How many of you knew I was in the Support Stacie September Author Auction? None? Aww. That's depressing.

ANYWAY. The lovely Emma (4ensicbones on Majik's Fanfic) bought me. This is what she had me write. Huzzah! I was told to incorporate the following into a story: ice cream trucks; downtime between cases; Ryan, Esposito, Castle, and Beckett banter; and a poker game. This is what I came up with, and she seemed to be pleased. :P

Anyway. ENJOY!

Disclaimer: I own Castle just as much as I own Doctor Who-- which, in case you were wondering, is zero.


Bump clatter slap.

It was a rather dull day at the precinct, to say the least. No one interesting had died, and the uninteresting ones… well, since Castle didn't like jumping into those and pulling his various strings to speed things up, they weren't exactly moving very quickly.

Bump clatter slap.

There was near-silence; Beckett liked that. She would have liked it even more if Ryan would stop bouncing that little rubber ball off the murderboard, but she had to admit in the end that the rhythmic noise was kind of soothing, in a way. Like white noise.

Bump clatter slap.

The absence of anything except the aforementioned white noise was, of course, because the detective's least favorite writer (She loved the books, but couldn't stand the man who wrote them) was not there. He did, after all, have a job besides irritating her. She liked that about him.

Bump clatter slap.

Her brow furrowed ever so slightly. Where was he, anyway? He usually called, at least, just to make sure that nothing interesting had happened. She glanced at the clock; it was far past the time when he normally showed up. Several hours past, to be exact. That was strange; you'd think he lived at the precinct—he was there before Beckett half the time. And that, to people who knew Beckett, was surprising.

Bump clatter slap.

She did have a life outside of her detective work. Really, she did. It was just… muted at times. It wasn't her fault if there was a lot of actual working to be done at the aforementioned work. Thus, the name.

Bump clatter slap.

Privately, in the little chunk of cerebellum that often disagreed with the rest of her brain (and was therefore often quieted before it could do much damage), she wondered how much Lanie and Castle were to blame for the existence of the aforementioned life. Considering that this was the same chunk of cerebellum that looked at Castle and thought "hmm, maybe", though, it was promptly ignored.

Bump clatter slap.

Where was that blasted writer? Wasn't he supposed to be bugging her about something? She narrowed her eyes, glaring fiercely at her computer screen. What was he up to? What had happened that was so blindingly important that he couldn't spare the time to come to the precinct and irritate the hell out of her?

Bump clatter slap.

She frowned slightly. What was she talking… well… thinking about? It was a good thing he wasn't there to bug her. She might actually get something done.

Not that there was anything to be done right now, really, she thought mournfully. Paperwork was not exactly the most scintillating aspect of her line of work. But still, there it was, and there Castle was not, and that was a good thing. …Sort of.

Bump clatter slap.

As soon as she became indecisive about the positive qualities of Castle not being there, he showed up. It was almost as if the irritating part of hell from which he surely came was tuned into her thought processes; the very second she might possibly have considered it not-bad for him to come, there he was…

"Hello, everyone," he said blissfully. "Did you miss me?"

The latter, she suspected, was aimed primarily towards her. She groaned inwardly.

"Hey, man," Ryan greeted the writer.

"Didn't think you'd be showin' up today, Castle—nothing's happened all week," commented Esposito. There were the sounds of much hand-slapping and whatnot. Beckett grit her teeth; did they really have to be friends? Ryan and Esposito could be bad enough without Castle's help. And vice versa.

"Let it not be said," Rick replied, "that I am to be deterred simply because there has been no new and fascinating case for me to solve almost single-handedly."

Beckett bit back a freakishly barbed retort and glared at the computer, fiercely regretting the errant thought that had brought this nine-year-old in a grown man's skin back into her life, however briefly.

"Also," he continued, "my mother has stolen my office."

Esposito snorted, incredulous. "What would she want your office for?"

"Apparently it's hers."

"Oh, yeah," Ryan cut in. He was leaning almost painfully backwards, neck craned to follow the author's movements. Castle was coming for her. Damn. "For her… life… whatsit, right?"

"Coaching. She's life-coaching. Apparently." He plopped down in the seat nearest to her—backwards, of course—and fixed her in his gaze. "So, did you?"

She would have frowned in confusion had she not still been so upset at herself for accidentally summoning this evil into her workspace. "Did I what, Castle," she inquired, voice flat, transforming the question into a statement.

"Miss me. But I'm guessing not." He tried to lean back petulantly, and then remembered that he was using the back of the chair for an armrest and, therefore, there was nothing to lean against.

"No, not really," she snapped.

"More's the pity."

"Uh-oh," commented Ryan, turning and beginning to bounce the little rubber ball again; "someone's not happy…"

"What'd you do this time, Ricky?" inquired Esposito. "Must have been big."

Ricky? They were on Ricky terms now?

"Breathing," interrupted Beckett. "That's what he's doing."

The other detectives turned their eyes to Castle, silently asking.

"Don't worry. She's just mad because I won all her gummy bears at poker last night. Again."

"Don't worry"? What, was there something she should be worried about?

"Mad because…?" She spun her chair away from her desk. "You cheated!"

Bump clatter slap.

"So what? You cheat too. On a regular basis."

Bump clatter slap. Ryan made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a giggle.

"I cheat?" Beckett slid back in her chair, incredulous. "How do I cheat?"

"Your feminine wiles," Castle said smoothly.

She frowned, all thoughts completely derailed. "My what?"

The part of her cerebellum she often disagreed with commented that he had lovely eyes. She subconsciously yelled at it and it shut up.

"You use your wiles to distract me, thus enabling you to win. And take all my gummy bears," he said. "I thought it was only fair that I turn the tables and deprive you of yours." His voice was low and dark and something else she wouldn't name. She was oddly reminded of the time he had absolutely forbidden her to call him "kitten". Suddenly she found it very difficult not to grin.

"Trust me, Castle," she told him; "the day I use my feminine wiles anywhere near you will be the day I give you permission to come back here and keep bugging me." Come to think of it, her voice had dropped a bit as well. Odd, that.

"That'll be a good day." Abruptly, he scooted away, and she was left slightly dazed—as she generally was—by his sudden change of mood. "Soo, Mom won't let me write—"

"You have a laptop for a reason, you know," Beckett commented.

"He's got to stay in that room," Esposito replied, defending him. "Won't work otherwise."

"It's a writer thing," Ryan continued.

Bump clatter slap.

"—nobody interesting has died today—"

"What do you know of writer things?" Beckett asked, incredulous. The detective looked slightly sheepish.

"He—" Esposito began.

"Don't even tell her, man."

"—and Alexis is freaking out over an exam we all know she'll pass—"

Beckett turned fully towards her colleagues, leaning her elbows on her knees, a slight smile creeping over her lips despite herself. "Come on, Ryan. What do you do?"

Ryan was silent. She raised an eyebrow at his friend.

"He dabbles in fanfiction," he said. "CSI. NCIS. Monk. That sort of thing."

She wanted very badly to laugh in mingled triumph and amusement and maybe clap a little. Instead, she settled for an absolutely wicked grin.

"And you thought I was weird because I read murder mysteries," she drawled, stretching each syllable out for maximum effect.

"—so all in all, nothing's happening today—"

"Hey, I'm not like—"

"Dude, you've got fifty-three stories, all of them complete," Esposito interrupted.

"Well, yeah, but you were the one who read all of them, so you're just as bad—"

Beckett's smile widened, delighted. "What's your penname?"

Ryan glared furiously at her. Esposito smiled and opened his mouth.

"—so I think what we all need is really—"

"He calls himself Detectiv—"

Ryan, in a burst of speed that only pure instinct could inspire, darted over and clapped his hand over Esposito's mouth.

"Don't even," he said, voice dark.

"—ice cream," finished the writer, blissfully unaware of the fact that nobody had listened to a word he had said within the past forty-five seconds.

Beckett blinked. The detectives were silent, until Esposito did something that made Ryan yelp in a thoroughly feminine manner and jerk his hand away.

"That was gross, man," he whined, wiping his hand insistently on his pant leg. His friend shrugged, as if to say, "You asked for it."

"So?" inquired Castle, as if he had been the only one to speak; "what do you think?"

"About what?" Beckett asked. For a split second, she felt almost sorry she hadn't been listening, and then she remembered that this was Castle. He couldn't really have anything important to say, could he?

"Ice cream," he repeated, looking at her with his eyes swimming sweetly, puppyish. She wondered if she was supposed to be irritated or charmed. She settled for sulkily melting a little bit on the inside. "We should get some."

Beckett frowned. "Why…?"

"Because I'm bored and I want ice cream," Castle said, as if that comment made everything make sense.

"And you can't possibly just run out and get it on your own?" she asked. She didn't have a great deal of hope for her suggestion, but she had to try.

"I'd get lonely," he said. He was doing the swimmy eye thing again. Irritably, part of Beckett's lung dissolved into warm, fluffy goo.

Her eyes turned to the clock. She could still call it lunchtime if she wanted to. She'd been trapped in that building all day… maybe it wouldn't hurt if she stepped out. The boring cases weren't going anywhere—the only thing she had really been doing for most of the day was waiting on prints… And, perversely (although she'd never admit it aloud, to him or any other—this was something that she would only admit to Lanie, and only under severe torture), she didn't really mind the idea of going with him. He was tactless, ridiculous, rude, immature, pushy, obnoxious, repetitive, and incurably flirty. She hated his guts—that was a fact even he wouldn't dispute. But even then, with all that, he was still her friend in a way that Will had never managed to replicate. And that was… terrifying. Enjoyable, yes, but mostly terrifying.

Besides, she liked ice cream. Well, didn't everyone?

She sighed, only half-feigning her reluctance this time. "Fine, Castle," she said. "But don't take too long, okay?"

"Is this 'too long' you speak of a mayfly's definition of too long or a tortoise's?" he inquired, eyebrows raised innocently.

She leveled a glare at him that would intimidate a rhinoceros as she pulled her jacket on. Richard Castle was not a rhinoceros, but he shut up anyway.

"Am I included in this?" Esposito asked hopefully.

With something that was probably supposed to be disguised as chivalry, the writer offered Beckett his arm. "No," he answered the other detective, "but I'll get you a Fudgesicle."

The creature to whom the arm was aimed ignored it in favor of sweeping neatly past him. He pouted slightly and followed her, half-jogging for a couple of paces to catch up with her long, purposeful strides. He shoved his hands into his pockets and said something that was probably meant to make her laugh, but only achieved some rolled eyes.

Ryan stared after them. "What, don't I get one?"

"Nope," Esposito replied, turning back towards his desk. "They must not love you enough. And before you ask," he added, holding up a hand, "I'm not sharing."

"I wasn't going to—"

"Whatever, Detective Darkbootie," the man sniped.



"Castle," Beckett said, in the voice that implied all kinds of horrible things.

"Yeah?" he inquired, eyebrows raised. "Left here."

Obediently, she turned. The writer had probably wanted to drive, but he wouldn't tell her what he was planning (aside from the obvious) and she did want to retain some measure of control, so she hadn't let him. "Where are we going?" The second reason she was behind the wheel was, of course, the fact that she didn't trust his driving. He was insane and nonsensical in everything else; she wasn't about to let him near the controls of heavy machinery of any kind.

"To get ice cream," the writer answered, as if that fact hadn't been made perfectly clear at least three times already.

She bit back a scowl. "I know that," she grumbled. "I was, however, wondering exactly where you were proposing we get it." She was officially Far Away from the part of the city she could recognize even a little, and things were starting to look dangerously suburban.

Suburbs were creepy. She wasn't sure why, but they were. She felt the little hairs on her arms raise and she glared furiously at all the innocuous-looking garden gnomes and faded flags for the wrong holidays.

"You'll see," he said, annoyingly.

"You know, I do have to get back sometime in the next six hours," Beckett snapped at him, irritated. "You know all that paperwork for your cases that you don't have to do? It's kind of piling up."

"If you'd let me, I would happily do some," he replied gallantly.

She snorted her derision of that statement. Castle, working? Never.

"And for the record, no, you don't have to get back sometime in the next six hours," he added cheerfully. "In fact, you don't have to get back for…" He glanced at his watch and frowned. "That can't be right."

Alarmed, Beckett glanced over at him. A small, intimidating Chihuahua glared at her from a porch. She shuddered; would the madness never end?

"Anyway, that doesn't matter. You don't have to get back for… umm… however long it is until you have to get back." He sat back in his seat, pleased with his logical triumph.

"Oh?" she said threateningly, and then realized something. "You talked to Captain Montgomery, didn't you," she added. It wasn't a question.

"Mmhmm," he said happily. "Pull over here."

Cautiously (this was altogether too close to another clan of garden gnomes for her liking), she obeyed, squeezing as far away from the middle of the street as she could while not actually going on the grass. Or the sidewalk. She would have no qualms about running over the lawn ornaments if only they weren't protected by the aforementioned barriers. Damn.

Suspiciously, she looked around. "This doesn't look like—"

"Oh ye of little faith," he interrupted, leaning most of his leg against the dashboard and crossing his arms behind his head. "This is where I grew up."

Beckett got in a staredown with the requisite plastic flamingo. "And what does that have to do with—"

He sighed, exasperated. "There's an ice cream truck that comes by every day in about…" He shifted to look at the clock on the dashboard. She noticed that he got much, much closer to her than was entirely warranted for such an activity and exhaled in a displeased manner. Of all the people he had to be so insistent about flirting with, it just had to be the one who had better things to worry about—and who really wasn't interested anyway.

Oh really? went the oft-ignored part of her cerebellum. She ignored it.

"Four minutes," he finished, snapping back into place. He slouched, sliding into an almost impossible position with both knees on the glovebox and the seatbelt coming perilously close to his throat. She raised an eyebrow at him.

"Could you get any more childish?"

He considered this question. "Yes," he said, and instantly burst out into a stirring rendition of The Song that Never Ends.

She was torn between rolling her eyes and trying to ignore him, laughing her head off, and just shooting him and getting it over with. (The aforementioned part of her brain suggested she join in, but she disregarded that idea only a couple of seconds after it started up. The chunk of synapses surprisingly agreed with her; it said that he had a very good singing voice when he wanted to, and joining in would only make it harder to hear him.)

In the end, she did a little of everything. Rolling her eyes, she leaned her forehead against the steering wheel for a moment. In a movement no reflex could avoid, she grabbed his hand and smacked it over his mouth—she wasn't about to use her own; he'd probably lick it or something and she didn't want author-spit all over her hand. When he finally stopped singing (which took a few moments, as he valiantly tried to go on until she dug her fingernails into his arm and looked prominently at her gun), she gave a slightly hysterical chuckle.

Castle smiled triumphantly and sat up a little, apparently discovering once more that seatbelts to the throat were rather irritating no matter how comfortable the rest of your body was.

There was a somewhat-companionable silence for a few moments.

"So this is where you were…?" Beckett inquired of him, giving the neighborhood another cursory examination. The dog had vanished and one of the garden gnomes had been knocked over somehow, so it looked much less threatening.

"Raised, so to speak? Yup." He shifted in his seat again—really, she wondered why he didn't just take the belt off; it couldn't possibly be comfortable and it was obvious he wasn't going to stay still with or without it. "Over there," he said, pointing.

She leaned over to see what he was trying to show her. His breath ruffled her hair a bit and ice water trickled down her spinal cord; she shivered involuntarily and tried very hard to focus on something other than him.

See? the irritating bit of her brain said smugly.

Disoriented (but only by the sheer number of little houses he might be referring to, of course), she frowned a little. "The… bright yellow one?" she guessed.

"No," he answered. "The one next to it. The one that's the sort of nauseating green color."

She had been trying very hard not to look at that one. She grimaced. "You poor boy," she said pityingly. She was having trouble dealing with the shade for four seconds; the fact that he had put up with it for years might explain a lot of the things that were wrong with him.

"Well," he said, "there's my mother's taste in decorating for you." He stopped pointing.

Considering herself released, Beckett sat back in her own seat, a safe foot-and-a-half away from the writer. She was struck with the sudden thought that this was where he had grown up. This is where he had spent those perilous, messy, occasionally pyromaniacal little-boy days. Now that she thought about it, she had expected a place thus terrorized to be… a little less perfect-looking. There was no blood, no debris, no destruction. There wasn't even a scorch mark on any of the cute, evil-colored walls. She saw a crushed soda can on the side of the road, but she highly doubted it was his.

Someone must have spent a very long time cleaning up after him. Either that, or Castle had actually had some semblance of maturity when he was younger, and was making up for it now.

Well, Alexis was pretty well-behaved, wasn't she? She had to get it from somewhere, and it sure as hell wasn't her mother. Meredith was… Well, she was not what she had been expecting when it came to the teenager's other parent, to put things extremely mildly. She was the sort of person it seemed like Castle would fall for hard enough to marry, and why did that hurt?

Because, said the more rational part of her mind that listened to neither Lanie nor that one squeaking clump of synapses that agreed with her, it didn't hurt. She was not irritated by that at all. The quick jolt of emotion that had momentarily paralyzed her heart muscles was some remnant of the disgust she had felt for Meredith upon first meeting her. How such moronic individuals even survived infancy was beyond her.

"You know, I may take you up on your offer to do my paperwork for me," she commented, trying to take her mind off of the vaguely nauseous emotion that had started up between her lungs.

"Such a thing," he said, "would only bring me joy." He thought about this for a second. "Unless you're making me do all of it."

"That's kind of tempting, actually," she told him. It was. The way he sped up the process of catching killers… well, it was useful in some ways, but she was starting to have to stay late for other reasons than the fact that "home" was basically just the place where she slept.

If she ever told Lanie that last bit, the medical examiner would kill her. Then maybe Castle would solve her murder. And then he would have to find another detective to annoy. Ryan and Esposito, maybe. They got along pretty well, after all. Then again, the writer had Beckett's enthusiasm for "the weird ones", albeit for different reasons, and the two other detectives… didn't.

The companionable silence started up again, and she glazed over, staring at nothing in particular and floating her thoughts along random lines. Without warning, she was pulled from her reverie by an extremely rude word and a sudden flash of movement, both coming from the man in the passenger's seat. He was unbuckled and out of the car almost before she had managed to pull herself out of her mental haze. She was just as quick as he was, though; as soon as she realized what was going on, she leapt out of the car and was after him.

"Castle?" she shouted. What was going on? Why was he running?

"The truck didn't turn where it was supposed to," he shouted back at her.

Ah, she thought. So she was dashing madly down a suburban street with an insane mystery writer chasing a renegade ice cream truck. She snorted a laugh, but that wasn't quite enough, and in only a very few seconds she decided to dissolve into hysterical giggling. Castle glanced back, eyes glittering happily, and he joined in.

"This way!" he yelled, pointing wildly, and they turned in tandem. They were catching up; she could see it for about two seconds before it turned again, out of her line of vision. But it accelerated—by the time they got to the intersection, she couldn't see where it was, and she heard only the faintest tinkling of recorded music.

"Back to the car," she decided, and they ran. Castle, in a sudden burst of speed (he tended to run more quickly when in the pursuit of sugary treats—they were almost as useful in that respect as murderers), outstripped her. He leapt into the driver's seat, naturally, but Beckett decided she didn't care that much; he knew this place better, and if he was a random and frightening driver, it might be useful in these circumstances. She dropped into the passenger's side without comment.

He was, as it turned out, a random and frightening driver—although whether this was normal or if he was still under the influence of the ice cream's escape was uncertain. She didn't particularly try to quell his dangerous tendencies just yet—she just held on to the seatbelt and prayed he wouldn't get both of them killed. At least he was obeying all the stop signs—so far.

Well, she thought, that was only to be expected. A cop—well, detective, technically speaking, but she still counted—inside the car with him had to be even more of a law-breaking deterrent than a cop in a different car watching him. Even if they were only traffic laws and not the ones she generally dealt with.

He rolled down the window at one of the signs and listened very carefully. Evidently he heard something that had escaped Beckett—all of her senses had suffered from the ocular onslaught of his childhood home—, because he suddenly turned and drove with renewed vigor.

This was very exciting. She was rather surprised at that, actually; she hadn't expected a hunt for frozen desserts to be anything more than slightly infuriating under these circumstances. But this… this was interesting, somehow, despite the fact that she had certainly been in situations that were much more adrenalin-filled. She found herself grinning slightly as she craned her neck, trying to look above a hill and see if the renegade truck had managed to lose them.

It hadn't. She gave a triumphant whoop, which surprised Castle as much as it did her, but she shrugged it off. He seemed to have this effect on her when she was in a good mood. The fact that she had rarely been in a good mood since she'd met him was probably why her behavior was so shocking now, but it didn't mean that she couldn't be childishly happy if she wanted to, darn it.

After what seemed like an eternity, the truck stopped and Beckett allowed herself to relax. Castle parked, miraculously managing to keep both the car and all surrounding scenery intact.

"Well," he said, "we made it." With that, he opened the door and got out.

His companion tried to mimic him, but found that, in her haste to get back into the vehicle, she hadn't been paying much attention to what she was doing. She had gotten herself tangled in the seatbelt somehow.

Her attention thus diverted, she jumped when an unexpected click came from her door. Half-turned to look, squinting slightly against the sunlight, she was surprised to see Castle there—while she was fighting the belt, he had managed to get all the way to the passenger's side without her noticing. He had apparently opened the door for her, and was now offering her his hand.

Most of Beckett's brain told her not to let him help her out—just act like she didn't see him, get up herself. He wouldn't mind; she'd done similar things before. But that one little part of her, hidden somewhere in the back of her mind, whispered something else—and this once, just this once, she listened.

As his fingers curled around her palm and he gently pulled her from the seat, she noticed faintly that his hands were warm—and this time, it was Castle who let go first.


Wasn't that fun, kids? Most likely, only severe injury and/or death will keep me from participating in Future Auctions, and I am also most likely going to offer up more Castlefic. So keep an eye out. :)

Remember, I love you all. :)

Kathryn Shadow signing off! -vanishes in a puff of blue smoke-