Chapter 1 – I Dreamed a Dream
"You smell like cherries."
Castle's dreaming of cherry pie: tart and sweet both at once, and oh-so-delicious on the mouth and tongue; crisp pastry to be broken and crumbled, the sharp shock of the filling and the satisfaction when he rolls it round his palate. He's drooling on his pillows when he wakes, unsurprisingly hungry. Cereal and coffee finished, after Alexis has left for school , he still can't get the enticing notion of cherry pie, possibly, delectably, with cream, out of his head.
It's a bit strange. Cherry pie hasn't really figured in his kitchen or his imagination previously. He tries to take care of himself, most of the time, and while dessert is surely an invention of some unknown miracle worker back in the beginning of time, he's well aware that unless he wants to be rather more cushiony than photogenic he needs to restrict it. He's not that keen on jogging or the gym, though he forces himself to do both and is quite proud, in an entirely masculine way, of the resistance levels he pushes against when he's weight training. He'd prefer other forms of exercise, but he hasn't found a suitable…training partner… for a while. Well. That's not true. He has found one he thinks would be good. But she won't train with him.
He likes to stay in shape. It would just be so utterly humiliating not to be able to keep up with Beckett, a woman who can run faster in 4-inch heels than he can on a treadmill. For longer. And of course, he wouldn't want her to laugh at his physical abilities. Laughter's definitely not the emotion he's aiming for.
And suddenly he realises why he's dreamed of cherry pie. Beckett smells of cherries, and he only found it out, for all his observations of her, when she leaned over him to look at that drawing. She was almost, almost, near enough to kiss – and then Ryan and Esposito came in and she drew back depressingly fast and the moment was gone. Again. In his more paranoid imaginings, he suspects Ryan and Esposito of deliberately waiting until they could break up any possibility of a moment. Because after all, what else is letting Beckett deny the tension between them, if it's not just the boys getting in the way all the time. She can't possibly have missed him appreciating her. And he is absolutely certain, from all his ill-gotten experience, that she feels the same. Not that she admits it.
He wanders off to his study – there's been no murder call this morning yet to allow him to procrastinate – to flip open his laptop and attempt to write. But soon enough he's back in a reverie where Detective Beckett is eating cherry pie in his kitchen and he's watching her lick crumbs from her lips – mmmm – and there is an infuriatingly sexy little smudge of cherry filling to the side of her mouth that he could just clean up with his tongue and then…
And then his phone rings. It's not Beckett, it's not a body, it's not an excuse to go via a bakery and take cherry pie to the Twelfth. It's Gina, ex-wife, publisher and nemesis, demanding to know why he hasn't submitted the next chapter. "It was due a week ago, Richard, and what's your lame excuse this time?" He makes his apologies and settles down, forces himself to start writing, and then the words begin to flow so freely that before he knows it he's written three good chapters and is embarking on a fourth.
Eventually inspiration runs out, several thousand more words later, and reality settles in. It's mid-afternoon and he's skipped lunch somehow. He e-mails two chapters to Gina (that way he'll still have a bone to throw her when she's next demanding he deliver) and wanders around the loft, picking up and putting down, unable to settle to a movie or a game or a book or anything. So he does what he always does when he's bored, and takes off to the precinct to annoy Beckett and trade quips with Ryan and Esposito. If there hasn't been a murder, then it's only right to give them all a break from the paperwork, right? It's practically his public duty to ensure that New York's finest are not made stale, flat and unprofitable by staring at unrelieved paperwork all day. And – he bounces happily – he'll go via a bakery and take them all cherry pie. The fact that disrupting the precinct with food will irritate the hell out of Beckett is just the filling in the pie.
In the precinct, Beckett, Ryan and Esposito are in the middle of a low-voiced, but nevertheless intense, argument. Beckett's not winning.
"But Beckett, when we came in you were practically in his lap. Can't tell us that was a discussion about the case."
"Shut up, Ryan. Nothing to see. Case is closed."
"Yeah," says Esposito disbelievingly. "Didn't look like nothing to us. We hadn't come in, you'd've been kissing." The last word is stretched out and delivered in an irritating playground chant.
"Nothing to see, boys." Her tone is getting strained and sharper.
"Don't believe you."
And of course at that moment Castle walks in carrying a large bakery box with a canister of whipped cream and says "What don't you believe?"
Beckett throws up her hands in a gesture of total disgust and thumps down in her chair, hands moving to hold her head. "Now my day is perfectly complete," she groans.
Ryan and Esposito grin at Castle. "Beckett won't admit she was kissing you," they smirk.
Castle's torn. It would be so much fun to really wind Beckett up here, but if he does that then she will assuredly maim and kill him. Which would not be a good start to what he's aiming for, which is Beckett for dessert, so to speak. He gets some game on.
"Well," he begins, "she wasn't kissing me." The boys groan. Beckett rolls her eyes, though he thinks there's a measure of thankful relief there. Ryan and Esposito must really have been putting the pressure on. "But to make up for your understandable disappointment I brought some food."
The boys are over in instants. Castle opens the box and reveals the pie, to lip-smacking approval from all around him. Except that there's a silence where one noise of approval ought to be. Looking round, there's a Beckett-shaped hole in the bullpen. He leaves the mass of hungry detectives to their argument about dividing up the pie, hoping that there will be at least a small slice and some cream left for him, and slips out of the ravenous mass. (honestly, it's like the worst zombie movie he's ever seen) He spots the trailing edge of a high heel disappearing round the corner and follows.
Beckett's aiming for the back stairs when she hears the footsteps trotting behind her. She barely refrains from cursing out loud: she was hoping to get away from people. Everyone. She's been put on edge by Esposito and Ryan teasing her and she's not in the mood for Castle's bouncy, irritating self-satisfaction.
"Hey, Beckett. You're missing out on my pie. It's delicious cherry, and I even brought whipped cream."
"I don't like pie." Cherry pie. What sort of an idiot does he think she is? Could he be more obvious? He announces to half the bullpen that she smells like cherries and then turns up with cherry pie oblivious to the crap that she'll have to deal with when he leaves. "Go away, Castle. Seeing as you've turned my desk into the service counter of a diner I can't do any work, so I'm going home."
"Aw, Beckett, c'mon. How can you not like pie?" Well, there are a lot of answers to that. Too solid for her taste, too big for one person. But mostly, too many memories of her mother baking when she was small and the smell of pie twining round their home. She doesn't go to bakeries that sell pie. She doesn't bake, either. In fact, she barely cooks. Takeout works just fine, when she remembers. She's at the precinct so much that filling her fridge is pointless: just a route to strange-coloured mould cultures that might once have been food.
Castle's a bit confused. He knows Beckett has a sweet tooth: she's never short of M&Ms or gummibears. He'd thought she'd love the pie. But it seems, from the undertone edging her words, that he's screwed up again. He turns big blue eyes on her with his best puppy-dog look, which has no effect at all.
"I'm leaving, Castle. Go back to your pie. I'm sure it appreciates you. Cupboard love, isn't that what it's called?" Ouch. Even for Beckett, that's snarky. By the time he's thought of a retort she's on the ground floor, leaving him internally wincing. He trudges back to the bullpen and is somewhat consoled by the presence of a remaining slice of pie and enough cream to soothe his sore feelings. He takes it home, eats it with luxurious enjoyment and thinks about Beckett some more.
She confuses him, and he doesn't like being confused. She's whipcrack smart, and he's not used to brains that can beat his. She's sex on legs, but she doesn't behave like she knows it. And she's into him, but she's not admitting it. He needs some way to get to her, and he's failed with every route he's tried. She's turned down direct approaches, choked off flirtation, and stays a safe amount of personal space out the way. He's never spent this much time on someone so clearly unresponsive before. He should quit and move on to an easier target. Except. Except that when he leans too close her breath hitches, almost invisibly. Except that she whispered, "You have no idea" in a voice that would have aroused the dead at the close of their first case. Except that she wanted him to kiss her the first time he saved her life. Except that she smelt of cherries and was leaning into him and her eyes had been wide and dark. Except that he can't stay away from her.
So, how to solve the Beckett mystery.
The issue: first: two lips, cherry ripe. And unaccountably not regularly pressed to his. Second, a lithe body, equally unaccountably not tucked into his. Third, legs that go on forever, and still unaccountably not wrapped round him every night. Summarised, he wants her. But she won't play. He ignores the tiny tweak in his chest that says that perhaps playing isn't quite where he's at any more.
So that's the issue identified. How to get Beckett to play with him.