Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I watch the show.

We'll be close as pages in a book
My love and I.
—Dorothy Fields

A/N At the request of several readers: the kitchen clock has been killed. There will be no homicide charge.

Castle remembers June 20, 2011 as if it were yesterday, except that it's 365 yesterdays. Correction, 366, since this is a leap year.

The doorman handed it to him that day, when he came home from lunch with his agent. It was an ordinary box, a bland white Priority Mail box with red and blue lettering and a nick in the corrugated cardboard just below the postage stamp. He was in the elevator, tapping the box against his hip, when he saw the familiar handwriting in the upper left-hand corner, and his knees buckled. He slid right down to the floor, and when the doors opened he crawled out. He staggered through the loft to his office and put the box, the one that had looked so harmless just a moment ago, on the corner of his desk. It was toxic. Whatever it was, it would poison him. Still, he had to open it. After all, what could she have put in there that would hurt him any more than he already had been? He needed help to do it, though, distilled help: three ounces of Macallan.

He can still feel the tug of the zip tab on the box. He yanked it, hard, and a blue envelope fell out. He picked it up and decided to sit in his chair to open it, and he's glad he did. Saved himself another trip to the floor. He read the letter, read it again to make sure that he understood it, and then took the little package from the box. The mundane box that held a notebook wrapped in blue tissue paper, tied with a white ribbon. The no-frills box that changed his life. He read the letter twice, but he read the notebook three times. Well, three times that day, but at least a hundred since then. A couple of times a week, even though he has it memorized.

After his third reading, he got in the car and drove to Beckett. When he woke up the next morning with her nestled against him, asleep but still holding his hand, he realized that it was the first day of summer. He was going to spend all 1,440 minutes of the longest day of the year with Kate. He cooked; read aloud to her; changed a ceiling light bulb, which he freely admitted was the outer limit of his handyman skills; waded in the lake with her, and dug a hole and buried what she called the stupid fucking kitchen clock. After the third day she made him go home to see his daughter. But he came back the next week and the next and the next, commuting until she was strong enough to return to the city for good, strong enough to go back to her job, strong enough to share a bed with him and do more than whisper that she loved him. Much as he loved hearing it, he also loved being able to act on it. He has never had sex like this in his life, but he's never loved anyone like this, either.

On Valentine's Day she moved in with him, but it's today, June 20, 2012, that he wants to mark in a special and memorable way. A small but important way, small because that's what Kate would like. A year ago today he got the book that she had written for him, and today is the summer solstice, just as it had been the first time he woke up next to her in bed. He's not spending all 1,440 minutes of it with her—she's at the precinct and he begged off on the pretext of having to work on the edits of his latest Nikki Heat novel—because he has to attend to the final details of the evening. Kate doesn't usually like surprises, but he thinks that she'll like this one.

One day last summer while she was taking a nap, he listened to the songs that she had downloaded on her iPod and played while she was writing her book. He did it because he wanted to put himself in her head, but he also tucked the list away in a mental file folder that he could consult later. Later came about a month ago, when he hatched his plan for June 20. This morning he had gone to collect the present that he's had made for her, as well twenty-six roses. He's cooking an extravagant dinner for the two of them, but the present is the centerpiece, both figuratively and literally: the roses will be grouped around it.

Having finished the initial food prep and set the table, Castle goes to his desk to write a note. It's stationery that he had sneaked out of the desk at the cabin, the same paper she had used for her note to him. He's forcing himself to keep it short, as she had.

"Dear Kate,

A year ago today, I got your book. It was the most profound apology that I've ever received, as well as the most romantic. And best-written.

I love that you wrote while you listened to some of your mother's favorite songs. I feel as if it's my bridge to her, to the two of you. I have to make a confession: last year I briefly absconded with your iPod so that I could have the aural background of your book. I was so blown away by Barbara Cook singing "Make the Man Love Me" that I looked up that CD and found that everything on it has lyrics by Dorothy Fields. I didn't know anything about her, but I do now. She worked with an incredible range of composers from the 1920s to the 1970s. She won a Tony and an Oscar. She flourished in a male-dominated world. Just like your mother. Just like you.

Every couple should have a song, and I think I found ours, on that CD. "Close as Pages in a Book."

We'll be close as pages in a book
My love and I.
So close, we can share a single look,
Share every sigh.
So close that before I hear your laugh
My laugh breaks through.

It was written in 1944, but that's us, isn't it?

I love your book, the one you wrote for me. I love you.

Castle"

He folds the paper in half, puts it in the envelope and tucks it under the white ribbon that's tied around her present. It's wrapped in blue tissue paper, and it's now in the middle of the dining room table, surrounded by twenty-six bud vases, each holding a white rose.

He had told her this morning that he was making dinner, and asked her to text him when she was on her way home. He hears from her a little after six, and half an hour later she walks through the door straight to the kitchen.

"Castle?" she asks, slipping her arms around his waist and trying to look in the pots on the stove. "What are you making? It smells fantastic."

"It's a surprise."

"What have I told you about surprises?"

"Okay, there's a spinach salad, corn cakes with mushrooms and hanger steak with Swiss chard and roast fingerling potatoes. Satisfied?" He turns his head and kisses her under the ear.

"Yes. I thought you'd just make pasta. This is really something."

"Yeah, well, surprise. And the wine's open, on the table, if you'd pour us some."

It's only a few seconds later that he hears the sharp intake of breath. "Castle!"

He takes the few steps to the table and says innocently, "Yes?"

She's looking flummoxed, flushed and flummoxed. "What is all this?"

"All this? It's dinner."

"I see that, but it's beautiful. But what's the occasion? Is this some Castle family ritual I don't know about? Except I see it's for just the two of us."

"You don't know? You didn't suspect?" He looks as if he's about to combust, happily combust, but combust.

"No." She's feeling a little embarrassed.

"Count the flowers, Beckett," he says, pointing to the roses.

She mutters a bit and then pronounces, "Twenty-six."

"What's the date today?"

"June twentieth."

"Right, the twentieth day of the sixth month, so twenty-six roses." She's looking confused, so he put his hand in the small of her back and guides her to her chair. "Please have a seat. I'll be right back."

Returning with two plates filled with a perfect spinach salad, he places one in front of her and the other at his setting, opposite her. "Dig in," he says cheerfully.

Beckett's expression has downgraded to hang-dog. "Castle, please tell me. I feel so guilty, like I've forgotten something."

He jumps from his chair. "No, Beckett, no. Oh, God, you're going to cry. Please don't cry, please."

So of course she does, and he wraps his arms around her as tightly as he can, as tightly as he had wanted to that first night last summer. "Shh, Kate, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, This was meant to be special. I'll tell you, okay?"

She sniffles. "Okay."

He goes back to his chair but draws it next to hers. "On June twentieth, 2011, exactly a year ago today, I came home and the doorman handed me a box that had come in the mail that morning. It was your book, the book you wrote me. The book that's the reason we're sitting here together like this, instead of in two separate apartments, being miserable." He puts his hand on her cheek. "Of course, a minute ago you looked pretty miserable, but you don't any more."

She gives him a watery smile. "I'm not. I'm happy. I'm so happy, Castle."

He squeezes her hand. "I was going to wait until we finished dinner to give you your present, but I don't want to wait any longer."

"You got me a present?" She looks dumbfounded.

"Yeah, I did." He reaches for the small box in the center of the table and hands it to her. "There's a note, Beckett. You should read that first."

He watches her face as she reads, tracks the movements of her eyes, the muscles at the edges of her lips.

She beams at him, and pulls his arm to her. "Close as pages in a book, huh?"

"That's us, Beckett."

"That's us, Castle. Do I get to unwrap my present now?"

"Please do." He doesn't think she notices that the paper is the same that she used a year ago. It doesn't matter. She has untied the ribbon and has the paper halfway off when she gasps.

"This is the box from the post office. The one I used." She has his hand in a death grip now. "You saved it? I can't believe it." She upends the box so that she can get at the package inside; it's also wrapped in blue tissue paper and bound in a white ribbon. She removes them both with one hand, since she's still hanging on to him with other, and then, "Oh," she says. "Oh. Oh." She runs her fingertips over the smooth, dark purple full-grain leather, again and again. It's a notebook. It's her book. The one she wrote for him.

"I had it bound for you, Kate," Castle says, unnecessarily. "I was afraid it was going to fall apart because I've read it so often." And suddenly she's in his lap, and she's kissing him, and she's crying all over again.

"Castle," she says, using her napkin to wipe her eyes. "This is the greatest present ever."

"It's for both of us, Kate," he says, and gives her a promise of a kiss. "It took us a while, didn't it? But we made two lovers of friends."

A/N I'm going to miss writing this story. Thank you so much for reading along, and for all your kind words.