They were lying in Lanie's bed that morning, Esposito's arm wrapped around her as she slept. He was awake, balancing his elbow on one of her pillows. He liked to pretend that he was tough enough to not get too sentimental, that he was really just in it for the sex, but he really did like watching her sleep. Her dark hair had floated in front of her face and it puffed away from her every time she exhaled.
As if she could feel his eyes on him, Lanie's eyes fluttered and she woke up, squinting in the direct shaft of sunlight that pierced her window and made a bright band of yellow across one half of her face. "Morning, Javi," she yawned. She'd been calling him that, but she had to stop herself from calling him anything but Detective Esposito at the precinct. His nickname seemed a little too familiar not to arouse suspicion about their secret relationship. He smiled and opened his mouth to reply when there was a knock at the door.
"Lanie?" came Beckett's voice from the other side of the door. Lanie's eyes flew open worriedly.
"What do I do?" he whispered, jumping out of bed and pulling his jeans on. Lanie pushed back the covers and grabbed her purple robe from where it hung on the closet door beside her bed.
"Hide!" she whispered, tying the flannel belt of the robe around herself and walking towards the door. Kate knocked again while Esposito rounded the room frantically, searching for a hiding place. He checked the closet, but it was too shallow to hold him. The two were desperate not to let their friends and colleagues find out about them, mostly because they themselves were not quite sure of exactly what was going on. They were still seeing a couple other people casually, but not in a way that either of them considered what they were doing cheating.
Finding an opportunity at the last moment, Esposito rolled under the bed and flattened himself just as Lanie opened the door to see her best friend standing there looking frustrated. "Good morning," she said cheerily, trying not to peek over her shoulder to check if Esposito's feet were sticking out. "Dead body?"
"Worse," she replied, letting herself in. "Castle." As Lanie prepared a pot of coffee, Kate told her all about what had happened the night before. "After everyone was gone, we were in the warehouse and we… we kissed," she said, wincing as if Lanie were going to hit her. Understandably, she was not yet used to the fact that she and her tag-along had shared their first kiss.
"It's about damn time." She grinned, excited about the good news. Beneath the bed, Esposito scowled. He now owed Ryan and Lanie twenty dollars each.
"But I don't really know what it means," she protested, thanking her friend as she accepted a mug of steaming coffee. She sipped it, longingly thinking of the espresso machine at the precinct. Of course, that just made her think of Castle. It seemed that all mental roads led to him and their… she wanted to call it a predicament, but that didn't seem like the right word.
"Well, generally when a man and a woman like each other a lot," she said slowly, "they kiss each other to show-"
"Okay, stop it," she said. More than anything she just wanted to get back to the precinct. It was familiar, it was a place of logic, and it had been a safe, consistent place for her for the past six years. However, at the precinct she might run into Castle and she wasn't ready for that yet. The best place for her to be at the moment was talking it out with her best friend, whose constant insistences that she and Castle belonged together had, for an instant, begun to make sense last night.
"Are you going to talk to Josh?" Lanie asked, growing serious. As much as she wanted the Castle-Beckett relationship to happen, she knew that Beckett and her boyfriend were much more serious than the few dates she went on while still seeing Javier. Anything else that happened between Castle and Beckett was unfair to Josh until she talked to him.
"I don't know what to say," she admitted.
"Tell him you want to see other people," suggested Lanie. "You've broken up with guys before."
"Do I want to break up with him, though?" she wondered, as if Lanie were in charge of making all of her decisions (which, given the liberty, she would probably be delighted to do.)
"Of course you do!" she insisted. "It's finally happening. You and Castle! You owe it to yourself to- no, you owe it to us to pursue this." Beckett raised an eyebrow.
"Us?" she asked.
"Everyone at the 12th," Lanie clarified. "You think we haven't been waiting for this to happen?" Her classic, somehow omnipotent expression made Beckett sigh.
"Fine," she said. "I'll talk to him."
"Which him?" asked Lanie. Beckett pursed her lips, thinking, running through scenarios in her head. Every time she thought too hard about what had happened, she felt like her methodical detective's mind was getting in the way of her feelings, but she sure as hell wasn't making any decisions without using her logic.
"Josh," she decided. "I guess I'll… I'll tell him how things are with me and Castle." She dumped out the last sip of her coffee in Lanie's sink and set the mug next to the faucet. "Even if I don't know yet."
"Sounds good," Lanie smiled as she left. "See you later." Kate stepped out of the apartment, feeling a little as if she were heading into a disaster. As soon as she was gone, Esposito heaved himself out from under the bed mechanic style. He stood up and Lanie joined him at the foot of the bed.
"You really mean all that stuff you told her?" he asked, taking her hand and idly playing with her fingers.
"That I'm glad she finally kissed Castle?" said Lanie. "Yeah."
"I meant what you said about her talking to Josh," said Esposito. "How she shouldn't be doing anything with Castle while she's still with him." He tended to be more forward when he had something to say, and not so roundabout when he wanted to make a point or ask a question. She sensed that he was hiding how nervous he felt.
"Javier?" she asked, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Are you saying you want to be exclusive?" He smiled.
"Only you could say a word men dread to hear and make it sound sexy," he said, kissing her.
"I'll call Mike today and let him know it's not going to happen," she said about the guy she had gone to dinner with a few nights before. Something about Beckett and Castle's kiss had made them both realize that they cared about each other more than they had intended. It was probably just what came with being friends first. Now they were even more insistent that everything remain a secret, because they were afraid that if everyone found out, what they had together would crumble.
"You want some pancakes?" he offered.
"No," she said.
"Good, me neither," said Esposito, kissing her again as they fell back onto the bed.
Later that morning, Ryan and Esposito were walking back into the bullpen from the morgue. "All the evidence is there," Ryan insisted. "In the garbage, in the freezer. I just need to figure out how to break her."
"Oh, will you shut up?" Esposito groaned. "Jenny didn't steal your last pudding cup, I did." Ryan grumbled something about how he should've known, and Esposito shot him a sideways glance. All day he'd been acting sour, as though he were a bit miffed, but only towards him. Every time he brought it up, Ryan just muttered something about coffee and walked away.
"Hey, can I talk to you?" he asked after a moment.
"Sure," shrugged Esposito, "but you know that thing you've been doing with your mouth for the past five minutes? That works, too."
"What's going on between you and Lanie?" He sounded like he'd been working on how to phrase that question all day. Obviously, Ryan had been mad that his best friend was keeping something from him.
"What are you talking about, bro?" he replied, trying to sound casual and genuinely confused. It was a lot harder to lie to his partner than the others at the precinct. Heck, it was pretty difficult to lie to Beckett, too. Castle, on the other hand, was easy enough to distract with some suspicious ghost story or CIA conspiracy theory.
"Don't 'bro,' me," Ryan retorted. "I found the note on your desk." Esposito stiffened, but tried to cover up with an accusation.
"You went through my personal property?" he said. Of course, he was being a hypocrite.
"Last week you went through my cell phone and made all of my pictures sepia toned," Ryan reminded him.
"They made you look like you were going bald," Esposito shrugged. After a self-conscious check of his hairline in the window beside them, Ryan shook himself and continued.
"The note said, 'Meet me in the break room tonight. –Lanie,'" he said.
"She wanted to go over evidence," Esposito lied. His lie would, of course, fall apart if Ryan asked about the case for which the evidence had been. Ryan met it with a straight-faced deadpan.
" 'Meet me in the break room tonight. –Lanie. P.S. Last night was great'," he finished. Esposito winced, unsure of how he was going to get out of that one.
"Last night she also wanted to go over evidence," he mumbled. Ryan rolled his eyes.
"You know, I like that couch," he said.
"We flipped the cushions," he shrugged, causing Ryan to wince in disgust.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Ryan asked.
"She wanted it to stay a secret," he explained.
"From me?" he asked, sounding hurt. He'd been gushing about Jenny the morning after they met, and here Esposito had been seeing someone they both knew and hadn't said a word.
"I'm sorry," Esposito said truthfully. "Can we be bros again?"
After a moment, Ryan sighed and said, "Yeah," sliding his hand over Esposito's in their semi-complicated handshake. He smiled. "Actually, it's nice. Everything is working out. I'm engaged to Jenny, you and Lanie are getting together-"
"Castle and Beckett finally kissed," added Esposito. Ryan's happier expression dropped.
"And you knew about it?" he said angrily. "When were you planning on telling me?"
"…now?" Ryan shook his head and started to storm off. "Dude!" he called, but Ryan was already gone.
Castle walked into the precinct carrying two cups of coffee, as usual. He'd spent the night alternating between begging his mother and Alexis for advice and bragging about how "it finally happened." The best advice they had come up with (and it definitely wasn't Martha's "propose on the spot" suggestion) was to act like it was any other day. Keep up their ordinary friendship and partnership, and the first step in doing so was bringing her coffee like always.
"Good morning," he said pleasantly to her when he reached her desk. She smiled thankfully and accepted the coffee before returning to her paperwork, leaving him standing there awkwardly for a moment before he sat down in the chair next to her. "Are we going to talk about last night?" he asked bluntly.
"You mean the shooting in SoHo at midnight?" she said, indicating the report in front of her.
"No, I meant-"
"I know what you meant," she said, curling the edge of her paper in her nervousness. They were silent for a moment, listening as Captain Montgomery made himself an espresso in the break room. "I broke up with Josh," she said without looking at him.
"Oh," he said quietly, resisting the urge to grin. Everything seemed to be pointing in the right direction, and he needed to make sure he said the right thing and didn't screw this up again. "Kate," he said. It was the use of her first name that made her look away from her desk and at him. "This is ridiculously over-complicated, and I feel like it could be so easy, so... I'm going to make it simple." He paused to smile at her, and she nodded eagerly for him to go on. "You're, y-o-u- apostrophe r-e," (she rolled her eyes), "beautiful and smart and I would love to know you outside of work. Will you go to dinner with me tonight?"
She smiled and carefully placed her hand over his before answering. "Dinner sounds great," she said. After one soft moment of hope, the air tinged with something like success, she snapped out of it and returned to the paperwork. "But seriously, we need to investigate this case."
"Right," he agreed, snatching the report out of her hands.
It was almost lunchtime when Beckett grabbed Esposito's elbow and dragged him away from the break room. "Walk with me," she instructed. He sensed that she was mad but didn't want to make a scene.
"What's going on?" he asked as she pushed him into the interrogation room. To humor her (and on the whim that she would pull her gun if he didn't), he sat down at the table across from her. To his surprise, she slid a photograph towards him.
"What is your relationship with this woman?" she asked. He glanced down, then had to resist the urge to groan and roll his eyes.
"That's Lanie," he replied. "You know her, too."
"What is your relationship with her?" she repeated, her voice rising in volume as if he were actually a criminal.
"Are you seriously doing this?" he asked. "Because you forgot to read me my ri- we're coworkers." Her furious expression was too frightening to not comply to whatever game she was playing. "We work together."
"Really?" she said skeptically. "Because I got an anonymous tip-off that you're sleeping with her."
"An anonymous tip-off?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
"To protect his identity, we'll call him 'Ryan,'" she said, using her fingers to put air quotes around the name of his partner. Esposito realized that Ryan might be able to keep a secret if he killed somebody, but if he was dating someone and didn't want anyone to know about it, Ryan would have it up on his blog.
"Fine," he said. "It's true." He could tell that she was still mad at him for lying, but she couldn't hide the underlying happiness that two of her friends had gotten together.
"I gotta go talk to Lanie," she said, beginning to smile. "You can go," she reminded him, standing by the open door. Castle's head appeared in the doorway- he'd been watching from the one-way mirror.
"Don't leave town."
Lanie was finishing up an autopsy on the college-aged man who had been shot that night when Beckett and Castle stormed in. "Why didn't you tell me about you and Esposito?" she demanded while Lanie washed her hands.
"We work together," she shrugged, "with all our mutual friends. We figured if everyone knew and something went wrong, it would mess with the dynamic of our team." Castle nodded slowly, agreeing with her, but stopped when he saw the expression on Beckett's face. Like Ryan, she was mad that her best friend had been keeping things from her, especially after she had confided in Lanie about her kiss with Castle the night before.
"Ryan said you and Esposito had sex in the break room," said Castle. Beckett rolled her eyes; of course that was the part he was most interested in.
"Not that it's any of your business," Lanie sighed, "but like I said: we work together. At high-stress jobs with long hours. Sometimes that gets in the way and we need to use it to our advantage." Beckett glanced around the room, at the corpse on the table and at the drawers where she knew more bodies were kept.
"In here?" she said, raising an eyebrow.
"Okay, for the last time, we keep the tables in here extremely clean," she said, slightly annoyed. "But no, I have never had sex in the morgue." She paused a moment, thinking. "…with Javier."
That evening, Ryan, Esposito, and Lanie watched as Castle and Beckett walked together out of the precinct. "Alright," said Esposito, "now that they're together, should we start the betting on when they break up?"
"I say seven months," said Ryan.
"Bet you ten bucks they have their first fight before the week is over," announced Esposito.
"I'll take that bet," said Lanie. "But if I win, you pay me and take me to see whatever movie based on a Nicholas Sparks book comes out next."
"Okay," said Esposito. Lanie kissed him and walked off to the morgue.
"I'm going to go finish up my paperwork," said Ryan.
"I'm going to go call Castle on his first date with Beckett and pretend to be one of his ex-girlfriends," said Esposito. "Madden tonight, bro?"
"Absolutely." Ryan walked off towards his desk. Everything was as it should be. Maybe even a little better.