Cold Cases: A Solid Ground Companion


"They're probably making babies!" Lanie enthused, almost squealing. A smile flirted across Ryan's face, as he probably thought of his pregnant wife. Esposito, on the other hand, grimaced.

"Really, chica?" he questioned, dubious of such speculation. "I don't think Beckett would allow herself to get pregnant." He shifted uncomfortably in his chair as he looked at his on-again, off-again girlfriend.

Esposito wondered if Lanie was trying to subtly tell him something by superimposing her own desires and wants on Beckett and Castle. He knew that the disappearance of their friends had helped bring them back together, and he was secretly hoping that it would progress to more than just sharing a bed to comfort one another. Kate had been prodding him to patch up things with Lanie for a while, and truth be told, Esposito had already been thinking about it.

And what shocked him most was the fact that even the idea of having a baby with Lanie wasn't as frightening as it once had been. Now that… that was an unexpected development. He inwardly sighed, worried that he was growing soft. He flicked his eyes over to a smiling Kevin Ryan. It was all Mister Father-To-Be's fault, spreading his joy and happiness over everyone, infecting them with it… like the plague.

Lanie was shaking her head, narrowing her eyes at him as he thought. "Men," she laughed, rolling her eyes. "That's because you guys don't hear all sides of the story." She smirked at them. "You two only see what goes on here at the precinct. Kate and I have had plenty of talks, and believe me when I say that my girl wants to have a family with that man. Damn, he's fine."

"He's fine?" Esposito scoffed under his breath, glowering. "You sure she was talking about Castle?" He wasn't sure if he was more annoyed and uncomfortable with hearing snippets of Lanie and Kate's girl talk, or that his woman was, in a sense, calling Castle hot.

"What!? I'm a red-blooded woman," Lanie asserted, giving him a pointed look. He gulped, imagining she was already planning ways to punish him later that night. "Just because I call you over for a booty call once and a while doesn't mean I can't appreciate Castle's delectable backside. There's a reason the man's been in the top ten bachelor's list several years in a row. But our Kate's snatched him up. Doesn't mean I can't appreciate the view as he follows her like a lovesick puppy."

Ryan coughed, almost spitting out the coffee he was sipping. Lanie smirked and chuckled. Esposito simply grumbled under his breath and pretended to go back to reading his files, doing his best to suppress the embarrassed flush to his face. He was also a little worried with how Lanie just referred to their relationship. Was that all it was to her? A series of late night booty calls?

Beside him, Ryan was still coughing, his fair complexion flushed a bright red as his blue eyes darted back and forth between Esposito and Lanie, who was pretending to concentrate on the autopsy report in front of her.

"Come on, bro," Esposito groused, growing annoyed. "Not like you didn't know we'd gotten back together."

Ryan shrugged, looking like he wanted to get this awkward conversation over with. "Knowing and hearing about something are two very different things," he replied.

Esposito could sympathize. He wasn't really a fan of talking about relationships, especially his own. Ryan eventually calmed down, and turned his head, looking up at Lanie with a questioning look.

"So you really think they'd have kids together?" he asked, moving the conversation back to Castle and Beckett, much to Esposito's relief.

"Yeah, of course," Lanie said, in a softer tone. "Kate's not exactly getting any younger, so her biological clock will start to kick in… if it hasn't already. I'm not saying they'll come back with a brood of kids, but they'll definitely have them... at some point. At least two, at tops."

Esposito shook his head.

"What? You disagree?" Lanie questioned, giving him a challenging look.

"He's got something against it," Ryan shrugged his shoulders, glancing over at his friend before turning back to Lanie. "Last May when Kate was acting all weird, before we knew it had to do with that job offer, I suggested that she might be pregnant." His blue eyes flicked over to Esposito. "Javi shot that idea down quicker than a hummingbird can flap its wings."

"You got something against Kate and Castle having kids, Javier Esposito?" Lanie turned on him, crossing her arms as she stared him down.

Esposito gulped. He knew he was in trouble by her use of his full name. "I'm neither for nor against," he insisted, testily. "I just don't think Beckett would want kids. As long as I've known her, she'd never shown that much interest in having a family."

"Well, she's never had a relationship with a man like Castle before," Lanie countered.

To be honest, Esposito was actually a little surprised at his strong negative reaction when Ryan had made that suggestion last May. Later, he'd ignored the whole incident, because of the wonderful news Ryan had then told him about Jenny being pregnant. He was truly happy for his friend and partner. Ryan would make a great father, and Esposito was looking forward to being the fun tío who'd spoil his nephew rotten.

"Still," Esposito pushed on, heedless of the danger he was walking into. "Beckett's had a tough go at it, and she knows what it's like out there in the real world. Even with Castle as support, I still don't think she'll want to have kids."

"You have no idea what you're talking about, Esposito," Lanie declared, rolling her eyes and turning to Ryan. "See, this is why we broke up that first time around."

"What!?" Esposito hooted, feeling ganged up on. He leaned over and lowered his voice. "Lanie, we talked about this…"

"I know, baby," she smiled sweetly, patting his hand reassuringly with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. "And we'll talk about it some more… later, at my place…," her voice dropped an octave, "tonight."

Esposito returned her smile, deciding that he'd play Lanie's game. After they had their fun tonight, he would surprise her with a little proposition of his own. They'd been having this on-again, off-again relationship for almost as long as Castle and Beckett had been dancing around in denial over theirs, so Esposito felt it was about time they talked about maybe moving in together.

"I see you are all hard at work," Gates' authoritarian voice interrupted them. Esposito glanced up with a mixture of shock and apprehension. He wondered how long the captain had been standing there, and how much she'd overheard. Lanie merely shrugged her shoulders and smirked. Ryan pretended to be busy reviewing a case file. Gates let her eyes roam over the trio, before she slowly reached inside her blazer and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, slamming it down on the table, causing both Ryan and Esposito to jump a little.

"Put me down for twenty on them having a baby," Gates declared, shocking them all.

"Why Captain Gates, I didn't know you were such a romantic," Lanie said, quickly pulling out her phone and making a note of the Captain's bet.

"I know a winning horse when I see one," the captain replied with a curt nod, decisive and unflinching. "And those two never had me fooled. I was surprised they even thought they could pull the wool over my eyes."

"They were kind of obvious," Ryan agreed.

"What!?" Esposito scoffed, narrowing his eyes at Ryan. "You didn't know a thing until that interrogation."

"Yeah, well… you didn't know until Tyson framed Castle! Even then, you had the gull to think he actually cheated on Beckett with the victim!"

"Dude, I was just following the evidence," Esposito tried to defend himself. Sometimes, he felt like the odd man out, which annoyed him, since he'd known Beckett the longest. To tell the truth, he'd been a little hurt that she hadn't told him that she'd finally gotten her head out of her ass and made a move on Castle. Esposito had been prodding her for years, having noticed the unmistakable attraction from the beginning.

"Well, I knew the moment they came back from Beckett's suspension," Lanie interjected. "Kate had this glow about her, and she thought she was being all sly with all her little looks and smiles in Castle's direction." She huffed out a light laugh. "Besides, my girl's had a thing for him since day one."

"How about you, sir?" Ryan asked, a little hesitant, risking gossip with Gates.

Gates leaned her hip against the conference table and crossed her arms as she thought. "To be honest, I thought they were already together when I first took up my posting here. Obviously I had been mistaken. But don't think I didn't notice Mr. Castle hovering outside my office last year when Detective Beckett asked for her badge back. Something had clearly changed between them. And, despite his annoying habits, I genuinely feel that the man is good for her."

"Same here," Lanie concurred.

Gates gave a firm nod. "So, win or lose that bet, I'll just be happy to have them back."

The captain pushed back and stepped towards the doorway, before stopping and turning back around. "Having said that, I'm afraid I'll have to ask one of you to clear out Detective Beckett's desk. The brass sympathizes with us, but 1PP feels its time to get a replacement and fill the gap in your team."

"Sir?" Ryan protested. Esposito knew his friend felt like doing so was akin to giving up.

Gates held up a hand to forestall any more complaints. "I know, Detective," she asserted. "I feel the same. No one can replace her, but we need someone to fill in while she's gone. So I really do need someone to clear out her desk and take her things to her family."

"I'll do it," Lanie offered, pushing out of her chair and standing up.

Gates looked at the Medical Examiner with a seldom seen soft side. "Much appreciated, Dr. Parish," she said, sharing a knowing look with Lanie, before snapping back into her captain mode and marching out the door. "Now, back to work."

Esposito let out a breath he'd been holding in. "You sure about that, chica?" he asked. "It's gotta be a hard. I can help if you want?"

"No, that's fine, Javier," Lanie replied, running a hand along his shoulder in an affectionate manner that didn't go unnoticed by Ryan. "I need to do this. When I'm done, I'll take it to Alexis. The poor girl is really missing her father and Kate."

Ryan and Esposito nodded. "We'll be here if you need anything, the former said.

"Yeah," Esposito concurred. "For anything."

"I know, Javi," Lanie replied, softly, before letting her hand fall from his shoulder.

He watched her leave the room, heading out the door in the direction of Beckett's desk. Esposito did not envy her. He was going to have a hard time accepting someone else in Beckett's place. But Captain Gates was right; their team was operating down a member, and did need the extra manpower to properly work cases.

Sighing, Esposito turned his attention back to the stack of cold cases. He reached up and grabbed the next file on the top of the pile. Lying it down on the table, he opened it and began reading the investigating officer's reports. As he read, his eyes grew wide. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. Was it possible? Could that bastard really have been that sloppy? He quickly shuffled through the file, looking over all the reports and photos within. If Beckett were here, she'd pounce on this. But times were different. They had been, since Beckett chose her life over revenge. He swallowed; making a decision that was going to affect them all. Captain Gates was going to have to be read in.

"Yo, dude," Esposito hissed out in a low voice, as not to be overheard. His heart pounded profoundly in his chest with the potential lead he'd just uncovered. Ryan glanced up and his brow furrowed in confusion. "I think we got something here."

*That's it... hope you all enjoyed the brief look into how the precinct gang is faring. I couldn't resist putting that little foreshadowing at the end. Once again, I'd like to thank codedriver for the PM that inspired this little interlude.