"Morning," Kate Beckett said as she entered her boyfriend's kitchen, freshly showered.

"Good morning," Will Sorenson replied cheerfully, handing her a cup. "Coffee."

"Thanks." She flashed him a quick smile, running a hand through her still-damp hair. She had forgotten that Will didn't own a hair dryer, of course. At least she'd had the foresight to pack a change of clothes, so she wouldn't have to run back home before heading to work at the precinct.

"And breakfast," Will added proudly, leaning in for a quick kiss before gesturing her toward the kitchen table. Her eyebrows went up.

"You cooked?"

"Well, sure. A person's gotta eat," he shrugged, shuffling his feet with a bashful smile. Kate surveyed the plates he had set out: toast, bacon, scrambled eggs, orange juice, and half a grapefruit for each of them.

"Looks good," she made herself say, and forced a smile. She sipped the coffee - black and bitter, just the way she didn't like it - and moved past Will to find the vanilla creamer that she kept in his fridge. Having doctored the coffee to her liking, she took another, longer sip, sighed, and mustered up a more genuine smile for her boyfriend.

"You didn't have to do all this."

"I know," he shrugged again, moving to pull out her chair for her. "I wanted to."

Kate sat down and picked up her fork, keeping her expression neutral. It was all so very domestic, wasn't it? She wondered what had prompted all of this. It wasn't like she had never spent the night at Will's apartment before. Well, okay, this was only the third or fourth time, but...

"Do you wanna get lunch?" he asked, breaking into her muddled thoughts. She swallowed a bit of bacon and raised her eyebrows inquiringly at him.

"What, in the middle of breakfast?" she joked weakly. But Will simply shook his head, earnest as ever.

"Later today. At lunchtime," he clarified unnecessarily. "If you don't catch a murder case, I mean. I thought we could meet up at that burger place you keep mentioning? Rory's, is it?"

"Remy's," she corrected, and added after a beat, "Sure. That sounds nice."

It was a quiet morning at the 12th Precinct. By eleven o'clock, when Beckett's friend and favorite medical examiner stopped by to say hello, piles of paperwork had overtaken all of the detectives' desks, almost burying the collection of used coffee cups they were amassing.

"Hey, Lanie," Kate greeted her friend, grateful for the interruption. "You come by for a cup of our coffee?"

"Please," Lanie scoffed, tossing her head as she plopped down onto the chair beside Beckett's desk. "The coffee here is even worse than the stuff we got down at the morgue, and that's something I never thought I'd say." As Kate chuckled, Lanie added, "No, I just thought I'd pop in and see if you were free for lunch. We haven't gone out in a while."

"Oh, I would love to," Kate said regretfully, "but I already have plans with Will."

"Really." Lanie regarded her with narrowed eyes. "Could you possibly say that with any less enthusiasm?"

"Ugh." Kate huffed sharply. "Lanie, don't start, okay? Everything's fine."

"Break room. Now." Lanie stood up, folded her arms across her chest, and glared until Kate gave in. Biting her lower lip, Beckett got up and followed her friend to the relative privacy of the precinct kitchen.

"Now," said Lanie after closing the door behind them. "What's going on with you and Will?"

"Nothing." Kate sighed, slumping down onto the small sofa. "I don't know. It's fine."

"The sex is good?" Lanie prompted. "Even though he isn't into any of that kinky stuff you like?"

"Lanie!" Kate scolded, instinctively looking around, although she knew no one could overhear them with the door closed. "The sex is fine, okay? He's perfectly nice. I enjoy being with him. I even spent the night at his place last night, and he made breakfast this morning and everything."

"How domestic," Lanie commented with a smirk. "But?"

"But nothing. It's all fine with us. Really."

"You're saying fine way too much, girl," Lanie declared. "You wanna know what I think?"

"I already do," Kate snipped out. "You think he's boring."

"You gonna deny it?" Lanie snarked right back at her, and Kate dropped her eyes again. No, she couldn't deny it, but she just wished her friend wouldn't say it so baldly. Will was a good guy, even if he was fairly... well... bland.

"But it's not just that," her friend continued. "Girl, I've seen you do this before, and you know it. You chose Will because he's boring. Boring and safe, so you don't have to fully commit yourself to the relationship - so you aren't taking any chances. It's what you keep doing, ending up with these boring men you don't even really like. And then as soon as they start getting serious, you bail."

Kate could only bite her lip and stare at her hands in her lap. Her friend's words stung, and she knew - damn it - that it was because they had the ring of truth.

"I'm just not - I'm not good at relationships," she said quietly. Lanie leaned over and put a gentle hand over Kate's on her knee.

"I know, honey. But that's never gonna change if you keep hiding behind these boring men. You gotta put yourself out there, take a risk of getting your heart broken, or you're never gonna find the right guy. The guy you really deserve."

"I'm not even sure that guy exists."

"Don't be like that," Lanie exclaimed. "He's out there, Kate. You just gotta be looking for him, not another Captain America." She paused, and her lips twisted into another smirk. "You also deserve some great sex, girlfriend. You shouldn't have to settle."

"Lanie!" Kate huffed. "This conversation is over." She stood up and moved to the coffee machine. "I am not discussing sex with you at work."

"Okay, fine," her friend grinned, "but you're not off the hook. You go have lunch with Mister Boring, and we'll have dinner and drinks sometime soon. Yes?"

"Yes," Kate agreed, and gave Lanie a hug. "Thanks for the pep talk," she added grudgingly, with an exaggerated eye-roll for effect. Lanie laughed loudly as she sashayed out the door.

"Later, girlfriend!"

A few minutes after noon, Kate entered Remy's and found Will already waiting for her.

"Hey," she greeted.

"Hey," he replied with a big smile, rising from the booth to kiss her in greeting. She felt her stomach twist uncomfortably at the sight of how pleased he was to see her. Shouldn't she feel the same way about the man she was dating?

"I thought I had the wrong place for a minute," he said as they took their seats across from each other in the small booth. "It just doesn't look like your kind of restaurant."

Kate paused, wondering what that meant and whether she should be offended. "Well, almost everyone from the precinct comes here," she replied after a moment, keeping her tone neutral. "The burgers and milkshakes are fantastic."

Will's eyebrows went up, but he didn't comment.

After they had ordered their burgers - Will's with a soda, Kate's with a milkshake - he leaned forward slightly, his eyes alight with excitement.

"I'm on the short-list for a new position that just opened up," he announced. "It's not exactly a promotion, but it's a really great opportunity. I heard there are only a handful of agents being considered for it."

"That's great," Kate said sincerely. "Congratulations. When will you find out?"

"Within a week, they said, but sometimes they drag their heels on this stuff." He shrugged, clearly trying to look unconcerned. "Not much to do but wait and see."

"I'll keep my fingers crossed."


There was a pause then, as the server arrived with their food, and they turned their attention to the application of ketchup and so forth.

"It was lucky, wasn't it," Will said, after they had each taken a few bites, "the way things turned out?"

"What do you mean?" Kate asked, bemused.

"Well, after we worked that kidnapping case together and, uh, hooked up," he grinned and blushed a little, "we had agreed that a long-distance relationship wouldn't work out, but just then I got the word that the Bureau wanted me to stay here in New York."

"Right." She took another bite of her burger, mulling over those memories and wondering why he had brought that up just now. "That was good timing."

"Six months ago this week," Will added, still smiling, a little timidly. "I'm just saying, I'm glad it worked out that way."

Kate focused on her food, trying to cover up the anxiety that the conversation was producing. The way Will was talking, the reference to how long they had been together - it made her nervous. He was starting to sound like he wanted to get more serious about the relationship, and she wasn't sure how she felt about that.

As soon as they start getting serious, you bail, she remembered Lanie saying just a short while ago, and she had to swallow around a lump of shame that gathered in her suddenly dry throat.

"Me too," she forced out, because she knew that was what Will was waiting for her to say. Sure enough, as soon as the words were out, his face relaxed into a smile of relief and pleasure.

Kate felt her shoulder muscles tense up, wondering where he would go next with this line of conversation; but before he got the chance, her cell phone chimed. Will frowned slightly as she pulled it out of her purse.

"It's Captain Montgomery," she said apologetically, and swiped to answer the call. "Beckett."

"Detective," said her boss's voice through the phone. "Is Sorenson with you?"

"Um," Beckett said, blushing slightly. It wasn't as if her relationship with Will was a secret, but she had tried to keep it discreet. "Uh, yes, sir," she admitted.

Montgomery, of course, didn't comment on her personal life. "We've got a new case," he said, "and the Feds are involved. They want you and Sorenson to collaborate on this one. You should both get over there right away."

"Okay," she said, surprised. She found a pen in her purse and jotted down the address that Montgomery reeled off. Just as she was hanging up, Will's phone began to ring. Beckett signaled the waitress for the bill.

"Looks like we're going to be working together again," she commented when Will ended his call, which had mostly consisted of him saying Yes sir.

"So it seems," he agreed, pulling out his wallet. "Shall we?"

"Who's our vic?" Beckett asked her junior detectives twenty minutes later, as she and Sorenson stepped off the elevator at the eighteenth floor of an upscale apartment building. The cab ride over had been quiet, Sorenson spending most of it with his ear glued to his phone, while Beckett gazed out the window. Will liked to talk to his team in advance, to know what he was going to find at a crime scene; Kate, on the other hand, preferred to start by viewing the scene to form her first impressions.

"Alison Tisdale," replied Esposito, glancing at his notes. "24, grad student at NYU. Part of the social work program."

"Nice place for a social worker," Beckett observed as they entered the apartment.

"Daddy's money," Ryan replied, directing her which way to go with a gesture.

"The victim was a federal informant," Sorenson added, falling into step with Beckett and her team as they proceeded toward the crime scene. "She was due to testify in federal court next week as part of a big crime-ring bust."

"Sounds like a potential motive," Ryan commented, exchanging a glance with Esposito. Beckett didn't comment. She preferred not to speculate before seeing the body.

They passed through an arched doorway and into an open room, already swarming with CSU and other officers.

"Neighbors called the super to complain about the music," Esposito supplied as they emerged into full view of the victim.

Beckett stopped short, blinking, her mouth falling open slightly as she took in the sight of the dead woman's body.

Alison Tisdale was laid out on a table, arms by her sides, her body covered with red rose petals, stark against the pale backdrop of her lifeless skin. Two bright yellow sunflowers covered her eyes.

Sorenson was saying something about Tisdale's federal contacts and a meeting to discuss her testimony, but Beckett was only half listening as she circled the body, her forehead creased. With each step, the longer she looked at the dead woman, she grew more and more certain of her first instinct. She knew this scene.

"Dr. Parish, hello," Will said then, and Kate pulled her attention away from the corpse to greet her friend.

"Hey Lanie. What can you tell us?" she asked, firmly ignoring the significant glances that Lanie was directing between her and Will.

"She's got two shots to the chest, small caliber," Lanie replied, giving Kate one more narrow-eyed glare before dropping back into professional mode. She reached out with a gloved hand to move the flower petals aside so that Kate and Will could get a look at the fatal wounds.

Beckett pursed her lips and folded her arms, walking another slow circle around the body. Her junior detectives and her boyfriend - Agent Sorenson, that is - watched in silence.

"Does this look familiar to anyone else?" she asked at last, but received only blank looks in reply.

A few hours later, after a frustrating afternoon spent wrangling with federal bureaucracy and chasing down useless leads, Beckett was behind the wheel of a police cruiser with Sorenson beside her and Ryan and Esposito in the back seat.

"I'm still not sure what you hope to accomplish with this," Will complained as she steered through Manhattan rush-hour traffic. "Even if you're right about the similarity to the book-"

"I am right," she snapped, "and it's not just a similarity. It's an exact replica. I'm telling you, Will. If you had read the book, you'd have recognized it too."

"Don't start with that again," he sighed, and she bristled. But she forced herself to take a deep breath and bite her tongue. No good could come from this argument, especially not in front of her fellow detectives.

"It doesn't matter," she said after a moment, when she was sure she could trust her voice to remain even and calm. "We'll talk to him and see where it takes us."

When they stepped out of the car at the ritzy hotel where the book-release party was being held, Sorenson immediately took charge. "FBI," he informed the security guard at the door, holding up his badge. Beckett pursed her lips and refrained from comment as they were whisked inside and shown to an elevator.

Will stepped out in front again at the penthouse floor, but after bulling his way into the party, he deferred to Kate with a grimace and a nod. Technically, the FBI had no jurisdiction over the murder investigation, and everything had to be done by the book.

"Mr. Castle?" Beckett asked crisply, addressing a broad, well-tailored back. She caught a glimpse of the young redhead behind him, blue eyes widening in surprise, just before the man himself spun around, a pen held high.

"Where would you like it?" he asked, grinning.

The last time Kate Beckett had seen Richard Castle, at a book signing many years ago, he had been wearing jeans and a t-shirt, clean-shaven; tonight he was in an expensive suit and his cheeks were scruffy with the day's growth. But the effect was the same. Goosebumps tingled up and down her spine, and her guts twisted dizzyingly.

God, the man was hot.

But she was here to do her job, not to ogle. She held up her police badge and hardened her face and voice.

"Detective Kate Beckett, NYPD, and Agent Will Sorenson, FBI. We need to talk to you about a murder that took place earlier today."

For a long beat, Richard Castle simply stared at her, astonished. The redhead leaned up to whisper something in his ear, taking the pen from his fingers. Beckett's mouth was dry, watching him watch her, waiting for her words to sink in.

"Come on, buddy, let's get it moving," Sorenson rapped out, breaking the spell. Beckett cleared her throat, clipping her badge back onto her waistband. Castle blinked, his throat working as he nodded.

"Yeah. Yes. Sure thing, of course, always glad to help New York's Finest," he stammered, regaining his aplomb by the end of the sentence. "And it certainly was nice of them to send their finest for me," he added, casting his gaze down Beckett's figure and back up again, his smirk reappearing. She took a deep breath, firmly shoving down the fluttering in her belly.

"Shut up," Sorenson barked, bristling, imposing his body between Beckett and Castle. "Come on." He took the other man's arm and pushed him toward the exit, using more force than necessary.

"Will," Beckett chided. He shot her a glare over his shoulder. She glared back, but to no avail - he had already turned away. Damn him.

Beckett and her team reconvened outside the door to the interrogation room. "The Fisk file," said Ryan, handing it over.

"Thanks," Beckett said, glancing through the pages summarizing an earlier murder that they had almost been ready to relegate to the cold-case pile. "Can't believe I didn't see that connection before." She shook her head, frowning.

"Hey, but you caught it now though," Ryan said, and she gave him a tight smile, acknowledging the attempt, if nothing else.

"Yo," Esposito put in, "you gonna tag-team it with Mister Feebie, or what? He looks too grumpy for a good-cop-bad-cop routine. I mean, unless you're gonna play the good cop," he added in a tone of extreme skepticism. Beckett let that go with just a slight head-shake and eye-roll.

"Yeah, he's going to sit in. You boys can watch from observation. Maybe you'll learn something," she added, quirking an eyebrow. They both groaned in faux-injury, clutching their chests.

"Something funny?" Sorenson asked, approaching with his own handful of file folders and paperwork. Beckett turned to face him coolly as the others moved off toward the observation room.

"Nope. You ready?"

"Kate..." Sorenson cocked his head, studying her. "Are you sure you can do this?"

She gritted her teeth against a surge of irritation. "Are you questioning my ability to do my job?"

"No! No, of course not," he denied, lifting his free hand in a gesture of surrender. "I'm just saying..." He lowered his hand and his voice, glancing around quickly. "He is your favorite author, after all."

"Not tonight," she said decisively, slapping the folder shut in her hands. "Tonight, he's a person of interest in a murder investigation. That's all."

AN: Thanks for reading! This story will be six chapters, posted every 2-3 days.

Credit goes to LordOfKavaka for the lovely cover art; to Meg Moore for brainstorming/outlining/plotting assistance; and to ipreferwestside for betaing. Thank you all!

As you may know, this site has been having some issues with uploading and posting recently. I'll be cross-posting this story on AO3 so you can find it there if ffnet decides to start being cranky again.