Natalie Elizabeth has been excited about this idea since I first mentioned it so I decided to write it for her for Christmas. This is an alternative to the season 3 premire, so there are little bits of dialogue from 3x01.

Disclaimer: I only wish...Wouldn't that be a GREAT Christmas present?

"You can not date a stripper, Castle."

Kate stood before Castle with her hands squarely on her hips, her eyes shooting fire. She could not believe that this was the first place she would see the man after a whole summer with no contact between them of any kind. A celebrity bachelor auction. One that he was taking part in.

Things must have fallen through with Gina. Big surprise there. Castle probably went through as many women over the summer as that stripper had gone through costume changes.

"How do you even know what she does for a living, Beckett?" Castle asked, his eyes not leaving the curvaceous form of the black-haired woman as the said stripper, whom Kate knew was named Selena, walked across the room.

Kate turned her head just in time to see the woman approach another of the night's bachelors waiting to be auctioned off. She rolled her eyes at the way the other woman put her hands on the bachelor's chest and leaned forward to whisper something in his ear.

Thankfully if the woman had done that with Castle, Kate had arrived at the event too late to witness it.

Finally Castle turned his attention back to her, a slight smirk on his lips as he waited for Kate to reply.

"She was a witness to one of the cases this summer," Kate explained. "It took place at the club where she works."

"And I missed it?" Castle's crestfallen expression made Kate want to laugh.

"Yeah well, you missed a lot of great cases this summer, Castle," Kate said. "Next time you should make sure to pay better attention to your publisher's deadlines. Not just your publisher."

Oops. She hadn't meant to say that last part. Maybe Castle would overlook it?

"You sound jealous," he accused.

Or not.

The thoughtful look in his eyes did not bode well.

"Of you and your ex-wife?" Kate scoffed. "I don't think so."

"Maybe that's just because you know Gina and I aren't together anymore," Castle said. "You seem pretty adamant about me staying away from Selena. Maybe it doesn't matter who the woman is."

"Or maybe it's just that I don't want your actions to reflect poorly on the NYPD, did you ever think of that?" Kate countered.

"Why would the NYPD care whom I dated? After all, I'm not actually a cop."

"No, but you work with us. And enough people pay attention to your actions that it could create bad press."

"It's an auction, Beckett," Castle pointed out, as if Kate needed the reminder. "I don't exactly have control over who wins the bid."

"No, but you could discourage the wrong kind of women."

Castle shook his head at her. "The wrong kind of women? I never took you for a snob, Beckett."

"Not a snob, just looking out for the reputation of the 12th."

"In other words, a snob."

"I'm not-" Kate started but found she couldn't think of a way to finish that statement without revealing much more to her writer shadow than she felt comfortable with. "Fine Castle, think whatever you want. Do whatever you want. I don't care."

"Don't you?" The intensity of his blue gaze told Kate he wasn't going to let this go. "Sometimes I wonder."

This wasn't good. He was getting too close. If he had any idea of the real reason she didn't want him to date women like that stripper, she'd never hear the end of it. He'd tease her unmercifully. Or worse, he would pity her. Kate inwardly shuddered at the thought. She didn't handle pity well, and Castle's pity would be harder for her to take than most.

"All right Beckett, then what type of woman do you think I should date?" Castle asked after a few moments' pause. "A doctor? A lawyer? Or…I know! A cop!"

Kate felt a sliver of dread. Had Esposito filled him in on what had really gone on the night of Castle's going away party? She had never told him, but it wouldn't have taken much for the other detective to figure things out.

"I'll tell you what," Castle said, close enough that his breath caressed her ear as he whispered the words, "you find a cop who is interested in dating me, and I'll ask her out the next time I see her."


Did that mean he knew? Or that he didn't know?

She didn't have a chance to ask him-not that she would have-because he then turned and walked away.

Kate was starting to get really tired of that, Castle walking away from her.

Not that she was going to do anything about it.

Her decision had been made as soon as she found out about the auction. No matter what happened, no matter who won the bid for a night out on the town with her writer shadow, Kate would do absolutely nothing.

That resolve had lasted approximately two minutes. Which was how long it took for her to realize that Castle was chatting with a highly popular stripper who worked at the club that had been a crime scene not even two weeks ago.

Her resolve wavered again when she realized who had just approached Castle. Not just because the woman was beautiful and looked enough like Kate to be her sister, if she'd had one.

But because the woman Castle was now talking to was a cop.

"Richard, I certainly hope you know what you're doing."

Castle threw his mother a puzzled glance. She hadn't voiced any objections to his participation in the bachelor auction when he had first mentioned it to her; why would she have any concerns about it now?

"Mother, I assure you I am perfectly capable of showing a woman a good time, even one I've just met."

"I'm talking about Detective Beckett."

Castle was confused. "What about her?"

"Trying to make her jealous is not the way to gain Detective Beckett's attention, darling," Martha Rodgers continued. "That only works in soap operas."

Castle couldn't help but laugh. "Jealous? Beckett?" He may have teased her about being jealous and if he hadn't known better he might have even believed it. Her reactions to his conversation with Selena would have indicated jealousy if it had been any other woman. But not Kate, though. In the days before he left for the Hamptons Kate had made it perfectly clear who she preferred.

And it wasn't him.

Castle had tried to move on with Gina, which had been a disaster practically from the start. They hadn't even lasted a week. After that he decided to just spend the summer focusing on writing. He may hate being alone, but it was better than the constant fighting that had precluded Gina's departure.

"You may be able to fool everyone else, but I'm your mother." Martha gave him a stern look with a hint of worry. It reminded him of the times he would get in trouble as a kid. "You care for her and you need to be honest about it, with yourself and with her."

Denying the truth of his mother's words would be pointless. But acting on them would be equally so.

"Whatever feelings I may or may not have for Detective Beckett are irrelevant, Mother. She has made it quite clear that she is perfectly happy with Demming. And that's what I want-for her to be happy."

"What are you talking about, Richard?" Martha sighed and shook her head. "She hasn't even seen the man in months."

"And how would you know that, Mother?"

"Just because you haven't contacted her in months doesn't mean the rest of us haven't," Martha chided him gently. "Alexis and I met her for coffee just last week."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Castle wanted to know. "Why didn't Alexis tell me?"

"We both knew you went to the Hamptons to get your mind off of Beckett. Preposterous, really, since you're writing a series of books whose main character is based on her."

Castle didn't know what to say. Being at a loss for words was rare for him, but it did happen. If it was true that Kate wasn't with Demming anymore, then that meant-


Because even if she was no longer with the robbery detective that didn't automatically mean that she was interested in him.

It did mean, however, that he could go back to the precinct without worrying about things being awkward between them. And he had missed it, being on the front lines in the search for justice.

"So what are you going to do about Detective Beckett?" Martha asked him after a few seconds of silence.


"Nothing? I taught you better than that. Our family does not just," she waved her hands dramatically as she said, "give up."

"I'm not giving up on anything. As soon as the last book signing for Naked Heat is over, I'll be back at the precinct. It will be like I never left."

"And then what? What happens when Beckett shows an interest in another man? You need to fight for her, Richard."

"Mother, there is nothing to fight for," Rick insisted. "We are friends and that is all we are ever going to be."

"Oh darling," Martha put a hand on his shoulder and shook her head. "I never thought you would let fear grab hold of you like this."

Was his mother right? The twisting in his gut at the thought of telling Kate how he really felt made him wonder.

"So what do you think I should do, Mother? Because honestly, I haven't a clue."

"You need to kiss the girl while you're both still young," was Martha's prompt reply.

Castle was barely able to suppress a shudder at the thought of Beckett's reaction if he did something like that. She had joked numerous times about shooting him. If he pulled something like that, she just might.

He knew, though, that his mother wasn't going to give up on this. When she wanted something, in this case his happiness, she wouldn't simply as she said 'give up.'

"I'll tell you what," he said when he finally came up with a solution he could live with, "if she starts bidding on me in the auction, make sure she wins."

The women bidding were nuts. One of them had actually gone so far as to throw herself at the bachelor she had won, plastering her lips to his. Not that the man had seemed to mind. The pair had separated long enough to go to the woman's table before the man pulled her down on his lap and fused her mouth with his.

Thankfully the man had not been Castle. With all of his playboy ways, Kate couldn't imagine that he would be comfortable with such a scenario. Not with a woman he just met, or at least not in public. Although when she glanced over at him she saw that he was watching the pair with an amused grin.

It wasn't funny; it was disgusting.

Kate frowned before turning her attention back to the bachelor currently being bid on. Apparently he was a minor Broadway actor. It amazed Kate how few of the bachelors she recognized. This was the eighth bachelor she had never heard of-and there had been ten bachelors auctioned off already. The term 'celebrity' must be being used quite loosely. Castle was by far the most famous bachelor in attendance.

That's probably why he was being bid on last.

Castle's flirtatious smile was firmly in place when he finally took center stage. It reminded Kate of when she had first seen him, mere minutes before she had taken him in for questioning about the Tisdale murder.

The bidding had barely started when Kate realized she recognized one of the bidders-Ellie Monroe. What was she doing there? Was she hoping for another shot at the Nikki Heat role?

He couldn't end up with her. That would be too…something. She wasn't sure what, but something.

Kate was relieved when another bid was placed.

Until she realized that it was made by ex-wife number one, Meredith, aka the deep fried Twinkie.

None of my business, Kate reminded herself sternly.

Another bid was placed, finally by someone Kate didn't recognize. Whoever she was, she seemed decent enough. Certainly more sedate than most of the other woman who had been bidding that night.

But then Ellie Monroe placed another bid, followed immediately by Meredith.

Before Kate realized what she was doing, she found herself grabbing the bid marker in front of her-they had handed them to each of the women as they arrived-and holding it high, shouting a bid $500 than the last one.

Which was ridiculous, since she didn't even HAVE that type of money.

Two more bids were placed, both by women Kate didn't know. They both appeared to be relatively normal, but Kate found she couldn't relax. Neither of the women was right for him. They were better than Ellie Monroe or Meredith, certainly. But that wasn't saying much.

The sudden ache in Kate's right hand alerted her to how tightly she was clenching the bid marker.

Her hand started shaking when silence fell as the women finally stopped their bidding.

"Going once, going twice…." the host of the auction had a booming voice that rang in Kate's ears.


A hissed whisper caused Kate to turn her attention to her left where Martha sat. The red-haired diva quickly slapped a pile of thousand dollar bills over the palm of her hand.

"Wha-?" Kate started.

"SOLD to-" the booming voice continued.

"Fifty!" Martha urgently whispered.

Kate had no idea why Martha was doing this, but she wasn't going to question it. Not right then. Her hand holding the bid marker shot up and Kate quickly shouted, "Fifty thousand!"

So much for doing nothing.

She had done it. He had never really believed she would. But she had placed a bid.

For him.

To go on a date.

With him.

His mind was blank when she reached the stage. Tingles shot through his arm when her slender

fingers lightly touched his skin.

"Castle, you coming or what?"

Castle didn't know what to think. The words were familiar, the gaze she leveled on him calm and expectant.

But she had just placed a fifty thousand dollar bid to go on a date with him. Sure, he was footing the bill, but that first bid she placed had been all her.

What exactly was going on in that brilliant mind of hers?

Kate was grateful for Castle's silence as they headed back over to the table. It was finally starting to sink in, what she had done. What she may have just set in motion.

She had worked long and hard to convince Castle that she had no romantic interest in him. She had almost managed to convince herself. Until she had to face the very real threat of never seeing him again, never hearing his crazy theories, never building theory with him...

"Beckett, you okay?"

The concern in Castle's eyes told Kate that her mask of calm composure was slipping.

"I'm fine, Castle," she said quietly.

"Listen, you don't need to go through with it," Castle was quick to assure her.

"No, I want to." Kate realized what she said and silently cursed the blush she knew was staining her cheeks. "I mean….can we just talk about this later?"

"Yeah, of course."

It was all Kate could do not to wince. That's what he had said the last time she had wanted to talk to him about 'them'-minutes before he walked away with ex-wife number two on his arm.

They both remained quiet for the rest of the evening, which thankfully didn't last more than another half an hour, since Castle had been the last bachelor to be auctioned off.

Kate debated postponing the conversation for as long as possible but she knew each day that she waited would put her more and more on edge about the whole thing. And she didn't know when the date was supposed to take place. Since she hadn't planned on bidding for anyone, least of all Castle, she hadn't paid attention to that particular information when the host had mentioned it at the beginning of the evening.

It was just after 11:30pm when people started leaving. Kate wanted to invite him back to her apartment so they could talk in private but it would be almost midnight before they got there. As many times as they had met late at night for cases it was entirely different to just drop by to talk.

But she really couldn't wait.

Maybe if Castle gave her a ride on his way home….?

She had ridden with Lanie and she knew her friend would have no problem giving her some time alone with Castle. She would demand details later, but Kate couldn't worry about that right now.

With only a few whispered words to Lanie while Castle was chatting with his mother, Kate's plan was set in motion. Lanie casually asked Castle if he would mind dropping Kate off on his way home since they were headed in the same direction, to which Castle readily agreed. Lanie wasn't able to conceal her excitement all that well. Considering how long Lanie had been trying to get them together Kate didn't think Castle would see anything unusual in the medical examiner's behavior. To further throw him off Kate gave the expected eye roll at the other woman.

With a wink at Kate that made the detective blush for the second time in less than an hour Martha told her son that she had another party to go to. After swinging the faux fur wrap around her shoulder she told them, "Well, I'm off, kiddos. Make sure to do anything I would do."

Castle groaned.

Kate bit her lip to keep from smiling. As embarrassed as she was, she adored Castle's mother and never failed to be entertained by the older woman's antics.

Kate made sure to keep up a steady stream of chatter as she and Castle headed to the limo the writer had hired for the night. Once the chauffer shut the door behind Kate, she found that she couldn't think of anything else to talk about. Other than their date. But how did she broach the subject without revealing how nervous she was about the whole thing? Especially when even talking to him about it made her nervous.

Castle's searching look didn't help. But the slow grin that formed on his lips a heartbeat later did. Teasing, flirting Castle she knew how to handle.

"So, you won me," Castle said. "Now what?"

Kate easily slipped into their familiar, lighthearted banter. "Well, I don't know, Castle. Aren't you supposed to be the one with a plan? Why don't you surprise me?"

His, "Okay," was the only warning she got.

She didn't even have time to blink before Castle's lips were on hers.

Lips as soft as silk brushed lightly over hers. When the tip of his tongue swept over her top lip Kate couldn't hold back her gasp. Sliding her hands up his arms until they rested on his shoulders, she braced herself for the sensual onslaught that a long, deep kiss with Castle would bring.

Except that it didn't happen.

Instead of drawing her closer and giving her the kiss she now realized she desperately wanted, Castle eased back and covered her hands with his. He slowly guided them back down his arms, giving them a light squeeze before he let go.

She might shoot him but it would be worth it.

It was no secret that Castle had wanted to kiss Kate Beckett as soon as he had met her. When she had placed that first bid, he had let himself hope that maybe, just maybe, he might be able to sample those luscious lips.

But this was Kate Beckett and he could never treat her like just a date or a casual fling. The feelings of terror that had raced through him when her apartment exploded during the Scott Dunn serial killer case told him that she had already found her way into his heart.

Thoughts of kissing her had flooded his mind as soon as she had officially won. He was known for having a short attention span-ironic, since how could anyone who wrote novels have a short attention span-but his mind had been completely focused on one thing: kissing Kate as soon as possible and finding ways to keep kissing her as often as possible.

When she told him to surprise her he had acted before the idea had firmly formed in his mind. Which was why he hadn't kissed her slow and long and deep like he had been imagining for the last half hour. The shock of touching her lips for the first time had reminded him that he hadn't asked her, hadn't made sure it was what she wanted. So he kept it light, amazed at the level of restraint he could show with this woman.

Touching her hands, putting his fingers on that soft skin, had almost broken through his control. Only the fact that it was Kate kept him from grasping her hands in his and closing the distance between both their lips and their bodies.

"Castle," Kate's aggravated tone told him that his time was up; time to face the wrath of one of New York's finest.

"I know, I should have asked," Castle quickly agreed with what he assumed she was thinking. "I should have-"

He would have said more but Kate's lips were suddenly on his, making further speech impossible.

Not that he minded.


It was Kate's best kept secret that the desire to kiss Richard Castle had been there from almost the very beginning. She had been able to ignore it for the most part, sure that she would be nothing but a conquest to him. Until she realized that he had been in a relationship with someone real. That had gotten her thinking. And made her scared. Because it meant that she and Castle had a real chance at, well, something real. Tom had been little more than a smoke screen to hide her feelings from Castle. She had liked Tom Demming. Not as much as she liked Castle, though. No one could come close to that. Something she had realized too late.

Or so she had thought. Until tonight.

As soon as his lips had brushed against her own any ability to hold back had been obliterated. It had taken her mere moments to get over the shock of his withdrawal and frustration to set in.

She finally had a chance to kiss him and no one was taking that away from her.

Not even Castle.

Her hands were back on his shoulders, her lips eagerly moving over his. He didn't need to draw her closer because she pulled him towards her, her arms wrapping around his neck as the distance between them disappeared. But she didn't stop, pushing him back until his shoulders hit the closed door of the limo. The slight pain barely registered as Kate pressed herself even closer. He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her in even more. Her lack of objection didn't surprise him this time.

Knowing he would be in no mortal danger if he kissed her the way he really wanted to, Castle finally responded. Gently he buried his hands in her dark tresses and angled her head the way he wanted it. He lightly ran his tongue over her bottom lip this time, giving it a small nip, smiling at the way she parted her lips in response, a soft gasp escaping. He quickly swallowed it, groaning when her tongue came out to play, touching his for the first time.

It reminded him of building theory, the give and take, the back and forth of their exploring lips. He knew that he would never be able to build theory with her again without thinking back to this kiss.

When Kate finally broke off the kiss-he certainly wasn't going to-he couldn't quite suppress a groan of disappointment. But then he looked at her. Green eyes bright, dark hair in wild disarray, lips a shiny red, she literally took his breath away. He shut his eyes for a second, just long enough to let himself get one good breath in.

"When you want to kiss me do it right, Castle," Kate shocked him by saying, her shaky breathing and trembling voice letting him know that she was every bit as impacted by their kiss as he was, "or don't do it at all."

"I can do that," Castle said and started leaning towards her again. Kate's hand at his chest held him back, but also caused a shiver to race through him.

"Later," Kate promised, her eyes flickering to his lips for a brief moment before meeting his gaze, "but first things first. About this date…."

Hey, I got it done in time! Yay! Celeste J. Evans and beatingoutasamba were kind enough to be okay with getting their stories AFTER Christmas. This time crunch is getting a little intense right now...Next year I'm going to start working on the stories in November. Or whenever I get the perfect idea any time during the year (any time BEFORE December, that is). Writing four stories in the midst of getting ready for Christmas (even with a week off of work) just is NOT possible. Well, back to wrapping presents...

If you have a few spare minutes, please let me know what you think.

Merry Christmas!