A/N - A One shot inspired by my buds on Twitter.
"May your anchor be tight, your cork be loose, your rum be spiced and your compass be true."
Thanks to Retto the Otter for the outstanding cover art.
Tales of Adventure and Booty
The elevator doors opened and Kate was immediately swamped under a tidal wave of sound. She instinctively shoved her fingers in her ears and walked cautiously to Castle's door, which was to her dismay, slightly ajar.
Over the past six months, he was supposed to have accompanied and observed her and her team for his research, but instead had been participating and annoying them. Kate still wasn't sure what spell he had cast over her in order to win his way back into her good graces. Well, all right, good was probably stretching it: maybe okay graces. If she had been truthful with herself (admittedly not one of her strong suits), she was terrified of his findings: of the possibility that she would follow his leads right back down into the bricked off well of a rabbit hole and that she'd spend the rest of her life and energy spinning around the muddy dank pit with no hope of salvation, closure or justice.
The door creaked opened slightly more as she knocked. She poked her head in through the gap. "Castle?"
He hadn't answered her texts or calls. They had a body drop and instead of risking him assuming that she just didn't call, which happened just last week, this was her olive branch. She had called and spoken to Martha who neglected to inform Castle, who had been writing at the time. Martha said he was in the zone and unable to come to the phone. She offered to disturb him, but Kate declined, not wanting to intrude. Montgomery had taken it upon himself to intercede on his behalf. She did not need another mayoral-name-dropping dressing down from Montgomery about his participation. Castle hadn't gone running to the teacher like a pet as she assumed. He was simply disappointed that he missed the crime scene and the captain had overheard his whining. He was there for the rest of the investigation and, in his way, his annoying and smirking, infuriating way, he found a clue she had overlooked. In her defense, Ryan and Esposito missed it as well. It looked like random trash, but it was the key to the case. Damn it.
She called again, "Castle? Martha?" a little louder to be heard above the music, which she now recognized as the soundtrack to one of those pirate movies. She took a tentative step through the doorway into the spacious apartment. She had only been to the loft a few time prior and every time she stepped over the threshold she was struck by, not only how open a space it was, but also the subtlety and tastefulness of the décor. It was opulent, she doubted Castle cut corners when it came to his or his family's comfort, but not showy and gauche.
She had never seen the loft messy or anything out of place there, for all his other faults, Castle seemed to be fastidious. Even his office had been neat and organized the first time she dropped by unannounced. She supposed that in order to write the twisty, double-back stories that he did, he'd need to have some type of methodical system and his home reflected that. But that was not the case today.
It looked like a tornado had swept through the loft: cushions were thrown about haphazardly, there were sheets fastened and strewn to the crown molding and there were fans blowing from the kitchen island, causing the sheets to billow. Every so often there'd be a flash of light and a crash.
Kate, as a precaution, unhooked her holster clip and silently walked through the mess with her hand on her weapon.
The banister by the stairs leading to the second floor sat festooned with ropes and she scowled at the incongruity of the fishing nets strewn on the stairs. There were two wooden barrels marked with XXX at the landing. She moved further into the living area. A harness on a rope which was fastened to the steel I beam rafter by the enormous skylight in the living room ceiling she had admired before, hung drifting and slack, but swayed every so often in the breeze created by the fans. Fastened to the beam between the bookshelf and the piano was a piece of timber, a log really or maybe more accurately it was like a short telephone pole, without the grease, but with hand and foot holds. There was a wooden crate and more ropes beneath the pole.
Kate called again with the same result as she moved warily into Castle's office. Her head began to pound along with the timpani of the recording, but more likely because of the anxiety of not knowing what had happened in the loft or where Castle was.
The office, which had awed her the first time she'd been invited inside and still inspired the same fan girl response, was quiet. The only evidence of a disturbance there was an umbrella stand that had been knocked over and its contents, which were not umbrellas, but swords: cutlasses, foils and rapiers, had spilled to the floor. She squatted by the spillage to examine the blades: they were actual weapons, not just props or for show. She lifted her eyes to survey the rest of the room. If there were an intruder, he was definitely armed.
Having cleared the office and not any closer to finding her misplaced shadow, she called her partners.
"Esposito," was the businesslike answer of her colleague.
She leaned on the corner of Castle's desk. "Espo, I stopped by Castle's…"
"Stopped by? What he's too good for a phone call?" She heard Ryan chuckle in agreement in the background.
"Shut up, Espo. It looks like someone broke in. The door was open, music is incredibly loud and the place is a mess. I've cleared the living area, kitchen and his office. There's no sign of him."
Ryan piped up, "Did you try calling him?"
"Whoa, why didn't I think of that? Yeah, Ryan: he didn't answer when I called about the case, so that's why I came over."
Ryan ignored the sarcasm. "Yeah, about the case: it's done."
She stood, surprised. "Done? What do you mean done?"
"Caught the guy, gave us a back seat confession," Ryan explained.
Esposito finished, "Boom! The awesomeness of Esposito and Ryan."
"Or Ryan and Esposito."
"It just flows better."
"Sorry, Beckett. We're done here. Do you want some help?"
She heard the slamming of car doors. "Yeah. How long?"
"A couple of minutes. We're in Little Italy."
"Yeah, okay. I'll wait for you here."
Kate bit her bottom lip and moved around his desk after she hung up to try to find anything that would give her a clue as to what happened. Did he annoy her? Yes. Did he overstep and push and overstay and get in the way? Yes, but she would never want anything to happen to him. She was kind of, sort of, maybe getting used to him hanging around, no matter that she would never admit that to anyone, let alone Castle. She'd barely admitted it to herself.
"Yo, Beckett," Espo called as he and Ryan entered the loft with guns drawn.
Ryan stood in the middle of the chaos. "Holy crap, what happened?"
"That was fast," Beckett said as she emerged from the office. "Let's clear the place properly."
They worked seamlessly, in a practiced and effortless ballet, clearing each room more thoroughly than Beckett had done starting with the upper floor, main living areas and Castle's office. She made the boys search his bedroom. She'd had fantasies of what it would look like and didn't want to spoil…
"God I did not just think the word fantasies," she muttered to herself as her partners entered Castle's bedroom.
"Ryan, check out the bathroom," Espo said nonchalantly as he walked into a walk in closet the size of his kitchen.
"Did you just come out of…"
"Just check it."
Ryan obediently trudged into the master bath. "Shit," he yelled. "What the hell is that?" he asked a doubled up laughing Esposito.
"Boba Fett." Espo grinned and then scowled. "Tell me you've seen Star Wars."
"I've seen some…just not that one."
"Dude, he's in the first three."
"I…I just haven't gotten around to them."
"We're going to marathon next Saturday at my place. You need to be schooled. I can't even talk to you right now."
"Guys?" Beckett called from the office. They joined her there.
"No one's home, Beckett," Espo declared, holstering his weapon.
Ryan stopped in the doorway. "Wait, you don't think Castle was snatched or anything."
"Are you saying that he went out and left the door open?" Kate shook her head. She hadn't ever gotten the absent-minded professor vibe from Castle, more like the arrogant, know-it-all vibe.
"Maybe he forgot."
Beckett grimaced. "No, Espo. The man never forgets anything." Beckett picked up Castle's phone from his desk. "He wouldn't leave willingly without this either." It was true; none of them had ever seen him without his phone either in his back pocket or in his hand.
Ryan walked to the glass wall leading to the balcony. "Hey, this door is open. Do you know where it leads?"
"I've only been in here a couple of times, Ryan," she snapped defensively. "How would I know any more than you?"
Beckett walked toward the door and Espo shot Ryan a raised eyebrow over her shoulder. Ryan answered his partner by nodding and half-grinned, catching his drift.
The three made eye contact and Beckett nodded to Ryan who opened the door quietly: all kidding and teasing aside. If a bad guy was in the loft, he'd be out on the balcony, avoiding them. However, he wasn't. Neither was Castle. All three detectives stood dumbly on the red slate patio.
"Maybe up there?" Ryan pointed to steps.
'What the hell is wrong with me?' thought Beckett as she pressed her lips to her teeth. "Come on," she ordered and led them up the narrow stone steps that reminded her of the un-level centuries old steps found at ancient ruins in Kiev, to an upper level. Perhaps the whole roof was also Castle's property.
Said roof was gorgeous: breathtaking, as if they had stepped into an Italian villa's garden or a museum's green atrium. There were hanging baskets of flowering vines, bushes, potted plants and flowers, and topiary, some in geometric shapes and still others in green familiar shapes like a brontosaurus, a baby elephant and giraffe and a flock of seagulls, not the band, swaying on spindly branches, in the updraft from the city street below.
Espo nudged her elbow. When she glanced back he whispered, "Did you know about this?" She shook her head and wondered if her shadow was an unknown gardening savant or if he hired someone.
The wind changed direction and she heard clanging and swashing of metal on metal. Beckett stopped and looked back down toward the office. 'The swords,' she realized. "Come on," she whispered and rushed toward the sound.
Rounding the corner of a greenhouse, they came upon two figures embroiled in a sword fight. The smaller of the two wore a fencing mask, but she was also clad in a period dress. The ruffled dress was layered by a linen under dress and a deep scarlet overlay, a black corset and black heeled boots. The impractical clothing did nothing to slow her down, though. She leaped and spun as she parried and thrusted and avoided her opponent's advances. She held the higher ground from her vantage on a park bench. The woman sported a tattoo on her exposed shoulder of a pumpkin into which was carved a skull and crossbones. Kate frowned, perplexed about the unusual body art.
"What the hell?" Espo began.
She answered, "I don't…" Her voice trailed off as the woman's opponent leapt onto the same bench as she.
"Um…" Espo said over Ryan's, "What…"
The man wore tight fitting navy blue pants that disappeared into knee high dark brown leather cuffed boots. He was wearing a loose fitting off-white cotton blouse under a brown leather long vest, which was unbuttoned, but cinched together with a wide black leather belt over a maroon sash. He wore a deep red bandana over his head and under his fencing mask, but Kate saw a tri-cornered hat lying haphazardly on the dark gray slate of the rooftop. Both combatants had scabbards hanging from their waists and pistols in their belts
The two were engaged in an epic battle, their swords clashing and clanging rapidly. They jumped, spun and thrust in swift fire style, as if their fight had been choreographed. The two adversaries came together in a clench, their blades perilously close to their masked heads.
Suddenly, the woman shrieked and yelled, "Foul!" indignantly as she hopped down from the bench.
"Ha ha! Run if ye must lass, but I an' me mates will hunt ye down and return ye to da bilge from where ye slithered." He planted one foot on the arm of the bench and the end of his sword into the wood next to his booted foot. His elbow planted on his hip arrogantly and even though he still wore the mask, they could see that he smiled.
Kate felt her eyebrows raise and her jaw drop. She looked at her partners who mirrored her expression.
"Is that…," Espo began.
Ryan finished, "Castle?"
Kate's mouth worked, but no sound came out.
"Dad: no fair! Um…I mean…ticklin' be not allowed in this contest. You're not followin' da rules."
Castle growled in an accent, "T' only rules that really matter be these: what a man can do and what a man can't do." He placed a hand over his heart and stood at attention. "Captain Jack taught me that."
The woman threw down her mask. Beckett, Espo and Ryan all made varying noises of surprise, their suspicions confirmed.
"Cheater," Alexis cried.
Castle pulled off his own mask and spread his arms wide as he shrugged his shoulders. "Pirate, lassie: I'm a pirate as true as true can be an' as true blue as the sea I calls me home. How many times need I be tellin' ya?"
"Dad," Alexis whined in that way that only a parent's child could whine to said parent.
"Yo ho, I win! And you were goin' on about t' rules."
"They're more like guidelines," Alexis quoted sulkily.
"Ha!" Castle bellowed. "Fetch me my rum, missy and no more of ye backtalk." He plopped down onto the bench and sat there as if it were his pirate king's throne. "Ah, 'tis a glorious thing, to be a pirate king," he sighed.
Alexis picked up her mask and foil and turned toward the steps. Her head was down sullenly and she muttered to herself, consequently she almost ran into the spectators from the twelfth precinct loitering by the greenhouse. "Oh…" She stared at the audience for several seconds before she said, "Dad?"
"Stop yer complainin' young 'un. Ye old dad has won fair and square with negligible opinions o' the interpretation of da rules." He stood and turned toward Alexis. "Now quit yer bitchin' and fetch me…" He froze when he saw their witnesses. He looked from Esposito to Ryan and finally stopped on Beckett. A slow smile spread across his face and the one eye Kate could see sparkled in amusement. His right eye sported a black patch. Kate half expected him to have a hook prosthesis hidden in his costume.
"Arrgh, here there be two beasties and the vision of an angel before me eye. That or ye have killed me perfidiously, offspring, and I am in the purgatory between the heavens," he looked pointedly at Beckett, then turned to the boys and finished with a smirk, "and hell, but at best I know, this is not the purgatory known as White Plains."
He narrowed his eyes and theatrically looked over his shoulder and gestured to the vast space on the roof where apparently his current fantasy existed. "There be no castles here lass, just the sea, the salt, me ship and the stars above yer heads." All three detectives mechanically searched the bright blue mid-afternoon skies, enthralled by the storyteller in front of them.
"Dude," Espo said. The puzzled look on his face almost made Rick break character. "What the hell are you talking about? You don't have a ship up here."
"I'm in the market, as it were. But gentlemen, me bein' a purveyor of the written word, I can see an entire armada on these rafters if I choose. Me pirate's imagination can fancy all sorts o' mischief. Not all treasure is silver and gold, Espo." He leered at Beckett.
"Castle," Beckett broke in using that badass, 'I'm going to break your ass' tone, "The loft looks like a disaster area. You didn't answer your phone, calls or texts. Your door was wide open. What the hell is going on?"
Alexis had joined her dad by the bench again. "'Ello, Poppet," he drawled as he slung an arm over Alexis' shoulders. "Me daughter and I have a bet, ye see. Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The first scurvy dog that drops the character has to prepare the comestibles for the evening's repast and this year 'tisn't me." He thumbed his chest proudly. "We have been playing at this game for nary less than nine years. 'Twas tied up to a quarter-hour ago. Then I won."
"That's because you cheated."
"Silly child, there be no rules about tickling. Whether it be the ivories, the constabulary's hot buttons, or me own flesh an' blood's tickle spot. Twill be a treasure for sure to behold, ye fixin' me supper and the supper for these wayfarin' constables would be keepin' with the code Missy; don't ye agree?"
Alexis harrumphed and trudged down the steps. The three detectives watched her go along with Castle.
The three turned back to look at him and suddenly it dawned on Kate: the first time she dropped by unannounced he and Alexis had both been decked out in some sort of futuristic, flashy vests and were playing a game. "Laser tag," she blurted.
Ryan and Esposito frowned and just stared at her, but Castle beamed.
"I should have known," Beckett said, shaking her head. "It's not a disaster area or crime scene, it's a playroom!" she exclaimed.
"Trust Castle to play in something that looks like a crime scene," Espo said. "Dude, you owe us."
"You can always trust me, lord officer, and the untrustworthy because you can always trust that they will be untrustworthy. It's the trustworthy you can't trust."
"What the hell did you just say?"
"My dad said that this is who he is and you can be sure that it is the way he will always be." Alexis had come back up to the roof. She nestled under her father's protective wing. "Sorry, it sounded like you needed a translator," she said to the detectives and then nudged her dad in the ribs.
"Oof," he grunted.
"He's in deep," Alexis said, "and won't be coming out from under his cheating pirate rock until midnight."
"Life is pretty good and why wouldn't it be? I am a pirate after all and the triumphant, ruggedly handsome pirate at that." He earned another punch to his arm from Alexis for that. Castle's eyes twinkled. He continued, undeterred, "Aye, once a pirate for Talk Like a Pirate Day, always a pirate, at least until the fickle clock strikes me doom."
"God," Beckett whispered and looked at Alexis in sympathy.
"Hey Castle, where's your crew? An outfit like that, I would expect to see seamen." Espo laughed at his own joke and received a fist bump from Ryan who added, "Yeah, where are your buccaneers?" Castle frowned, shook his head and covered his fifteen year old's ears.
"Get ye to the mess, young-un. The sharks in these waters be startin' to circle and spew bilge unfit for a sailor, let alone an innocent." He swatted Alexis' bottom, directing her out of earshot.
"Good constables, ye need to batten yer hatches when me daughter is about. I beg yer kindness and Constable Ryan, me buccaneers dwell under me buckin' hat."
He turned to Kate while Esposito and Ryan were left to interpret. "So, will ye be joining us for our third square of the day? I have tales of adventure and of booty." He meaningfully looked at Kate's ass.
Kate raised an eyebrow, gritted her teeth and cheekily quoted, "I'm disinclined to acquiesce to your request."
Castle dropped his jaw and almost dropped his act, but pouted and pled, "Oh, me timbers are a shiverin'. I beg of ye mistress and masters." Both the boys nodded, both willing if it was a night on Castle's dime. "I assure ye that the grub is mostly passable…" He checked to be sure Alexis was in fact gone and continued, "the rum, superb and the wit sparkling."
Kate finally acquiesced with a small, playful smile.