An Even Playing Field

Disclaimer: Anyone wanna buy my pilot?

"What's up?"

She looks over from the passenger seat and smiles at the picture he makes. He has his sunglasses on, reclining in his seat as he drives with one hand. She has to admit, he looks pretty good in the driver's seat of her dodge charger. She figured she owed him something, since she ruined his bachelor party with her little…still-married debacle. He can at least drive them home.


She shakes her head and reaches out to squeeze the hand resting on the gear shift. "Nothin'," she says softly.

He glances at her, and even through the sunglasses she can see that he doesn't buy it for a second.

"I'm fine," she promises. "A little, well, a lot embarrassed, but I'm good. I'm happy. Ready."

He smiles and strokes his thumb over the back of her hand. "Compared to some of the things you've seen me do, I think you're okay."

She laughs at that. "Well, yes. But this is different. This was—not the same as riding a police horse naked."

"You didn't see that," he lets out. "I meant…ah, better not to remind you."

"Getting your ass chewed out by a police dog? Shrieking like a little girl?"

"Which time?" She grins and he sighs, bumping their hands a little. "Walked straight into that one."

"Get used to it," she says easily, letting his relaxed, happiness fill her up.

She's happy. She is so very happy that it worked out. So incredibly glad that it's all behind them now. But she's still—the very thought that this isn't her one-and-done—that he isn't her one-and-done…

"I look forward to having you torment me for the rest of our lives," he promises. "Starting with a quickie when you drop me off?"

He looks over, a pout on his lips, and she giggles. "Do we even have time?"

He groans. "Probably not. You need to head out there, and I need to get these papers to Henry so you're officially a free woman."

She deflates in her seat, turning to look out the window at his words. A free woman. She's not a free woman. She's married. She's about to be divorced, and then married again. But she's married right now.

"Hey, you with me?"

"Yeah," she hums, watching the ever-present green pass out the window.

She feels him sneaking looks at her, can practically hear him biting his tongue to give her a little space. She sighs to herself. They are getting married tomorrow. This is the last point in time when she should be holding things back, really.

And she doesn't want to sleep on it all night—doesn't want to lie awake in the Hamptons, without him, feeling this guilt gnawing at her stomach instead of being filled to the brim with butterflies.

"Does it bother you?" she asks, squeezing his hand even though she can't quite muster the confidence to look over at him.

"What?" he asks, squeezing back.

"The fact that I'm…married. Well, I was married. I mean—" she cuts herself off. "This," she decides.

He laughs softly. That gets her. She turns to look and finds him with his sunglasses up and the blinker on. He pulls them off the highway and into a small police hide-out at the end of a curving bridge. Well, they are in an unmarked.

He kills the ignition and turns to her, taking her hand with both of his. He spins her engagement ring and meets her eyes.

"Kate," he says, his voice low and soft, forcing her to lean in. "Do you really think I have a leg to stand on?" When she opens her mouth, he shakes his head. "Two divorces," he continues. "Actual divorces."

"Castle." It's not about evening the score—it's—it's—

"One drunken stop at the Drive-Through-of-Love doesn't a real marriage make."

"But it still—" she waits, but he nods for her to continue. She know he's trying to make her feel better, but substance or no, she's been married before. And she (and the boys) have given him such hell about the divorces over the years… "I still got married."

"Yeah, so?"

"'Yeah, so?'" she parrots. "Castle I—I was about to get married for the first time tomorrow, and now I'm a divorcee and you're not even a little bit…upset?"

He laughs and leans over to kiss her. She lets him, because they're getting married tomorrow, and she realizes, she does, that she's being a little ridiculous. Still.

"It's the marrying you that I care about," he says as he pulls back, resting his forehead against hers. "Does it make it a little better than I'm not the only screw up now?"

She rears back and he chuckles, releasing her hand to brush his palm down her cheek. "I'll admit, it makes me feel a little better," he says, a little sheepish. "But it doesn't make you any less. You screwed up, about a million years ago. So did I. Twice. Does it really matter? Does it matter to you, that I've been married already?"

"No," she says quickly.

Rarely, very rarely, she finds herself melancholy with the idea that she's not his first. But it's never mattered—he's hers. Her Castle. Her partner. The man who would stop bullets and throw punches and disappear with her. How could two marriages make him any less?

"Then, if it doesn't matter to you, how could this possibly matter to me?" he says. "Yeah, not my idea of a bachelor party, and it totally ruins our last night living in sin together, but you know what?"

He pauses, forcing her to play along. "What?"

"This way, you've already had your starter marriage."

She laughs and swats at him as he grins at her. "Thanks," she drawls.

He leans in and presses a kiss to her nose. "So maybe you're not one-and-done anymore, legally," he says, eyes crinkling even as she frowns. "But you're my always. That's all I need. Okay?"

He meets her eyes as she ducks her head, blushing. God, he just has a way with words, even for this. Especially for this.

"Okay," she whispers.

"Okay," he repeats, tugging her in for a last kiss before he sits back in his seat and revs the engine. "Now, I figure we've got another two hours before we hit the city, and four until Henry's office closes for the day."

She laughs as he wiggles his eyebrows and pulls back onto the highway. "Are you saying we're gonna get that quickie?"

"Come on, be an adulterer with me, one last time."

"Castle!" she exclaims. "Not funny."

"Kinda funny," he argues.

"No cheating," she says, a little more seriously than she means.

"Hey," he says, looking over at her. "'Course not."

"I know," she promises. "I know."

"But, come on. It's not really cheating. But doesn't it do it for you, just a little? Married woman, unmarried man…"

She sighs. "It really doesn't. And we've been separated anyway. Doesn't count."

"Spoil-sport," he grumbles.

"Why, Castle? You got a fantasy about stealin' me from someone?" she lets out, before she really considers it.

"Yes," he says, giving her a sardonic look. "But I'm really glad Rogan didn't turn out to be Sorenson."

"Oh, God," she groans. "Don't even—"

"Or Demming."


"Or Josh."

"Weren't you just saying that it didn't matter?" she argues, flicking his arm.

"This doesn't," he says instantly. "I promise. Those—just don't expect me to be gracious if we ever bump into them."

"Like that's likely," she says, even as she fights a smile. Sometimes his protective, jealous side is kind of sweet—now that they're so very past all that.

"You just found out you have a long-lost husband. I don't think we do unlikely."

"Well, you have a spy for a Dad."

"You just took down a senator."

They glance at each other, eyes meeting, and dissolve into laughter.

"You were saying something about fairytales," she manages. "Kind of dark."

"But oh, so worth it," he promises.

She smiles and takes his hand, bringing it to her lips to kiss his ring finger. Wrong hand, but his face splits in a grin anyway.

"So very worth it, Castle."