It feels like the first day of school. Only worse, because it’s the first day of school, Kate doesn’t have the same homeroom as her friends, and she’s already gotten detention.
“Progress on those surveillance tapes yet, Beckett?”
Kate glances up from her computer screen to see Detective Garrison raise an eyebrow at her, punctuating his question. She reads nothing malicious in his face, but that still doesn’t mean he’s thinking the exact same thing that she’s thinking. This is so wrong on so many levels.
“Nothing yet,” she replies.
“OK, keep me posted. I need updates as soon as you’ve got anything.” And with that he’s moved on.
Kate takes a breath, clamping down on the gathering tempest of emotions that swirl to the point she can’t distinguish between them. She’s not going to lose it. Not over this, and certainly not in front of Officer Tyrell.
As if he had a clue to her thoughts, he says, “Garrison’s just like that, short and to the point to all of us.”
OK, maybe Tyrell is a little more insightful than she gives him credit for. She smiles at him, hopeful that it conveys some gratitude, even though that is hardly in competition to make the top 10 list of ways she feels about this situation. Or her life right now, for that matter.
Tyrell is a nice guy. He means well, and she reminds herself that he probably doesn’t want to be paired up with her either. It’s not a great line item on the resume to be partnered with the Twelfth Precinct’s most whispered about cop right now. The one demoted down for an indeterminate amount of time until she earns her way back.
Surveillance footage, she tells herself. Just stay focused on the work. Mind-numbing work, yes, but at least it might distract her.
“Yeah, Tyrell?” She’s zooming in on a suspicious guy in a blue jacket on the digital recording.
“I think you have a visitor.”
“What makes you… Oh.”
Castle’s coming across the bullpen toward her, stopping to shake the hand of one of the traffic cops he knows. In his other hand he’s juggling a brown paper bag and a tray holding two coffees.
“Beckett,” he says, with no trace of anything but cool professionalism in his tone. She’d even go so far as to say it’s the exact opposite of his voice earlier this morning as he kissed her awake and told her the things he was going to do to her. And then the alarm went off.
Castle sets a coffee down in front of her and the second in front of Tyrell. “Officer Brian Tyrell, right?”
“Wasn’t sure how you took your coffee so I went with black.”
Kate can’t look at Castle, she just can’t. Oh god, how could he not think this entire thing through? Not realize that it would make it so much harder on her? So she focuses on Tyrell’s confused expression and his eyes do a volleyball match between herself and Castle.
“I, um.” Tyrell takes the drink. “Thanks. I didn’t even think you knew my name?”
If this were any other time or a different set of circumstances Kate would have laughed. Because of course Castle didn’t know this guy’s name until 48 hours ago, but she has no doubt that since then Castle’s done his research. He probably knows exactly how Tyrell takes his coffee but didn’t want to come off as creepy.
“Of course I do,” Castle smiles. “And if my former partner has to have a new partner, I’m glad that it’s you, Tyrell.” She thinks Castle oversells it, but Tyrell doesn’t seem to notice. He nods once then takes a sip of his coffee. “Beckett, do you have five minutes to talk? Somewhere…” She thinks he’s going to end with ‘quiet’ but he goes with “Somewhere else?”
She doesn’t answer. Instead, she stands and leads him down a hallway to their left. They duck into a small room. This same space on Homicide's floor upstairs is only utilized for storage, with lines of shelving everywhere. Here it's a mix; there are boxes stacked along the walls but also a couple of cart tables and chairs, so it functions as a sort of second break room. The same yet different, and she wonders why she and Castle wasted so much time resisting the desire to sneak off together to storage closets and break rooms in the past.
Castle holds up the paper bag that’s still in his hands. “I brought your lunch.”
“But I didn’t leave my— I mean, I didn’t even have any…” Food at her place, she was going to say, but that’s when it hits her. He went home this morning, showered, changed, and packed a lunch for her. First day of school indeed, and apparently Castle wants to play the role of the concerned mother hen.
“Turkey and Swiss, exactly how you like it, with only one slice of cheese and lots of tomato.” He sets it on the stack of boxes next to them.
Of all the ways and hows tears might come to her eyes on this day, Turkey and Swiss is the one that implausibly does it. Not the coffee that she’s supposed be sharing with him, not the detective two classes behind her that she’s now taking orders from, not the fact that this entire thing sucks.
“Castle.” She sways toward him, wanting comfort but knowing she shouldn’t seek it.
He puts a hand lightly at her waist and leans close enough for his nose to bump hers. “I know.”
Kate tilts her head and places a feather-light kiss on his cheek, then another at the corner of his mouth. “We can’t be doing this.” She realizes he might take that the wrong way; she doesn’t mean in general. “Not here.”
“Last I checked, you’re the one that just—”
But he ignores her order and puts a hand behind her head to guide her into a genuine kiss. After a few seconds, he sighs as they slow to a stop, and the hand at her waist circles around her back to bring her tighter into a hug.
“You sure that you don’t want me to call the mayor?”
“No, please don’t.” They went three rounds on that topic last night. Castle’s devotion to her, his need to do anything, go anywhere, find any way to fight for her was endearing. But what she told him was true. She deserves punishment, and this is Gates’s way. She has to accept it. “You shouldn’t even be here.”
“Yeah, well, like that’s ever kept me away before.”
She lifts her eyes to meet his. “Did you go up and visit Ryan?”
“Not yet. Want me to give him a message from you?”
Passing notes in the hallways. Study hall. Sitting alone at lunch with her homemade sandwich.
“No.” She shakes her head. Enough of this. It’s simply what she has to get through. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time, they will rebuild. All the clichés. “Just… You know, do your Castle thing and get him to smile.”
“That I can do.” Castle gives her a final peck on the cheek and then steps back from her. “Come over tonight?”
There’s something about the request that still isn’t… normal? Not routine yet. They’ve spent a handful of nights at his place or hers over the last two weeks. It’s enough that this softly spoken question from him shouldn’t take her by surprise, shouldn’t jolt desire through her. It shouldn’t make her simultaneously freak out, and yet feel joy spring inside her chest.
She wants to come to him, she really does. But it’s a complicated day, and she’s a ball of anxiety. Later when she gets home, she knows that she’ll crash.
“I don’t know, I’ll probably be exhausted and—”
“I don’t mind.”
His eyes plead with her. Even if there’s no promise of sex, he wants her there. It’s exactly what she wants as well, to simply be next to him with no further justification needed. Holding on to each other as much as possible might be the only way to stay sane through all of this.
“I’d love to.”
It’s still going to be a hell of a first day. But when it’s done, maybe the promise of an after-school treat waiting at home will be just the thing to get her though.