They end up marrying on a Tuesday.
Of course, they make the decision at quarter to ten on Sunday night, and promptly spend the next hour enjoying a brief but electrifying romp, which turns into a deep, passionate, achingly slow round two. They fall to their backs, panting and smiling and holding hands and staring at each other when it's over.
They send out a flurry of text messages and emails over the next twenty-four hours, making the necessary legal arrangements, telling only their families and closest friends that they're getting married at noon the very next day at City Hall. The message is simple: please be there if you can manage it. There'll be a big party to celebrate later on this summer. August, maybe, in the Hamptons. But for now, they aren't going to waste another day. Come hell or high water, they're going to be married by noon on Tuesday. Lunch is on the groom's dime afterward for whoever can attend.
They dress side by side that morning. Castle chooses a handsome charcoal suit, crisp white shirt, and Kate's favorite blue silk tie, the one she bought him for their second Christmas together, the one that she insists compliment his eyes perfectly. She might also love it because it's the tie that he used to blindfold her that one night back in February, when they returned to the loft after their impromptu date to the prom. He grins smugly at her reflection, knowing exactly what she's thinking about as he carefully knots the tie. She catches his eye, bites her bottom lip firmly when she recalls the filthy curses and erotic noises he elicited from her that night.
He looks good, she thinks. Healthy, confident. Happy. The scrapes and bruises that were inflicted during his ordeal have begun to fade into nothingness, faint reminders of yet another obstacle they've overcome. Can't give up, right?
Kate wears a soft white sundress with eyelet accents and pretty, scalloped edging along the bodice. Her strappy silver sandals are surprisingly low-heeled by her usual standards, but she finds that she loves playing up their height difference sometimes. The dark circles that marred the skin under her eyes during Castle's brief abduction are finally gone, so she keeps her makeup light, knowing that someone (it's a toss-up between her dad and husband-to-be) will turn on the waterworks at some point, and then she'll be a goner, too.
She wears the gorgeous earrings Martha bestowed so lovingly upon her those many weeks ago, as a mother would her own daughter. Alexis lends her a set of beautiful bracelets, loop upon loop upon loop of delicate seed pearls orbiting her wrist. Her hair falls natural and curly around her shoulders, with a few strands pulled away from her face, held in place with the gorgeous mother-of-pearl clip that Castle found for her in that funky little antiques place during their first summer together.
She smiles softly at the memory of those first few months, how effortless it had all been, like they had been lovers for years. Of course, he had vowed to support her in any way he could during her suspension. Turns out that he supported her best by taking her to bed and making her forget her name, along with the rest of the English language, as frequently as they could manage. She didn't mind.
Most of her suspension had been a blur of sex and long walks with picnics in the park; sex and exploring every last little bookstore and museum and curio shop in Manhattan; sex and plenty of lazy days spent half-dressed, reading the newspaper and arguing over the crossword puzzle. Castle would cook something scrumptious for dinner at her place in his boxers (she was usually in his button-up) and they fed each other bites between sips of some fabulous red wine they discovered together, which inevitably led to kissing and then straight back to her bed…if they even made it that far. Over and over again. She had felt drunk all summer; a buzz of the best kind. The same buzz she feels today.
Of course, she can't help but think about everything that has transpired since that time, the last two years playing back in her memory like an old-fashioned newsreel, a virtual roller-coaster of many a dizzying high, with a few crushing lows scattered here and there. But most of it was just blissful, contented companionship, the likes of which she had never found with anyone else.
She watches him in the mirror for a few beats, surreptitiously, almost snickering as she sees him sweeping his comb through his hair again even though it already looks perfect. She turns to finish her own makeup then, swiping some gloss over her lips. They don't look like she had envisioned them looking on their wedding day. Not at all. But she finds she doesn't care; they're here, they're alive, and this day is already perfect, because they're finally getting married. Nothing else matters.
He nudges her out of her reverie then; it's time to go.
When they emerge from the bedroom, Alexis is waiting for them, dressed in her own casual wedding finery. Kate asked her to surprise them with their flowers, and she realizes instantly it was the right call to make. Her bouquet is a small, vivid mass of bright yellow daffodils and fuchsia calla lilies wrapped with a wide swath of velveteen green ribbon. They're absolutely gorgeous, and Kate wraps her in a tight hug. Castle, wearing one sunny daffodil in his lapel, holds his arms out to the two most captivating women in his life, and simply says, "Shall we?"
As it turns out, not a single invitee dares to miss this event. All of them had conspired to arrive early that morning, so they're already gathered in the grand foyer when the happy couple enters, and they burst into a spontaneous round of applause when they spot them walking arm-in-arm through the doors into City Hall. All of them – every last one of them – know what they've been through to get here, and their joy at making it to this hard-fought moment is overflowing at present. Kate blushes beautifully at their show of love and support, bringing her bouquet up to cover her painfully wide smile, tucking herself into Castle's side and relishing the feel of the strong arm that bands around her back, protecting and supporting her as always.
She glances up to see him looking back at her, a matching grin on his face, a lifetime of love and family and happiness mapped out in his eyes, hers for the taking; not for the first time, she wonders how she failed to recognize that look for what it was when she first began seeing it on his face. It started so very many years ago now, long before they were together. How could she have mistaken it for arrogance or a flippant attitude about the work she took so very personally? Her assessments couldn't have been further from the truth. It had always been about respect, admiration, trust, friendship; eventually, it was love.
He bends to touch a sweet, soft kiss to her lips, and then he's straightening, tilting his head in the direction of the building's interior, whispering, "C'mon. Let's go get married."
The ceremony goes by remarkably fast. Judge Markway presides, at his poker buddy's request, and makes a few brief comments about the institution of marriage, but even he seems antsy to speed things up and get these two wed. He cuts directly to the chase, having them repeat the simplest of vows: to have and hold, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer (at which Castle murmurs to her, "Good thing I'm rich, huh?" and she promptly elbows him in the ribs). Within minutes, they slide rings onto each other's fingers and say "I do," after which the judge gleefully pronounces them man and wife and practically yells, "Well? Kiss her already, man!"
And there, at 12:16pm in a sunny room with their nearest and dearest surrounding them, they seal their marriage with a long, slow kiss that sets off another round of applause from the group, this one with plenty of hoots and hollers and whistles to spare. They linger for a few moments, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings, until they finally break away, a little breathless and a lot happy. Tilting their foreheads together, he simply whispers, "I love you so much, Kate. Thank you for being my wife."
"I love you, too. Always."
Lunch is a memorable affair; there are only nine of them around the table, but they're jubilant and boisterous and make the noise equivalent to a party of thirty. The champagne flows liberally as each person takes a moment to share a story or two and personally toast the newlyweds. Jim and Lanie get completely choked up when they speak, the entire table following suit, but the tears are all happy ones, the smiles all genuine.
Their one o'clock lunch ends up lasting hours, the wonderful food, drink, and conversation blurring the passage of time. They're tucked away in a private dining room and no one has anywhere to be, so they relax together, reveling in the joy of the occasion and the good company. Martha surprises them with a small wedding cake decorated simply with the same colorful daffodils and lilies that comprised her bouquet. They feed each other pieces by hand as their party starts tapping the utensils against their champagne flutes for the hundredth time that day, and for the hundredth time, they oblige their guests. They grin into the kiss, neither in any particular hurry to move away, and the tinkling silverware turns into a wolf whistle or two. Pulling apart reluctantly, they turn their smiles back to the people who flank them at the table; family, every last one of them.
People begin drifting out around six o'clock. Alexis, Martha, and Jim are the last to leave, and after they exchange long hugs and words of happiness and congratulations, the couple is finally, blissfully alone. She sits on his lap as they linger at the table for a few more minutes, her arms laced around his neck and their foreheads pressed together. The sun is dipping low in the evening sky now, casting shades of pink and orange across the sky, their room lit by the ethereal pastel glow.
The door to their private dining room is ajar, the notes of the restaurant's pianist floating through the open door. When the opening strains of I Love You For Sentimental Reasons reach them, he whispers, "May I have the pleasure of the first dance, Mrs. Castle?" She stands in response, pulling him up with her, and they wrap themselves around each other as they gently rock to the sweet melody of the old Big Band classic.
There's no singer accompanying the pianist, but it's no matter; when the notes of the finale verse begin, Castle softly half-hums, half-sings against ear I love you for sentimental reasons, I hope you do believe me, I've given you my heart. When the song finally fades out, she pulls back to see him, his eyes looking suspiciously shiny, but he's smiling oh-so-contently and it makes her heart soar, how sappy and sweet he continues to be. Obstacles and hardships will never hold down the irrepressible Richard Castle, and she can only press a long, soft kiss to his lips in gratitude for being exactly who she needs, exactly when she needs him.
They sway on the spot for a few more songs, their bodies snugly fitted together, not unlike a lock and key, her hand clasped in his between their bodies. He tilts his forehead into hers, their noses brushing, their lips painting kisses and stealing smiles. The tinkling notes of Forties standards continue to waft into the room as they move together, committing this moment to their memories, their first dance steps as husband and wife cast in the soft, sherbet colors of the sunset sky.
A/N: I'd apologize for the shameless fluff this is...that is, if I actually felt remorse for spreading around happy, cavity-inducing fluff. Besides, I think we all need a shot of warm fuzzies heading into tomorrow, am I right? As always, I hope you enjoyed reading, and if you feel the inclination, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.
Thanks to Morgan for the quick and dirty beta...this would have sat in my fic folder forever had I not just bitten the bullet and sent it off to you. You make every story I write better...thank you.