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

Kate Beckett needs a little Christmas. Of course it will be little, that's not the point. It's the need part. For the first time in more than a decade, she needs Christmas. Yearns for it.

It's not that she wants to recreate the celebrations of her childhood. Those are over, shoved in the darkest corner of a basement she never intends to revisit. No, what she wants is some of the joy of it. She can't capture or create the all-consuming delight in the holiday that Castle has, but she'd like just a little bit of it. Have it on loan, and give it back in January when he packs up Christmas and prepares himself for the next holiday, whatever it is. Groundhog Day, maybe. Yeah, she can see him having a party for that. Costumes, definitely. He'd be Punxsutawney Phil, in some faux-fur getup with a big tail and little ears and teeth. She could be his shadow. That'd be a switch.

But now it's the middle of December, and New York makes a market in Christmas, with tree stalls crowding every block; bell ringers and oversized elves on every corner; taxis sprouting velour antlers on the roof; everyone from stock brokers to drunks sporting Santa hats.

Yes, Beckett needs a little Christmas.

She had called it quits with Josh at Thanksgiving, and she's still marginally embarrassed about feeling nothing but relief. He's very easy on the eye, and very smart, but the man never reads a book or goes to a movie, and he's about as much fun as anesthesia. And sex? It wasn't long before it was way too clinical. Down and dirty to him is sleeping on the same sheets two nights in a row. That's not the only reason she dropped him, she admits, if only to herself. She did it because she has her eye on someone else, even though his eye, and the rest of him, is already on someone else. Someone blonde and smart who strikes Beckett as about as much fun as anesthesia, too. If only she could introduce her to Josh.

So Beckett needs a little Christmas. She just doesn't know how to get it. Maybe a wreath. Yes, a wreath would be nice, and just the right amount of holiday cheer. She'll smell the balsam every time she walks down the hallway, it will make her and her neighbors smile, and that will be it. On the way home from work she stops at the hardware store and buys a wreath hanger for her front door. This is good. She wrestles the hanger out of its blister pack, thinking how much easier it would be if she had Josh's surgical skills, and props open the front door. Well, hell. There are so many layers of paint on it that it can't close with the hanger looped over the top. Kiss that $8.68 goodbye, not to mention the attempt at Yuletide home improvement.

It puts her in a funk, not being able to have a wreath. Is it asking too much to have a little greenery, spruced up with a couple of pine cones and a red ribbon, to welcome her home? Huh, spruced up, that's kind of funny. Castle would appreciate that, but if she told Castle about what she'd just tried and failed to do, he'd probably buy her a new front door. And an obscenely large wreath. At least she already has the hanger.

She mopes around wreathlessly for the next couple of days, while Castle gets merrier by the minute. He's so suffused with Christmas spirit, in fact, that he doesn't at first notice her mood. When he does, he puts her gloom down to her individual variety of seasonal affective disorder: her mother had been murdered shortly after Christmas and the holiday is an annual painful reminder. And yet, as he observes her—and he has become a grade-A observer in the last two-plus years—he thinks it's not that. She hadn't looked glum or downright refused the two cupcakes he had brought her earlier in the week, one iced with NAUGHTY and the other, NICE. She hadn't told him to shut up when he sang "Let It Snow!" in the car when the heater gave out. So what is it?

He chews it over silently. Could it be? Could it be, dare he hope, is it possible: she broke up with Doctor McIcky? It's been at least a month (thirty-six days; he keeps count) since the man slimed his way across the bullpen, running his surgeon's hands through his over-gelled hair as he made his way to Beckett's desk. She hasn't mentioned him in weeks, but if the break-up isn't new, why is she down in the dumps now? This requires thought, thought and genuine detective work, even if he isn't a genuine detective. He'll sleep on it.

While Castle is preparing to sleep on it, Beckett is bringing home a tree. Maybe it was rash, but the wreath hadn't worked, and so she'd moved the bar up a bit to a tree. A little tree. She'd thought that she'd have a lot of choices, since everyone she had seen in the last two weeks had been shouldering behemoths that appeared to be seven feet tall and almost as wide. There would be lots of little trees, right? Wrong. She went to four places before she found one, and it was only borderline acceptable. Still, it was green, and three feet tall, so she took it. She'll string popcorn on it. Popcorn is a staple of her diet and she has plenty on hand.

Once she's in her apartment, she realizes she has no tree stand, so she makes do with the only thing handy, a blue plastic bucket that usually holds her cleaning supplies. No matter how she arranges the tree, it lists to one side, a side that on close inspection proves to be bald. By the time she finishes popping three bags of corn in the microwave, most of the needles on the good side have cascaded to the floor.

She needs a little Christmas, and this sure as hell isn't it.

The next morning, Castle wakes from a particularly savory dream in which Beckett appeared in his bedroom wearing nothing but a silk top hat and said, "Hi. I'm Frosty, wanna thaw me out?" While he showers, shaves, and dresses, and tries to hold on to but repress the image of naked-but-for-a-hat Beckett, he comes up with a simple plan. When he stops for their usual coffees on the way to the precinct, he draws three little boxes tied up with ribbons on the lid of her cup. She's sure to notice.

"Morning, Beckett," he says, setting the cardboard tray on her desk and impassively registering delight at the absence of Ryan and Esposito.

"Hey, Castle. Thanks."

"Where are the guys?" he asks as he settles on his chair.

"Out talking to a witness. Don't think they'll get much." She picks up her coffee, takes a sip, and then looks down. "Huh. That's kind of cute. Did you draw those?"

Oh good, that can lead directly to his first question. "Thanks. So, got your Christmas shopping done?"

"Don't do much of that, Castle."

She doesn't make a face as she says it, which he takes as a good sign. "What about Josh? Got to give him something, right? What do you give a cardiologist, anyway? A gold scalpel?"

She's pressing the cup right against her bottom lip, and looking at him over the newly decorated lid. She holds both the pose and the gaze for so long that he can feel the beading of sweat at one temple. He's beginning to worry that he's in trouble, and then she puts the cup next to her keyboard and places her hands, palms flat, on either side. "I, we, we're not exchanging gifts," she says, dropping her eyes.

What should he do? Play it safe, that's what. Just say, casually, "Oh?" So he does. "Oh?"

"Yeah, I, uh, gave myself an early Christmas present by breaking up with him a couple of weeks ago."

Non-Detective Castle is sure that he detects a tiny, tiny smile at the corner of Detective Beckett's holly-berry-red mouth. He knows he has to suppress his glee, eliminate the squeak, when he responds, so he takes a moment. "Really?" Mr. Casual says. "I'm sorry, Beckett."

"Don't be," she says. "I was dying from boredom."

"Well, good, because I was lying. I'm not sorry at all." Uh-oh. Oh, God. He was so busy not squeaking that he forgot to censor himself.

There's a highly caffeinated silence, and she's the one to break it.

"You're not?" He's pretty sure that she sounds pleased, even hopeful. Good thing he still has his jacket on so she can't see his heart beating through his shirt.

"Nope. I'm in kind of the same position. Broke up with Gina right after Hallowe'en. Seemed appropriate, given that she's a, um."


He can't help laughing. "Yeah."

Beckett is nibbling the rim of the lid now, and looking sideways at him. "She leave on her broom?"

"She did. Left Broome Street on her broom."

And now she can't help laughing.



"So, you're okay?"

"Definitely okay, Castle. And you?"

"Don't I look okay? More than okay?"

"You do."

"I, can I— It's, you've seemed a little morose the last couple of days is all, so it's nice to see you jolly."

"Jolly?" She wrinkles her nose. "I've never in my life been called jolly."

"Appropriate for the time of year, jolliness. Just, not the after affects of a breakup got you down?"

"Not at all."

"Well, then, in this spirit of True Confessions we've got going, will you tell me what it is? Since I'm your partner. I'd really like to help."

She feels a blush coming up her neck. "It's my tree."

"Your tree?" He is genuinely puzzled. "What, like a family tree? Or a ficus?"

"Neither. My Christmas tree."

He moves from genuinely puzzled to authentically stunned. "You have a Christmas tree?"

"Yeah. And it's worse than Charlie Brown's."