As a diehard SPREE, there are no references to spoilers, photos, or anything other than the promo at the end of "Murder He Wrote."


xXx

"Who is that? … Is that… Castle?" Esposito said it, but all three of them were thinking it as they peered at the video feed from the security camera.

Both Ryan and Esposito flicked their eyes towards Beckett, catching the angst clearly written on her face.

Esposito thought he understood the look... he had been betrayed by a partner before. Seeing Castle's face on the screen felt like a punch in the gut.

But Ryan saw the rest of it, too. Castle was in the jewelry store, buying a gift for another woman. He saw Beckett swallow hard, forcing the lump in her throat down, and he forced himself to look back at the screen.

And they both heard her stuttered intake of air as she tried to comprehend what she was looking at.

Kate sharply stood up, shoving her chair backward with a muttered "Excuse me," and swiftly strode to the break room. She couldn't let them see her cry, but she didn't think she could stop the tears. And they were coming, damn it, whether she wanted them to or not. She shut the door behind her and flipped the lock as she gulped in a few more breaths.

Damn. Was he really… Could he? Had he really not changed?

She tried so hard to will away the niggling worry that she was another conquest. That worry always ate at the back of her mind, but his comment in the Hamptons that all the other women weren't her had helped.

It wasn't helping now.

A light knock on the door made her jump. Damn. She was reeling and confused and she needed to get her shit together.

"Beckett?" Ryan's voice spoke softly from the other side of the door. "You okay in there?"

"Yeah. Just gimme a minute." Beckett made herself even out her breathing and turned the lock.

Ryan took the soft snick as an invitation and came in shutting the door behind him. "Kate, there some other explanation for this. He could've been there for some other reason. This doesn't mean he did it."

"Really, Ryan? What other explanation? What other possible reason would he be in there with her?"

"I don't know, Beckett. But I don't think he's lying to you."

Tears rolled down her cheeks and she turned away, palms resting on the counter in front of the espresso machine – his espresso machine. "He's mine… My partner. He supposed to tell me what's going on. He's not supposed to be sneaking around behi-"

Beckett cut herself off, afraid she was revealing too much.

"He's not your only partner. Javi and I, we're your partners too. And if we need to hurt Castle for you, we will."

"Do you think he did it, Ryan?"

"No, but then again, everybody looks like a killer to me. If you push somebody far enough…"

Kate couldn't help but think of saying pretty much the same thing years ago to Castle, and he made a silly face and asked if he looked like a killer to her. "Yes, you kill my patience."

Maybe he was a killer. But she couldn't believe that.

"What motive would he have?" She sincerely hoped Ryan could give her an answer.

He shook his head. "Guilt."

Kate looked at him, surprised, "Guilt over what?"

Ryan, yeah, he really didn't want to answer that. But he did, because that's what partners do. "Beckett, if he was cheating on you, he damn sure should have felt guilty."

Her eyes flicked up in panic. "How did you know?"

"Meth dealer from the Hamptons. But I didn't tell anyone. Not even Javi."

She waited for him to ask why they kept it a secret, but he didn't. He didn't ask, and he didn't judge. And she remembered that she trusted this man, and loved him like a brother. He's loyal and true, and he didn't rat her out to Gates.

"Shit, Kevin, what if he cheated? What do I do?"

"You do your job."

Kate nodded, breathed deeply, and pulled herself together. "Thanks."

xXx

Esposito watch them both come out of the break room - Kate headed toward the ladies room and Ryan came back to the desk.

Espo's forehead crinkled as he thought about a memory. "Remember that case with Murse McClintock busting his girlfriend out of prison?"

Ryan, taken aback by the odd question, answered, "Yeah. What about it?"

"Castle asked me if we were in prison together, if we would work together and help each other escape. I said it was every man for himself. But Beckett said, 'Don't worry Castle, I'd get you out.' I wonder if she'll still do that if he actually killed some other woman."

They both looked towards the ladies room door, wondering.

xXx

It wasn't the first time that the team had arrested Castle for murder. Not even the second. But those times were mostly out of spite, after he had abandoned them all summer without calling, while off with another woman.

But this time he didn't act smug. He was afraid. His partners, they weren't being spiteful; they were pissed. They were treating him like a real suspect; but worse, they were treating him like he had truly betrayed them. And he had no alibi. He had no reason to be in that store with that woman. He had no answers.

And he had no Kate. She was probably behind the glass, while Ryan and Esposito looked ready to punch him in the face.

"Dudes don't just hang out at jewelry stores, Castle. Tell me why you were there." Espo's jaw clenched.

"I told you, I was just looking."

"Really?" Ryan chimed in. "There a lot of zeros on those diamonds you bought. Necklace, earrings, tennis bracelet. That's some expensive 'looking'."

"I was walking. Something in the window caught my eye. I had a look around. I bought a few things. Guys, I didn't do anything wrong."

"Where were you walking to?"

"Um, the park."

"You don't sound so sure about that, Castle. Why were you with our victim? What is your relationship with her?"

"I told you, I don't know her, I wasn't with her, I don't have a relationship with her!" Ricks voice crescendoed as his frustration rose.

"And yet, you bought her thousands of dollars' worth of diamonds!"

"I didn't!" He yelled at his partners. How could they think he did this?

"Then who did you buy them for?! That's not the kind of thing that you buy for your mother or daughter! If not the victim, then who were the diamonds for?" Esposito slammed his hand down on the table, pissed off that his friend wouldn't answer his questions.

The yelling stopped. Rick glanced at the mirror, then bowed his head and murmured, "I just went in there to look around. I saw something I liked. I asked the nice lady nearby what she thought of it. We chatted about different pieces. She was looking for a Sweet Sixteen gift for her daughter. I was looking for… something else. I asked her what she thought about the necklace. It, and the coordinating pieces, were pretty. I picked them up as a gift for someone I care about. That. Is. all."

Ryan looked like he was about to interrupt, but his lips stilled in an O when Rick said he was looking for "something else." Because Ryan was pretty sure he figured out what that something else was.

He breathed, "You were looking at rings."

Rick's eyes widened and it dawned on him that Ryan already knew.

Esposito charged ahead. "And just who is this special someone? You got a secret girlfriend? You're looking at rings, and you haven't even told us that you got a girlfriend? Shit, Castle. What the hell, man?"

"I… wasn't buying a ring. It's too soon for that." God, he wished he knew if Kate was behind the glass.

Esposito picked up his pen. "We're going to need a name."

Ryan, who had been sitting quietly with his hand over his mouth, finally spoke up. "No, we're not. Just tell us where you were at the time of the murder. And tell us why your fingerprints were found in the victim's apartment."

"I've never been in her apartment. We both picked out our jewelry, and left the store."

Esposito glanced down at his notes. "Bullshit, Castle. The diamonds you bought were in her bag. There was a note from you that said, 'I love you. Always, Rick.' Your prints were also on her purse, on the coffee cup in her kitchen, and on the jewelry store bag. Care to explain?"

"It was dark; there were no cabs. I stood with her at a coffee cart until she found a taxi. Her stuff fell when she got her coffee. I caught her purse; I held her cup. And if my diamonds and my note were in her bag, then they got mixed up at the coffee cart. We both had our items giftwrapped; they looked the same. I didn't even know the bags had been switched. I swear, I didn't do this."

"Gonna need a name to this mystery girlfriend. If there really is one."

"Javi," Ryan interrupted. He almost told his partner the secret, almost said it during the recorded interview. He caught himself and grabbed his pencil. He jotted four letters on his notepad hidden from the camera, hidden from the two-way mirror, and answered for Castle: "Kate".

"What the f...?" was written all over Esposito's face even though he didn't say it. Then he jerked in his chair to turn it and look at the two-way mirror to give Kate a scowl. "Why didn't you tell me?!"

Castle took the chance to be completely transparent. "There's nobody else. Just her. Only her."

The interview was done. Castle's story made sense, and even though all the evidence pointed at him, they were going to get him out. Because that's what partners do.

But Esposito still punched Ryan hard in the arm for not telling him about Castle and Beckett sooner.


xXx

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