Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I watch the show.

She doesn't exactly hate Christmas, she just wants no part of it. Leaves it for those who take joy from and in it, like Castle. Seriously, the man is Mr. Christmas. Every morning since the Monday after Thanksgiving, he has brought her a candy cane along with her coffee. One afternoon she came back from getting a sandwich and found a sprig of shiny holly with big, fat berries in her pencil holder. Today she caught him putting tiny Santa hats on the family of elephants on her desk.

"Where on earth did you get those, Castle?"

"What?" He looked genuinely surprised.

"Those Santa hats."

"Oh. From Pachyderms on Parade."

She couldn't help laughing. "Don't know how I've missed that store."

"You don't mind them, do you? The hats?"

She didn't want to crush his spirit, because he looked so happy as he fitted them to each animal, and loath as she was to admit it, they looked incredibly cute. "No, Castle, I don't mind. I'm not the Grinch, you know. Just don't start festooning my desk with lights."

"Say that again, Beckett. Please?" He was leaning in. She could smell his aftershave and she was absolutely, positively, completely ignoring it.

"Say what?" she asked primly.



"Oh, my God, that is so sexy. The sibilant, and the long oooooo."

She was not looking at his lips when he said "sexy," either. "Don't you have shopping to do or something?" She slapped her hand on a stack of bulging folders. "I have a mountain of paperwork to plow through, and I don't imagine that your holiday spirit extends to helping me with it."

He stood up from his battered chair. "Now that you mention it, I do have to go. Gotta pick up my Christmas cards, and start writing them. Tomorrow, Detective?"

"Ho, ho, ho. Night, Castle."

One of the good things about the positioning of her desk is that she can watch Castle as he walks to the elevator and no one can see her doing it. The view is less impressive in winter, because he wears an overcoat, but she has come to love—what? no!—really like the back of his head. The way his hair grows, especially when it's a little shaggy, as it is now. She can imagine it between. Never mind. Never mind, even though she knows he's a free man since he and Gina had parted company early in the fall.

It's dark so early now, in mid-December. Most people hate it, but she revels in it. She likes the obscuring nature of it, the mystery, maybe even the promise. Darkness before dawn, whatever. When she gets home this evening she finds a few cards along with the usual flyers and catalogues in her mailbox and recognizes the distinctive handwriting on one sturdy envelope. It's from her old friend Mira Halvorsen, whom she had gotten to know when they were roommates as students in Kiev. Mira is from Tromsø, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle, and always makes her a beautiful, one-of-a-kind Christmas card. It's the one thing about the season that Beckett looks forward to every year.

Once she's in her apartment, she changes into a sleep shirt, leggings and slippers, pours herself some wine and walks to the sofa. The coffee table in front of it holds her only nod to the holidays, a round silver tray with eight beautiful glasses of varying shades of blue, each holding a floating candle. She lights them, sets her glass next to them, and sits down to open the card, a thick, creamy sheet about eight by five inches. Mira has painted a hundred tiny silver dots all around the edge; they're a frame for vivid swirls and slashes of green against the suggestion of a sky, painted a deep blue that's almost black. "Northern Lights," Becket says softly, running her fingers over the card. It's only then, holding it closer to the candlelight, that she sees a gold star painted in the upper right hand corner. One of the five points has an infinestimal red heart; each of the others has an equally tiny letter: K A T E.

For some reason, that one detail almost makes her weep. It's so intimate. So knowing. So kind. There's no one else in her life who would do something like that. Certainly not Josh, even before she broke up with him last month. She takes another sip of wine, and studies the card. Savors it. And discovers that her wine is gone. "Oh, God," she says aloud. "I hope that's not a metaphor. An empty glass."

She should eat something. Besides, if she puts something in her stomach she can have more wine, and the glass will no longer be empty. She's not optimistic about what she'll find in her undernourished fridge, but maybe there's a bit of something that's marginally edible. She opens the door. What the hell? There's an enormous wooden plate holding seven cheeses, all wrapped up in bright red cellophane, tied with a white satin bow. She lifts it out, puts it on the counter and peels off the envelope that's taped to the top. She tears it open.

"Dear Beckett,

I have your key for emergencies, and I consider your not having some good Christmas nibbles an emergency. A little mouse told me that you love cheese. So here is an acrostic medley of them for you:








I can't vouch for the last one, but I couldn't resist the name. You can tickle me more any day.


P.S. There are seven boxes of crackers in the cabinet."

She can barely breathe. Castle. Castle did this for her. Just for her. It's intimate and knowing and kind and funny. She sits down hard, on the floor. She'd been wrong. If she'd been honest with herself, she'd have known it a long time ago. Mira is not the only person in her life who does something remarkable just for her, expecting nothing in return. Castle does. All the time. And what are the odds that on the very same day she gets two things, from two people, that involve her name? Castle would have plenty to say about it.

Forelsket. She suddenly remembers. Forelsket. A Norwegian word that Mira had taught her, years ago, just before she got married. It's a particular kind of euphoria, the feeling that you have when you realize that you're feeling in love. Beckett had never experienced the full force of it it until this minute. Forelsket. She's been falling in love with Castle for a long time. And honestly? Because sitting on her floor in her jammies looking up at a platter of cheeses that spell her name is a good time for honesty? She knows when it started. That first little bubble, a tiny fizz in the back of her brain that she couldn't tamp down? It was fourteen months ago. The day he turned down the chance to write the James Bond books and instead signed a contract for more Nikki Heat ones. Oh, he said the money was too good, and she's sure he wasn't kidding, but how paltry could a Bond contract be? And why did he say no to following in the footsteps of his longtime idol Ian Fleming? Because of her. She puts her hand to her cheek and feels it burning.

She finally rises from the floor and fetches one box of elegant-looking crackers. She unwraps the cheeses, cuts a slice from all seven, and puts each one on a cracker, arranging them neatly on a plate. She's just about to eat the first when she has an idea, so she picks up her phone from the counter and takes a photo. Smiling, she carries the plate and another glass of wine back to the sofa. And there she spends the next hour, thinking, mentally cataloguing the two and a half years she's known Castle. Every part of her is effervescent. Forelsket.

She can hardly sleep. At least five times she starts to call Castle, but never follows through. Then, at 3:30 in the morning, she texts him the photo of the cheese and a message, "Tusen takk."

At 5:15, she's drinking coffee in the kitchen and hears her phone chirp, signaling an incoming text. It's Castle. "Norwegian, Beckett?"

She replies. "Yes. For thank you very much. A thousand thanks."

A few seconds elapse, and then, "Is that yet another language you speak that I don't know about? Are there any more? Inuktitut? Hungarian? Swahili?"

"Nope. That's almost all my Norwegian right there. The other languages you already know about."

"How about pig Latin?"

French Roast comes out of her nose. "Es-yay."

"Okay, so that's five."

Rather than text again, she calls. He picks up on the first ring. "Hi."

"Want to come to breakfast?"

"Do you have anything to eat?"

"Cheese and crackers. A lot of cheese and crackers."

"That it?"

"And coffee. Oh, and I'm pretty sure I have a box of frozen corn."

"I'm bringing blueberry muffins. You want me to come over now?"

"Yeah. It's breakfast time, Castle."

"Be right there."

Holy mother of God, what has she done? Invited Castle to breakfast, that's what. She's vaguely panicky and she knows that he'll be here in a matter of minutes. There's no time for her to shower, and she doesn't want to get dressed if she hasn't showered. Well, she's perfectly presentable. She'll just brush her hair, and try not to throw up before he gets here.

And he's here. He rings the buzzer downstairs, and she buzzes him in.

"Hi, Castle," she says as she opens the door.

"Morning, Beckett," he says in turn, waving a wax-paper bag of (presumably) blueberry muffins. He comes in, passes the bag to her and hangs his coat on the rack by the front door.

"I've made a new pot of coffee. It's probably ready." She licks her lips, tries to sound as if this is a perfectly ordinary situation, instead of the wacko one it is.

He follows her to the kitchen, and it's while he's getting two mugs from a cabinet that she notices that he's wearing bedroom slippers. When she looks more closely she sees the hems of pajama bottoms sticking out from below his blue jeans. She giggles.

"Beckett?" His eyes are very wide. "Did you just giggle?"

She reddens. "I. Uh. Maybe. It's because of your bottoms."

"My bottoms? Plural? Is that a comment on my ass?"

She points to his feet. "Your PJs. Under your pants."

"Huh?" He looks down. "Wow. I didn't. I. Geez. And my slippers."

Oh. Oh. Oh. What do you know? He's as eager as she is. And just as quickly as nervousness had swamped her, it vanishes. Poof. Gone. And the headiness of forelsket rushes back in.



"I'm wearing slippers, too."

"Are those your jammies?


"Oh, and no bra."

She would have bet five years' pay that she'd never see Castle blush, and she'd have been out a bundle. His face is as crimson as the cellophane on the cheese plate. It's her turn to look down. "You're right," she says cheerily.

"Sorry. I'm. Totally inappropriate, Beckett. I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize," she says, putting her hand on his arm. His incredible arm. "I don't think there's anything that would be inappropriate right now."

"Okay. Thank you." He looks sideways at the counter. "I think I could use some coffee."

"Me, too. And speaking of thank you, thank you for all that cheese, and the crackers. Concominant crackers."

"Concomitant? That's even sexier than festoon." He's looking a little giddy, too.

"Yeah, well. Um, but especially for the note, you know, the acrostic. No one ever did anything like that for me."

"Really?" He's taken aback. "They should. All the time."

They stand there, in their slippers, dumbstruck, in their slippers.

"Beckett? May I ask you something?"

"Oh, definitely. Yes."

"Norwegian? Why did you thank me in Norwegian? You know, when you texted before."

And just as "no bra" had evaded the filter in his brain and come out through his lips, "forelsket" slipped by hers.

"Forelsket?" His eyebrows are all the way up.

"It's Norwegian," she whispers.

"I figured," he whispers back.

"For what I'm feeling." She has stepped a little closer to him, and he can feel her breath on his face.

"And what's that?"

"It's the way you feel when you realize that you're falling in love."

"Really?" He would probably look astonished if love hadn't pushed every other emotion out of his body.



"With you, Castle." And then she kisses him. Throws her arms around him and kisses him until they're both breathless.

"Is this forelsket?" he asks. "All fizzy and rosy?"

"That's it, Castle." She smiles as she may never have smiled before, ever, at anyone.

"Maybe we should move to Norway."

"Maybe we should move to my bed."

"Even better."

A/N I can seldom refuse a challenge, especially one with a time limit. This was a one-word prompt from mobazan27: "Forelsket." I hope that it meets her standards.