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

"Call me Ishmael." Now there's an opening line for you. Why can't he write something that good? Even a third that good? Of course then it would be "Call." Okay, that's just a third of the words, not a third as good. Oh, hell. He's stuck. He's so freaking stuck. Stuck as Moby Dick would be if he were in a bathtub instead of the ocean. See, even his analogies suck, although the idea of a whale in a tub is kind of, briefly, funny. He's trying to find humor wherever he can, now that he's in week seven of writer's block.

"Call." That's not a bad line at all. But it makes him want to call Beckett—almost everything makes him want to call her—and he can't. Won't. She's with Demming, and he can't bear it. She'll be all chirpy and happy when he phones. Maybe not chirpy. He can't quite imagine a chirpy Beckett. It's not that he doesn't want her to be happy, he does. He just doesn't want her to be happy with that asshole from Robbery. Or that asshole from the FBI, Sorenson, but at least she'd had the sense to dump him.

He and Gina had lasted less than ten days together, even in his idyllic house in the Hamptons. He'd known it was a stupid idea, but he's done a lot of stupid things lately. Maybe Gina could hook up with Demming! They share the bossiness gene. But no, Demming is with Beckett.

Richard Castle is miserable. After a month and a half of failing to come up with a complete sentence, or even a sentence fragment, he'd packed up and returned to the city. He'd been confident that the noise and bustle and heat would jar something loose, but after three days he's still staring at a blank computer screen. This morning he'd had a burst of productivity when he'd reorganized all his socks by color, fiber (wool, cashmere, silk-cashmere blend, cotton, cotton with lycra), reinforced toe or non-, banded top or loose-fit. He'd briefly considered sorting the patterned pairs into subsets, but it had seemed too complicated. There are none of the usual familial distractions at home, either: Alexis is at Princeton's summer program for high schoolers and his mother is visiting friends who just built a house in Seattle, yet he still can't write a word.

"Call me Ishmael." Maybe some other great first lines in literature will inspire him. "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins." No, no, bad choice. He can't be thinking of loins. Just the idea of Beckett's makes him squeeze his together. His eyes run over the wall of books in his office and land on Proust. Ah ha. "For a long time I went to bed early." Yeah, well, he's been doing that, early to bed, late to rise, and it hasn't stirred any creative juices. Maybe he should mull over some memorable last lines, except that would be too depressing since he hasn't produced a single opening one. Shelby Hearon springs to mind, damn her. She'd written a novel that begins "They lived happily ever after" and ends with "Once upon a time." Genius! He'd have given a lot to have come up with that. What was the name of it? He'd really liked it. Dancing, something about dancing. Hug Dancing, that was it. Hug dancing. If he bumped into Beckett he'd invite her to go hug dancing, except first he'd have to kill Tom Demming.

He misses police work. He misses Beckett more, but he can't have her. Still, a little police talk would be helpful, wouldn't it? How about if he invites Espo and Ryan over? The new Halo game comes out next month, and he knows someone who can probably get it for him now. The guys couldn't turn that down, could they? Especially if it's accompanied by limitless free beer and pizza. He feels better already.

Half an hour later, buoyed by the promise that the Halo game will be at his door shortly, he texts Espo and Ryan:

"Hey, guys, I'm in town for a bit and have the new Halo. Want to come over tonight and give it a test run? Pizza and beer on me. Don't tell Beckett or she'll want me to get my butt over there and help with paperwork."

Ryan's response is almost instant: "Cool! What time?"

Esposito's is somewhat longer in coming. "You're on. I will beat your sorry ass."

He answers both texts ("Six.") ("Don't bet on it."), and orders three pizzas to be delivered at 8:30 and three six packs, one each of their respective favorites, to be delivered now. He pops some beer glasses in the freezer to chill, opens a new box of oversized, super-strong paper napkins, and puts them on the coffee table next to a small stack of dinner plates. He's almost positive that Ryan will use both a plate and a glass and that Espo will take neither.

Mister Fastidious and Macho Man arrive together and on time. Much later, as all three of them are sprawled on the sofa, Castle passes a box of pizza to Espo. "Sorry not to have the right kind for you," he says.

Espo opens the lid. "Roasted peppers and anchovies? That's numero uno with me, man."

"I should have ordered crow for you. Would have enjoyed seeing you eat it."

Ryan—who is indeed having a slice of marinara on a plate and a Rolling Rock in a glass—snorts, and his partner glares.

"I probably racked up a lot more hours of my misspent youth playing video games than you did, Javi," Castle says consolingly as he helps himself to a piece of mushroom pizza. "On another note, have I missed any good cases this summer?"

"Bedbugs." Espo says cheerfully.

"Bedbugs?" He recoils. "Please tell me there aren't bedbugs at the Twelfth or I swear I'll never set foot in there again."

"That a promise, bro?" He chuckles. "Nah, this guy Joe Buggy, a real skeeve, lived in a dump and had monster bedbugs."

"Buggy? His name was Buggy?"

"Swear to God, Castle," Ryan says, raising his right hand over an imaginary Bible.

"No joke," Espo continues. "So his girlfriend got bedbugs from him and then she jumped in the sack with some dude who bought her one drink too many and she gave him bedbugs. Which he then brought home to his wife. And then Buggy's next-door neighbor found him dead on his kitchen floor, sprayed all over with Raid. Can was stuffed into his mouth. And eventually we followed a trail to the wife."

"The wife of the guy in the bar who slept with the vic's girlfriend?"

"You got it. When we asked her why she did it she said, 'I had an itch and hadda scratch it'."

"Funny but disgusting," Castle says, wincing.

"It was," Ryan agrees.

"Ryan was such a girl. Took off all his clothes back at the station and sealed them in plastic and had them treated with some super heat thing."

"You weren't worried about being infested?" Castle asks in horror.

"Nah. Those little suckers wouldn't stand a chance with me. I'd scare the crap out of them and they'd run to someone else's bed."

Castle is finding no inspiration in bedbug land. "Anything else?"

"Not really. Oh, wait, yeah. Beckett went undercover as a hooker. With Demming as her pimp. You shoulda seen him in the white suit. Patent-leather shoes, manicure, whole nine yards."

Oh, God, Esposito might as well have crushed his heart with a can of Raid. He hears him talking but can't understand a word, so he just pastes on a grin, shakes his head, and adds a generic, "Demming is such a douche." He follows up with "Oh!" and jumps to his feet with his hand on his back pocket. "Sorry, there goes the Dad Alarm on my phone, which means I have to check in with Alexis. 'scuse me while I go call her. Be right back."

It's a lie in a good cause because it will keep him from clutching his already crushed heart as he listens to details of Beckett and Demming under cover. Better than under the covers, at least. Don't go there, you idiot. In the safety of his office he considers having a quick, very strong drink but instead really does phone Alexis. It's a brief conversation since she's out having ice cream with friends, but it spares him from having to lie again when he returns to the living room.

"Everything good with your daughter, Castle?" Ryan asks as Castle strolls back.

"All good, thanks. She loves her classes. She was out for ice cream with a bunch of her friends. I had to suffer through the list of quote totally amazing things unquote about the boy who sits next to her in trigonometry. And speaking of ice cream, anyone want some?"

"Yeah," Espo says. "If you got normal flavors, not any of that weird stuff you always eat."

Castle draws himself up, and then bows. "As the magnanimous victor of tonight's games, I offer you many so-called normal flavors. If you will follow me to the kitchen, I'll give you your pick. Also of toppings."

When the evening ends, Ryan gives Castle a hug. "Sorry about you and Gina."

"Thanks. I was over it ten seconds after she walked out the door. Now I only have to hear her yelling at me about deadlines, not about leaving the seat up, which by the way happened only once, although she's probably still complaining."

"I hear you," Espo says, with a fist bump.

"Appreciate your not spilling it to Beckett, guys. I'll tell her when I'm back in September. Night."


"Night. Thanks again."

After he's finished cleaning up the kitchen and is brushing his teeth before bed, he looks in the mirror. "I been there before," he says, quoting the last line of Huckleberry Finn. Sighing dejectedly, he turns out the light.

In the middle of the night, Kate Beckett gets out of bed and turns off her air conditioner. A thunderstorm had brought with it a delicious drop in temperature, and she opens a window air to let in the fresh, cool air. As fresh as city air can be, anyway, especially in August. She looks out on the street, which is dark and damp. Pretty much describes her mood: dark and damp. For at least the hundredth time—way more than a hundred, but she doesn't want to admit it—since she'd watched the precinct elevator doors close on Castle and Gina, she thinks of him. Not of her, just of him. She had royally screwed up. She sighs dejectedly, knowing that she's wide awake now and there's no more sleep coming for her tonight. Time for coffee, then.

Time for coffee, even though it's only 4:30 a.m. What the hell! She's out. Shit. Okay, okay. Can you suffer caffeine deprivation in such a short amount of time? In forty-five minutes her favorite coffee place will be open and the sun will be almost up. She'll go for a run and reward herself afterwards. Done. Five minutes later, she's pounding the pavement.

Castle checks the time on his phone again. If there were any roosters around here they'd still be dozing. Why is awake at this ungodly hour? He's always been a good sleeper, but the last few days have been awful. Maybe coming back to the city was a bad idea, but he has hope. Trying to have it, anyway. Beckett and Demming. Ugh. "You know what?" he asks aloud, as if he were talking to someone else in the room. "You need to get out of here, take a walk." Yeah, take a hike. No, Demming should take a hike and let him walk with Beckett. He puts on a pair of pants and some sneakers, pockets his phone and wallet, and heads out. He's a native New Yorker. These dark, mean streets don't bother him. Besides, it's not all that dark out. Sun should be up soon.

Thank, God, there it is, Beckett tells herself. Coffee nirvana, straight ahead. Not open yet but she can take it. She can. She'll just run in place for the next five minutes and try not to claw at the door.

Huh, whadda ya know, his feet have unconsciously/subconsicously walked him straight to Beckett's favorite coffee place. It's right around the corner and he thinks he can smell the beans roasting. What the hell, he might as well go in.

She's doing jumping jacks now, and her feet are off the ground when she sees him, no more than thirty feet in front of her. It can't be, it can't. She lands with a thud and almost topples into him. "Castle?"