A/N: This is set in Season 3 just after "Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind". A very happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it, and I hope you enjoy this story!

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"Castle, what are you doing?"

Kate was surprised when Castle jumped sky high, letting out a high pitched squeal as he did so. She'd just asked the question, no snarkiness implied.

He was standing in her kitchen, gazing at the closed refrigerator door, lost in thought.

"Jeez Beckett! Don't sneak up on a guy like that!"

"Castle, it's my kitchen, I wasn't sneaking. But I am sorry I startled you. I didn't mean to. Although the 6 year old little girl shriek never gets old."

She gave him a teasing smirk, he gave her a good-natured glare.

"Just wondering if you've started rebuilding that Styrofoam temple in there," he answered her question, nodding at the fridge.

Kate held on to the smile, but it left her eyes.

"Oh, Kate, I'm sorry," he began –.

"No, Castle, it's fine, really."

"It's too soon," he insisted. "I shouldn't have made light of it."

"It's been 9 months, Castle. I should be over it."

Tears formed anyway.

Castle turned and faced her fully.

"No, Kate. You lost your home. It's all right to mourn."

"Mourn?" she scoffed. "Those were things, Castle, Things aren't important."

He reached over to a small box on the kitchen counter. Pulling out a frying pan with traces of black still covering the sides and bottom, he asked, "Then why didn't you throw this pan away? Why did you put the elbow grease into it to clean it? It's just a thing. Or is it, Beckett?"

She grabbed it from him.

"Shut up, Castle, it was my Nana's."

He didn't shut up.

"Or what about two days ago when you burst into tears in the middle of Williams – Sonoma?"

"I did not burst into tears, Castle…"

"Kate, I understand what you mean by 'they're just things.' Especially with your mother."

"Castle –," she warned.

He put up his hands in surrender.

"I'm just saying – like I said 9 months ago – it's okay to cry over losing your belongings. Even if they are just things. I apologize. I shouldn't have brought it up."

"No, Castle, I'm sorry. I've tried to put it behind me, but…" she smiled sadly. "I never thought it would be so heart wrenching to replace mundane things. Though I maintain," she added, "I did not 'burst into tears' in Williams – Sonoma. Overflowed a little… Maybe."

Castle looked like he was going to call her on that, but said instead, "Looks like that hickey finally went away."

"It wasn't a hickey, Castle,' she grumbled with a grin.

And just like that, the tension was broken.

Looking around the new place, Castle was struck by the lack of mess. On the face of it, it was nice that Kate was able to buy all new stuff, but her breakdown at the cooking supply store, (and okay, she didn't actually burst into tears, but there were definitely tears) said it all to him. It wasn't that she'd wanted to replace everything, she'd had no choice. The few things she'd bought so far – a bed, a couch – weren't secondhand, but were quirkier than he'd imagined. He'd always thought of her as more modernistic, even though she had some retro-ish things at her old place, he just thought that those were from her childhood, or were her mother's.

He was looking forward to finding more about Kate through her decoration of this new place. He hoped to maybe be invited along on her shopping trips, though he wasn't sure how that would go over. Maybe he could talk her into taking Alexis and talking Alexis into feeding him information. For a housewarming gift, of course. And Christmas. Did she celebrate Christmas with her dad? Yet another layer of the onion he had left to peel. But he had another question.

"So, Thanksgiving is next week, are you spending it with your dad?"

Kate looked up from unpacking the box.

"I'm probably going to be working."

"On Thanksgiving?" Castle was horrified.

"I'm a cop, Castle, I get to work holidays. And it's okay. Keeps my mind off of other things."

"Would you consider taking the day off? Spend it with me? Bring your dad along?"

She sighed.

"My dad and I don't celebrate holidays together. He usually heads up to his cabin, at least for Christmas, and I prefer to work."

"But how do you get your yearly quota of tryptophan?"

She laughed. Only Castle would put it like that.

"I usually buy some roasted turkey breast and some stuffing at the deli down the block from my old place. Then on the off chance I get off early enough, I'll sit and watch football while eating."

Frowning, she continued.

"I guess I need to find a new deli."

Castle vowed to talk to Montgomery. Turkey from the deli? Not acceptable on Thanksgiving. Kate needed one holiday off to spend with… family? Was that what he was saying he was? What Alexis and Martha were? Yes. That's exactly what he was saying. He'd have to ask what Lanie, Ryan and Esposito were doing that day as well. It had been a long time since he'd cooked for more than the Castle/Rodgers family, although he admitted he went overboard sometimes. A 28 pound turkey for three people? He'd bought a smaller turkey this year. It would be nice to have fewer leftovers.

"What about Martha and Alexis?" Kate asked. "How would they feel if I infiltrated your Thanksgiving?"

"Okay, first of all they'd be happy to have you," he argued, then frowned. "And second of all, my mother is touring with a play in Pennsylvania." The frown deepened. "And third of all, Alexis is with Meredith this year."

Kate looked up in surprise.

"I apologize if I'm wrong, but I thought Meredith didn't really go for family gatherings."

"She does usually prefer fancier fare," he replied, "but if you can get her there, she can have a good time anywhere with anyone. This year though, the occasion is for Meredith's mother. She's going downhill and wants to see Alexis again."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Kate remarked. "Alexis wants to go?"

"Yes, and I want her to, it's just…"

"With Martha gone as well, you're all alone."

Castle nodded, unhappy about it.

Kate looked at him, then around the room. A week. Hmmm… Could she pull it off? She glanced at Castle's face again and decided.

"Well, Castle, I can't make any promises yet, but I'll call the Captain in the morning."

Castle brightened.

"You'd do that for me?" he asked, so dumbstruck that Kate felt a little guilty for not spending more time with him away from the precinct.

"Yes, Castle, but…"

He interrupted.

"You think Lanie and the boys will come? Oh, wait, maybe not Ryan. Not with his ginormous family. Maybe see if Montgomery and his family would like to make an appearance. Would it be all right to invite your dad? Even if he decides not to come, I'd really like to see if he will…"

Kate's turn to interrupt.

"Hold on, Castle! Hold on!" She was laughing at his little boy excitement. "I only want to do this on one condition."

His face fell a little.

"And what's the condition?" he asked warily.

"We do it here."

"Here as in… here?" He pointed at the floor.

"Yes. Here as in my new place. I mean, yeah, I still need to get some furniture. A dining set would be nice, but yeah. I'd like to have it here. I like the idea of inviting Lanie and Javi – I think you're right about Kevin – I did hear Captain Montgomery talking about it being the in-laws turn, so he's out."

Castle looked at Beckett in awe. He didn't think he'd ever seen her all excited like this.

"And your dad?"

"I'm spending one last night with him tonight. He was so glad I moved back in with him after the Dunn case. He knew it wouldn't be permanent, but now I don't think he wants me to move out."

"You're still his little girl," he smiled.

Kate made a face.

"Like Alexis?"

Castle nodded.

"Until she's at least 50. If not longer."

She snorted at that.

"I'll ask him. Maybe if it's a bigger group he'll come. He won't have to make much in the way of conversation, but there won't be awkward silences the whole time."

She caught the look on Castle's face.

"We talk, it's not as if there's been dead silence when I get home from work since I moved in. It's the holiday's that are hard. For both of us."

"I understand."

Changing the subject back to happier things, he went on.

"So, table and chairs. When's your next day off so we can go shopping?"

Kate laughed aloud.

"Inviting yourself along, are you, Castle?"

Damn, it was getting harder to resist those puppy dog looks he kept giving her.

"I'm actually just on call tomorrow. We can go then."

She poked him hard on the chest.

"I pick everything, understand? And I pay for it."

"Ow, Beckett," he grumbled, rubbing his chest. "You didn't have to injure me."

"You'll survive, Castle. I mean it, though. You are not buying me a dining room table, got it?"

"Got it."

Kate eyed him suspiciously. He gave in a little too easily.

"Or anything else."

There was the pout she was waiting for. She grinned at him.

Suddenly, Castle had a horrible thought.

"What about Josh?"

"What about him?"

"Is – is he invited?" he asked, hoping the answer would be no, but the guy was her boyfriend after all.

"He flew out to Oregon for the holiday yesterday. His family's out there."

Castle schooled his face, but not before Kate noticed the triumphant gleam in his eye. She let it go.

He pulled out the ever present notebook from his jacket pocket.

"Time to make a list, Beckett. We have 7 days to pull this off."

He made a note.

"Number one, table and chairs. The search is on tomorrow. Number two?" He looked up at Kate.

"Gotta start putting together the food, Castle. How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey?"

"I have a turkey, Kate. A 15 pounder. I bought it before I knew Alexis and Mother wouldn't be joining me."

"That's a reasonable size for five people," she said. "Plenty for seconds and not so many leftovers that you're eating turkey for six months."

That made Castle proud, though Kate didn't notice. He'd impressed her, that's all that mattered to him.

They went through different foods they liked – and didn't like – to have on Thanksgiving, Castle loathed the green bean casserole, but Kate loved it so that was in, and debated which pies to make and how many.

"I have a recipe for the best pecan pie you've ever tasted, Castle," said Kate. "Real maple syrup."

"Mmm," he replied. "I'm thinking five pies? Not that our guests will each eat an entire pie, but that ensures everybody gets something they like."

Our guests. Kate hadn't thought of it that way. She and Castle were really cohosting this party weren't they? He wasn't teasing, so she thought he hadn't heard himself.

"Sounds good to me," was all she said.

XXXXXX

The table was very Kate, Castle thought as he was placing the settings Thursday morning. No ostentatious carvings, or over the top decoration. Just a simple wooden table with darker wood at the corners. The chairs were complementary – the same dark wood as the table corners. Simple, yet elegant. Casual, yet appropriate for more formal occasions.

The turkey was still in the oven, only 20 minutes to go. Two of the five pies Rick and Kate wanted were lined up on the kitchen counter – apple and pecan. A chocolate mousse pie that Alexis had insisted on making before she left for the airport yesterday and Castle's contribution – a lime meringue pie, just to be different – were in the refrigerator, keeping chilled.

Kate was off picking up her father, who had decided it was time to step his toes back in the water of holiday gatherings. He had declared that he was going to make the green bean casserole, after all, it was 'his' dish to make when Katie was little.

Lanie and Esposito were also coming and bringing their favorite dishes. Javier was bringing his grandmother's recipe of sweet potatoes, with enough brown sugar and marshmallows to qualify as a dessert instead of a side dish. And Lanie was bringing her choices, roasted butternut squash and pumpkin pie.

Rick heard a commotion at the door. Walking over, he opened to the four coming up at the same time, laden with their respective items.

"Come in, come in, come in!" announced Castle, as he held the door wide.

Kate put a bunch of board games from her childhood on the coffee table, then turned and began collecting coats. The timer on the oven buzzed and Castle ran to take out the turkey.

"It smells wonderful, Castle," Kate told him, leaning over his shoulder to take a whiff.

Castle smiled as he tented the bird with foil to let it rest and Kate put everyone's contributions into the oven to keep warm.

"Oh, Kate, this is gorgeous!" exclaimed Lanie. "Come on, girl, I want the grand tour. Where do those stairs lead to?"

She dragged Kate away.

When they returned, Rick began pouring sparkling cider for all, in deference to Jim.

He raised his glass.

"A toast! To friends, to family and to home." Everyone clinked their glasses, murmuring approval with the toast.

Kate chimed in "Now, let's eat!"

XXXXXX

Hours later, after the turkey was eaten, games were played, (who would have thought Esposito could be so ruthless at Sorry?) the thought of pie was groaned at, but then eaten anyway, leftovers divvied up and Javi and Lanie had gone. Jim stood with Kate at the window, looking out at the city while Castle snored on the couch.

"Thanks for inviting me, Katie," he said, putting an arm around her waist.

"Thanks for come, Dad," she replied, pulling him in for a hug. "I know it's not easy this time of year."

"For you too, Katie," he paused, looking again at the sparkling lights outside the glass. "Are you taking the Christmas shift at work again?"

"Always do. You heading up to the cabin?"

"Always do," he parroted and smiled a little sadly.

"Maybe someday we'll be able to celebrate again," he went on. "But…"

"Baby steps, Dad," broke in Kate. "I'm not going to push either of us into doing something we're not ready for. These are our traditions."

Jim turned and looked around the apartment.

"Nice place you've got here, Katie. I'm sorry to see you leave, but you picked a great place."

Kate looked around too, smirking at Castle stretched out, sawing logs without a care in the world.

"It is a great place, Dad," she said. "I really think I'm going to love living here. I already do."

Jim smiled and pulled Kate into a tighter embrace.

"Welcome home, Katie."

XXXXXX

A/N: I'd love to hear what you think!