*As usual, typos and mistakes are all mine. It's 12:30 and thus, this isn't beta'ed.
December 31, 2010
He didn't just bring flowers.
The first one came at an ungodly hour. It must have, because it was there when Kate pulled open her door to leave for the precinct. She was scheduled for a half day both because she needed something to do and because she'd had to do some serious dealing and finangling to get out of the New Years Eve shift. She'd almost resorted to calling Rick to tell him she was working, just because she knew he'd turn around and call the mayor. But that would have been underhanded. The fact that she'd worked too many other NYE shifts had ended up working in her favour.
The first bright red tulip showed up on top of her morning paper delivery. She didn't have to think or consider who had sent it; she just shook her head with a laugh. Because she thought it was sweet. Two red chrysanthemums sat in an innocent and simple glass vase on her desk when she arrived at the precinct and she couldn't stop herself from sliding the tulip in with them.
And they kept coming.
When she went down to get lab results from Lanie, the ME's eyes had been sparkling as she handed over a red orchid.
"Girl, how your man knew you'd be comin' down here today is beyond me," Lanie had said when Kate had looked at her speculatively. Still, Lanie had reached out to wrap her hand over her best friend's on the flower stem. "This is a good thing?"
Kate's smile was shy but true. She didn't correct Lanie's use of the possessive. "Yeah. It's a really good thing."
Lanie's smile might have been brighter than Kate had ever seen. "I'm happy for you. Really happy for you."
By lunchtime, Kate had collected a red begonia, two red geraniums, and a red canna lily.
"Good God, he's creating a bouquet."
Kate blushed the same colour as the flowers at Lanie's exclamation. She looked up at her best friend in slight embarrassment. "They've been showing up all morning."
"All morning?" Lanie asked, leaning her hip against Kate's desk.
"The tulip was on top of my paper this morning."
"I think he's trying to tell you something."
Kate couldn't stop herself from reaching out to brush her fingers over the tulip. "He doesn't have to. I already know."
"That he loves you?"
The detective blew out a breath. "He really does, doesn't he?" She laughed slightly. Nervously. "God, Lanie. He's in love with me."
"Glad to hear you actually admitting it," Lanie replied frankly. There was obvious insecurity written all over her best friend's face, but there was something else there too. An anticipation, a thrill, excitement at what was lying ahead of her. Lanie felt a wave of affection race through her, both for the woman in front of her and the man who had swept her off her feet. And Lanie knew the latter was not an easy task. "He told you?"
"No," Kate answered, shaking her head. "I figured it out. He… played it off. But he really does."
"And you don't get it."
"Am I stupid?" Kate asked, looking up at the ME. "For believing it couldn't be me?"
"You're entitled to your insecurities, Girl," Lanie replied. She knew better than to tell her that yes, yes she was. It wasn't about setting Kate off, but more about the fact that Lanie knew how deeply private Kate was, how guarded. "But do you believe that he truly thinks you're the greatest thing in his life?"
Kate winced. "I want to," she admitted finally. "I really want to. But I'm just a cop. He's dated… better women."
"Uh huh. And what makes them better? The fact that they don't have a brain? The fact that they let him control the relationship? The fact that they adore him so much for the fact that he's the Richard Castle?" Lanie reached out to grasp Kate's hand that was still toying with the tulip petal. "He likes you because you treat him like a man. You don't treat him like a celebrity and he can trust that when you tell him this is what you want that you truly want him. That's a big deal, Kate."
Lanie boosted herself up so she sat on the desk, looking down at her best friend. "Look, he comes here because he's in love with you, yes, but he comes here because we see him as human. We see him as just another guy who sometimes does stupid things, but he contributes. You like that he helps your brain make crazy leaps. You don't have to explain every step of your thought process because he's right there beside you every step of the way. The NYPD doesn't treat him as this famous author. We don't grant him privileges because the mayor's in love with him. He's earned the reputation he has here. He's earned the friendship and trust he gets."
And Kate knew she'd come full circle. 'Real' was an idea that they struggled with every day. It wasn't a surprise that Meredith wasn't real. Hell, Kate had met the woman, and the superficiality and superior attitude had rubbed her the wrong way immediately, even though the 'actress' had managed to make the connection they couldn't. And Gina… Well, Kate had never met her, but from what she'd been able to glean about Rick's publisher the relationship itself had been a sham.
But Kate had met Alexis. She'd met Martha. And she counted both of them as friends.
"You've already made your decision."
Lanie's voice startled her. Kate blinked. "Yeah."
"Have you told him?"
"No," the detective answered. "He owes me one more date." The blush spread across her cheeks, this time out of excitement and anticipation instead of embarrassment. "There's a gala tonight."
"I'll be over at six."
"It's okay," Kate replied. "The dress came yesterday."
"He bought you a dress? Is it gorgeous?"
Kate shot Lanie a look. "This is Rick Castle. Of course it's gorgeous."
"I'm still coming over," Lanie insisted.
"No, you're not," Kate replied. "I'm perfectly capable of doing my own hair and makeup."
Lanie eyed her critically. "Put your hair up," she ordered. "Curls. Dark eyes. He loves your eyes."
"Lanie!" Kate exclaimed with a laugh. "I've gone on dates without your help!"
"Uh huh. And look how they turned out," the ME responded, a smile softening her words.
Kate squeezed Lanie's hand. "I'll be fine. And someone's bound to take a picture at the gala. The dress will be all over the press tomorrow."
"And you're okay with that?"
Kate had given it some thought. Was she okay with the exposure she could get? Was she okay with the rumours, the tabloids, the hounding? Well, yes. Because Rick Castle the Playboy was nothing like the real Rick that played laser tag with his daughter. He was nothing like the man who held her when she'd had no choice but to shoot her mother's killer. He was nothing like the man who'd been so happily content to sprawl out on a blanket on his bloody living room floor instead of going to a five-star restaurant.
"He's not real in front of his fans," the detective informed her friend quietly. "And I'm more than okay with that."
"Yeah," Lanie said, a wide grin blossoming over her face. She could see the decision, the contentment lurking in Kate's eyes. "Yeah you are."
Rick found himself wiping his hand on his pant leg. Despite the fact that Kate had eluded to her decision on the phone, he was still nervous. It still felt like his last chance to show her they were good together.
Of course, in some ways it was. In some ways, the last six days had been a whirlwind courtship and it felt like they were down to their last obstacle. These kinds of formal events were a part of his life and they would be part of hers when she finally told him a relationship was what she wanted. Well, assuming tonight went off without a hitch.
And that was why he was so nervous. He couldn't help thinking that there was still the potential that she could change her mind. Each step in his plans for the night had to be perfect. Or, at least, that's how he felt. He reached out and finally knocked on the door.
She pulled it open and he found his breath catching in his chest.
The sheath was royal blue. He'd seen it and thought of her, choosing satin instead of the silk he'd wanted to. It was a careful, deliberate decision on his part to leave her believing he could have chosen a more expensive dress while he could admire the way the satin shimmered on her body. The strapless, sweetheart neckline exposed her shoulders and she'd chosen to put up her hair. It drew attention to her shoulders, her collarbones and the diamond-and-white-gold snowflake he'd given her on the twenty-fifth.
He reached out for her hand, noticing the tennis bracelet on her wrist. "Where is this from?"
She blushed. "It was Mom's," she said quietly, finding that, like at Christmas, mentioning her mother didn't hurt as much with him standing right there. "I stole some of her jewelry after she died."
"You look absolutely enchanting," he replied softly, lifting her hand to kiss her wrist.
He'd actually forgotten the dozen roses were in his hand. "I do believe I'm just following orders."
She took the bouquet with a shy, girlish smile. "You've been 'following orders' all day. You're lucky red matches my apartment." She stepped back and he followed, spotting the large vase on her coffee table. It was full vase now, the rest of the red flowers having arrived over the course of the afternoon and he couldn't stop himself from grinning at the obvious way they were displayed.
Kate smiled when she turned back from filling another vase to see him staring at the flowers. "How did you even do it?"
Rick grinned at her over his shoulder. "That's my secret."
She was blushing, a very fetching pink, if he did say so himself, and he couldn't help the warmth in his stomach. She liked them. She spent so much time being the tough cop, that this delicate side of her still felt new. "Ready to go?"
"Yeah," she replied, clicking across the hardwood floor as she headed for the door. She grabbed her coat out of the closet and jumped when she turned and Rick was right there.
Her head tilted automatically as he took the coat from her fingers, looping his arms around her like he was just going to drape the coat over her shoulders. He changed his mind when he heard her breath catch. Instead, he used his position to pull her closer, to press his mouth softly against hers. It wasn't slow or deep, just a soft hello.
Kate's lips curved up against his. "Hi."
"Hi," he murmured back. "I think I'm already used to that."
She chuckled, a weight lifting off her chest. Here they were, going out on a date that they both knew was more than just a date. It was The Date. The stakes were high. Yet, they were still them, still comfortable despite the nerves.
She slid her arm into her coat as he held it, then did the same with the other. He tugged the edges together before kissing her again.
"We need to go," she murmured. "The sooner we leave, the sooner you get your answer."
"By all means." But he made no move to release her. Instead, he pulled her closer, into his arms and his embrace. She rested her forehead against his shoulder, her hands clenching in his coat at his back. It felt good to just stand there with him, stopping to take a moment.
"I'm glad you agreed to this," Rick said as they finally stepped apart. The exited the apartment and Rick waited for Kate to lock up. She offered her hand and he grinned as he took it.
There was a limo – she hadn't expected anything less – and a comfortable silence as they drove. Kate felt her nerves humming again and her body started to tense against her will.
"You okay?" he asked softly, pressing his mouth against her hair.
"Yeah," she replied. "Just… I can't turn off the nerves."
Rick slipped his fingers under her chin, tilting her face up to his. "About us?"
She shook her head. That much was true. She was confident about her decision, knew that despite the myriad and plethora of risks, it was the right one. But there was nothing that could make her feel any more comfortable about how much her life was about to change and the potential upheaval a relationship with him would cause.
Of course, he was an author. He didn't have to be on the front page, and she knew and understood that. He made that choice. His publicity team made that choice. She still had questions as to whether he'd change that with her, considering how private she was, but it was a part of him. The same way the threat of death followed her around every time she put on that badge and gun. So she was ready to accept it and deal with it in the most graceful way she knew how.
But that didn't mean she had to like it.
She blinked, coming back to herself.
"Is this a make or break moment?"
God, he looked terrified. Much like her realization of how deep his feelings went, the accompanying discovery that she had the potential to shatter this man was one that was surreal.
"No," she admitted. "The press is a part of you, of your Richard Castle persona. It's different than the person I know."
"Will be stoic and dignified and will do my best not to embarrass you."
"That's just it," Rick murmured. "I'm likely to embarrass you."
"Good thing we're both in the same boat then, hey?" She rested her forehead against his. "It's just a little red carpet."
"This is insane," he whispered. "Aren't I supposed to be reassuring you?"
She cocked her head to the side, even though they were still touching. "Maybe it's a reciprocal thing."
Before he could answer – and he had this really great line about their entire relationship being reciprocal – the car pulled to a stop and Kate watched him slide from being her Rick to The Rick. She had to admit, she felt a bit slimy, but offered him a genuine smile as he held his hand out for her.
And the shift was immediate.
His eyes softened, lost that arrogance, brought out tenderness as he tugged her from the car. His arm went around her and she could feel the pride rolling off of him in waves. She was his date. She knew what he thought of her and could only imagine his thought processes behind the wide grin. 'This is Kate' it would be saying, 'and she's here with me. This beautiful, smart, strong, extraordinary woman chose me'.
But that was okay, because she was still kind of baffled why he chose her too.
. . . . .
Kate was a champ, he decided.
He'd had the unprecedented opportunity to just watch her in a setting she wasn't comfortable in. Yet, he couldn't tell. Maybe it was because it was something she'd had to do with her parents, maybe it was just a knack for making nice with the public, but she'd charmed too many people in the room for him not to notice.
But he was, admittedly, getting impatient. He wanted to hear it from her mouth. He wanted it to be official. He wanted to stop guessing that a relationship was what she wanted, what she kept alluding to. He wanted real answers. So as he carried two champagne flutes back towards where she stood, he glanced around the room for something that was, at least, semi-private.
"Thank you," she said, accepting the glass and taking a sip. She wasn't usually one to drink, but her throat was dry and it was New Years Eve.
"Come on," he requested and took her hand, excusing them from the conversation. She followed, feeling his hand warm in hers. She looked up at him curiously when he tugged her into an alcove.
"I'm done waiting."
Kate caught her breath. "Rick…"
"No," he said gently but with enough force she understood that he wasn't backing away. "It's almost 2011. I want to start the year with you."
"I know." She looked away. Could she say it? Could she tell him? She knew that they were on the same page. He knew what she wanted; she knew what he wanted; they both wanted the same thing. But that didn't make it easier to say. "I want to start it with you too."
But he shook his head. "I need the words, Kate."
She chewed her lip, her mind whirling. Her doubts were creeping up on her, asking her if she was sure, if this was what she really, truly wanted. The flirting, the fame, the fear… "And I need guarantees."
He huffed out a breath. "You don't. You want them, but you don't need them."
She opened her mouth. He shook his head.
"Look, Kate, love is supposed to be scary. The best kind of love is terrifying. It's a rollercoaster and it never stops and to be honest, I don't think it should stop. The minute it stops it becomes comfortable and I don't want to settle for comfortable with you. I want you to keep me on my toes, to pinch my ear when I do something stupid, to put up with my insane theories and crazy fans. I want you to keep surprising me, to keep me guessing because there's nothing I enjoy more than getting to know the million facets that are a part of you."
"You're really serious about this," she managed softly.
"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't. It's just… I don't know how to put it into words." There was a beat, then she was leaning into him, pressing her mouth to his and hoping to God it made sense. The way he moved against her, crowded her closer, told her it did.
Maybe that was enough. She liked learning about him too, knowing that he had different sides, knowing that through thick and thin, sickness and health, her mother's case and every other case before and after that, he would be by her side. She'd learned he was loyal, almost to a fault, and she'd learned that he would move heaven and earth if it meant her happiness.
And she'd learned that he made her happy.
There was a lot to learn, for both of them, but wasn't that the point of a relationship to begin with? Wasn't the whole 'relationship before marriage' thing the whole point? So what if she didn't know everything about him. She knew most things. And she knew, even if her mind didn't want to believe it, that if she said yes – when she said yes – he wouldn't stray. He'd be hers, and she'd be his and there would be no conditions or caveats. That would be the way things were.
So she broke away, breathing heavily, but catching his face in her hands. She needed to look at him for this, needed him to see that she was putting her heart in his hands, and trusting him with everything.
"I want to date you," she said, her eyes locked on his. "I want you to take me out to dinner, I want to stay in and cuddle on your couch. I want to know that you're going to be there when I fall and still be there when I can stand tall. I want you there after a bad day, I want you there after a good day. I. Want. You."
"Is that a clever and very heartfelt way of telling me I won the wager?"
She would have hit him, but the emotion in his eyes, the almost glistening nature of those piercing blues was enough to quell the urge. Instead, she kissed him again, long and slow and deep.
And Kate felt something settle. The uncertainty wasn't gone, but it lessened. This was what she wanted. This man, this relationship, this life. Rick had waited a long time for her to be ready, and though she didn't like thinking of their relationship as an inevitability, she liked to believe that this wasn't a terrible path to choose.
"We're going to miss the ball dropping," he said into her mouth when they pulled apart to catch their breath.
Kate's hands fisted in his lapels. "I don't care. I'm right where I want to be."
The world fell away, leaving Kate and Rick and an entire road ahead. A new year, a new slate, and as the clock counted down to midnight, Kate pulled him in. She was exactly where she wanted to be, in his mind, in his life, and in his heart.
As the clock struck twelve and the crowd erupted, Kate wrapped her arms tighter around Rick's neck.
2011 was going to be a good year. She could feel it. Her, Rick, Them… It really was good. It really could work.
And he'd proved it.
Admittedly, and 3700 words (ish) later, there are parts of this chapter I'm not happy with, issues I glossed over instead of addressing, but overall, I have to admit, I'm extremely happy with the way this story came out.
Now, I've had a lot of requests for a sequel. Unlike the first 25 chapters, requests do not necessarily get you the candy. I'm at a point here where there is a lot I can play with and I like the idea of being able to come back to this world and add to it whenever I want. So 'sequel' is probably not the right word. I won't be starting anything new for this, but I may add little pieces from time to time that are based off of this. And really, Christmas 2011 is only, like, 11 months away. Maybe the 2011 Christmas story will build off of this one.
But there won't be a sequel in the true sense of the word. Just little forays MAYBE every once in a while.
There is one last important and rather stereotypical thing that I need to do. But it's extremely important to me. I owe you guys the biggest thanks. I know I say it all the time and I know that everyone says it often, but there aren't words to describe what it feels like to be me right now, playing around in this little universe. Sometimes, with fanfiction, I'm not always completely proud of the result. I know, without fail that I can say I'm proud of what I've done here. And a lot of that is a big thanks to you guys. Reviewers are the most supportive people in the world. I've met some awesome individuals because of reviews and replies and stories and though I don't get back to you as much as I know I should, know that I keep track. I know who reviews more than once and I know who reviews every chapter. I know who leaves mile long reviews, I know who is likely to make me cry... All of those things make writing so worth it. You guys love it, and sometimes, if I'm extremely lucky, there's someone out there who needs this. There's someone out there going through the same thing, or just needs the pick me up.
To all you writers out there, lets never give up. We never know when we're going to affect or change a life.
To all you readers and reviewers out there, never stop. You keep us, specifically me, writing an coming back to this, regardless of the idea, regardless of the work and self-imposed stress.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for making Three Sizes my most reviewed story EVER.
Thanks for being awesome.