This chapter may well be the fluffiest thing I have ever written. I usually tend to err on the side of angst when I write. That being said, I quite enjoyed the change of pace.
If you value realism in your fanfic (if that's even possible) I would suggest you turn back now. However, if you don't mind ridiculous fluff, please read on.
Pairings and ratings are the same as always.
Kate Beckett always thought she knew what it meant to be stressed out. She had a demanding job, frequent brushes with death, and thanks to Nikki Heat, had occasional bursts of minor fame (usually coinciding with the releases of books.) But all of this looked like a cakewalk when she started planning a wedding.
Suddenly her limited spare time was being eaten up by cake tastings, appointments with florists, interviews with caterers and endless meetings with her wedding planner, usually to get her approval on some insignificant detail she really couldn't care less about. Only last week, she'd been roped into a twenty minute discussion on napkin colours, which when she looked at them, all seemed to be precisely the same shade of white.
She'd never imagined herself having a huge, grand wedding with all the trimmings. In fact, on the rare occasion she'd thought about it as a child, she'd seen a small church, and no more than thirty guests.
Of course, that was before she'd become engaged to Richard Castle, best-selling author and New York social royalty.
"This is ridiculous!" she burst out angrily, scanning the three hundred names that made up the extensive guest list. "We don't even know half of these people. And we're going to be giving them an open bar and silver service food."
"I know," said Castle, coming up behind her and squeezing her shoulder. "I told Paula there were too many people. She said she'd cut it down."
"Yeah, right," she said. "Sometimes I really dislike your agent."
"Oh, me too," he said, comfortably. "She's an awful person. But I can't fire her because she's too damn good at her job."
She sighed. "I guess."
Castle took a seat next to her and took her hands in his. "Kate," he said quietly. "Look at me."
She did so, meeting his bright blue eyes, and suddenly feeling a little calmer. Her fiancé had been the voice of reason in the whole wedding planning madness, which made sense, as he'd already done it twice before. When he looked at her like this, she remembered why she'd fallen for him in the first place.
"This is our day," he said. "Not Paula's. We call the shots here, not her. And I want you to have the wedding you always dreamed of."
"Paula's right, though," said Beckett. "It will be really good for you if we do the Plaza wedding."
The moment she'd heard they were engaged, Paula had insisted that they make the wedding as upmarket and extravagant as possible. "The best-selling author marries his muse?" she'd said. "You can't buy publicity like this."
Castle brushed some hair out of her face, and smiled. "The hell with her," he said. "I don't care if we have our wedding at the Plaza, or the park, or in a Justice of the Peace, in some back street nobody's ever heard of. You're going to be my wife. That's all I care about."
She leaned forward and kissed him softly, wrapping her arms around his neck. He grinned as they drew apart.
"What was that for?" he asked.
"I can't believe this is happening," she said. "We're actually doing this."
He went suddenly pale. "You're not getting cold feet on me, are you?" he said.
"You tell me," she said, running her bare foot up and down his leg.
"Feel pretty good to me," he said, with a smile.
She pulled her foot away. "Go take your shower, preferably a cold one," she said. "We have to be at work in an hour."
"Tease," he complained, but rose from his chair, and wandered off in the direction of the stairs. She heard his heavy footfalls thudding up each step, and then voices floating down from the landing.
"Morning, sweetie," she heard Castle say, obviously to Alexis. "What are you up to today?"
"Meeting some friends for shopping," she replied.
"And who exactly will be bankrolling this little shopping expedition?" asked Castle, suspiciously.
"Me!" said Alexis, incredulously. "Once you give me my allowance, of course."
Castle sighed, but Beckett could just see him pulling out his wallet. He really was such a giant pushover where his daughter was concerned.
"You know, most kids have to work for their allowance," he said. "Do chores and such."
"Hey, I help with the cooking all the time! And not only is parenting you a full-time job, I'll have you know the hours suck."
They both chuckled. "Have a good day," Castle said, and then Beckett heard footsteps on the stairs again. Alexis appeared, fully dressed and clutching her purse.
"Morning," Beckett greeted her.
"Morning," she replied, a little stiffly.
Ever since their unpleasant conversation at the front door on the night of the disastrous first date, things were still a little prickly between Beckett and Alexis. Though Alexis had dispensed with the open hostility she'd dished out so efficiently that night, there was still a little lingering frostiness in the way she spoke to Beckett, particularly when Castle wasn't around.
Kate had the feeling that Alexis was waiting for the penny to drop and was clearly fearful that she would once again have to put her father back together when Beckett cut and run.
Kate couldn't blame her for feeling this way; her track record in this area wasn't exactly glowing, but she very much hoped that after the wedding, they could move past this. She'd always liked Alexis, been impressed by her intelligence and maturity and appreciated her sarcastic wit, so reminiscent of her father. And in her opinion, Castle had won the teenager lottery; Alexis' minor indiscretions were as nothing to the hell she'd put her parents through in her high school years.
Alexis had put up a good show of happiness when they had told her of their engagement, throwing her arms enthusiastically around her father, and even consenting to give Beckett a friendly, albeit very quick, hug. And she'd readily agreed to be a bridesmaid when Kate had asked. But, as the wedding day drew nearer, Beckett could feel Alexis' gaze on her when she thought she wasn't looking, as if half-expecting her to rip off her ring, and bolt.
She knew it was up to her to convince Alexis that she wasn't going anywhere. That she and Castle were through playing cat-and-mouse, and ready to stop running. The hard part was over. She'd found her 'one and done.'
"Are you and Dad working a case right now?" Alexis asked.
"Yes, but I think we've almost cracked it," said Beckett. "I think we'll close it today."
"Should I leave some dinner out for you guys?" asked Alexis, politely.
"No, we'll grab something on the way home. Thanks."
Alexis glanced at her phone. "Gotta go," she said. "I'll be late."
"Alexis!" Beckett called after her, and she turned. "Are you ever going to be able to trust me?"
The young girl eyed her sternly. "I don't forgive as easily as my dad does, Beckett," she said. She paused, and the tiniest hint of a smile played at her lips. "But you're getting there."
Beckett nodded, understanding, and then Alexis left.
As the door closed behind her, there came the telltale crash, crash, crash of someone hurrying down the stairs. She wasn't the slightest bit surprised to see her fiancé standing there, dressed in a sharp new suit she hadn't seen before, with that insufferable grin on his face.
"I'm ready!" he announced.
"What do you want, a standing ovation?" she asked.
"I was thinking more along the lines of a musical fanfare," he said. "With trumpets blaring and cymbals crashing. Wouldn't that be awesome?"
"You're an idiot," she said, picking her keys and bag.
He ignored this. "I've been thinking," he said. "And I think I know who killed Emma Svensson."
"Who?" she asked.
"Ninjas," he said seriously. "Bad-ass, military trained ones."
"Oh, for Pete's sake."
He proceeded to inform her of all his supposed evidence that their inner-city woman had met her end at the hands of deadly ninjas; trained to kill, and then disappear into the gathering darkness, leaving no trace they were ever there.
"Seriously," she said, shaking her head. "Where do you come up with this crap?"
"I'm a writer, it's what I do."
The bright, sunny morning belied Jane's grim mood, as he stood in the kitchen, munching half-heartedly on an apple. He was not, strictly speaking, hungry, but he knew that to get through what loomed in front of him today, he was going to need fuel.
There was movement in the hall, and he glanced around to see Lisbon enter the kitchen, apparently having just woken up. Despite his sour mood, he still managed to smile.
"I have to say," he said. "That shirt never looked so good."
She smirked as she rolled back the sleeves of the blue dress shirt she was wearing, once his, but that had since been claimed by her as sleepwear, in lieu of the jersey. He'd always liked her in her jersey, but in his opinion, she looked even better in his shirt.
Or maybe he just liked the way wearing his clothes was almost the equivalent of having a 'Property of Patrick Jane' sign floating above her head.
Not that he'd ever, ever say that to her. He valued his life too much.
"Oh yeah," she agreed. "I totally wear this better than you."
He tended to agree, especially considered that she hadn't buttoned it up all the way, and that it hit her thigh in just the right place, not too high, and not too low.
"Sadly, yes," he said, and she walked over to where he stood, and kissed his cheek.
"What are you doing up so early anyway?" she asked him, grabbing the apple from his hand and taking a bite of it.
"Got some things to do," he said.
"Like what?" she asked, somewhat thickly, mouth full of apple.
"Oh, nothing really," he said, airily. "This and that."
"Well thanks for that explanation," she said, irritably, and swallowed. "Is it really that important? It's Saturday. We don't have work today. Are you sure you don't want to come back to bed?"
She smiled her impish little smile, as she handed the apple back to him. How he loved that smile, just like he loved the way she looked in his shirt, and the way her hair always looked so messy when she first got up in the morning.
And yes, he really did want to go back to bed with her. And stay there.
"Tempting though that is, my darling," he said, with a smile of his own, "I have to step out for a little while. I'll be back in an hour or two."
She stood on tiptoe and put her arms around his neck, hugging him. She smelled like apples and cinnamon, and the vanilla body wash she'd been using lately.
"Is something going on?" she asked him, looking suspiciously into his eyes. "You're keeping secrets from me."
"Yes, I am," he admitted. "But they're not bad secrets."
"Then, are they good secrets?"
"Not really," he said.
She ran the fingers of one hand through his curls a few times, absent-mindedly.
"I thought we agreed that we weren't going to keep secrets from each other anymore," she said, in a slightly accusatory tone.
"We did," he said, sincerely. "And I stand by that. I promise, you'll know in time. Just not yet. You'll need to trust me…you do trust me, right?"
"Jury's still out."
He chuckled, leaned forwards and captured her lips in a soft kiss. As it deepened, his hands slipped past the hem of the shirt, to caress her soft, warm skin. Taking this as encouragement, she began to unbutton the front of his vest, and he knew where this was heading. The second she got her hands on him, all would be lost.
He broke off their kiss and gently took her hands in his own, stopping her ministrations. Undeterred, she pressed herself against him all the more, and began to trace his jawline with her lips.
"Dear God, woman," he groaned. "You're killing me."
Already, he could feel himself beginning to succumb.
"You," he said, as she started to nip lightly at his lips, "Are not….Playing…Fair."
"Are you sure you need to go out right now?" she asked.
"It really is important," he said, trying to remember how to think straight. "Have a little mercy."
"Fine," she said, grumpily, acquiescing at last.
"I just need to take care of this one thing," he said. "Then I'm all yours, all day." He pecked her quickly on her lips. He knew why she was so upset. The weekdays were so busy with work that weekends were supposed to be their time. To be a couple, and for him to shower her with all the affection she wouldn't allow at the office.
He was breaking tradition. Most weekends, they didn't leave the house. It was hard work fitting a week's worth of couple time into only two short days. But they made the most of the limited time. The precious forty-eight hours were usually split between watching movies, and alternating between bickering and making love.
Last weekend, in fact, he didn't recall them leaving the bedroom, except for those three times in the shower. And once on the couch.
Mysteriously, they hadn't had a single argument over that period.
"OK," she said finally. "But hurry back."
"I will," he said. "Oh, and don't bother about getting dressed. Stay exactly as you are."
She let go of his hands.
"It's OK, you know," she said. "You don't have to hide it from me."
He froze. "Where exactly do you think I'm going?"
"To visit them," she said, in a tone that told him quite clearly whom she meant by 'them.' "I understand," she continued. 'Don't feel ashamed of it."
He didn't bother denying it.
'When did you figure it out?" he asked.
"The last time you went, two weeks ago."
He kissed her again, long and passionately, and she kissed him back, and when they finally drew away, words spilled from his mouth like a tidal wave had just been unleashed. Words he'd wanted to say forever, but just hadn't been able to.
"I love you."
Her eyes widened. "Look, I know you're upset about your big secret being blown, but that's no reason to start throwing that word around just to cover up for it."
He peered at her for a moment.
"You don't believe me, do you?" he asked, matter-of-factly.
She crossed her arms. "So?"
"Do you really think I'd say something like that to you if I didn't mean it?"
"Well, no," she said, blushing. "But it's just that," she paused, casting around for words. "It doesn't make any sense. We don't make sense. In any way. As friends, or partners or anything. And we never have. Doesn't that bother you?"
He considered this for a moment. "Why does it have to make sense?" he asked. "Why can't we just let it be what it is?"
"I never did anything like this before," she said. "I've never thought about anything less in my life, then when I decided to be with you."
"Then why did you?"
"It felt right. But I don't understand why." She sounded frustrated, and he guessed she'd been thinking about this for a while. "You're you. You're insufferable and a pain in the ass, and there used to be days when I seriously considered killing you, and to hell with the repercussions." He chuckled. "And now, here we are."
"You're over-thinking this," he told her, gently. "I love you. That's all."
"And I love you," she admitted, quietly. "Even though I shouldn't."
"Some things aren't meant to make sense, Teresa," he said. "They just work."
They kissed once more.
"You know something?" said Lisbon. "I started spending an extra ten minutes in front of the mirror after you joined the CBI."
He didn't whether to be surprised at this uncharacteristic admission of vanity from Lisbon, or intrigued that she had indeed gone to extra lengths, apparently to impress him.
"Do you want to know something?" he asked. "So did I."
He'd always known his hair and smile were among his best assets, and when he'd come home from his first day at CBI, it had suddenly become a matter of vital importance to play these things up for all they were worth, for the benefit of the feisty little brunette who was now his partner.
She laughed out loud.
"I knew your hair didn't get so perfect on it's own," she said. "You liar."
"Made you notice though," he said. "So my plan worked."
"Yeah," she agreed, sarcastically. "Because you're normally so easy to ignore."
He smiled, kissed her forehead, and disentangled himself. "See you later," he said.
"Say hi to them for me," she said, turning around to make coffee.
As he got into the car, he saw the curtain flutter. She appeared from behind it, gave a small wave, and disappeared again.
It had taken a while to get used to the domesticity, the normality of it all. Going to work, and coming back to the woman he loved at the end of the day instead of an empty apartment and bad memories.
Their place was small, and modest, but it was theirs. And that was all that really mattered.
A sharp slap echoed around the room. Remy's Diner was almost empty, save for two patrons who sat together in the corner booth.
"I've told you before, Castle. You want fries, order your own!"
"But I only want a few!" he whined. "And anyway, we're getting married. We're supposed to share things!"
"No-one said anything about sharing my food."
"Keep putting fries away like that, and you might not fit into your dress," he said, jokingly.
Her head snapped up and she glared at him. He winced.
"Oh, I'm going to pay for that one, aren't I?" he said, nervously.
"Yes you are. Dearly."
He believed her. Sometimes he thought it would be more beneficial if he just didn't speak at all. He'd certainly get into far less trouble. But then again, even though she complained about his big mouth, he knew his sense of humour and command of the English language had been a big part of winning her over. It had its compensations.
She returned to her meal, and he watched her. For three years, with every fibre of his being, he had loved this woman. How many times had they sat at this very table with him captivated by her every move, wondering if he'd ever pluck up the courage to tell her how he felt? Fearing the day she'd come to him and tell him she was in love, with somebody else.
Never had that fear been more potent then when she'd been with Josh. Perfect job, perfect looks, perfect everything, but in the end, not perfect for her.
For some reason, she'd picked the twice-divorced novelist, who only worked when he felt like it, and more often then not, tended to let his crazy ideas run away with him.
Every day, he half-expected it all to fall down around him. He had a career he loved, an amazing daughter, a great mom, and life-long friends at the precinct, and in a few months, he was going to marry the most wonderful woman on the planet. He'd been hedging his bets ever since, doubling his charity contributions in an effect to rack up some extra good karma. It just didn't seem fair that he should be so lucky.
Though that was not to say it had been easy. Anyone who knew them could attest to the fact that he and Beckett had been a very slow work in progress indeed.
And that night after their date from hell, it had almost come undone.
He'd sat listlessly on the couch listening to Alexis deny Beckett entrance to the apartment like a bouncer outside a nightclub. He'd never heard his baby girl so angry, tearing strips off Beckett with a ruthless satisfaction.
But, as always, Alexis was right. He couldn't do this anymore. It had to stop. So he allowed her to let Beckett in. After a while, they both walked over to where he sat, and took seats, Beckett in a chair across from him, and Alexis protectively at his side.
He'd gently shooed his daughter back to her room; partly because she had school in the morning, and partly because he couldn't risk her seeing what might happen if things went badly. It wasn't good for daughters to see their fathers cry. Alexis kissed him on the cheek, threw a scathing look at Beckett, and then departed.
He and Beckett sat in silence, as Alexis' footsteps died away. He wondered what she'd been doing for the last two hours. She hadn't changed out of her black dress, but her hair had begun to slip from the elegant knot it had been in on top of her head. She was so beautiful, but he didn't want to look at her. He wanted to stay angry. She'd hurt him, and he wanted her to know that.
He maintained their uneasy silence, determined not to be the one to break it.
After about thirty seconds, she did.
"Castle, are you going to look at me?"
"Please look at me." She sounded sad, ashamed, pleading. He felt his heart give a violent twist. Normally this would be his cue to beg her to tell him what was wrong, do anything in his power to make her feel better. Not tonight.
"So I can say what I came to say."
He turned his head toward her. "Go on," he said, his voice achieving the exact bite of coolness he'd been aiming for, all the while restraining himself from throwing his arms around her.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry about what happened tonight."
"OK?" she repeated, in surprise.
She looked confused. "So, we're OK then?" she confirmed.
"Sure. See you at work." He gestured to the door. "Go ahead and see yourself out."
"I've got a chapter to finish."
"We have to talk about this."
"No we don't." He smiled. "How does it feel to be the one getting shut out for once?" he asked.
She took a deep breath. "Look, I understand why you're upset-"
"I really don't think you do," he said. "This isn't just about tonight. This is about every damn time we have these conversations. It's always the same thing from you. 'I'm not ready.' 'I need more time.' But the thing is, this isn't all about you."
That had felt good to say. The small, selfish part of him inside was finally given voice.
"All the time, I focus on what you want, and do you even care about what I want?"
"Of course I care," she said. "It's just that-"
"Do you have any idea of the torture you have put me through over the past three years?" he asked. "Do you have even the smallest comprehension of the pain and misery you've inflicted on me?"
She rose from her seat, angrily. "Castle that's not fair," she said.
"You knew how I felt about you," he went on. "But you didn't even have the decency to reject me to my face. You just ignored it, and kept moving right along with your life like it wasn't even happening."
The anger in her face died, to be replaced by shame.
"I know," she said. "I did all those things and more. I guess I just thought it would be easier not to deal with it; I never imagined it would backfire like this. And please believe that the last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you."
"I believe you," he said. "But it doesn't change anything."
A prickly silence fell between them.
"So, what now?" she asked.
"You know where I stand," he said. "Your move."
Part of him felt bad for forcing her into a decision, but the bigger part of him was relieved that he was finally going to get an answer.
She was quiet for a long time. He didn't realise that his hands were clenched inside his pockets until a few minutes had passed. The only sound was the crackling of the electric fire in the background. Presently, she came over to sit beside him. He felt her leg brush against his, and her silky hair shone in the glow of the faux firelight.
"I've been selfish," she said. "You're right, and Alexis is right."
"What did she say to you?" he asked, suddenly curious, but she merely shook her head.
"Doesn't matter." She laid a cautious hand on his arm. "Can we try again?" she asked. "The whole going-on-a-date thing?"
"Are you serious?" he asked, not daring to believe his ears.
"I am," she said. "But maybe we could take it down a notch and make it a little less, I don't know, Castle-esque."
"I went too big," he said, wanting to beat himself over the head for his stupidity. Now that he thought about it, the whole idea had been downright dumb. She hated being made a fuss of.
"A little," she agreed. "But don't get me wrong. Nobody has ever gone to that much trouble for me. But I think I'd feel more comfortable if we went a little more low-key."
"So, just to clarify, this is a yes. You want to give this a shot." Castle had learned from the night's events. He wanted to be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt before he allowed himself to process what he was hearing.
"This is a yes," she said, with a smile, which after a minute, he returned. "And Castle?" she went on. "Don't let this stop you from the grand gestures. The way you've always gone to so much trouble for me, it's something I've always loved about you."
The 'L' word jarred in his brain. Had he misheard? Was it simply a product of his imagination? But something about the way she smiled made it clear that she had indeed said what he'd thought she'd said.
He wanted to scoop her up and carry her off to the bedroom right that very instant, or at the very least kiss her until neither of them could breathe anymore. Unfortunately, neither of those things fell into the category of 'taking it slow.'
He'd waited so long for this, for her. He could wait a little longer.
"And what else?" he asked. "Other than the fact that I'm so damn loveable."
She rolled her eyes. "You'll never know." And then she smiled that mysterious, sexy smile.
Strike the previous thought. He couldn't wait much longer. The desire was eating him alive. But he forced himself to play it cool.
"Shall we start with dinner tomorrow night at Remy's?" he offered.
And so, they had begun, slow and steady. First, the dinner at Remy's, and then a movie the following week at the Angelika. One afternoon, they went and had coffee at a café together instead of him bringing it to her. And each time, they talked, they laughed, they got to know each other better. (It turned out that despite three years of experience, he was still only on the outer layers of the Beckett onion.) It was a series of small, gradual changes to their usual routine, and giving themselves the time to readjust helped them find their rhythm as a couple.
It was around their fourth date, when he took her to one of his favourite places in the city, the Natural History Museum, that their colleagues had started to notice.
Predictably, Ryan and Esposito were the first to call them out.
He and Beckett were standing by the whiteboard one case, theorizing together as usual, while the two guys watched. He still wasn't sure what it was about that particular day that had caused Esposito to look suspiciously from one to the other, turn to Ryan, and say:
"Bro, you owe me a hundred bucks."
His partner sighed. "Thanks a lot, you guys," he said, irritably. "You couldn't have held off for one more month? Jenny and I are trying to remodel the kitchen."
"What on Earth are you two on about?" asked Beckett. Castle had an inkling, but he wasn't fool enough to admit to prior knowledge of being the subject of office betting for the past two years.
Esposito let out a loud whistle, and proceedings around the 12th came to a sudden halt.
"People!" he shouted as all the other cops turned to look at him. "It's finally happened. What we've all been waiting for."
Castle felt fifty pairs of eyes turn to fix on he and Beckett instead. He smirked, as the first signs of comprehension started to dawn on her face.
"It seems Castle and Beckett have finally got their act together," Esposito announced to the room.
A flurry of activity ensued. Some people breathed sighs of relief; others turned to their neighbours and demanded they pay up on various sums of money ranging from 50 to several hundred dollars. Two or three clapped Castle on the back, grinning wickedly. Some were chuckling heartily at the horror-struck look on Beckett's face and still more broke into a round of applause.
Beckett's phone chirped the arrival of a text message. Looking slightly faint at all the attention, she pulled it out of her pocket. "Lanie," she said in an undertone, and read the message aloud.
"She says she can't believe we didn't tell her, I'm the worst best friend ever, and to remind Javi that he promised her dinner at Le Cirque if he won the bet."
Castle laughed to himself, partly at the message, and partly at her still stricken expression.
"Tell me you didn't know about this," she said, demandingly.
"I had an idea," he confessed. "But I didn't think it had gone this far."
"And you didn't tell me?"
"Would you have believed me if I did?"
"I'd believe anything of you, Richard Castle," she said, and to his very great surprise, squeezed his hand, the first time she'd ever touched him in a girlfriend-like manner in public. She usually saved the affection for behind the closed doors of their respective apartments. "Anything."
He saw her glance up now, and her eyes meet his. They narrowed slightly.
"What are you staring at?" she asked.
"Well, don't. It's creeping me out."
"But I like looking at you."
"Do I need to remind you that I own a gun?"
"I'm well aware."
"Then you're probably also aware that I haven't been to the range lately, and could really do with a little target practice. Get my drift?"
He couldn't wait to be married again.
Lisbon shoved her way through the crowd at JFK. People jostled her from all directions as she and Jane made their way through the terminal to baggage claim. She couldn't believe how busy the airport was on a Tuesday afternoon, but then again, this was New York. Everything was busy.
"Why don't you start waving that badge of yours around?" Jane suggested, as a family barrelled past them, their four children all shrieking with excitement. "Cut us a path through the Red Sea."
As if to emphasize his point, a large group of people emerged from a nearby gate, all wearing red T-shirts and hats. Jane smirked.
"That's against the rules," she said.
"Meh, rules," said Jane, carelessly. "Rules are there to be broken."
"In your world, maybe. Here in the place we call reality, rules are there to be obeyed."
He sighed. "You're such a cop."
"And you're such a…well, to be honest I don't know what you are."
"I'm a riddle, wrapped in an enigma."
"Wrapped in a three-piece suit," she snapped, as they reached the baggage carousels.
They looked up to see a man leaning against the wall, beaming at them and waving.
"Castle," she said in surprise, when they reached him. "You didn't have to come meet us, we could have got a cab."
"Beckett thought it'd be nice if I picked you guys up," he said. "Or rather, she said if I didn't get out of her sight for a couple of hours, that there wasn't going to be a wedding on Friday night, but there might be a murder." His eyes were twinkling with laughter.
Lisbon gave him a quick hug hello. He dropped a friendly kiss on her cheek, and then turned to Jane with his hand outstretched. He looked slightly taken aback when after they'd shaken hands, Jane hugged him too, and several people nearby turned to look at the spectacle.
Lisbon rolled her eyes. "Jane, cut it out," she ordered her boyfriend. "Check your pockets," she advised Castle in a clear undertone when Jane had let go.
Castle did so, still looking a little stunned.
"I apologise for his insanity," said Lisbon. "I'm thinking of having him professionally evaluated. Or at least collared and tagged."
"Test away, Lisbon," said Jane, comfortably. "They'll never find anything."
"That's what you think," she retorted. "But I'm sure that any expert would agree you're crazy."
"I am," he said. "Crazy for you."
She flushed, Jane smiled and Castle raised his eyebrows.
After they'd collected their bags, Castle lead the way out of the airport and over to short-term parking. Lisbon had to admit, she was slightly disappointed when he stopped at a Crown Victoria. She'd been kind of hoping to see the famous Ferrari.
"It belongs to the precinct," he said, reading the expression on her face. "I came straight from there."
He unlocked the door and slid into the driver's seat while the two of them took the back.
"So," he said, after wending his way out of the airport. "You guys are…?" he glanced at them in the rear view mirror, not needing to ask the rest of the question as his face was doing it for him.
"Yeah, we are," said Jane, putting an arm around her waist and giving her a little squeeze.
Castle grinned. "That's great. I'm happy for you."
"So are we," said Jane. "Well at least I am. Lisbon I think is more along the lines of-"
"Resigned," she finished for him. "I'm resigned to my fate."
"Oh, you make it sound like I forced you into it. I would never force you to do anything. Duping you however…"
Lisbon saw his genuine smile, and smiled too. Finally, after so much pain and suffering, Jane was happy. Because of her. It made her feel good. He must have guessed what she was thinking, because he chose that moment to plant a kiss on the top of her head.
"Really guys, get a room," Castle joked.
"We plan to," said Jane, suggestively, earning himself a swat on the arm from Lisbon. "But check-in isn't for another three hours."
"Hey why don't you two come by the precinct?" Castle said, eagerly. "We've seen your digs, let us show you ours. And I know the others will want to see you. Kate and I can drop you off at your hotel later. Where are you staying?"
"The Plaza," said Jane.
"Expensive taste," remarked Castle. "Been cleaning out some more casinos, Jane?"
"No, I made a big profit on a property I sold recently," said Jane smoothly. Lisbon knew he meant the Malibu house. Deep down, she wasn't sure he had made the right decision by selling it. Terrible things had happened in that house, but there were good memories too. She thought he'd been too rash in putting it on the market, and if he'd thought it through a little more, he might have wanted to keep it. But that was water under the bridge now, and they'd used some of the money from the sale to buy their apartment, so there had been benefits.
Two days after their trip to the cemetery, they'd travelled up to Malibu to visit the place, and to get the smiley-face off the wall. She'd suggested they call a service to come and get rid of it for them, but he had insisted on doing it himself. It had been a long, painful day. She remembered Jane's hands had shaken as they applied the first coat of paint, obscuring the dreaded symbol of everything he had endured. When they finished, he'd dropped to his knees and collapsed into sobs. She knelt beside him and held him for what must have been hours, before he was able to stand again.
How she hated Red John that day. Even rotting away in a grave somewhere, he was still managing to screw with Jane's life. She knew the serial killer had left his mark on Jane, would always have a grip.
She just had to make damn sure that her grip was stronger.
"Honey, I'm home!"
Beckett smiled to herself as her fiancé bounced back into the precinct, announcing his arrival at the top of his lungs. "And look who I brought with me!" Trailing in after him were a grinning Jane and an amused-looking Lisbon.
"Jane! Agent Lisbon! How's it going?" Ryan and Esposito leapt to their feet and shook hands with the new arrivals. Beckett heard Jane and Lisbon greet them as she approached. Jane looked up and caught sight of her.
"Ah, if it isn't the blushing bride herself," he said.
"Shut up, Jane," she and Lisbon said, together, causing everyone, including Jane, to chuckle. "I'm glad you two came," she said.
"Wouldn't miss it," said Jane. "Cho, Rigsby and Van Pelt send their congratulations."
"Hey Jane," said Esposito, suddenly. "We're having a little bachelor party thing for Castle tonight. We thought we'd hit the Old Haunt, have some drinks, and play some poker. You in?"
"Poker?" Jane's eyebrow quirked, and Beckett saw Lisbon shoot him a warning look. "I'm there."
"What are you doing tonight, Kate?" Castle asked. "You and Lanie going for girl's night out?"
"Not exactly," said Beckett. She'd never been a fan of bachelorette parties, they were just an excuse to get drunk and hire strippers. Besides, she and Lanie had done that last week, while Castle had been spending the evening with Alexis. She had something different in mind for tonight.
"Want to join me, Lisbon?" she asked, apparently taking her by surprise. "While the boys are off acting like twelve-year olds?"
Lisbon blinked. Beckett saw Castle smile at her encouragingly and after a split-second hesitation, she accepted.
"Don't worry," Beckett said. "It's something we're both going to enjoy."
For the fourth time in an hour, a chorus of groans went up around the poker table. Jane gleefully raked all the chips towards him with his hands, while the other three threw their cards down in disgust.
"All right, whose bright idea was it to play poker with a master con-artist?" Ryan said, shooting an angry look at Esposito.
"Sorry bro," said Esposito. "I forgot."
Jane smirked. "That's why you guys should make yourselves a memory palace," he said, tapping the side of his head with his cards. "You'll never forget anything."
The other three groaned again, having already been subjected to a long talk about the supposed 'memory palace,' when Castle had made the mistake of asking.
"Another round, gentlemen?" Castle offered, waving over a waitress.
"Same again, Mr Castle?" she asked.
He smiled at her. "Yes please Julie," he said. "And how many times do I have to tell you to call me Rick?"
She blushed. "Sorry, I just never had a boss who let me call him by his first name before. I'll get those drinks for you, uh, Rick."
As she walked away, Jane peered at Ryan and Esposito. "So what time did you book the stripper for?" he asked.
Ryan laughed. "Sorry man, no stripper. Not worth the risk."
"How do you mean?"
Castle grinned. "Think about it, Jane. Ryan's married. You and I are both dating cops, and Esposito-"
"My girlfriend's a medical examiner. She knows how to commit murder without leaving any evidence," said Esposito.
Jane chuckled. "Good point."
"We figured it'd make it easier for everyone if we restricted ourselves to poker and beer."
"Maybe we should have just stuck to the beer," put in Castle. "Because Jane, you're killing us."
Jane split the chips up evenly, and pushed them back to the others, ignoring their protests. It was never about the money. He had enough money. But he couldn't remember the last time he had done something so normal as this. For so long, his life had been work, and Red John and nothing else. He hadn't had the time or inclination for friends and socialising. He'd barely touched alcohol since the murders. And now, here he was, having a drink with friends like a normal person.
His life was starting to regain balance. He had his job. He had Lisbon. He had free time again. He should organise to do something like this with Cho and Rigsby sometime. He made a mental note to do that once they got back to Sacramento.
After much insisting, and a threat of hypnotism on his part, Ryan, Castle and Esposito took their money back, but not without severe protest.
"Jane, you beat us fair and square," said Castle. "At least I think you did. You have to get something."
"Actually," he said slowly. "There is something I want. Castle, I was wondering if I could ask you a favour…"
Across town, a flurry of bullets was expelled from two guns, and tore through paper targets.
Beckett lifted her earmuffs and glanced over at the next gallery.
"Nice grouping," she remarked.
Lisbon, who was reloading her Glock, smiled at her. "Thanks," she said. "You too. Not the usual choice for a pre-wedding celebration."
"Some women choose massages for stress relief. I choose superior firepower," said Beckett.
"Amen to that."
They both emptied another magazine of bullets before speaking again.
"So, you and Jane, huh?" asked Beckett.
"What's that like?"
"Mostly the same," she shrugged. "But with a few added privileges," She smiled to herself. "He's still a whack-job," she went on. "But I love him. And how about you? Ready to be Mrs Castle number three?"
"Have to be, don't I?" said Beckett. "The wedding's in three days. Too late to back out now."
Lisbon glanced over at her. "You're not thinking of backing out, are you?" she asked, sounding concerned.
"No," said Beckett. "To use your word, he's a whack-job. But he's my whack-job."
The wedding day arrived, clear and bright. Castle was to be found in a room at the Plaza, pacing up and down in his tux, while Ryan and Esposito, the joint best men, watched.
"How much longer?" Castle snapped.
"Two hours," said Ryan, glancing at his watch. "Seriously Castle, you've got to calm down."
"I can't," he said. "Something's going to go wrong, I just know it. The ceiling will fall in or the celebrant won't turn up, or one of our exes will turn up and object, or the band will play the wrong song…"
"Castle," Esposito began.
"I've got that feeling guys, and it's not just 'melodramatic writer' stuff, it's real, and it's going to happen, and-"
"Bro, stop pacing, you're making me dizzy!" said Esposito, loudly.
Castle froze for a moment, and then sunk into a chair.
"I can't do this," he said, in a flat voice.
"What?" said Ryan and Esposito, in unison.
"I can't go out there," he said. "She's going to change her mind. I know she is. She's been dropping hints for ages; how I could I not have seen it before? Guys," he looked pleadingly at them, "don't make me go out there. I can't stand by the altar like a fool when I know she's not coming. I can't do it. I can't bear it!"
The best men exchanged looks. Never had they imagined that Castle would freak out like this on his wedding day. They both felt deeply sorry for whatever poor bastards had served as best men at the last two weddings. At least they had each other for back up.
"That's not going to happen," said Ryan bracingly. "She loves you, she'll be there."
"But what if she isn't?" Castle pressed. "What if she woke up this morning and decided I'm not her one and done?"
"You're being ridiculous-"
"No I'm not. It's all so clear to me now…" He went ranting on, as Ryan threw a pleading look at Esposito.
It was time to get tough. Esposito grabbed Castle by his tie and hoisted him to his feet.
"Castle," he snarled, over the writer's babbling. "You have the next ten seconds to get a grip, or you'll be walking down the aisle with a black eye. Either way, you're going. Capiche?"
Castle stopped talking, but his eyes were still full of panic.
"Listen to me," said Esposito. "Beckett's like a sister to me. And if you don't go out there and marry her, and you break her heart, I will knock your block off."
"And I'll help," put in Ryan.
The threats achieved what the encouragement could not, and slowly, Castle calmed.
"You're right," he said. "Sorry guys."
Feeling it was now safe to do so, Esposito released him.
"It's OK bro," he said. "That's what best men are for." He and Ryan hit a high-five.
"Please don't tell her," said Castle imploringly.
"Tell that her groom-to-be wanted to do a runner on her wedding day?" said Esposito. "Why would we want to do that?"
"Honey, you look gorgeous!" Lanie cooed, as she inspected Beckett from head to toe. "Castle's going to flip when he sees you."
Beckett looked uncertainly at her reflection in the mirror. "You think so?"
Lanie rolled her eyes. "Hey, I was with you when you bought that dress. Do you really think I'd let you walk down the aisle looking any less than perfect?"
"You look great, Beckett," chimed in Alexis, from the other side of the room, where she was putting on her shoes.
"Thanks," she said to her almost-stepdaughter. "So do you, both of you."
The doorknob turned and Jim Beckett entered the room. "Not long to go now," he said, and then his eyes settled on his daughter.
"I always wondered what your wedding day would be like," he said.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lanie move respectfully over to the other side of the room and engage Alexis in conversation, as thought determined not to overhear.
"You know, when you started phoning me up every week and talking about Rick the whole time, I knew you'd end up marrying him."
"Well that makes one of us," she said. "If someone had told me I'd ever be doing this…"
He smiled, and pushed a stray lock of her behind her ear.
"You picked a good man, Katie," he said. "All I ever wanted for you was someone you could trust, and who would look after you whether you wanted him to or not. And I know your mother would have loved him." He kept smiling, but Beckett detected a trace of sadness in his eyes. She grasped his hand.
"I'm going to miss her today," she said.
"So will I," he said. "I'll let you finish getting ready." He kissed her on the cheek and left the room.
Beckett felt the beginnings of tears in her eyes as her father departed. She blinked them back furiously, as Lanie rushed over, holding a box of tissues.
"Oh, no you don't!" she said, firmly. "Not after we just got your make-up right. No tears. Think of happy things. Rainbows, puppies, you and Writer Boy doing the nasty all night tonight…"
"Lanie!" Beckett shrieked, scandalized.
"Yeah, thanks for that mental picture," remarked Alexis, in disgust. "I'm now scarred for life."
"Alexis it's our job to get her down the aisle in one piece," Lanie reminded her. "And if we have to take a little hit so that can happen, so be it."
"I wouldn't call the loss of my innocence 'a little hit,' would you?" said Alexis, but she was smiling, so apparently all was forgiven.
"Where the hell is your bouquet?" said Lanie, hunting around the room for it. "It should be here. Maybe the florist left it at the front desk, I'll go check." She hurried out of the room and closed the door behind her.
Beckett took another long, nervous look into the mirror. For a wedding dress, hers was very simple, a long, strapless, A-line one, with only the tiniest bit of beading on the bodice. But she still felt overdressed as she examined it.
"Will you stop worrying?" said Alexis, suddenly appearing at her side. "Lanie's right. It's perfect."
Beckett stepped away from the mirror. She knew if she stayed there any longer, she'd work herself up into such a state that she wouldn't want to leave the room.
"So," said Alexis. "This is it."
"I gotta admit, I never thought we would get here."
"You thought I was going to bail?"
"Yes," said Alexis without any shame or hesitation, but she smiled a little. "But I'm glad I was wrong."
Beckett turned to look at her, hopefully. "Does this mean what I think it means?" she asked.
"Yes," said Alexis again. "I forgive you. On one condition," she turned suddenly stern. "Take good care of my dad, won't you?"
"Of course," said Beckett.
"In that case," Alexis' face broke into a wide smile, "welcome to the family." She held out her arms and they hugged.
At that point, Lanie burst into the room again. "I got it!" she said, waving the bouquet over her head, triumphantly. Beckett relieved her of it.
Her father poked his head through the door. "It's time," he said.
Castle shifted from foot to foot by the altar. He knew Ryan and Esposito were watching him closely for signs of potential flight, ready to close ranks at a moment's notice. He caught Ryan's eye, who shook his head slightly. Castle took that to mean, 'Stay put or else.'
In the front row sat his mother, in a spectacular red dress, sobbing into a tissue. He rolled his eyes. Nothing had even happened yet and she was milking it for all it was worth. A few rows back, he saw Jane, with his arm around Lisbon, chatting animatedly to a red-haired woman he recognised as Agent Jordan Shaw from the FBI. He was glad she'd managed to get here. With her RSVP, she'd also sent back a little handwritten note of only three words.
"Told you so."
In the row in front of Jordan and two or three seats to the left were Kyra Blaine and her husband Greg. Kyra caught him looking at her and waved. He and Beckett had crashed her wedding after all (though unintentionally,) it seemed fitting that they should be here for theirs.
On the right side of the room he spotted his agent, Paula, tapping away at her Blackberry. He shuddered at the sight of Gina, his ex-wife, sitting with some other representatives for Black Pawn Publishing. His friend Donna, from the Ledger, on her cellphone, Ryan's wife Jenny, Kate's old high-school best friend, Maddie, Karpowski, Captain Montgomery and other friends from the precinct, even the mayor, half-hidden in a corner, they were all here. Everyone important to them was in this room, to see their wedding. He swallowed, and chanced a look at Esposito, who raised an eyebrow, and cracked his knuckles, threateningly.
And then the music started. First into the room was Lanie, sauntering along in the blue dress Kate had picked for her bridesmaids. She was succeeded by Alexis, who beamed at him, and he felt a surge of pride in his beautiful daughter. And then, the doors opened for the final time, and there was Kate, on her father's arm.
The guests let out a sigh as she started to make her way down the aisle. All his doubts vanished as he took her in. Why the hell had he even considered the possibility of not marrying her?
She was walking so damn slow. He had half a mind just to run up there and meet her in the middle, but he forced himself to stay put.
And then, she was there, kissing her father's cheek and then turning to him, and seeing only him, like he saw only her.
The ceremony felt like it went for only seconds. One moment, the celebrant was welcoming them all, the next he was saying his vows (only he said 'always' instead of 'I do.' It felt right.) A microsecond later, they were pronounced husband and wife.
"You may kiss the bride," said the celebrant, almost shouting to be heard over the thunderous applause. Castle didn't need telling twice. He seized her by the waist, dipped her backwards dramatically, to whistles and catcalls from the guests, and for the first time, kissed his wife.
Lisbon sat at a linen-coloured table, nursing a glass of champagne. Around her, the reception was in full swing, the room swarming with people chatting, laughing, snatching champagne from the waitresses circling the room. In the middle of it all, Castle and Beckett stood arm-in-arm, besieged by well wishers, he with a smile wider then she'd ever seen, Beckett positively glowing. She smiled at the sight. She was so glad they'd finally seen what had been right under their noses all along.
The chair beside her was drawn back with a scraping sound. She was unsurprised when Jane dropped into it, holding a piece of sushi.
"You hate sushi," she said.
"True," he said. "But I was hungry, and it was there. I'm a simple man, Lisbon."
She snorted. "Yeah, right."
He stuffed it into his mouth, wrinkling his nose at the taste. Once he swallowed it, he grinned. "Here comes trouble," he said, pointing. Beckett and Castle were wending their way towards their table. It took them a while to get through the throng around them but eventually, they were standing before them.
"Congratulations guys," said Lisbon at once. Jane followed suit, and Castle grinned.
"Thanks," he said. "I'm the luckiest man on Earth right now."
"Don't get too comfortable, Castle," said Beckett. "There's always divorce."
"You know, you really shouldn't call me that anymore," he told her. "It doesn't make sense. You're a Castle now, too."
"But I've always called you that," she protested. "Starting to call you Rick after all these years would just be weird."
"Our whole relationship is weird," he said. "But I like it." She kissed him.
Under the table, Lisbon felt Jane lay his hand on her knee, and caress it gently. She bit her lip to keep from smiling.
"Actually," said Castle, managing to tear his eyes away from his wife. "We were hoping you could help us out with something." He was looking at Jane.
"What?" he asked.
"Apparently there's been some trouble in the kitchen and dinner's going to be a little late. People have been drinking and all the appetisers are gone. Do you think you could maybe put on a show for half an hour or so, keep the masses in check?"
Jane leapt to his feet eagerly. "I'll do it!" he said.
Lisbon grabbed Castle by the arm. "Are you sure about this?" she asked. "Things like this involving Jane have a tendency to end in disaster."
Castle shrugged. "I'm sure it'll be fine," he said.
They took seats next to Lisbon, who eyes were fixed on her boyfriend as he bounded onto a small stage and grabbed the microphone. Within minutes, he had his audience entranced as he joked and charmed them all like the true performer he was.
A part of him must really miss this, she thought, as Jane made a flower appear from nowhere and presented it to a young woman in the crowd. He was in his element up there, with the spotlight on him, with people hanging on to his every word. She hated that this had been soured for him forever by Red John, like so much else in his life.
His show continued. He picked volunteers from the audience to assist him. (Castle nearly choked on his champagne from laughter when Jane made a certain woman disappear, which Beckett informed her in an undertone, was Meredith, one of his two ex-wives.) When he'd recovered, Castle leaned over to her.
"My mother will be loving this," he said. "It turns out she's a big fan of your man. Used to watch his show on cable."
"We should introduce them," said Lisbon. "There's nothing he likes better than having his ego stroked."
Up on stage, Jane was waving his hands for quiet. Silence fell immediately.
"Folks, I have one last trick up my sleeve," he said. "But once again, I'm going to need some help."
At least twenty hands shot skywards. Jane chuckled.
"Thanks guys, but I have someone in particular in mind for this one." He shaded his eyes with one hand, and scanned the room. She felt a sudden sense of foreboding as his gaze landed on her.
"Ah, there she is," he said, confirming her fear. "Lisbon, will you come up here?"
People swivelled around to look at her, but she stayed resolutely seated, shaking her head. "No way," she said.
"Oh come on, don't be such a spoilsport," he said.
"I said no," she repeated.
"Castle?" Jane said. "A little help?"
"With pleasure," answered the writer, and he pulled Lisbon to her feet with a firm grip, and started dragging her towards Jane.
Lisbon would have flipped him right then and there if it hadn't been his wedding. Given the circumstances, the best she could do was shoot him venomous looks as they neared the stage.
Jane was waiting for her with his hand outstretched. With no other choice, and despising them both, she took it and let him pull her up to him.
"You two planned this," she hissed accusingly at him. "There was no mess-up in the kitchen."
Jane looked puzzled, but she knew it was all an act. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he said quietly. Then he swung around to the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce Teresa Lisbon of the CBI. Isn't she lovely?" he added, winking at her, and there was some polite applause.
Lisbon found herself tuning out as Jane explained his final flourish, something about 'metamorphosis.' It seemed to her like a repetition of the trick he'd done at the CBI benefit a few years back. Well, at least it would be straightforward enough, Jane would make an egg disappear and all she'd have to do was act surprised when the chicken turned up in her jacket pocket.
Then she could get off this stage and get a nice stiff drink.
The lights dimmed, so the only illumination came from the spotlight that was hitting her right in the eyes. She grimaced in discomfort, but nobody seemed to notice, they were all too busy watching Jane. That figured.
Ah yes, there was the egg. She heard the audience gasp as he tossed it into the air and it vanished. She'd have to ask him one day how he did it. When she was through being mad at him of course.
"And now," he said, when the clapping and whispering had died down. "I'd like to ask my lovely assistant to reach into her pocket, take out whatever is in there, and show it to everyone."
"I hate you," she murmured to him, digging around in her pocket, expecting her fingers to hit feathers at any moment, but they didn't. There was nothing in there. But then she moved her hand a fraction to the left and it brushed against something small and round. Confused, she picked up whatever it was and held up in the air in front of her. The crowd gasped again. The spotlight was still burning in her line of vision so she had no idea what it was. A penny, perhaps? He should have stuck with the chick. Much more impressive.
"Can someone move that spotlight?" she heard Jane say, and to her relief it was done instantly. Blinking furiously as her eyes readjusted, she noticed that every other eye in the room was upon on her. But Jane, where was Jane? She looked across and then she spotted him on the floor beside her. On one knee, looking scared out of his mind.
Understanding hit her like a freight train. There was only one answer to this situation, in her experience. But it was too soon; they'd only been together a little over a year, only been living together for six weeks. It couldn't be…but yet, what else could it be?
For the first time, her eyes focused on the object in her hand. A diamond winked in the strong spotlight. Good Lord, that thing was the size of a golf ball, it must have cost him a fortune…
"Teresa?" said Jane, recalling her attention. "Will you marry me?"
The room attained the kind of absolute silence she associated with a morgue. She looked from the ring, to his hopeful face, and then back again, and said the first thing that came into her head.
"You miserable, conniving, son of a bitch."
Castle let out a small groan, as the crowd gasped yet again.
"I told him this was a bad idea," he whispered to Kate, who was holding his hand tightly. "I told him!"
He'd spent nearly all of yesterday trying to persuade Jane not to go ahead with his plan, but to no avail. Jane had listened politely to all his arguments and then gone out to a local jeweller to pick up the ring.
"Relax," she whispered back. "Just wait and see what happens."
"Just when I thought you couldn't sink any lower," Lisbon said. "You go and hijack your own friend's wedding just to make a spectacle of yourself. You are unbelievable!"
Jane then did the very last thing Castle would have done in this situation. He started to chuckle.
"Very astute, my dear," he said, mildly. "But to answer my question: yes or no?"
"Why I would I want to marry an asshole like you?" said Lisbon viciously.
"Search me," said Jane, with a shrug. "But you're considering it." He was starting to grin. "I know you are."
"I am not!" she shot back.
"Then why can't you look me in the eye?"
The crowd tittered. Castle focused on Lisbon and saw that she did indeed seem to be having trouble meeting Jane's gaze-and she was blushing.
"Hold the phone," he whispered to Kate.
"The light's in my eyes," said Lisbon.
"Liar," Jane countered coolly. It had sounded pretty unconvincing to Castle too.
"But it's too soon," she said. "Way too soon."
"What else could life possibly throw at us?" Jane asked her, gently. "I love you. That's not going to change."
She softened. "I love you too, but that's not the point-"
"So what is the point?" Jane pressed. "Scared you'll like it?"
Her eyes narrowed again. "I'm not scared of you," she scoffed.
"Then prove it," he said. "Say you'll marry me."
"Fine!" she said, hands on hips.
"Fine," she repeated. "Fine, I'll marry you, you insufferable-"
But she was cut off as Jane pulled her towards him into a passionate kiss, and the audience erupted into cheers, the loudest of which came from Castle and Beckett.
"That was the weirdest proposal I have ever witnessed," said Castle, as Jane and Lisbon broke apart, with mile-wide smiles on their faces, despite Lisbon being practically scarlet with mortification. She slipped the ring onto her finger and then let Jane lead her down from the stage, as the clapping continued.
"I swear to God, if you had proposed to me like that, I'd have decked you," said Kate. He was suddenly very glad that when he'd asked for her hand, he'd done it in the privacy of the loft. Even so, he'd still managed to make a fool of himself, stumbling over his words, and dropping the ring. Once again, his writer's eloquence had abandoned him at a crucial moment.
Music started up from the band in the corner and the crowd around the stage began to disperse. Over on the other side of the room, he saw Lisbon and Jane leaning against a wall, having an intense conversation. Every so often, he caught a glimpse of the diamond as Lisbon flung her arms around in irritation.
"Let's leave them to themselves for a while," he said. "Want to dance with your husband?"
She smiled that beautiful smile. "Always."
The rest of the night passed in something of a blur for Lisbon. She sat through speeches without taking in a word, lifted her glass in countless toasts she never listened to and ate a piece of wedding cake without realising it. One moment she was holding a full plate and then there was nothing left but crumbs.
She was too distracted even to laugh when Jane was accosted by Castle's Broadway queen mother and subjected to ten minutes of highly-coloured retellings of life in the theatre.
Jane had spent most of the evening by her side, but seemed to pick up on her wish to be silent, for he didn't push her to talk or do anything. In fact, he too had been pretty much silent the whole time. She wondered if maybe he was regretting his proposal, perhaps even trying to find the right way to take it back.
"Hey," Beckett appeared next to her. "Nice ring."
She took another look at the offending object that had been commanding her attention for most of the night. It was nice. Exquisite even. Everything a woman would want in an engagement ring.
"Yes," she agreed. "So is yours."
"Do you regret it?" asked Beckett. "Saying yes?"
"Surprisingly, no," said Lisbon. "That's what scares me."
They both laughed quietly.
"Really stuck with them now, aren't we?" said Lisbon after a while.
"Guess so," said Beckett.
"We're insane, aren't we?"
"Probably." She held up her glass of champagne. "To insanity."
Over at the bar, Castle and Jane too, were raising a glass.
"Congratulations, Jane," said Castle. "You deserve it."
"And to you, Castle," said Jane. "You're a lucky man."
"Here's to never having to put ourselves through the torture of proposing ever again," said Castle, fervently.
Jane grinned. "I'll drink to that."
Perhaps a little clichéd, but there's only so many ways you can write a wedding. I did my best, but once again, fluff isn't really my forte.
Thank you to everyone who has read my crossover. It was the hardest story I've ever written, but I'm pleased with how it turned out. I hope you enjoyed it too.
Until next time,