*Okay, this is an idea that I've had bouncing around in my head for quite some time. Just go with it, okay? This is set in early Season 1, right after A Chill Goes Through Her Veins, so Castle already knows about Johanna's murder. I really don't feel like giving away the entire plot, so, again, just go with it. Happy Reading!

Disclaimer: I don't own Castle.

(Castle)

Rick Castle heaved a sigh as he stepped off the elevator, Beckett's reprimands still ringing in his ears. He figured that he should probably stop pushing her buttons, or at least tone it down a little. At the rate things were going, he was surprised that she hadn't shot him yet, or at least kept her promise to break both of his legs.

He settled down in the chair beside her desk, not wanting to push his luck by getting caught sitting in her desk chair. He drummed his fingers on her desk, trying to think up an appropriate apology.

"Yo, Writer Boy, where's Beckett?" Esposito asked, striding into the bullpen with Ryan hot on his heels.

Castle pouted. "She's with Lanie and the body," he replied, pulling out his phone and playing with it halfheartedly. Ryan raised a questioning eyebrow, causing Rick to sigh loudly. "I got kicked out of the morgue," he admitted.

Esposito smirked. "By Beckett or Lanie?" he asked.

Castle stared at his phone. "Both," he confessed.

Both Ryan and Esposito snorted with laughter. "I'm not even gonna ask what you did, bro," Ryan chuckled, clapping him on the shoulder.

"Yeah," Esposito agreed, grinning maliciously. "Why ask you when we can get the full, un-biased version from Beckett herself?"

Castle's pout deepened. "You guys are mean," he said, standing up and starting for the break room. "I'm going somewhere where no one's going to make fun of me." He walked to the break room quickly, Ryan and Esposito's renewed laughter ringing in his ears.

He entered the break room and immediately stopped short at the unusual sight before him. A little girl, maybe five or six years old, was sitting at the table, coloring contentedly. Her curly, chestnut hair was pulled into two pigtails, and she was biting her lip in concentration. She looked incredibly familiar, but Castle couldn't place where he'd seen her before.

"Hi there," he said gently, trying not to startle her.

The girl looked up at him with piercing blue eyes. "Hello," she said shyly, giving him a timid smile.

"Whatcha doin?" Castle asked, sitting down across the table from her.

She looked up at him, then back at her coloring book, then back at him. She wrinkled her nose in adorable confusion. "Coloring," she said slowly, as though questioning his intelligence.

Castle chuckled. "I can see that," he teased. "I meant what are you doing in here? Are you waiting for someone?" he asked, figuring she probably belonged to a witness or a suspect.

"I'm waiting for my mommy," she said simply, returning to her coloring book.

Castle nodded, his theory confirmed. "Did she have to come talk to the police?" he asked.

The girl giggled. "No, silly," she chided. "She is the police."

"Oh." Maybe he should stop assuming thingsā€¦ "Your mommy's a cop, then?"

She nodded, beaming proudly. "Uh-huh. She's a de-tec-tive," she said, her brow furrowing as she sounded out the last word. "I usually stay with Grandpa, but he had a meeting today, so I had to come here."

Castle nodded in understanding. "Does that happen a lot?"

The girl shook her head, her pigtails swinging back and forth. "No. Mommy doesn't like me being here. I have a babysitter, but she's sick this week." She looked up at Castle, her expression worried. "Mommy also doesn't like it when I talk to strangers," she said apologetically.

"That's very smart of her," Castle replied. "What if we introduce ourselves? That way, we won't be strangers, and we can keep talking."

The little girl mulled this over for a minute before nodding. "Okay," she said.

Castle held out his hand. "My name is Richard."

"I'm Chloe," she said, wrapping her tiny hand around two of his fingers and shaking.

Castle's heart flooded with affection for the little girl. She reminded him a lot of Alexis when she was that age. "It's very nice to meet you, Chloe," he said. "Can I see what you're coloring?"

Chloe nodded enthusiastically, shoving her coloring book across the table to him. He studied the picture of a puppy and kitten with wide, impressed eyes. "Wow," he said. "You're pretty good."

Chloe beamed. "Mommy says that, too." She wrinkled her nose again. "But Grandpa says I'm too literal."

Castle laughed. It was definitely true. The picture was colored with precise attention to detail, but there was nothing out of the ordinary, like purple spots or pink grass. Again, he was reminded forcibly of Alexis.

Chloe frowned, pulling the coloring book back to her side of the table. "Hmpf," she groused, clearly not fond of being laughed at. "And I was gonna let you color a picture, too," she muttered darkly.

Castle cleared his throat, getting his laughter under control. "I'm sorry, Chloe," he said sincerely. "I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings. You just remind me of my own daughter, that's all."

"You have a daughter?" Chloe asked, her interest piqued.

"That I do," he confirmed with a grin. "Her name is Alexis, and she is very smart."

Chloe's eyes widened. "And I remind you of her?" she asked, awestruck.

Castle nodded solemnly. "Scarily so."

"How old is she?" Chloe asked curiously.

"Alexis is fifteen," he replied. "She'll be sixteen in August."

Chloe's eyes widened even more. "Wow. She's old."

Castle chuckled. "If you think fifteen is old, remind me to never tell you my age. You'll think I'm ancient."

The little girl rolled her eyes. "Gimme a break. I'm only five."

Castle sighed dramatically. "Well, since you're only five, I suppose I can let it slide."

Chloe giggled, sizing him up for a minute before asking, "Do you wanna color a picture?"

"Of course," Castle answered excitedly. "I must warn you, though, my coloring methods are quite different from yours."

Chloe shrugged, flipping through the book and carefully tearing out a page. "As long as you stay inside the lines," she warned, handing him the picture.

Castle held out his pinky. "Pinky promise," he said, linking pinkies with Chloe. He examined the picture she'd given him. It was of a lamb and a baby goat frolicking in a field. He grinned and reached for the purple crayon. Chloe raised her eyebrows at him, but said nothing.

Castle was putting the finishing touches on his picture when he heard the door to the break room open. Chloe looked up from her coloring book and gasped excitedly. "Mommy!" she squealed, running across the room to whoever had just entered.

Castle stood up, curious as to who Chloe belonged to. His jaw dropped when he turned around and saw Chloe wrapped in the embrace of the last person he'd expected.

It was Beckett.


*Yeah, yeah, I know, big surprise. This is more of an introduction than anything else. More back story will be revealed as the story goes on. Honestly, this is going to be more of a side project than anything else. Lightning Strikes the Heart and Leave Me Breathless are my top priorities right now, but I just really needed to get this out of my head. Reviews are love!