My thanks to my husband and Nerwen Aldarion for the first reviews and encouragement. If you're hoping for the story behind Exquisite Hell, my apologies, this isn't it. But it's coming, someday. Story title, "As Good As On Paper" is a working title and may change at some point.
Revision December 2011:
In case you missed it, this is a SEASON TWO story. Castle and Beckett have not yet figured out they're in love, Kate never met Tom Demming, Castle never rekindled things with Gina, and Chet is still alive. In other words, this story goes A/U (Alternate Universe) in late season 2. There are spoilers for some Season Two episodes.
The story opens in September 2010.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Hold the Coffee
Detective Kate Beckett hovered just inside the break room, her hand over her nose and mouth. "Oh," she grimaced, suddenly very still.
Rick Castle turned toward her, bright green mug in hand and eyes round in surprise. "What's wrong?" His sharp eyes took in her suddenly pale skin, "Are you sick?"
"No, I—Yes!" Beckett spun on her heel and fast walked down the hall to the restroom. Castle watched her go in confusion before turning back to the espresso machine.
Moments later, he meandered into the bullpen, one eye on the door as he perched on the edge of Ryan's desk. "Did you lose a bet?"
"That tie. You lost a bet right?" Esposito looked up from his own desk and caught Castle's eye. He grinned behind Ryan's back.
"Ah, Right. Very funny."
Castle was all innocence, "What?" He set the steaming green mug down, while he sipped his own latte.
Ryan smoothed the brightly colored satin, "Jenny gave me this. It's our anniversary."
Castle choked on his latte. Recovering, he was aghast "You mean you wore that on purpose?"
There was a sudden fit of coughing from Esposito. "Which anniversary is this, Bro?" Esposito inquired, "Seven months? Eight months? Eight and a half?"
Ryan glared at Esposito's back and Castle equally. "Very funny," he reached for something to drink, "You guys are hilarious." He was lifting Castle's second mug for a taste when Castle noticed.
"Whoa!" Castle pulled the green mug away, "That's Beckett's, sorry." Then he cursed as hot coffee splashed over the side of his own cup and onto his fingers.
"Here ya go, Bro," Esposito handed Castle a wad of tissues.
"Oh don't thank me, it's Ryan's anniversary gift."
"Tissue, the approved anniversary gift for a 38 week relationship."
"One year, it's our one year—"
"Ryan, you and Esposito pull our vic's financials." Beckett had returned to the bullpen. The two detective's raised their eye brows at each other in silent commentary at Beckett's unexpectedly terse tone. She seated herself at Vi-Cap and began entering info. Castle, carrying the two mugs of coffee, returned to his seat.
"Yeah, kind of odd how that came on me so fast." She shrugged, "Just nauseous."
Castle set her mug in front of her then took his seat, "Maybe—"
"Oh, God!" Beckett covered her mouth and nose, rolling swiftly away from her desk.
"The coffee—Get it away!"
Startled, Castle leaped up, whisking both mugs away to the break room. A moment later he returned.
"Davis had a restraining order against our vic six months ago." Beckett's attention was absorbed completely by her work.
Castle's eyes narrowed as he inspected her appearance, taking in her still pale face. "Detective Beckett?" he resumed his usual seat without taking his eyes off her. "You okay?"
Beckett nodded, "For some reason the smell of coffee isn't agreeing with me today." She didn't look away from her screen.
Castle settled back into his chair, staring at Beckett with an odd expression. So intent was he that he didn't even hear her follow up question. "No idea," he stared at his hands, folded in his lap, "How long has the smell of coffee made you nauseous?"
"Just today," Beckett didn't immediately look up. "Were you even listening to my question?" she glanced over and cocked a brow at him.
"No," he leaned forward murmuring, "Does anything else affect you that way?"
"Yes," Beckett snapped, "Coffee breath." Her eyes flashed in annoyance. "Are we going to solve a murder today or are we going to sit around comparing nose hairs?"
"Murder. Your nostrils are far too dainty for counting nose hairs."
Beckett rolled her eyes as she turned back to the screen.
"Before we get back to the case," Castle's voice was pitched for her ears alone, "Can I ask you a serious question?"
Slowly, almost unwillingly, Beckett turned back to Castle, her fingers still poised over the keys, "A serious question, Castle? I might fall over in shock." A small line appeared between her brows, belying her sardonic tone. She bit her lip slightly, waiting for the question.
Castle leaned closer, his head tipped so his breath blew away from her face. She held her breath anyway. "I've really only seen someone react to smells so strongly once, and then," he paused, licking his lips. Beckett frowned slightly, waiting for him to finish. "Detective, is it possible," his slight frown mirrored hers as he leaned closer, his lips to her ear, "Could you be pregnant?"
Beckett sucked a breath in as she snapped straight up in her chair, furious. She wavered slightly at the scent of coffee clinging to him. "What?" Her eyes narrowed.
"I'm just asking—"
Beckett cut him off. "None of your business—" she didn't finish the thought before spewing, "Where I go, and who I sleep with is—"
"I'm just asking—" Castle pulled away from her furious expression, his hands raised as in self-defense, "because the smell—"
"I'm not pregnant!" she hissed for his ears alone. She turned back to Vi-Cap then spun back to whisper furiously, "And if I were, it certainly wouldn't be yours!"
"Am I interrupting something?" It was Lanie Parish, the medical examiner. So intent were they on their argument, neither heard her approach.
"No!" Identical scowls passed between them, highlighting the mutual lie.
Brows delicately arched, Lanie looked from one to the other. "If that's nothing, I'd hate to be around when you two decide to have a knock-down-drag-out—"
"What is it, Lanie?"
Lanie's eyebrows shot up further at Beckett's abrupt tone. "Well, Beckett, when you're finished not arguing with Castle, I've got Nelson's identification in about fifteen minutes."
Beckett nodded to Lanie, coldly turning away from Castle.
"Do you want to meet me at Guedo's or walk over together?"
Castle sat up straighter, "Guedo's? As in the cantina over on E 29th and 3rd?"
Beckett answered as though Castle had never spoken. "I will wait and we can walk over together." The subtle emphasis on I making it clear who was invited and who was not.
Castle frowned at Beckett who deliberately ignored him.
"I'll let you get back to—" Lanie glanced from one to the other again, "—not arguing."
A frosty silence lingered in the wake of Lanie's departure as Castle watched Beckett pretend he didn't exist. "You're going out with Lanie?"
"You're going out drinking." It was not a question.
"Yes," Beckett replied calmly, "and it's none of your business who I wake up with in the morning."
There was a beat and Castle muttered, "We both know that won't be happening."
Her eyes narrowed dangerously, "What's that supposed to mean?"
He gave her a level look, "I am referring to your preference for sneaking out in the middle of the night instead of waking up in bed with your—"
Beckett flushed, her mouth dropping open in outrage. She recovered and retorted, "Maybe I don't bother sticking around for men who clearly aren't up to scratch." A quick downward flick of her eyes made her meaning abundantly clear.
Castle sat straight up, furious. He opened his mouth, and snapped it shut again. He leaned forward, hissing, "Fine. Sleep with whatever pregnophile will have you. But alcohol and pregnancy—"
"Pregnophile?" Beckett was incredulous, "Where—" She closed her eyes for a second and gave a little shake of her head, as though to clear it. When she spoke again, her voice was controlled and icy.
"You are not my husband or my lover or even my partner and what you think has no bearing what so ever on what I do!" Beckett leaned closer to be sure the few detectives left in the bullpen did not over hear. "As I already explained, I am not pregnant," she glared at him.
He glared back, his knuckles were white, so hard was he gripping the arms of his chair.
"So, unless you have anything meaningful to contribute to the case," she turned away, "You can leave me to get my work done."
"Fine." Castle rose and stalked away. Beckett did not watch him go.
A half hour later someone cast a shadow over Beckett's desk. She looked up, hoping it would be Lanie. Seeing Castle, she rolled her eyes and sighed. She leaned back in her chair, "Now what?" Her arms were crossed over her chest.
He didn't smile, only took his seat. His brow furrowed as he carefully chose his words. "It is not my intention to annoy you, irritate you, or weasel you into doing anything you don't want to do."
"And yet somehow, that is exactly why you're here."
A glimmer of a smile teased at the corner of his mouth, then flitted so swiftly away she wondered if she'd imagined it. "If I'm satisfied you—" he looked around, verifying they were alone before beginning again, "If I'm satisfied you aren't pregnant," his blue eyes bore into hers, "I will go home and leave you alone for the rest of the week."
One eyebrow arched in eloquent reply. "Mighty generous offer for a Thursday evening." She regarded him coldly. "What? You want me to take a pregnancy test or something?" For answer, he reached into his sports coat and the corner of a small white box appeared behind his lapel. "You're joking!" Beckett's arms uncrossed and she sat up straighter. "I'm not pregnant," she hissed again, "I'm extremely careful—"
"And yet you feel unmistakably queasy at a scent you previously enjoyed," Castle leaned toward her again, running his hand through his hair, "Look, the thought of you going out with Lanie, not knowing for certain is making me nuts."
Beckett opened her mouth to argue. He raised a hand and she remained silent. "I think you will concede that if you are, in fact, pregnant," he held her gaze with his own, "there is," he hesitated, suddenly less sure of himself, "a reasonable chance the child would be mine."
Beckett's mouth flattened into a thin line, and two red spots appeared in her cheeks. She crossed her arms and looked away, but did not deny it.
Castle sighed but continued. "If you would take a few moments to do this small thing, if for no other reason than for my peace of mind, I would be extremely grateful."
Castle did all he could to keep his gaze neutral as her dark green eyes stared into his. His voice was very quiet. "If it's negative, I'll go home and never say another word about it."
"Fine." Beckett's tone was clipped as she pulled her purse out of the desk drawer, holding it open as Castle dropped the white box into its depths. He gazed up into her face, his lips parted as though he wanted to speak, but her heels were already clicking down the hall. He watched her until she disappeared from view.
Reviews are wonderful, and constructive criticism is always appreciated.
Guedo's Cantina & Taco Shop can be found in downtown Chandler, AZ. It's always our first stop on the way to Grandma's from the airport. I recommend the super veggie bean and rice burrito. It's gooooood!