Zombie Ghost Pumpkin Patch

A Post-Series Halloween ficlet, written for the 2019 CastleFicPromoter Castle Halloween Bash

"Okay, Lil, what're you thinking?" Rick Castle asks as they make their way across the lot, her little hand squeezing his tightly. "Should we get a big pumpkin or a few little ones?"

Lily cocks her head, considering the proposal. That's his little girl, always up for a challenge to her thinking. "Widdle."

"A bunch of smaller ones?" he repeats, earning an exuberant bob of pigtails in return. "I think that's a good idea. We can get one for everybody that way. You, me, Mommy, Alexis…"

"Gwam, Gwampa, my bwudders," she adds with a resolute nod of her head.

"Right, baby," he agrees. His heart flutters at the reminder; they have two more on the way. Two more who, while they won't be here for Halloween, will be here soon after the holiday. Next year he'll be doing this with three kids instead of just one. Next year Kate will be with them instead of at home waiting grudgingly on the couch to see what they bring back.

His daughter's head drops back, her smile almost blinding. "S'perfec', Daddy."

"Perfect, Sprout. So, we'll pick those out, and then on the way home, we can talk about how we're going to carve them."

Her little nose scrunches with delight. Delight he can only echo. Halloween has always been one of his favorite times of the year but experiencing it through Lily's eyes, soaking in her boundless enthusiasm, only makes it better.

"We gotta make 'em scawy," she declares, dragging him the rest of the way into the pumpkin patch, her little backpack bouncing on her shoulders. She had eschewed the stroller when he picked her up from preschool, refusing to even use it to hold her bag; thankfully he'd brought the lightweight umbrella stroller and he'd been able to fold it and sling it across his back.

Rick laughs. "Scary, huh?" Off her nod, he asks, "How scary?"

"So scawy. Da scawiest."

He grins at her demonstration, the bared teeth and wrinkled brow. "We'll make them just like that, Sprout."

Lily crashes into his side, hugging his leg with delight. Careful not to jostle the stroller on his back he returns the affection, squeezing her until she squeals and squirms away.

"Wessgo, Daddy! We got pumpkins ta get."

Dutifully, he follows, keeping an eye out in case he needs to grab Lily's hand and bring her closer. Given that it's the middle of the day, the pumpkin patch isn't exactly crowded, but his daughter has his gift of darting off whenever something exciting catches her eye and he has no desire to have to run after her with the stroller bouncing on his back.

Thankfully, she stays close, stopping at every palette along the way to inspect the pumpkins with a level of intensity he insists that she inherited from Kate. Some she deems too large – which he agrees with, given that they're going to have to walk home with these things – and others she deems too small, even for her baby brothers. (He picks up a couple of those anyway; they'll make cute decorations for the windowsills until Thanksgiving.)

Seven palettes in, Lily squeals. "Daddy, I gots 'em! I gots 'em. Dese." She reaches back, grapples for his hand, giving him a mighty tug down to the batch that has caught her eye. "See?"

"I see, Sprout, I see," he assures, shifting his weight before he topples over and takes Lily with him. "These are all great pumpkins. Not too big, not too small."

Lily nods. She lists into his side, almost bashful as he peruses her picks. "S'just wight!"

He grins, dotting a kiss to the top of her head. "Just right. Okay, let's see how many we've got here and see how many we can carry."

Together they count the pumpkins, looking each one over before agreeing that it will come home with them. Rick cringes at the idea of hauling them all, mentally considering putting the lightest ones in Lily's backpack and carrying it for her before remembering the stroller on his shoulder with great glee.

His daughter is more than happy to assist in loading up the seat of the stroller and pushing their acquisitions to the cashier at the entrance to the patch. She's even more thrilled to let him sneak the three smallest pumpkins into her backpack after they pay, only handing the bag over for him to slide onto his shoulders just a few minutes from home.

"Mommy!" Lily bellows as they push the door open, forgetting his reminder to whisper in case Kate is sleeping. "Mommy, we getted pumpkins!"

"So I see," Kate murmurs. Rick can hear the catch in her voice that usually accompanies waking up from a nap, but a glance tells him she's been awake for at least a few minutes. She doesn't look too rumpled or bleary. "You got a lot of pumpkins."

At her mother's confirmation, Lily abandons the stroller and runs to the couch, hopping up with Beckett. Kate catches her before they can crash together, curling both arms around their little girl and releasing a dramatic gasp.

"There you are, Little Flower. I saw all the pumpkins in the stroller, and I thought that you'd turned into one."

Lily giggles, giving her head an adamant shake. "No siwwy, s'jus' da pumpkins! I pushed wif Daddy; he needed da help."

Kate grins. Her hand cups the back of Lily's head as their daughter rocks backward to point in his direction.

"He did, huh?" His wife looks him over, her lips quirking as he shrugs Lily's backpack from his shoulders and lowers it to the floor beside the couch.

"Ya, Mommy. Dere's a wot of pumpkins, see?"

"I see, you goofball. You got so many. Why'd you get so many?"

That's partially directed at him, he knows, but Rick lifts a shoulder, going for innocent. "We have a plan, Beckett. A pumpkin for everyone."

Lily squirms in Beckett's arms, eager to jump into the conversation again. "Ya! Mommy, Daddy, Wexis, Gwam, Gwampa, an' my bwudders. An' me."

"And you," Kate murmurs, brushing a kiss to Lily's hair. The girl snuggles closer, ducking her head to press her cheek to the curve of Beckett's belly. "Thank you for thinking about all of us, baby. You're a sweet girl."

Castle's lips curl at the adoration in Lily's gaze, the shy way she tucks into Kate's side. She's always up for antics with him, but there's no mistaking that their daughter is a mommy's girl through and through. "She is. She's also a Halloween master in the making, Kate. Listen to this: Sprout, why don't you tell Mommy how we're going to carve the pumpkins."

Lily cackles, a belly laugh so deep it sets off his own snicker. Oh, she's having way too much fun with this.

"That's not concerning at all. How are we going to carve them?" Beckett asks slowly, looking to him before returning her gaze to the squirming evil genius at her side. "Lil?"

"Mommy, s'gonna be so scawy."

"It is, huh?" He watches Kate temper her amusement, instead devoting as much gravity as she can muster to the conversation.

Lil nods, pushing herself up so she's eye level with her mother. "Yes. S'gonna be ghost zombies."

"Ghost zombies?" Kate repeats, her eyes widening.

"Da scawiest ghost zombies eber."

"Ever? Wow."

Pressing his lips together, Rick gives them a minute or two to talk it out while he prepares their carving area. A drop cloth goes down on the floor under the table first, then he brings their pumpkins over and puts the stroller back in the closet to get it out of the way. By the time he retrieves the tools, Lily's giving her mother's hand a gentle tug to urge her off the couch.

"S'time, Mommy!"

He has Kate's chair waiting for her, pillow for her back and all, when they make their roundabout way over (stopping for water and a juice box is a highly important task, he knows).

"Thanks," his wife murmurs, touching his side and lifting her chin for a kiss. "Hi, by the way."

Rick grins against her mouth, hands falling to frame her hips and keep her steady. "Hi. Get some rest while we were gone?"

"Mhmm. Until they had what felt like a chicken fight and woke me up. But it's fine; I still got some sleep. And I folded the laundry that's been in the basket for two weeks – I found the underwear you were looking for yesterday."

"Oh, thank you. I need my lucky boxers for that meeting on Friday."

Kate's lips quirk. "Thought you were luckiest without your underwear, Castle?"

His eyebrows wiggle on their own accord. "Only when you're around. Well, with or without underwear, it's true when you're around."

She rolls her eyes, shaking her head. She dusts another kiss over his lips anyway, leaning into his chest when he draws her closer.

"Daddy, Mommy, s'carving time!"

"Yes, yes," Kate agrees, brushing a hand over Lily's head. "We're just getting settled, Little Flower. Pick which one you want to carve first, okay? Daddy and I'll be ready before you know it."

With great consideration, Lily does exactly that while he helps Kate get comfortable (as comfortable as she can be at this point in her pregnancy anyway) in the chair. His wife's hand catches his before he can move to the other side of the table and retrieve the Dremel, giving his fingers an affectionate squeeze.

"You ready, Castle?" she asks. "Lily told me her plan and these are gonna be pretty scary, you know."

He grins, tapping Lil's nose and winking in Beckett's direction. "I ain't afraid of no zombie ghost pumpkins."

This was originally a little drabble/almost-double drabble that I wrote for Fluffy Friday, but I wanted to expand it a little more so it became this! Thank you for reading!