Yay, oh look, it's a story that's actually not a oneshot! Woo! XD Apologies to my non-Castle readers, but I'm OBSESSED with Castle, so forgive me if my attention is somewhat commanded. ^^

If you've ready my previous pair of Castle oneshots, "Keep Your Finger On The Pulse" and "Downbeat," then you are aware that I ship Lanie/Esposito. (I STILL say they are just subtext waiting to happen. XD ) SO. This story won't be TOO long, but it WILL be multi-chapter and it WILL focus on that pairing. You might have to go read at LEAST "Downbeat" to get parts of this story. Here's a teaser trailer for ya: Beckett gets crafty…

And that's all I'm gonna say. ;] Happy reading.



It was pretty quiet around the precinct that morning. Lot of people were out getting evidence or questioning witnesses, even all the way down to the ones who weren't really into 'field work,' like Karpowski and Stegner. Beckett herself was waiting on a few surveillance tapes and photos, which the ever-trusty Ryan and Esposito were out gathering right now, and for once, there was really nothing to do in the interim. A classic example of a case locked at stalemate - their only suspects were already interrogated and their alibis depended on the surveillance. Roughly translated, for the non street-pounding few, that's a morning off. Even Writermonkey must have sensed the lull, because he'd detached from her hip and wandered off a short while ago.

Downtime didn't come around often - for Beckett especially - so when it did, it meant a little alone time with the cappuccino machine. Verboten in the presence of gloating authors, sure, but boy, did it ever make a fine cup of joe.

She'd taken her favorite mug - the green, polka-dotted one with the ironic mantra of 'Innocent Bystander' on it - home to be washed, so the detective really didn't think much of it at she reached for the rack of stoneware for a replacement. Plucking out one of the standard white ones that featured the precinct shield, Beckett smiled to herself as she found that it belonged to one of her own team, reading the Post-It label on the bottom. 'Kevin Ryan, no touching, I will find you,' it read. Bad move, Detective, she thought. Never tell a girl not to do something. Her luck was getting more and more awesome today.

It only took a second to shove in a new pot and press a few buttons, and Beckett was on the road to a caffeine fix. Sliding her swiped perfect substitute under the nozzle, she allowed herself to savor the rich coffee aroma as a stream of dark roast trickled into the ceramic. Thankfully, nobody interrupted her this time, and after a quarter-cup of steamed milk and a shot or two of caramel - though she'd deny that last one to the death - Beckett picked up her beverage and a stirring stick and wandered out into the mostly-empty bullpen.

Or, wandering out is what she would have done, if she weren't rooted to her spot from the second she'd turned around. No, instead, she'd spotted Castle coming out of Montgomery's office, and it was quiet enough that she could make out everything they were saying, so long as she didn't move a muscle. Sometimes the urge to eavesdrop was just too powerful.

"Sorry 'bout this, Castle," Captain was saying, clapping the author on the shoulder. "In-laws wait for no man."

"But you'll be there next week? The mayor's looking forward to it."

"Oh, absolutely. I'd sell the in-laws before I'd miss a chance to win my dignity back. Just don't tell the wife."

Castle chuckled at the joke, trading a wave-like gesture with the captain as the elder man disappeared back into his office. By the time he went to turn around, Beckett had swooped in and was right under his nose.

The writer jumped. "Jeez! How do you do that? You're like a stealthy superfreak Marvel character."

"What were you talking to Captain Montgomery about?" Beckett asked. She eyed Castle with a curious, if not utterly suspicious expression. Somewhere between dead serious and cracking a grin, as if he was the class clown with a frog and she was the teacher who knew it was going in the desk.

"He can't make it to the poker game; he…wanted to let me know in advance…?"

It was amusing to see how nervous he sounded when he answered that. Beckett had him right where she wanted him. Knowing that, she let him stew while she processed his response for a few seconds.

'The poker game' meant thee Poker Game, of course: the one Castle was holding over all their heads, in his tireless effort to make the one game the squad had attended into a more regular affair. It had taken him a good long while and a have-to-appreciate kind of effort to find a clear spot in everybody's schedules, but he'd done it, and the hand-printed, casino-style invitations he'd had Alexis write out were just charming enough to guilt everybody into going. Beckett included.

The game was on Friday. Three days away. For some reason, the thought of Friday reminded Beckett of how she'd spent the last Friday, and her conversation with Lanie - a talk that had been tossing around in her mind off and on ever since - and somehow the combination of that and Captain's withdrawal started the gears turning in her head….

"And don't worry. I won't tell anyone - that you swiped Ryan's mug, I mean. The frothy coffee thing, on the other hand, I plan to spread around. Nice choice. Very 'dark side.'"

It had only been a few seconds, but Beckett's space-out was effective enough that Castle's obnoxiousness snapped her back to attention. She would have shot him a glare, but she was too busy making up her mind to meddle. "I want you to invite Lanie to the game," she blurted.

Castle's eyebrows crawled toward the refuge of his hairline. "I'm sorry - you, asking me for a favor? Well well well, isn't this quite the turn of events. What brought this on?"

"I just…" Am not going to break my friend's trust by letting YOU know, that's for sure…. "Want to make sure somebody fills that seat who can take you down, is all." Kate kept her tone mysterious and competitive.

Rick wasn't buying it. He crossed his arms. "Is that so?"

"Think about it, Castle… You, me, Ryan, Esposito and Martha - that's an uneven table… Gotta keep it fair, after all."

"Well, I - "

"Imagine, winning all that takeaway. You don't want the guys saying you rigged the table to win, do you?"

He adopted an 'a-HA' look and snapped his fingers. "Ooh! I'll uninvite my mother."

"She lives there."

"Not officially."


"You just want to pile up more estrogen to overpower us with so you can split the pot among your feminist tribe-leaders," he accused.

"Maybe; what's it to ya?"

"Ooh, saucy."

Beckett rolled her eyes. "I mean it, Castle." The banter had its merits, especially the times she got him to do something stupid like trip or drool on himself, but there was a matter at hand here, and waiting for the answer was pressing Beckett's patience. "I really think you should. Will you just do that? For me, at least?"

"What makes you think I'm inclined to do you any favors?" he teased.

"I haven't shot you yet."

"You have a point. Still, Detective, I think that, if there's something you want from me, it's going to have to be on my terms."

Crap. He would do that. It was so like him. She should have known she wasn't getting out of this scot-free. Beckett clenched her jaw as if she were about to take a punch, tilting her chin up and taking a step forward, using her own unflinching gaze to throw that challenge right back into Rick's eyes. "Name your price."

He must have had his answer prepared. "Nikki Heat gets a strip-yoga scene."

"St…strip-whatnow? No. Ohh, no no no. No. Is that even a thing? Just…no. Not happening."



"You know technically, you can't stop me anyway. This is just a courtesy."

"Or blackmail."

"Courteous blackmail! Except 'blackmail' is such a harsh word anyway. I prefer…'providing incentive.' Has a nice ring to it, right?"

He was so close to giddy, it was disgusting. "You are so unbelievably shallow, you know that right?"

"Ah ah ah, Detective. You want Lanie to come to the game, you play by my rules…."

Yeah. That made sense. Beckett nodded, all prepared to turn right around, retreat to the breakroom and accept the loss of round one…except she shot out a hand and pinched the fragile upper cartilage of Castle's ear. Watching him try to twist away and end up doubling over sideways was oddly satisfying.

"AHH, ha-hahhh, ow, ow ow OW ow ow ow ow…."

"Or, you send Lanie an invite, Nikki Heat keeps her clothes on, and you won't need a hearing aid at thirty-seven."

"Owowow…oh, like this isn't blackmail?"

"I'm providing incentive."

"Ooh, good one…ouch, leggo leggo leggo…"

"Do we have a deal?"

"Yes, yes, just like Roosevelt…"

"Good." Releasing her pinch-of-death, Beckett let him go and took a congratulatory sip of her frothy cappuccino, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. "Glad we understand each other." As soon as he was free he stumbled back a step and rubbed a palm over his newly tender ear, glaring like a kid who'd just been duped into eating his vegetables. It was the perfect mental picture, and as Beckett turned away she made a note of it, fully intending to carry it around the rest of the day. "And hey - thanks, Castle," she added, her tone so cheery that it would have been impossible to tell whether it was fact or fiction.

"You owe me a strip scene! And an ice pack!" the writer called after her. Beckett smiled to herself as she walked away.

Step one, complete.



xD Well, there you have chapter one. The next one's on its way asap, and we'll be seeing some different perspectives as this goes, too, so stay tuned. ;]

ALSO, I have a very important note for all you Castle fans/writers out there…I've recently started a Castle RPG that is DESPERATELY in need of members, so if you're interested in roleplaying a Castle character - or an original character - PLEASE, go to my profile, read about "12th Precinct" and take the link. Thank you. ^^ I'll mention in somewhere in my notes on each new chapter, too, so nobody misses it.

ANYWAY. Thank you all for the reads, and PLEASE tell me what you liked in a review! Thanks in advance, and much love…!