Two days after Castle leaves for his romantic-slash-literary getaway in the Hamptons Ryan’s girlfriend dumps him. There is no cause and effect relation between the two but as far as Javier Esposito is concerned the timing really sucks.
Why, you ask?
Well first it means he is stuck with two moping and lovesick coworkers, which doesn’t make for a good time – especially when he is trying hard to pretend he is neither moping nor lovesick himself.
Second Beckett is busy pretending that everything is swell, everything is fine, nothing to see, carry on. Only problem is, no one at the precinct believes her and that’s pissing her off. So after two days of scary quiet she starts biting people’s head off and that of course coincides with Ryan showing up all miserable and girlfriend-less. He makes a perfect target, staring listlessly at his computer, and after Beckett’s yelled at him twice Javier’s had enough. Ryan may look small and pathetic but he is his partner damn it and she needs to back off right the fuck now. So he spends his time glaring at Beckett to keep her in check and knows something has to be done.
He needs a plan.
The first chance he gets (meaning when Beckett is on a coffee break and Ryan doesn’t look like he is about to strangle himself with his tie) he sneaks down to autopsy and finds Lanie.
“You’ve got to talk to Beckett,” he says. “I’ve tried and it’s not working.”
“Ryan’s girlfriend broke up with him. Beckett is not in the mood to commiserate.”
“Right. Plan?” she asks without missing a beat and that’s what Esposito likes about her: nothing fazes her. Maybe it comes from being around dead bodies all the time.
“Well, I thought about finding Castle and dragging his ass back here but right now she might just shoot him, so that’s out. Bender?”
Lanie purses her lips, considering.
“That could work. Tonight after work?”
“Done. But you’re telling her.”
“Fine.” She grumbles something about Esposito being the one wearing Kevlar and he blissfully ignores her.
“See you later,” he says, turning to leave when she calls back after him:
“What about Ryan? Is he okay?”
“Not really. But I’ll handle him.”
She smirks. “I’m sure you will.”
He rolls his eyes at her and leaves her snickering at a corpse.
Okay so maybe Javier is not completely devastated that Ryan is single again. Maybe he is even a little happy about it. Not that he likes seeing Ryan depressed and all – obviously – but hey, it’s not a big secret that he is stupidly in love with his partner. Hasn’t been much of one since Castle started tagging along with them and zeroed in on it. It is just Javier’s luck that the man is virtually incapable of keeping his mouth shut. In fact at the rate he’s been spouting about it the whole precinct knows by now.
Except Ryan, that is, and how the man can be so oblivious and still be a good cop, Javier has no idea.
Beckett doesn’t put up much of a fuss when Lanie comes up to the squad room after shift for a ‘surprise’ girls night out and ‘somehow’ ends up extending the invitation to Ryan and Esposito. Javier glares at Lanie and silently promises retribution – she could have phrased that a little differently – but Ryan is already nodding so he keeps his mouth shut. They gather their stuff to leave and the whole squad room breathes out a sigh of relief. Montgomery (who’s taken to hiding in his office) even pokes his head out to make sure they’re really gone.
Esposito thinks that were he so inclined he could probably get a commendation out of this.
The thought makes him smirk.
A drunk Ryan is a talkative Ryan. Javier knows this from experience and years of going out for beers with the guy. And it never fails to amuse him. Not that Ryan is usually a reserved kind of guy but when he is drunk he babbles on and on and there is hand-waving and near misses with the drinks and –
It’s kind of cute.
On an empty stomach it doesn’t take much to get him plastered – his Irish ancestors would be so ashamed – and then he’s off, expounding on Jenny’s virtues.
Lanie and Beckett look a little flabbergasted by the deluge of words – Beckett, it turns out, is *not* a talkative drunk. Javier sips his second beer and lets him talk, ignoring most of it. He doesn’t need to know how great Jenny was; he knows for a fact that she was plain stupid.
She dumped Ryan, after all.
“- and she was too good for me anyway.”
Okay, now that Javier can’t ignore.
“Bro. Shut up. She dumped you, she wasn’t good enough for you.”
Miracle of miracles Ryan actually stops talking for a second and seems to consider it.
“She wasn’t?” he asks, blinking blearily at him in a way that tells Javier he is probably seeing two of him right now.
“No, she wasn’t!” Beckett cuts in, surprising everyone. She hasn’t said a word all evening and her outburst makes them all turn to stare at her. She’s nodding vigorously as she leans forward to pat Ryan’s shoulder, missing entirely and almost sliding out of the booth in the process.
Whoa. She is completely gone.
“You’re a good guy. Want me to shoot her?”
“Only if you let me shoot Castle.”
Maybe they went a little overboard with the booze. How much did those two have to drink?
“Anyway, why did you date her? You made Esposito sad.”
Javier chokes on his drink, coughing up beer as Lanie bursts out laughing and Ryan turns puppy eyes on him.
“I’m sorry I made you sad,” he says and Javier waves him off, still wheezing and trying to catch his breath.
“I think you two have had enough,” he finally manages, shooting a pointed glare at Lanie who grins back unrepentantly.
So not helping.
And of course it just goes downhill from there.
“I’m giving up women,” Ryan announces to the room at large. “Only dating guys from now on.”
Javier’s jaw finds itself in the vicinity of the floor.
“You should date Esposito.” The whole quiet thing Beckett was doing before? Obviously just an act. Or a warm-up. Because now she just won’t. Shut. Up. “He won’t dump you. He looooves you.”
“Okay, that’s it. You’re taking her home,” Javier hisses at Lanie who’s watching the whole thing with morbid fascination.
“But it’s just getting interesting,” she pouts.
“I don’t care!”
He is not about to let them use his stupid crush on Ryan for their own amusement, damn it!
Lanie must sense that he isn’t finding it funny anymore because her expression softens. Next to them, Ryan and Beckett have moved on to discuss the advantages and inconveniences of dating a coworker and Javier is feeling slightly nauseous.
“Javier…” she says softly. “You do know Kevin’s in love with you, right?”
He blinks at her.
“Did you even ask him why Jenny broke things off between them?”
He did. Ryan turned bright red and mumbled something unintelligible and Javier dropped the subject.
“But he’s been miserable and pathetic all day,” he protests. Ryan can’t be in love with him! Javier would know if he were. At the very least Castle would have told him – unless Castle doesn’t know? But surely that’s not possible. Javier refuses to believe that Ryan has a better poker face than he does.
Lanie rolls her eyes and he can almost hear her thinking ‘men’ at him. She stands, pulling Beckett with her and interrupting a no doubt scintillating conversation.
“Come on, young lady. Time to get you home.”
Beckett goes willingly enough and that leaves Javier alone with Ryan, feeling more confused than ever.
Ryan, who is now rambling on how much he likes Beckett.
Javier sighs. He isn’t going to figure this thing out tonight anyway.
He drags Ryan back to his apartment, force-feeds him some water and dumps him on his bed.
Then he goes home and stares at the ceiling for a long time.
The next morning the squad room is blessedly quiet. Ryan and Beckett both look like shit but at least she isn’t yelling and he isn’t sighing despondently every five minutes.
Javier nods to himself.
This is much better.
He sits at his desk and tries to decide what to do about the Ryan situation. He eventually gives up when the phone rings in Montgomery’s office – he wasn’t getting anywhere anyway – and goes to makes coffee for his wayward colleagues instead. If they catch a case now they’re all going to need it.
They do get a case. It’s oddly unsettling to work without Castle there to provide convoluted theories and for the first few hours they’re unbalanced and a little wobbly. They manage, of course. After all they don’t need Castle to close cases.
It’s just more fun to have him around when they do.
They solve the case. Get another one the next day and do the dance all over again. Slowly they grow used to functioning as a team of three instead of four again. It works well. But that doesn’t mean they have to like it.
Before they know it it’s been a month since Castle took off to finish his book. June turns into July and temperatures rise. So does crime and they’re kept busy. In between murders Esposito and Ryan catch a beer, eat pizza, play videogames. They sit too close and stand in each other’s space. The time Ryan had to set aside for Jenny is Javier’s once more. In short everything is back to normal.
Javier’s glad – he missed their evenings together.
Yes, he has no life.
He wonders sometimes if he should say something, consequences be damned. It would help if he knew what Ryan remembers – and whether he took Beckett’s drunken ramblings seriously. He isn’t acting any differently though; if he does remember and Lanie is right why isn’t he the one making a move?
But then Ryan did just break up with his girlfriend. No matter what Lanie seems to think he had to care about her – they were together for months. Ryan isn’t the kind of guy to date someone he doesn’t have feelings for. If anything he cares too much.
Anyway isn’t there some sort of waiting period after a breakup before people start dating again? Javier would ask Lanie but then he would never hear the end of it.
In any case jumping into bed with him probably won’t help them in the long run. And Javier plans on them having a very long run.
He can wait for a couple of months. He’s been waiting for years now, it won’t kill him.
One evening they’re sprawled on Javier’s couch merrily mocking re-runs of a cop show that keeps getting everything wrong when Ryan suddenly says:
It takes Javier longer than usual to focus and formulate an answer. Ryan’s sitting closer than normal even for them – a trend Javier noticed recently and put down to wishful thinking on his part, although he is starting to wonder – and that fucks with his concentration a little.
In the end he just nods because yeah, it is fairly obvious.
“We should do something, bro.”
“You’re not going to try and fix her up with someone again, are you?” Javier asks warily because that… hadn’t been one of Ryan’s finest moments. In fact it failed spectacularly and Beckett didn’t talk to either of them for two days – which was unfair really since Javier had nothing to do with it.
Ryan flushes. “Shut up,” he mumbles. “Jack is a nice guy.”
Javier nods sagely, biting back a grin, and gets a cushion in the face for his troubles. Of course that means he has to retaliate and the short-lived fight that follows leaves them both panting with laughter.
“So what was your idea?” Javier says when he’s caught his breath – and has his libido firmly under control again.
Ryan grins and Javier mentally groans at the answering twitch in his loins. Not helping there, Ryan!
“I thought you’d never ask. How do you feel about a weekend in the Hamptons?”
Javier’s mind goes blank at the idea of going on a weekend with Ryan (God, when did he turn into such a girl?). Then he actually listens to Ryan’s idea and finds himself smiling.
You know what?
It might just work.
The plan is simple: they are to drive to Castle’s house – whose address Castle’s mother kindly provided, telling them it was about time – and talk some sense into him. Beckett is miserable, turns out he is the only one who can do something about it so it’s time for him to man up and do… something (neither Javier nor Ryan want any details. Ew.).
Kidnapping is also an option if Castle proves himself to be uncooperative.
They leave early on Saturday morning and still hit traffic, masses of New Yorkers trying to escape the heat of the city for a day at the beach. The car crawls forward at a snail’s pace and Javier’s thankful for the AC. He glances at Ryan who’s fallen asleep with his face smashed against the window after bitching about the early hour and smiles.
This was a good idea.
Traffic starts to clear once they leave the main roads, becoming almost inexistent when they get closer to Castle’s place. Javier nudges Ryan awake and Ryan rubs his eyes sleepily. Then he catches a glance of the houses they’re currently driving past and whistles. Javier privately agrees. Privacy obviously comes with a price.
“Didn’t he say he had a bungalow?” Ryan wonders out loud. “Those aren’t bungalows.”
Ryan sits up straighter and Javier shoves the map at him. He needs him to navigate; it’s like a maze here.
“Wanna bet he’s got one with private access to the beach?” he says with a grin and Ryan snorts.
“I’m not betting against you on that.”
They drive a couple more miles before Ryan looks up from the map and points at a side road.
“It should be on this street,” he says and Javier turns obediently.
Outside the air smells like salt and they can hear the ocean as they walk up to Castle’s house – in fact they can see the ocean.
They share a smirk: they were right.
The house itself is nice, simpler than its neighbors although it could not in any way be called a bungalow. It probably costs more than they will make in their entire career – unless they suddenly take up writing and become bestsellers. Which, let’s face it, is unlikely.
But hey, maybe Castle can lend them his house sometimes!
“Dude, there is a pool,” Ryan hisses.
“What, you forgot your swimsuit?” Javier says and is vaguely horrified when he hears his voice get all low and rough – suggestive.
“I didn’t know I needed one.”
Javier almost stumbles. Ryan however looks as innocent as ever. He rings the bell and Javier barely has enough time to get his head back in the game – this is for Beckett and the entire precinct’s sanity – before Castle opens the door.
“Hey guys! What are you doing here?” Castle asks, his eyebrows disappearing into his hairline before remembering his manners and inviting them in.
“Would you believe us if we said we were in the neighborhood?” Javier says, looking around the living room surreptitiously to try and catch a glimpse of the Evil Ex’s presence. In the corner of his eye he can see Ryan doing the same thing.
Nothing so far. They’re good.
“How’s everything in the city? Beckett alright?”
Javier shares a glance with Ryan that is just a little too long, the silence stretching, and Castle’s eyes widen.
“Oh my God! She isn’t alright? She’s been shot. She’s been shot, hasn’t she? That’s why you’re here, you wanted to tell me in person because you thought I would drive myself into a ditch on the way back otherwise. Wait. How could she have been shot? She’s supposed to be on vacation with her boyfriend – did *he* shoot her? No, that doesn’t make sense. Although –”
It takes a while for Javier to understand what Castle is going on about and then more time to break through the man’s monologue.
“Beckett has NOT been shot,” he shouts, Ryan shaking his head vigorously next to him, and Castle pauses.
He squints at them for a few seconds then:
He sits down abruptly, looking a little pale.
“No, she hasn’t,” Javier says firmly. “And what the hell are you talking about? What vacation? She broke up with Demming over a month ago.”
“She did?” Castle sounds surprised and really those two have the worst timing ever.
Well, except for him and Ryan, obviously.
“A month ago?” Understanding dawns on his face.
“Was that before or after I left?” Castle asks suspiciously.
Javier hesitates for a split second – this is Beckett after all, her privacy is everything to her – but Ryan has no such qualms.
Castle jumps back to his feet and rushes out of the room.
“Think we should follow him?” Ryan asks and Javier shrugs.
“Nah. He’ll be –”
Castle breezes past them, brandishing his car keys like a weapon and Javier smirks at Ryan. Told you.
“I’ve got to go,” Castle says decisively, already heading for the door.
Ryan shoots a somewhat panicked look at Javier and hurries after him.
“Wait!” he calls out. “What about your girlfriend?”
Because the last thing they need is Castle making some big declaration to Beckett and forgetting to break up with his current girlfriend first. Beckett would kill him. And them too for good measure.
“Oh, that.” Castle shrugs, looking a little sheepish. “Let’s just say that all those reasons we had when we got divorced? Turns out they’re still valid. She went back to the city with the Naked Heat manuscript two weeks ago.”
“There you go,” Castle says, dropping a set of keys in Ryan’s hand. “Enjoy your weekend. And thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.”
The door closes behind him with a bang and both he and Ryan stare at it for a second, the silence startling in the wake of Hurricane Castle.
“Well. That was easier than I expected,” Ryan says, looking at Castle’s keys with a shell-shocked expression on his face.
Javier chuckles weakly and collapses on the sofa.
“This is nice,” he says, taking in the beach from the windows in front of him.
Ryan sprawls down next to him and their thighs brush. Javier can’t stop himself from glancing down, looking back up quickly at the sound of Ryan saying, “It is.” He expects to find him admiring the view, except he isn’t. In fact Ryan is looking straight at him with a hint of a smile and Javier’s heartbeat picks up as they lean forward and –
The front door opens and Castle pokes his head inside.
“And guys? No sex on my bed.”
Before either of them can come up with something to say to that the door’s closed again and Ryan’s leaned back against the couch.
Javier, however, isn’t going to let him. He’s waited too long for this and –
Ryan’s mouth is soft and pliant and it opens under his as Javier presses closer with a groan, one hand burying into Ryan’s short hair while the other gets a death grip on Ryan’s T-shirt, keeping him right where he wants him. Not that Ryan’s trying to get away – just the opposite in fact, and fuck this is going to be over very soon if they don’t slow down.
“What took you so long?” Ryan gasps as they break apart.
“Me? You were the one with all the girlfriends.”
“Well, yeah, but –”
Whatever Ryan’s about to say is lost in another kiss, hard and fast and a little dirty and Javier feels quite smug when Ryan whimpers.
“I wouldn’t have dated them if I had known I could have this instead!” Ryan pants the next time they pull apart before retaliating, his tongue doing something to Javier’s that makes him see stars and it’s his turn to moan past the smile on his face.
He knew it would be like this, fun and hot and a little competitive. Perfect.
“Think we can figure out which bedroom is Castle’s?” Ryan asks breathlessly.