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This has been on my laptop for months. I figured I'd finish it up and post it before the s3 premiere. It is a short oneshot and ONLY a short oneshot. Basically, it's Castle in the Hamptons trying to sort out the little issue of what to say on Naked Heat's dedication page. ^_^ I do not own Castle: that's still ABC's job. xP

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Well. There it was. After weeks of the hard work that he'd spent so long avoiding - 'playing cop,' as Paula had so tactfully called it on the phone - it was finally lying in front of him, blinking there in the form of a newly saved document file.

To be honest, it was hard for Rick to feel the same attachment to this book that he'd felt to the first one, to Heat Wave. Oh, he was relieved to have it done, finished, but that was owed mostly to the fact that he now had Gina, Paula, and the upper-schmucks at Black Pawn off his back. (Having that many women on your back in the first place, he'd quickly learned, was not nearly as fun as it sounded.) No, the truth was…

The truth was that, Rick would rather have been 'playing cop.' Every chapter and page and paragraph he wrote for Nikki Heat, Ochoa, Raley, and the rest of the gang, he imagined himself living out the real-life counterpart of that scene. Ryan and Esposito, vested, loaded, backs against a wall waiting to charge. Captain Montgomery congratulating a case well-closed in the bullpen. Playing catch with the boys across the desks when the ideas stopped flowing. Beckett telling him to stay in the car. Beckett telling him to stop talking. Beckett making slimeballs beg for their lawyers in the interrogation room. Bringing Beckett coffee. Beckett. Beckett. Beckett

"Dad! Dad! Dad!"

Castle looked up so quickly he almost shut his laptop on a reflex and flinched down into his Barka lounger, scrambling to get the phone out of his pocket. Pressing 'talk' put an end to the skull-invading ringtone. "My little scholarly adventurer!" he answered with a grin. "We've really got to get you a cowbell."

"So you can hear me coming?" his daughter guessed across the line.

"Or calling, yes, atta girl."

With a smile and a soft roll of her eyes, Alexis studied her laptop screen from the dorm where she sat. The teenager took a few minutes out of her Princeton program every night to call and check in, and Rick was grateful every time that she valued her old man's sanity enough to put aside studying with…Carson, Colby, whatever his name was. "Your book!" Alexis raved. "You finished it!"

"Yes, yes I did. And easier said than done, believe me."

"I just finished reading the draft you sent me on Tuesday. It's great, dad."

He was positive she could hear him grin in that cheesy 'dad' way. "Thank you sweetie."

But the girl's voice became just a little more hesitant. "There's just…one thing I think needs immediate fixing."

Castle's expression went confused. "Oh? Well, you know I trust your criticisms. What's that?"

"You didn't finish your dedication." Quickly scrolling to the first typed page on his own sleepy computer, Castle immediately registered what Alexis was getting at: the blank front page of the open document. Well, mostly blank - written on it was one word only: To.

For a moment, Castle and the cursor had a strong commonality: blinking. The cursor continued long after Rick stopped, of course. "Oh. You're right, I guess it got by me."

"Well now you can," the girl summed up brightly. She'd been good at that for as long as Rick could remember, including before she'd grasped the whole 'talking' concept. "Anyway, some of the girls and I are going to do a movie night in tonight. I've got to go help set up. 'Night dad."

"Yeah, okay. 'Night pumpkin. Have fun."

The connection ended. The cursor was still blinking. Why couldn't it think of something more useful to do? Like type for him. Now there'd be an invention that'd make New York take notice… Okay, no more procrastinating. Procrastinating got you here, remember? Procrastinating is why you're trapped in the Hamptons playing Guitar Hero instead of catching bad guys in the city. Huh, to think that'd sound backwards to most people…

Whatever. Rick shook off his train of thought and started typing before he could get off on a mental tangent again. He trusted his fingers to kick out something worth reading more than he trusted his brain.

With only a moment of surface thought, he got his wish. To all my friends at the 12th. Thank you for everything…no no…You're a never-ending source of inspiration.

Hm.

No, that was too generic. Pounding a finger on the backspace button, he tried again. The last book had called out Beckett specifically; maybe it was time to pass the buck. It could be a theme throughout the series.

To the always witty KR and the rest of my 12th Precinct family. Thanks for the good times.

There we go. …No, there was still something wrong about that. Besides, Ryan was a fangirl anyway; he didn't need to be coerced with dedications. …Ah! Yes, why hadn't he thought of this sooner?

To JE, friend and partner. Thank you for doing me the favor of…no way, after all these months he wasn't about to give Esposito up in a book dedication. Beckett would eat him alive for even touching her mother's case, much less sharing it. All your help is greatly appreciated. There.

No! Wait. On a whim, it occurred to him; why split up that which comes in twos? It never worked for great songwriters or movie duos or snack foods and he wasn't going to start now. There was inspiration behind his next round of typing. To JE and KR; here's to many more beers opened and cases closed. Okay. Richard let out a satisfied "Ah." That would work.

It would work.

It would not work, dear God, was anybody even going to buy this book? Screwing his face up into a grumpy scowl, Castle thumped the backspace key with a little more frustration than usual.

Okay. Think. Maybe it was time someone gave a little credit to the Don of the operation. Credit where credit was due, right? To our fearless Captain; thank you on behalf of New York for a job well- oh, who on earth was he kidding. What kind of crap was that? Backspace time.

All right, he was just grabbing at straws now, but it was worth a shot… To Drs. Parish and Perlmutter and our beloved Ghoul Crew at the morgue… Okay, now he was just getting ridiculous. Back. Back. Back. Back. Back.

So he couldn't come up with a dedication. So what? Not every novel had a dedication. Every Richard Castle novel had a dedication, but…that didn't have to be like, a continuing trademark, right? He'd killed off Derrick Storm, he could kill off the dedication just as easily. Even easier, because really, who read dedications?

Oh yeah. Maybe everyone who was in the book. And who shared Castle DNA. And who had an account at the Castle fan site. And who skimmed the first two pages at every Borders and Barnes & Noble in the city.

Okay, so that was a lot of people.

Nevermind. Scrapping the dedication wasn't an option. Of course it wasn't an option: a novel without a dedication was like an ice cream sundae without the nuts. Or the whipped cream…or the cherry…ooh, cherries…no! Stop it. No distractions.

He'd just have to change his approach, that's all. Go for common ground. Someone outside the precinct (preferably that nobody else could get mad at him for dedicating it to).

And suddenly, he had the perfect 'somebody' in mind.

To my daughter; he typed, willful, wonderful, and wise beyond her years.

Perfect, absolutely perf - wait. He hadn't written Rook a daughter. And, why hadn't he written a daughter for Rook? Hadn't it been because he was trying to keep Alexis out of the spotlight? A book dedication was all well and good and perfectly nice in theory, but she already had enough troubles with fan sites and bookstore signings and her friends apparently thinking he was a 'DILF,' which reminded him, he still had to ask her what that meant, unless he wouldn't wanna know…

No. There was no way he could put Alexis in the dedication. At this point, Castle just assumed that the backspace button thought he had it out for it. At least the sense of defeat was shared, because, he was down to only one option. With a pride-sucking sigh, he went at the keys one more time.

To mother -

…It wasn't worth it. No man could ever prepare himself for the years of bragging a move like that would unleash upon humanity.

Away went another row of letters. Rick stared at the blank page, the little black 'To' its only blemish. He stared long and hard, as if new ideas would come by osmosis or sheer concentration or divine intervention or alien interference. He kept staring. He stared until the little digital clock in the bottom corner of his screen told him another half hour had gone by.

And then he got the greatest idea he'd had in hours. Hauling himself up out of his Barka lounger, Rick got to his feet, shut the laptop for the night, set it aside, and headed upstairs to bed. Sleep on it. That would do the trick.

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Toldja it wasn't really long. I just had to finish it up. (And yes - I know what Naked Heat's real dedication is going to be. Notice how I made sure that this piece didn't conflict with the final product. Savvy. XD ) I know what you're thinking: he didn't consider dedicating it to Kate again. Read Naked Heat and you'll know why I did it that way. ;D [SPOILER ALERT: He ends up dedicating it to her anyway.]

And now, as I say on every story: if there's anyone (ages 14 and over) interested in joining a Castle roleplaying forum, check out the bolded paragraph in my profile. Thank you.

So, surely you all know what my FAVORITE THING EVER is by now, right? :D That's right: REVIEWS. So please do! I especially love when y'all get specific about what you liked best. That's a big help.

And now we return you to my regularly-scheduled writing schedule. XD Peace and love.

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