A/N A friend forwarded me a prompt from Lou (inky coffee) on Twitter: Circumstances force Caskett to share a Knockdown-style "fake" kiss during the 47 seconds arc.
Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I watch the show.
FUBAR. Everything is totally FUBAR. Rick Castle remembers the first time he heard that. It was during his brief aviator-craze phase, when he was eleven and living happily with the delusion that his father was a spy pilot. That's what guys said, apparently, when they flew dangerous missions. "This situation is FUBAR!" He'd felt daring just thinking of such a thing.
He doesn't feel daring now, just mad. Mad and depressed. "This situation is FUBAR," he says bitterly into his drink. The drink he's drinking alone at home at nine o'clock. In the morning.
"Give me an F!" he shouts, even though it makes his head hurt.
"FUCKED!" he shouts back, since there's no one else to do it.
"Give me a U!" he yells, a little louder.
"UP!" Moving right along.
He swishes the liquor around his flannel-lined mouth. "Give me a B!"
"BEYOND!" he responds bitterly.
"Give me an A!"
"ALL!" He nods.
Finally, "Give me an R!"
"REPAIR!" comes as a full bellow.
Two weeks. Everything has been fucked up beyond all repair for two weeks, and there's no way out of the mess. This close. He and Beckett had been this close, and in however long it takes to say "I was shot in the chest and I remember every second of it"—he actually does know how long it takes because he timed it: four seconds—they were suddenly as far apart as the Arctic and Antarctic. That's how it feels, too, even two weeks later. Cold, ice cold, and they're a world apart. Last week she'd acted as though he'd committed a capital crime by coming to the crime scene with Jacinda, and later she wouldn't even give her credit for almost cracking the case. She'd been furious because he'd shown his date a little police information. But what had Beckett done? Gushed all over that Limey bastard detective as if he were 007, that's what. And then there was the dress, the slinky velvet killer that she couldn't possibly have taken a deep breath in when she'd gone undercover with him. She didn't have to wear that. She could have chosen something less revealing. Like with straps to hold it up, for God's sake. She had on those pearl drop earrings, too, practically dripping onto her bare-naked shoulders.
The bottle of Scotch is right next to him, and he refills his glass. She'd lied! She'd lied to him, goddammit. All these months when he was supposed to be waiting for her, when he did wait for her, for what? For her to say sorry, sucker, I have no interest in you after all? Because it turns out that she does remember what he'd said to her in the cemetery, with a bullet freshly lodged in her chest. He'd told her that he loved her, and she'd never acknowledged it. Until two weeks ago, when she'd yelled at some little snot in interrogation that she has total recall of what happened when she got shot. But she's never told him, not him, and he'd asked her last spring.
Maybe he should be grateful that he knows. Knows that it's over. Technically there never was an it, just the hope of one, but he'd been so sure. Yeah, he's really fucking grateful. She might have kept him hanging for years. She might not have told him until he was tottering down Broome Street on his walker, wearing a cardigan stained with yesterday's lunch, and maybe drooling a little. So he can move on now, while he's still steady on his legs and has a full head of hair with not a strand of gray.
He has moved on, which is why he's drinking at breakfast time. He moved on a couple of days ago when he went in search of a new partner, and found one in Detective Ethan Slaughter. Except that the guy—known by other cops as The Widowmaker because his last three partners have died on the job—turns out to be certifiable. Insane. Violent. Must have had his teeth knocked out or chipped in some brawl because he has caps, terrible caps. At least Castle doesn't have to worry about leaving a widow behind, but if he gets killed working with Slaughter the lunatic can add Orphanmaker to his résumé. Alexis will be an orphan. Good thing she just turned 18 and won't have to go live with Meredith.
Last night he'd gone out drinking with the aptly-named Slaughter, and he's paying for it now. His head is exploding and imploding. Is that possible? Apparently, yes, it is. He takes another sip of his Scotch. Hair of the dog. This is his second drink, so it's hairs of the dogs now. Maybe he should just leave the NYPD behind him, chalk it up to experience, and get a dog. He could start a new series of books about a dog. A police dog. He could shadow someone in the K-9 unit. Still the NYPD, but he'd never run into Beckett.
He'd tried to be nice to her, cordial anyway. He'd brought her a coffee like the old days, but she'd iced him out when he asked for just a little help with Slaughter, and gotten furious when they used an interrogation room at the Twelfth. And the guys? He'd asked two tiny, tiny favors: to run three names and a Texas license plate. Espo had agreed only if he got front-row seats at a Knicks game and Ryan had demanded the Ferrari for a weekend. What kind of camaraderie is that? But he's stuck, crushed between a Sisyphusean boulder and a hard place. The hard place being a wall of NYPD blue. He doesn't want to go back to work the severed-heads case with Slaughter, but if he doesn't he looks like a wuss. So he'll see this through and then call it quits. But first he has to sober up and take a shower and put on clothes that don't smell of terrible cigars and even worse booze.
The trouble is, he's in love with her.
Kate Beckett is very glad that she's not working a case at the moment but instead prepping for trial, something she could do almost on automatic pilot. It means that she can sit here in the break room alone most of the time, moping and beating herself up. Why has Castle turned on her? What did she do? What happened? She'd been about an inch away from making the big leap with him two weeks ago when he'd vanished, right after the bombing case. When he'd come back he'd reverted to the appalling, egotistical playboy who had walked into her life three years earlier. Over time she'd decided that that had been a front, a publicity stunt, and she'd watched the real Richard Castle emerge—smart, funny, kind, even if he still drove her crazy on occasion. But maybe that wasn't the real Richard Castle, because now he's in the thrall of the God-awful Ethan Slaughter, scourge of the Gangs division. She's hurt and confused and mad, but her dominant emotion is fear. She's really, really worried about Castle. He's riding with the most dangerous member of the NYPD, a boor and a bully who's completely without scruples. A man who will eat Castle alive if he doesn't get him killed first.
She shudders, and not just at the thought of Slaughter putting Castle in mortal danger. She's sipping on abominable coffee because she can't bear to make the good stuff in the espresso machine that her partner, her former partner, had bought for the department. She's not even using her favorite blue mug, but some clunker made of inch-thick china that'd she found in the back of the cabinet. It has a chip on the rim, a stain on the bottom, and GO, BOSTON! on the side. She hates Boston, home of the Red Sox. The only place Boston should go is away. Bad coffee in a bad mug suits her mood.
She'd talked to Dr. Burke, but it made her feel even worse. She must have done something to make Castle give up on her, mustn't she? Because it happened: boom. Just like that. She doesn't get it. She doesn't understand any of it. She pours the cold remains of her coffee into the break-room sink and walks to the ladies' room where she locks herself in the corner stall and cries. After going through an entire pocket-pack of Kleenex, she waits to make sure no one else is there before she emerges and washes her face. She's about to reapply her makeup when she takes a hard look at herself in the mirror. She leans in, turns her head left and right. Forget it. Just forget it.
"Beckett! Hey!" Ryan whispers urgently, waving her over to his desk. "Gates has been looking for you. She wants to talk to you now—like ten minutes ago now."
Shit. "She say why?"
"Nope. But be careful in there. She looks like she's on some new kind of warpath."
"Okay. Thanks." Whatever this is, it can't be good. She arranges her face into a mask of passivity and heads for the Captain's office.
"Man," Ryan says, rolling his chair sideways until it bumps Esposito's. "Did you see that?"
"You didn't notice?"
"Something must really be wrong." His voice drops. "Seriously. She's not wearing any make-up."
Beckett knocks on the door jamb. "You wanted to see me, Sir?"
"I did," Gates glares. "And I do. Shut the door and sit down, Detective."
"Is this about the trial, Sir? Because I'm up to speed. I'm ready. No problem."
"No, this is not about the trial. Although it's a trial to me."
Say what? "A trial?"
"This is about your partner."
"Detective Beckett, am I not enunciating clearly?"
"No, Sir. I mean yes, you're very clear."
"Your partner. Mister Castle."
"Oh. Well. Uh, we're not partnering at the moment. I've been working on this trial prep and he's been working with—with someone else."
"I'm aware of that. Painfully aware."
So am I, Beckett thinks. Pain that you can't imagine. "Right. I guess you saw him here with Detective Slaughter." The dead couldn't have missed that scene, Castle and Slaughter storming into the precinct.
"Using my interrogation room."
Ah, so that's what this is about. "Sir, I spoke to him afterwards. I made it very clear that it was not his place to do that. It won't happen again."
Gates waves her hand dismissively. "As you know, Mister Castle has a special relationship with the mayor."
Beckett looks a question, but doesn't ask it.
"One of the mayor's top priorities is reducing gang-on-gang violence."
Gates sighs and taps a pencil hard on the alarmingly clean top of her desk. Beckett wonders if the control-freak captain dusts it every day. Sprays Windex on it, maybe. It's so shiny. "This case, the one that Mister Castle and Detective Slaughter are working on, is one of the worst. Two gangs, the Westies and the Trenchtown posse, are at war over controlling Morningside Heights. The severed heads." Even someone as tough as Gates can't hide her revulsion. "The severed heads are those of three Trenchtown members. The man who was shot to death when he had the heads in his possession is Michael Reilly, the son of Brian Reilly, one of the Westies' top enforcers."
"I understand, but I'm not sure how our precinct or I come into this? It's not our case or our jurisdiction."
"True, Detective. I'm sure that the name Finn Rourke is familiar to you?"
"Yes, head of the Westies."
"And with whom you had some," Gates pauses, as if she's searching for the proper word, "dealings in a case two years ago? I heard about it at the time, of course, and earlier today I read the case notes."
One of the worst cases of her life. She can't bear to revisit it and her expression must give her away.
"I'm sorry to bring it up, Detective." Her voice is noticeably softer. "Because of the link to your mother's murder. Do you need a moment?"
Gates gives her one, anyway, before continuing. "It seems that Finn Rourke is something of a fan of yours."
"He is?" Beckett can't keep the shock from her voice.
"Yes, because you solved the Jack Coonan homicide. Jack Coonan was like a son to him, and he's very grateful that you brought down his killer."
"That I shot him to death, you mean."
"Well, probably that, too. I think Mister Rourke's idea of justice is quite different than yours and mine."
"No kidding." She immediately regrets having said that. "I'm sorry. I meant no disrespect. That case was especially hard—it was too close to home in every way. I even shot Dick Coonan here. Almost in front of my desk."
"Again, I apologize for bringing it up, but my hands are tied. I have my orders from One PP and from the mayor himself."
"To put you on the Michael Reilly homicide."
"What? Slaughter's and Castle's case? Please, Captain, no."
Gates has her hand up, palm outwards. "I have no choice. I was informed late last night—and this is strictly confidential—that Finn Rourke has been meeting secretly with the mayor about trying to rein in gang-on-gang violence."
"And the mayor trusts him on that? The fox in the hen house, it sounds like."
Her superior officer ignores the comment and keeps going. "As you may also remember, the Westies are dead set against drugs, and drugs are another high priority of the mayor. The Westies may not shy from most things, but they draw the line there. And Trenchtown is making drugs one of their specialties."
"I still don't see—"
"Hold on. I'm getting there. The detectives who work Gangs have a little more leeway than those in most other divisions, but even by Gangs' standards Slaughter has gone too far on more than one occasion. Witness intimidation, endangering the lives of citizens as well as fellow officers, excessive force. Especially the latter. He's facing serious charges at a civilian review board ruling next week."
Beckett pales and she feels her stomach lurch. "Oh, my God, Castle."
"Detective Slaughter has not been taken off this case, it's his. Despite his methods, he is in many ways a fine detective. He has a deep knowledge and understanding of gangs, maybe more than any one in the division, but the mayor and the police commissioner are concerned because this is a high-profile case and the media are all over it. The mayor in particular is concerned that Detective Slaughter will go over the top and that would, among other things, have serious repercussions on the gang-violence discussions. So: at the request of the mayor and the commissioner, I'm putting you on the case. With a proviso."
"So I'm replacing Castle?"
"No, no. That's the proviso."
"I'm sorry, I don't understand."
"You'll work with Mister Castle on the case, but Detective Slaughter will not be told. As far as he's concerned, he's 'running and gunning,' as he likes to say, with his new sidekick, Rick Castle. You will have to be very discrete. You two have the highest closure rate in my precinct, and if you put your heads together you should be able to crack the case before Slaughter cracks any more heads."
"I won't be riding with them, then."
"No running and gunning, that's right. But I trust that you will be in the, uh, vicinity."
"What, you mean tailing them?"
"Yes." Gates picks up a fat manila folder and passes it across her desk. "This will get you up to speed."
"What about the trial I've been prepping for? I have to testify."
"That shouldn't be a problem. There's been a one-week postponement."
"That's above your pay grade and mine, Detective. Now, if you have no other questions, I have a great deal to do, and you have some heavy reading."
Beckett leaves and goes back to the break room to think for a few minutes. The upside is that maybe she can keep Castle from getting killed. That downside is that he's going to hate this. He obviously doesn't want to work with her, and now she's supposed to be, what, a spy? She buries her hands in her hair. "Just do the work and close the damn case, fast," she mutters. She'll just have to be cool. Detached. Unemotional.
The trouble is, she's in love with him.