Disclaimer: I do not own Castle.

Author's Note 5/25/10: This was inspired by my sister who asked to read it after I wrote it and then told me to keep going, and Kavi Leighanna who said "just write" in the first place - early this morning. I've never written fanfic, or fiction in my life, aside from MUSHing. I'm slightly baffled as to why Castle has taken enough resident space in my brain to actually inspire it. I don't know where I'll go with this, but a muse seems to have woken and perhaps I understand a wee bit better the first episode of Castle and why he decided to shadow her. (You know, other than the fact that Beckett is gorgeous, smart, sexy, and a perfect foil for his character.) One of the things that struck me in the series was the way that Castle, despite immaturity in other areas, is pretty gracious with his ex-es. This is probably partly a lack of boundaries relating to women, but I also think that there is some maturity in the way he interacts with them. He was certainly more generous with Ellie Monroe than I expected. I'm a psychologist, so I'm having a field day speculating.

Author's Note Post-Rewrite 5/28/10: Thanks to those who read the first two chapters as they were. Unfortunately, as I was stuck going forward, I couldn't think of a way to integrate an idea I had without re-writing the first two chapters again. I'd meant this first foray into fanfic to be a couple drabbles following Kavi Leighanna's encouragement, and then the story wanted plot and the characters wanted more. Plus, the positive feedback and encouragement was really touching and I felt like I wanted it to be better not just for me, but the people kind enough to read and actually give me feedback. Thank you again.

Spoilers: This story begins to take place over the summer between Seasons 2 and 3.

Beckett removed his name from her short-list of "favorite" (hah!) callers on her phone after the first week of summer. Unfortunately, it took her a little longer to break the habit of reaching for her phone to call him when a case hit. Castle would have been familiar with the expression on her face – the slight tightening of her mouth, the crease of her brow – every time it happened.

The summer months weren't without their interesting moments. Alexis called Kate for help in figuring out how to deal with and what to say to a classmate whose parent passed away – not something she wanted to go to Martha or her mother Meredith about. Neither of them mentioned Castle. Demming and Kate occasionally ran into each other in the precinct elevator, in which Kate (to her own vast irritation) heard Castle's voice in her head sing "Awkward!" It was not a voice she wanted internalized at the moment. Sometime late summer, they went out for coffee and set some tentative stones in place for what had the potential of being a friendship – though they avoided anything non-work (and Castle), and instead focused on chatting about their respective cases.

After spending her vacation days looking for an apartment, Kate finally found one. She'd been worried about having to move to Brooklyn or else live in a shoebox, but getting endlessly sick of the temporary leased housing. Anything like her old rent-controlled apartment was ridiculously expensive. Montgomery called her one day to mention that a friend of his had a rent-controlled loft he wanted to sublet and did she want it? 5B was perfect. It was still small, but the split-level space with sleeping loft above was in a great neighborhood, the light that filled the living area in the afternoons was beautiful, the hardwood floors were made to dance on, and it had an enormous coat closet. The prior owner had thoughtfully installed a jacuzzi tub in otherwise tiny bathroom. She signed the lease and had Lanie over to celebrate the day she moved in.

A casual query to Esposito and Rick knew Beckett hadn't found a place to live yet. Some nights he still had nightmares about not finding her in the bathtub when her apartment blew up because a psychotic serial murderer targeting Nikki Heat had planted a bomb there. In his dreams, he roams the wreck of her apartment, yelling until his voice is hoarse, and he wakes up gasping and can almost feel the heat of the flames on his face. At one point, he would've offered to just buy her a place, but she wouldn't want to accept a gift of that magnitude from him. He knew her and her pride too well for that. (It already made her uncomfortable that he'd shelled out a hundred grand for a shot at getting her mother's killer.) So he pulled a couple strings, talked to the Mayor, told his financial adviser to create a corporation without his name obviously attached to invest in one of the many bank-foreclosed properties (courtesy of Madoff and the economic crash). His savvy adviser found a choice piece of New York real estate in a trendy little neighborhood (coincidentally not far from Castle's place), and got it casually leaked to Montgomery via the Commissioner. Go figure, the rental of most of the units were even profitable...except for 5B.

August rolled around and New York continued to be in the grip of a heat wave. Beckett was overheard to threaten shattered kneecaps if anyone in the precinct continued to use the weather as an all-too-convenient lead-in for puns about Heat Wave and Naked Heat, and no one really wanted to cross her. ..though this didn't stop the puns out of her earshot. More folks in the department than would admit to had Naked Heat on pre-order through Amazon, and bets were still flying hot and heavy as to who'd play Nikki, "Roach", and the rest of the crew in the movie version of Heat Wave. (The actress Ellie Monroe's name was floated around in tabloids along with the rumors that she was having alien Castle babies, but the precinct folks all pretty much agreed she couldn't do Beckett justice.)

In late August, Montgomery was actually humming as he walked through the precinct. "Congratulations, Beckett", Montgomery said, with a wide smile on his face as he passed her desk on the way to his office. "The mayor is really happy about this one. You and your team did an incredible job…and I'm going to make the next request for upgraded equipment while he's still in a good mood."

At least the commendation beat the sympathetic looks Kate caught fleetingly on his face after Memorial Day weekend, uncomfortably echoed on the faces of Lanie, Ryan, and Esposito. She decided she really didn't want to know what they were thinking, and powered through the summer workdays on caffeine, cases overloads, and sleep deprivation.

This particular case that made Bob the Mayor so happy, solved without the help of a certain mystery writer (thank you very much), should have been a highlight of the summer. Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito put in grueling hours, combing over obscure evidence in light of the bizarre murder. She'd even called Agent Shaw to pick her brain for insights into the killer's motives, and one of their mutual speculations yielded a hunch that lead to the case breaking wide open. It was an interestingly different experience than theory building with Castle, but she didn't let herself dwell much on the precise nature of "different" or "interesting" (…or "not as fun"). Shaw naturally asked if Beckett still had her complicated and loyal cocker spaniel trailing after her, and the brief silence on the other end of the line before Beckett answered with a soft, "No, he's writing for the summer," told Shaw more than Beckett was prepared to ever admit out loud.

The press was all over the case, no matter how much they tried to keep details from leaking, since the gruesome details of the high-society victim were much more interesting than oil spills in the Gulf and the ongoing tumult of the US economy. The mayor was actually beyond happy. New York's detective heroine immortalized in bestselling fiction deserved the primary (and very public) commendation of the victim's prominent old blood New York family - and in an election year to boot. His campaign manager was milking the story for donations for all it was worth. It even rated its own sidebar in the New York Times, and "Bob" was not one to let good press go.

…which is how Rick couldn't avoid hearing about the case at his beach house, even at the local cafe. (Sometimes he almost ordered an extra no-fat latte with two pumps of vanilla just…from habit.) Even if he hadn't seen the New York Times at the coffee shop, Paula emailed him a copy of the article, which showed up in full color on his iPhone. If that weren't enough, Martha made a point of letting him know about the article, just like she did with any pre-publicity for Naked Heat and implications in the press about "writer's block". (He occasionally found himself imagining - with a grin rearranging his facial muscles involuntarily - her facial expressions at the flak Kate was sure to get for the new book title…until it home again that he wasn't getting to see them firsthand.)

The article started with, "NYPD Detective Kate Beckett, known to the literate world as Richard Castle's beautiful inspiration for Nikki Heat, is back in public eye for her heroic work on the case for Duncan Elliot – descendant of the prominent Elliot family. But where was the famous mystery writer in all this? Rumor has it…"

The "news" article promptly segued into a gossip blurb, citing sightings of his defection to the Hamptons and rampant speculations about what he was doing there.

Lanie watched Kate warily over the body of the corpse on the autopsy table. "Escaping the bullpen?", she asked with an arch of the brow. Kate had the New York Times in her right hand, wrinkled from where it was a little too tightly gripped, and launched straight into her rant. "This isn't even news! There are two words about the case and the victim, half of it is about Nikki Heat, and the other half is gossip about him!" If the words "Nikki Heat" were infused with fed-up contempt, it was nothing to the disdain with the edge of anger that had been there every time Castle was mentioned all summer. "He's not even around!"

And that would be the problem, Lanie thought, regarding Kate sympathetically before turning away to peel off her gloves and wash her hands. "How about drinks?"

"Vodka...lots of vodka...", Kate unhesitatingly replied, dropping the paper in the trash.

What was conspicuously missing from his iPhone all summer was the caller ID of "Beckett", and he missed that - and her. Castle sat on the back deck of his beach house, staring out over the water. Alexis wasn't there to remind him to put on sunblock, so he was unmindfully burning while navel-gazing. Gina was somewhere in the house, taking a call. He'd developed an uncannily adept ability to tune her out years ago, and it was coming in handy during this stay. There were moments over dinner when he remembered why he married her, enjoying conversations about books they'd read or gossiping about mutual friends. (Gina noticed once how quiet he got during dinner, but figured the Jameson he was sipping went to his head, not realizing it was the cherry cobbler ordered by a nearby couple that was really distracting him.) She was still frustrated with his writing, but at least it was coming along and some scenes were downright brilliant (if he did say so himself - and he did). He particularly loved the scene where Nikki went undercover as a dominatrix. It was awesome. Gina was editing as fast as he was writing, and the book was close to done. (Take that, Patterson!) His characters still weren't behaving they way he wanted them to. Nikki wasn't behaving the way he wanted her to… and sometimes he typed in "Kate".

Things with Gina were, if not better than ever, better than they'd been in a very long time and he was actually pretty proud of himself for setting her up with a friend of his that she'd had her eye on after a Fourth of July blowout in the Hamptons. It got her out of the house, and less inclined to nag him about writing every minute.

He thought about the Times article and called the concierge for his Black AmEx. To Ryan and Esposito, he sent a case of beer and a couple revolutionary (though non-carcinogenic) high-end bottles of shaving cream. (Lanie teased Esposito quite a bit for getting more metrosexual and offered to take him to Sex and the City 2 for its release. Ryan tried it out immediately, and Jenny appreciated the results…for a variety of reasons.)

He tried to think of what to send Kate. He was pretty sure she didn't want shaving cream, and he'd already thought of buying her a pony the first time he was exiled from her life. He scowled. Something about this was getting more and more ridiculous. Noble self-sacrificial exile to the Hamptons (as third-world country as that was) so as to be out of the way while she was with Demming just wasn't good style for him, and angst wasn't particularly fun either. Weren't they supposed to be friends, at least? They'd shook hands at the beginning of summer. (He admitted that shaking hands was a pretty wimpy way to end their partnership…especially after he'd saved her life twice in one week by his count, and even broke down the door to her apartment to get to her. Nightmares aside, it was a memory he was still quite proud of, worthy of his Space Cowboy alter ego in his head.)

Then he thought, Hmm…what would Space Cowboy do?