Symphony of Memories
It was a glorious night. Had the circumstances been different, Castle would have even gone as far as saying that it was the perfect night. He stepped out of the car and embraced the cool night air, allowing the gentle wind to soothe his nerves. He wasn't usually one to be afraid of social gatherings, far from it, really – but this night, this night was different.
This was her night.
As he entered the venue, walking under the solid white archway that led to the garden, he was taken aback by the number of people who were already milling about. When he sent out the invitations nearly three months ago, he'd been sceptical about the turnout. Even when he began receiving replies, he was still bracing himself for last minute cancellations – after all, many things had happened since the elegant invitation cards had been sent out.
The garden that he'd chosen especially for the occasion had been transformed to look like something out of a fairy tale. Christmas lights were strung and coiled along the branches of the trees, illuminating the area in a soft glow of light. Golden streams of ribbon hung from the canopies, where tables and chairs had been arranged under them for the guests. A jazz band was playing somewhere in the garden, the calming music blanketing the guests in a pleasant atmosphere.
His eyes moved from guest to guest involuntarily, automatically observing them as they chatted amongst themselves. Familiar faces raised their champagne flutes at him, some nodding and grinning – and he returned each one with a small smile of his own. The one face he was really looking for, however, remained elusive and he sighed, knowing that his search was an attempt in futility anyway.
His heart ached, but he powered through the nagging pain. He could do this. Just for one night. He'd been able to keep it together for close to forty eight hours, what was another four or five more?
"You're late, dad."
He turned around and faced his daughter, looking beautiful in a shimmering blue dress and he pulled her into a tight hug. He could feel her smile against his neck and he placed a kiss against her hair. She pulled away after a moment, fixing her father with a mocking glare.
"You're very late. They're about to start the speeches."
Castle grimaced apologetically. "I … I almost didn't make it."
"Don't say things like that, Dad," the redhead whispered with her eyes focused on her father, a hint of sadness in them, silently urging him to stay strong for just one more night.
And then she was taking his elbow and leading him to the podium situated just in front of the first row of dinner tables. He organised the event after all, she'd said. There really was no point in standing by the sidelines just gawking at the attendees.
He smiled politely at the guests as his daughter led him through the crowd, thanking them for their presence. If they noticed his sombre mood, not one person mentioned it and for that, Castle was grateful. He didn't think he would be able to take any of their questions in his current state anyway.
His daughter was already at the podium by the time he was through with the pleasantries and for a moment, he stood back, noticing for the first time how Alexis had truly grown into a young woman. He grinned at her, his first true smile in a while and she waved back at him, motioning with her fingers for him to step up to the wooden podium.
"My dad, who organised this fundraiser, would like to say a few words. So ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Rick Castle!"
He stepped up amidst the clapping around him and squinted against the spotlight that was focused on him. He raised the microphone, adjusting it to an appropriate height and fixed the crowd with a soft smile.
All he had to do was read from his piece of paper. Easy.
"I'm glad you have all decided to attend this fundraiser," he began after clearing his throat. "And while I make a living out of them, there are no words that can really describe the gratitude and appreciation I feel for all of you right now."
He took a deep breath and loosened his tie.
"The fundraiser – this fundraiser, is as you all know, to help fund a scholarship. One that will provide the monetary means for students who are willing to dedicate themselves to a career of seeking justice for those without a voice. Your donations tonight will enable these students to be the voices of the people searching for their truth, pledging themselves to the fight for justice – the same fight that Johanna Beckett herself pledged her life to."
A resounding applause broke out and Castle sucked in another shaky breath. The slip of paper in his hand fell to the ground as he willed himself to continue.
"I … I would like to dedicate this night to Jim Beckett, for allowing me to do this in honour of his wife. Jim Beckett, a man who has persevered over the loss of the loves of his life to the fight for the truth, a man who is here today to stand with me, honouring the memories of those who gave their life fighting for our truth," he held out his hand to the man in question as Jim stood up and waved to the crowd.
"Also, to the late Johanna Beckett, for whom this scholarship is named after. Loving mother and wife, a woman whose morals were founded on the very same principles that have led to the establishment of this scholarship," he paused and he turned to one of the two canvas paintings next to him. He felt a stray tear trickle down his cheek and he brushed it away, turning back to the crowd.
"And last but not least, to Kate-Katherine Beckett … wh- who succumbed to a fatal gunshot to her chest two days ago," he shut his eyes to prevent the tears from falling. A hushed murmur spread through the room as more than a hundred eyes stared up at the second canvas painting with newfound understanding.
"Kate Beckett, who taught me the difference between having a life and living, who made all the songs make sense. Kate Beckett, my saviour, my love, my one and done. I – I would not be here today without her… and – "
He struggled to get the rest of his words out as the ache in his heart became too overwhelming. His throat was constricted and it felt like there was a boulder weighing down on his heart, causing him to gasp for every breath. His fists were clenched around the edge of the podium, knuckles turning white from the tight grip.
The tears were flowing freely down his face as images of her flitted past his mind's eye. All the missed opportunities, visions of what they could have had flashed in front of him and he let out a strangled moan. Her laugh echoed in his head, her teasing smirk, the way she bit her lip when she was confused, upset, curious – oh God –
I didn't think you went for real.
He was never going to see her again.
I've gotten used to you pulling my pigtails.
So much pain.
Thank you, for being there.
He could still hear the haunting beeping of the monitors by her bedside, finally ending in a single steady tone –
His knees were threatening to buckle beneath him, but Jim Beckett was suddenly there, holding him up while his mother claimed his other side with an arm under his. He'd managed to keep his grief in check for two days, but just then, surrounded by his loved ones in the almost-perfect night, remembering Kate in all her glory – in that one moment, Richard Castle broke.
He was never going to see Kate Beckett again.
What do you get when you cross a highly caffeinated uni student, the wee early hours of the morning and way too much time on her hands? Yeah, that.
As usual, please feel free to feed my addiction (to reviews). I welcome all comments with very open arms.