It was a quiet day in the precinct. Ryan looked over at Esposito, surprised to find him flicking rapidly through what appeared to be some sort of shopping website. He paused briefly on a picture of what looked like a cross between a tube top and some piece of lingerie and Ryan's brow wrinkled in confusion.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Christmas shopping. I still haven't gotten anything for Beckett or Castle."
"Please tell me you're not thinking of that," he said as he indicated the item on the screen. "Because I'm pretty sure Beckett would kill you and I really don't want to have to find a new partner."
"I was just trying to figure out what it was," he replied as he tilted his head sideways and squinted. Then he shook his head and clicked back to the main page. "Have you gotten their presents yet?"
"So ... what did you get?"
"Gloves, for both of them."
"Dude, you can't give them gloves."
"Why not? They're nice ones, fur lined and everything. Everyone can use gloves."
"Yeah, but that's like a present you get for your spinster aunt that you haven't seen in ten years. I mean, you might as well announce that you either don't know them well enough to pick out something better or that you don't care."
Ryan's brow was now furrowed with worry. "I spent a whole half an hour picking them out. Besides, you're the person who's still hasn't got a present and it sure doesn't look like you have any great ideas."
"I'm still browsing, man."
"Yeah, right, browsing. Have you noticed that Christmas is less than a week away? I think you need to move past the browsing stage."
Esposito sighed. "Okay, I confess I'm having trouble figuring out what to get for them. I mean, Beckett can be kinda touchy around the holidays and Castle? The guy pretty much already has ... well, everything."
"You could get them scarves. It'd go nicely with my gloves."
Esposito just rolled his eyes. Then he looked across the squad room as if staring at the source of his problem might give him inspiration. After a moment he seemed to get an idea.
"Why don't we just ask them what they want?"
"Huh, now why didn't I think of that?" his partner replied.
"Dude, you were too busy buying them old maid gifts."
Trying to look nonchalant, the two of them sidled up to Beckett's desk, where she was bent over a file with Castle in his usual chair nearby, playing a game on his phone. They stood there shuffling for a moment, unsure of how to broach their question. Finally, Beckett looked up and quirked an eyebrow at them and Ryan nudged Esposito to make him start talking.
"Hey, how come I have to ask?" he said indignantly.
"Your idea," was Ryan's reply.
Beckett looked back and forth between the two of them. "For God's sake, would one of you please spit it out? Preferably sometime today."
"Uh, well, we were just wondering if there was anything in particular you guys wanted for Christmas?"
"Oh, oh ... can I go first?" Castle chimed in, having lost interest in his game as soon as presents were mentioned.
Beckett rolled her eyes but there was no stopping him now.
"I want a badge," he announced. "It'd be okay if it said writer on it as long as it looks like yours. It would really make me feel like part of the team if I could flash it sometimes."
"Castle, you are not getting a badge, especially since I'm sure you'd find a way to misuse it," she told him firmly.
"Okay, then I want some handcuffs," he told Ryan and Esposito.
But Beckett shot that down too. "The only way you're getting near a pair of handcuffs is if I have to put them on you the next time you get yourself in trouble."
Castle looked over at the other detectives, giving them what could only be described as a prurient smirk. "In that case, make them fur lined." Then he ducked to avoid the pen that Beckett threw at him.
Both Ryan and Esposito had to work hard to smother their laughter but one look at Beckett's rapidly reddening face told them that laughing might be dangerous to their health. Finally they had their expressions back under control and could continue pursuing their questions.
"What about you?" Ryan asked Beckett.
"Anything is fine, really. I'm not a big holiday person," she said with a shrug.
The two detectives waited for a beat, hoping she would elaborate, but she just went back to perusing her files so they wandered towards their desks, no further along than they were when they started.
"I guess we could always get him the handcuffs," Esposito suggested.
"Well, in that case you might as well get her that tube top thingie because once she's shot you for giving Castle that sort of ammunition, it really won't hurt much more when she shoots you a second time."
"When you put it that way, your gloves are starting to look a whole lot better."
"Yeah, she did say she didn't care what we got."
"Bro, sometimes I wonder how you ever make it to a second date. How do you not know that's woman speak for I really do care but I don't want you to know?"
"Huh, then why didn't she just tell us what she wanted?'
"You are so totally missing the point, dude."
Sometime between then and the office party, inspiration finally did strike and when the time came, they had two gaily wrapped gifts ready and waiting. True to form, Castle displayed his need for instant gratification and began to rip the paper off his gift as soon as they handed it to him. When he finally got it open, his jaw dropped in surprise. He dumped the box onto the desk and immediately donned both items.
"How do I look," he asked as he assumed a firing stance with one hand held out like a gun and his best Dirty Harry expression on his face.
They took in the sight of his eyes shining as he wore his new NYPD sweatshirt and baseball cap and had to struggle not to laugh at his enthusiasm.
"You look very ..." Ryan started.
"Official," Esposito finished for him.
Beckett pulled a face. "Did you guys have to encourage him?" she asked in mock consternation, rolling her eyes when they just shrugged.
"Open yours," Ryan urged her.
Beckett carefully removed the wrapping from the slim box they had handed her and opened it to find a prettily decorated gift certificate inside.
"You guys got me a spa day?" she asked, surprised.
Unable to tell from her tone if she was pleased or if they should duck and cover, they quickly launched into an explanation.
'We just figured that after what we got him ..." Esposito started as he nodded his head to indicate Castle, who was still cutting poses in his new attire.
"And you having to cope now that he thinks he's semi-official ..." Ryan continued.
"We thought you might need a day off."
Then they waited ... and waited. Beckett looked over at Castle, shaking her head at his antics, then then down at the gift certificate again before raising her eyes and smiling with genuine pleasure.
"Thanks, I think I'll really enjoy this."
Ryan and Esposito grinned back at her, happy at how well their presents had gone over. Then they turned and headed back for their desks, almost missing what she said next.
"And here I was expecting yet another pair of gloves."
As soon as he heard her, Esposito reached out and gave Ryan a punch in the arm. "See what I mean, bro?" he said.
"Yeah, yeah. You were right, but if I were you I'd shut up about it because I've still got to find someone for those gloves and it just might be you."