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

Richard Castle is asleep. Happily, even blissfully asleep, as a dream involving his favorite member of the New York City Police Department is just beginning to unspool in his unconscious, and—

The doorbell? It's three o'clock in the damn morning. Who's ringing the bell? Not just ringing, either, but buzzing a little seven-part something, over and over. Castle, wearing boxers, a tee shirt and one sock, is stumbling to the front door, trying to identify the rhythmic ringing. DUH duh duh DUH duh, duh DUH! Ah ha, he's got it. "Shave and a haircut, two bits!" He's going to kill the SOB who's doing it, whoever it is.

Except that whoever it is is his favorite member of the NYPD. His dreamgirl. Woman. Literally the woman of his dreams, who was in his bed a moment ago—well, not actually in his bed, but in his brain, his dream, while he was in his bed. "Beckett?"

She's smiling sunnily, even in the middle of the night. "Hi, Castle."


"Did I wake you up?"

"Wake me up? No, no, not at all, I was wide awake. In my office, totally awake."

"Really? Cause you look like you have bed head."

He raises his hand, feels his hair sticking up like the top of a soft swirl ice cream cone, and tries to pat it down.

"Here, let me take care of that," Beckett says, extracting a comb from her coat pocket and running it expertly through his hair. "Do you mind I come in?"

Is she kidding? Would he mind? No, he would not. Never. Not only would he not mind, he would be deliriously happy. He's feeling a little delirious right now, in fact. "Of course not. I'm sorry, please come in."

She strides in confidently, humming very faintly. He's trying to catch that tune, too, but he's not sure what to say. "What would be a good place, Castle? Your bathroom?"

Beckett in his bathroom? That sounds like a great place. Not as good as his bedroom, but a close second. If only he knew what had brought her to his door. To it, and inside it. "Uh, sure. Excellent. Could I, could I get you something first? A drink? A cup of coffee? A marshmallow?"

"A marshmallow?"

Where had that come from? He makes a quick recovery. "For hot chocolate. Would you like some? With a marshmallow? Or more than one, you could have as many as you want. I like the mini ones, but I have the big ones, too. You probably just want one, though. I know how you are about potato chips. Just one."

"Sounds nice, Castle, thank you. And I'll go for two marshmallows."

"Going wild, eh, Beckett?" Oh my God, what is he saying?

"Yup. Throwing caution to the winds. Right out the window. Whoosh!"

She's smiling every bit as sunnily as she had when he opened the door, before he started blithering, but he still has no inkling why she's here. "I'll just make it, then. The hot chocolate. Oh, and please make yourself at home."

"I'll sit in the kitchen and watch," she says, heading for a stool.

He gets a bottle of milk from the refrigerator and leaves the door open a bit longer than necessary in the hope that the cold air will jolt him into action. It's not until his last flick of the whisk that it does. "So, Beckett, to what do I owe the pleasure? Of your coming over, I mean."

She looks surprised. "Don't you remember?"

"Must have slipped my mind. You know, because I was writing. Lost track."

"You said, 'I could use a trim'."

When did he say that? Oh, wait. "Oh, wait. Right. You mean after we interrogated that slimeball stockbroker with the thousand dollar haircut?"

"Yeah. You said, 'What kind of a jerk would pay that kind of money for a haircut, especially a jerk with a combover?' And then you looked at your reflection and said you needed a trim."

"Uh huh."

"So I came over. I noticed you've got a little five o'clock shadow—"

"Three o'clock." Shit, he did it again.

She's still smiling. "Three o'clock shadow, so I'll give you a shave and a haircut."

That explains the coat. She's wearing a white coat. Like a barber. Except she's Beckett, so. He chuckles.

"What's so funny, Castle?"

"I was just thinking about your coat. It's a Barbour coat, right? Not a barber coat."

"You've got a good eye for fashion. Now, are you gonna hand me a mug of that hot chocolate, or what? And don't forget my marshmallows."

He drops three in the mug and passes it to her. "One for good measure, Detective."

"Thanks," she says, tasting it before raising the mug in salute. "Delicious. But time's a-wastin', so shall we get started? I'll just bring this with me, if that's okay. Sip while I work."

They're about halfway through the living room when he realizes that he's about to be busted. His bed. His bed is a mess, the duvet sliding to the floor, a pillow probably already there. What to say, what to say, what to say. And now she's in his bedroom, talk about a fantasy made flesh.

"Hmm, Castle. I didn't wake you up?" She's pointing to his bed. "The evidence indicates otherwise."

"Evidence isn't always as it appears," he says, buying himself a little time until inspiration floods his brain. There it is, he feels it. "I took a nap before, and then I got up to write. I do that a lot."

"Uh huh," she says, still smiling as she walks into his bathroom. "This place is huge, Castle. You could have three barber chairs in here."

"Yeah, well. Speaking of chair, I guess I should get one. Will my desk chair work?"

"Other than the fact that it doesn't recline?"

Recline, oh, the image.

"Yeah, sorry."

"Not a problem, I'm sure I'll be able to handle it."

It takes all his rapidly vanishing will power not to run, or at least skip, to his office to get the chair, but he manages to walk at a stately pace. Or as stately as a pace can be when you're dressed as he is. He rolls the chair to the bathroom and she positions it in front of the basin and the enormous mirror that's mounted above it. "Which first, Castle, haircut or shave?"

"Haircut, please." It's not until he sits down that he notices that she has a bag with her. He watches in the mirror as she removes clippers, scissors, a razor, a shaving brush, a covered wooden bowl of shaving cream, and a tiny bottle of something, all of which she lays out neatly on the counter, along with the comb that had been in her pocket. She bends over the bag once more and pulls out a smock, which she opens with a flourish and drapes over him, snapping it closed at the back of his neck.

Beckett runs her fingers through his hair, fluffing it up a little. Thank God for the smock, he thinks. "So, a little off the sides, neaten up the back? How's that?"

"Perfect," he says. You have no idea how perfect, he doesn't say. She's incredibly efficient, and way too fast—way too fast because he wants this to go on for at least an hour, especially the part where she blows a little hair off his neck, just under his ear. Now she pats him on the shoulder.

"How's that?" Smiling.

"Worth at least a thousand bucks. Do you take personal checks?"

"On the house, Castle. Ready for your shave?"


"I brought equipment, as you see, but if you'd rather I use yours?"

"Your equipment looks top of the line, Beckett." His mouth, his mouth. He'd shove the smock in it but he needs to leave it where it is.

"Thanks. Now, does the cabinet right behind me have washcloths and towels?"


"Great, I'll just get a couple."

He closes his eyes and listens to her walk across the tiled floor and back. Hears her turn on the hot water and open that little bottle. He's just about to yield to temptation and open his eyes when two hot, damp washcloths surround his face and a delicious scent goes right to his brain.

"Sandalwood," she says. "Sandalwood oil, hope that's all right with you. I put in my bath when I really want to relax."

Oh, God, he thinks, please don't talk about your bath right now. This is not a good time, really not. "Mmhmm."

She removes the washcloths, soaps his face and gives him the best and unquestionably most sensual shave of his life. She's humming while she works, the same tune as before. Maybe talking would be a good distraction. "What's that tune? It's so familiar but I can't quite get it."

"Barber of Seville. Seemed appropriate."

"Oh, my God, right. 'Rabbit of Seville'! Bugs and Elmer! One of the greatest cartoons ever."

She's wiping off a little dab of shaving cream that had landed on his nose. "Good to know that Looney Tunes gave you an operatic education, Castle." Smiling. "There, I think you're done."

He rubs his hands over his cheeks. "Wow, Beckett. If you ever decide to leave police work, you could open a salon. Seriously."

He's looking at her in the mirror again and sees her wink. Swear to God, she winked at him.

"You liked your tonsorial treat, did you?"

Oh, sue me, he thinks, gotta ask this. "Can you say that again?"

"You liked your tonsorial treat, did you?"

"I loved it."

"Good. I'll just pack up this gear and be going."

And before he can remarshall his senses, she's at the front door. "Night, Castle. See you in the morning."

He has just enough wits to open the door for her. "Thank you, Beckett. Tomorrow?"

She holds up her wrist so that he can see her watch. "Already is, Castle." She walks to the elevator and disappears.

He's not sure how he's able to find his way back to bed, but he does, and instantly falls asleep.

A few hours later he takes one of the quickest showers of his life, gets dressed and drives to the precinct. Before he goes up he detours two blocks to Beckett's favorite pastry shop and gets her a pain au chocolat. He's just about to pay for it and their coffees when he realizes that he can't arrive at the bullpen with something like that, just for Beckett, and not get a lot of questions from the boys. He considers briefly and asks for a few eclairs. Then, two wax paper bags and a cardboard tray firmly in hand, he walks to the Twelfth.

"Morning, all," he says, and three heads pop up in unison. He carries the bag of eclairs to Ryan and Espo before taking his usual place next to Beckett's desk. "Cafe," he says, "and a pain au chocolat."

"Wow, Castle. Merci! What's the occasion?" She takes a bite of the pastry and makes a sound that he'd pay at least a grand to hear again.

"What's the occasion?"

"Yeah, is this a special day or something? You don't usually bring things from the patisserie, especially this." There's the thousand-dollar sound again.

He hums a few bars of the overture from The Barber of Seville. No reaction from Beckett.

"This is so freaking good, Castle," she says. "Hey, did you get a haircut or something?"

His mouth opens of its own accord. Then shuts. Then opens again. "Did I get a haircut?"

"Yeah, your hair looks a little different this morning. Did you change barbers or something?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, yes, I did."

"Well, stick with him."


"Okay, her."

The phone rings. "Beckett." She's nodding her head. "Got it. Mmhmm. We'll be right there." She clicks off. "We've got a murder, guys. Let's go."