Disclaimer: I don't own the show. I don't own the characters. I don't own any profits from said story or said characters. The actors? Still up for grabs, more or less. Besides, if I owned Nathan Fillion, do you really think I would tell you?

Just a Night at Home With the Ol' Ball and Chain: by Linda Bindner

by Linda Bindner

A/N: Season five

A/N2: For Sasha713 and Noda2 - and it's all because of Karen: if you don't like it, blame her - wa ha ha ha ha!

Martha stood behind the living room couch and watched her son slip a DVD into the player while Kate curled up on the sofa, popcorn bowl before her, a place already prepared for Richard to finish his task and join her.

It was one of Castle and Beckett's first Friday evenings that they'd both been free to spend together since 'that fateful night' as Castle liked to call the rainy night they had... joined. Still new at the together thing, they were determined to enjoy themselves like any other normal couple by watching TV and cuddling on the couch. The popcorn was an addition that Castle had insisted on, and a large bowl sat at Beckett's elbow even now. A piece was enroute to Kate's waiting mouth when Castle turned from the TV.

“Wait - no!” was the yell that burst out of Castle, and his arms popped up to stop her hand.

Kate lost her grip on the piece of popcorn in her hand, and the it flew in a beautiful arc that she could never purposely duplicate over her head to land on the other side of the couch. “What?” she fairly shrieked, looking around for a possible threat, instantly on guard, proving once and for all that though she could be a girl without being a cop, no one could completely take the cop out of the girl.

“The popcorn!” Castle expostulated.

“Right - the popcorn!” Beckett repeated, matching his tone of anxiety, then eyed him sourly. “I was just about to eat some, Castle. If I can't eat any of it, why do we have it in the first place?”

Castle sent her an exasperated look, as if he thought she should automatically know the answer to her question. “It's for throwing, not eating.”

Beckett dubiously eyed him. “Throwing?”

Castle gave an enthusiastic nod. “You know - at the TV screen,” he announced, his tone still indicating that she should automatically know this.

“At the TV screen?” she repeated him, incredulous now. “What is this - a pathetic parody of Rocky Horror Picture Show?

The look on Castle's face was even more exasperated now. “It's 'Cops.' How can we possibly watch this hallmark TV show, this watershed of your career, without throwing popcorn at the screen every minute a bad scene comes on? Or what if they make an obvious mistake - what better way to show your utter displeasure than to throw food at the screen? Besides, what would be the fun in eating it instead of throwing it?”

Beckett had no answer to that inquiry. Sighing her own exasperation, she simply indicated the seat beside her with a tilt of her chin. “Just sit down, Castle. This is supposed to be a fun night of TV - so start.”

Castle plopped down beside her, his hand diving into the popcorn bowl. “Be ready to be amazed at how bad this is.”

Martha chose that moment to pipe up, “Richard, since you two...”

“Please don't use the term 'lovebirds,' Mother,” Castle whined.

“I was going to say 'you two kids,'” Martha insisted in a patronizing tone.

Castle snorted. “Mother, I'm...”

“... ageless,” his mother quickly said, conciliatory now. “Which makes me extra ageless, which means I can definitely call you 'kids.'”

Castle glanced at his companion beside him. “Can you shoot her?”

“I'm not on duty,” Beckett stated back.

“So shooting her while off duty is..?”

... not good,” Beckett finished for him. “Besides, I like your mother. I wouldn't shoot her just for calling you names.”

“Thank you!” Martha emphatically said before her puzzled thoughts caught up with her. “I think.”

Beckett grinned. “Any time.”

“Anyway - Mother,” Castle broke in. “We'd like to start the show sometime this year - what was it you needed to ask me?”

Called back to her query, Martha gave a jerk of her head. “Oh, yes, while you two... kids... are occupied out here with your TV show, can I use your office to do some work of my own?”

Castle was surprised. “What work can you possibly have?”

“Castle,” Beckett admonished. “She doesn't want to be disturbed. What's the big deal? Don't make a meal of it.”

“Exactly!” Martha threw out her hands. “I want the muse to have every opportunity of raining down on me as I work the masterpiece that is the screenplay I'm currently writing.”

Castle's brows hit his hairline. “You're writing?”

Martha's arms came back to her sides. “Yes - why?”

Castle's second snort exploded into the apartment. “It's just that...” Eventually, he just peered at her. “It's so normal of you.”

Martha glared at her son. “I do normal - occasionally. Now, can I use your office?”

Castle nodded his ascent. “Just don't move any of the papers on my desk. I have my next Nikki Heat novel outlined there - somewhere.”

Martha balefully studied him. “Yes, I wouldn't want to disturb the pulp of your fiction.”

It was Beckett who snorted this time.

“And most importantly,” Martha continued as she turned away. “Your office has a door that I can close.”

“Wouldn't want your muse escaping.” Castle smirked.

Martha just made a face at him. “Have fun.” She disappeared in the direction of Castle's office.

Castle smiled suggestively the moment his mother vanished. “Alone at last.”

In answer to his leer, Beckett threw several popcorn pieces at Castle. “Just start the show.”

Castle's smile widened as he reached for the remote. “This is gonna be so fun!”

Martha had barely had time to close the door when she heard a vibrating sound. “Phone,” she muttered to herself as she followed the noise to her son's desk. Careful not to jostle the mountains of loose paper covering the desk, she shifted it all to the side until she was able to uncover a cell phone. A quick perusal told her that her son's friend from that police precinct of his, Detective Ryan, was texting. Hey - what's up?

Martha was about to take the phone out to her son when the strains of the TV show's theme song filtered through the closed door. Not wanting to bother him when his fun evening had at last begun (fun in more ways than one, Martha suspected), Martha indecisively held the phone for a moment, debating on what to do when it vibrated again in her hand. You there? Ryan texted again. What's up? Or should I even ask?

Martha's brow crinkled. “I can't let him get the wrong idea,” she told herself. Thus she texted back, Watching TV - come on over.

Watching TV - what show?

Cops - SO DRAMATIC! Beckett's laughing her ass off.

Beckett's there? Then I shouldn't come.

No - come - laugh with Beckett.

Cops - favorite show. Can I bring Jenny?

The more the merrier.

Great! C u.

A self-satisfied grin spread across Martha's face as she replaced the phone on the desk. “A woman's work is never done.”

The episode had barely started when the doorbell rang. Castle peered at Beckett. “You expecting someone?”

Kate's own brows drew together in puzzlement. “No one's been murdered that I know of.” She dropped the popcorn in her hand back into the bowl and paused the DVD player as Castle went to answer his door.

He was astonished to see Ryan and Jenny standing in the hall. “Kevin! Jenny! What's up?”

“That's what I asked you,” Ryan immediately replied. “You know - on the phone?”

Phone? Oh, the phone... that he'd left on his desk. His eyes narrowed a bit. This had his mother's smell all over it.

Ryan went on, “You sure that we're not intruding?” He glanced over Castle's shoulder to see Beckett waiting on the couch, clearly intent on Castle's return. “I mean, this isn't...” He made a helpless gesture.

Castle winced. “What could we possibly be doing on a Friday night that can't be interrupted?” Kate, in her turn, smiled winningly at the three in the doorway.

Jenny took matters into her own hands. “No, Kev, we are intruding - we should go.”

“No,” Beckett then called. “Stay, please. Throw some popcorn at Castle.”

“You're sure you don't mind?”

“Mind?” Castle echoed. “Why would we mind?” His inner grumblings were far less polite. So much for the wild date night he had invisioned. To add another form of encouragement, he stood aside to let Ryan and Jenny slip by him. He would so get his mother back for this.

The two new arrivals shucked their coats, then joined Beckett at the couch. Ryan held up two slim packages. “We brought our own popcorn.”

Castle's forced grin was their greeting. “Let me... I'll just pop this in the microwave... pun intended.”

Castle disappeared into the kitchen, where the whir of the microwave almost covered the sound of Ryan's phone jangling with a text. “It's Javier,” he announced. “Asking what me and Jenny are doing.”

“Tell him hi,” Kate said, giving in as gracefully as she could that hers and Castle's quiet night in front of the TV was about to become a Cops groupie gathering.

Before they could truly settle down, Castle and Beckett on the couch (decidedly not cuddling now) and Ryan and Jenny on the floor in front of them (cuddling like the newlyweds they were) the doorbell rang again.

“That's Esposito,” Beckett said just as Castle was about to punch the play button on the remote.

“I'll get it.” Ryan jumped up to let his partner into the apartment.

“Hey!” Esposito called, staring at the screen. “You didn't tell me you're watching 'Cops' - the perfect date.” He gave Castle a thoroughly appreciative look, and high fived him. “Smokin' bro!”

“Date - that was the idea,” Castle muttered to himself, but only answered with a rather painful smile. In order to distract everyone from the 'date' idea, he inquired of Esposito, “Did you bring popcorn to throw?”

“No - you shoulda said.”

Without a word, Castle disappeared into the kitchen again to make more popcorn.

Esposito plunked down next to Beckett. “I'd a thought you and Castle... you know... Friday night and all.”

Beckett rolled her eyes. “That's hard to do when Castle's mother is just in the next room.” She wondered how much of this Martha was overhearing?

Castle appeared once more just as the door opened a third time to admit Alexis. “Dad! I'm home for our father/daughter... oh!” She noticed the people grouped in her living room, all of them staring at her. “This looks important - am I interrupting?”

“Not at all,” Beckett assured. “Pull up some floor.”

Alexis peered at the paused shot on the TV. “What are you watching?” she asked, more than a little suspicion in her voice. “Is that..?”

“'Cops,'” everyone said at once.

Alexis did her own eye roll then. “Dad, you promised that you wouldn't get these old DVDs out again.”

Castle looked slightly chagrined. “Once a year?” he negotiated.

Alexis groaned. “This show isn't anything like the real thing.”

“We know,” Ryan told her. “That's what's sp great about it.” He held up his bowl in tribute. “We came armed with popcorn.”

Jenny added, “To throw at all the mistakes - Kevin says it's a riot to watch.”

Coming to a fast decision, Alexis stuffed her hand in Beckett and her Dad's bowl to retrieve a handful of popcorn to throw. “Count me in - where should I sit?”

Ryan held out the arm that wasn't currently wrapped around Jenny. “Come here - before Javie gets to you.” He couldn't keep the grin off his face as Alexis slid under his arm. “Cuddling two beautiful girls - how did I get so lucky?”

Both Alexis and Jenny grinned as Castle's foot kicked out at Ryan. “Hey - that's my daughter. Keep it PG!”

In response to her dad's overprotective streak rearing it's ugly head, Alexis snuggled closer to Ryan. “Relax, Dad - he's married.”

“That's what worries me!” Castle informed.

“She's safe with me,” Jenny told him. “Feel better?”

Castle winced, clearly not feeling better, but trying to look like he did. “She's only 18!”

“Dad!” Alexis gave him 'the look.' “Tell everybody, why don't you!”

Beckett laughed. “She's got you there - duck and cover, Castle!”

Just then Beckett's cell phone rang. She immediately dropped the four pieces of popcorn in her hand to dig it out of her front pocket. “Beckett.”

Everyone paused with bated breath, waiting for 'the murder' look to cross Beckett's face. Instead, they all visibly relaxed when they heard the unmistakable tones of the 12th's ME over the line. “Girlfriend! What's shakin?”

Beckett snorted. “Nothing at the moment, but as soon as we start the movie again, I have the feeling that the popcorn will fly.”

“Popcorn?” It was clear that Lanie didn't quite understand the marvel of flying popcorn. “What movie are you watching?” She paused, hesitancy giving way to suspicion. “Wait a minute - where are you?”

“At Castle's with...”

“I'm interrupting a date - why didn't you say, girl?”

“The date's dissolved,” Castle muttered again. His mutterings were getting darker each time he did it, but nobody heard heard him, not even Beckett, who was sitting right next to him.

Beckett glanced assessingly around the room. “Yeah, I got a date with... five people - make it six - bring your own popcorn.” There was no reason that Castle had to supply everyone.

“You sure you don't mind?” came Lanie's voice. “It IS a Friday night.”

Esposito grabbed the phone away from Beckett. “Get over here! Save Castle!” He handed the phone back.

Beckett took it just in time to hear Lanie ask in curiosity, “Save Castle from what?”

“Don't know,” Kate admitted. “But it doesn't sound pretty. You better get over here - we might need your skills before the night is over.”

Lanie hesitantly promised, “Okkkkkay - see you in a few.”

“Now can we please start the show?” Espo queried.

“Touchy, touchy,” Castle teased as he unpaused the DVD. “What - did you drink too much coffee today?”

“You know what kind of day we had,” Esposito grunted, then complained, “All the weirdos come out on the day of the full moon on purpose.”

“Especially if it's Friday the 13th,” Ryan added, pulling Alexis and Jenny closer. “I need my cuddle time if it's Friday the 13th.”

Which was just the excuse that Castle had been waiting for. He pulled Beckett close. “Cuddle time - I like it!” If he couldn't have the date with Beckett that he'd had in mind, then he'd compromise.

In response, Beckett tossed her popcorn at his face and reminded him, “Who says it's your cuddle time - it's mine!”

Several hours later, Martha emerged from the closed office to find a crowd of cops in the living room, the show 'Cops' just ending on the TV, and popcorn everywhere.

“What was it - an explosion?”

“Mother!” Castle called, instantly getting that innocent 'I've been a bad boy, but she'll never guess' look on his face. “How is your muse treating you?” Ah - a distraction. It was obvious that Castle really did know what he was doing.

Martha smiled her satisfaction. “It's that particular office - I can just feel the creative energy in there!”

“Getting a lot done?” Beckett asked.

Martha's satisfied smile vanished in a heartbeat. “Nothing.”

“Grams,” Alexis called, “maybe you need a snuggle.”

“Because it's a Friday,” Espo added.

“Friday the 13th,” Ryan finished.

Martha glanced at the group: Beckett curled into Richard; some girl and Alexis leaning against that Detective Ryan fellow; his partner all curled comfortably around someone she'd never seen before... “You're all from Richard's precinct?”

“Yes,” Beckett dryly responded. “From Richard's precinct.”

Martha shrugged and grinned with a mischievous glance at her son. “So that's where all the muses are!” And she moved to join the group. “What do we do?”

“Throw popcorn,” Castle informed.

“All the time?”

Alexis's head popped off of Ryan's shoulder. “I throw it every time a cute guy comes on the screen.”

Castle didn't like the sound of that. “Alexis!”

“You go, girl!” Lanie's cry drowned out Castle's admonishment to his daughter.

Beckett leaned in to whisper in Castle's ear just as the next episode began, “So, you're not the only ruggedly handsome man in her life... that just leaves more of you for me!”

Despite wanting Alexis to stop growing up, Castle couldn't help but to give Beckett a secret grin. “Did I mention that you can throw all the popcorn you want, but if what you really want to do is to eat me, go ahead!”

The End

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