A/N: I was so inspired by the premiere I couldn't help but write this little one-shot. Happy almost Monday!
No copyright infringement intended. All characters, etc., do not belong to me but Andrew Marlowe & ABC instead.
Kate moans as she rolls over and buries her face in a pillow.
She pats the space next to her, searching for his hand, shoulder, stomach, or possibly…. nope. Not there.
Her head pops up, ears pricked, eyes alert.
Lover? Missing. Bizarre sounds coming out of the other room? Confirmed.
Has she really been on suspension so long that her instincts have completely dulled?
What the hell is that noise? Cautiously she slips off the bed, sheets disheveled from yet another night of carnal pleasure. She grabs her silk robe from its deflated position on the floor, flung there by him after he expertly extricated her body from it only a few short hours ago.
She slips out the bedroom door, wrapping the robe as she goes. She lightly pads down her hall, hugging the wall as she moves toward the odd sounds that she's decided must be coming from the other side of her apartment.
When she approaches the edge of the living room she lets out an internal sigh of relief when she makes out his head bobbing up and down on the other side of the couch.
He pops up, like a golfer sniffing the wind.
"What are you doing?" she says whilst entering the room, surveying the bizarre scene he's set out in front of her.
He's moved the couch back, the coffee table is off to the side, and – most disturbingly – the outline of a small body is laid out on her living room floor. Shneeek! He finishes off the end of the foot with one last strip of tape.
"What is all this?"
"Tomorrow's your first day back, right?"
"So I thought we should do a little crime scene rehearsal."
She glances up at him, what now?
"You know, so when I show up at the scene you don't get so overwhelmed by my presence that you can't do your job?"
"Me get overwhelmed?" Her eyebrows stick up to express the absurdity.
"Okay. Maybe it's a little bit of practice for both of us."
"This has to be the most ludicrous thing to wake up to, but okay."
He steps to her, wraps his broad hands around her shoulders and maneuvers her back to the start of her hallway. "Stay."
She looks up at him, immediately entranced by his mouth. Seduced by those incredibly agile lips that lit her skin afire in the middle of the night, trailing down the length of her, ending on that ever so soft spot he knows she'll never say no to.
Before she can stop herself she's leaning in for a kiss, already completely lost in his vortex.
He beams at her. "Ah, ah, ah." He wags a finger at her. "See?"
Crap, he's right.
"Stay." He lets her go, leaving her firmly planted at the other end of the room and even though she should know better, should have more control, she can't help but lean after him, hoping he'll graze her with his thumb, or better yet, his thigh.
But instead he returns to his taped creation. "You just got the call from Lanie – a woman has been murdered in her apartment in midtown. It's barely dawn and you've left me at home with explicit instructions to show up late so as to avoid suspicion. But, you are exhausted from a long night of… Rick-Castle-flavored-distraction." He kneels down beside the body. "Go!"
"Wait a second, I thought you weren't supposed to be here yet?"
"I'm not. I'm playing the illustrious role of our favorite M.E. Hopefully I'll be able to do her justice."
She flicks an eyebrow at him that simultaneously says it-all-makes-so-much-sense-now as well as clearly-you-have-stopped-taking-your-medication.
Dutifully, Castle copies Lanie's meticulous examination of the fictitious body. Surveying the corpse, noting any visible markings, checking for evidence under the invisible fingernails.
And before she knows it she's completely caught up in his charade. Lost in watching him in his own little imaginary world.
"I could do this all day but…" he prompts.
"Oh, sorry." She's woken from her trance. "Uhhhh, what am I supposed to do?"
"What you normally do when you enter a crime scene. You say all that stuff about the victim. Use all that cool jargon. Order people around. It's fun." His mind wanders for a second. "Too much fun."
She smiles, expecting this might just be as tough on him as it is on her.
"Hey Lanie! What've we got?" she says, finally ready to play along.
Castle looks up, perfecting her best friend's twang. "Where'd you wander in from girlfriend, Jersey? I only called you like an hour ago."
Kate's momentarily stunned. Yes she has seen him in all sorts of compromising positions, especially lately, but there's nothing to prepare her for this level of ridiculousness. "You've got to be kidding me."
Castle looks back at her, façade dropped. "It won't work unless it's authentic. Besides, I'm the one who has to do all the heavy lifting. You just get to be yourself. Stop complaining and start doing your job. Unless you've forgotten how?"
Oooh. That one was meant to push her competitive button and even though she knows he knows exactly what he's doing, she can't help but fall for it. She slides her tongue along her cheek as she contemplates exactly how she wants to play this game.
"This stray dog followed me home last night and I just couldn't get rid of him. So I took him in. The mangy mutt kept me up all night. Had to drop him off at the animal shelter on my way in."
Castle licks his lips, he should've seen that jab coming.
But the show must go on so he opts to continue playing the role. "Something tells me he was cute, though."
"Only in a pathetic, scruffy way."
Irked but not enough to be derailed, Castle persists. "Looks like our Jane Doe-"
"Wait a second, Castle. We don't know her name? We're in her apartment?"
Castle breaks character to fill her in. "We do know her name. It's Jane Doe."
"Oh." Kate thinks on this. "For a writer you aren't very original."
"Funny." He slips effortlessly back into his part. "Looks like our Jane Doe is a victim of a GSW. Single gun shot wound to the chest."
"This the weapon?" Kate grabs a pencil and dips it into the trigger, holding up her spare revolver - the one she keeps in her desk drawer - from underneath her sofa.
His eyes say it all – very good Detective Beckett – but he speaks Lanie in response. "I'll have to dig the bullet out of her at the morgue to know for sure, but this ejected shell casing," Castle picks up a piece of lint from the floor, twists it in the light, "corroborates your theory."
Kate nods, amused by his impulsive creativity. "Better print that along with the gun."
"Just getting it to CSU as you speak."
Castle pops up, shedding his Lanie façade as he hands her the piece of lint before he hops up and jogs to the door. His body language immediately morphs into Esposito's tough swagger.
"Beckett! Got somebody I want you to meet."
Kate twists her head, doing her best not to giggle.
Castle wanders back over to Kate, keeping a hand out at his side as if he's escorting someone old, fragile along with him. Kate stands up.
"This is Mr. Tragor, the building's handyman." Kate smiles at Castle.
"Better name?" he asks in his real voice.
Castle clears his throat, manipulates his mouth into Esposito's macho mug. "Good to see you, Beckett."
"You too, Javi. Sorry I got you into this mess."
"I'll always have your back. You never have to ask." Kate's lips twist into a really sweet smile. Even in the silliness of the moment those words spoken by a true friend - someone she considers a brother - are comforting and warm.
"Speaking of having your back. Where's that low-life partner of yours?"
And Kate's so in the moment that she blurts out "he left a little after me so he should-" before she stops herself mid-sentence.
Castle shakes his head and Kate's eyes go wide. Fuck. She didn't mean that. "He said he was going to leave a little after me when I phoned him so he should be here…. soon…. later… sometime soon-ish. But really… I mean… who cares?"
Castle holds up his hand, seesaws it back and forth, letting her know her save was mediocre at best.
Kate shrugs, indicating she'll try to do better next time.
Castle (as Esposito) turns to the side as if addressing someone next to him. "As I was saying, Mr. Tragor's the building's handyman. He was kind enough to let us in. The door was locked when we got here."
Kate looks at Castle, confused. "If it was locked, who found the body?"
"Mr. Tragor heard a gunshot at approximately nine-thirty last night. Called 911. He let the paramedics in when there was no answer at the door."
"So you're telling me the door was locked, with no sign of forced entry?"
"None. And get this, all the windows are painted shut. From the looks of it, it appears they've been that way for a few decades. So no one got in or out that way either."
As Kate mulls that detail over, Castle grabs a small elephant souvenir off the coffee table before he hunches his shoulders, taking on an old man pose. He puts on a rickety voice as he spits out, "Door was locked from the inside. Had its chain still on and everything. I heard the shot go off and poor Lucy here," Castle holds up the elephant as if it were a small pet, "was crying her pretty little eyes out. I had to do something."
Kate surveys the room. "If the chain was on that rules out the theory that our killer had his own key. Hmmm. How'd he leave the crime scene?"
Castle wiggles his eyebrows in delight. Now she's starting to appreciate the intricate mystery he's laying out before her. So he brings back Javi's hoarse voice to lead her to the next piece of the puzzle. "I got nothin' for that, but Ryan's interviewing one of her neighbors. Maybe he saw something."
Castle extends a hand, gesturing out into the room where, presumably, Ryan is standing with said neighbor.
Kate, not needing to be nudged, walks slowly over to Ryan, letting Castle jog over and put on his best Ryan-face before she stops.
"Hey, Beckett! Boy, you've been missed."
Kate's momentarily stunned by how well Castle recreates Ryan's boyish charm. He sells it perfectly. "Do anything fun on your time off?"
Kate grins, makes it look as if she's conjuring up some steamy scene in her head before her face turns blank and she says, "Nope. Totally boring."
Castle laughs, appreciating how well she's playing along. He turns to his imaginary friend. "This here's Jeremy Swire. He lives in the building." Castle snatches a piece of mail off the telephone stand, holds it up. "Apparently Jeremy has a bit of history with our victim. This here's a letter threatening Ms. Doe into giving up her apartment."
Castle jumps into Jeremy's shoes, heaving a huge sigh. "It's not what it looks like."
Kate snatches the letter out of Castle's hand, wags it in front of Castle/Jeremy's face, completely in the moment.
"Really, 'cause it looks like I've got a motive for murder in my hands." Castle flinches, Beckett's intimidation tactics are definitely up to snuff.
"You don't understand! Crews Construction? They want to buy our building! They're willing to pay top dollar. Every tenant has signed the agreement except Ms. Doe. She's the only holdout."
"Why won't she sign?"
"Beats me. The neighborhood's been on a downward spiral ever since the economy crashed. Everyone knows it, including Ms. Doe. I heard a rumor she even bought that gun," Castle shakes a finger at Kate's revolver across the room, "for protection."
Beckett looks at the weapon, then back at Mr. Swire.
"So what are we talking about money-wise. How much is at stake?"
"Crews wants to pay us almost twice the worth of each unit."
Castle steps to the side, imitates Ryan rocking on his heels as he lets out a long whistle, indicating that that's an impressive amount of money.
He jumps back into Mr. Swire's shoes, turns to where he just left Ryan. "I know, right? She's crazy! Even Mr. Tragor wanted her gone."
Beckett glances back over where - if any of this were real – Esposito and the handyman would still be standing. "Why does Mr. Tragor want her to move out?"
"He can't stand that yipping little dog of hers. He's been trying to get her to leave for months! Rumor is it got so bad Ms. Doe bought herself a gun for protection after she overheard Mr. Tragor talking about putting the mutt down. May have been a smart move though, there's been a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood. I hear she sits in her chair every night after eight with her gun in her lap for fear someone might come in and do something to her."
"Where were you yesterday evening?"
"We had a home owner's association meeting. It disbanded around nine but I was up with the treasurer afterward trying to figure out how to cover the shortfall in funds we've had ever since we had all the building's windows redone last year. We should've been able to cover it but no one's paying their HOA dues since everyone thinks they'll be moving out soon."
Beckett considers his story, absorbing all the details.
Castle acts out a nervous suspect's shuffle. "Can I go now?"
"You're a person of interest in this case, Mr. Swire. I suggest you get comfortable."
With that advice Castle breaks character, sprints across the room, hurdles the couch, detours briefly into the kitchen, emerges with two mugs and lands at the front door. He takes a second to compose himself before putting on his most charming grin and…
"Beckett! Sorry I'm late."
He strides over to her, hands her a mug. "The line at the bakery was out the door. What've we got?"
She leans in, whispering to him "You're you now?"
"I'd have you play me but I doubt you'd do me justice."
Kate evaluates him, not buying it. "Too scared to really see how you come off to others?"
Castle nods. " Yep."
Kate moves on. "You should like this one. It's a locked-room murder. Ripped right out of one of your novels."
Castle smiles deviously. "Sounds brilliant! What'd I miss so far?" He does his best eye-flirt but she's immune to it, keeping it all business.
"Ms. Doe was shot to death in her apartment some time around nine-thirty last night. She'd received threats from Mr. Swire, her neighbor, because she was the lone holdout against selling the building to a large construction company."
"Oooh, embittered resident seeks revenge. I like it."
Per usual, Kate doesn't let herself get deterred by his outlandish theories, just plows ahead instead. "But he apparently was up all night working with the HOA treasurer to figure out how to cover their massive budget shortfall."
"I was just going to re-interview the building's handyman, however. Because even though he purports to be a dog lover, I just learned from Mr. Swire that he wanted the dog euthanized."
"Interesting twist. I like it."
As she traipses back to where Esposito was, Castle runs around her, trading his mug for the stuffed elephant as he takes on Mr. Tragor's hunched stance.
Kate stops in front of the fabricated handyman. "Mr. Tragor, a witness tells me you had a contentious relationship with Ms. Doe, is that true?"
Castle feigns an old-man pretending to think back – eyes up in the air, tracing cracks in the ceiling. "Contentious? No…."
"Mr. Swire says you lodged complaints with the HOA about her dog?"
"Well, if you must know, yes there was a time where I wasn't as… appreciative about her pet Lucy as I should have been. But that all changed a little over a month ago."
"When Ms. Doe refused to sign the contract with Crews Construction."
Beckett cocks her head, curious as to where Castle's spinning his story.
Castle, always excited by an enraptured audience, continues. "Once this buildings sells I'm out of a job. By refusing to sign, Ms. Doe was helping me. When I came over to thank her in person she introduced me to little Lucy," Castle hold up the elephant as if it were a trophy to be admired, "and we've been thick as thieves ever since. Got to the point where Ms. Doe let's me take her every afternoon for a training session. I've been teaching Lucy all sorts of tricks. She's a natural."
Beckett taps her chin. "You're an experience dog trainer?"
Castle's eyes light up. She took the bait, excellent. "One of the best if I don't mind saying so. I used to train the clown dogs for Barnum & Bailey!"
Castle drops the old-man act, sprints back across the room and out the front door. Beckett waits several beats, almost concerned he's left the building all together, before he marches back in, chest puffed out, nose up in the air, lips pursed.
"Detective Beckett!" Beckett knows from that admonishing salutation that this is supposed to be her boss.
"Captain Gates, what a rare treat. You don't usually grace the crime scene with your presence?"
Castle cocks his head, looking down at her as he gives her an up/down glare. "Wanted to make sure my finest detective showed up for work this morning." He shifts his gaze over to the empty spot next to Kate. "I see it's another take-your-pet-to-work day."
Castle leaps into position. "Good to see you too, sir. We've missed you."
Kate shoots a look at him. We?
Castle covers "I…I… I've missed you. She hasn't missed you." Kate's eyes go wide. "I mean, I'm sure she's missed you too. I bet she even spent a couple sleepless nights worrying about you." He laughs nervously, realizing he's just dug himself in deeper. "But I'm never with her so I wouldn't know that."
Beckett holds up her hand, seesaws it. Castle shrugs in acknowledgment – agreed, not one of his best - before leaping back into Gates' shoes.
He snatches a picture frame off Kate's entry table, hands it to Beckett.
"I picked up these test results on the way in. The only human prints on the gun were from our victim."
Beckett takes the picture frame, eyes it while her brain churns. "Human prints? You're not saying…"
Castle smiles. "Tech found the distinct pattern of a paw print on the trigger-"
Beckett leers at him, act dropped. "You're kidding me, right?"
He abandons the Gates persona. "Awww, c'mon. That's a great twist!"
"I'm not going to arrest a dog."
"Why would you arrest the dog? She's not the one ultimately responsible." He grins at Kate, egging her on.
Kate considers calling an end to this crazy charade but they've gone this far, what the hell.
She turns to where her partner should be but it takes her gesturing with her head for him to come fill his rightful shoes. He hops into position as she lists the facts.
"So, according to our neighbor, Ms. Doe spent her nights sitting in her rocking chair aiming her gun at the front door in fear of intruders breaking in. Her best friend Fluffy-"
"Lucy – always at her side. But somehow Lucy got a hold of the gun and accidentally triggered it."
"Remember, Castle, locked-room. No one else entered or exited the apartment. How else would it have happened?"
Castle stares at her, giving her a moment.
Castle nods before scooting off to Esposito's corner. Kate follows.
"Mr. Tragor, what kinds of tricks did you teach Lucy?"
"The usual stuff. Bark, roll over, jump up into my lap."
"And how do you trigger those responses?"
Castle pulls out a pen from his pocket. "Why, my trusty dog whistle of course! It's excellent for training since humans can't hear it, only canines can."
Beckett steps back, considering the new information. Castle breaks out of character, sidles up next to her.
Kate peers up at him. "I get Mr. Tragor trained Lucy to jump into her owner's lap to set off the gun, but what I don't get is why? I mean, if Ms. Doe is dead that means Mr. Tragor will lose his job because there's nothing stopping the other tenants from signing the building over."
Castle lifts a brow.
Kate twists her neck, calls out to where Ryan should be. "Mr. Swire!"
As she strides over Castle jogs into Mr. Swire's place.
"Mr. Swire, you said that you spent all night trying to come up with a way to cover the budget shortfall for replacing all the windows?"
Castle assumes an innocent posture. "Yes, Detective. That is correct."
"But how can it be?" Beckett gestures to the windows. "These windows have been painted shut since the eighties."
Castle smiles, so proud she figured it all out. "I, uh…"
Kate steps up to Castle. "You wouldn't be lying to me now, Mr. Swire?"
"No, never. I just-"
"Because I am a police officer and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." She takes a step forward, forcing Castle to move backwards.
"So that money that's missing from the budget, could that be money you used to pay Mr. Tragor to train Ms. Doe's dog to jump on her while she had a loaded gun in her hand?"
"I would never do that-"
Beckett takes one more step, stabs a finger in Castle's chest, and watches as he backs into the arm of the couch, slammed up against the proverbial wall.
Castle holds up both of his hands, acquiescing. "Ok. You got me."
She lingers on him, keeping his eyes on hers. Is it wrong how turned on she is by this game?
She's just about to feel guilty about it all before he swoops a hand behind her neck and pulls her in for a passionate kiss. His lips enmeshing with hers, his tongue tripping lightly over her teeth. She reaches up on her toes just as he brings his other arm around her back, pulling her into him before twisting her around, and knocking them into the couch.
"Oooh!" She lands with a soft thud on the plush cushions, her robe half off her, her hair mussed and out of place, her lips numb for his touch. She gazes up at him. "I thought we were supposed to be practicing restraint?"
He yanks his shirt off as he crawls on top of her, whispering in her ear as he goes…