Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I watch the show.
He knew there was a reason that he'd saved them; he just had to find them. Wait. Ah. Yes! Okay, so he had to make a trip to the storage unit in the basement of the building, how long could it take?
Two hours, that's how long. Still, totally worth it. He'd gone through seven enormous boxes of Christmas decorations before he'd found them: two pairs of cheap plastic glasses–one pink, one blue–that had the large spangled numerals 2011 along the top. He and Alexis had worn them on New Year's Eve, just the two of them watching TV, seeing the ball drop at midnight. She'd had her tonsils out four days before, and couldn't do much, but they wore their glasses and spun noisemakers and tossed confetti that they'd made by tearing an entire roll of aluminum foil into tiny pieces. He'd let her have a small glass of champagne and they wished each other happy 2011.
Baby new year is probably an adolescent by now. lt's early March, and Castle has to get the glasses to a guy he knows by tomorrow or it will be too late. It's a long drive there, which means he won't be going into the precinct today. He hadn't told Beckett, because he hadn't been sure of finding the glasses–and finding them intact. He wraps them in bubble wrap and nestles them in a heavy canvas bag that he'll put on the front seat next to him. But before he leaves, he has a text to send. He takes the phone from his parka pocket and types.
"Can't come in today. Sorry. I know you hate having to scrounge up your own coffee."
He's in the elevator when he hears the ping of her incoming text.
"I managed to caffeinate myself for years without you, Castle. Think I'm still equal to the task."
He smiles. "Okay, then. Have a good weekend. See you Monday. Maybe I won't even bring coffee, since you're still equal to the task."
Her reply arrives as he's unlocking the car door.
"Stop bringing coffee and I'll shoot you. And why aren't you coming in? Good interrogation later. I can feel it in my bones. Your loss."
She can feel it in her bones? What he feels in his bones is her. She's in his bones, his marrow and muscle, in every vital organ. Under his skin and over it. Everything. He's been in love with her since last fall, in love with her in a consuming way that he didn't think existed outside of sonnets. He shakes his head and buckles his seat belt.
"Gotta go to the eye doctor."
The phone is in the cradle and he's just turned on the car when the screen lights up again.
"Getting old, Castle? Need reading glasses, Gramps?"
"Twenty-twenty, I'll have you know. Some weird allergy is making my eyes itch. See you Monday, assuming I can see." It's a lie, but a lie in good conscience. He puts the car in reverse, and backs out.
Four hours later, he's sitting in the workshop of a shingled house in the Green Mountains of Vermont. His friend Greg is turning the 2011 glasses over in his hand. "So, can you do it?"
"Yeah, I can do, it Rick. It's a little tricky, though, because these are just crappy plastic. I'm afraid of cracking them."
Castle sniffs dramatically. "Hey, those set me back twenty dollars."
"Twenty bucks? Each?"
"No, for the two pairs."
"Still highway robbery."
"Times Square robbery, on December thirtieth. Price probably went up the next day."
"Price probably went down the day after that."
Both men laugh. They're easy in each other's company after a dozen years of friendship. They'd met when Castle was doing research for a book that he'd never finished, but they'd hit it off. Greg is an expert in everything ocular–telescopes, glasses, prisms, binoculars, miniature lenses that masquerade as earrings. His clients range from Secret Ops to nongovernment people who also operate in secret. "Bet you never had a request like this before."
"You're right. Give me an hour, okay?"
"Okay. Can I take the dog out for a walk?"
"Sure. He'll be your friend for life."
"He already is."
Grabbing the leash from the hook by the back door, Castle whistles for Ben Franklin, the 80-pound shaggy-coated mutt whom Greg had found abandoned by the road side, brought home, and named for the inventor of bifocals. Ben Franklin's whole body wags as he waits for Castle. They spend the next hour out in the snow, and when they come in both need to dry off with towels that Greg always has stacked just inside the door.
"You done?" Castle asks, his hair spiky.
"Done," Greg says, holding up the pink pair of glasses. "This exquisite eyewear is now equipped with top-of-the-line, special-purpose solar filters."
"You're a miracle worker."
"What do I owe you?"
"Nothing. No, an invitation."
"Invitation? Oh. That. Definitely. You'll be at the top of the list."
Greg walks him to the car and Castle takes a sturdy wooden box from the back. "Two bottles of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. 2007. Good year."
"You can. Thanks again. This means a lot."
"You're a weird guy, Rick."
"That's why you like me."
"That and your wine."
He's so excited and happy and apprehensive and certain that he smiles all the way home, even when he's stuck behind a tractor-trailer for 30 miles. Everything is ready for tomorrow. Unless it snows.
It doesn't snow. It's bitterly cold–all the better for snuggling he thinks, hopefully–but the sky is bright and clear when he gets up. After showering and shaving, he makes an enormous pot of coffee and pours it into two quart-size thermoses. He'd told Alexis last night that he'll be out all day, but so will she–a friend is having a skating party for her birthday, and a sleepover afterwards–so he scribbles her a note instructing her to have fun but not to break anything. On the way out he grabs his oversized sleeping bag from the hall closet. He'd never been a Boy Scout, but he likes to be prepared. When he reaches his car, he stows it, a duffel bag, and two oversized totes on the back seat.
Kate Beckett has rituals. He's learned about them over time, by chance, but he's made a mental note of each of them, just as he makes a mental note of everything else about her. Mental notes that he transfers to a computer file marked TAB: Things About Beckett. She likes cashmere socks and Dentyne gum. She claims not to be sentimental, but she still has her first library card and her pink diary from fifth grade. She loves anagrams and collects "A guy walked into a bar" jokes. One of her rituals is that she goes for a run at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, regardless of the weather or how late she got home on Friday night, which is why he is parked in front of her building at 7:50 on a Saturday morning. Not just any Saturday morning, a magical Saturday morning. Heavenly morning. Truly.
Because it's 12 degrees Fahrenheit he waits until 7:58 before he gets out of the car. He sees her before she sees him, at 8:00 on the dot.
"Hey, Beckett," he says as nonchalantly as possible, which isn't very.
"Castle?" She almost trips over her feet.
He steals a look. Those are not cashmere socks inside her running shoes. Good that he has some in the bag that he'd packed.
"Yup. Me. Can I offer you a lift?"
"A lift? I'm going for a run."
"Well, you can run when I take you where we're going. Much nicer place for a run, anyway. Easier on the knees than the New York City pavement."
She should be pissed off. He's blocking her way. She always runs on Saturday morning, dammit. But he's standing there in his blue parka with his blue eyes and his red cheeks and a smile that would melt the ice on the Hudson, but he's smiling at her, not the river, so it's her heart that's melting, not the ice. "Kidnapping is a Federal offense, you know."
"But if you come willingly—and you should because I have half a gallon of your favorite coffee, which I think is enough even for you–it's not a crime. And I have those little whatchamacallits that you like, too. From the patisserie."
Her heart is racing as if she'd run 10 miles, and all she's done so far is get dressed and come downstairs. And look at Castle, who brought her coffee and her favorite whatchamacallits. "Palmiers? You brought me a palmier?"
I came prepared, he thinks, un-Boy Scout that he is. It is not insignificant to him that those buttery, flaky cookies are heart-shaped. "Yeah. A dozen, actually, not one."
"We have a long ride. Well, not that long, but two hours plus. We could be hungry." He stops for an instant. "Uh, I don't know about you, but I'm getting cold out here in the mean streets. Shall we get in the car?"
No resistance? At all? That's an excellent sign. Beyond excellent. He opens the door on the passenger side; she slides in.
He's turning to get one of bags from behind them when she says, "Ooh, Castle, heated seats?"
"Since I'm agreeing to this, and preventing you from being arrested, I think you owe me an explanation." She pulls off her gloves. "At least tell me where we're going."
"Hudson," he answers, as he uncaps the thermos and pours coffee into two thermal mugs.
"River? I could have run there. It's only a few blocks away."
"No, town, but on the river of the same name. About a hundred and twenty-five miles north of here."
"I know where it is," she says over the rim of her cup. "Oh, God, this is good. But why are we going?"
"I'll explain when we get there. Would you like a palm whatever?"
"-ier. Palmier. And yes, I would, thank you." She hasn't a clue what this is all about. Generally she hates surprises, but he looks so happy, and sitting a few inches away from him with no one else around makes her so happy. He might persuade her about the greatness of surprises after all. For the next two and a half hours they chat companionably about everything and nothing. She's very much aware that the heat inside the car is coming not just from under the soft leather seats.
When they arrive in Hudson Castle stops at a gas station to top off the tank and they both take a bathroom break.
"Ready?" he asks when they're back in the car.
"For why we're here."
"Lay it on me, Castle."
"Why, Detective, your words!" He couldn't help himself. "You do know what today is, right?"
"Geez, just tell me."
"Total eclipse of the sun."
"Yes, I do know that. So do the people in the thousands of cars who've been on the road with us. I think they're all heading to the riverbank to watch. Is that what we're here for?"
She swats him lightly on the forearm. She should be irritated, but the way he's looking at her makes her want to get on his lap right here. The hell with anyone who could see them. "Please, please. Fill me in. Or I will get out of the car and run a hundred and twenty-miles home."
"Knowing you, that's not an idle threat. Okay. I have friends who have a house here, above the river. They're out of the country, but I emailed them a couple of days ago and asked if we could watch from their deck, which has a perfect, unobstructed view of the water. They couldn't get keys to me in time, but we have free rein on the deck. And no one else will be there, elbowing us out of the way. That sound all right to you?"
"Yes. Oh, yes. Sounds perfect."
He notices that her hands are trembling a little. He wants to take one inside his, but he can't. Not yet. He has a plan and he doesn't want to blow it.
They set up camp, or something like it, on the deck. Fortunately there are some all-weather chairs and a table for them to use, and he sets out a picnic while she claps her hands against her thighs. "You must be freezing, Beckett. You're dressed in running gear."
"Yeah, well, didn't know I'd be sitting outside for hours, did I?"
"But I did." He passes her the duffel bag.
"Open it and see."
She unzips it and starts poking around inside. A down jacket. Microfiber windbreaker pants that can go over her leggings. A pair of cashmere socks. A wooly hat and mittens. A scarf. She's so touched that she has to work hard to hold back the tears. "Wow. Thanks, Castle. I'll wash the socks before I return them, I promise."
They're hers? He bought all this? "But."
"Hey, this is a full-service expedition. I can't have you dying of exposure during the first total eclipse here in a century."
She sits down to put everything on, not sure that her shaky knees will support her at the moment. He is discreetly looking the other way, as if she had to strip and he wanted to give her her privacy. Stripping doesn't seem like a bad idea, all of a sudden. She watches his profile and puts on the fluffy jacket. It's so strong, his jaw. And brow and nose. How did he get that little scar? It's incredibly sexy. If this were the nineteenth century rather then the twenty-first he might have gotten in a duel. She reties her running shoes. "All done."
He's glad that he chose the purple jacket. He knows it's her favorite color and wonders why she doesn't wear it more often. "That's a great color on you," he risks saying.
"You don't think I look like a big, fat grape?"
"Nooo. No. But speaking of grape, would you like one?" He passes her a small bunch that he's arranged on a plate with some cheese and crackers. "We should probably eat these before they crystallize. It's even colder here than in the city."
He's feeling more nervous and less sure of himself when she suddenly says, "I wish we had some of those eclipse glasses."
Ah, there's his opening. He takes two bubble-wrapped bundles from one of the bags and slowly uncovers them. He hands he the pink pair of 2011 glasses and puts on the blue pair. "What do you think?"
She's gaping, something he's almost never seen. "Where on Earth did you get these?"
"I had them made."
She's speechless, and waits for him so speak.
"I bought them for Alexis and me for New Year's Eve but with ordinary plastic lenses. I have a friend who's an optical specialist and he upgraded them for me yesterday."
"Wow." She feels like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon, as if her heart is inflating and will make her float above him.
The sky is darkening now. He knows precisely how much time he has: two minutes and forty seconds. Less than three minutes to tell her what she means to him. "Beckett?" He clears his throat. "Kate?" The moon is taking a bigger and bigger bite of the sun. He needs this darkness to give him the courage. It's much easier to speak in the the dark. He wraps his left hand over hers, and uses his right to pull her gently to his side. "We almost." His throat is clogging. He starts again. "We almost died last week. We were a split second away from being killed by that bomb."
"I know," she whispers. Shouldn't she be nervous? She's tight against his side, and it feels like home.
"And in the storage container before that. It was so cold in there. I don't want to be that cold ever again."
"Me, either," she says, her voice still a whisper. She can't make it any louder.
"Here's the most important thing. I don't want to die without telling you something. I'm in love with you, Kate. I've been in love with you for months and months. Totally in love with you, and I just want you to know that. If it makes you want to jump up and run away, I understand. And you wouldn't have to run all the way home. I'd give you a ride, no hard feelings." He feels her head against his cheek.
"I won't run away, Castle." She moves closer to him. "The only running I'm going to do is straight into you."
And now there's total darkness, as the sun is blocked. "Yes. Yes. Yes. Because I love you, too." Her mittened hand cups his ear and the edge of his jaw, and she pulls his face to hers. Pulls his face to hers and kisses him so deeply that even his writer's imagination is overcome.
"Are you cold, Kate?" he asks, when his breath returns.
"After what I just did you think I'm cold?" She looks horrified.
"No. No. Not what I meant. But you know what's right next to us, under the table? My two-person sleeping bag."
"You brought a sleeping bag?"
He shrugs. "I was hoping it would be good for, you know, cuddling."
This time she does move onto his lap. "Unzip that, Castle," she says, "and I'll unzip this." Her fingers are already undoing his pants, and just in time since they've been feeling very restrictive for the last 20 minutes.
"So you're not averse to cuddling?" he murmurs, unzipping and unrolling the sleeping bag with one hand.
"I'm not. But I'm hoping for other things, too. X-rated things."
"Me, too." He jumps as her hand reaches inside his boxers. "X is my favorite letter."
A/N I got the idea for this bit of fluff yesterday as I was deciding where to stand along the Hudson River to watch the solar eclipse that will cover so much of the USA today.