Kevin Ryan winced at the loud ding announcing the arrival of the elevator to the busy homicide floor. He was late and was sure to catch hell from his partners when they saw him shuffle to his desk.
But, lady luck seemed to be with him for a change. Beckett didn't so much as twitch when he trudged past her. And Espo's desk was empty, though an open folder and some scattered notes showed that his best friend had to be nearby.
As he took off his coat and booted up his computer, he took another look at Beckett. She was seated in front of her monitor—to all appearances her intense focus on nothing but her work. But, something was off. His nose was twitching, and he'd learned long ago to never ignore his nose.
Glancing around the bullpen, he spied Espo in the breakroom. Jumping back out of his seat, he hurried to join him. Coffee was a necessary adjunct to get this day back on track, and he wanted to see if Espo had noticed anything odd about their partner.
"Nice of you to join us today, Tardy Boy."
Ryan grinned. He could always count on Espo to give him grief. "We were up all night. Sarah Grace is teething. What're you workin' on, anyway? Thought we finished the case yesterday and nothin's happened since, right?"
Espo finished pushing the buttons for his favorite blend, then glanced over at him. "Ain't nothin' goin' on. Was lookin' at a cold case, but nothin's there. So, thought I'd get some coffee."
Ryan shrugged, eyeballing the bullpen with a furtive look. "Didn't miss anything, did I?"
"Nah, Gates is at a meeting at 1 PP. No body drops. You're fine, dude."
"Hey, Javi," Ryan muttered a few moments later, "Beckett ok? She looks a little…off."
Espo finished perfecting his coffee and turned to look out at their boss as it cooled. "Off? Whatcha mean?"
"I dunno. She didn't even notice when I walked by her this morning. She say anything to you yet?"
"Nah. She was already hunched over that keyboard when I got here. She ain't stirred from that desk since then."
"Huh. How long's Castle been gone now?"
Espo shrugged, then gestured at the now open machine. Ryan counted back in his head as he gathered his cup and started making his favorite morning concoction.
"Bout 3, 4 weeks now, right? Some kinda big West Coast swing?"
"Yeah, sounds right. Said he'd be back in time for Memorial Day. Beckett told Lanie they were gonna invite us all out to the Hamptons if he feels up to it."
"That'd be awesome. Jenny'd love a getaway. And my mom's been begging to keep the baby for more than a few hours." He finished his cup and joined Espo near the door. Taking a sip, he sighed. After a sleepless night it was the jolt he needed.
Suddenly, Espo snapped his fingers. "Dude, I know what's wrong." He held his mug up in the air.
Ryan looked blank for a moment, until Espo quirked an eyebrow and looked at the mug in his hand. "Oh…oh! Coffee!"
"Right, bro. Lookit her over there. No coffee. Castle always makes it for her. Why, I'll betcha she can't even make her own!"
"She's probably got caffeine withdrawal or somethin'. I know! We can make her a cup. Maybe even every day 'til he gets back."
A few minutes later (and one small scuffle over who got to carry the mug over to Beckett), they were ready to present their gift.
Approaching her desk in tandem and stood in front of it until she finally looked up, fatigue radiating from her eyes. Ryan held the mug in his hand, but let Espo speak.
"Hey, Beckett. Ryan and I made ya a cup. Noticed you didn't have one."
Beckett shook her head, grimacing as she moved. "Thanks guys, but I think I'll pass."
"It's just the way you like it, Beckett. We know you're missing Castle. Thought this might cheer you up."
Kate shook her head again. She no longer looked just fatigued, but a bit green around the gills as well. "Seriously, I'm not missing him right now. And I don't want the coffee. Just take it away, ok?"
Ryan sat it down in front of her. "It may not be how Castle'd make it, but it's better than nothing. Maybe you'll change your…Beckett?" She'd clutched her mouth and then stood up and ran for the bathroom. "What the heck was that?"
"No idea, bro. I don't think she wants the coffee."
Disposing of it, they retreated to their desks. Ten minutes later a wan Beckett stumbled back to hers.
"Beckett, we ain't got nothin' going on. Why dontcha go home? We can cover," Espo called out.
She nodded curtly. "Just a stomach bug. Should be better tomorrow. Thanks, guys."
Two days later they had a body drop. Beckett was still wan, pale, and nauseous. The boys were careful to drink their coffee in the breakroom after a close call while the three of them had been reviewing video footage.
That afternoon, Ryan was struck by a thought as he idly watched Beckett walking back from the bathroom yet again. Retreating to the breakroom, he texted Espo to join him there. They needed the privacy for this particular conversation.
"What now, chucklehead? This better be good, I was starting to get somewhere with the timeline."
"Yeah, yeah. You're no closer than when you started. But, that's not what I wanna talk about. You notice anything about Beckett?"
"Dude, that's what you asked me the other day. Now what?"
"Just look at how she's dressed."
Espo peered at her for a moment. Luckily she'd been distracted by LT and didn't notice the two of them intently observing her.
"What? It's just a normal shirt and pants."
"But look at the shirt. Dontcha think it's a bit…poofy?"
"Around the middle."
Espo smacked him in the head. "What the hell are you sayin'? And how you got me lookin' at her middle, anyway? You gonna get us killed, man."
"I'm just sayin': she don't drink coffee no more. Gets sick if she smells it. Been puking. And now she's wearin' poofy shirts. And didn't she say she wasn't missin' Castle the other day? Only one thing it could be." Ryan leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head and a smirk on his face.
"You think she's pregnant? I don't know, man. Maybe she just had a bug, like she said."
"Gotta be. Mark my words, there's a baby Castle on the way. I oughta know, what with Jenny and all."
"One pregnancy don't make you no expert."
"More than you. I'm tellin' you."
Espo shook his head. "I think you've got babies on the brain. But, you're so sure and all, why don't we make this a little more interesting, hm?"
Ryan gave a sharp nod. "Twenty, she's pregnant."
"I got twenty she's not." Taking out their wallets, they shook on it. "I'll get the rest of the guys to weigh in with their money this afternoon. Now, how we gonna figure this out? Assuming you ain't brave enough to just go ask her."
"Ask her? She'd say no even if she was. No way, man. Look, we're detectives, right?"
"Then we just gotta do some detective work. Ain't no different than any other case where the suspect don't want to give you the truth."
"What other symptoms are there? Besides the puking and all?"
"Well, let's see. Jenny was real tired at first."
They both looked back at Beckett. Her eyes had bags under them. She'd made her way back to her desk by now, and had sunk into the chair with her head tilted back and eyes closed for a moment's rest.
Espo looked back at Ryan. "Ok, I'll give ya tired. But Beckett's always tired. And if she's been sick, that'd explain it too."
"True. But there were other things. Like…um…well, Jenny was moody all the time." Their heads swiveled back to regard Beckett very briefly before turning back to each other.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Beckett's always moody. Ok, how bout this? Jenny's breasts were real tender."
Espo expelled a lungful of air. "What? Dude, I don't even want to know…no. And just how the hell do you think we're gonna find that out? You gonna waltz up to her and ask her?"
Ryan turned pale and shook his head. "This was so much easier with Jenny. Man, can you imagine what a pregnant Beckett is gonna be like to work with? And Castle? I pity that man."
"She's not pregnant. You ain't got enough evidence even for a Grand Jury. Just admit it while you're still breathing."
"I'm tellin' you, she is! Maybe one of us could just brush up against her…"
"You got a death wish or somethin'? I personally like my blood inside my body. You go right ahead, brush away, but when I have to go tell Jenny why you're dead I'm tellin' her the truth."
"Wish Lanie was here. She'd brush for us."
"You are crazy. Lanie'd already know. They're like best friends, after all. And she probly wouldn't tell us one way or the other."
"Well, I'll figure it out. Don't know how, but I'm gonna prove it to you."
The pot stood at just over $250 by the next morning, with more pouring in every few hours as word spread. Ryan had been racking his brain for a way to discover the truth when inspiration struck. After sharing his idea with Espo and doing a bit of research, Operation Did The Rabbit Die swung into action.
First, they had to solve the case. Beckett tended to focus on her work, especially with Castle out of town. They planned to use that single-mindedness to their advantage. Therefore, they buckled down and worked like madmen: running the phone dumps, financials, and witness statements. Anything and everything was weighed, considered and placed into the puzzle of this homicide.
It was early afternoon before Beckett seemed to notice that something was different. Ryan was matching up statements on a mini timeline he'd created; Espo was reviewing video from a closed-circuit system a block from their crime scene.
A Beckett shaped shadow loomed over Ryan's shoulder as he worked. Smiling to himself, he pretended he hadn't noticed her until her curiosity got the better of her.
"What are you two doing?"
He affected a startle, and then stretched a bit before bending over his timeline again. Her annoyance at his nonchalance was palpable. "We're expecting," he tossed off without bothering to look at her.
This time he swiveled around to look at her. She was biting her lip. Time to play dumb.
"Hmm? You're expecting, Beckett?"
Her eyes narrowed and she gave a slight shake of her head. "No, you said you're expecting. Expecting what?"
He smiled and played on. "Oh, right. Yes, we're expecting…this investigation to bear fruit. I think we've hit on a fertile line of questioning."
She blinked. "Fertile line?"
"Yep, very fertile," he gestured at Espo in the video room. "Javi's hopeful that the video from that system used by the pawn shop down the block will be teeming with clues. And I'm anticipating an abundant advantage by sorting through these statements. Anything exciting gestating on your end?"
A quirked eyebrow and frown answered him. "No, nothing…gestating. I, uh, well…keep going, I guess."
"No problem, Beckett. Just let me know if you have any big news to deliver."
Beckett stalked off, muttering too low for him to hear. If she'd seen his grin she would've been quite suspicious, but she didn't look back.
Two hours later, they'd put quite a bit of the puzzle together. Nodding at Espo, they stood up simultaneously and called Beckett over to the whiteboard to lay out the case.
"We're ready to deliver, Beckett," Ryan intoned as his partner started adding the details of what they'd discovered to the known facts.
"You're ready to…what?"
"Deliver. Bear forth with our knowledge. Produce the facts that you need to finish this case."
Mouth open, Beckett seemed to be at a loss for words. Ryan plowed on.
"So, as you know, our victim, William, had a younger brother, George. We found some unusual withdrawals from William's savings. Large amounts. But the bank manager confirmed William himself made them. Thought it was a dead end until I noticed that they were all around the first of each month."
"Could be for lots of things," Beckett shot back, settling on the edge of her desk.
"What would you say if I told you that it was the exact amount of his mother's rent?"
"I'd say he was a good son. Wait, doesn't his mother work?"
"She does. So, we got curious. And guess who's been dipping into her retirement plan?"
"Why would she do that?"
"Great question." He leaned into her and dropped his voice to a low whisper. "Did you know as a parent, you'd do nearly anything for your child? It's a natural instinct, Beckett."
She was caught in his web. His hypnotic stare tried to will her into confessing. Might have worked but for the loud crash that interrupted them when the mail cart knocked into Karpowski's desk. Spell broken, she shook her head to clear it. Disappointed, he was forced to continue on as if nothing had happened.
"Anyway, as I was saying, as a parent you'll do anything. And mama here was forking over her hard earned money to her precious George. He'd developed a wee gambling problem, you see."
"So, who killed William? George? He must've known about the money his mom was giving George."
"We think it was either George or his loan shark. Espo and I were planning on bringing Georgie-boy in for a little talk."
"Ok, great work guys. Run him down."
"You not comin', Beckett?" Espo'd finished writing everything down and was shrugging into his jacket.
"No, I'm still not feeling that well," she explained, one hand over her lower abdomen. Ryan raised his eyebrows behind her. "You guys go bring him in. I'm gonna save my energy for later."
Ryan was still bouncing with excitement twenty minutes later in the car. "Did you see that, Javi? I knew it, I knew it."
"Dude, just because she had her hand over her belly don't prove nothin'."
"You ever see her do that before? Cause I haven't. Nope, she's pregnant. Almost said so to me, before that stupid mail cart made such a racket."
"Whatever, bro. I still say she's…"
Ryan's phone rang, cutting Espo off. "Hey, it's Castle. Whaddya know?"
Answering, he wondered for a second if Castle knew—maybe he could settle their bet? But he quickly discarded the thought of asking. Castle'd been gone for a bit, and if Beckett was waiting to surprise him then spilling the beans would be unforgivable.
"Heya, Castle, how's the weather out there?"
"Hi, Kev. It's great. I'm in Arizona right now and it's almost too hot, ya know?"
"Must be tough. When you comin' home, anyway?"
"That's what I was calling about. It was supposed to be 5 more days, but I'm coming home early. I was wondering where you're at in the case. Beckett's been a bit hard to catch at times. I know she's not been feeling well. Want to make sure she's ok."
"We're wrapping it up now. Should be done tomorrow with the main stuff and paperwork to follow, if everything works out. So, Beckett told you she's been sick?"
"I kinda figured it out when she kept running for the bathroom the other morning when we were trying to Facetime. That's when I decided I had to get home as soon as possible. That, and…well, we've got an announcement to share."
Kevin's heart stopped for what felt like ten minutes before resuming with a gallop. "An announcement?"
"Can't say anything more right now, but you guys are gonna be excited, I'm sure of it."
Ryan stared at Espo, who kept raising his eyebrows at him and mouthing 'What?' "You're coming home to announce something exciting, huh Castle? Well, I for one can't wait to hear what it is. You have a safe trip now."
"What's the pot at now, Javi?" Ryan pumped his fist in the air while a morose Espo just shook his head. "I can't wait until tomorrow."
The next day saw them clear the case. George had proven to be very talkative when they'd brought him in the previous afternoon. He'd spun a tale of merciless loan sharks that wouldn't allow any measure of time for repayment. He'd seen William's death as a warning and a promise for what would happen to him if he didn't come up with the payment.
All of which would have been a great lead…if it'd been true. There was a loan shark, Benny Younge, but the man had a rock solid alibi. A search through George's things turned up some blood spattered shoes, his only alibi was his mother, and an hour in the box with an irritated Beckett was more than enough to get a confession.
With only paperwork left for the afternoon, the tension in the bullpen ratcheted higher and higher as they waited for Castle to make his entry. Beckett was flagging badly until she heard the elevator ding and looked up at the audible gasp made by most of the bullpen.
Everyone clapped and cheered as she leapt up and ran into her husband's arms.
"You're home early!"
"Missed you too much, Beckett." A quick kiss led to another collective groan as they'd attracted a large audience. Startled, the happy couple moved apart.
"Don't you all have anything better to do?" Beckett glared at the circle surrounding them.
"Not really. We're waiting for the big announcement that Castle promised," Ryan hooted. "Though I have to tell ya, we already know what it is." He fed the birds with Espo, who was feeling better about the whole affair after making a counter bet to cover his losses.
"You already know?" Castle frowned and looked down to his wife. "How could they already know?"
"Buncha detectives here, Castle," Ryan gestured at the crowd. "Wasn't all that hard to figure out."
Beckett grinned and squeezed her husband's hand. "Well, I guess if you're all so smart, why don't you tell us what the surprise is."
"I'd be happy to, Beckett," Ryan raised up on his toes. "From all of us here at homicide, we'd like to congratulate you two on the new baby."
"New baby," Castle repeated, looking at his wife again. "You're pregnant?" She shook her head just as the crowd applauded.
"She's pregnant," Espo shouted, and another cheer erupted.
"I'm not pregnant."
It took a moment for the news to sink in. Ryan raised his palms into the air. "Wait, what? You're not pregnant?"
"But…but…you were sick."
"Told you I had a bug. Not my fault you didn't believe me. Now, who's got my money?"
Castle nearly laughed out loud when his wife's question caused a sea of gaping mouths and open staring.
"You're not the only detectives around here. You really think I didn't catch on to your little display at the whiteboard yesterday? I asked around, found out what you were up to and put in some money with a little help."
LT grinned and gave her a slight nod. Ryan slumped as Espo started paying out the winners.
"But, what about your big announcement, Castle?" Ryan whined. "If you guys aren't pregnant, what were you gonna tell us?"
"Oh, uh…well, I was gonna tell everyone that Naked Heat is being picked up for another movie. Isn't that great?"
"Sure. Great," came the dejected reply as one by one the crowd dispersed.
"How much money did you win?" Castle whispered to his wife once they were alone.
"Enough to treat you to Remys. You hungry?"
"Absolutely. And we are so doing this again when you really are pregnant next month."
Beckett grabbed her coat and slipped her arm in his. "Next month? Nice try, buster."
"Two months?" he wheedled.
"We'll discuss it."
He bounced beside her. He couldn't wait to see Kate Beckett carrying his child. Not to mention the fact that he planned to win enough in the next pool to cover a nice dinner at his favorite restaurant.
Thanks for reading!