And The World Turned
A story by daphnebeauty
"Maybe it was the boyfriend." Kate said bending across the table to snag a fry from Castle's plate.
"It's never the boyfriend."
"And I suppose you think it was the butler?"
"It's always the butler. I don't even know why we investigate cases against rich people. If they had a butler, he did it. Case closed."
Kate rolled her eyes and washed the fry down with some water. "I don't know how I ever survived without you. Think of the time I could have saved if I just arrested every butler in the city!"
"Not every butler, Beckett." He spoke to her like she was a child receiving a lesson on long division. "That would be overkill. Just the ones with murdered employers." The twinkle in his eyes made her roll hers again. He leaned back cockily in the booth and wiggled his eyebrows. She threw a fry covered in ketchup at his face. His squeak of protest was more than enough retribution.
"Beckett! This is Armani. You don't throw ketchup at Armani. It's illegal."
"Well maybe you shouldn't be wearing thousand dollar shirts on the job."
"Says the woman wearing a $500 leather jacket and $300 dollar heels," he muttered under his breath.
Kate's jaw dropped open but she recovered quickly. She shouldn't have been surprised that he could pinpoint the price of her wardrobe. The man could recognize silk boxers on a bloody corpse. Why not her jacket?
"Like hell they are. I know quality Italian leather when I see it."
"Well your radar must be off. This cost me about as much as lunch will."
Castle shook his head in an annoyingly disbelieving way. "Sure. Whatever you say, Beckett."
She let the subject drop and roll away. Far away. She didn't need Castle nosing into her budget for clothes. Sometimes a girl just needed some killer Christian Louboutin pumps to catch bad guys without having her monetary resources questioned. At least he had yet to notice her apartment size versus income.
"While we're on the subject. What's up with your apartment square footage. I know what cops make and I know you should either be living in Brooklyn or a in shoebox apartment with a bathitchen."
"A bathroom-kitchen combo room. Come on. Keep up."
She laughed and the sound filled the diner, joining the ever-present clank of dishes in the kitchen and constant murmur of costumer conversation. Castle smiled. He loved to make her laugh. He made a mental note to start creating more fake word hybrids.
"I don't think that's actual real estate lingo, Castle." She started to look around the diner with the ghost of a smile still gracing her lips. "We need to head back to the precinct. I'm going to head to the bathroom. Try and flag down a waiter and get the bill." She dropped a ten on the table for her half.
He called after her, "Don't think I didn't notice your evasive maneuver." She turned around and gave him a sly smile. "This conversation isn't over." He waved his hand lightly to signal a waiter to the table and asked for the check. After laying down some of his cash on the table he grabbed her ten and pocketed it. He'd slip it back into her wallet later as usual.
He wondered how long it would take for her to pick up on the fact that he did this almost every time he could. She always went to the restroom after a meal. She would always come back out with fresh lip-gloss and perfect hair. That woman was such a contradiction. Tough as nails and "one of the guys" but he had never seen her with less than perfect hair, clothes, or makeup. And good god did she know how to flirt.
He loved that she felt secure enough in her job to not make a show of over-masculinizing herself. She was a post-feministic detective. Certainly not a trailblazer in her field and felt no need to prove herself more because she was a woman. To her and most of the detectives around her, gender had nothing to do with the job. She worked hard not to be a good female detective, but to be a good detective in general. Women were still underrepresented in the force, but she never tried to blend more by ignoring her femininity. She was a woman. She was a detective. Anyone with a problem could deal.
He heard the familiar tattoo of her heels on the diner floor making her way back over to him. He stood up and faced her. "Ready?"
"Yup." They made their way out, hearing the tinkling bell on the door announce their exit. It was a perfect early summer day in New York. A bit of a chill was carried on the breeze, but the sun beamed down with warm, buttery rays and healed any goosebumps that sprung up. Shedding her jacket, Kate breathed in the scent of the city. Behind the smell of car tires and cigarettes was the scent of a fresh season. Of juicy green leaves on the scattered trees and the distinct smell of ozone. She imagined she could even smell the sunshine.
Castle noticed the small, unconscious smile that lifted the corners of her mouth and would have freely given up the royalties for his next five books just to know what had brought it to her face.
"Let's play hookey. It's too nice out to solve murders."
"No can do, Castle. Gotta put the bad guys away, before we can enjoy the good weather."
Castle did not miss the 'we' in her statement and he could barely contain his excitement. "Fine, but once we catch this guy, we are going straight to Central Park for a picnic."
"What! Why?" he whined, tugging at her elbow. "You said that we could enjoy the day after we got the guy."
"I didn't mean we we. I meant we as in the universal we."
"Well I don't think the universe got your memo. Looks like everyone else is already enjoying the weather." He pouted for a block and a half before she finally turned to him and pinched his lower lip between her fingers.
"If you don't suck that lip in and stop pouting, I'm going to cut it off." His eyes were wide in surprise and he nodded his head blankly in response. "Good."
She released her squeeze and continued walking, leaving him slightly stunned behind her. It only took a moment for him to catch up, but his positive energy was revived and thriving.
"You know, there are better things you can stop my pouting with. No need to cut off my lips with a knife. Maybe a little bite or a nibble. I bet that would make me stop."
"In your dreams, Castle. I'm not going to bite your lips. You wouldn't be able to handle it anyway."
"Oh, but my dear detective. I handled it just fine last time you went in for a nibble." He waggled his eyebrows at her and if Kate Beckett was the type to blush, she would be doing it right now.
"That was just for show, Castle." She couldn't believe he was breaking their unspoken agreement not to talk about the undercover kiss they had shared to save Ryan and Esposito.
"And I suppose your little moan was just for show too, then?"
Now Kate blushed. "Of course it was. We had to be convincing and it worked."
Why was he bringing this up almost four months later? She and Castle had been dancing that dangerous line for a while in the beginning of the year. The string of intense cases had brought them closer and closer until she was sure one of them was going to break through their carefully crafted barrier between work partners and something more. But she had been with Josh and the timing had never seemed right.
It was never a good idea to start a relationship after a near-death experience (or three near-death experiences in their case). Hormones were running amuck and it always made it harder to think and consider the reasons you weren't together in the first place. He was her partner. He was her best friend. Those were not things she was willing to sacrifice for an unknown outcome.
Castle had pulled back a little after the dirty bomb threat had been resolved. It was for the best. She had been coming dangerously close to throwing away her better judgment and reaching for something more with them. Surprisingly, he had been the one to realize it wasn't the time and Kate had spent the next four months convincing herself of the same thing.
His response to her denial was in a joking tone. "Whatever you say, Beckett. My opinion still stands that next time you wanna shut me up, you should be more creative. The potency of your threats might start to wear down if you keep at that track. You might need to resort to other methods. I am simply supplying you with possible alternatives. Ones you might even enjoy."
"Oh, I think I would enjoy shooting you, cutting off your appendages, or acting on my other various threats quite thoroughly."
"Fine. But don't complain to me when one day they just stop working. I'll be uncontrollable!"
"You already are uncontrollable."
"Yeah, but this will be even worse."
Kate faked a shudder. "Alright, alright. Let's not darken this beautiful day with thoughts like that." She laughed again and he took a moment to thank the powers that be for the gift of his rapier wit.
She bumped into his shoulder playfully and he caught a whiff of her scent. Cherries as usual. Sometimes when she was this close to him, all he could think of were never-ending fields of cherry orchards. His mind was gently exploring these rows and rows of cherry trees when a yell from across the street caught his attention. If any other word been shouted, he would never have even noticed. It would have blended in with the rest of the sounds of the city. But this word had seemed to be pulled directly from his mind. The shout came again.
He looked over at the man shouting and stopped in his tracks. The guy was looking straight at them and was currently dodging New York traffic to cross the street, waving his arm wildly.
He looked over at Beckett who had stopped when he stopped. She was now looking in the direction of the running man. Her mouth was hanging open and her eyebrows had shot up on her forehead. Castle turned his attention back to the guy in the road who was still yelling about cherries and currently battling the bumper of a honking taxi.
The man finally reached their side of the street and headed straight for Kate, whose mouth was still gaping open. The man had stopped yelling and was approaching them at a more reasonable pace now. Kate took a slow step forward as if in a trance and Castle looked at her confusedly. Did she know this guy?
The man smiled at her as he closed the gap to about ten feet. Kate took another mindless step forward. Castle's eyes were pinging back and forth between the two like he was watching a tennis match.
The man stopped at about five feet away and said in his deep voice, "Cherries?" Something finally seemed to break Kate out of her stupor and she spoke at last.
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COVER ART BY MJSOFTER!