Castle walked over to the table, looking oh so pleased with himself, and dropped a copy of the New York Ledger's annual ten most eligible bachelors list in front of his mother and daughter, and pointed to himself as the 9th most eligible man in New York. If his smile was any wider he would have been in danger of injuring himself. Martha, seeing it as her job in life to try and keep him grounded (as much as that was possible) pointed out with a very satisfied smile of her own:
'Weren't you number seven last year?'
'Why, yes, I was and thank you for reminding me.' Castle would find out later the second reason for his mother's smile. Martha said:
'How do you think Detective Beckett will feel when she reads the blurb?'
'Blurb, what blurb?' After reading about his rumored romance with Beckett, Castle looked away to hide an unbidden smile. He wasn't happy about this, was he?
After a call from Beckett, he met the team at the Dyson's apartment, the scene of the murder. Although Castle tried to act normally, even making a joke about the victim ending up in Baby Bear's bed because it was just right, he couldn't seem to stop this feeling in his stomach. It was like he was about to take a final exam, or perhaps go on a date with his one and done. Unfortunately, he wasn't. He was ambivalent about the article: his braver half wanted to encourage a conversation with Beckett about his being 'very dateable', but his cautious side (who would have thought that Castle had a cautious side?) was afraid that forcing that conversation would end with him being badly disappointed. Why was he so timid about the idea of proposing a date with Beckett? Clearly, he had other options, even the New York Ledger knew that he could have almost any woman he wanted. So, what was the problem? The problem was: there is only one Kate Beckett.
Once back at the precinct, Castle was greeted by a smug looking Esposito and Ryan. Esposito taunted him by waving the article. Castle lunged for it as Beckett approached, but Esposito played a very effective game of "Keep Away". Just as she was about to ask what is going on, there was a development in the case: they were able to enhance a photo of the medicine cabinet from the crime scene and got the name of the owner, Miss Langford.
After answering all of Beckett's and Castle's questions, Miss Langford looked into Castle's perfect blue eyes and said:
'By the way, that photo in the paper did you no justice. You're much better looking in person.' Castle smiled, thanked her and waited. He was stunned into silence when Beckett didn't even acknowledge the mention of his picture in the paper, nor that Miss Langford had no hesitation in admitting her attraction for Castle. How could Beckett just ignore that? Wait, didn't he want her to ignore it? He has been trying to hide the article, hadn't he? Castle's indecision was because he didn't know what he wanted. That's not true: Castle knew exactly what he wanted, he just didn't have any solid plan to get it!
After Miss Langford left, the team hung around Beckett's desk until the pizza that Castle had ordered was delivered. The delivery man, or kid really, looked uneasily at the group, then said:
'Mr. Castle, I'm a big fan.' Castle thanked him and handed the kid the money, including an extremely large tip, even for him. While taking the pizza, Castle gave him a great big smile. Well, maybe he should have waited, because not two seconds later the kid started to speak. Oh boy, did he start to speak. Looking Beckett over from head to toe (in a way that made her a little uncomfortable), he said:
'Please tell me that this is the NYPD detective that you are dating?' Beckett's look was impossible to discern: was she flattered, angry, shocked, confused or just waiting for the right moment to shoot him? The kid, Castle or both. The kid continued, as if he hadn't done enough:
'If I become a best-selling author can I get a babe like this?' Castle quickly put his hand on the kid's shoulder and guided him to the elevator for his own safety, and maybe to give himself a little time to think of what to say or do next. He walked back from the elevator at a pace that would have been lapped by a snail. Still, that extra time didn't instill him with any great ideas, or confidence, of how to deal with the situation. He was relieved that there wasn't the expected eruption of Mount Beckett.
Beckett, in a surprisingly calm way, asked to see the article. After reading it, she asked what he had told the reporter. Castle assured her that he hadn't said anything like this in his interview.
'I may have mentioned that I thought you were an amazing detective and generally extraordinary, but Beckett, Kate, I promise I didn't say that we were dating or involved.'
Castle hoped that the use of her first name would convey the sincerity that was needed. The use of their first names was an unspoken agreement between them to signal that this was not the normal banter they loved to inflict upon each other.
Afraid that she still wouldn't believe him, he took out the picture of bachelorette #3 and handed it to her.
'I am going on a date with Amanda tomorrow night. When the infotainers get a look at this they will forget all about the article about us.' For the second time in a span of five minutes he could not read her expression (and he thought that he knew her so well).
She gave him a small smile and said:
'I believe you, Castle.' A feeling that she just couldn't admit to herself had the unflappable KB fleeing for the door. 'I need to … I have to go and see Lanie for a minute.'
Castle asked: 'Do you want me to come?'
'No, it isn't case related.' He knew what that meant: he was about to be the topic of conversation. He was suddenly hopeful: for all of her teasing and threats, he knew Lanie was in his corner.
'I need a date.'
Lanie looked at Kate as Kate would look at the suspects she interrogated and said:
That one word, with Lanie's hands on hips posture, conveyed so much. Kate still went forward with her request, while simultaneously stepping backwards and looking at the floor. This wasn't a confident homicide detective, Kate had reverted back to a high school day's mentality. Her thinking was written all over her face, If he can get a date, I'll show him, so can I. Lanie instantly had picked up on what Kate wouldn't admit: she only wanted a date because her pride had been damaged. Still, she listened to her friend.
'A date. A guy. A man. You're always trying to set me up with people, so here I am, I'm game, what have you got?'
Lanie was surprised, because just ten days before, after a little too much wine at their girl's night, Kate had all but admitted that she was starting to like Castle. Now she wanted a date, why? Only because her ego had been dented was the answer. Lanie, never being shy, or subtle, went straight to the point:
'You said that if Castle asked you on a date that you would 'maybe' accept it. Now, what, you are looking for someone else.'
'Lanie, he has a date with New York's Most Eligible Bachelorette #3. You, me, and everyone else have been fooling ourselves, he doesn't have feelings for me, he may want to sleep with me, but that's it.' Lanie had never seen Kate so deflated over a guy, even when Will had left after a six month relationship Kate hadn't been this despondent. Lanie was tempted to tell Kate that Castle had accepted a date only because she had resisted all of his advances, but it seemed like the wrong time for an, 'I told you so.' This, however, was tangible confirmation of what Lanie had already sussed out: she wanted more than a partnership, or even a friendship, with Castle.
Then again, weren't they in a relationship for over a year now? Sure, it wasn't a normal one, but all the elements were there: they enjoyed each other's company, they trusted each other, and they helped one another, hell they've even saved each other's lives on multiple occasions. Let's not forget the palpable attraction; that electricity could power a city block.
Lanie knew just what to do.
'Ok, Kate, I know a guy that would be perfect for you. You just be ready tomorrow night at seven and I'll arrange everything else.'
Drago's was the hottest new restaurant in New York City. It's patrons were a virtual who's who of the New York elite. As Kate entered with her date, she scanned the restaurant. She saw a beautiful chandelier that cost as much as her apartment, women in elegant gowns and well-dressed men; she even recognized an actor from television. Inwardly, she wondered if she was a Drago's kind of girl, but she trusted Lanie.
The smile dropped from her face like a lead balloon.
'Castle,' she said, louder than she had intended. If this situation wasn't awkward enough, it felt like everyone was staring at her.
'Beckett' he replied, with one of his special smiles. He then asked if she would like for them to all sit together.
How is this not uncomfortable for him? She wondered. After a moment of hesitation, she politely declined, citing the need for her and Brad to get to know each other. By this point she had recovered her composure and flashed one of her unforgettable smiles. There was no way she was going to let on how much it stings to see him here with Most Eligible Bachelorette #3.
Kate wondered: How was it possible to dislike someone so much that you have never met? She knew the answer to her own question: jealousy.
Kate had to get out of her own head. She did her best to focus on Brad. He was handsome, brave, charismatic and had a job, that as a fellow first responder she respected. Plus it seemed like he was into her. He was perfect in every way except for one: he wasn't the man she wanted to be with.
At their own table, Rick and Amanda engaged in some small talk before Amanda looked at him, smiled, and said:
'I think this is going to work out great.'
He returned her smile, offered her some wine, and said:
'I hope so.' He added: 'You really are so much more than just beautiful, thank you for everything. Those who only view you as just a pretty face are not seeing the whole picture. There aren't many women that would go out on a date, with a man that they didn't know, to try and help him have a date with another woman. I know that it was my mother and Lanie that asked you to do this, but I can't begin to explain how much I appreciate your selflessness.'
Things were going a little bit differently at Kate and Brad's table. He had just finished telling her about saving a person, and puppies, from a fire at the top of a six story building no less, when he realized that she was staring off into space.
'Kate, are you listening to me?'
'What, oh, I'm sorry, Brad.' She stared contemplatively into the air. It hadn't been her intention to lead him on, but that is exactly what she was doing and she knew that it wasn't right. When she asked for this date she hadn't planned on having a head full of Castle. 'I think you are a great guy and I'm sorry that I wasn't giving you my full attention, you definitely deserve it.' Kate tried her best to explain. 'I was thinking about something and how much of it I should tell you.' Brad smiled, as if he was trying to lessen her obvious discomfort. Truth is, he knew exactly what she was about to tell him, and he had his response well-rehearsed.
'I'm a big believer in the truth, Kate, so tell me everything. I'm a big boy and I can take it.'
'If I'm being totally honest, I'm kind of involved with this guy at work, not really involved, we like each other, or I thought he liked me, but now I'm not sure, we flirt all the time, he's my best friend, I trust him with my life, but we've never actually said that we like each other. You must think that I'm a horrible person, thinking about another man while I'm on a date with you. God, I'm rambling, please make me shut up before I make an even bigger fool out of myself.'
'Why don't we just have a nice dinner as friends, and when, or if, things become clear with 'this other guy', '(Brad made air quotes with his fingers for effect) ', then maybe we can try again. For now, why don't we accept Rick and Amanda's invitation and join them.'
'I'm not sure that's a good idea, Brad.'
'Well, Kate, I'm sure that it's a great idea.'
As Kate and Brad walked over to the table, Castle's mind began to wander: God, was she beautiful, I've been with beautiful women before, what's different? Because she is so much more than the sum of her parts. What? That sounded like a business synergy. Way to describe the perfect woman. She's smart, funny, loyal, brave, so caring, knows comic books, and did I mention, she has the best smile that any man has ever seen? Why are you beating around the bush? She is different because you have never been in love before. Yes I know you thought you loved Kyra, but this is so much more, and you're not even with her yet. Wait, yet? He then snapped out of it and realized that Kate and Brad had made their way across the room. He looked up at her and everything else in the room just faded away.
As they stood next to the table, and she saw the way he looked at her, she began to consider an absolutely crazy idea, but no, it was too ridiculous. Kate tried to put it out of her mind. Once seated things began to relax. The conversation was normal Castle and Beckett. It was 45 minutes later before Kate realized that neither she nor Castle had spoken to Brad or Amanda. She looked at both of them in succession and apologized for her lack of manners. It was odd that Rick, a man usually of impeccable manners, didn't also apologize.
She was a little confused when they both laughed and smiled, but she was totally dumbfounded when their dates stood up, excused themselves and walked out of the restaurant together. Before making it to the door, they looked back and smiled, without any hint of the way Kate thought they would feel: rejected.
That earlier thought came roaring back: could he have planned this? How should she feel about it if he did? She decided to force the issue in a way that hopefully, would give her some clarity.
'I'm sorry that your date didn't work out.' She suddenly found herself biting her lower lip in an attempt to stop the smile that was trying to force its way onto her face. Why was she borderline gleeful that his date had walked out? That shouldn't be her reaction to a friend being disrespected in that way. She had all but forgotten that her date had walked out with Castle's. She began to nervously tap her foot while she waited for his answer. Then she returned to biting her lower lip. He loved that.
He thought, 'How can such a simple act be so sexy?'
'I think it's worked out perfectly, will you dance with me?'
She didn't say yes, she didn't say no. She neither moved towards him, nor away from him. Kate had become the perfect image of how to be uncommunicative. She refused to help him with words, expressions or actions.
Castle ran his hand through his hair in an unsuccessful attempt to flatten it. He straightened his tie. Finally, he rubbed his hands together (to warm them up for Kate, he told himself, not because he was uncertain of his next move).
He somehow found his confidence and reached out his hand. When she didn't respond to his gesture, he grabbed her hand firmly, but gently, and led her out onto the dance floor, saying without words, that he was taking control of this situation.
Kate didn't know how to react. This is exactly what she wanted, but shouldn't she be livid that he had apparently manipulated her? She wondered how many other people were involved in this conspiracy. He hadn't asked her out, he had tricked her into a date. He hadn't even given her the opportunity to decide for herself. She really should be furious. If she was honest with herself, however, she knew that she would never be able to take this step, maybe this was the only way. She was shaken back to awareness, because they were dancing.
The dancing was amazing. God this man had so many talents; she wouldn't let her mind think about all the things he might also be good at. To have worked this hard so that they could give this a try, how could any woman not be overwhelmed with appreciation? After some dancing, a great meal, and some very stimulating conversation, Rick asked if she drove or if he may take her home. The universe, doing its best to help things along, had her there without a car.
After some hand holding and light kissing in the back seat, they arrived at Kate's apartment building. He told the driver he was going to walk her up.
'Should I wait, sir?'
'Please wait 15 minutes, if I'm longer than that I'll find my own way home.'
At her door, Kate turned and asked:
'How many people were involved in this little set up?' She wasn't angry, but she was firm. Her spine seemed rigid, and at that exact moment Castle was unable to look her in the eyes. Being at her apartment, her home turf so to speak, had allowed her to seize back some of the control she had ceded to him at the restaurant. Kate Beckett wouldn't be acquiescent to anyone for very long. She knew that it had been a momentary reaction to an extremely unusual situation. This restoration of the proper balance in their relationship was made easier by the knowledge that he wouldn't want an obsequious woman. They both wanted the same version of Beckett, strong and decisive. He called her extraordinary precisely because she never backed down, never gave up. She may have her own walls, but she had always found a way to scale any obstacle in her path. Timid was not a word that Kate Beckett was familiar with.
He traced an imaginary pattern in the carpet of Kate's hallway. She had donned her Detective Beckett look. He knew that she was well versed in the art of waiting out someone who was reticent. Castle worried the moment might slip away.
He began to list all of the people that had participated.
'Well Donna at the paper, Lanie, Captain Montgomery - by the way, he is fine if we are dating as long as we act professionally at work - my mother, Brad, Amanda, and let's not forget the pizza delivery boy. I knew at that point that my mother, and others, had set this date up, but I wasn't sure why I had to order pizza from that restaurant. When he spoke, I got it. I'm sorry that my immediate reaction wasn't to defend you, Kate. I can only say that I was caught off guard initially, then I didn't want to make you appear weak in front of the other officers. Not that you need me to protect you, you protect me, but that doesn't mean that a gentleman shouldn't come to the aid of a lady in those types of situations. I hope you understand?'
Rick's face turned ashen, Kate is at a loss for why, as things are going perfectly. She wondered how she could reassure him. Did she need to reassure him? Had they flipped roles? He had been in complete control an hour before, but now, he somehow seemed unable to move forward, either literally or figuratively.
When he reluctantly continued, his voice was weak, unsteady, even quivering.
'Kate, it's very important that you know the one hundred-percent truth. I didn't lie, but I wasn't totally forthcoming either. You are so important to me that I was trying to walk a tightrope between wanting to have this date and maintain plausible deniability in case you were angry.' Castle paused, looked into her hazel eyes, looking for any evidence that he was on the right track. He then continued:
'I didn't tell Donna to write that we might be dating that was my mother.'
Castle then took a very long, slow breath to try and bolster his confidence. He then continued, his resolve, somewhat restored.
'I had let it be known to my mother, Lanie, Captain, Alexis and even the boys just how extraordinary I thought you were, and that I wanted more of a relationship with you. But it was Lanie and my mother who set this up, I didn't know about it until after it was all arranged. I'm sorry.'
Castle looked into the air pensively. It was now or never. She had to know everything.
'Even that was only ninety-percent true. I may not have asked them to set up this specific date, but they all knew that I wanted help trying to make this happen, and I enthusiastically went along with it once I found out. I'm a coward when it comes to you, I wanted to make it look like their idea, because of that phrase that I hate, 'plausible deniability'.'
He hoped that she would see in his eyes that he was trying, even if his usual eloquence had deserted him. Castle said:
'This is on me, Kate, for better or worse, I am responsible for this date, no more hedging.'
After what seemed like an eternity, Kate said:
'I don't like being fooled, Castle, but the honest truth is that I would have been too scared to accept if you had asked me. Sure I've thought about it, I even told Lanie that I might accept. Truth is that these walls, that I can't seem to breakdown, probably would have derailed us. This may have been the only way to give us a shot.' She looked at him in the way a hungry animal looks when it's about to devour its prey. Miraculously, all of Kate's inhibitions, insecurities, and uncertainties evaporated. She let her four inch stiletto hang provocatively off of her foot. He noticed the professionally manicured toes. He fought not to giggle like a high school boy standing outside of the head cheerleader's door.
In that moment, everything she had been keeping from him, and yes, herself, was about to be revealed. She was going to show him just how much she wanted him. He was about to learn what 'you have no idea' really meant.
Finally, she opened her door and stepped inside. She stopped, looked at him, smiled and said:
'Are you coming, Castle?'
He was still frozen by disbelief, lost in the thought that this might actually be happening.
Then she took him by the hand and led him to her bedroom. 'You may not have specifically set up this date, but you are responsible for making our first date possible, and so very memorable. Now it's my turn …'
A/N this was my first attempt to try and contribute to this great fandom. Comments would be welcomed. I hope it was worth your time to read it. I certainly appreciate that you did. There are too many people to thank for giving me the encouragement to try a story, but P2P, TankW1, Garrae, dkcfan and SonicMessiah are a few that I wanted to mention.