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Best Laid Plans

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Richard Castle had always thrown a good party. It was a good thing to be able to do. It came from his mother, who’d been as proud of the parties she’d thrown as a good review for her latest play or one of his report cards. Now that he’s Richard Castle, successful novelist, man about town, regularly featured in the gossip columns, his parties are something to behold. Writers, actors, musicians, politicians, the wealthy and/or aristocratic: they’re all to be found at soirees chez Castle.

Christmas is an excuse for even more extravagance than normal. He tried costume parties for a couple of years, but found that coming up with two amazing costumes in one year was just too much of a struggle, even for a master of disguise such as himself.

So now there’s no theme, just formal dress and the lavishly decorated Starlight Room at the Waldorf Astoria, home of the Castle extravaganza this year. It's a huge space, even with the number of people currently inhabiting it. There's a band in one corner - playing Christmas music, of course - providing a gentle background soundtrack to the evening, but the sound check earlier in the evening has ensured that the volume is low enough not to disturb conversation. Castle's been planning the event for weeks: there's no way it can be anything less than perfect now.Castle makes the rounds of the room, talking to the people he knows and being sure to introduce himself to those less familiar. He keeps an eye out as well for Alexis and Ashley: the boy seems thrilled to have been invited to the party, though Castle's not sure whether it's because of the implied acceptance of his relationship with Alexis, or the star-studded nature of the evening. Whatever the reason, the smile on Alexis' face when he told her that she could invite her boyfriend was more than enough to make up for the lingering discomfort he feels, seeing her hand in his. Thankfully, she hasn't yet reached the stage of wanting to spend Christmas with Ashley, and in fact he and his family are visiting family of their own in Florida for the holiday period, so for Christmas, it'll be back to the three of them: grandmother, father, and daughter.

He's thinking about when exactly he should give his speech, the 'Thank you so much for coming, and no, your party will never be as good as mine' speech he gives every year, when his phone buzzes. When he pulls it out, he sees that he has missed a call from Beckett, but she's left a voicemail message. He presses the 'call' button to get the message, but it's hard to hear in the crowded ballroom and it sounds like she's calling from the middle of a freeway or some other equally impractical location. He turns back to the message.

Got a lead in the Ecclestone case, if you're interested.

Of course he's interested, but leaving his own party when it's barely getting started isn't the kind of thing he does. Not usually, anyway, but for Beckett, he would make an exception. He calls her, wondering where they are, but her phone goes straight to voicemail. He doesn't bother leaving a message, just drops the phone back into his pocket and makes a mental note to try again in a couple of minutes. He doesn't get a chance, though.

The full-length doors at the far side of the room from where Castle's standing burst open and a man rushes in. From across the room, Castle can't be sure, but the man bears a striking resemblance to David Summers, the main suspect on the case he's been working with Beckett, the case she just called him about. The partygoers move to the sides of the room, not wanting to get involved with the sweaty, out of breath, clearly out of place man. As they do so, Castle gets a clearer look at the man and it's definitely Summers. Then Castle spots the gun in Summers' hand and, unlike everyone else, who's still backing away from the new arrival, he starts towards him. There's a small part of him that wants to go towards him, because he can see James Patterson over by the wall and wonders if this bizarre scene is going to end up in his next book. But the larger part, the part that listens to what Beckett says and is slowly learning proper police procedure, wants to do exactly the opposite. He's not exactly trained for situations like this and even if he's usually something of a glory hound, this is one situation where he'd happily give up the attention and let someone else take the credit.

"Mr. Summers," he says, raising his voice to be heard above the whispers and hushed conversations around him, "I'm Richard Castle - we met the other day."

And they had, though the interrogation room at the precinct was certainly a far cry from the Waldorf. The differences between the situations are diminished a little further when the door behind Summers opens and a gun pokes through the gap, followed by hands and arms and then the welcome face of Kate Beckett. Quickly assessing the situation and clearly conscious of the distance between them, she mouths her instructions and gestures to Summers. Castle tries his hardest to keep his face expressionless as she gives her instructions - keep him talking, I'll come up behind him - but it's hard because he's so relieved to see her here.

"It was at the police station," Castle says when Summers looks as if he's going to turn his head and risk spotting Beckett.

"You were there with the detective lady," Summer says, realisation clear in his tone.

"That was me," Castle confirms, "and this is my party that you seem to have crashed."

"I don't want to hurt anyone," Summer says, "I'm not a killer - what happened to James was an accident, a complete mistake, I never meant for it to happen."

"I understand that," Castle says, trying to sound sympathetic and keep Summers' attention. Beckett's nearly within reach of him and Castle wants to give her as much time as he can. "So what happened: the two of you got into a fight or something?"

"He'd been sleeping with Jane," Summers says, "I just meant to hit him, to make him hurt like he hurt me."

Then two men from the crowd jump out – a couple of journalists from Time, neither of whose names Castle can remember – and wrestle Summers to the ground. The crowd bursts into wild applause as Castle and Beckett look at one another in stunned silence. As Summers thrashes, trying to get out of the hold his two captors have placed him in, Beckett steps forward.

“David Summers,” she says, unclipping her handcuffs from her belt, “you're under arrest for the murder of James Anderson.”

Calmly, she reads him his Miranda rights. The journalists – one of them is called Casey, Castle remembers – take a few steps back. Summers is apologising over and over again, saying that he never meant to hurt James, as Beckett hauls him to his feet and pushes him towards the door, muttering to Castle that they'll see him back at the precinct, if he's interested. Ryan and Esposito have arrived and are hold the doors open, then close them behind.

As the doors shut, the applause starts up again and people start coming up to Castle and congratulating him on the show. Castle's confused for a moment, and then he realises that none of them know that the man who ran in with a gun was a real criminal who, however unintentionally, had killed someone a few days earlier. They all think it was some kind of show put on for their entertainment.

“Dad, was that Detective Beckett?” Alexis asks, confused.

“Uh, no, just a bit of a show,” he covers quickly, conscious of the other people around them and not wanting to create any sort of panic in the crowded ballroom. Alexis raises her eyebrow – she obviously doesn't believe him – but doesn't say anything else.

From his pocket, Castle's phone buzzes again and he pulls it out.

Are you coming or not?

“If you'll excuse me,” he says, smiling as he backs towards to the door – there's no way he's ignoring Beckett again, “there's an emergency, a...publishing emergency,” he offers weakly, “I have to step out for a while. Please enjoy the party and I'll be back as soon as I can.”

He hurries towards the elevators and jabs at the 'down' button to summon one of them. His phone buzzes again – Alexis this time.

Everyone thinks you set the whole thing up. I think this might be your most successful party yet.

Castle grins as he steps onto the elevator: he couldn't have planned things better if he'd tried.