Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.
On Saturday evening, the (partially) uncaged lovebirds are in her elevator on their way to the street and then to Perlmutter's apartment.
"Do you think we should show up together, or separately?" Beckett asks.
His response is immediate. "Together."
"Of course you'd say that. But seriously, together or apart? And if we're standing side by side on the doormat, are we there as a couple–"
"You meaning holding hands?"
"I guess. But we could still arrive together and stand there as though nothing is going on between us. Maybe that's a good compromise."
"You do remember that he invited us in one email?"
"I do," she says, striding out of the elevator in the magnificent pair of the boots that she'd bought on the shopping spree with Martha. It seems so long ago. "Doesn't mean he thinks we're together, Castle. Quite the opposite."
"Okay. Together, but apart. We're taking my car."
"No argument from me."
Four miles uptown, Sidney Perlmutter looks around his living room. Everything is in place, including the new and very important prop for the stage that he has been mentally setting for a long time. In the kitchen, the rice is in the cooker, and the rest of the main course is in covered saucepans, staying warm on the back of the stove. The dining table looks handsome with its Indian-print mats and napkins, and a vase full of colorful (he would expect nothing less) flowers that Martha provided. The hors d'oeuvres and glasses are on the coffee table. Perhaps he shouldn't be thinking of them as hors d'oeuvres, since they're vegetable samosas and batata vada. Nothing French about those. When the doorman calls on the intercom to say that the pawns–although he announces them as Ms. Beckett and Mr. Castle–are on their way up, he takes off his apron and hangs it on a hook in the kitchen.
"Beckett and Castle," he says as he opens the door. "Welcome. Please come in. I do love prompt guests." It occurs to him that they are a gorgeous couple. A gorgeous couple who clearly think they're presenting a we're-just-friends-and-colleagues picture, when they might as well have a neon sign over their heads that says WE ARE MADLY IN LOVE AND BARELY MANAGING TO KEEP OUR HANDS OFF EACH OTHER.
"What a beautiful apartment, Perlmutter," she says. "I envy you all this light. North and west, what a combo." She hands him a bottle of wine. "I didn't know what you were making, though I can make a good ballpark guess now, so I bought white. The oenophile here–" she jerks her thumb at Castle, "has red. He didn't say what, but I can guarantee it will put mine in the shade."
"Oops, yes, here's mine," Castle says, presenting him with a bottle of Chateau de la Tour pinot noir. He's so unnerved by the extravagance that he almost drops it.
"Thank you. Totally unnecessary but I'm delighted. We'll have both of them. Why don't I open them and you make yourselves comfortable? We can start with Beckett's Sauvignon blanc and let the red breathe." While he's in the kitchen busying himself with that, he wonders where they'll sit. He bets one will be on the sofa, and the other on a chair. When he returns to the living room with the two bottles he silently congratulates himself. She's on the sofa, he's on a chair.
They briefly talk shop, but as soon as Castle devours a flaky samosa–"Oh my God, this is incredible"–the talk turns to Indian food.
"Try not to drool," Beckett says, passing her partner a cocktail napkin. "Did you take a CIA class in this, Perlmutter?"
"No. I worked in a hospital in the Himalayas for a year, not long after med school, and that got me started." And that, he realizes, gives him the perfect entry. "Got me started on chess, too."
"You play chess?" Castle asks.
"Didn't you notice the board over there in the corner?" Beckett says. "Some detective you are."
"Well, as you're so fond of reminding me, I don't actually have a badge."
The ideal prompt for him to jump in. "Do you play, Castle?"
"No. Chinese checkers is more my speed."
"I do," Beckett says. "My father taught me, but I haven't played in ages. I miss it. That set looks interesting. Do you mind if I take a look?"
Mind? Why would he mind? He's ecstatic that she's taken the bait. "Not at all. Please do. I bought it just a couple of weeks ago. Maybe we could have a game sometime." Maybe we could have a game, oh my.
She walks around the corner of the sofa and bends over slightly to examine the black-and-white acrylic set. "Wow! Castle, come look at this. All the pieces are New York City buildings. The Freedom Tower is the king, right? Even though it's not quite finished. Empire State Building is the queen, Flatiron is the knight. Oh, and Castle, you'll like this." She smiles and points. "The Guggenheim is the rook. You really should play this game if one of the pieces is called the rook."
By now he has joined her, and there's less than half an inch of space between their shoulders. "What are the pawns?"
Sidney Perlmutter seldom dances, but at this moment he's aching to throw himself into a jig and sing, "You are! You two are the pawns!" Instead he walks over sedately and explains, "They're brownstones."
"That's perfect," Castle says. "The classic old Manhattan row house."
"It looks like you're in the middle of a game," Beckett says.
"I am. Nearly finished. Just a move or two away." He stifles a smile. "Would you like to eat?"
"Yes, please," Castle says. "I'm starving."
"Me, too. It smells fantastic."
He waves a hand at the table, "Please, sit down. Everything's ready. I just have to put things in serving dishes. Castle's wine should be ready to pour, if you'd like to do the honors."
In the kitchen, he checks his watch. Perfect timing. He steps closer to the door, but not so close that the others can see him. Sure enough, Beckett has noticed. She's lowered her voice, but he can still hear her.
"Do you think someone else is coming? There's a fourth place setting."
"There must be. Funny he didn't say anything."
He pops the naan into the microwave to warm, and spoons the rice into a bowl. Just as he's ladling the chicken tikka masala into another bowl, the doorbell chimes. His fellow Cupid is right on schedule. "Castle?" he calls out. "Would you mind getting that? My hands are full and I'm sure it's my other dinner guest." He picks up the two dishes, and lurks in the doorway to watch.
"Hello, I'm–. Mother?" He takes an involuntary step backward as if he's just been hit by a 250-pound linebacker.
"Hello, darling," she says, preceded by a cloud of perfume and tangerine-colored gloves. "And Katherine! How lovely to see you."
Castle has not budged; Beckett, who is either slightly less stunned than he or shocked into movement or both, walks quickly to Martha and gives her a hug. "Lovely to see you, too. What is that wonderful perfume?"
"Do you like it? I picked it for this evening. Guerlain Samsara. Samsara is Sanskrit for flowing around." She twirls her gloves. "Very important in Indian philosophy."
"Mother?" Castle repeats, though at a more normal pitch and not the squeak of a little boy.
"Yes, dear. I'm glad you recognized me, even though I changed my signature scent. We most flow with the times. Speaking of flowing, where's our host?"
That's his cue to re-enter the living room. "Right here, Martha. I apologize for not greeting you myself, but I was up to my elbows in food. Thank you for the flowers. They're perfect, as you can see. Please do sit down. I'm sorry you said that couldn't be here for the appetizers, but there's plenty of dinner to eat." He puts the rice and chicken on trivets on the tabletop and squeezes Martha on the shoulder. "I'll just go get the bread and the vegetables. Please, do start helping yourselves and I'll be right back. Don't want anything getting cold." Cold? Ha. The heat the pawns are generating could roast a turkey without an oven.
When he returns with a basket of naan and a bowl of spinach and cauliflower bhaji his guests are passing things around. "Ah, this is nice," he says, taking a seat. "I think four is perfect for supper. Makes conversation so easy."
Castle appears to be choking.
"Are you all right? Too spicy for you?"
"No, no." He takes several sips of water. "Not at all. It's great. I'm just surprised to see my mother. Here, I mean. At your house."
"Oh, yes, he invited me–when was it, Sidney? Monday?"
He nods, keeping an eye on the pawns' reaction. "Yes, Monday. We met for coffee at that new place on Ninth Avenue and you were telling me about the preview you'd seen of What Time Is It? And you said, 'It's not ready for prime time, that's for sure'."
"And then you said," she stops and tosses her hair dramatically. He notices that the color is almost identical to that of her gloves. "'I think we are, though'."
"Ready for what?" Castle's fork, dripping with masala sauce, has stopped halfway between his mouth and his plate.
"Prime time, sweetheart. This dinner. The end of the chess game."
"You don't even play chess, Mother."
"Oh, I think you'll be surprised."
"Uh, if I may break in here," Beckett interjects. "On the subject of surprise, I didn't realize that you two–you and Perlmutter, Martha–even knew each other."
"We're good friends."
"You are?" Castle sounds as shocked as he looks.
It's his turn. "We are, indeed. We discovered that we have some interests in common when we bumped into each other outside an off-Broadway show. Your mother had an extra ticket and saw me in the returns line, and that was that."
"I recognized him from the Precinct holiday party. It was such a relief to see him. You can't imagine the scruffiness of the other people in that line. I couldn't have borne sitting next to any of them."
A wide-eyed Beckett turns to him. "Do you go to the theater a lot?"
Not the first question he'd expected, but that's fine. "Oh, yes. I'm amazed that Martha and I had never seen each other at a play before that one."
"How is it that I never heard about this, Mother?"
"Well, I'm sure that I'd have told you, except for another interest that the good doctor and I learned that we shared. Now let me have a few bites of this sensational meal."
He can see Castle squirming, but he can also see that he's enjoying his food.
A few silent minutes elapse before Martha makes an enthusiastic request. "You must give this divine chicken recipe to my son, Sidney."
"It would be my pleasure."
"Thank you," Castle says.
"Yes, thank you," Beckett adds, immediately before a panicked look comes into her eyes. Yes, she has given something away. He can easily draw the inference that Castle is cooking for her. She must really be rattled.
"To return to the subject of chess, Perlmutter, did you teach my mother how to play?"
"Not exactly. But I'd say you put the game in motion, wouldn't you, Martha?"
She happily hums her assent.
"It's not the traditional game of chess."
"It's a variation. Sidney came up with the name."
"I did. We call it Cupids' Chess. Martha is Cupid A, and I'm Cupid B. We're not opponents, as we would be in ordinary chess; we're on the same side. It would be more accurate to say that we're on the sidelines. We're coaches, coaching the players."
"The players? Who are the players?" Castle asks, a certain amount of desperation in his voice. Dawn appears to breaking on Beckett's face, but not on his.
"The two of you. Oh, kiddos, you needed a nudge. I played what Sidney called the opening gambit, with Katherine."
Beckett jumps to her feet. "Wait! Wait." Her eyes narrow. "It was the shoe sale, wasn't it? You softened me up with that and then when we had coffee afterwards you were telling me that Castle and I were so good for each other. You were trying to throw us together."
"It's true. You're meant for each other and it was obvious to Sidney, not just to me, that you're crazy about each other. But neither one of you would make a move, and that was driving me crazy. Hence Cupids' Chess. And then Sidney played his opening gambit, which was to give that peanut brittle to Richard."
Beckett plops down on her chair, waving her napkin as if in surrender. "I knew it. I knew it. I didn't really suspect you, Martha, but I was sure that Perlmutter was up to something. When he sent that dinner invitation email I said to Castle that I really did think he was playing Cupid and that maybe we should bring him a little red bow and some little red arrows."
"I'm afraid that Martha and I called you our pawns, but all in a good cause."
Castle comes to life at last. "How do you now it worked?" His sham indignation would fool a lot of people, but no one in this room. "What makes you think that Beckett and I are together?"
He can't hold off any longer, and he gives in to the urge to laugh. And laugh and laugh, and so does Martha. She's the first to speak.
"As you're fond of saying, Richard, you can't be serious. The blind could see that you two are in love. The insensate would be tingling with it. And as your mother I have to tell you that I could set a clock by when you sneak out to Katherine's every night, and when you return. As Sidney said when I told him, a couple of weeks ago, 'I believe this could be checkmate'. "
"Oh, my God," Castle groans, and buries his face in his hands.
He turns his attention to Beckett. Her cheeks are bright red, and she has pushed her chair away from the table. Is she going to bolt? Have he and Martha overstepped their bounds? He watches the detective move to Martha's side, then put her arms around her and kiss her on the cheek. And then she moves over a chair and does the same to him. After which she goes to Castle, pulls his hands away from his cheeks, and kisses him on the lips for an astonishingly long time.
"There," she says a little short of breath. "Castle may be mortified, and I admit that I'm embarrassed. But thank you, Cupid A and B. I wish that I had brought those bows and arrows, though at the moment the other pawn might use them to shoot you. I, on the other hand, am grateful." She pushes her hair off her forehead and smiles. "Wings, I should have brought you wings, too. And not to rush you, Perlmutter, but are we having dessert? I'm dying for something sweet. Being with Castle gives me a hell of an appetite."
Castle is still gaping, but finally says, "How much have you had to drink, Kate?"
"Almost nothing. But I feel so free. And happy. Funny that we thought we'd played them, isn't it? When they're the ones who played us."
Later, over the decidedly unIndian dessert of chocolate mousse that has loosened Castle's tongue, they swap stories of the last several weeks. But at the end of the evening, it's Beckett who truly surprises him with her forthrightness.
"Martha," she says, as they're all buttoning on their coats. "Is Alexis at home?"
"No, she's spending the night at her friend Page's."
"Good. Would you mind if I stayed at the loft tonight?" She grabs Castle's hand. "Lover boy here has been saying that his bed is more comfortable than mine, and it's about time I found out."
A/N Today, September 29, is National Coffee Day, which seems like a good time to wrap up a Castle-and-Beckett story. And to those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Shana Tova! Thank you all for being here when so many Castle fans long ago abandoned this site. It's always wonderful to hear from you. Until next time!