Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for all episodes that have aired to date and future episodes.
This time, she didn't even smile. Not immediately, anyway. She stared, mouth slightly agape, at the three words on the page.
It wasn't often that Kate Beckett was speechless. Usually, she either said what she was thinking, or bit back the words that she was thinking either to protect herself or the unfortunate individual who would be lashed by them.
But this time? Nothing. Her mind could only repeat those three words, over and over. For KB, Always. For KB, Always.
It was amazing how one word – always – meant so much between them. They'd been through so much together, and that one word symbolised all of it. Thank you for being there. Always.
Now she was standing in the middle of a room, holding a book open to the third page and feeling like the world around her had faded away momentarily.
"You okay?" came a voice from behind her.
"I…Castle…" she said. She closed the book and turned to face him. "Just…well-"
"Wow. I thought you might like it, but I didn't think it would render you incapable of forming sentences," he smiled.
She put the book back down on the pile. The cover of Heat Rises was slightly less erotic than the other two books in the series, featuring just the shadow of Nikki, shoulders-up. At least this time she probably wouldn't get a call from her father asking if she'd posed for the cover herself (like she'd ever lie naked in front of a camera for a book cover). "I just…come over here."
Beckett grabbed his hand and led him over to the corner, away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi and the other book launch guests. Castle followed obediently. "Why, Detective Beckett, leading a man over to a secluded corner? My, aren't we subtle."
She slapped him playfully on the shoulder before taking a more serious tone. "Thank you."
"For…?" He was fishing. He just wanted her to say it.
"The…the dedication." Still, she was having issues forming meaningful sentences. Get yourself together, she thought to herself, in a voice that sounded strangely like Lanie's.
Castle looked over his shoulder before replying. "I did mean it, you know. Just like the times I actually said it."
"No, no, let me finish." He moved an inch closer, lowering his voice just to make sure no-one else heard. "It's not just a dedication. It's a promise. If you ever need anything, I need you to know that I'll be there. Always. I'm your partner, Kate. You've saved my life before, you've helped me out with things on numerous occasions. You've put up with having my follow you around writing about you. It's the least I can do."
Now Beckett couldn't form any words, let alone ones that made sense. She leant forward, put her hand on his shoulder, and pressed her lips to his cheek, just near the corner of his mouth.
Had it lasted a moment less, it would have been purely platonic. But this kiss…it meant something.
Pulling back, she smiled again. She gave his hand a quick squeeze and whispered something into his ear before walking away.
"The same goes for you. Always."
A/N Personal note, from me to the readers.
This fic is for all of my readers, if you've read all of my fics or just the one. It means so much to me. Some of you might know about my dad being killed in a truck accident – that's now just a few days over two years ago. I'm still learning to deal with things, but completely honestly, having all these people online has really helped. Just looking at the view count makes me so happy, knowing that there are all these people out there reading my work. That makes me proud of myself, which elevates my mood spectacularly. It's like having another life going on, all this online stuff. I've made such amazing friends thanks to this website, and I'm so grateful for everything. Thank you to everyone.