Lightning Flashes - Chapter 6
"Why not?" she hears from the office as she steps into the loft and the greeting she'd been about to yell dies on her lips. The voice isn't tinny like it would be on a speaker phone, so that tells her Rick isn't alone and she would be interrupting.
"Because, Paula," he says in return, the sigh evident in his voice, "I just don't want to. Not right now."
"Well, Ricky, you've got to do something. You've got a book coming out in a couple of months and you've barely been seen. It's like you've fallen off the face of the earth."
Kate hears her friend snort. "I've been out–"
"One time in months does not count."
"I've been a little busy lately, Paula. Between Alexis, doing the final edits so I can get said book out in the next couple of months, and starting a new book, I'm not–"
"Uh huh, you need to be. This is your life now, Richard. Learn to juggle everything. Including keeping up with your social life; recluses don't sell books."
Kate snorts at that logic.
"Um, recluses do sell books – plenty of them – because it adds to the mystery," Rick says, reading her mind.
"Details. The point is you are not a recluse. You've made a name for yourself a certain way and it's not in your best interest to forget that."
She hears Rick sigh. "I'll keep that in mind, Paula. Thank you. Was there anything else?"
Paula huffs. "Just think about it, Rick. I'm trying to look out for you. You've worked too hard to let it fizzle out beca–"
"Because of my daughter? My six–month–old daughter that I'm raising alone? Was that what you were going to say?"
Kate frowns at the razor–sharp words. Paula may have a point about his public appearances but she's going too far in insisting that it's a problem because of Alexis.
"I think we're done here, Paula. I'll call you in a few days – once I'm done with my next chapter or two."
That's Kate's cue to look busy – or at the very least look like she hasn't been standing in the middle of Rick Castle's living room listening to him fight with his agent. She looks around quickly, debating making a break to the stairs and up to the nursery so she can pretend she's been with Alexis the whole time. With her luck, though, the baby is in the office with Castle, and she'll look ridiculous (and completely give it all away). As it is, Paula spots her in the kitchen right off the bat, heaving a sigh and rolling her eyes.
"Of course," she says.
Beckett refrains from rolling her eyes in return. "Hello, Paula. Does Rick have an appearance coming up?" she asks, doing her best to seem uninformed.
"That's what we were discussing – well, one of the things. You're open to babysitting, aren't you?"
"I, well, I have before. Alexis is great."
Paula claps her hands. "Perfect. Make sure you tell him that, will you? It's like pulling teeth to get him to do anything now, let alone work on keeping up his reputation."
"Oh, I think his reputation is just fine," Beckett says. "The models and C–list actresses will live without him for a few months," she adds under her breath.
If Paula hears the latter part of her statement, she ignores it. Probably for the best.
"It isn't for me, it's for him," Paula continues. "We've worked too hard to get him on the map to have him drop off the radar, even for a few months. So do it as a favor for him, then."
Kate sighs. "I'll see what I can do. No promises, that's all I can say; Rick can make his own decisions."
Paula eyes her. "Make sure you talk to him – and soon," she insists, moving to the door.
Kate offers a half–assed wave goodbye, shaking her head once Paula is gone.
"Always a pleasure," she mutters, plucking two wine glasses from the drain rack and moving to collect a bottle from Rick's collection. She's here, she might as well pour drinks.
Castle looks up from studying Alexis's face when she steps into his office. Well, she's glad she didn't try heading for the nursery, though maybe she could've hidden at the top of the stairs and avoided that entire conversation with his agent if she'd made the attempt.
"Hey," she says, gesturing with the glasses. "Brought you something."
Shifting the baby, he holds out a hand. "Bless you. I take it you saw Paula?"
Although she hesitates, in the end she nods. Not telling him won't do any good. "And we had another one of our scintillating conversations," she cracks.
"God, I love when you talk like that," he breathes. Kate rolls her eyes even though it is quite the compliment; his appreciation for grammar and a robust vocabulary is unmatched.
"She's pretty ticked at you," Kate murmurs, licking her lips. "Something about your reputation suffering terribly from a lack of blondes and brunettes on your arm?"
He snorts. "Yeah, she mentioned that a few dozen times. She wants me to get out more, meet new people." He shakes his head.
"Well," Kate starts, wondering if she's really about to advocate for this. "How are things going, business–wise? Are your sales still okay?"
Rick tilts his head, eyeing her. "The numbers are okay. Things always slow down a bit in the lull between holidays and appearances and new releases."
She nods. "But it picks up again when you're seen going places?"
Rick shifts Alexis, sipping his wine. "Sales pick up a lot more when I do something stupid, but I'm trying to do less of that these days."
She smiles, nodding in appreciation. 'Boys will be boys' stops flying once one is far enough removed from actual boyhood (and she has a very limited list of behaviors she's personally willing to excuse with that even when one is an adolescent), and now that he has Alexis… it's good that he's thinking a little harder about his actions now.
"She thinks I need to be out there dating and playing the field. Showing everybody that fatherhood hasn't made me boring."
Her stomach lurches at his words. "Dating? Not just making appearances?"
"Well, it was implied that one should accompany the other."
"Ah." Kate lifts her drink to her lips, giving herself time to sort out her thoughts. She's not jealous, per say – hypothetical dates are nothing to be jealous of; there's just so much more to him that always ends up getting lost when he's on a publicity blitz. She doesn't want that to happen again, not now.
She shakes her head. "No reason. Just trying to think about you and your options. And now Paula can get off my back because I've 'talked' to you like she insisted on, too."
He chuckles. "I appreciate that, Kate. It'll be fine, though. Paula's just trying to help me continue to be my wildly successful self. Despite her terrible way of saying it, she means well, and she's probably a little bit right about some things."
Off her look, he presses a kiss to Alexis's head. "Not that part, but the business side… yeah, she's probably right. I'll call her once I hit my next deadline, let her set me up for a night. It'll be fine; it'll probably be fun, too. I mean, an evening with me always is."
She snorts. "Your modesty continues to amaze and overwhelm me, Castle."
Rick snickers only to sober a second later. "Well, I'm not expecting a fix up from Paula to be about me and me having a good time with someone – beyond surface enjoyment, anyway – it's about someone having a good time with me, talking me up to their friends, and making me look good."
He makes sense in a sad kind of way. Paula's job isn't that of a matchmaker to find him love or happiness, it's to get him publicity and advance his notoriety. And she's damn good at it, Kate can give her that.
"I'm starving," Rick says after a moment, changing the subject. "Help me find something for dinner before I have another glass of wine and go back to writing? I haven't been shopping in a couple of days."
She laughs softly, not sure how he can switch gears so quickly like this. Then again, she does the same thing when she gets a call; whatever she's in the middle of gets forgotten in favor of her job. "Sure. Check the freezer, I'll see what you have in the pantry."
She offers to take Alexis once they get into the kitchen, but he shakes his head. "She's my second opinion. Once we confer, we'll run it by you."
Kate snorts. "It's your meal, Rick. You don't have to clear it with me to eat it."
"You're not having any?" he asks, lifting an eyebrow when she looks away. "Uh huh, that's what I thought. I'll pick something we both like."
She turns to the pantry before he can see her grinning.
Weeks go by and they don't talk about the evening of Paula's visit again. Castle finishes more of his book and, true to his word, allows his agent to set him up on the occasional outing, getting his face out there more – usually with a blonde on his arm. They're all innocuous dates for the most part, but it still rubs just a little bit wrong to see him as a teaser on a tabloid as she's buying groceries. She's gotten used to him being a little bit lower key. But he's not exactly complaining either, so she holds her tongue.
Although he asks, she can't watch Alexis much after the first three weeks. She's hit with a deluge of cases at once, each one sapping more of her time as leads dry up and they grow colder, and she grows more determined to find something that will propel them forward in their investigation. Rick notices, of course. He makes a point to send dinner to her a few times a week, even on nights he's scheduled to go out. On nights he doesn't, he encourages her to join him at his place, even if it's just for a midnight snack.
"So, Mandy Michaels, huh?" she teases over a late (extremely late, she has no idea how he's going to be able to sleep after eating as much as he's prepared) dinner. "How's that going?"
Rick laughs a little bit. "Well, I've always enjoyed watching her… forecasts."
"Yeah, right. So, you and the weather girl–woman. Interesting match."
He tilts his head, giving her a droll look. "It's just a couple of fundraisers, Beckett. Everybody wins in this case."
"Well, she did offer to give me a private tour of the news stations, let me play with the chromakey. But no, it's just… fun. Nothing too crazy or scandalous. She's nice."
She nods. He deserves to have some fun; she'll give him that. Even if it does mean playing at a local news station with the primetime weather anchor.
"Now, the woman who gave me her number on her underwear while I was at the fundraiser, that was a crazy da–"
"I think I've heard enough for now, thanks," she cuts in with a wry drawl. "Just remember, half your age plus seven is the minimum for it not to be skeevy."
"Hah hah. Here, taste this," he offers her a bite of his supper. "I added a little of the citrus sauce from the other recipe to it."
She tries it, nodding. "Oh, that's good. It really brightens things up."
Rick smiles at her. "Yeah, we can try it this way next time."
"Mmm, sounds good."
They nibble in silence, giving her the opportunity (or misfortune) to mull over her cases once more. There has to be something they're missing, some piece that will make things fall into place.
"Kate, you've got to let it rest for tonight. You've been going nonstop for days. Just… take a break."
"I can't. There's something we're overlooking."
"You'll be back at it in the morning, won't you?" Off her nod, he continues, "So take a break tonight. Rest your brain and recharge. Then go back to it fresh tomorrow."
She sighs. "There's just so much. I've had so many cases drop in my lap lately and they all need me."
"Even more reason for you to rest," Rick insists. "Stay here tonight. I washed the stuff you left here last time, and your toothbrush and other stuff are still here, too. So, you don't even have to worry about clothes or stinky breath."
She hesitates. If she stays, there'll be no leaving for the precinct in a few hours to get a jump on things. He'll make sure she doesn't get out of there until just before her shift. It'll be a normal day for her with an abnormally large workload. On the other hand, she's exhausted, she's there, and his place is so damn comfortable.
"I can't dawdle in the morning," she warns.
Her friend grins. "Understood. Actually, Alexis and I have to be up early, too, so it's not going to be a problem to have you up and about before your shift. It never is, of course, but it'll be even less of an issue since we'll be up, too."
She sips her wine. "Okay, okay, I get it. I'll stay."
Rick practically dances in his seat, making her shake her head in affection.
She's ashamed to admit that she looks around his bathroom as she gets ready for bed a little while later, scanning half–heartedly for any signs of his "friends" in his space. All she finds is the case of stuff she'd brought over after the night Meredith dropped Alexis on his doorstep and she started staying over more often.
Shame colors her cheeks as she wets her toothbrush and brushes her teeth. She doesn't own Rick. He's free to date or date anyone he pleases; he's free to have them in his space if he wants, or never have them at his place. It's not up to her to dictate to him, even in her own head. He's not hers to claim.
"Don't fall asleep at the sink, Kate," he warns from just outside the door. "You'll hit your head and get blood all over the tile. And then our trip to the ER will keep all of us from sleeping."
Beckett laughs around her toothbrush, leaning over to spit before she responds. "Duly noted. I'm almost done."
"Take your time, but just remember there's a mattress and a pillow with your name on it out here."
She wipes her mouth on a towel, smiling into the cloth.
"I'm coming, I'm coming."
His head lifts when she opens the door, and she's struck by how easy and comfortable he looks in his night clothes, just waiting for her like this. Like they do this every night.
"All yours," she murmurs, stepping around him, careful not to touch. "Thanks for getting more of my face wash."
Rick tilts his head, his eyes sparking with mischief. "Oh, you use that, too? That's convenient."
Kate laughs, moving to the bed as he ducks into the bathroom.
She vaguely registers him joining her a few minutes later. He doesn't say a word, but she feels the quick brush of his foot over her ankle as he pulls the covers up to their shoulders and settles in. Kate drifts off a few minutes later.
Suffice to say, she's grateful for his insistence and persistence in getting her to stay when she gets pulled into another case – in a partnership with Narcotics, no less – the next morning.
Thank you for reading! I promise this story is still alive and I appreciate your patience as life rears its pesky head and sometimes gets in the way of my fic-writing, editing, and posting plans.
Until next time!