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A Dozen Polaroids

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“Have a great day at work honey!” Castle kissed pecked his wife on the lips, handing her a thermos of coffee.

“Don’t waste too much time doing nothing babe.” Beckett teased, turning her head back towards his to give him another kiss.

“Me? Waste time? I’m shocked and offended.” He shook his head as she laughed and closed the door behind her.

The apartment was quiet, and he couldn’t help feeling a little abandoned by his family, granted this feeling was mostly due to his desire to procrastinate on his current deadline.

It’s not even 8, i have plenty of time… he lied to himself and sat at the counter, sipping his coffee. His eyes wandered to the table, where all that remained of Beckett’s breakfast was the skin of a grapefruit and a hardcover copy of Storm’s Last Stand with a napkin sticking out of it in lieu of a bookmark. His curiosity piqued, unaware that Beckett had been re-reading his old works, especially since this was the second to last one, and her meticulousness meant that she would’ve re-read all the previous ones prior to this.

He grinned, proud that his work still struck a chord with her, and decided to check where she was in the novel. But the cover was oddly slippery and he dropped it with a thud onto the ground, causing the napkin to fly out of it.

“Whoops,” He muttered to himself, picking it off the ground. To his surprise, a dozen polaroids dropped out of it, clicking on the hardwood floor like Beckett’s heels. Castle furrowed his brow and set the book on the table.

He squatted and narrowed his eyes in investigation: most of them were upside down, with messy words scrawled in red ink of the backs of them. Three of them were face up, and while he couldn’t be sure, they looked like blurry photos of his younger, more reckless self.

He sat down, crossing his legs and gathered them in his hands. Sure enough, they were photos of himself taken in obscurity: his body in motion as he hailed a cab, a family photo with Gina and Alexis but taken from a far distance, His hands outstretched at his first book signing, he and Alexis at her favorite park as he pushed he on a swing, and a few showed only his silhouette hiding behind the glass of a coffee shop. Some of the photos looked hauntingly familiar, an old christmas card and even a blurred photo of him in his Ferrari. They were all faded and yellowing with age, and marked on the back with what he knew as Beckett’s handwriting when she was busy with something, practically unreadable in it’s messiness yet clearly organized.

He furrowed his brow, trying to push back the one thought in his mind that wasn’t some form of confusion: that these were stalker photos.

He shook his head and smiled unsatisfyingly,  No, Kate would never…he trailed off, unable to deny the proof that he held in his hands. He shifted his weight and got up, grabbing the clearly well-read book off the table. He flipped to the opening pages and as he had assumed, saw his signature written boldly in sharpie: Happy Reading! XO R. Castle. A different handwriting had drawn a large red heart around the words, and individual tiny hearts around the X and the O. He swallowed. “Shit.”

*********

He returned his cell phone to his pocket. Uncertain of what to do, he had called his mother. Who of course went on and on about how he was surely over-dramatizing the entire thing and yada yada yada “just ask her about it when she gets home darling, i’m sure it’s nothing” he mocked her aloud, if only to overcome the butterflies in his gut. He had been pacing for about twenty minutes, trying to come up with an alternative reason for the hidden photos but to no avail. So he sat on the couch and waited, twitching more than a two-year-old, until Beckett returned home.

She came in with a tired grin and noticed him shifting on the couch. “Done already? I’m impressed!’ she sat down beside him, and narrowed in for a kiss, which Castle nervously shifted to his cheek. Beckett scrunched her face in confusion. 
“Everything okay?” she asked, withdrawing a bit from his personal space.

“Yeah, well kind of. Not.” He broached, finally looking at her. Her face softened, and he took that as an invitation to talk.

“I wasn’t trying to snoop or anything, but i wanted to see where you were in Storm’s Last Stand so i opened it and these fell out.” His tone sharpened, the trust that was usually present in their conversations bit the air. He waited a beat.

“What are these, and why do you have these Kate?” his tone was biting, but the fear he was trying to hide shone through strongly. 
“i…um…those are pictures.” Beckett started, blushing slightly and scratching the side of her head. Castle slackened his face with annoyance.

“I know that. But they’re old pictures.” He fanned them out between his hands, and glanced at one with Alexis in it before returning to face her.

“Were you stalking me Kate? Stalking my daughter? Please, give me some other explanation as to why these were in this book?” His tone remained even.He wasn’t mad, the bitterness in his tone was gone. He was nervous and scared.

“Have you been worrying about this all day?” Beckett asked, her voice falling to just above a whisper.

“Yes.” He responded solemnly. “Please Kate, tell me you didn’t-”
“Eat the last pieces of cake from Brandleworth’s bakery?” She responded sarcastically, a smile rising on her face.

Castle dropped his eyebrows and looked at her with confusion. “Whaa?” he sputtered out, at a loss for words.

Beckett started giggling and then went into a full out cackle, taking her phone out of her pocket and snapping a photo of his face.

“This is serious Kate!” He stomped his foot on the floor, finally angry.

This only made Beckett laugh harder, she began grasping her gut as she laughed soundlessly. 
The front door opened, and Alexis came in: “What happened?” she puzzled.

“We…got…him!…” Kate sputtered between gasps for air, and held out her hand for a high-five.

Alexis broke into a grin and slapped her hand against Beckett’s.

Castle was now fuming, “HEY!” he shouted loud enough that it resonated off of one of the pillars in the foundation. it resounded with a ping.

Beckett began to calm down a bit, and wiping a tear from her eye, breathlessly responded “I said we got you.”

Alexis interjected. “You thought she was stalking you right? That all those Polaroids were proof that you married some dangerous stalker!” she chuckled. 
Castle narrowed his eyes, the only one not laughing. “What.” was all he could respond, the mix of anger and confusion so strong that he couldn’t utter another word.

“They’re fakes! photos of old family photos that i stained with coffee so they looked old.” Alexis continued, high fiving Beckett again.

“You…why?” was all Castle could muster, and Alexis began to laugh hard enough that Beckett had to continue.

“Last week, you ate the rest of the chocolate cake in the fridge, the one marked with the DO NOT EAT post it note” she gave him the look. Castle had a momentary flashback of doing just that, at around 3 am.

“I just needed some fuel to keep writing!” He pleaded.

“Liar. You were watching Cosmos!” Beckett retorted, still chuckling. Castle reddened.

“You two seriously made me think that i had married a stalker, all over a piece of cake?! I could’ve just bought you another!” Castle was shocked and simultaneously reminded why he didn’t like these two brainiacs working together.

“First of all it was four pieces of cake” Alexis gestured the number with her fingers.

“And that was the last cake that Brandleworth will ever make” Beckett finished with a huff.

“No, how could their business fail?” Castle responded, his concern shifted to his favorite baker.

“They didn’t fail dad, he’s retiring.” Alexis responded matter-of-factly. Castle’s face fell, and then he refocused on what the women had done.

“Still, wasn’t that just a little harsh? And where did you get those creepy far away photos?” He asked Beckett, determined to understand every angle of the mystery.

“We just asked Gina if she still had the photos from her private investigator. She thought you were cheating and hired a film student to trail you. A really shitty one judging by the quality of the photos” Alexis continued, grabbing a few out of her father’s hand.

“Hm, well that’s actually not surprising for her…But you two…that was just mean.” He shifted his eyes between both of them, pouting with his bottom lip.

“We had to do something to punish you. And i wanted to finally teach you a lesson about stealing my food.” Alexis smiled smugly.

“But what about the red hearts all around my signature?” Castle continued, determined to gain something from this cruel game.

Beckett blushed. “I might’ve had a teeny crush on you…just for a little while” Beckett underscored, not willing to give him the satisfaction of meeting his glance.

 

“But then we arrested you and i found out how obnoxious you were.” Beckett teased, and high fived Alexis once more as his face fell in defeat.