The Great Outdoors

"I don't understand! I thought you would love camping!"

Kate blows a hank of hair off her face and scratches one of her three hundred bug bites. She tries to keep the irritation out of her voice. "Why? Why would you think that?"

Castle stands up, the tent poles hanging loosely in his hands, the tent still a deflated canvas at his feet. "Because you're a cop!" he says, his tone implying that he thinks she's a super hero, and Kate's heart flips a little in her chest despite the fact that he's the reason she's sleeping on the ground tonight.

It's not that Kate hates camping.

Except no, actually it is that. She hates it. A lot. The only reason she's here is because she loves Castle. A lot.

(Seriously, she must really, really love him, because camping is the worst.)

"Cops don't really spend a lot of time camping, Castle," Kate says. "Maybe you're thinking of Army Rangers?"

"Ha ha. I mean, didn't you have, like, survival training?"

"For what, all the times we have to rough it in Central Park?"

Castle frowns. "I don't think it's legal to camp in Central Park."

"It's not." Holy shit, who would want to camp in Central Park? "And I know this because I'm a cop in New York City, and not a Canadian Mounty."

"You trained with the FBI!"

"Very basic wilderness skills, and it wasn't for fun."

Castle looks crestfallen and Kate suddenly feels terrible. He's having a great time and she's bringing him down. It's just that when Ryan asked them to go camping this weekend, it never crossed her mind that Castle would want to go. Kate was positive he would hate it. She'd been counting on him to get them out of it. Instead he'd gone into full Castle excitement mode. He'd spent the rest of the week making detailed packing lists and ordering flashlights of ever-increasing power off of Amazon. He brought at least five, two of which are so bright they could probably signal passing planes.

"I mean, camping is okay," Kate hedges. It's not totally a lie. It is okay, for other people. "It's just not something that I usually seek out." Ever. Everrrrrrr. "But I'm sure it will be fun with you," she adds, optimistically.

Saying she's sure is pushing the bounds of truth again, but Castle is fun, and they brought alcohol, so maybe this will be fine. And anyway, her words seem to work because Castle perks back up.

"It will be! You'll love it!" Castle bounces a little as he starts putting together the tent poles.

He really does look sort of adorable - if nothing like himself - in his special camping cargo pants and flannel shirt, assembling the tent like he totally knows what he's doing. Which, yes, is slightly surprising, but also a little hot. If only he were assembling it for someone else.

Kate squints, getting a closer look at his pants. "Are those zippers at your knees? Do those pants unzip into shorts?" Oh dear god, he's such a dork. She loves him so much.

"Yes!" Castle is delighted. He drops the tent poles and reaches for a zipper. "Do you want to see?"

"Maybe." Kate sidles up next to him and slides her hand over his wrist. His flannel sleeves are rolled up his elbows, and how is that Kate has never really appreciated how magnificent his forearms are? "I think I do. Hurry up and get the tent up so you can show me." She suggestively waggles her eyebrows at him, because she is also a massive dork.

Castle's eyes widen. "Oh my god, you are so naughty and so awesome." He snatches up the tent poles again. "Give me two seconds to get this up - "

"Hi guys!"

Castle jumps and whirls around, while Kate sighs and turns more slowly. For a minute she forgot that they aren't alone out here.

Crashing through the underbrush, waving, and looking super happy to see them, is Ryan.

Of course.

"I want to be clear that I am only here in case you all need to be saved from yourselves." Esposito drops his green duffle on on the ground with a thump. ESPOSITO is stenciled on the side in block letters, the bag clearly left over from his army days. "This." He waves his hand at Ryan's tent with his face twisted up in disgust. "Is not camping."

Kate collapses on the closest log and takes a huge swallow of her wine, trying to ignore the fact that it's in a tin cup that says camping without beer is just sitting in the woods! on the side.

She's exhausted. She and Castle have spent the last hour helping Ryan and Jenny haul their truly mind-boggling amount of camping gear from the car, and then set up a tent that Kate's pretty sure is bigger than her first apartment. It definitely has more amenities, including a hammock, a tree shower, and a solar-powered coffee maker.

"It's glamping!" Jenny pops up out of the tent flap, a picture of perky outdoor fun in her matching REI outfit and hat. "Why be uncomfortable if you don't have to be, right?"

True, Kate thinks. Although with that logic she should be at home on the couch, in their heated apartment, drinking wine out of stemware and not a tin mug like a hobo, but whatever.

Esposito sneers. "The uncomfortable is the fun! You have to challenge yourself, see what you're made of!"

"We're challenging ourselves!" Ryan says. "Tonight we're trying a new recipe! Camp Fire Lasagna." He nods towards the fire pit in the middle of the campsite, where a heavy pot carefully layered with several ingredients, including fresh basil, is nestled under the hot coals.

"Camp Fire. Lasagna." Esposito deadpans. "Did you hunt and kill the noodles yourself?"

"Hey!" Ryan says. "It's a complicated recipe! The coals have to be the right temperature and cover the dutch oven just right, or the bottom will burn! The timing is tricky, but really important."

"You brought a dutch oven?" Espo shakes his head. "You guys would never make it on Naked and Afraid."

"What?" Jenny says, mildly alarmed, like any second Espo is going to demand she peel off her SPF 30 shirt and hand over her hiking boots.

"Oooooh! I love that show!" Castle butts in. "You know, the one where two people have to survive in the harsh wilderness for thirty days with just their wits? No food, no shelter, no clothes."

Jenny squinches up her face. "Oh my god. Why? What do they win if they make it?"

"Nothing," Kate interjects. "It's dumb. They win nothing, except digestive problems, and sometimes malaria."

"Nothing?!" Esposito says, offended. "They have the satisfaction of knowing they did it! They beat the odds! They stood against nature and won!"

Jenny doesn't look convinced. "I think I'll stick with glamping."

"Yeah," Kate agrees. Preferably indoor camping. In her own bed.

Castle glances at the lone bag at Espo's feet. It's in stark contrast to Ryan and Jenny's mountain of stuff and Taj Mahal tent, or even Castle's normal camping gear. "Where's your tent, man?"

Espo snorts. "I don't need a tent."

"You don't have a tent? What if it rains?" Ryan looks concerned. "Our tent can only hold two people."

"What?" Castle says, incredulous. "That tent could fit all five of us."

"Seriously," Kate agrees. "It's is bigger than our bathroom."

"And our bathroom is huge," Castle adds. "It has a jacuzzi tub."

"That tent probably has a jacuzzi tub," Esposito says. "And stop bragging. No one wants to hear about your sex tub."

Kate can feel her face getting hot. "That's not…"

"If it rains I'll wrap up in my tarp," Espo scoffs.

"Oh, good." Ryan's clearly relieved that he won't be expected to share the Taj Mahal tent with Espo. Probably because he and Jenny plan to take to full advantage of their fancy air mattress and the fact that they left their kids with the grandparents for the weekend. Kate eyes the distance between their tents and hopes it's enough to avoid hearing anything that will require bleaching out her ears.

"Okay!" Castle claps his hands together. "Settled! Who's ready for a hike?"

"Oh, man, I wish I could." Ryan throws a thumb over his shoulder at the camp fire. "But I have to stay with the lasagna."

"Got it." Castle claps him on the shoulder. "Fire safety."

"And I don't want to burn the lasagna. Go ahead and roll your eyes," Ryan adds, as Esposito rolls his eyes so hard Kate's surprised they stay in his head, "but you'll be glad when you come back from your hike to perfectly cooked lasagna."

"I'm not eating that cheaters lasagna. I'm eating something I catch myself. On this hike." Esposito glares at them before heading off down the narrow trail leading into the woods without waiting to see if they follow.

Castle grabs his hiking stick, (another late night Amazon purchase.) "Oh my god, this is so awesome!" He turns to Kate. "Isn't this awesome?" He doesn't wait for her to answer. "Come on, we have to catch up!" And he hurries off along the trail.

"This is so fun!" Jenny chirps, following Castle with her own hiking stick, her ponytail swaying with each step.

"So fun," Kate agrees, as she steps on the path, and she's only gritting her teeth a little.

A/N - Prompt: "What would hapen if castle and beckett go on a hike & camping-trip. Him being prepared and she not so much. Things going wrong (no phonesignal, problems with the tent, maybe some animals causing trouble) all in a funny way." - prompted by woride ( at woride on Twitter ) and filled as a gift for a generous contribution to support dot chla dot org slash pages slash goodluckstana.

A/N 2 - I love this prompt! Thanks so much for letting me participate. :) This was supposed to be a one-shot, but I couldn't fit it all in! This is part one of probably three.