2. I Hate the Way You Drive My Car, and the Way You Like to Stare
It starts with her morning coffee.
Beckett usually gets her morning fix when she arrives at the precinct, grits her teeth through the disgusting thin liquid, hoping the caffeine will tide her over until lunch when she goes out to get a real coffee. But on Monday morning, as she dumps her bag on the floor by her desk, there's a grande cup of coffee from her favorite café waiting for her among the mountains of paperwork she'd left untouched from the week before.
She asks the uniforms milling about if they'd seen anyone drop by earlier that morning but they merely shrug at her question and she comes up empty. Bringing the cup to her lips, she takes a cautious sip. The coffee's decadent and she hasn't keeled over from being poisoned so she thinks nothing of it for the rest of the day, and forgets about finding out who left it there.
The same thing happens the next day and her Beckett senses start tingling. She eyes the lone coffee cup with suspicion, stares at it as she drops into her seat and folds her arms over her chest. She inches her chair forward, drags her shoes against the hardwood floors.
It's the same cup of coffee, the same brown paper zarf around the middle adorned with the familiar green loop of the café's logo. The call of the caffeine is too strong, an invisible string drawing her toward the still warm cup, steam curling through the hole on the plastic cover.
This time, while it's the same cup of coffee that sits pretty on her desk, she notices there's also a crisp white paper bag next to it. Her eyes narrow at the items, mistrust coloring her gaze. Beckett wraps her fingers around the to-go cup and breathes in the smell of the dark roast before she gulps down a mouthful.
She doesn't know who's responsible for her early morning treat yet, but as the bittersweet liquid sluices down her throat, she can't find it in herself to care. Whoever it is, she's immensely grateful - albeit a little wary about how they knew her exact coffee order - for the early morning pick me up.
She sighs as she pulls another sip from the cup, luxuriates in the aroma and taste on her tongue as she places the cup back on her desk. She picks up the paper bag and peers inside, heart skipping a beat as she sees the sugar glazed bear claw. Stomach rumbling, she pulls out the pastry and bites into it. Oh, delicious, sweet morsel of-
"Hello, Beckett! Make anyone cry today?"
Beckett jumps and she nearly spits out the tiny bite she'd just taken. Him? No way. She turns toward his voice and glares at one Richard Castle, sauntering to her desk with a slight skip in his step. He's so smug, grinning at her as if he'd done the entire world a favor and God, does she just want to punch the silly smile off his face.
"Sadly, no. But it's only eight thirty," she mutters under her breath. She returns the bear claw to the bag it came from, glaring at it as if it's offended her somehow. She picks up a few folders on her desk, reshuffles them in her hands, pointedly ignoring the man looming over her desk. "What do you want, Castle?"
He steps around the desk and removes his coat, folding it over his arm. Her eyes dart to the side, tracking his movements in her peripheral vision and her heart sinks when he invites himself into her personal space, pulling out the chair next to her desk and settling in.
"I see you found my presents!"
She groans but gives him a reluctant nod. She's not a complete monster, she still has the decency to acknowledge a kind gesture when she sees it. "Yes, I did."
"C'mon Beckett! Not even a thank you? I mean, I've saved you from the horrible excuse you people call 'coffee' two days in a row now, can't I at least get a smile?" He leans forward, elbows folded on the edge of her desk, eyebrows waggling. "I've had to run off to meetings the last couple of days, but I'm here now, and you can thank me … properly."
Beckett snorts and eventually relents, turning to the writer. "You may have been able to charm your way into the precinct, buttered up Montgomery into letting you stay, but don't you think that a couple of well-timed coffees and a bear claw will make me…" she pauses, narrowing her eyes at him, "…like you."
Castle beams, toothy and bright eyed. He sidles closer, chair screeching against the floor. He nudges her coffee closer to her, fingers pushing the cup toward her elbow. "C'mon, I even got your order right, I know I did. Skim latte, two pumps sugar free vanilla?"
She huffs, a heavy sigh escaping her mouth before she accepts the cup of coffee, unable to resist the pull of caffeine. "I don't know which one of them-," she cocks her head at the two other detectives on her team, who are trying hard to pretend they're not listening in on her conversation. She raises her voice, "-told you my coffee order, but they're going to find that a lot of paperwork needs to be completed before they head home tonight."
Ryan and Esposito duck away at her statement, not so subtly retreating from the bullpen to take refuge in the break room. Shaking her head, she smirks at their backs as they busy themselves with making their own coffee.
She turns back to Castle, now lounging in his chair – no wait, not his, the – chair, playing with something on his phone. "Well, we don't have a case, so thank you for breakfast but you do not have to be here today."
Castle sighs, slips his phone into his pants pocket and leans forward. His usually immaculate hair flops over his forehead, and for the first time that day, she notices that he looks a little different from his usual impeccable self. He's unshaven, stubble growing evenly along his jaw and it makes him look a little dangerous. More handsome compared to the boyish good looks she's more accustomed to.
She likes it.
God, if he knew just how much his scruff is doing it for her, he'll never let her live it down. She tamps down the surge of want, reminds herself that while the man sitting before her might be her favorite author, he's still the same annoying pest who's forced himself into her life. It doesn't matter if he pulls off the mischievous, roguish look so well – she's not ever going to cross that line.
Castle keeps staring, fingers drumming against her desk, an infuriating smile on his face. After a few minutes, she relents and turns to him. Her hand clamps down on his fingers, flattens them against the wooden surface and she smirks at the resulting yelp from the writer.
"Beckett, my fingers are my livelihood, c'mon!" he whines, wrestling his hand from under hers. He glares at her but his pointed stare bears no weight and she sniggers. That'll teach him.
"Well, what are you doing here then, what did you need to bribe me for?"
Castle peers at her, wide eyed with false innocence. He tucks his hands away on his lap, as far away from her as possible. "Bribe? What, no…"
He clears his throat and slides the paper bag with the half eaten bear claw toward her. "It's just breakfast, Beckett. The most important meal of the day, so I've been told. I'm just looking out for you. You keep our streets safe from evil murderers, I keep you safe from starvation. Why can't you appreciate that?"
She battles the groan that threatens to erupt from her lips, no patience whatsoever for the melodrama from the writer. The bear claw tempts her, peeking out from the paper bag, mouth-watering and sweet-smelling. Castle though, hovering over the bag with the most shit-eating grin on his face makes her think twice about it and she turns back to her paperwork.
"I'm not hungry."
He sputters in disbelief next to her, but lets the matter rest much to her relief. He settles back into the rickety, old chair and occupies himself with his phone. Beckett crosses her fingers, wonders if he'll get bored and bother Ryan and Esposito instead – or, better yet, just leave altogether.
Ah, no such luck.
Beckett drops her pen and sends him a withering look in hopes that whatever he wants to say dies on his lips. Unfortunately for her, it has the opposite effect on him and his face lights up at her attention.
"The boys," he nods, tilting his head at Ryan and Esposito's desks. "-tell me you're into Chinese food, crime novels, angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion and I have something for you."
Beckett groans, irritation and annoyance rising as she slowly turns her head to her colleagues. Backstabbers. Horrible, annoying backstabbers. She blames Esposito, the new guy – Ryan's always been a sweetheart, but since Esposito transferred onto her team they've both been as thick as thieves, mischievous and downright insufferable when they put their minds to it.
Two days ago they'd cornered her in the break room and grilled her on her lack of a social life, asked if she was dating anyone, if she had any 'fun' at all during her downtime. Part of her had been touched at their concern, but mostly she'd been annoyed at their prying and sent them back to their desks with a displeased grunt and a mental note to distribute her paperwork between the two of them the next time they solved a case.
It seems however, as she studies Castle's expectant face, that they've managed to recruit the writer into their little project and this is him doing his part on their behalf. Still, the way his eyebrows are furrowed and the glimmer of hope in his eyes softens her resolve and she concedes.
"What kind of something?"
Castle gasps and his mouth falls open in an 'O' of delight when it hits him that she's not completely shutting him down. "Um," he begins, but falters as his hands dig into his jacket pockets, searching for something. "Aha!"
He fishes out a pile of rectangle bits of paper and spreads them out on her desk, proud and eager. "Through my extensive network of contacts, I've managed to score five tickets to the Pearl Jam showcase this weekend and while it may not be the 'angry girl music' you prefer, would you be interested at all in going?
Beckett holds her breath, tries to control the shiver of excitement rippling through her body as she scans the tickets before her. Pearl Jam.
She grew up with their music, the emotional ties to the band's songs pulling at her heart strings as she remembers the singalongs with her parents, belting out the words to the songs on their ride up to the family cabin. Remembers the rush of adrenaline as she jimmied the lock on their tour bus, eventually breaking in and –
Huh. Well, she shouldn't be thinking about that in the precinct.
Good times, and bad. The band's been so monumental in shaping her youth and even though Castle would have had no idea whatsoever about how much the band means to her, her heart thuds beneath her chest, walls around them softening with every excited beat against her ribcage.
Beneath the arrogance he carries with him every day, Castle seems to be a sweet man and even though she's still suspicious about his motives, she can't turn the tickets down.
"Um, thank you," she says, avoiding his gaze. She gathers the tickets and flips through them. "I'm assuming these are for the boys too? And … you?"
"Yes, and Alexis, if you guys don't mind."
Sometimes she forgets he has a daughter, but whenever he brings her up, his face brightens, cheeks lifts up in a smile every time he speaks of her. He's such an enigma, annoying and such a pain in the ass but when it comes to Alexis, he seems to be a very doting father and it warms her insides to know this about him.
"Castle, you got us the tickets, I don't see why Alexis can't come."
He smiles, genuine this time, no hint of smugness as if he's sincerely happy she's agreed to it. It strikes her odd that he'd been so nervous about asking her, going so far as to bring her breakfast to soften her up first, but she shrugs it off.
Beckett hands him the tickets and caves, allows a hint of a smile to play on her lips.
It's not that big a deal anyway. It's not like they're going to the concert alone, like a ... date. She snarls at the thought. Most definitely not a date. The boys will be there, and so will his daughter.
How bad could it be?
Apologies for the delay,folks. Thank you for all your reviews/favs/follows! Much love to beta squad, always and forever.