The 12th precinct competition was limited to 2500 words, but now that the judging is over, I'm posting the extended edition. Thanks to everyone involved at the 12th from the judges and organizers to the writers and voters. It was a fun experience and it definitely showcased the wealth of talent in this fandom.

The Oxford commas are dedicated to Mojor, who graciously gave me a beta assist.

This was written before 5x05 aired.

SIMPLY EPIC

It was going to be epic.

Castle had fully intended to rope Kate into being his better half . . . for the party, of course. She might not be ready to pick a china pattern, but surely she'd understand the need to commemorate their first Halloween as a couple. Right?

He had accidentally outed them the previous week by showing up to a crime scene wearing a smear of Kate's lipstick on his cheek. The normally unflappable Detective Beckett couldn't help but blush under Ryan and Esposito's intense scrutiny. When Lanie had threatened to swab Castle's cheek and Kate's lips and compare them for evidence, Beckett had been forced to confess.

Gates had graciously chosen to look the other way so, now that they were safe, Castle's biggest concern was their costume.

He and Alexis had done every Star Wars combination imaginable, that was until what came to be known as "The Admiral Ackbar and Mon Mothma Incident of '02," after which Alexis had held an intervention. Castle had rebelled by being a roguish space cowboy for the next three years.

His years of solo costumes were finally over, but the pressure was on. Sonny & Cher? Cleopatra & Marc Antony? Two ends of a cow? He was getting desperate. He was a best-selling author with an imagination the size of Wyoming. Why in the world couldn't he come up with something more clever?

Ooh, maybe they could be the Borg and 'assimilate' all their guests? Hmm, he liked the concept but costume hijacking would no doubt be in poor form according to polite society.

"I'm not going to wear spandex, Castle." Kate hadn't even looked up or paused while typing her report.

She was good.

"Well, that eliminates all superheroes, most Bond girls, and Seven-of-Nine." His brow scrunched.

"Can't we just be Waldos and disappear into the crowd?"

"Well, I'd have to redecorate the loft to incorporate random striping so we'd blend in, but I'm not totally opposed to the idea."

She rolled her eyes but the edges of her mouth tugged only just concealing her amusement. "How about 'red shirts' then we can leave the party half-way through?"

He propped his elbow on her desk, closed his fist and rested his chin on it. He leaned towards her and lowered his voice "That would depend on why you wanted to leave the party early." He quirked his eyebrow for emphasis.

She couldn't stifle a smile, but soon her expression turned pensive.

"Castle," she looked around the bullpen to make sure they were out of earshot of others. "I know they know about us, but being in joint costumes will make it seem like we're . . ." she was searching for the right phrase, "hosting together."

"Well, yeah. I mean, I'm hosting and you're going to be my date so I guess that could be taken as hosting together." He studied her then added, "but this is about more than semantics, isn't it?" He glanced away, trying not to betray his disappointment.

Kate, still in the clear from prying eyes and ears, rested a hand on his knee.

"Castle, it's not that I don't want to advertise that we're together, it's just that . . . In all the years you've known me, how many parties have I thrown?"

He looked conflicted as his fingers covertly caressed her hand and he carefully weighed his words.

"You've always known that the spotlight is part of the Richard Castle package. Everyone here has been discreet so far, but it won't be long until page six is all over this and that will be much more invasive than a private party." He added patiently, "Kate, you know I would never pressure you into anything, but I won't always be able to shield you from that part of my life." He hesitated a beat before adding, "In fact, I've been hoping for the day when I can show you off . . . when you're ready of course."

He brushed her hand with his fingers one last time then straightened, creating space in case he had pushed too far. He had expected her to drop her hand from his knee and change the subject, but instead she applied enough pressure to still his movements.

She sought his eyes, her expression open and vulnerable. "Castle, you've sat in that chair patiently . . . well, persistently anyway, for four years." His expression softened to match hers. "I guess it's time I took a step into your world, and one day maybe I'll be as comfortable at a book launch as you are at a crime scene."

"I'd like that."

She shook her head, "I wish I could be the person you need me to be. I'm just not there yet." She sighed her frustration and absently tightened the grip on his knee.

He leveled his eyes at her playfully, "Why, Detective Beckett, you are much more than what I need, you are my dreams personified."

She rolled her eyes, dismissively. "Well, I guess I could at least be your arm candy at the party."

He asked in a shocked tone, "You mean you would host the party with me?"

She laughed lightly. "Semantics."

"I'll take it as a win."

"Castle, nothing outlandish."

Just then Ryan and Esposito entered. As they peeled off their jackets Castle asked them, "You're both coming to the party, right?"

"You Bet!"

"Wouldn't miss it, Bro."

Castle pried, "Have you picked your costumes yet?"

Ryan shook his head. "Jenny picked our costumes last year so it's my turn to decide. Haven't come up with anything, though." He was met with three sympathetic nods as they remembered the couple dressed as 'Laura Ingles Wilder and Almonzo.'

"Yeah, definitely not your finest hour."

"Thanks for that, Espo. What about you?"

"Dunno. I usually pick something last minute."

Ryan sat casually in his chair and challenged, "Like your special forces uniform - again? As hot as you think you look in that, it's been done, Man."

Castle rubbed his hands together and declared, "Well, Gentlemen, worry no more." he crinkled a smile at Kate and said, "Beckett, I have the perfect solution."


"How in the world did you get fatigues with the ranks and names of the Stargate SG-1 characters in our exact sizes? Wait, isn't this impersonating an officer?"

"I know people, and technically 'no' since the Air Force changed from the traditional camo 'BDUs' to the pixellated 'ABUs' a few years back. Anyway, only you and Espo have ranks. I'm an alien and Ryan's a civilian."

"What about Jenny?"

"She's going to be Daniel Jackson's wife, Sha're, of course."

"Ryan's gotta love that."

"Oh, I'm sure he will."

Castle had already affixed a bald scalp piece to cover his hair and was adhering a golden emblem to his forehead while Kate tied her combat boots then stood and straightened her shirt. He turned to admire her. "And I thought spandex was hot! I have to say you definitely know how to work fatigues, Major Carter."

She looked at her lapels and nodded, "So it's Major Carter, then?"

"During the best years of the show."

"Well, Teal'c, when are Daniel Jackson and Colonel O'Neill getting here?" She groaned, "Espo's going to insist I salute him, isn't he?"

Rick schooled his expression and flicked up a single eyebrow, "Indeed."

She followed him into the living room where he tossed her a replica of the 'Carter Special,' a modified assault rifle.

"Why did you let Espo be the fearless leader? I thought you'd want to be the man in charge."

"Special forces. He earned it. Plus Teal'c has all the coolest gadgets!"

Castle started wielding a staff weapon. She rolled her eyes as he flipped it over and pressed a button that split the end and activated a blue light.

"Wow! You should feel the weight on this, I think they might have actually gotten this from off world!"

She turned on her heel. "I think I need a drink."

Castle whipped the staff weapon around then spent the next few minutes pretending to fight off enemy Jaffa. He was facing away from the kitchen then abruptly spun at full force, whirling his extended staff and . . . THWACK!

Kate hit the ground, her glass went flying towards the kitchen and shattered.

Rick froze in horror for a split second then dropped to her side.

She was curled on the ground, moaning and covering her face. All he could mutter was, "Oh, Kate!" He had felt the sickening crack reverberate through the metal as it had squarely made contact. His hands hovered but he hesitated to touch her. "Are you okay?" He shook his head – definitely a stupid question. He gently rested a hand on her shoulder. "Kate, I'm so sorry . . . so, so sorry. Please, let me see."

She removed her hands to expose first one very watery eye then her inflamed nose and the gush of blood flowing from it. She turned towards him fully and he saw her swollen cheek as well. His own eyes reddened from the guilt of what he'd done. She clenched her eyes shut, but through the pain she gripped his arm and managed, "Castle, it was an accident."

"I'll get some ice then we'll go."

He rushed to the kitchen, grabbed an icepack from the freezer, wrapped it in a towel then dampened another cloth.

"I don't need the ER, I'll be fine in a few minutes."

She tried to smile at him as he handed her the ice. He ever so gently tried to clean the blood from her face and held the towel against her nose to try to stem the bleeding.

To Castle, words had never seemed so impotent. Every phrase he could conjure to convey his self-loathing sounded in his mind like nothing more than, 'Gee, Kate, sorry about your face. My bad.' Silence won by default.

He settled on the floor behind her and scooted them so he was leaning against the couch and she against his chest. He held the cloth with one hand and secured her firmly against him with the other.

Kate couldn't keep her eyes from tearing. She focused on feeling Castle's breath against her neck and his hand splayed on her stomach rather than the pain in her rapidly swelling nose.

After a few more minutes of stunned silence he kissed her hair and with an unsteady voice urged, "Kate, we need to go to the hospital. I felt your nose break." He winced as his mind replayed the horrific moment.

"Maybe Lanie will come as Dr. Frazier and she can magically heal me. Seemed to work for SG-1 on a weekly basis." She tilted her head towards him and awkwardly attempted a smile. "I'm okay, really." Her nasally voice and the redness spreading across her face said otherwise.

He clenched his jaw tighter than Kate thought possible.

"Castle, would it make you feel better if we went?"

"It would make you feel better, so yes."

"What about the party?"

"It will be in good hands. Mother's slinking into her 'Cats' outfit as we speak and Alexis will be over with a few friends from college in about half an hour. She'll be able to help the caterer get everything set."

"Castle, you'll miss the giant chocolate fountain."

He shrugged that off. "You're worth much more than any frivolous chocolate formation."

Despite his penetrating concern, it was really hard to take him seriously while he was bald, sporting a gilded tattoo, and spouting sap-worthy sentiments with an utterly serious tone. She needed to give him this one.

"Alright."


No amount of name-dropping, or badge flashing could propel them forward in line. No one took much notice of their costumes as they sat in the company of a vomiting vampire, a family dressed as life-sized crayons, a limping Abraham Lincoln, and three zombies, whom had Castle on edge. To pass the time he entertained Kate with an elaborate story that tied them all together, weaving new characters into the mix with each whoosh of the automatic doors. Kate leaned into him as he alternated playing with her hair and brushing his hand along her arm. The constant touching did more to sooth her than the four aspirin she had taken.

Despite the pain she kept reassuring him that it had been just an accident.

Despite her assurances, he would never forgive himself.

"Castle."

"Yeah."

"Sorry you're missing your party."

He looked at her suspiciously. "Wait. Beckett, was this an elaborate ruse to get out of hostess duties?"

"You got me. I used a Jedi mind trick to make you whack my face."

"Are you calling me a weak-minded fool?"

She shrugged.

Castle considered, "You know, I wonder if that would constitute a viable defense on Halloween? It is a bit early in our relationship for my first domestic abuse charge."

"Your first? Are you planning on running me over with a sleigh at Christmas? Setting off fireworks inside my apartment on 4th of July?"

"Only if you need an excuse to dramatically escape from a social obligation. Never doubt that I have your back, Partner."

She nuzzled the back of her head into his shoulder and played with his fingers.

"I never have."

He rested his cheek in her hair and closed his eyes, wishing fervently that he could take the pain from her.


Finally, after getting an x-ray and giving multiple recitations of how exactly she had been injured, Castle had been cleared of all suspicion. The doctor set and taped her broken nose, packed it with gauze, gave her Vicodin pills, and ordered her to rest for several days.

Kate had refused to take the meds until she was snug in her own bed. Castle couldn't leave Alexis with clean up duty, nor could he leave Kate alone in her apartment on heavy painkillers, so he asked her to stay at the loft for the night.

"The least I can do is wait on you hand and foot. Please, Kate, let me do this."

She nodded, if only to assuage his guilt, although the last thing she really wanted to do was walk into a party looking and feeling as pathetic as she did.

They opened the door to quite a sight. Five gallons of liquid chocolate had spilled on the floor from the tipped fondue fountain, Martha was belting out 'Memories,' accompanied by a smitten gentleman caller, Esposito was cuffing a young guy whom Ryan had pinned, and Alexis was running her hands through her hair while pacing in circles, unsure where to start with damage control.

Kate raised her eyebrows at the chaos. Castle, unfazed, led her to his bedroom mostly undetected then closed the door and eased her to the bed. He filled a glass with water and shook a pill into her palm then unlaced her combat boots and tugged them off. He placed his fists on the mattress on either side of her hips, leaned into her, and tenderly kissed her good cheek. He brushed his own cheek against hers and breathed, "I'll be right back." She ran the back of her finger down his forearm and nodded.

Alexis met him at the bedroom door, handed him an ice pack then briefed him.

"Gram got a hit on her gray-dar, obviously. Patterson and Judge Markway found our light sabers and got into a duel that ended badly for the chocolate fountain and culled the ghost Peeps. My study partner, 'Thor,' over there," she jerked her thumb in the direction of the now cuffed co-ed, "apparently goes from polite brainiac to moron after one drink. He used a pick up line on me that Detectives Esposito and Ryan overheard and found inappropriate. They subdued him to defend my honor."

"Good." God bless Esposito and Ryan.

Castle peeled off his tattoo and 'scalp' while he surveyed the scene before him then looked back at his bedroom door.

"Dad, I'm still your wingman. I've got this. Jenny and Lanie are going to help me clean while the guys make sure Thor 'gets home safely'." She used air quotes.

She nodded towards the door to his room. "She needs you, Dad. Go on." He grimaced, feeling both thankful and guilty that his daughter was taking charge.

"Pumpkin-"

"I know. What would you do without me? Yeah, yeah, now, scoot! I'm already planning how you'll make it up to me."

"Whatever you decide, it will never be enough."

Castle kissed his daughter's temple then returned to his bedroom.

Kate was sprawled on the bed with her mouth slack and brow relaxed in sleep. Her cheek was turning a vivid purple and her nose had to be throbbing relentlessly. He rested the icepack on the worst areas then sat heavily next to her and studied his splayed hands which still felt the mortifying vibrations from the moment of impact. He knew he'd be forever haunted by the feeling of having caused Kate pain. He wished he could do something, anything to wash the proverbial blood off his hands, but the echoes of guilt remained.

Still, seeing his partner asleep in his bed was such a precious sight. They had been together for five months and he had not been the least bit desensitized to her touch, her smile, or taken for granted her vulnerability with him, which last Halloween he had only hoped he'd one day see in full measure.

He couldn't undo what had happened, but he could spend the rest of his life making it up to her. He knew that even if he hadn't unintentionally assaulted her, he'd still like nothing better than to spend the rest of his life caring for her, protecting her in whatever small ways he could, and loving her with all that was within him.

Last year his greatest hope had been that she would show up to his party. One year later they were facing a future full of jointly hosted parties and even grander things than chocolate fountains. He stroked her hair and paused to appreciate the intimacy of the moment. She was here, and that was something he would never take for granted.

He leaned over her and gingerly unbuttoned her BDU blouse and undressed her to the comfort level of a t-shirt and underwear, then tucked her beneath the sheets. He lightly kissed the corner of her mouth while being mindful of her injuries. He got himself ready for bed then slipped under the covers next to her. He slid one arm under her pillow, slightly elevating her head with his bicep so she'd be more comfortable. He wrapped the other around her as a protective promise.

He stayed awake watching over her long after the din outside his bedroom died. Even bruised and broken Kate Beckett was a breathtaking sight. His heart swelled in adoration as he whispered, "You being here, Kate . . . Best. Halloween. Ever."

It hadn't been perfect. He would never want her to relive the pain, but at the same time, laying there with her, he'd never felt so fulfilled. Yes, the night should have gone better, but to Richard Castle, how far they had come and the promises of all that would follow . . . now that was simply epic.


Thanks for reading. Any reviews today are rewarded with your choice of virtual Snickers, Skittles or my fav, Curly Wurlys from my trick-or-treat basket.

I'm sure Halloween in NYC, and much of the east coast for that matter, is not much of a party this year, so to all of you who are sloshing through your homes or braving the snowstorms, take care & I hope your lives will be back to normal soon. I'm digging full size virtual candy bars out of my basket for you this year, no review required!