Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I watch the show.
"Lucy?" She asks, more than a little befuddled, as he goes to her kitchen.
"Lucy. Charlie Brown. See? But also a nod to 'I Love Lucy,' just so you know that I can do cross-cultural references, too." He gets two plates for the bagels, and heads for the sofa. "I think you need this coffee, Beckett. Perk you right up."
"What, I'm not perky enough for you, Castle?" She's trying to sound grumpy, but it's hard to pull off since she's so happy to see him. She plops down next to him and reaches greedily for one of the cups that he has put on the coffee table.
"Drink up, Beckett, I want you to be clear-headed while you tell me about the tree."
She takes a few sips, followed by a gulp, followed by a sound that reaches his ears as an erotic, previously unknown combination of a moan and a sigh. He's trying to sort it out when she does it again, and it occurs to him that he needs to be clear-headed, too.
"Right." He leans forward a little in anticipation of her story.
"What about it?"
He has some choices again. How should he phrase his question? How does he reel her in and not scare her off? How does he figure out what's going on in her head? How—oh, the hell with it, he'll just ask. "I understand why you haven't celebrated Christmas in a long time, so I wondered what made you change your mind?" He looks around her apartment. There are no twinkling lights, no garlands or brightly wrapped presents or displays of cards. Not even a plum pudding in a can. The only concession to the holiday is a scrawny tree in a blue bucket. "Uh, change your mind a little."
She can prevaricate, she can come up with a credible fib, or she can return to the True Confessions conversation of yesterday. Suck it up, she tells herself. Go with True Confessions. "I want to have a little Christmas again, Castle. I want the joy of it, you know? Not the whole deal, just the feeling." She stops for another hit of caffeine and a hit of bravery. "I tried to get a wreath, but, well, it didn't work out. Anyway, so I thought a tiny tree would be okay. I could handle that. I got all in the mood, I went to a stand, and then—" she waves feebly at the fir. "That. Pathetic, huh? It's some kind of weird ghost of Christmas past, isn't it? You think it's haunted?"
"That's all you, the man of limitless words, has to say to me? Especially on the subject of Christmas? 'Nope'?"
She can't help laughing at that. "Hand me a bagel, Gary Cooper."
"I bet Gary Cooper never had a bagel in his life."
"Gimme it anyway."
"Nice movie reference, by the way."
"Thanks," she says, tearing off a chunk of bagel and popping it in her mouth. She thinks while she chews, and finally says. "What changed my mind is that I thought I could get it from you. Just a little bit. You'd still have plenty."
He looks at her, as confused as she had been when he arrived. "Get what from me?"
It takes a lot to silence Richard Castle, but that does it. What she just said, those two small words of one syllable, touched him so deeply that he has to struggle not to cry. He takes a moment before he responds, clears his throat as if a crumb were caught there, and not his heart.
"Nothing would make me happier," he says, folding his hand over hers and running the soft pad of his thumb over her wrist. "And you could have all of it, not just a little bit."
To his surprise, and to hers, she turns his hand over and kisses his palm. "A little bit is where I have to start, Castle."
They're both quiet for a while, and then he clears his throat again. "Believe it or not, I know that. It's why I'm here." He gets up from the sofa, pulling her up with him. "I need a scarf and at least ten pairs of your socks, as many different colors as you have. And a needle and thread and some scissors. Oh, and some of your aluminum takeout containers. I know you have some. Probably fifty, but two will do. And well washed, please."
She looks at him as if he has taken leave of his senses, which is crazy because all his senses are fully and most deliciously engaged at the moment. "Say what?"
"If you don't know where they are, I can help you look for them. I've wanted to get in your drawers for the longest time."
That nets him an especially expressive eye roll. "No need, Castle, I'm quite capable of getting everything on your weird little Christmas list. I'll be right back." And with that she disappears into the bedroom and he takes the opportunity to scare up a good-size bowl in her kitchen before he sits on a stool at the counter.
"Here you go," she says, depositing everything but the takeout containers in front of him.
"Whoa! You have pink socks?"
"Yes, two pairs, and no snitching."
"I would never," he says, delivering the promise with a dramatic fervor that would have thrilled his mother. "I'm just happy that you do." He rolls each pair of socks—three black, two blue, two pink, one green, one gray, one red, one yellow, and one purple—into a tight ball and uses needle and thread to fashion a loop at the top. He looks up from the neat and colorful pile. "You have those takeout containers?"
"Yes," she says, dropping two on the counter.
He picks up the scissors and quickly cuts the bottoms into five similar shapes in a variety of sizes. He makes a hole in each one and runs thread through it to make a loop, just as he had with the socks. "Oh," he says. "I need some wire, the kind you use to hang pictures. Do you have any?"
"I think," she answers, getting up to rummage through a drawer, finally producing a small packet and passing it to him.
He grabs the wire, fills the bowl with the socks and aluminum cutouts, and stands up. "Okay, Beckett. Tell me where you want to put your tree. How about over there near your desk, so you can see it from wherever you sit?"
"Don't really want to see it, Castle, in case you hadn't noticed."
"Oh ye, of little faith. C'mon." He reaches for her hand, and she lets him lead her to the living room. "We need to take the tree from here," he says, lifting it out of the bucket, "to here." He carries it to the side of her desk, where he props it up in the deep bowl, and runs some wire around the middle of the trunk before anchoring it to the handle of her one-drawer filing cabinet. "There. Good and steady. Just need to put some water in the bowl, but not before we decorate."
"Decorate?" She has returned to a state of cluelessness.
"Yup." And with grace she wasn't aware he had, he drapes a scarf around the bowl, and hangs a dozen pairs of socks—now transformed into vibrant, fuzzy Christmas tree balls—and four aluminum stars on the bare branches. He fastens the fifth cutout, a radiant sun, to the top of the tree, silently gratified to see that it is, indeed, at the same level as her bathrobe sash. He sits back on his haunches and looks up at her. "What do you think? Would Charlie Brown like it?"
She drops to the floor, kneeling right next to him and touching each ornament in turn. "I don't know about Charlie Brown, Castle, but Lucy loves it. And you know, she never likes anything." She smiles, transformed every bit as much as the tree, and then she takes his face in her hands and kisses him in a way Lucy definitely never kissed Charlie Brown. It starts out as a PG embrace, moves rapidly through PG-13 to an R and is approaching NC-17 territory when she pulls back. "Thank you, Castle," she says, pressing her forehead against his.
"You're welcome. Not that I'm not enjoying this, but it's incredibly uncomfortable. Would you mind if we moved to the sofa?"
"Good idea," she says, taking his hand so they can stand up together.
They sit contentedly on the sofa, his arm around her, her head on his shoulder. "So. Four hundred and nineteen pictures of me, huh? Sounds like stalking."
"Four hundred twenty-seven. Perfect as you are, once in a very rare while a photo does not do you justice and must be deleted. And for the record, I wasn't stalking you. I'm just, you know."
"Yes, seriously. You're just what?"
He takes a deep breath. "Besotted."
"Okay. Good. That's good."
He draws her in a little closer and points to the tree. "Think it needs lights?"
"Nope. It's perfect."
"A little bit of Christmas."
"For this year. I think I'll be working my way up. Soon."
"New Year right around the corner, Beckett. Only two weeks away. A lot can happen in a new year."
She rolls over, climbs into his lap, and kisses him again. "A lot can happen in two weeks."
"Is that a promise?"
He kisses her again. "Can I ask you something?"
"Mmmhmm, but then I want to stop talking for a while."
"Do you happen to have a silk top hat?"
A/N Thank you for reading this little story. People of many faiths and traditions celebrate holidays at this time of year, among them Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the winter solstice, Yalda, Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, and Milad un-Nabi. I wish each of you the joys of the season, and above all, peace.