7:59 am, street
She was almost to the 12th before Kate admitted to herself that walking to work had been a terrible idea. Terrible, but necessary. She knew she would have jumped out of her skin if she had had to sit still on the subway surrounded by people, despite her exhaustion.
It was snowing, and had been coming down steady since about 4 am. By the time Kate reached the precinct steps it was falling so hard her coat and hair were covered in it, and it was getting dangerously cold. She shivered as she stepped through the doors, feeling creaky and bleary eyed. Muddled and out of focus, except for the one thing – person – she couldn't stop thinking about.
They hadn't gotten called last night, hadn't had a case since the one they wrapped yesterday morning, and Kate should have felt great from a rare night of uninterrupted sleep. And she would, if she had been able to get to sleep. Instead she had lain awake in the dark, idly rubbing the skin around her scar, trying her damnedest not to think about the fact that she hadn't talked to Castle since the day before. Watching the snow, trying not to reach for her phone.
Because it was ridiculous. She was ridiculous. She should be able to go one day without talking to him. It wasn't even that she had needed him for anything in particular. Their case that morning had been pretty open and shut, so easy that she had let Ryan and Esposito figure it out on their own. No Castle theories necessary. No, she hadn't needed him for anything.
Except that suddenly it seemed like Kate needed him for everything, and she wasn't sure how much longer she could stand it. It wasn't that she needed him to build theory with her, needed the ideas that his fascinating, twisty mind provided. It wasn't just that she wanted his company, enjoyed his lighthearted levity, the way he made everything so much more fun. It wasn't even that she just wanted him. It was that sometime since they had returned to the precinct she had lost the ability to be without him.
Kate wasn't sure when it had happened. She had spent an insane amount of time thinking about it, going over their every interaction since she'd been back, trying to pinpoint the exact moment he had become essential to her. Except it wasn't working. Reviewing each moment with him just lead to the one before it, and the one before that, going back so far that she couldn't see the beginning, could no longer imagine her life untangled from his.
If this was what really being in love felt like Kate wasn't sure she was going to survive it. Not like this was news, but obviously something was seriously wrong with her. Other people managed to be in love and to be happy without putting people off so long that there was a real possibility they would give up. Would realize they had no choice but to decide you weren't worth it and move on.
Even the thought made Kate catch her breath. She was trying to get better; she really was, so she knew that this was the fear behind her almost desperate need to talk to him, to see him. Her shrink had asked her point blank what she was afraid of, and since she honestly wanted to get better, she had tried to think about his question. She wasn't able to do so for long, but she was able to recognize the gut wrenching panic and serious need to throw up that occurred whenever she considered Castle giving up on her as the answer in and of itself. Progress. If only she knew what to do with it.
Kate had never been so stuck. And not even for the obvious reasons. It horrified her to need him this much, to know that if she lost him that would be it for her, but she was almost used to that feeling. She knew if something were to happen to Castle tomorrow, the damage was already done. It wouldn't matter if they were together or not. She would never get over it, anyway.
As she waited in line for security Kate thought about her newest issue, brought to light after her therapist asked her once or twice or a hundred times why, if she realized what he meant to her, it bothered her so much to need Castle. It was impossible for her to articulate a reason, just a vague and foggy feeling of panic, until after working with Serena Kaye.
It wasn't that Kate believed she had behaved unprofessionally, because she didn't. She would have gone after any viable suspect with the same tenacity she had shown towards Serena Kaye, but never with the same hateful joy. She had wanted Serena Kane to be guilty, and not because she wanted the case to be over. If Kate arrested her then Serena couldn't go to dinner with Castle. Couldn't go back to her hotel room and kiss him again, and…
Jealous. Kate had wanted her to be the murderer because she was jealous.
Jealous, obsessive, irrational. Could she act more like a 7th grade girl with an unhealthy crush? What was next, doodling "Kate Castle" on the damn murder board?
It was like she didn't even know herself anymore. And if Kate didn't recognize herself, how would Castle? He told her he loved her and she believed him, but he said it to the Kate Beckett he knew. Badass. Independent. Not this clingy, needy mess who lies awake at night trying not to call him.
This is what is bothering her, terrifying her. That her feelings for him will crash over them like a tidal wave, overwhelming them both. She can't move forward yet. First she has to get herself under control.
And then get more comfortable with feeling so vulnerable. And then solve her mother's murder. God, she was a mess.
It was worse when she didn't have anything to distract her. Like now.
What she needed was a really good murder. Something complicated, with twists and turns and red herrings; to really use her mind, so that she wasn't spending all her time thinking about Castle. Of course, if they had a murder she would have a legitimate reason to call Castle, but Kate tried to tell herself that that wasn't the reason. She wasn't so far gone that she actually wanted someone to get killed so she could talk to him. She hoped.
Kate stepped through security, noticing in the back of her mind that it wasn't much warmer in here than outside, and wondered if he was already here. Immediately she scoffed at herself. It was 8 o'clock, the crack of dawn to Castle. There was no way he would be here without a case.
She really wanted a case.
Kate skirted around a group of three handcuffed women, all of whom were abysmally dressed for the weather in tights and leotards, being corralled by two uniforms she recognized from Robbery. She caught Jenkins' eye as she pushed the elevator button. He jerked a thumb at the three girls.
"Can you believe it? Actual cat burglars."
Kate glanced back to see that two of the girls were wearing headbands with cat ears. The third, a brunette sporting ripped tights and several scratches across her arms and face, seemed to have lost hers, along with one of her shoes.
"Yeah." Jenkins, a heavyset guy in his late forties with a face from a James Cagney movie, shook his head. "Damnedest case I've ever seen. You've never seen such a crime ring. Took us three months to break it. Not just these…ladies. Their whole damned circus was in on it."
"A circus? A cat-burglar circus crime ring?"
"I know, right?" Jenkins shook his head again, his lips twitching in what for him passed as a smile. "Damnedest thing," he repeated, as he and the other uniform herded the cat squad into the elevator.
Kate watched the elevator doors close. She stood in the lobby, fighting it for about thirty seconds until she broke and pulled out her phone. Kate couldn't help it. It wasn't that she needed to talk to him, she told herself, it's that it would be plain cruel if she didn't call Castle. A circus! With cat burglars!
As his phone started to ring she could feel the smile slowly breaking across her face. She felt better already.
8:07 am, 12th precinct, lobby
His phone rang five times before he picked up, long enough for Kate to begin to be way more disappointed than she was willing to admit to herself.
"Hello? Hello? Dammit."
There was a staticky crackling noise, followed by a thump and Castle indistinctly cursing.
He popped back on the line. "Beckett? Sorry, I couldn't get my phone out of my pocket and hold the coffee at the same time."
"You dropped your phone?"
"Well, I didn't want to drop your coffee."
Kate turned towards the wall in the lobby so no one could see her smiling like an idiot.
"My coffee? Does that mean you're gracing us with your presence this morning? And the sun's barely up!'
"Tell me about it. The things I do to serve Lady Justice. And by Lady Justice, I mean you." Castle's voice was light and teasing, but Kate felt her stomach drop all the same. "So tell me detective, where should I meet you?'
"Where should I meet you? There's a body, right? Isn't that why you're calling me?"
Right. She called him.
Kate wasn't even going to think about how excited she was to tell him something that she knew would delight him, or how pleased she was that she got to be the one to do it. It felt so good to be talking to him, and she just wished she could see his face. Her words burst out in a rush.
"Robbery busted a crime ring last night and is bringing them in now and guess what?"
"They're cat burglars. Dressed as actual cats. And they're from a circus. All of whom are involved in said crime ring. It's a cat-burglar circus crime ring."
Castle actually gasped. He must have moved the phone away from his face, because she heard him shout something, and then a minute later all the street noise behind him disappeared. "You still there?" he asked.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm in a cab. A cat-burglar circus crime ring? I've got the get there faster."
8:25 am, 12th precinct, bullpen
"Bro, tell me that is not a fucking ferret." Kate looked up from hanging her jacket on the back of her chair to see Esposito staring into the half-opened bottom drawer of Ryan's desk. He hadn't made it to his own desk yet, and was leaning over Ryan's holding the drawer opened with one hand. The other was clutching his coffee cup so tightly his knuckles were turning white. He said "ferret" the way some might say "snake" or "tarantula" or "serial killer".
Ryan slammed the drawer shut with his foot, nearly taking off Esposito's thumb. "No! Shh! God!" He was practically breaking his neck as he impossibly swiveled his head in all directions at once. "Do you want Gates to hear you? She catches me with this and I'm on traffic duty until Christmas."
Esposito was still staring, disgusted, at the closed drawer. "If that's a ferret, I will back her up 100%. You know how I feel about..." He dropped his voice to a hiss as Ryan made frantic shushing noises at him. "You know how I feel about ferrets."
Ryan sighed and glanced up at Kate. "Esposito has a thing about ferrets."
Kate turned to Esposito, who had backed up against her desk and was now looking furious and like he wanted to throw-up. "So I gathered." She shook her head a little, suddenly wondering how and why she was having a conversation about ferrets. Ferrets? "Wait, what?" She hadn't even had any coffee yet.
"They're nasty. Snakes with fur." Esposito shuddered.
"Why…why are we talking about ferrets?"
"Because Ryan has one in his fucking desk drawer!"
"Oh my god! Shhhh!" Ryan was started to sweat, his eyes almost rolling in his head as he tried to make sure Gates wasn't just out of sight somewhere. "I'm sorry, okay! I picked it up from my cousin this morning. I'm taking it to Jenny at lunch. You weren't supposed to have to see it!"
Esposito twisted his face in disgust. "You're giving Jenny a ferret? Like as a gift?"
"It's for her kindergarteners. It's going to be the class pet."
"You got kids a ferret?"
Ryan looked a little peeved. "Not everyone has your ferret issues, dude. The kids are excited."
"Whoa." Kate held her hands up, still unable to believe she was talking about ferrets before 8:30 in the morning. This on top of the cat burglars –she vaguely wondered if she was still at home asleep. She was way too tired for this. "Ryan, a ferret's not going to stay in your desk drawer until lunch."
"No, it's cool. I gave him Dramamine, because he gets carsick..."
"Awesome," interjected Esposito. "A barfing ferret."
"It's not...look, it knocks him out so he'll sleep until I take him to Jenny." Ryan cast a pleading look at Esposito. "I'm really sorry, man, but you won't even know he's here."
Esposito shook his head. "Bro, if I have to see that thing…"
"You won't. He's totally out. See?"
Ryan started opening the drawer just as Kate noticed Gates rounding the corner.
"Gates! Gates!" she hissed, leaping up to stand in front of Ryan's desk in a bizarre panic reaction that Ryan and Esposito must have shared, because not one of them thought to slam the drawer shut.
Instead, they stood in front of the ferret drawer like they were five-years-old and trying to hide a mess from their mom. Kate wanted to roll her eyes at herself, because honestly, when had they become the Keystone Cops? She couldn't because they were all busy staring at anything but Gates, like they were trying to avoid detection from a predator.
It didn't work. She was headed straight for them.
Gates stopped directly in front of them, flipping through a memo while she started talking.
"Good morning. I..." She looked up at the three of them. Kate could feel Ryan trembling beside her.
Gates took in their wide, panicked eyes and mistook it for attentiveness. "Well, aren't you three bright-eyed this morning." She glanced at her memo again. "We've had a quiet night. Nothing going on. I trust you will get caught up on your paperwork."
Kate fought the urge to roll her eyes at being spoken to like an uncooperative 11th grade study hall class. Gates turned to go and Kate could feel Ryan beginning to slump in relief when she turned back.
"Oh, and Robbery will be using Interrogation One today. The heat is out on the second floor and their interrogation rooms are unusable. I trust that won't be a problem?"
"No, sir," they chorused. Like the damn three musketeers.
Just as Gates started to walk away, Kate heard it. A scratching noise, followed by a squeak, and then Ryan started having the loudest, fakest coughing fit she'd ever heard, while Esposito just stood there with his eyes bugging out. Oh good lord. Kate sighed on the inside. Most days she felt like a professional adult. This was not one of those days.
Gates was staring at Ryan, her lip slightly curled with distaste. He sounded like he was about to cough up a lung. If he kept it up much longer he was going to make himself throw-up.
"Are you all right, Detective Ryan?"
"Fine," Ryan gasped, actually giving Gates a thumbs-up. "Just…allergies."
Kate briefly wondered if he really was allergic to ferrets. That would just make the whole situation perfect.
"Well, then." Gates gave a little nod as she turned away. "Carry on."
With Ryan still coughing on one side of her and Esposito frozen on the other, Kate questioned how it was that the most ridiculous situation on earth was happening to her without Castle present. What were the odds?
Speaking of, Castle chose that moment to emerge from the elevator, snow in his hair and, thank the lord, a coffee in each hand. "It's snowing!" he called out, clearly delighted.
Kate's heart stumbled a little when she heard his voice. Recently it was almost too much, when she would see him after some time apart. It was like she had to get used to him, his presence, the fact that he loved her, all over again, every time, and for those first few moments she was overcome.
First thing in the morning was the worst, but recently it had gotten so bad that sometimes she could feel her heart turn over if they happened to have been separated for lunch. She was pathetic.
Last week he had been doing book signings around the city and she hadn't seen him for three days in a row. When he strolled in on the fourth morning, smiling and bearing coffee, it had almost been too much. Seeing him, the sheer relief of it, had been so strong that Kate had actually had to excuse herself to the bathroom. She had leaned against the sink and reminded herself to breathe. Tried to still her racing heart. Wiped away the ridiculous moisture from her eyes, stared in the mirror, and wondered who in the hell was the woman staring back at her.
Today it only lasted a second, a quick drop of her stomach, the slightest intake of breath, and then Kate was able to watch him coming towards her. Her secret unacknowledged fear that one day he wouldn't come in - because he was bored, because he realized she might never be ready for the way he made her feel – was once again temporarily assuaged.
Castle stopped just before Kate's desk, clearly nonplussed at the sight of the three of them standing stock still and shoulder-to-shoulder in front of Ryan's desk.
"Hey guys." He slowly cut his eyes from one to the other as he held out a coffee in Kate's direction. "What's up?"
A beat of silence.
"Ryan has a ferret," Kate offered.
"In his desk," Esposito choked out.
"It's for Jenny," Ryan added.
"Oh, cool." Castle's eyes lit up. "Wedding present?"
This time Kate did roll her eyes.
A/N - This was supposed to be one-shot inspired by an interview Stana Katic gave in which she said she thought it would be funny to see the gang stuck at the precinct with no murders to investigate. It has gotten out of hand. Much of it is written and I know how it ends, but I want to start NaNoWriMo next week. If there is any interest in this I will make a heroic effort to finish it before next Monday. Please review and let me know what you think!