Just a Training Exercise
“L.T.” At first, the two letters make no sense to Castle. Then it clicks.
“What? Why would he be any more willing than Esposito or Ryan?” He’s well and truly confused as they exit the restaurant and hail a cab. Kate fiddles with cash from her wallet as she answers.
“Because he’s less invested. Espo and Ryan...they care too much. They’re too close.” She purses her lips together slightly, barely visible in the dim light from the buildings outside. “They’re too close to see it like it is. It’s just a training exercise, like we used to do at the Academy. It’s no worse than the taser-shock, or the pepper spray we had to go through.”
Castle frowns, trying to find how best to express his disagreement. “Um, I think it’s a little bit different than that, but...”
She fixes him with a hard Beckett-stare the likes of which he hasn’t seen since they first met, and he squirms in his seat. Kate’s disappearing as he watches, and more and more Beckett is coming back every day. “Obviously you’re too close too, Castle.”
“I don’t think it’ll be easy as you think to convince him,” he says.
“I didn’t say it would be easy,” she mutters darkly. “There’s something else, too. I’ll let him use a training gun. Just rubber.”
“Will that work? I mean, if you know it’s not real, then...”
“Horror movies are fiction, but we still scream,” she says uncertainly. “Honestly, Castle, I don’t know. But it’s all we’ve got, so it has to be enough.”
Kate jumps out of bed in the morning five seconds before her phone rings. From under the covers Castle groans. “Shut it off,” he mumbles.
“It’s probably L.T.,” Kate says, pulling her shirt out of the drawer as she reaches for her phone a few feet away. It turns out she’s right, and he’s agreed to hear out their proposal that afternoon. “One o’clock, that cop bar on 22nd,” Kate informs him. Setting her phone back on the bed, she grabs the rest of her outfit from the dresser and gathers up his as well. She tosses it to him, unsurprised and not all that guilt-ridden as they land on his face. “I’m going running, be back in twenty. Up, and dressed,” she directs him. When his form doesn’t move or complain, she pokes him somewhere in the calf vicinity—she can never be sure under the bedcovers. “Up and at ‘em, Castle. It’s already six fifteen.”
“Which is three hours too early to be using the word ‘already’ in front of,” he grumbles.
“Get up, kitten,” she calls behind her in a sing-song voice as she enters the bathroom to change. She’s not worried about waking anyone else up in the loft, as she’s discovered Castle’s bedroom is very soundproof. It’s been like that since before she met him, although she doesn’t really want to think about the reasons why he has it that way...
He’s still not up by the time she heads out the door, but he will be by the time she gets home. He knows from experience that bad things happen when he doesn’t get out of bed in time. Things like frowny faces with X’s for eyes burned onto his toast or glasses of fresh lemonade sans any sugar.
She puts in her earbuds as soon as she steps out the doors and then takes off in a slow jog to ramp up to her normal. It’s never been in her nature to be cautious about straining her body—the greater the burn, the better in her book—but after all that’s happened she’s not going to risk yet another trip to the hospital. Her breathing quickens drastically all too quickly and her chest tightens. A dull ache becomes not so dull in her bullet wound scar.
Her phone rings again loud in her ears. She hopes it’s not L.T. calling to reschedule, but she has the sinking feeling it is.
“Hey, L.T.,” she answers the phone in a resigned tone.
“Hey, girl,” says a voice that is definitely not male. There’s a pause as Kate’s oxygen-deprived brain catches up with this twist in events. “Did you just call me L.T.?”
“Of course not!” Kate exclaims too quickly. “Lanie. Not L.T. Although they do sound similar, I guess.”
“You sound out of breath,” Lanie accuses her. She can visualize her best friend’s narrowed eyes on the other end of the line.
“Just going for a jog,” Kate assures her.
“Yes, well, what’s this I hear of a harebrained scheme of having Javi draw on you?”
Oh. Shit. Espo! “It was nothing, Lanie,” she says hurriedly.
“No, it is something. It’s you, torturing yourself unnecessarily because of some crazy idea in your head that you need to be back in the precinct the moment Gates’ll let you!”
“Honestly, Lanie, it wouldn’t have been like that! Castle would have been right there. It’s perfectly safe.”
“Safe?” Lanie growls. “I’m sure it woulda been safe. But humane? Not so much!”
“Well it doesn’t matter anymore because Esposito and Ryan refused, okay? So just drop it! I have to go.”
Silence prevails on the other end, and for a moment Kate thinks Lanie just hung up on her. Then: “Kate Beckett, are you going to ask L.T. to draw on you?”
“No, I would never…What made you think…?” Kate stammers. “No!”
“If you’re lyin’ to me, girl…” Lanie lets that hang there before concluding, “…I will tell your father on you. And then I will come kill you myself.”
Tell Lanie the truth and beg her not to tell Jim anything or maintain the falsehood and hope she doesn’t. Kate weighs her options quickly, coming to a snap decision. “You don’t need to tell him anything because there’s nothing to tell. It was just an idea of mine, Lanie, but it’s over now. I’m done with it. Now, I really have to go.” She hits the end button, feeling the surge of adrenaline pulsing through her body beginning to fade.
Jogging turns more into storming home, anger and discontent swirling around in a dark cloud in her brain. Castle looks up from the table immediately as she stomps into the kitchen, eyes narrowed and mouth set in a firm, unhappy line. “What’s wrong?” he asks, coming over and grasping her wrists to prevent her from disappearing into the bedroom to lick her wounds in private. Which she wasn’t going to do. She wasn’t. Really.
“Lanie heard about my plan from Espo,” she growls.
“And she didn’t like it,” Castle surmises from the ugly look on Kate’s face.
Castle releases her hands and encircles her in a soft hug. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” she says, muffled by his shirt. After another few seconds’ comfort she wiggles out of his embraces and shakes her head, dispelling Lanie from her mind. Castle’s made pancakes and she smiles at him when he hands her hers—it’s impossible not to when a whipped cream smiley face is staring up at her.
“He’s almost too cute to eat,” Kate tells Castle. “Too bad I’m hungry.” She slits the side of his face with her fork.
“You are evil, sometimes, you know that?” Castle teases. “So, since you got me up at this ungodly hour, we have six to kill until we meet L.T.” He flips another pancake onto his plate and decorates it, ending with a flourish of the whipped cream can. “Ideas?”
“I was thinking…” Kate lingers on the word, “you could read me a bit of Heat Rises.”
Castle chokes on his pancake and by the time he finally has control of his own breathing again his eyes are watery. “Are…are you sure?” he gasps.
“Why not?” she asks. She narrows her eyes at him. “Is there another sex scene?”
He looks uncomfortable with the accusation. “What I do with my own fantasies on my own time is none of your business.” He sticks his tongue out at her.
“Yeah, okay, now you have to read me the entire book, so I can make sure it’s fit for the public eye,” she says. He gulps. “Seriously? There is one, again, Castle?” She can’t decide whether she’s more indignant or more flattered, but she’s certainly not going to tell him the latter. “My father reads these books, Castle!”
His eyes widen, and he looks down at his plate. “Yeah, I know. He let me sweat it out plenty after he mentioned it. Actually made me wish I hadn’t named the last one ‘Naked Heat.’”
Kate laughs. Score one for Dad. “Yep, sounds like him.” She jumps up to clear their plates as soon as they’re done, ignoring Castle’s feeble protests that she doesn’t have to; he’ll do it.
“Go get the manuscript, Castle,” she rolls her eyes. “I’ll join you on the couch.”
He fetches it while she gives the plates a light scrub with the sponge and a warm rinse and hurriedly wipes them. She hasn’t read any of Heat Rises yet, but she knows it’s nearly ready for publication. Book launch party set for September 5th, she believes, with the actual release date being September 20th. If his last twenty-four books are anything to judge by, this one will be good as well. He’s Richard Castle. Of course it’ll be good.
“Okay” he says after they’re comfortable. He blinks, looking down at the first page in the manuscript and then flips it. “One. The thing about New York City is that—”
“Wait,” Kate stops him, frowning. “Aren’t you going to read the dedication?”
“Oh,” he says, looking distinctly uncomfortable. “Uh, sure.” She doesn’t understand why he’d be discomfited by her request; after all, his two previous dedications have been nothing but sweet and honestly her favorite part of the book. She can recite them perfectly: To the extraordinary KB and all my friends at the 12th, and To the real Nikki Heat, with gratitude.
Castle flips back to the first page and clears his throat. “To Captain Roy Montgomery, NYPD. He made a stand and taught me all I need to know about bravery and character.” Startled, Kate looks down at her hands, thoughts racing a mile a minute. At his touch she looks back up at him, his features made blurry by the salt water pooling in her eyes, but she smiles and nods her approval. He smiles back uncertainly, obviously relieved that she likes the dedication. It’s…difficult…to hear, but so right at the same time. “One,” he repeats, “The thing about New York City is that you never know what’s behind a door. Homicide Detective Nikki Heat pondered that…” He keeps reading, and Kate just leans back, settles herself in the warm crook of his arm, closes her eyes, and listens.
They sit at a table set for three in the bar L.T. had suggested, splitting a beer. Well, not actually splitting it—out of a sense of pity he’d offered her a sip but she’d drank a gulp or two. “Just nervous,” she’d replied in answer to his unamused expression.
There isn’t time to say anything more, as L.T. has just entered the establishment. Castle doesn’t think he’s ever seen him in civilian garb before, and it’s a little disconcerting. He nods to Castle before taking a seat on his stool and addressing Kate. “So, Beckett, what gives?”
“I have a favor to ask of you,” Kate tells him.
“If it’s sneaking you into the precinct, it isn’t possible,” he says. “Gates has that place on high alert for you. Seems she read your personnel file, took notice of the adjectives ‘persistent,’ ‘driven,’ and ‘tenacious.’”
In spite of herself, Kate smiles. “Montgomery left such a glowing review of me.” She glances at Castle as she says his name, and Castle feels again that twinge of guilt. They’d only reached the end of chapter four in Heat Rises, so she still has no idea exactly how much events for Nikki’s Captain Montrose will mirror Montgomery’s life. She’s still talking. “But no, it’s not that. I want you to pull a gun on me. A training gun,” she adds hastily. Castle zooms back into the present conversation, trying to look like he’s been listening the whole time.
To their relief, L.T. doesn’t appear appalled or repulsed by the notion—not like Esposito and Ryan were. Just pensive. “Why?”
“As you may or may not know, the time when I can take reexaminations is coming up, and I really want to pass. But in order to do that, I need to make sure I can handle a gun pointed at me, and if I can’t, I need to practice.”
“Why not ask Detective Esposito? Or Detective Ryan?”
“They didn’t like the prospect,” Kate answers honestly. “I need Castle there for support. You’re my last shot, L.T.”
“I’m really close to making Sergeant, Beckett,” their friend replies, running his hand over his chin. “This could cost me my badge. Everything.” There’s nothing either of them can say at this point, and it wouldn’t be fair to anyways. It’s enormous, what they’re asking of him, and Castle knows he has a teenage son to support. Finally: “Okay. I’ll do it. This job is dangerous enough when you have all your wits about you. I don’t want you out there if you’re not ready for it.”
“Thank you,” Kate breathes. “Only Castle and I will know, I promise.”
“My brother owns a building a couple blocks west of here,” L.T. tells them. “The funding to develop it was temporarily stalled two months ago, and it’s empty until December. I can ask him for a key for some police tactical training.”
Kate nods her agreement. “Sounds good. If there’s anything I can ever do for you…”
“Don’t mention it. You’re a good Detective, Detective. The best. It isn’t the same in the Twelfth without you.”