I know this fic was supposed to be a one-shot, but I just felt that there was more of the story to tell then where I left it. So my one-shot has now graduated into a mini-fic, which will have three parts. This is part two.
I hope you like it.
Disclaimer: Obviously, anything recognisable isn't mine.
Josh returned to his empty apartment, throwing his keys on the kitchen bench, and his jacket across the couch. This was not how he'd planned on spending his first work-free Friday night in a month, home alone by 8:30pm, with his girlfriend God-only-knew-where, doing God-only-knew what, with God-only-knew who.
Well, God and Richard Castle anyway. He had a strong suspicion that the writer knew exactly where Kate was spending her evening, and was withholding the information out of spite. In fact, Josh wouldn't have been surprised if Kate had been at the Old Haunt the whole time, and Castle had concealed it from him so as to have her all to himself.
This made Josh irritated. Richard Castle got to spend nearly every minute of every day with his girlfriend, and then had the audacity to deny him of the precious few hours he had to see her for the first time this week. And the nerve of that guy, inferring that he knew her better then Josh did. What did a few trivialities like colours and drink preferences matter in the grand scheme of things? Frankly, he didn't care if Castle could list every little idiosyncrasy about Kate that existed, at the end of the day, little things like that weren't relationship deal breakers, at least in his experience.
It wasn't that he didn't want to know what made her tick; he simply had never gotten the chance. He considered himself very lucky if he managed to see her more than twice a fortnight, their schedules varied so much, and even when he did, whenever the conversation had taken a personal turn, she was extremely reticent. He'd long suspected that she was holding out on him, that there was a whole other side to her that she wouldn't let him see. He'd tried to coax it out of her on more then one occasion, but each time she'd shut him down without delay. Whatever her secret was, she was keeping it close to her chest.
It was like he'd hit the proverbial glass ceiling when it came to Kate, he knew that they could be so much closer if only she'd let him in, but he just couldn't get there. He didn't know what else he could do to get her to trust him; perhaps she thought it would send him running, or perhaps she just needed a little more time. Either way, at present he had no intention of ending their relationship. She was smart, funny, and of course, drop-dead gorgeous, and definitely worth waiting for.
He went to the refrigerator and took out a beer. He'd only just had one at the Old Haunt, but hadn't really enjoyed it, because he'd somehow managed to get the idea in his head that Castle might have had it poisoned or something. He knew he was being stupid, Castle hadn't even known he was there when he'd ordered the beer, and a drink-related homicide would certainly not do any favours for business. And furthermore, he was a doctor for crying out loud; he knew the symptoms, and what to do if they did appear. He'd be fine. But even with all that in mind, he was still a little apprehensive about drinking it, there was something in Castle's eyes whenever they had met that clearly seemed to wish him some sort of unpleasantness.
It had been that way ever since the first time they'd met at the precinct that day when he'd come to collect Kate for their date. He'd visited her workplace several times over the summer but he hadn't yet met any of her colleagues, in fact by the looks on their faces he thought that they'd had no idea he even existed. That was slightly disheartening, as he'd wasted no time in telling his friends about her after they'd hooked up.
She went to get her things and he found himself staring down the gauntlet of three armed cops. He knew about the whole 'camaraderie; looking out for each other' thing so he expected the appraising looks from them. What he hadn't anticipated was the utter venom in the eyes of the writer. He was glad he didn't carry a gun.
Kate had told him about how Castle had come to work with her; research for his books she said. He got the feeling that there'd been some tough times in the beginning but, true to form, she closed off when he asked her about it. Out of curiosity, he'd borrowed Kate's copy of Heat Wave one weekend while she was working and he was free, and he was surprised and a little disturbed that it turned out to be more or less a three hundred-plus page love letter to Kate, from the dedication, to the sex scene on page 105.
It was then he began to wonder what the exact nature of their relationship was, clearly they must have been involved romantically at some point, given the detail in that love scene. Kate had vehemently denied it, insisting that the two of them had never dated, slept together, or even kissed, as long as they'd known each other. It was all fiction, she said, a product of an author with a vivid imagination and too much time on his hands.
Well it might be fiction to her, but to him it posed a very real threat to their relationship. He would love to spend more time with her, but his job was important and had to come first. People's lives were in his hands. She'd always understood that, and never held it against him but it meant that a lot of the day-to-day stuff fell to Castle.
It used to be that when she stayed over, they would share a morning cup of coffee before heading out for the day, but now she didn't bother because Castle would bring her one every morning without fail. When she was working on a tough case, she never asked for Josh's insight, but had no hesitation in speed-dialling Castle to run a theory by him, and he would answer, at any time of the day or night.
"Why don't you ever talk about your work with me?" Josh had asked her one evening, after she wound up a particularly lengthy conversation with Castle. "Maybe I could help."
"You know I'm not allowed to discuss ongoing investigations, Josh."
"You don't have to give me any names or particulars," he said. "Try me."
"I can't," she said, smiling apologetically. "You're not a cop."
"Neither is Castle," he retorted, a little more sharply then he intended.
"That's different," she said. "He's my partner. And anyway, he just doesn't think like a normal person. He thinks outside the square, and comes up with these absolutely ridiculous theories, that annoyingly turn out to be right half the time. Without his half-baked ideas, we wouldn't solve nearly as many crimes as quickly as we do."
"But you're always complaining about how much he irritates you. Sometimes you must want to get rid of him."
"Sure, most days he drives me up the wall, and he makes me so mad I want to throw things at him or shoot him, but I kind of need that in my life. Sometimes I get a little too invested in the job and he and his stupid ideas, and immature teasing kind of helps me to switch off."
Josh must have looked as confused as he felt, because she'd let out a small sigh.
"It's OK," she said. "I wouldn't expect you to understand."
Well she was right about that, he thought to himself now. He didn't understand. He didn't understand why Castle couldn't go shadow some other cop for a while, he didn't understand why she couldn't find another way to 'switch off' at work, and most of all, he didn't understand why he felt like the outsider in his own relationship.
Callum the bartender placed fresh drinks down in front of Beckett and Castle.
"Here you go, boss…Detective Beckett," he added shyly.
"Thank you Callum," she said.
"If there's anything else you need..."
"I'll know who to ask," she said, with a smile that made the young bartender laugh nervously and quickly avert his gaze from hers.
Castle reached for his beer and took a gulp. He sensed, rather then saw her watching him with the same expression of annoyance she so often did at the precinct, and when he turned to look, sure enough, her eyes were narrowing into the little slits that always meant she was pissed off with him.
"What?" he asked, setting the drink down.
It appeared she'd been waiting for him to do just that, for she reached over and swatted him hard on the arm.
"Ow!" he exclaimed, rubbing it. "What did I do this time?"
"You couldn't at least say thank you?"
"What, to Callum? I do say thank you, every week, when I pay him his salary. And since when did you become such a stickler for manners?"
"I just think it's a good idea for you to show your staff a little appreciation, or else you might find they'll quit on you. Nobody likes a mean boss."
"I don't know," he said. "You're mean to me all the time and I haven't quit on you yet, have I?"
She smirked. "I guess I live in hope."
"I'm telling you, you'll miss me when I'm gone,' he said, eyeing her sternly. "You'll look over at my empty chair at your desk and think to yourself 'how did I ever let somehow as irresistibly attractive and intelligent as Castle walk out of my life?' And then you'll come running to my loft in the middle of the night and throw yourself into my arms and say-"
"You've made the happiest woman alive, by finally taking the hint and letting me get on with my life in peace," she finished for him.
His face fell even further. "You don't mean that," he said.
"Don't I?" She took care to keep her face as expressionless as possible. She could tell he was worrying him, even though he was trying hard not to show it. God, he could be an easy target sometimes.
He was searching her face for some hint that she wasn't serious, and he just looked so anxious, and so much like a scared little boy, she couldn't stop the corners of her mouth from curving up into a smile. As soon as he saw it, he visibly relaxed, flashing her that wide grin that she had to admit, could be kind of charming.
"Had you going there," she said.
"Did not," he protested. "I was just playing along. I know how sensitive you women can be," he winked at her.
"Really?" she said, raising an eyebrow. "You're going to play the gender card? You, probably the biggest metrosexual I have ever met?"
"There's nothing wrong with taking an interest in one's appearance," he said, haughtily. "And thus far, I haven't had any complaints."
Inwardly, she took his point. Not that she cared all that much about clothes, but given the choice of Josh in his usual casual daywear or Castle's meticulously tailored ensembles and seemingly endless array of shirts, well…she had to admit she had always responded to a man in a suit. It was probably part of the reason so many of her ex-boyfriends were detectives.
And Castle sure had enough self-assuredness to carry off a suit. She could always tell when he was wearing a brand new one, for he held his head a little higher, and put a little more swagger in his step. In fact, the whole effect came off as kind of sexy.
Though it would take nothing less then a gun to her head, a knife to her heart, and piranhas snapping at her feet to make her admit it to him.
"Whatever, Carrie," she said. "When you're done with that beer, shall I order you a Cosmo?"
He scowled at her, and she went to take a sip of her drink, only to find the glass empty. She'd been so involved in their bickering, she hadn't even noticed she'd been drinking it.
She looked up, and Callum was already standing before her with another one.
"Care for another, Detective Beckett?" he offered.
"Wow, you're a really good bartender," she said. "You don't get service like this just anywhere."
He grinned at her. "Boss's orders," he said. "Free drinks for anyone from the 12th precinct; and Detective Beckett is to be waited on hand and foot."
Beckett eyed him curiously, trying to gauge whether or not he was serious, he just smiled at her and took away the empty glass.
She turned to Castle. "Is that true?" she asked. "Did you really say that?"
He plastered on his best smile. "I might have mentioned that in this bar, you are a VIP, and it would be in his best interests to cater to your every whim."
She shook her head in disbelief. "Unbelievable. You told your bartender to act as my personal slave, and you thought that was going to impress me?"
"It's not that bad!" said Castle, defensively. "All I told him was to make sure you get the service you deserve," he paused, waiting to see if she would soften. She didn't. "Anyway," he continued. "He's glad to do it." He leaned forward conspiratorially. "I think he might have a little crush on you."
"Why?" Castle spluttered. "For God's sake, Beckett you are the kind of woman a man only meets once in a lifetime, and whoever ends up being your 'one and done' will be the luckiest man in the world. "
An awkward silence fell, and he seemed to regret his outburst. Beckett replayed it in her head over and over. Was he including himself in that? And if so, had he been just referring to her looks or something else? How did he really feel about her? How did she really feel about him? It was just so confusing.
"I meant, why did you tell Callum to do that?" she said quietly, avoiding his eyes.
Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. Why hadn't he learned by now to think before he spoke? So many times his mouth had gotten him in trouble and still, the lesson hadn't sunk in. And now, he'd practically gone and told Beckett how he felt about her. Idiot.
It was all ruined. His book series, their partnership, their friendship, everything. Now they'd have to have The Talk, and she'd tell him that she was sorry, but she was madly in love with Dr Motorcycle Boy, and she didn't think their arrangement was working for her anymore, and she'd send him away and he'd never see her again. And then one day he'd see the announcement in the paper that she'd become Mrs Dr Motorcycle Boy and his heart would be broken beyond repair, and he'd be doomed to roam the world lonely and heartsick for the rest of his miserable life.
OK, so perhaps he was being a little melodramatic, but he couldn't help it. It was the writer in him.
Realistically though, he imagined if she did end up marrying Josh, he would (eventually) try and move on with his life, and maybe find the woman he could love second-most in the world and be if not happy, at least content. But he knew his heart would always truly belong to Kate Beckett; nobody could compare to her.
She raised her eyebrows at him now, and he remembered that she'd asked him a question. There was only one way to save the situation now. He had to do what he did best: make up a story.
He forced himself to put a smile on his face.
"Well," he said. "I don't want you wandering into other bars, where there might be other writers lying in wait to poach my muse. Everyone knows I'm onto a winner with Nikki Heat, and all the others will think that if they have you for themselves, they'll write a bestseller. So by keeping you in my bar, I'm protecting my investment."
"You're an idiot," said Beckett, rolling her eyes. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, including all your theories about the CIA."
"Ah well," Castle said, relieved she seemed to have accepted the story. "You know us creative types, we all have our little quirks."
"I hardly think paranoia is a 'quirk' Castle. I think you should get tested for it. It would explain a lot."
"I'll put it on the to-do list," said Castle. "Right after 'listen to grass grow' and 'watch paint dry.'
"Can't you take anything seriously?" she asked. "Is life just one big joke to you?"
"I can be serious," he said, affronted. "When the situation calls for it."
Great, now she was mad at him. But at least it had made her forget about his little Freudian slip earlier, and that was all he'd wanted.
And he resented her implication that he couldn't take things seriously, it was no joke the way he felt about her. In fact he didn't think he'd ever been as smitten with a woman in his entire life, including both of his ex-wives. It was the best thing that had ever happened to him, (apart from Alexis being born), and also one of the worst.
He got to be with her every day, but never really be with her. He could tell her she was hot, but never tell her she was beautiful. He could bring her coffee to her desk every morning, but never bring one to her in bed.
And worst of all, he could promise her 'always' but never get the chance to really prove it.
That was the real reason he had instructed Callum to pay her special attention; it was just another way to show her how much he cared, without crossing the invisible line that defined their friendship.
He'd meant what he'd said to Josh earlier too, he wasn't going to try to get between them. To do so would make her unhappy and feel like she had to choose, and he never wanted to put her in that kind of position.
He'd done all he could do for now. He'd warned Josh to treat her right, he'd told him what happen if he didn't, and he'd tried to show him just how lucky a bastard he was. All he could do now was what he'd always done, be there, stand by her through thick and thin, and wait.
The rest was up to her.
Her cell phone ringing interrupted their somewhat awkward moment. She glanced at the caller ID. Josh. It would be rude to keep him waiting any longer.
"Hey," she answered.
"Kate, finally!" he exclaimed. "I've been trying to reach you for ages. Where are you?"
"Having a drink with a friend," she said truthfully.
A short pause. "This 'friend' wouldn't happen to be Richard Castle by any chance, would it?" he asked.
"Yes." There was no point lying to him. Just as Castle had needed to accept Josh as a part of her life, so did Josh need to accept Castle, whether he liked it or not. And she refused to be made to feel guilty when she was doing nothing wrong.
"Thought as much," said Josh, more to himself then her she thought. "I ran into him earlier; has he mentioned it to you?"
"No." There was no need to tell him that she'd witnessed most of the conversation.
"I asked him to let you know I was looking for you," he said, a faint note of accusation in his voice.
"Guess he forgot," she said, though she wasn't convinced.
"Right," said Josh, his tone of voice conveying quite clearly that he wasn't buying it, but he chose not to pursue the subject. "If you're done there, why don't you come over?" he suggested. "I really want to see you."
Honestly, she would much prefer to stay here and hang out with Castle for a bit longer, but she felt somewhat obligated to comply with his request. This concerned her. Since when had spending time with her boyfriend become such a chore? She should be jumping at the chance to see him after such a long separation, not debating whether or not to blow him off for the man she saw every day.
"Sure," she said, trying to at least sound a little enthusiastic. "Be there in half an hour. That OK?"
"Perfect," said Josh, sounding much happier. "I love you."
Another pause. Oh no, the 'L' word. She'd kind of hoped they'd never get to this point. Apparently, their relationship was approaching serious. She wasn't sure she wanted to go there, and she knew she wasn't ready to say it back just yet.
"See you soon," she said, and hung up.
"Josh?" asked Castle. She was glad he'd refrained from 'Motorcycle Boy' though she was certain he was thinking it to himself.
"He wants me to come over."
Castle set down his beer glass and smiled at her. "Well you should go. Probably only a matter of time before someone else's heart breaks and he'll have to swoop in and save the day again."
"Don't joke about things like that," she scolded him. "His work is important to him."
"I know. But he has other things in his life that are important too," he said, casting her a meaningful look.
"Meaning what?" she asked.
"Meaning that I if were him, I wouldn't make work my only priority," he said.
She didn't know what she should say to that, but as she held his gaze, that weird electrical feeling she sometimes got when she looked in his eyes seemed to swirl around them.
He watched as she got up from her barstool, quite steady on feet despite the multiple mojitos she'd consumed.
"I should go," she said. "He's expecting me. Do you want something towards the drinks?" she offered, opening her wallet.
He grinned. "Get it through your head. You don't pay here. Not tonight, and not ever."
She smiled back at him. God he loved her smile. "You better watch it," she said, eyes sparkling teasingly. "A girl could get used to being treated like this."
"You deserve all this and more," he said. "You work so hard every day doing everything for everybody, it's about time someone did something nice for you."
"You know what would be really nice?" she said. "A whole day of complete silence from you."
He chuckled. "Don't push your luck."
"Worth a try," she said. "Goodnight Castle."
"Until Monday, Detective Beckett."
She rolled her eyes at the familiar turn of phrase and left the bar, pausing by the door to wave goodbye.
Castle watched her until the door swung shut behind her. She looked beautiful tonight, just like always. No matter how many times it happened, it still tugged a little to watch her walk away from him into the waiting arms of another man.
I tried to make Josh come off as less of just the villain in the Caskett romance and more just a guy who doesn't know where he stands in his relationship. I'm not sure I pulled it off though.
Thanks for reading.