November 30 - Waiting for Wednesday

Castle has sent her another stupid app for her phone. This one gives the people in her photo library fat faces, blowing up their necks, chins, cheeks to create their potential fat suit. Castle has sent her a picture of Esposito in his fat face; Kate can't help chuckling to herself as she walks down the hallway of her apartment building.

Since Castle isn't around to see it and gloat. Castle and his stupid apps. The air guitar was ridiculous.

Kate Beckett juggles her iphone as she lets herself into her apartment, at the last second recognizing where she is and who she is. And what she is doing. She pauses in the threshold, the distracting phone in her hand, and tries to breathe through the near-mistake.

There is a sniper out there. Somewhere. And she's smirking at her phone and *forgetting.*

She quickly scans her place. It should be fine; it's usually fine.

But something is off. Wrong. She can feel it.

She shifts slowly backward, dropping her stuff out in the hallway soundlessly, drawing her gun from its holster, clearing her mind. She goes back through the open doorway crouched low to the ground, weapon close, and slowly clears the entry, sweeps the kitchen and living room.

The dining area and table-

And she sees it.


That man.

He's left her something on her dining room table. Huge. And of course it was him - who else would it be? And how did he get a key?

Kate shuts the front door and then quickly clears her office, crosses the living room to her bedroom, checks it as well. Everything else is in its place. It was just him.


She sighs and gets her stuff off the floor of the hallway, gathering up her coat, laptop, and messenger bag, locking and deadbolting the door behind her. A couple days ago, she made the mistake of telling Castle that she liked the holidays, she liked giving gifts, but she wasn't all that big into the songs, the decorations, the fuss made over it. It's not anything to do with grief, although that might be part of it; she's just never gotten into it like other people have.

Well, now he's out to prove her wrong.

Or change her mind. Something.

On her dining room table is a two foot wide, three foot tall flat canvas on which is mounted the facade of a row of Brooklyn apartment buildings, little windows and fire escapes, rooftops with their vents and tarpaper. The canvas is painted pale grey, with cutout white stars and a moon hanging over the replica apartments. The attached buildings are white, pale and modern and monotone, the lines of the bricks grey and uniform. The window frames all have yellow light colored on the frames, as if inside these rooms is warmth, happiness.

It's an Advent calendar; each of the windows is numbered 1 through 25, and she knows she's supposed to open one window each day in December until Christmas.

She pulls out her phone and calls him.

He answers immediately. "You got it?"

"Castle. You gave me a heart attack."

"But a good one, right?"

"Why do I have this?" She unstraps her holster, pulls it off.

"Are you undressing?" he gasps, a little too theatrically.

She pauses just long enough to give him a real reason to gasp, then chuckles. "No. Taking my gun off. Why do I have this in my apartment, Castle?"

"I noticed a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the proper Christmas spirit. Also, as I suspected, you have absolutely no Christmas decorations up."

"It's November. And I don't need an Advent calendar to count down the days-"

"No, but it has presents inside. Plus, any time after Thanksgiving is acceptable. Although I have a tendency to want to decorate right after Halloween."

"Wait. Back up. It does what?"

"Each day you open a window, there's a present inside."

She throws the thing a suspicious glance, her chest tight like her lungs are being squeezed. Her body aches after today's sprint through that cramped warehouse; she smashed into a pallet of ball bearings, of all things, and her ribs ache. "I'm not in the mood for this, Castle. You need to come get this - this - thing and-"

"No. Not-uh. You can't do that. It's your Christmas gift."

"Castle," she grinds out. She can't do this tonight. It's been too much. Too much has happened. Not enough has happened.

"You'll like it. I promise. And I made almost everything. So there's nothing. . .to worry about."

He says it so gently, with such meaning behind the softness and the pauses, that she knows he knows what she's afraid of. And he's assuring her he hasn't gone that far, too far.

And she hates that she's quietly disappointed by that.

She does *not* want to be pushed. No. She wants space. Time. She wants to be more, but she can't do that right now, today, tonight.

And this massive calendar, as gorgeous and simple as it is, as non-Christmassy as it is, just doesn't give her space. (Although. It does give her time, doesn't it?) She can't. She really can't do this.

But this is Castle. And sometimes she has to give him what he needs as well. If she's going to be at all fair about this.

About how there *is* no this, no them. All her fault, her own doing; she is what holds them back.

She's afraid he won't wait for her. She's afraid he will. If she doesn't accept this, then what happens to him?

Kate sighs. "When do I open it?"

He sucks in a breath; she can practically see the childlike delight on his end.

"Castle, if you squeal in my ear, I will-"

"Woot! Sorry, it had to come out." He makes another noise; she can practically see his fist pump over the phone. "Okay, okay, okay. It kinda needs to be something you do in the morning. It won't work out at night. Oh, or, you could open it the night before. That would work, but it's technically cheating I think-"

"Fine. Tomorrow morning. And Castle?"

"Yeah, Kate?"

Her heart flips at her name - it's just her name, for goodness sake - and she stares at the Advent calendar dominating her dining room table.

"Tomorrow morning, I expect you to have my apartment key that you stole in my hand first thing. Got it?"

"Never gonna happen."

He hangs up.