November 17th, 2012.
Yawning, Beckett rolled over in bed and stretched out her arm towards the nightstand, only for her skin to be assaulted by the cool air. However, the high-pitched screech coming from her phone was far more violent, so she continued to reach for it, then brought it into her cocoon of covers, outside of which not a single wavy strand of hair could be seen.
"Beckett," she answered the phone groggily.
"Body's dropped," Esposito said bluntly. He, too, sounded tired. "Seventy-Fifth and Lex."
"I'll be right there," murmured Kate, but he'd already hung up.
Rising from her palace of warmth, she stretched out and heard her back click, before opening her wardrobe and grabbing the first items she laid eyes on – a dark pair of jeans and a black v-neck sweater – and making for the front door, digging out a black pair of chunky heels to pull on as she descended the stairs in her building.
It was cold outside, and before she went anywhere Beckett fished her leather jacket out from under the Kevlar in the trunk, pulling it on gratefully. She even dug her leather gloves out from the glove compartment.
Sleepily, Beckett followed the roads north to Seventy-Fifth and parked up a few buildings down from the crime scene, which was possibly identifiable from the moon given all the blue and whites that were here. Must be something important, Beckett thought.
Beckett badged her way under the tape and up the stairs to the apartment, which was crawling with officers.
"Why are so many of you here?" she asked the officer on the door.
"Thin walls," he said. "Seven different tenants here called in shots fired and the operators couldn't keep up."
"I see," Beckett yawned.
The scene was fairly run-of-the-mill – a light, airy apartment with minimal furnishings and little space, blood on the rug, and a dead guy with three to the chest.
"Morning, Beckett," Ryan greeted her. "This here's Sam Gregory; there are shell casings here for a .38 but no gun, CSU have picked up a few fibres and they've taken prints, but only from two people, so it's not likely any of 'em match our killer."
"OK. Canvassed the area?"
"The uniforms are on it. Figured they may as well stay and help."
"Um, alright, I'll go downtown and start up a board, dig up what I can on the victim." Beckett turned for the door.
"Hey," came a far-too-cheerful-for-half-six-on-a-Saturday-morning greeting from across Kate's desk, at which she sat rubbing her temples.
"Oh, hey, Castle," Beckett murmured.
"Are you OK?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, I just didn't get to sleep till late last night and I forgot I called you."
Castle moved around the desk and sat in his usual spot, shrugging off his jacket and slinging it over the metal arm of his faded orange chair. He offered her his hand under the cover of the desk. She smiled and took it gratefully. They shook.
"So, what have we got?" Castle asked, not letting go of her hand.
"Shooting. Close-range – there are muzzle burns – but not expert; you see how far apart they are?"
"Nothing so far."
Castle thought for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak.
Kate interrupted, "Don't say mob hit after I told you it was sloppy."
He thought again. Opened his mouth again.
He gave in at last and laughed, not only at his predictability, at his far-fetched idea, but also he laughed because she knew him so well, and he was almost as in love with that as he was with her.
"I think you need some coffee, love," he said softly, radiating kindness, his blue eyes aglow.
Kate smiled and led the way to the break room, where she sat on the couch and proper her feet up on the coffee table, flicking through the victim's priors. "Sam Gregory, thirty-eight. He's been charged with money laundering, fraud, theft. You name it. But he's never hurt anyone."
"No," Castle said sarcastically, "he just stole all their life savings and ruined their lives." He proceeded to hand Kate her cup with a pleasant smile, which was echoed by her when she looked down and saw the heart shape he'd drawn with the foam.
Castle sat down beside Kate and began to twirl a piece of her hair as they sipped and she read, quickly dropping the silken strands when a uniformed officer wandered past the window in the door. As Kate continued to pursue the file, her eyebrows and nose crinkled in her own adorable way as it usually did when she was thinking hard about something. Castle reached across and smoothed it out, taking her by surprise. When her startled look soon faded, she looked up and smiled at him before swivelling her head and kissing his hand where it had rested on her cheek.
They gazed into each other's eyes a moment longer, before a movement caught Castle's eye near Kate's desk.
"Esposito and Ryan are back," Castle said as he stood, helping Kate up by holding her hand softly, then they wandered over to where two very tired looking detectives settled into their respective desks.
"Lanie has the body," Esposito declared.
"No trace in the apartment building," Ryan informed them with equal succinctness.
"Don't worry boys, we can clock off early today," Beckett told them.
"Oh, don't worry, we will be," Esposito had clearly already thought of this.
"Heard you caught a body?" a commanding voice asked from the elevator as Captain Gates made her way towards them.
"Yes, sir, a shooting in an apartment building up on seventy-fifth," Beckett told her, trying to stifle a yawn which at last made itself known once she'd finished speaking.
"Have you informed next of kin?"
"Uh, we're still looking for family, it doesn't look like he has any," Ryan piped up.
"OK, well, keep me posted," Gates said and walked to her office, where she, too, let a large yawn consume her face, making Castle and Beckett giggle at the idea of her tough-as-nails demeanour cracking slightly.
The three detectives and the writer sat quietly for a few moments, all of them slowly waking up. Ryan stretched out his back. Esposito rubbed a hand across his jaw, assessing the stubble situation. Castle stroked his hair. Beckett clicked her pen. The clock ticked. LT came walking by, clocking off the night shift. Computers hummed. Beckett clicked her pen faster.
"OK, I'm going to see Lanie," Kate said at last, worried the silence and the echoed thought of what do we do now would consume her.
"Good idea," Castle agreed and followed Katie to the elevator, slipping his arms into the sleeves of his jacket.
He was just glad for the opportunity to hold her hand as they decended.