Summary: All secrets eventually see the light of day. Spoilers for Rise.

Author's Note: This one is ridiculously fluffy. And really long...it kind of ran away from me. See the end for the rest of this AN.

Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own them.


Promises

November 27, 2013

"Love," Kate said softly, her voice still foggy with sleep.

It was the morning before Thanksgiving and Castle had convinced her to take a few days off so that they could spend a long weekend in the Hamptons. They had left yesterday after work, grabbing dinner along the way. They arrived after dark, collapsing in the warmth of their bed, a stark contrast to the storm that was raging outside, coating everything in a thin layer of white flakes. They had added their own heat to the equation, more than once, before drifting into a peaceful sleep.

"What?" Castle asked, startled, not having realized Kate was awake.

"Love," Kate repeated. "The word you just spelled on my back."

Castle kissed her hair and slid his hand back to her left shoulder to write another word.

Kate smiled as she deciphered the movements of his fingers. "Sexy."

"You think I'm sexy?" Castle teased.

Kate snorted. "No," she lied.

Castle was not at all convinced. "Liar."

She whacked his chest. "Shut up."

She felt him smile into her hair as his fingers returned to the skin of her upper back.

"Will," she said after his next word.

Unlike before, he did not return to her shoulder; he simply continued on as though he was writing an entire sentence on her skin.

"You."

Kate's voice broke as she spoke the next word and realization dawned. "M...marry."

She knew the next word even before he spelled it but allowed him to finish before she spoke. "Me?"

She felt movement next to her and lifted her head. Castle was propped up on his elbow fixing her with the most hopeful expression she had even seen. It randomly crossed her mind that it was so like them not to do this the normal way, with him down on one knee and both of them wearing more than just the covers on their bed.

Kate was looking at him through tear-filled eyes, opening and closing her mouth a couple times before she gave up on her attempts to speak and simply nodded her head.

"Really?"

She nodded again, finding her voice this time, though it was so choked with emotion that her answer was quiet. "Yes, Rick."

Castle practically pounced on her, enveloping her body in his and meeting her lips in a deep kiss. Kate kissed him back just as fervently, her arms coming up to wrap around his neck. All too soon, he was pulling away, ducking his head out of Kate's grip and rolling off of her to reach for the bedside table. He pulled the drawer open and pulled out a small box, one Kate had not seen in months, but even so, it looked exactly as she remembered.

Castle returned to her side and opened the box to reveal a beautiful white gold diamond engagement ring. From what she could see through her tears, it was tasteful and not overly extravagant. He slipped the ring onto her finger and brought her hand up to his lips, planting a kiss just above the stone.

Kate released a sound that was half laugh, half sob, at the gesture before tugging him back to her. She kissed him passionately, holding nothing back and pouring all of her feelings into the kiss, her touches, and the look in her eyes as she gazed up at him.

Castle raised a hand to her cheek, cupping her jaw tenderly and leaning down to capture her lips with his own again. His other hand explored unabashedly, simultaneously spreading fire across her skin and leaving a trail of goose bumps in its wake. Kate rocked her hips against his and he groaned, pulling her more firmly against him as they lost themselves in each other once again.


An hour later they were still in bed, completely sated and wrapped in each other's arms. Kate's left hand was resting on his chest, the ring sparkling. She had been staring at it for the last couple of minutes, during which time Castle had been watching her admiration.

"You like it?" he asked nervously.

Kate tore her gaze away from the diamonds to meet his eyes. "I love it," she replied in earnest. "It's gorgeous."

Castle breathed a sigh of relief. "Good."

"You were worried I didn't?"

Castle covered her hand with his and allowed his fingers to play with the ring. "Honestly, I was worried about everything that possibly could have gone wrong this morning."

Kate kissed him emphatically. "You had nothing to worry about."

"I know that now," he said with a chuckle. "But there's always a chance. And need I remind you what happened a few months ago.

"Yeah, I remember."

As though it would have been possible for her to forget. Every time he had wanted to take her out, she had wondered if that was going to be the night he asked her. Every time he opened a bottle of wine or lit a candle, she had pondered whether this would be the way he would propose, with wine and candlelight, and probably flowers and music as well. It had even crossed her mind when they planned this trip that he might pop the question, but she had imagined a scenario on the beach, or with wine and dinner, or at the very least, with clothing.

Needless to say, she had been caught completely off-guard this morning.

Kate traced the lines of his chest. "How did you know I was ready?"

Castle smiled. "Don't think I didn't notice you staring at that wedding dress a few weeks ago."

It was a chilly November day and Kate and Castle had braved the cold to grab a delicious lunch between cases. Kate had wrapped up the last of the paperwork that morning and so far, murderers seemed to be behaving themselves, so the team had found themselves with not a lot to do. Castle had wasted no time in suggesting a nice lunch out and she had agreed readily.

They bundled up and set off on the short walk to Remy's, bracing themselves against the icy wind that was likely bringing in the first winter storm of the season.

An hour later, after consuming their usual burgers and shakes, Kate had left Castle to use the bathroom while she headed out onto the sidewalk. The first flakes of snow were floating down and she looked up at the sky with childlike excitement, watching as the city was slowly becoming blanketed in white.

As a young girl, Kate had always loved snow and everything that came with it. She and her mother had always celebrated the first snowfall by frolicking around the city until they were covered in white flakes and then coming home and making hot cocoa and sitting by the fire. Though her mother was no longer around to help her build a snowman or take her ice skating as they had done when Kate was older, winter always reminded her of those times. As a cop, Kate often found the snow inconvenient, but it was moments like this in which she allowed that softer part of her to shine through.

She meandered up the sidewalk, stepping under the awnings when she began to feel snow melting against her skin. She still had to return to work and had a feeling Gates would not approve of her appearance if she was covered in snow. She ambled past a small boutique, her eyes drawn to the jackets on the mannequins in the window. She had always loved jackets and owned far more than she ever needed, but that did not stop her from admiring the latest styles.

She continued aimlessly to the next store and suddenly stopped in her tracks. There in the window was the most beautiful wedding dress Kate had ever seen. It was strapless, with delicate beading adorning the bodice. The fabric gathered neatly at the left hip and the dress flowed out from there. Yes, she had been lying when she told Castle that she had never torn a picture of a wedding dress out of a magazine, but it had been a long time since she had ever been this captivated by one. Images flew, unbidden, into Kate's mind, images of her in that dress, walking down the aisle or standing at the altar. With Castle.

Just as the thought played out, she felt a familiar pair of arms wrap around her from behind. He wisely did not say anything, but from the possessive way he pulled her back against his chest and rested his chin on her shoulder, she knew that he knew exactly what was going through her head.

"I knew it," Kate murmured, pulling both of them from the memory.

Castle chuckled. "Well, to be honest, it wasn't your best attempt at subtlety. You were standing in front of the window and your mind was a million miles away and there wasn't anything else you could have been looking at."

She laughed at the memory. "Yeah, my mind was otherwise occupied."

"Marrying me?"

Kate swatted at him lovingly. "Something like that."

Castle lifted their hands from his chest, taking his turn to admire the ring. "Now you get to marry me for real."

"I know. God, what am I getting myself into?" she teased.

Castle growled playfully and pulled her into his chest. "I don't know, but I know something I'd love to get into."

She whacked him upside the head. "Rick!"

"What?"

"Totally ruining the moment. Again."

He kissed her softly. "Sorry," he murmured against her lips. "You're right, we should be being all gushy and romantic right now."

"Yes, because proposing to me while we're naked in bed is totally romantic."

"You didn't think...?"

"I thought it was incredibly sweet," she interrupted with a sappy smile. "And it caught me totally by surprise."

"Which was my plan."

"However," she fixed him with a stern look, "you better come up with a more appropriate story to tell people."

Castle looked shocked. "Oh...I...umm..."

Kate, meanwhile, was rolling with laughter. "Your...face..." she managed between fits of laughter.

"I didn't even think about that," he admitted, looking slightly embarrassed and completely adorable.

"Clearly."

"Hey now, you made it pretty hard for me to surprise you when you knew it was coming eventually."

"Yeah but I didn't know when," Kate pointed out.

She had probably thought about the hidden ring every day since she stumbled upon it, and though she had done a fairly good job of doing as he asked, of not allowing it to interfere with the natural progression of their relationship, it was impossible to completely ignore it. In fact, just a few days after the initial discovery, the inevitable impact had come to life, prompting a very hesitant conversation from both of them. It was a balancing act, trying to maintain their equilibrium when they both possessed knowledge that had the power to completely throw them off balance.

"It's not in there."

Kate turned at the sound of his voice. "What?"

"It's not in there anymore. I re-hid it."

Kate retrained her eyes on his dresser drawer. There was no point denying what she had been staring at. "Oh."

"Don't worry about it, remember?" he reminded her, stepping up behind her and wrapping his arms around her stomach.

Kate bit her lip. "I'm...not."

"You are."

She shook her head. "No, Rick, I'm not. Really. I'm just...thinking about...about what it means."

"Well generally, it means that..."

"Don't," she said harshly, putting an end to his joking tone.

"Right, sorry." Castle tugged on her hand, urging her away from the dresser and towards the bed.

She allowed him to pull her into bed and to wrap his arms around her from behind, and she was sure it was intentional, to keep her facing away from the offending piece of furniture.

"It doesn't have to mean anything, Kate. Not yet."

She tilted her head to meet his eyes. "But someday?"

"Someday, yes," he responded. "Someday, it will be a promise."

"Of forever," she murmured, more to herself than to him but he answered anyway.

"It's not a promise for forever," he explained gently, his hand on her stomach pulling her tighter against him. "That's the promise you make on your wedding day. This is a promise that someday, you'll be ready for forever."

"I never thought of it that way."

"It's just another step," he continued. "You're here. That's step one. The other steps will come in time."

What she had not expected, however, was that she would be ready for the next step quite so soon.


It was two in the afternoon when they finally made their way out of bed, and only then because food was becoming a necessity. Dressed in boxers and nothing else, Castle made his way down to the kitchen to whip up some food. Kate joined him a short time later, clad in one of his shirts. Her hair was a mess, her face was flushed, and though she was doing an excellent job of hiding it, Castle could see that she was struggling to walk normally.

"Did I wear you out, Detective?" he asked jokingly, kissing her sweetly and passing her a mug of coffee.

Kate snorted. "Ha! Not even close."

"Good." Castle snagged her around the waist and pulled her into him so she could feel the beginnings of his arousal.

"Oh my God, Rick, seriously?"

"It's entirely your fault," he defended. "You can't walk out here in my shirt...only my shirt...and expect me to just be unaffected."

"Yeah, well I need food first. After that, we can take a shower and I'll show you just how affected I am by you wearing nothing but..." Kate reached around behind them and firmly grabbed his ass through his boxers, "these."

He groaned into her neck and she could feel just how much her words affected him. In fact, if she did not escape now, she had an inkling that they would not be eating anything all day. Both of them were insatiable today, even more so than normal.

After the most rushed meal in the history of meals...including all of her hurried lunches at the precinct...Kate found herself being backed into the kitchen counter, his fingers deftly working the buttons of the shirt while his mouth drove her crazy in the best way possible. The edge of the countertop was digging into her back, but with his hands on her chest and his lips on her neck, she could not have cared less if there would be a bruise tomorrow.

Castle was relentless in his movements and caresses, stopping only when she physically reached down and grabbed his wrist, halting him, pulling his lips back to hers. Her other hand came up to his chest as she leaned her forehead against his shoulder and released a shaky breath.

He twined his fingers through hers on his chest and Kate wordlessly tugged their hands so that they were resting against the inside curve of her breast, allowing him to feel the pounding of her heart.

He smiled wickedly. "Is that a challenge?"

Kate lifted her head. "What?"

"Is that a challenge?" he repeated. She blinked a couple times, forcing her brain to function properly as she contemplated the meaning of his words. "To see if I can get your heart rate going even faster next time," he clarified.

Kate's jaw dropped open. "Oh, no."

"Why not?"

"Because..." she stammered, unable to think of a reason that his mission could be anything but a good idea.

Castle winked at her. "Scared you won't be able to handle it?"

"Oh, I can handle it just fine." She dropped his wrist and reached down to cup him, watched his eyelids droop and his mouth drop open.

He groaned and Kate smirked. "Not so smug now, are you?" she teased as her other hand made its way beneath the waistband and slid his shorts down his legs, snapping what remained of his slef-control.

He grabbed her by the waist and unceremoniously hoisted her onto the counter. Kate seemed completely unfazed by the gesture as she scooted to the edge and wrapped her legs around him, pulling his hips against hers. She rocked against him and he inhaled sharply.

"Kate."

"Rick."

Though she lived for their slow, passionate, more sensual times together, right now she was in no mood to be patient. She leaned forward to whisper in his ear and her words were more than enough to spur him on. "I need you. Now."

And this time it was hard and fast and all-encompassing and when it was over, Kate lay back on the counter and Castle collapsed on top of her, his head pillowed on her chest and his arms tangled with hers.

At long last, he stood, Kate following his lead and pulling herself back up into a seated position. Castle wrapped his arms around her, pulling her torso flush against his and reveling in the aftermath, the feeling of her sweaty skin, erratic breaths, and racing heart. He would never, ever, tire of watching her fall apart in his arms.

He sneaked his hand between them and slid it up to her chest, once again resting his palm over her heart. "I don't know, I might have done it," he murmured.

Kate pulled away and glared at him, a look that was far from intimidating when she was flushed and sweaty and glowing, and he simply leaned in and kissed the expression off of her face. "Admit it," he said against her lips. "I win."

She bit down on his bottom lip, tugging it into her mouth and soothing it with her tongue. His body was pliant against hers and when she was sure he was totally engrossed in the kiss, she pushed him away and slid off the counter and out of his reach. She had always held the power in their relationship and she knew it.

He opened his eyes in surprise and he looked at her, half-pouting and half-aroused. "You...you..."

She flashed him a sexy smile and sauntered off, exaggerating the sway of her hips because she knew him well enough to know that he was staring at her. Kate made it as far as the hallway before his brain caught up with him and he dashed after her. He caught her just outside their bedroom, his arms pulling her back against him.

"Tease," he muttered, nipping at the skin of her neck. "You're so going to pay for that."

They stumbled their way to the master bathroom, Castle teasing her the whole way, licking and sucking at her neck and throat and biting down on her earlobe as she turned on the shower. They climbed into the stall together, still wrapped around each other, and Kate once again found herself pressed up against the wall.

After the shower, it was the bathroom counter, followed by the bed, after which they both succumbed to a short, but much needed, nap.

When they drifted back into consciousness a short time later, both of their bodies demanding a break from a certain type of exertion, Castle untangled himself from her, leaving her wrapped snugly in their bed while he set about fixing dinner and creating a romantic setting, complete with soft music and candlelight.

Kate had fallen back asleep while he worked and was roused by the feel of his soft lips working over hers, a tender and loving kiss.

"Wake up sleepyhead, I made dinner."

"Mmmm," she hummed into the kiss. "It smells delicious."

They had stumbled down to the kitchen wrapped in each other's arms and still wearing what could only be classified as next-to-nothing. Dinner was delicious, as always when Castle cooked, and the fire and candlelit atmosphere only added to the experience.

Now, an hour later, they were basking in the aftermath together, relaxing in the living room by the heat of the fireplace.

Kate caught sight of a sparkle, drawing her eyes to her left hand, and she grinned like a fool. She held her hand out in front of her, examining the facets of the diamonds and the way they were catching the firelight. She was so caught up in memories, in reliving the moment, that she did not notice Castle standing in the doorway between the living room and kitchen, gazing lovingly at his fiancé. The light of the fire and crackling of the flames filled the room with a soft, mellow ambiance. The orange glow was reflecting off of the tears of joy in Kate's eyes and as a smile split her face, he felt his own break out as well.

At long last, Kate looked up, her eyes settling on Castle. He was leaning against the entryway, a glass of wine in each hand, and gazing at her in a look of what she could only describe as completely adoring and overflowing with love.

"Hey." She grinned sheepishly, knowing she had been caught.

"Hey." He walked over and claimed the space next to her. She snagged one of the wine glasses from his hands and leaned in to kiss him lovingly.

They separated and Castle held up his glass in a toast.

"To us."

"To us," she echoed, clinking her glass with his before taking a sip. As she lowered the glass, her ring caught the light again and she could not stop the smile. She was hopeless; it had been happening all day and she was thankful that he was the only one around to see it.

"You're really happy," Castle murmured.

Kate looked up. "Aren't you?"

He reached out to cup her jaw. "Of course I am. It's just that I'm used to being the sap in this relationship." Kate stuck her tongue out at him. "And the childish one," he added with a grin. Sure, she had her moments, but Castle could not recall the last time he witnessed such unbridled happiness.

He set his glass aside and brought his other hand up to cradle her face. Kate did the same, covering his hands with her own and leaning in to meet his lips again. They kept the kisses relatively chaste; they had spent so much of the day being anything but innocent that they both needed a bit of a break from anything more.

The whole day had been unreal. She was engaged. To Richard Castle. He was her fiancé. She was going to marry him. The whole concept had been lurking in the depths of her subconscious for months, but now that it was actually happening, it was a completely different ball game.

"Martha and Alexis are coming tomorrow?" Kate asked suddenly.

Castle nodded against her neck. "They'll be in around noon."

"Do they know?"

He kissed the skin of her throat. "That I was going to ask you? Yes. That I was going to ask today? No. But mother especially will be thrilled."

"I should call my dad."

She felt him nod in agreement. "Probably."

"And Lanie."

"That too."

Neither of them made any effort to move, however, perfectly content to stay cuddled in front of the fire, surrounded by each other, completely oblivious to the still-accumulating snowfall and the rest of the world around them. As the fire died down to the embers and their wine glasses were slowly emptied, Castle unfolded the blanket that was draped over the back of the couch and spread it over them. Kate shifted, maneuvering her body so that they would both fit, him lying on his back and her lying half way on top of him, her body wedged cozily between his side and the back of the sofa.

She slung her leg over his thigh and her arm across his chest, pressing the length of her body against his. Castle's hand found hers on his chest and he began fiddling with her ring again as though convincing himself that it was really there.

"We're getting married," he said softly, surreally, as he twirled the ring around her finger.

"I know."

"I can't believe it."

"Neither can I."

"Did you ever think this moment would actually happen?"

Kate lifted her head. "Not until recently. But I think I secretly wanted it to long before that."

"Hmmm."

"Did you?"

Castle lifted his head and captured her lips. "I wanted it to, more than anything."

"I could tell."

He kissed her again. "I've never worked so hard for anything in my life."

Kate buried her head in his chest. "I know. And I didn't deserve that much effort but I'm so glad that you stuck with me anyways."

"You deserve that and so much more, Kate," Castle said sincerely. "And I'm going to prove that to you every day for the rest of our lives."

"The rest of our lives," she echoed.

"Hmmm?"

"I like the sound of that," she murmured.

Castle hugged her tighter. "Me too."

Kate felt her eyes drooping shut and she could feel his breathing evening out beneath her.

"Night," she whispered into the shadows.

"Goodnight, love."

They drifted off together, the first day in this new stage of their lives coming to an end.

Tomorrow, they could spread the news to their families and friends.

For now, it was their little secret.


THE END


Author's Note part 2:

1. Well folks, this is the last part of Exposed, which makes me kind of sad, but all things must come to an end. I have had so much fun writing this one...it's different from what I normally do and it definitely took me waaay outside my comfort zone. But hey, I learned a lot from it and from all of the feedback I received, so thank you!

2. You guys were so convincing and so incredibly sweet to me that I decided to give the whole M-rated thing another shot. This one was very different from the first scene and I found it even more difficult to write, so I hope it turned out okay and didn't muddle up the rest of the chapter.

3. For anyone wondering what the ring looks like, I posted it on my Tumblr. The direct link is on my profile.

4. Thank you so much for reading and for your support and reviews and such. It means so much to me that my writing can bring a smile to your faces. You guys are amazing! This fandom rocks!

Until next time,

Diana