The Joy In My Heart
Her fingers are numb, tangled in his, her hair flying away, but she won't go back. They changed inside, together, out of wedding clothes and into jeans, ready to make the drive home (she's driving, she will always drive when they're in the Hamptons; he will never be in that damn car alone again).
But they never made it to the car. They're wandering the private strips of beach, curving with the coastline, deeper into someone else's property, out along the edge of the world.
His hand squeezes hers from time to time. They speak two-word sentences and keep going, out and out, explorers and conquerors both, flags planted in each other.
With the afternoon light behind them, the sea fills up with sparkling, flashing water, the roll of waves in the cold, churning and tumultuous, a fight against encroaching winter.
She tries to keep her shoes out of it, chilled to the bone but flushed and blood-fevered by the day. His mouth will find hers when she's least expecting it, and the heat blooms just under her skin and wakes her from frozen dreams.
"Happy Birthday," he says at the next swell of mouths. She moans into his lips, surprised by the sentiment. "A few early, but-"
"I'll take it." A wedding for a birthday.
"Does this mean I'm off the hook?"
"A birthday gift." A wicked smile like a streak in the sky, there and gone again, the way he flirts with her like a little boy dashing up to a girl on the playground to pull her hair or poke her.
"Not even married a day and you're trying to get out of-"
His kiss stops her words cold, takes her over, a rip tide pulling her out. She's clutching his hands in hers and stepping into him, hips bumping in a tantalizing way. All she can think about is the catch of his skin against hers and how electric it will be, it is, married.
Married to him.
He steps back, a grin and the wind tossing his hair into his eyes. She lifts her hand and finds his own brought up with their tangled fingers; they laugh. She untwines and brushes the hair back on his forehead, her thumb smoothing the skin, his temple, down to his ear.
"Kiss me again," she murmurs.
It's softer, repeated, a touch of lips and retreat, another touch, like he's taking sips of her. She wants to push him down into the sand-
She startles and jumps nearly out of his arms, water licking her heels, cold and bracing. He's laughing and trying to help her escape, tangled fingers making it awkward.
"It's freezing," she gasps, caught by his grasp, still up on her toes in the sand. She's trying to escape the water, going backwards instead of forwards, Castle tugging her the other direction, separating only to come back again, safe.
It is a blustery day. They should probably go back inside.
They keep walking, now more sedate, now settling in, paying attention to the world around them.
There is full sun scattering blue and bright across the ocean, but mist is driven by the wind into her face. She finds herself pushing her cold nose into his shoulder, half a step behind him, dancing out of the tide as it races towards her toes.
The wind snatches her hair and snakes it across her eyes; she jostles him and he catches her, draws her up the shore, chuckling with that low, throaty sound he has. Makes her stomach clench.
He's smiling. It's like the sun. And it's not corny or stupid because they wrote their vows together and it's true. It's just true: he's shelter and she's been the storm so long now.
"Thank you," she calls to him, biting her lip when his eyebrows lift. He's leading her up through the sand now, along the low dunes, past a weathered once-white break-fence. She reaches out her free hand to skim it over the tops of the sea grass growing against the fence, a different wind of wave.
"Still perfect?" he says, voice pitched at the same decibel as the ocean, the wind, so that she hears him like she hears the whole world.
"Infinitely," she answers, on her toes to kiss his jaw. The hard edge of his smile where his confidence resides. Not just hope, but faith. She's needed it; she's glad to feel it again.
"Come on, get warm." He's leading her through the dunes and up to a secluded place, a sun-soaked rise where the grass has taken purchase and created a swirled seat. He draws her down with him and she sits at his side, her arm over his thigh, tucked in at his shoulder.
His head rests on top of hers for a moment and then he noses aside her hair, kisses her cheek. "Warmer?"
"Warmer," she says. She closes her eyes and breathes in the cold light and the salt of life. "Thanks for rewriting our vows, helping me do that. I couldn't have said..."
"I know. Needed to be different. Better this way."
"Extraordinary," she sighs. The word that danced between them in the car on the way here, writing their vows this time just as they live their life - together, building theory piece by piece, leaping to the same startling, wonderful conclusions. "Perfect words for today, for our life."
"Though you ad-libbed, Mrs. Castle. Don't think I didn't notice."
"You did too," she grins, smile bursting across her face and stretching so wide. She might never stop. "'The joy in my heart.' That was - beautiful." She turns and pushes her mouth against his, soft, pressing all her adoration into it. "That was beautiful."
"It's true," he whispers. He strokes the backs of his fingers across her face. "In my - dream world. That life without you. It was pretty depressing. Bleak, things missing at every turn, everything tired. A weary life. You made things interesting again. In fact, this is funny, I was so desperate to make that connection with you, the Captain Beckett you, that I made up a whole story where we'd met before."
"Where we'd met before?"
"When you - the Captain - came to spring me out of jail, you said you'd gone to one of my Derrick Storm book signings-"
She glances at him over her shoulder, lips quirking, puts her eyes back to the horizon with a laugh. "I did go to a book signing."
"You did... what?"
"I know Sorenson told you-"
She sits up, twisting in the sand to stare back at him. "What do you mean no?"
"Sorenson didn't tell me - tell me what? What did Sorenson tell me?"
"That I was such a huge fan."
A laugh pops out, her cheeks burn, pinkened by the wind. She tilts her head. "Am. Am a huge fan." She leans in, kisses that sly, smiling mouth. "I know he told you all my embarrassing-"
"He didn't tell me, Kate. Believe me. I memorized every word he spoke about you."
She stares at him, cradling his face in one hand, throat catching.
So there is some mystery then. She closes her mouth and sits back, drawing her hand down his chest. "Well."
"Well? That's all you're going to say?"
She shrugs, bites her lip, knows it drives him crazy. She glances out over the eternal water. "Maybe your dream was a little more truth-based than we thought. So I'm a Captain without you?"
She's teasing, but he's suddenly dead serious. His whole face falls, drops just like that and she didn't mean it, she didn't mean she would-
"You know, I was thinking that as we were inside the coal plant. I was wondering, maybe her life would have been better without-"
He closes his mouth, doesn't say anything for a moment, just leveling her with a look. Honesty. Reckoning.
"I wondered," he says.
"Stop wondering," she insists. "I spent two months-"
Kate closes her mouth on it, turning her head to suck in air, sharp. Cold.
His fingers slide around her elbow, draw her back against his chest. His voice in her ear, a little raw. "I wondered. I've been wondering, couldn't sleep at night for wondering, Kate. But that experience with my shadowed life reminded me of what we've got. How good it is even when it's not good."
"It is. It's good. Joy in my heart, Kate. I needed proof, I guess, in front of my eyes. Someone to shake me."
"I could've shaken you," she grumps. She wanted to shake him many times.
"That other life made it tangible. I needed to be confident again, confident that I was good enough for you. I lost that, knowing the pain I caused, knowing but still not knowing. There's no good reason to make you hurt like that, to disappear. There will never be a good enough reason. And so I couldn't fathom you wanting to take me back."
She takes another breath, his arms constricting; she wants to be constricted by him.
"I guess I needed you to be confident," she admits. "You disappeared for two months and it felt a lot like walking away, like doubt. Even though I didn't believe it, sometimes I thought I just didn't want to believe it."
"I know. But your hesitation fed mine. Or mine fed yours. We were trapped. Thank goodness for a blow to the head."
He smiles against her cheek. "And an Incan artifact with mystical powers."
"So you say," she smiles back. "Only powers I need are right here. Power of love, babe."
"As corny as that is." His hand finds her hip, turns her to face him, trails up to stroke her cheek. His kiss is soft, like apology and starting over, like forgiveness. "Love. 'It is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests, and is never shaken.'"
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116