Title: By Mutual Agreement
Authors: fbi_woman and penelope_ziva
Type: Castle, Caskett
Disclaimer: We do not own any characters or likenesses that may appear in this story, nor are we affiliated with Castle or ABC in any way.
Summary: After a throwaway comment by Beckett, Castle gives her the ultimate surprise gift that takes an unexpected turn.
Beckett ducked out of the doorway from the private jet and the heat of Moscow hit her, full force, in the face; it was a massive comparison to the air conditioning on the jet, set at a comfortable 21 degrees. Holding her bag in her right hand, she held on to the rail of the metal stairway down to the runway with her left.
It was good to be back… even if she was a little wary of the circumstances that brought her here.
It all started on Monday morning when Castle came bounding into the precinct even more excited than usual. He dragged his chair over until it was almost touching hers before perching on the edge of it and looking at her expectantly. She wondered sometimes if he had any concept of personal space.
“Something you want to share with the class, Castle?”
Castle grinned like a cat who had gotten the cream.
"Yesterday," he began, "you complained about the rain."
Beckett raised an eyebrow, curious of where Castle's seemingly random comment was going. "It's summer, it ought to be warm, not raining!" she remembered herself exclaiming as the rain pounded like iron fists against the windows of the precinct.
"I have a solution," Castle presented two small bits of paper to her with an enthusiastic flourish. Beckett glanced at the printed writing on them. Tickets? she wondered, glancing up at Castle.
Her eyes widened as she put the two together. “What did you do?”
“Have you heard of the Russian singer, Natasha Koroleva?”
He clapped his hands together. “Perfect! Because she’s dying to meet you.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“She’s a huge Derrick Storm fan, and of course now she wants to meet the woman behind Nikki Heat. She’s having a party and requested that I bring you along… and I may have already told her that you’d come.”
"You told her that I would? Maybe I already have something to do," Beckett informed Castle dryly, hiding her excitement well.
"You don't - I checked your calendar - and even if you did, you'd drop it. I know you want to go back to Russia," Castle pointed out.
Beckett took one of the tickets from his hand and read the details. Who? she thought, as she read which company was doing the flight. It wasn't US Airways or American Airlines like she would have expected.
“Castle, what airline is this?”
“It’s not exactly an airline per se… it’s more of a private jet.”
She should have known; Castle rarely did things without unnecessary extravagance. “And I suppose I have no say in this?”
“Nope, it’s all pre-arranged.” His cheeky grin could have answered her question wordlessly.
She really wanted to stand her ground, but the whole thing was so tempting and normally she would never treat herself to such a luxurious trip.
“Of course! Despite what you may think, I’m quite the gentleman.”
She smirked. “I take it that means no funny business then?”
“I’ll pinky promise.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“So you’ll go?”
He looked like a child on Christmas morning and she had to smile. “I’ll go.”
Returning to the present, Beckett smiled as she began her way down the steep metal stairs to the runway. She hadn't been to Russia for years and yet it felt like she was returning to a second home. She had loved in Russia, she had lost in Russia; many memories were from the Baltic state.
Castle's voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Now, was that not the best flight of your life?”
“It was different.” She refused to give him the satisfaction of knowing how much she really enjoyed the private jet.
“Wait until you see the hotel,” he said excitedly, ushering her towards an awaiting shuttle, “it’s one of my favourite places to stay. The ballroom is incredible. But you’ll be seeing that soon enough.”
Now she was a little nervous. A ballroom? Just how big is this party?
After collecting their luggage from a private carousel - in what Beckett would consider 'record time' compared to the usual half an hour it would take - they exited into the Arrivals Lounge. Castle made a beeline for a man with a board that read "Kate Beckett."
"Why does it have my name on it?" Beckett asked Castle, who shrugged.
"I've had... previous problems with my name written on the board," he answered, with a cheeky grin. "I don't think the driver was particularly pleased at having to wait for me while being surrounded by about fifty fans."
"Castle, don't exaggerate," Beckett rolled her eyes and Castle looked hurt.
"Well, about thirty then," he changed his answer, and then added, "or maybe nearer twenty."
The ride to the hotel was silent with Kate avidly watching the city flash by. It wasn’t exactly as she remembered it, but it was still as beautiful as ever. They arrived at their destination far too quickly for her liking; she could have driven around for hours just taking it all in. That thought was quickly wiped from her mind, however, when she took her first step inside.
Immediately she felt underdressed for the place’s opulence. Castle didn’t seem bothered as he proceeded to the check-in desk, but his occasional oblivion no longer surprised her. If this was just the lobby, she could only imagine what the rest of the place must look like. With growing certainty, she doubted that anything she had packed would be suitable to wear tonight.
Castle headed towards the elevator, Kate still staring at the domed ceiling of the lobby. It reminded her of a Greek Orthodox temple she'd once visited - although luckily the reason she was there was a different one, since it had been a homicide case that had taken her there - and she gazed in awe. The elevator doors 'dinged' open, bringing her out of her reverie. Trying to look nonchalant and as if she hadn't been affected by the hotel's extravagant beauty, she walked towards Castle.
The doors had been closed for only a brief moment when Castle cleared his throat anxiously.
She glanced over at him suspiciously. “What?”
“There’s something we should probably talk about.”
“What did you do now?”
“Well… there was a bit of a mix up. But I swear, I had nothing to do with it!”
“There’s a ‘mix up’ with the rooms, which I’m guessing means we have to share one, and you expect me to believe you had nothing to do with it?”
The hurt was evident on his face. “I really didn’t Kate; I would never do that to you.”
Beckett didn't answer and a silence hung over them until the sound of the elevator doors opening alerted them of their arrival on the fourth floor. Castle waited politely for Beckett to leave the elevator first.
"Room 403," he informed her sullenly, still pained at her earlier comment.
She waited for him to catch up with the key and followed him into ‘their’ room. She had been expecting something fairly standard, but was met instead with a one-bedroom suite.
“It was supposed to be two bedroom, but I guess they heard me wrong,” he mumbled. “I tried to switch but they’re fully booked.”
She was still a little suspicious, but she was starting to feel guilty for assuming the worst. Maybe she shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions.
Their luggage was already in the room, obviously brought up by one of the hotel's many porters. Beckett's bag looked miniature compared to Castle's and she wondered what was taking up most of the room. Castle picked up his suitcase and awkwardly lugged it towards one of the doorways off of the small entrance hallway of the room. Beckett was still amazed that she was in a hotel room that actually HAD a hallway.
Beckett began to follow him but he stopped. "The bedroom's over there," he pointed out, gesturing to another doorway.
"I thought there was only one?" Beckett asked, confused.
She quickly dumped her suitcase just inside the bedroom door and darted back across the hall, following Castle’s path.
The room she walked into was like an enlarged, dramatically upgraded version of her first studio apartment in New York. There was a sitting area complete with plasma TV, a kitchenette, dining table and chairs, and giant glass doors leading to a furnished balcony.
Castle was rummaging around in the kitchen on a hunt for coffee and bumped his head on a cupboard when her voice startled him.
“So, what’s the dress code for this thing? I mean, I know it’s formal, but how formal are we talking?”
Castle rubbed the back of his head that he had hit on the cupboard and stood up fully. "Formal enough that I need to take you shopping," he answered, turning around and grinning at her cheekily. "They have some great stores around apparently."
"How would you know?" Beckett smiled at him.
"Recommendations a la Natasha," Castle presented Beckett with a small envelope with 'Kate' written on it in flowery Cyrillic script.
Four stores later they returned to the hotel with a dress, shoes, and jewelry, all of which Kate insisted were too expensive but as usual, he didn’t listen to her.
“Come on, just give me a hint!”
“Nope.” She had narrowed it down to three dresses when he had wandered off to look in the jewelry case. Since he couldn’t wait for her to pick one, she had informed him, he would have to wait until they were ready to go before he could see her choice.
Beckett couldn't believe that they had only arrived in Russia that very same day: it felt like weeks ago! It was currently 6pm in Moscow, which meant that - she quickly calculated it mentally - it was 8am back home. Luckily she had slept on the flight and so wasn't too tired.
Castle had said for her to be ready by 7pm, so she had a quick shower before organizing out her outfit in the living room while Castle used the en suite bathroom. Locking the door to avoid potential embarrassment, Beckett pulled on the dress she planned to wear that evening. She styled her hair into big loose curls and debated whether to put it up or leave it down. After trying several different looks, she settled on strategically pinning just a few pieces and moved on to her makeup. That was the easy part; she preferred to keep it fairly simple. Her mother had often told her as a young teenager that a little makeup well applied was much better than a visibly fake dramatic approach. Satisfied with her reflection, she slipped on her new heels and checked the clock: 6:58, perfect.
There was a knock on the door and Beckett heard Castle's voice call, "Are you ready to go to the ball, Cinderella?" She chuckled and unlocked the door.
"Of course," she smiled genially at him and watched as his jaw dropped.
"You look..." Castle fumbled for the right words, "stunning."
Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t help but blush slightly as his eyes ran over the sparkling red fabric to the matching stilettos and up the thigh high slit.
“I guess I made the right choice then. Shall we go?”
He offered his arm and after a brief moment of hesitation, she took the invitation.
To Kate's amazement, there was a white limousine waiting for them outside of the hotel to whisk them away to wherever they were headed. Pretending as if she was treated like that every day, she waited patiently for the chauffeur to open the door for her. Smiling at the smartly dressed man, she entered the plush interior.
After a while, the buildings became sparser and the rush of the city had all but disappeared behind them.
“Where are we going?”
“This is payback for the dress thing, isn’t it?”
“Yep. Turnaround is fair play.”
A few minutes later the limo came to a stop in front of a beautiful old-fashioned mansion whose expansive driveway was peppered with similar vehicles.
“What is this place?”
Castle grinned. “Welcome to Natasha’s.”
They were greeted by a glamorous Russian woman with straight, dark hair contrasting against her white dress.
"Ricky!" she greeted Castle, and kissed him on both cheeks before turning to Beckett. "You must be Kate, it is a pleasure to meet you."
Beckett smiled and returned Natasha's kisses, withholding the part of her that wanted to scream and shout to the world that SHE WAS MEETING NATASHA KOROLEVA, a singer she had been a fan of all those years ago.
“I’m so happy you both could come. Please, come inside.”
The interior was even more spectacular than the exterior. It was like stepping into a different time: stunning classic architecture, elaborate chandeliers, the work of accomplished artists adorning the walls, and a veritable who’s who of the entertainment world dressed in couture.
“Ricky, I trust you remember your way around?”
“Perfect! I’m stealing your ‘Nikki Heat’ for some introductions. Don’t worry, I promise not to keep her too long.” Natasha grabbed Kate’s hand and quickly led her off into the crowd.
"So, are you two an... item?" Natasha asked Kate, with a cheeky grin, as if they were two teenage girls at a slumber party.
Kate laughed. "Castle? No," she answered, shaking her head. I wish, she thought to herself.
"The way he looks at you, I have seen that look before," Natasha stopped walking and looked at Kate earnestly. "It was the way Igor, my first husband, used to look at me. Don't lose Ricky."
She resumed walking, pulling Kate along with her, until they reached a rather large group near the back of the room. The close-knit circle they had formed opened instantly upon Natasha’s arrival, making room for her and Kate to stand alongside.
A man across from them spoke up. “Who is your lovely new friend, Natasha?”
“This is the one I was telling you about; Ricky’s muse for the new books.”
“Ah, yes! Nikki Heat, right? How delightful. You are quite the character, my dear.”
Kate smiled politely, though inside she was getting a sinking feeling that perhaps the line between Nikki and herself was not so visible to everyone here.
A man standing next to Castle nudged him and nodded towards Kate. "Is she as spicy as you write her?" he asked, grinning.
Castle refrained from saying something angrily to the man, just smiling instead. "She's the best woman in the world," he answered ambiguously.
"I'm sure she is," the man said, smirking, his eyes traveling up Beckett's body and lingering in certain places.
He clenched his jaw, suppressing the urge to tell this guy off. Both Kate and Natasha would kill him if he made a scene.
Kate was starting to get a headache. They were on the fifth group of partygoers and she was running out of diplomatic things to say about Nikki Heat. Not to mention the irritation that several people seemed to think her name was actually Nikki despite the fact that she was introduced as Kate. She was going to kill Castle for this – she thought she had made it very clear that Heat and herself were not to be synonymous, and that she was not interested in ‘playing’ Nikki in public. Where the hell was Castle anyways? Any other day and she couldn’t get rid of him, but of course tonight she couldn’t find him.
Kate turned to Natasha. "Could you tell me where the bathroom is?" she asked in Russian. Natasha nodded, gave her the directions and offered to take her there. Kate shook her head. "No, this is your party, you should be talking to people, not babysitting me!"
Natasha laughed. "I would never consider this babysitting you! You are a lovely person; I wish more of my friends were like you," she informed Kate, smiling. Kate chuckled, before turning away and heading in the direction Natasha had gestured to.
Castle, now surrounded by some female friends of Natasha's, watched as the man who had jested about Kate earlier followed her out of the ballroom.
“Excuse me, Miss?”
Kate spun around at the sound of an unfamiliar voice in the otherwise empty hallway. A tall, elegant looking man was approaching her, an expression of mild concern on his face.
“I don’t want to intrude, but I saw you leave rather quickly and I wanted to be sure you were alright.”
“Oh, yes I’m fine. Thank you though.”
He extended a hand to her. “Alexei.”
“Kate.” She went to shake his hand but instead he lifted her hand to place a gentle kiss on the back.
“You are the writer’s friend, yes?” He took a step forward, but she took one back.
“You know, that Nikki Heat is really something.”
He took another step forward, and Kate took another step back and felt her back press against the cold hallway wall.
"Take another step towards me, and I will hurt you," Kate threatened, but Alexei chuckled, thinking her threats empty. He took another step towards her.
"Leave her alone!" someone yelled in Russian and as Alexei turned in surprise at the young voice, Kate threw herself into action, elbowing him in the side and bringing his arm up in a half-Nelson. Alexei howled in pain, sinking to his knees as she threatened to dislocate his shoulder. The young boy - possibly about seven or eight, Kate determined - ran towards her and looked at her earnestly.
"Did he hurt you?" he asked, and Kate realized who he was. He was Arhip, Natasha's son. He turned to Alexei and spat at the man's knees. "You should have more respect, you -"
"KATE!" She looked up to see Castle bounding down the hall, two security guards and Natasha in tow. “We heard shouting, what happened?”
“Alexei here was just getting a lesson in boundaries, that’s all. Everyone’s fine.”
Natasha gestured to the security personnel. “Kate, I’m so sorry! He will not be causing you any more trouble, I promise, he is to be escorted off the property immediately.”
“No harm done, thanks to this little guy.” Kate smiled at Arhip. “You have a very brave boy.”
She wrapped her arms around her son. “A brave boy who was supposed to stay in bed.”
Arhip smiled sheepishly. “But it was a good thing I didn’t!”
“Yes, but now it’s time to get you back in there.”
"Mama, will you read me a bedtime story?" he asked Natasha pleadingly. Natasha sighed and tousled her son's hair.
"You know mama has to be here to host her party," she answered.
"I will," Kate volunteered and Natasha smiled. She always did her best to give Arhip his wishes - some would say she spoiled him, she called it 'indulging' - but she couldn't be away from the party.
“Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“It’s fine, really. Besides, I think I owe him one.”
“Well alright then,” she paused to kiss Arhip on the forehead, “you be good for Miss Kate. Sweet dreams.”
He grabbed Kate’s hand and led her down the hallway towards his room, chattering away animatedly in Russian.
Natasha turned to face Castle. “This one’s a keeper, Ricky. If you don’t get a move on, someone else is going to beat you to it.”
“It’s not like that”, he replied quietly, a sad smile crossing his face.
“But you want it to be.”
“But she doesn’t.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“I don’t know. Sometimes I think maybe… and then it’s right back to square one.”
“Maybe she doesn’t know what she wants.”
Turning away, Natasha returned to the smiling, glamorous host, leaving Castle alone. He hurried down the hall and caught up with Kate just as Arhip began to pull her up the plush, red, carpeted staircase. Kate smiled as she felt crumbs in Arhip's hand.
"You like cookies?" she teased, speaking to him in Russian. Arhip glanced around, looking guilty.
"You won't tell mama, will you?" he asked, biting his lip. Kate grinned and shook her head.
"It'll be our little secret," she whispered to him. Castle tapped her shoulder.
"What was that?" he asked curiously, as he followed the pair up the stairs.
"Oh, nothing, Castle. We definitely weren't talking about you," Kate answered with a teasing smile, before sharing a conspiratorial grin with Arhip.
Arhip was asleep before Kate was even halfway through the story, so she and Castle quietly crept out of his room and headed back downstairs.
“You’re really good with kids.”
“I like kids.”
He decided to leave it at that. “Do you want to go back to the party? I understand if you want to leave.”
“We can stay if you want to stay.”
“That’s not what I asked. Seriously, if you want to go back to the hotel, we can leave. As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”
She sighed. “I don’t really want to go back in there and get the ‘Nikki Heat’ treatment again.”
He raised an eyebrow quizzically.
“I don’t even want to talk about it right now.”
“I’ll call the driver to come pick us up.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to ruin your evening.”
He touched her arm gently. “You didn’t.”
They were driven back to the hotel in silence, Kate leaning against the window with her eyes closed, Castle watching the lights of Moscow rush by. Too soon they had arrived outside the hotel, and the chauffeur opened Kate's door first and Castle walked around to take her arm to escort her inside.
As they walked up the marble steps he whispered to her, "you looked beautiful tonight." She glanced at him, wondering if he was about to grin and laugh to show he'd just been teasing, but his face was serious.
"Thank you, Castle", she answered, carefully lifting her dress so she didn't trip up the steps.
They parted ways as soon as the door closed behind them, heading to their respected rooms. After Kate had changed into her yoga pants and t-shirt, she was debating whether or not she should go say goodnight to Castle when there was a knock at the door.
“Kate? I know it’s a bit late, but I made coffee if you want some.”
Never one to pass up coffee, she hopped off the bed and opened the door, gratefully accepting the steaming mug. She followed him back into the living room, sitting on the couch between him and his pillow.
After a few quiet minutes, he looked over at her. “I’m sorry about tonight.”
“It wasn’t your fault Castle.”
“I knew that guy was a creep, I should have done something sooner.”
“Don’t go telling everyone I said this, but you’re too hard on yourself sometimes. You’re a good guy.”
Castle smiled wryly. "Most women wouldn't say that," he said, grinning, causing Kate to punch him lightly on the arm.
"No, seriously," she told him, smiling. "I think that your flirtatious 'player' rep is actually a bit of a front. You're a great guy behind it all."
“And you are the most extraordinary woman I’ve ever met.”
Does he know what it does to her when he calls her that? Were they sitting this close together a minute ago? She became acutely aware of the smell of his aftershave and the barely perceptible caress of his breath on her skin. Her gaze flitted between his eyes and lips: wanting but waiting, curious but afraid. A small part of her was screaming that this was a bad idea, but she gave in to her instincts, closing the distance between them and softly pressing her lips to his.
What started chaste and innocent quickly became heated. Her arms slid around his neck and one his hands was tangled in her hair, the other holding her tightly against him. Kate moved closer - if it was possible to move any closer - so that her body was pressed firmly against Castle's. Castle was surprised at the bold move; he hadn't expected her to be quite so forward.
"Kate," he said breathlessly, when they separated for a nanosecond. She leaned her forehead against his, her eyes closed, not wanting to open them and ruin the moment.
"Yes?" she asked him, her voice soft and calm in comparison to her heart, which was erratic, excited and ecstatic.
“Tell me what you want.”
Reluctantly she opened her eyes, and the honest vulnerability on his face was all the reassurance she needed.
“For what? For tonight? For your boyfriend?”
She bit her lip. “For tonight AND for my boyfriend?”
“I love your naughty side.”
“I thought you would.” She kissed him hard then pulled back with a wicked grin. Taking his hand, she stood and pulled until he too was standing. “No sleeping on the couch.”