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All right, so, I know I've got other stories waiting, but after watching episode 3x11, "Nikki Heat," this piece was calling my name. People have been pointing out the similarities between Jenny and Beckett; how they both thought that their 'guy' had slept with Natalie Rhodes…then I realized, there's an even better similarity. Ryan and Beckett are both the ones having...not the best day. xD So, this is another Beckett/boys fic, from Beckett's perspective. (After all, Castle isn't the only one who Beckett gets territorial over. Nobody steals her Esposito and Ryan. ;D )

I do not in any way own Castle or any of its awesome. I just enjoy borrowing said awesome. XD

Speaking of enjoying: read and enjoy. ^^ (This takes place sometime AFTER Jenny storms out and the team "hides from Creepy-Beckett," but BEFORE "is Castle gay." Spoilers, needless to say.)

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Why the hell couldn't anybody ever change the filter in the coffeemaker anymore? Was she the only one who knew how to take care of these things? Did she have to do everything around here?

Frustrated, Beckett jammed the pot into its space and crossed her arms over herself. Actually, 'cross' could describe how she'd been feeling all morning. It just wasn't right. Who was Natalie Rhodes to come in here and think she suddenly knew everything about how Beckett lived her life? To slink onto her turf in forty-inch Gucci stilettos and act like she owned everything and everyone? She was a second-rate scream queen, that was who, and Beckett couldn't even feel bad for coming around and admitting it. She almost felt like digging around in the woman's life to see what else she could sling at her. Most of it would probably even be true. Maybe it was a little irrational, but after all: here Beckett was, forced to seek refuge in her own workplace, making her own coffee. (Not that she couldn't make her own coffee. She was perfectly capable, thank you. That wasn't the point.)

Being so wound up in her own train of thought, the usually-cool detective almost flinched when she heard someone else come into the breakroom. Reluctantly, she whirled around within her storm cloud, only to find the slump-shouldered, sullen form of Ryan walking around the table. (And that was another thing: who was Natalie Rhodes to give the E.T.A. on Beckett's coworkers? Ryan and Esposito were on her team, not Natalie's, and they'd both do well to get their jaws off the floor and their heads out of their asses and remember that.) Kate relaxed visibly, though, once she saw that it was only him - and, really, she couldn't bring herself to take her frustrations out on him; not with everything the poor guy had just stepped into with Jenny. He had it rough enough. Instead, Beckett was open about her possessive intent to commiserate.

She managed to squeeze most of the pout out of her voice - most of it, at least she hoped so, meaning probably not - before she addressed him, getting out another clean coffee mug. "Hey Ryan. Coffee?"

"Hey Beckett. Yeah." Lucky for her, Ryan sounded just as sulky. Any outsider who didn't know them might assume they were ticked at each other. No, just at the world and everyone in it, thanks.

Oddly relieved she was in equally gruff company, Kate pretty much barked, "Sugar?"

"No," he pretty much barked back. Ryan drinking unsweetened coffee; that was rare. (Screw it; he needed it bitter and he needed it now.)

"Fine." Without saying anything else for the moment, Kate did her commiserating in silence, jerking the fresh coffee pot out of the machine and splashing a cupful into each of their mugs. As Ryan was turning a chair backwards and dropping himself into it, she turned around, set the coffees on the table and heaped herself into the chair opposite, chin plopping into her hand.

Looking tired, Ryan looked up from his arms, which he'd wrapped around the backrest and buried his head in about two seconds after sitting down. He eyed Beckett. "What're you pissed about?"

She wasn't even going to dodge it. "Natalie Rhodes stealing my life taking over my brain," she harrumphed, screwing up her mouth and narrowing her eyes as she peered into the bullpen. Yep: there was Miss Hollywood, taking cameraphone pics with the uniforms. Distracted, she returned out of habit, "You?"

Ryan dropped his head back into its poly-cotton hiding place. "Oh, my girlfriend probably left me…"

"Fine, you win." Hm. Maybe Kate hadn't quite curtailed the pout like she'd hoped. Tearing her eyes away from the bullpen - really, why just further annoy herself? - she moved them to Ryan, who was still in his pathetic repose. All she even saw of him at the moment was his hair and discount navy J. Crew sleeves. She contemplated her frustration for a moment, then said, "I feel like we should...break something."

"That probably won't go over well; we're cops," Ryan said, muffled.

"Well at - "

"And neither will murdering Natalie; they'd notice her missing," he preempted.

"Then I feel like we should at least be able to drink or something."

"Shots, shots would work."

"Yeah… Captain's got the good stuff, though. I don't have a key."

"Mm. Plus we'd get fired."

"Mm," Beckett reluctantly agreed. She sat back, stuck. Okay, sure, she was aware she wasn't in the most mature mood to be making these suggestions, but hey: it's not like she was actually going to do any of it. She was just a stressed working woman looking for catharsis. Maybe she'd hit the firing range later. Shooting defenseless cutouts might help. "You and I both know this is all her fault," she accused, knowing Ryan would know exactly who she meant by 'her.'

"No, it's not, it's me being an idiot thinking I could be romantic and then forgetting to tell Bigmouth the cover story," he grumbled. "And then Natalie; yeah, that didn't help."

"Exactly."

"Exactly what? What part of that warranted an 'exactly?'"

"Shut up, how should I know."

The two of them sat in silence for a few moments, as if they were both afraid that opening their mouths would regress their maturity even farther than it'd already gone. (For both of them, it was already hitting dangerous levels.) Finally, Ryan dragged his head up as if it weighed more than the rest of his body, grabbing his coffee and taking a long swig. No sooner did he than he set it down with a face like he'd just licked the tires of the car. "Yeah, gimme the sugar after all, hand it, hand it..." He kept pinwheeling his right hand until she slid the Sweet-&-Low box toward his side. "God, I can't drink that, it's like eating paint chips."

"I'm not even going to ask you where you got that comparison."

"Thanks for the mercy."

Both of them had been deadpanning, but Kate realized then that that was what this was. Mercy. The two of them, hiding out in here from their problems, drowning their pathetic circumstances in cups of bitter, tepid java. In a bizarre way, it was almost nice. But it was also really, really foreign.

Ryan broke her from her thoughts by speaking again; she wasn't even sure if he was talking to her or just the air in general. He was resting his cheek on his hand, staring vaguely at a spot on the table. "Probably packing her stuff up right now. Won't even answer my calls; why would she stick around..."

"No, she's not, and because she loves you; calm down and drink your diabetes."

"Spent eleven hundred bucks at Cartier for that ring. Do they take receipts? Should I have asked? Aw, man, I should've asked."

"You're not taking it back, you're helping me hide Natalie Rhodes' body."

"You're not killing Natalie."

At this point they seemed to unwittingly branch off into two totally parallel conversations. "It'd be so poetic," Beckett practically snorted. "Castle should approve: a Hollywood actress bumped off by the murder detective who inspired her character."

"We had a song. An actual song. 'Rhiannon' by Fleetwood Mac."

"Of course, running her out of town would be more pragmatic."

"I mean yeah, it's old, but it was on the radio this one time and we ended up on the Turnpike, not even sure how that happened…"

"But not as satisfying."

"Just wait, now I'm gonna get depressed every time it comes on the car radio."

"And - what is Jenny even thinking? It's not like you could get Natalie Rhodes anyway! No offense." Somehow, Beckett's train had hit a 'merge' track or something.

Ryan chimed right in, the exact opposite of offended, even throwing his hands up for emphasis. "Exactly! Thank you! Hell, I'll admit it, I could never get Natalie Rhodes! I'm like the babbling leprechaun in the back."

"Well I wouldn't go that far."

"I would - do you remember my dating life before Jenny?"

"No."

"My point exactly."

For a nanosecond, Beckett debated countering that that was because she usually didn't ask about personal lives. Eh, it wasn't worth it; she knew that wasn't the point. In fact, maybe it was a little uncharacteristic of her, but she leaned forward just a fraction and actually offered to intervene, despite the lack of signs of the apocalypse. "Do you want me to talk to her?" she asked sympathetically.

"…Nah. No, no, it's okay." Ryan seemed to be pulling himself out of his miniature episode. He managed to send a tight, pathetic, but genuine little half-smile Beckett's way - kind of a grimace, but it was a start - standing up and sliding his chair back in place. "I'll keep calling. It can't be that bad, right? …Maybe I should wait an hour."

Beckett nodded. "Yeah."

"And…no more lists."

"No lists, yeah, I'd adhere to that."

"Right." Nodding as if to both scold and pep-talk himself, Ryan put on his bullpen face as he strode back out there. Most likely on his way to dig up case information while sending covert 'please call me' texts to Jenny under the desk. Probably with teardrop smiley-faces.

Beckett sat alone, studying a fading patch on the breakroom wall, wishing her problem could be fixed with just desperate optimism. …Oh, great, I am officially a horrible person. Wow. Nice, Kate. God, she needed to get out of here. Ryan had the right idea: she just needed to stand up, hold her chin high and face the music. Just go out there and don't let her interfere with doing your job. It didn't sound all that hard when you put it that way. She almost wondered what she'd been hiding for at all, other than the fact that to vent was healthy, but it was over now, and it was time to be a professional.

Picking up the solid ceramic handle of her coffee mug, Kate stood up straight and walked out of the breakroom into the bullpen, passing familiar rows of desks with what appeared to be the same ease as usual. This was going okay. Maybe it had all been in her head; all that stuff about Natalie. Maybe she'd just imagined it because she'd been uncomfortable, subconsciously, with the situation. It actually made a lot of sense now that she'd had some time and space to help her get a little perspec…

Oh, you have got to be kidding me!

Esposito. He was standing there, not ten feet in front of her - right out in the open - nodding emphatically along with something Natalie had said, and…was he taking a paper from her? Was he taking orders from her? He was definitely heading toward his computer with that…

Oh, no no no. Beckett wasn't going to sit for this. She'd remind the starstruck little dweeb who would take a bullet for him - and more to the point, who wouldn't - and then she'd smack the razorburn off his head. Speed-trotting forward (she could walk and run perfectly fine in these heels, thank you), she slid into his path and intercepted him right before he made it to his chair, claw-gripping his arm and dragging him off to the side (it wouldn't do to go all Godfather on him in a non-secluded conversation: people might think she was crazy). "Ow, ow, ow, ow, what the hell?" he griped under his breath.

"Shh," Kate reprimanded, plucking the note out of his hand.

"Hey!"

"What is this?" Beckett held up the evidence in two fingers. Incriminating fingers.

"Uh, try 'not yours?' Give me that," Esposito ordered, but his attempt to snatch it from her was fouled, and she read the handwritten contents anyway.

"What are you doing now, running alibis for her hairdressers? …This is an address in Tribeca. Who's Giorgione?" she demanded.

"It's a restaurant, psycho." Now Esposito swiped his property back. "Natalie was just tellin' me that now's the time to put in a reservation if I wanna get a table for my weekend off." Suspiciously, his eyes flicked over Beckett as if she were about to either explode, or grow tentacles and eat the mayor. "What's up with you?"

Oh. Huh. Well. Kate actually put some thought into that for a second. It was better to lie than to attempt an explanation, right? "…Nothing. I need coffee."

Forcing herself to shake off that paranoid feeling, Beckett left a confused Esposito to get back to work…and there's absolutely no way that she flicked a little glare toward the back of Natalie's head on the way. Because that would be totally immature.

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Poor, unsuspecting Natalie Rhodes had better know who she's messing with. Kate Beckett will not tolerate the theft of her boys. XDD So, yeah, hope everyone found that as funny as I thought it'd be. Also, as I say on every chapter of all my stories: if there's anyone (ages 14 and over) interested in joining a free, writing-based Castle roleplaying forum, check out the bolded paragraph in my profile. Thank you. (SPAMMERS DELETED IMMEDIATELY.)

If you enjoyed this oneshot, I'm practically begging you, serving up my dignity on a shiny platter with garnish and little fruit slices: PLEASE, please review, if you have a moment. Just drop me a line to say what you liked best or which line(s) or what you thought; it REALLY makes my day to get reviews, especially since my last few stories got lots of favorites but few reviews. I'd love it if you could do that. ^^

So, off I go again, into the Writing Cave 'til the next one. XD Peace and love, everyone.

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