Kate Beckett was not a jealous woman.
Once, in college, just before her mom had died, she'd caught her boyfriend at a sorority party necking with a freshman who'd decided that a bra and shorts were appropriate party attire. He was supposed to be at home, sick. Although to be fair, the freshman's tongue down his throat did make it look a little like he was vomiting.
Kate wasn't much of a partier, so his assumption that she wouldn't be there wasn't too far off. But that particular night her group of friends had somehow talked her into stopping by the party. She'd spotted him as soon as she walked in. He didn't see her right away. She felt a stab of hurt, of course; she wasn't inhuman. And then something else had happened. Something she couldn't quite explain, except for chalking it up to a torrent of self respect.
It happened just as he stopped sucking the freshman's face long enough to glance at the door. He spotted her, his eyes widened, and he lunged to his feet.
"Kate! Umm, what are you…I mean, this is my friend Kim…"
She'd laughed. Honest to God, she'd laughed. Then she'd leaned forward, thumbed the lipstick smudge off his cheek, and wiped her thumb on his shirt.
"Nice knowing you, Jake."
And that was that. Her friends had been impressed, but Kate was more pleased with how proud her mother had been when she explained why Jake wouldn't be coming around anymore. So pleased, in fact, that she internalized it and turned it into a lifestyle. Hence the reason why she wasn't a jealous woman.
But something was wrong. Very wrong. Because if it wasn't jealousy gnawing at her intestines, then what was it? If she wasn't a jealous woman, then why was she currently wishing she could sling the annoyingly perky Amy Lawson up on a rack at the shooting range, and rip a few rounds into her via the department issued Sig Sauer on her hip?
Amy Lawson was Castle's new girlfriend.
Yeah. Girlfriend. Castle had a girlfriend. What the hell.
He'd been babbling about her for three weeks. Kate had only half listened, because man did he talk a lot. Plus she'd assumed that it wouldn't last. Castle's women never did.
Except Amy didn't go away. For three weeks he'd talked about the same woman, when his track record was usually three hours. And now, as if wanting to rub it in her face that she'd assumed incorrectly, he'd brought Amy to the precinct.
She was nice. Perky. Pretty. Blond. Kate wanted to punch her. Or Castle. She couldn't decide which.
She wasn't jealous though. Nope. Not a chance. She didn't even like Castle. She didn't like when he invaded her personal space and sniffed her hair in what he thought was a subtle way but was actually the complete opposite. She didn't like when he told her she smelled like cherries, didn't like when he called her his work wife, and certainly didn't like when he told the whole world via his new bestseller that he thought she was extraordinary.
Nope. Didn't like him at all. And if she didn't like him, then she definitely wasn't jealous.
Kate watched Amy walk away, oblivious to Castle's eyes on her instead of on his new girlfriend. Kate's eyes traveled over Amy's long legs, her perfect blond hair that bounced with every step, and she felt another pang of the weird sensation that had taken over the pit of her stomach ever since Castle had said "Detective Beckett, this is Amy Lawson."
It wasn't jealousy. She'd just had too much caffeine without balancing it with food. She really needed to limit herself to three cups a day.
Kate turned her back on the blond and started rustling through the papers on her desk, looking at them but not really seeing them. The precinct was empty; she'd been finishing up some paperwork when Castle had decided to show off his blond.
"So what do you think?" Castle's voice came from behind her. She couldn't place his tone.
Kate shrugged. "She's great, Castle."
"You really think so?"
She tried to ignore the hope in his voice, the subtle need for her approval. It didn't mean anything - not when they were talking about a leggy blond.
"I mean, I thought you'd like her," Castle continued. "She's got a lot of really nice qualities. She's smart, funny, pretty…"
Castle trailed off when Kate snorted loud enough for him to hear. "Is there anything she isn't?"
She expected some type of smart ass retort; something that was oh-so-typical from Richard Castle, but what she got instead was silence. She tried to ignore it, still rustling with her papers, completely unwilling to chance a glance behind her to see the expression on Castle's face. She didn't want to know – she was afraid to know.
"She isn't you."
Beckett froze, her fingers clasping the papers absently. She swallowed hard as her heart started thumping and the feeling in the pit of her stomach morphed into something else.
"Lucky you," was the only thing she could think to say.
She heard him chuckle softly. "I was thinking quite the opposite, Detective."
The feeling in her stomach intensified. She searched blindly for something, anything that could change the path they were headed down.
"Castle," she sighed, "I'm really not in the mood for your humor right now. After a day like today, your jokes aren't particularly welcome."
There was another vague silence. Kate jumped when she felt his hands suddenly close around her upper arms. His body pressed into her from behind and she felt his mouth next to her ear.
"Who's joking?" he whispered.
Kate's eyes closed automatically as a wave of goose bumps took over her skin. She was silently grateful that she was wearing long sleeves and he couldn't feel the shiver that raced across her skin.
She swallowed, working up the nerve to turn around. When she finally did the proximity of his face, only inches away, sent a jolt of electricity through her body.
"I'm not in the mood for games," she told him, and she was dead serious. She couldn't take any teasing; not tonight, and not after Amy.
There was a twinkle in his eyes, but it wasn't the one he typically had; it was different somehow, serious in its own way.
"Neither am I."
She pushed him away by pressing a hand to his chest. It was unnerving to be trapped between him and her desk. She ignored how solid he felt beneath her hand; she definitely did not need to start having those thoughts.
"You're always in the mood for games," she argued. "So why don't you go play one with your girlfriend and leave me to work in peace?"
He took a step toward her, closing the distance that she'd just earned with her push.
"She's not my girlfriend."
Kate frowned. Really? Now that he mentioned it, she supposed he'd never actually called Amy his girlfriend. She had just sort of assumed…
"And I'd rather play with you."
"You don't mean that."
"I'm serious, Castle. Tonight isn't the night to push my buttons. I've had a long day and I've got work to do. Go play with Amy."
She started to turn away from him but his hands reached up and gripped her shoulders, holding her in place.
"I would rather work with you than play with Amy, you know."
Kate rolled her eyes. "Charming."
"I'm serious," he continued. "You have to know by now what I think of you."
Kate looked him straight in the eye. He was being uncharacteristically somber. It was a little unnerving, because it made her want to take him seriously. "Oh, I've known from day one. I'm your next conquest."
"You don't give yourself enough credit, Detective."
"It's you I'm not giving any credit. You have the attention span of a goldfish."
"Had the attention span of a goldfish," he corrected. "Before I met you."
Kate shook her head. "What are you playing at, Castle? Is tonight the night you have us hitting the sheets in the office pool?"
He laughed. "I didn't put any money in that pool, Beckett."
"Oh? Worried your charm doesn't work as well on someone with an I.Q. higher than that of a rock?"
"No. I just figure you deserve better than being a bet in an office pool."
Kate couldn't help it; she was flattered. She hated how he could do that; charm her when her guard was at its highest. What on earth would he be able to do if her guard was down?
"That's sweet," she muttered, "but I really don't have time for this."
Castle ignored her, his hands starting to massage her shoulders. "You're tense," he observed.
"I can't imagine why," she shot at him, giving him a pointed look.
"Agreed. Babysitting Ryan and Esposito is a real pain in the ass."
The smile spread across Kate's face before she could stop it. Castle's grin matched hers.
"See? Isn't it nice to smile? Isn't it nice to loosen up a bit?"
"I'm plenty loose, thank you," Kate retorted. She paused when Castle tilted his head, and then realized how bad her last statement sounded. She felt a blush rush over her face.
"Um, I mean not loose. Not in the way that…I mean…"
Castle placed a finger over her mouth. "I know what you mean, Kate."
She stared at him. He never called her Kate. She realized she was pinned between her desk and his body again. He lowered his finger.
"I can't imagine you as a conquest, you know."
She raised an eyebrow. "No?"
"No. I can't imagine walking away from you. I mean when you were mad at me for…you know…"
He looked suddenly sheepish. "Sticking your nose where it didn't belong?" she suggested.
He shrugged. "Yeah, sure. I was going to go with being selfish, but yours is nicer. Anyway, that was rough. I didn't like not being able to see you every day. Ask Alexis. I ate a whole pint of Rocky Road in one sitting."
Kate smiled at the image, but she couldn't ignore the implication of his words. "That's easy for you to say now. But things would be different after..."
His smile was absolutely devilish. She swallowed. "After whatever it is you're thinking about right now."
Castle leaned in closer, licking his lips. "You want to know what I'm thinking about, Becks?"
He'd started calling her that a lot lately. Ryan and Esposito had been ripping on her for it.
"I'm thinking about how you're wrong," he whispered anyway. "I wouldn't feel any different. And I would really, really like to prove it to you…"
He was leaning in, closing the distance between their lips, and for some reason that was escaping her at the moment Kate wasn't stopping him. All she could think about was how he thought she was better than an office pool and how maybe Amy Lawson had no more on her than that skanky freshman sorority girl had.
She briefly thought about shoving him away, maybe turning her face away and giving him the cheek, but she didn't. Instead she let her eyes slip closed and she could feel his breath on her lips when…
Kate shoved Castle away from her quickly and looked over to see Esposito and Ryan standing a few yards away, staring at them. She took a deep breath.
"Guys. Hey. We were just-"
"Playing a game," Castle interrupted. Kate glared at him and he grinned. She turned back to her detectives.
"We didn't mean to interrupt," Esposito said around the grin taking over his face.
"Yeah, sorry," Ryan piped up. "We'll just go…"
"Don't go," Kate called after them, but they were already turning away. She saw a twenty dollar bill slip from Ryan to Esposito and then they disappeared behind the closing doors of the elevator. Castle was suddenly sidling up to where he had been, his lips lowering toward hers.
"Where were we?"
"You were going home," Kate said, stopping him with a hand to his chest. "I was doing paperwork."
He pouted. "Oh come on, Becks. I liked where this was going…"
"Well that makes one of us. Go home, Castle."
"Wanna come with me?"
"Can I come home with you then?"
"Not a chance."
She would never know how he had mastered a whine that was pitch perfect with a five year old. "You have a leggy blond waiting for you," she told him, her eyebrows raised. "And I have Christina Baylor's paperwork waiting for me."
He pouted. She refused to let herself think that there might have been something cute about it. She turned her back on him and reached for the paperwork.
"Good night, Castle."
She really thought she had him. She'd used what Castle called the "boss-lady" voice, she'd cocked her eyebrows threateningly, she'd even referenced the leggy blond in hopes that the ADD child within him would remember the adult pleasures that could possibly be waiting for him with perky Amy. That's why she literally jumped when he pressed his front in line with her back and reached his arms around her to push the paperwork in her hands back onto the desk.
"Kate," he murmured in her ear. She stifled a shiver.
"What?" she snapped.
"I changed my mind. I want to play a game."
"Rick. Why don't you ever call me Rick?"
It was really hard to think when he was pressed up against her and his breath was warming her ear.
"Fine. Rick. Don't you think this is a little inappropriate?"
"If we were savvy Detective Beckett and debonair novelist Richard Castle, maybe. But as Rick and Kate? Totally appropriate."
Suddenly he was gripping her arms. He spun her around and pressed himself into her body in the same instant. His hand held the small of her back which was curved as she held her head away from his. He lowered his lips an inch away from hers as his other hand came up to cradle the back of her neck.
"Want to play a game?" he murmured.
Kate bit her lip and weighed her options. It was Castle, after all. This probably wasn't a very good idea. They worked together. He was quite the ladies man. He had a…well, he had an Amy. Not to mention he usually acted like a twelve year old. Nothing about this seemed good.
But just like she couldn't control her jealousy, she couldn't control what came out of her mouth next.
"What kind of game?"