "Very good, Mr. Castle." She pops a cocktail sausage into her mouth, using the time to chew as a way to gather her thoughts. "Still not my name, though."
His eyebrows wiggle. "Getting there."
"Uh huh, get there faster. I want to sit down and enjoy my food." She does. The auction is supposed to start soon and once it does, it'll be a while before she has the chance to get off her feet. There'll be more people to command respect from and things for her to consider buying.
"Okay, okay, I think –"
Her eyes slide past him to where Esposito's gesturing for her. Damn it. Is it time already? They must want everyone in one place before beginning introductions.
"Too late," Beckett singsongs, pushing her frustration down with the tease. She lifts her plate again. Maybe she can eat a little more before going on stage. "Guess you'll have to wait to find out, Castle."
His face falls a little bit. "But –"
She sees his 'date' heading their way. Well, at least he won't be lonely.
"Oh, look who's back. You better make sure your date was able to get her curfew extended if you want to stay for the rest of the night."
Winking, Kate brushes past him easily. She doesn't even need to look back to know he's watching the sway of her hips on her trek to the stage.
Although the date auction itself is silent, each of the participating captains has to appear on stage while they're "introduced" by someone from their precinct. Some of the intros are sincere, polite blurbs, probably prepared by well-meaning unis; hers is courtesy of Ryan and Esposito. It's more like a roast than a way of talking her up, but she takes it graciously, laughing so hard at times, her sides actually ache. They both really know how to work a crowd and it worth it to see them grinning behind their microphones. Even if it is at her expense.
"Thanks, guys," she drawls as they leave the stage. Thankfully her earlier assumption was wrong and she doesn't have to stay up there through all of the introductions. "Now my date's going to think Starbucks and an office supply store are my go-to places for a good time."
Esposito smirks. "But aren't they, boss?"
Her eyes roll. She doesn't have the heart to do more than shove the back of his head lightly.
He laughs easily in return. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date myself."
Really? She thought he and Lanie were done for good. Again. Maybe not. She'll have to ask Lanie next time she sees her.
Her face must show her surprise, because he points to the food. Of course.
"Go on." She doesn't need to dismiss him and they both know it, but after so many years it's just habit.
Ryan lingers at her side, shifting his weight uncomfortably. Things haven't been the same between them since Montgomery started grooming her to be his replacement. So much of her caseload got shifted to the boys that the life Ryan had been hoping to plan with Jenny O'Malley had been put on hold and pushed aside. After their captain's death and Beckett's fast-tracked promotion, Ryan had confessed that it had ended entirely. He just didn't have time anymore, and even though he'd never say it to her face, they both knew it was her fault.
"So… boss… do you still…"
"Please, if you can. If not, I'll survive, but if you can…" So maybe she's asked him to "bid" on the date with her. There's nothing wrong with that, is there? It'll still be a donation to charity. It would just also mean she gets to spend her date at home in her pjs.
"Sure, I'll give it a shot."
"Thank you. I'll pay you back, whatever you end up spending."
"Hmm, looks like it could be hefty," he says, tilting his head thoughtfully.
"I'm good for it," she promises, quickly adding, "within reason." Yeah, she knows what that almost-playful smirk flitting across his face means.
It's true, though. Even if he splurges a little, she is good for it. Other than her rent and the occasional new suit, her money mostly sits in her bank account.
The smile he offers her this time is genuine, reminiscent of how it used to be. "I know. I'm just messing with ya."
"I know." She smiles quickly, wanting to hold onto that feeling.
She squeezes his shoulder as he heads off to join Javi at the buffet. A reminder not to forget to bid is on the tip of her tongue, but she swallows it back, letting the man eat in peace. The auction doesn't formally open until the final captain has been introduced, and she wants him to get his bid in early and head off the competition. But she won't nag.
"So, Captain Beckett, Captain Kate Beckett, it's nice to meet you."
Spinning, she smiles her polite smile. Maybe it's leftover hero-worship, maybe it's his body language, but there's just something about him that both flusters her and puts her on the defensive.
"Rick." He sticks his hand out amiably, lips twisted in a sexy smile. Somehow, despite not having been the one to guess her name, he still looks triumphant for knowing it.
She takes his hand reluctantly, her grip firm. "Rick."
"Having fun?" he asks, looking around the room once before returning his attention to her.
"For the most part, yourself?"
He grins, completely unfazed by her less than forthcoming responses. "This is the most fun I've had in ages."
"No parades to crash lately?"
It is pretty funny, even if he won't admit it. A little biting, but funny.
"So will you be bidding for a chance to spend time with any of your colleagues?"
Laughing softly, she shakes her head. For one, she sees most of them enough as it is. "No. I'm focusing on the wine and cheese items. Unlike some of us," she pauses, looking pointedly at him before continuing, "I don't need to pay for an evening in anyone's company."
"Neither do I. What a fun coincidence."
"Uh huh. Your 'date' suggests otherwise."
He rolls his shoulders back, leaning in just a tad. It's an interesting technique, part deflection, part flirt, part intimidation, maybe? "I'll have you know that Chelsea is a very lovely young –"
"Young is right," Kate interrupts, poking her tongue between her teeth. The girl looks like she's about twenty-three at most.
"She's a lovely young woman, Captain. But you don't have to be jealous."
Rolling her eyes, she takes a step back. It really doesn't matter to her one way or another. It's just a little bit sad to see how far he's fallen. The girl accompanying him tonight is no actress. Well, maybe she is. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors with Richard Castle these days; a little acting might be necessary.
"I'm not sure jealous is the word I'd use, but whatever helps you sleep at night."
He chuckles, and her heart decidedly does not flutter, not even in the slightest. He's handsome, yes, but so far he's just that. All fluff, no substance. Nice to look at, but nothing else.
"Can I get you a drink?" he asks after a beat.
"You're here with someone else," she reminds him, crossing her arms over her chest, tearing his gaze away from the strapless, sweetheart neckline.
Castle lifts a shoulder. "I don't have to be. I could be here with you. Or all three of us could be here tog – wait, where are you going?"
Just like that, the fluttering is gone and distaste twists her lips. What a jerk.
"Not interested. Enjoy the rest of your night, Mr. Castle, doing whatever it is you do."
This time, there's no swing in her hips when she walks away.
She spies him once more a few minutes later, making his way to the auction table, but when he disappears after that, she figures he's decided to slink off with his date. Not that she cares, because she doesn't. She's just disappointed.
Thankfully, she only has to chitchat for another half an hour before she's able to take her drink and another plate of food over to her table, putting her feet up in an empty chair. The boys join her after a little bit, nursing their drinks and sharing stories from the bullpen. It's enough like old times that Kate finds herself relaxing and joking right back.
God, she's missed this.
When the auction has officially closed and people are allowed to view the results, she downs the last of her drink – mostly vodka-flavored ice water – and stands. Time to figure out how much she owes Ryan. He won't say how much he bid, but he'd been certain it would be enough.
"Let me know if I need to take Ryan shopping for a nice suit for your date," Esposito teases, finishing his drink and patting his chest. "I left my wallet in the car, but I can get it."
Kate snorts. "Yeah, I'll be sure to do that."
There are already ten people ahead of her when she arrives at the table, most of them chatting with one another, oblivious to the way her hands fidget uncomfortably at her sides with every minute she waits. Judging by some of the numbers she hears, it's possible Ryan was able to come through for her. But even if he wasn't she just wants the information on her date so she can get in contact, make the arrangements, and move on. It's just dinner, not a marriage.
Relief and dread war in her belly when it's finally her turn.
She smiles, stepping closer. "Hey, Jay. How're we doing so far? Good money?"
She might not want to go on this date, but she does want the auction to do well. The money's going to a good place, after all.
"Through the roof thanks to you and Lopez. And congrats, you won the wine set."
Her cheeks heat up. Lopez is about twelve years older than she is, a former Navy SEAL, and absolutely gorgeous. Facsimile date or not, even Kate had considered bidding on an evening with him. She hadn't, but she'd considered it.
"Yeah? Mostly Lopez, right?"
Her friend from her days as a uniform laughs, shaking her head. She takes Kate's credit card, swiping it and waiting for the charge to process. "Not this time. All you. Your guy came in at the last minute and blew everyone out of the water."
"Ryan?" He blew everyone out of the water? Jeez, how much does she owe him?
"Uhh," Jay looks at the sheet, haphazardly handing Beckett her receipt. "Nope. Give me a sec and I'll print you his info. You can pick up your winnings at the other end of the table, too."
She nods, drumming her fingers quietly. "Thanks, Jay."
"No problem. Maybe you can put it to use after your date." Her eyebrows wiggle. "Alright, here you go. Your guy's contact details are at the top."
Thanking her again, Beckett snatches the paper out of her hand. Dread gives relief a one-two punch in the pit of her stomach and she forces herself to look.
She's going on a date with Richard Castle.
A/N: Yes, you read that right. I am writing another ficathon story. This story is based off of a prompt I received that asked for a story set in the 7x06 AU-verse where there had been no "visit" from "our" Castle to push Castle and Beckett together. This is my humble offering. I hope you'll enjoy this journey as well!