A/N: Guess who's been watching way too much Castle! Finally, a sequel (not as shippy as the other one for whatever reason, but I still like it)! And I'm sorry it took so long. Thanks to everyone who reviewed asking for a sequel and to the two lovely people who so kindly informed me that Beckett gave Castle coffee in 3XK. It turned out that it wasn't really what I was looking for, but I'm still extremely grateful. (I'm also rather sorry to say that I lost both of your names. ^^; If either of you read this, then a friendly reminder would be much appreciated so I can properly thank you.)
Disclaimer: Yeah, still don't own Castle. Kinda glad I don't, actually, because I would be so afraid of fumbling it at this point. Snarky-short-black-nameless-takes-no-crap-woman is mine, but she can totes be a Jenny Everywhere if someone else wants her. XD Not that I think anyone will.
The bell above the door to the coffee shop rings in a little, tinkling "hello", and it's a noise that would probably be annoying to most of the shop's patrons if it didn't herald sweet, caffeine-packed, life-giving coffee.
Kate lets the door shut behind her but lingers just inside the building's warmth for a moment, a ridiculous, indulgent smile lighting up and softening the exacting angles of her face. A familiar voice crackles animatedly in her ear, a bit distorted by the phone line, but still unmistakeably its owner's. "Look, Castle, that's utterly fascinating, but I'll be there in a minute. It's late, and I'm not showing up this tired without coffee in hand... wait, there's a what? Okay, okay. I'm sure Lanie, Esposito, and Ryan have it under control. Just learn as much as you can so you can brief me when I get there. All right?"
Hoping that he'll actually allow her to get her coffee and get down there (because that's really where she wants to be, late hour and annoyingly overzealous partner aside, not hearing about it over the phone), she slowly starts to walk up to the counter. Just as she's about to hedge a final goodbye in and cut him off, something shiny must catch his eye, because he suddenly announces "Uup, gotta go. Bye!" and the call cuts off in her ear.
She's not sure whether he's being annoying, endearing, or something else entirely, so she just chalks it up under "things Castle does" with a crisp snap of the phone and finally closes the distance between herself and the counter. She can't help the laugh that falls out of her (the one that sounds suspiciously like his name), and it's this nearly-silent laugh that catches the barista's attention.
"Hello there, ma'am. What can I get for you tonight?"
"Good evening. I want one grande latte—two pumps of vanilla, no sugar—and one grande coffee—one cream, two sugars." Smiling only a little falsely at the short, black woman, Beckett steps over a few feet towards the register and begins to pull her wallet out of her pocket. The barista, on the other hand, isn't quite ready to let her go. As she grabs two cups from the stacks, there is a mischievous glint in her eye.
"Did I hear you talking to a 'Castle' on the phone?"
Beckett looks up, a little surprised at the human interaction. "Uh, yeah. You did. He's my... partner at work. Heading over there right now, and he was just letting me know what I missed."
"Mr. Castle comes in here a lot. You two do work rather odd hours."
"Well, I am a cop. We can work fairly godawful hours." Beckett feels the conversation chafe a little bit, like it's not quite what it seems, or like she's being slowly, casually cornered. She wants an excuse to cut it off, but the woman is indeed making their drinks at a fairly reasonable speed, so until she's done, there is no immediate escape for her.
"They let Castle be a cop?"
Beckett laughs a little, a quiet, barely amused laugh, but a real one, and she relaxes infinitesimally. It's something small to have in common, this picture of the fragmented person Castle is, and the way the woman says it—amused, bemused, doubtful, and just a little bit afraid—says that she does know. Or maybe it's so simple as the way she says his name, casual once she's dropped the 'Mr.' One way or another, the Castle in her head and in her voice isn't the same Richard Castle they talk about in the news, and the secret connection makes it feel a little less like she's being cornered and a little more like she's being approached. Appraised, she thinks, though for what she has no idea.
"Thankfully, no. Castle is a civilian contractor, essentially."
"I thought he was just kidding about the murder cases. Does make a little more sense, now." She caps one cup, picking up her faithful marker, and writes 'Castle' along it, just as she has a hundred times before. She sets it down and then caps the other one, contemplating it. "Would you be so kind as to tell me your name? I've been wondering for a while now, Miss two-pumps-of-vanilla-no-sugar."
Her marker is poised, and Beckett isn't sure how the girl burrowed her way into their collective lives so quickly. She feels like a big moment is waiting to happen, on bated breath along with the black sharpie, though it might not be a big moment in her life and she isn't sure whose it would be. After a moment, she simply answers "Beckett. Detective Kate Beckett," like she ever would, and the marker squeaks as it transcribes the nine-letter title and seven-letter name. The barista smiles her own handiwork, the extra five letters having filled in all of the holes she'd been wondering over. With something of a flourish, she hands it over.
"I think I met your 'friendly neighborhood Starbucks'," Beckett will tell Castle later, in a lull in their ongoing battle of wits. "I believe I've also been christened: I am 'Mystery Girl' no longer."