Oh, this is seriously not happening.

Beckett turns in a slow circle, surveying the damage around her. One of the curtains pools on the ground, the rod leaning against the window. Papers lay strewn across the floor—her desk is miraculously clean. A shattered mug obstructs her path to the refrigerator.

And is that...

Oh, it is.

A localized snowstorm seems to have hit her apartment. White fluff covers most of the living room floor, a well-chewed brown cardboard tube the only remainder of what once was a roll of Charmin Ultra Soft.


She glances down, finds the guilty party winding around her booted feet, rubbing up against her ankles with all the charm and affection in the world.

"Really?" she murmurs, shaking her head.

She leans over to pick up the cat, intends to - do what? give the kitten a stern talking to? Like that would do any good, she internally scoffs. But Minnie is too quick, and before the detective is halfway down, the little gray creature is shimmying up her legs, claws digging into her jeans.

"And then you add insult to injury and climb me like a tree?" Beckett mutters, plucking the kitten off her hip before the thing has a chance to snag the soft green sweater she loves so much.

The one Castle loves so much, if how he finds excuses to touch her whenever she wears it is any indication. And really, if she's being honest, that might be the reason she loves the sweater too—the way his fingers linger at her elbow when he pulls her over to look at something, the way his palm coasts slowly over her lower back when he guides her through a doorway, the way he pushes up his sleeves and then always manages to brush against her braced forearms while they're sitting in front of the murder board.

"What am I going to do with you?" she asks, holding the kitten up in front of her face.

Minnie lazily blinks green eyes and then yawns, a warm bath of tuna-scented breath washing over the detective's face. Kate quickly tucks the cat under one arm.

Carefully, avoiding the most dangerous destruction that stands in her path, the detective makes her way to the small bathroom. She's thankful that the destroyed toilet paper roll seems to be the only damage here, and she sets the kitten on the floor, shutting the door on a plaintive meow so she can clean up the rest of the apartment without worrying about sharp ceramic shards embedding themselves into tender paws.

It takes her a solid half hour to restore everything to order, and she's just glad she doesn't do crafts, doesn't have a container of sequins or glitter sitting around the house. She can just imagine...

Finally, she heads to her bedroom. The box of cat toys lays tipped over on the floor, a plastic baggie of catnip ripped open, green flakes scattered on the rug next to her chair. That explains it then. This must be the origin of her kitten's nip-induced frenzy. It really is Speed for cats.

She shoves the toys back into the box and under the bed, shakes the rug off, and sweeps the remnants of the culpable catnip into the dustpan. That seems to be the only damage in her bedroom, fortunately, and she allows herself to flop back on the bed for a moment, her body settling against the soft mattress.

She's so tired. There's been no new case since the one that brought her Minnie, but no new case means days of paperwork, mind-numbing and menial. And worse yet, days of paperwork plus no case equal no Castle. He texts, yes, but he's been busy getting ready for Christmas and spending time with Alexis and he hasn't come in and she misses him.

She misses him.

But it's no use pining away. He's probably out at a Christmas party, or last-minute shopping, or trying to keep his mother away from the eggnog and the mulled wine.

Heaving herself up, the detective peels off her sweater and then unzips her boots, tugging them off. Her jeans follow, and she pads in socked feet to her dresser, pulling out a comfy pair of purple flannel pants and a lavender tank top. It's warm enough in her apartment to leave her arms bare.

She dresses quickly, scoops up the broom and dustpan and tosses the debris into the trash, put the cleaning supplies away.

A loud meow echoes in the bathroom, and she decides to have mercy at last. Opening the door, she laughs as Minnie takes off, her feet skidding uselessly on the smooth tile for a moment before she gains purchase and zooms away, no doubt to wreak more havoc.

She grabbed a hot dog on her way home, so she's not hungry, but she wants...something. Standing in front of the open refrigerator, she shifts from foot to foot.

And then there's a knock at the door. Her heart leaps.

No one else. There's no one else who it could be, she knows it.

She half walks, half slides to the door, glancing behind her to make sure Minnie won't escape, and then pulls it open. Castle.

"Hey Castle," she says brightly, but he doesn't respond.

His eyes drift slowly over her, and though he's seen her in a tanktop before, in her workout clothes, even in a baggy tee shirt those couple of times during the Dunn case, she knows he's never seen her quite like this. Soft. Vulnerable. Open.

Letting her own eyes take him in, she sees a pair of steaming cups in his hand. Smells like hot chocolate. There's a bag of what looks like marshmallows poking out of one of the pockets of his overcoat. And there's something in his eyes, something deep and fathomless and yearning.

He's not moving. She lifts her gaze to his, raises an eyebrow, and he starts to recover, moves inside, lets her shut the door behind him. She turns back to him with a question on her lips, but he's too quick.

"Alexis kicked me out," he explains hastily, shrugging his shoulders. "Movie marathon and sleepover at the loft, no boys allowed, which apparently includes dear old dad. And the boys were busy and I didn't feel like going to the Old Haunt by myself, and..."

She presses back the urge tell him how much she's missed him, how glad she is that he's here, and just smiles and shakes her head instead. "It's fine, Castle."

"Hot chocolate?" he offers, holding out one of the cups, and she takes it from him with both hands, breathes deep, and takes a long sip.

"Oh," he says while her eyes are still closed. "Marshmallows."

She hears the rustling of the bag and gives him a small, affectionate smile when she opens her eyes, taking the other cup from his hands, and nodding him toward the kitchen. She sets the cups on the counter, and doesn't object when he pops a pair of marshmallows into both, doesn't say a word as he moves around her in her space, opening the refrigerator and no doubt searching for whipped cream.

He finds the can and adds a more than generous dollop to their hot chocolates, offers her some straight from the nozzle, but there's something too intimate about it, and she shakes her head. Shrugging as if to imply that it's her loss, he lifts the nozzle to his own lips, spraying the cream into his mouth.

And then she sees it. The tiny gray creature slinking across the floor toward them, wary but curious. And she should say something, should warn him, or catch the cat, because she knows exactly what's about to happen.


But she can't wait to see the look on his face as the kitten climbs his leg. She can't wait to see how long it takes for him to realize what he's gotten himself into by coming over tonight.

Castle and a cat? It's bound to be a disaster.

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