"Hey, Mand, how's it goin'?"

Kate stopped in her tracks at the entryway to the large office and watched, jaw gaping, as Rick Castle breezed in ahead of her.

Had that insufferable asshole just called the Director of Public Works for the City of New York "Mand?"

Amanda Blenkensop-Clarke was probably the most powerful woman in the city, and she knew it. Her office oversaw all construction and maintenance of infrastructure – sewers, cable conduits and the like – and was ultimately in charge of the water and electrical supplies as well. Even the folks in the Planning section kowtowed to Ms. Blenkensop-Clarke.

And as if this first surprise wasn't enough, Kate was pretty sure that, when Castle closed in to kiss the old woman on a leathery cheek, she reached around and grabbed his ass, giving it a good, firm kneading for a couple of seconds before releasing him and smiling up at the much younger man with a devilish gleam in her eye. And he had let her do it, too. In fact, he had even seemed to expect it.

Kate, still a bit overwhelmed by the lengths Castle would go to get what he wanted, walked forwards so she could be introduced. By the time she was in position beside Rick, now standing a respectable distance away from the frisky septuagenarian, the homicide detective had once again schooled her features and essayed a ghost of a smile as she extended her hand.

"Pleased to meet you, ma'am," Kate intoned, inclining her head slightly. After all, this was almost like an encounter with royalty.

"Oh, pish-tosh, young lady!" the woman exclaimed. "You're a friend of Ricky's, Katie, dear. Please call me Mandy. And sit, sit."

Gesturing broadly, the director led them to a comfortable furniture grouping on the other side of her desk with a panoramic view through floor-to-ceiling windows of a large expanse of Lower Manhattan.

"Now, Ricky, what can I do for you, you darling boy?" the director gushed. Her hand twitched in her lap for a moment before settling back down and twining its fingers with those of its mate. Kate tried to keep a straight face when she realized that if Castle had been sitting about a foot closer, that hand would probably be on his knee right now.

"Well, Mand," Castle said, licking his lips and grinning sheepishly to give the impression that he was unsure whether to ask or not, "Detective Beckett and I –"

He paused and swung his head around to look at Kate for a moment and lifted his shoulders a tiny bit in a mischievous shrug. Kate figured this was intended to cast a sense of intrigue and even naughtiness over the whole affair. She decided to wait and let Castle play this out whichever way he wanted and raised her eyebrows at him before he turned back to the director.

"That is, Katie and I," he continued, "have a little problem, and we were hoping you could help us out."

The funny thing was this woman, who was obviously not and had never been stupid, was eating Castle's little charade up like cotton candy at a fair. She couldn't possibly fall for the boyish charm thing, could she? Especially when it was so decidedly faked, too.

Kate watched in wonder as Rick continued to work his magic, transforming Mandy into a preening, simpering, pathetic approximation of sex appeal, ready to do whatever he asked as long as he made her feel like a young girl again.

Castle outlined what they were looking for and, Kate had to admit, adroitly skirted explaining exactly why, even when pressed to do so by the director. He deflected her with a whole array of smiles, charming grimaces and body language that was more suitable for a bar at midnight than these sober and somber surroundings. By the time he was finished, Kate was holding a computer disk with all the information they needed. The small bit of shiny plastic contained otherwise highly confidential information about the City's planned changes to certain details of its core workings which, in the wrong hands, would represent a veritable golden goose for its possessor.

After Rick had permitted another minor violation of his person and they had made their goodbyes, the pair descended from the director's office and walked out into the humid sunshine, pausing for a moment on the pavement to adjust to the shimmering heat.

"You do realize that was sexual harassment," Kate stated dryly as she pulled the straps of her bag up over her shoulder. She wanted that disk as close by as possible until it was completely secure again at Headquarters.

"Oh, I don't mind being harassed a bit," Castle said. He grinned at her widely, what she was coming to recognize as his I-just-did-something-extremely-clever-so-aren't-you-going-to-praise-me? grin, and quickly turned his back to her while bending over slightly and flipping up the bottom edge of his jacket as he did so. "As a matter of fact, you can have a go, if you want," he said, offering his tush up in a generous manner.

Kate groaned. "Grow up, Castle," she said conversationally and turned on her heel to start back towards the car they had come in. But not before she took a good, long look at his rather attractive posterior.

Kate, her expression rapt, sat in front of a laptop at a desk in Headquarters and browsed through the contents of the disk. Castle had assured the director that they would only use a computer that was not connected to the Internet or the force's LAN to view the material, they would print or copy nothing, and thoroughly destroy the hard drive when they were done. These directives had strongly impressed on Kate the importance of the information she was viewing even before she got a first glimpse of it.

Castle's sudden sharp raps on the glass surrounding the locked-down area where Kate was working caused her to jump a bit in her chair, and she raised a hand to her forehead, taking a breath to settle her nerves before looking over in his direction. He was juggling what looked like a couple of cardboard trays of Starbucks coffee cups in one hand, the curled-over edge of a large paper bag clamped between his lips as he vigorously rattled the door handle with his free hand. Of course. Kate had also insisted that the disk only be viewed with the door locked.

She got up out of her chair and went over to let Castle in, relieving him of the bag while at the same time gingerly avoiding the slightly wet patch near the top when he released it from his mouth.

"Thought we might need some provisions," he stated cheerily as he followed her over to the desk. "I don't know how you like your coffee, so I got an assortment."

There were, in total, eight Grande paper cups in two layers, which Castle unstacked on the top of the desk in front of them. He grabbed one for himself, adding, "This one's mine. Hot and rich, just the way I like my women."

Kate didn't even bother to roll her eyes at that one as she stood and inspected the remaining cups in front of her.

"What are these?" she asked, intrigued by the one with the large mound of whipped cream with caramel drizzle on top.

Castle, noting which one had drawn her attention, pulled it out of its holder and said, "Oh, you like this one? Very revealing."

Kate snatched the cup from his hand and lifted the plastic protector lid from the top. She scooped a dollop of whipped cream from it with her finger, unconsciously closing her eyes as she licked it off and enjoyed the decadent flavor. Smacking her lips a bit afterwards, she smiled slightly and asked, "Oh? And since you're the expert, what exactly does it reveal?"

Castle reached for the paper bag and ripped it open with a flourish, exposing a selection of Danish, muffins and squares along with various wide straws and long plastic spoons, one of which he extracted from the pile and handed to Kate.

"You'll have to wait for my next book to find out, Detective Beckett. Now, what kind of information did our obliging director provide us with?"

Cups in hand, they moved over to stand in front of the laptop and Kate flipped through some of the pages that appeared as she clicked the mouse from one to the next.

"This is a proposed amendment to the electrical conduit system that would allow the City to quadruple its cable capacity. You can see from the map just which sections it is intended to supply."

"Yes, well, Wall Street, that's logical," Castle commented, knowing there was more to come.

"But this map shows something slightly different. See? The supply is being routed to this unused dock area."

Castle was impressed, and as he looked at the sparkle in Kate's eyes, he could see how excited she was about this valuable new information. And she had every right to be excited because it went a long way to providing the motive for the murders she had been investigating, murders even more bloody and puzzling than anything that Castle had yet written into one of his best-selling Derek Storm novels.

They shared a gaze of complete mutual understanding, which could be, had it occurred under other circumstances, perceived as quite intimate, and Rick was struck when he realized that the detective's devotion to her job was, in some ways, at least, the same as what drove him to write. Detective Katherine Beckett felt a similar if not identical rush from the process of criminal investigation that author Richard Castle did when his mind lit on a way to make the story he was writing fit together and everything about the narrative suddenly fell into place.

When the edges of Castle's mouth turned up a bit and he swayed towards her, Kate broke their connection and turned eagerly back to the computer, sitting down so she could continue browsing through it to look for clues as to who might find this information as profitable as she and Castle figured it could be.

Rick smiled to himself now, then shook his head a bit to clear it. Reaching over, he selected one of the pastries and announced loudly, "Danish?"