and always remember

This is a request from my lovely friend Maribea. I've mirrored it to Forever and Always by Parachute as she wished and it takes place sometime between Clear and Present Danger and The Time of Our Lives. This is my hastily-written contribution to Castle Fanfic Monday.

The call comes at 6:47 and suddenly it's January 9th with Raglan at their door and she can't breathe.

Your fiancé's been in an accident.

Much like that night, her heart becomes a stagnant lump in her chest for several moments, her hands begin to shake, her vision whirls and blurs. And much like that night, the last words she remembered saying to him were "See you tonight."

The irony-no, Kate, coincidence-is almost laughable.

She arrives at the hospital at probably illegal speeds, but this time, not even the authoritative flash of her badge can do her any good. You're not family.

He's not. You are. September.

"We're engaged, getting married soon enough. If he hadn't been kidnapped on the way to our wedding, we would already be married-" She cuts herself off, realizes she's babbling like a loon and that although his words did her so much good, hers can't do the same.

"I'm sorry," the receptionist says, averting her eyes.

"Don't be." Because I'm the one who's sorry. I'm so sorry, Castle, that you're in there alone.

She sits in the stiff waiting room chair for close to two hours, watching the stoic clock tick away the seconds she's apart from him. With each tiny click of the thinnest hand, she twiddles the ring on the fourth finger of her left hand.

I really thought we were gonna make it.

Hey, whatever happens…

Finally, the double-doors swing open and a somber doctor calls for the family of Richard Castle. Alexis and Martha are on their way back from a retreat. It's just her.

"How is he?" She can't even conceal the tremor in her voice.

"You should see him now."

And she's right back in that alley, their Christmas decorations still up.

He still looks like him, underneath the tubes and wires and scars that mar her steadfast soldier. She sits near his head, running her index finger along the uninjured parts of his forehead, brushing against his unkempt hair.

Her touch rouses him and she's so thankful for this, for this tiny miracle.

"Hey," he breathes, his eyes shining as he takes her in. "You should see the other car."

just to see a smile on your face…

"I'm sure you kicked its ass," she sighs, her tears already rolling down her face. She reaches out and touches his forearm, as if somehow her strength could leak into his failing body.

"Hey, none of that," her beautiful partner murmurs, stroking her cheek with what must be the majority of his strength.

"I'm sorry, baby." For this. For every time I've failed you. For every time I haven't been enough.

"For what? I'm the idiot who got in a wreck before we could even get married." He chuckles, but his laugh is cut short by a hacking cough. "I just wish I could've promised you forever this time."

And then she has an idea. With a quick brush of her lips against his forehead, she dashes out the door and straight for the hospital chaplain.

"Please. Give him this. Give us this," she begs him when she explains her plan. The holy man obliges and in moments they're at his bedside, along with a pair of wedding bands they'd borrowed from a couple in the other room.

"What's all this?" her plucky sidekick asks, his energy clearly waning somewhat. But she can't think about it, won't let herself be pulled into the darkness yet. Not until she can give him this.

"It's our wedding, babe," she smiles, pouring all the love she has for him into the solitary glance. His face breaks open despite his agony, as if he's never wanted anything more.

"All right, whenever you're ready," their officiant prompts. It can't be a real wedding, they don't have their new license, but from the look Castle is giving her it's the realest one he's ever had.

"You first," he prompts his fiancée, kissing her fingers.

"Um…the moment I met you, my life became extraordinary. You taught me to be myself, to look forward to tomorrow's adventures. And when I was vulnerable, you were strong. I love you, Richard Castle, and I wanna live my life in the warmth of your smile and the strength of your embrace. I promise you I will love you. I will be your friend, and your partner and crime and in life, always." With shaking hands, she slides the ring on his fourth finger, but the bandages prevent it from reaching the base.

And then it is his turn.

"I know there's…..a good chance I can't keep all these promises, but these are the words I wanted to say…The moment we met, my life became extraordinary. You taught me more about myself than I knew there was to learn. You are the joy in my heart. You're the last person I want to see every night when I close my eyes. I love you, Katherine Beckett, and the mystery of you is the one I wanna spend the rest of my life exploring. I promise to love you, to be your friend, and your partner in crime and life. Til death do us part, and for the time of your lives." And with the chaplain's help, he places the ring on her finger.

"In all senses but the legal one, I now pronounce you husband and wife," the man announces. She leans in and gently covers his lips with hers.

"I love you forever and always," she breathes as she lifts away from his paling body.

"I love you…forever and always," he echoes, brushing a tear off her cheek. "Please, remember that. Even if I'm not here with you…I'll love you."

"I'll never stop," she promises, kissing his hand over and over, leaving every trace of her love for him on his skin.

"Find that possibility for joy, even when it's the worst day," he urges her, his heart monitor slowing. "Find a reason to smile."

"I will. For you, I will." She squeezes his wrist. "I love you so much."

"Always."

That Christmas, she unboxes their decorations. And he is there.

Maybe it's not like last time after all.

A/N: It's up to you if he's there in body or in spirit ;)