a co-authored, post-ep story by Sandiane Carter and chezchuckles
He's surprised when Kate doesn't take her arm away from his until she absolutely has to, and even then - as they slide into the pew, smile at the people already sitting there - she keeps her hand at his elbow, fingers lightly curled around the crook of his arm, as if she doesn't want to let go.
It sends a little thrill to his heart, his whole body tingling with awareness - with the pleasure of having her so close.
Maybe third time's the charm.
They've been handed a program by a cute little girl, and Kate looks at it, her bare arm brushing the material of his jacket as she turns the pages; he focuses on breathing evenly, reads over her shoulder to distract himself.
It works better than he expected.
"Woah," he whispers, even though there's no reason to: the music is still playing, the last couple of guests about to sit down. "How many pages are there? How long is this thing?"
Kate gives him an amused look, shoves the program on his lap. "What did you expect, Castle? They're both Catholic."
He studies the cover page, where Ryan and Jenny's names are intertwined together in an artistic, ornate way, before flipping it to have a look inside. Oh. Yeah. That is...a lot of prayers. And readings. Whatever.
"Do you know any of these?" he asks his partner - his plus one. He shouldn't read too much into it; he knows he shouldn't.
Or should he?
"No," Kate murmurs. "Some of the names are familiar, but...no. You?"
"Hmm, no. Not exactly a big church-goer."
His eyes are still lingering on the program (on a few occasions it says "song", but surely they don't expect him to sing?) when Kate nudges him, nods to a row behind them.
"By the way, did you see Esposito and Lanie sitting together?"
Castle's exclamation earns him a few glares, but he doesn't care; he turns and cranes his neck, looking for them. They're not sitting very far, and he's not being very discreet, so of course they both notice him; Lanie smiles slyly, waves her hand, while Esposito gives him a pointed look that seems to mean don't jinx it, man.
Unable to help himself, he grins largely at the couple before a hand tugs on his shirt, brings him back to a more decent position. His knee hits the bench in front of them, and he winces. Kate Beckett has a strong grip.
"It's starting, Castle," she whispers. Her tone has something scolding to it, but her green-brown eyes are shining with excitement, lips parted, the corners of her mouth coming up into what promises to be a gorgeous smile.
He has to push back the sudden urge to kiss her.
The music changes indeed, accompanying the entrance of the first bridesmaid; he turns his head to watch, feels Kate leaning in to do the same. He tries to shut out all thoughts of her body in that dress, the slim length of her in the treacherous grey fabric - demure, and yet eagerly clinging to every curve.
It's not working so well.
Before he knows it, the wedding march is playing, and everyone is standing up. Kate's hand hovers, an inch from his, so tantalizingly close; and he gives in, letting his pinky flirt with hers as he turns to watch Jenny walk in on her father's arm.
It's amazingly long, this Catholic wedding with the full mass, but the whole thing is breathtaking.
Of course, her too-tight chest and her breathlessness might possibly be the fault of the writer sitting pressed against her in the pew, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder. In their defense, the church is packed with people and their row is squeezed tight, but she's not pressed against the woman on her right like she is Castle on her left.
She has her legs crossed, left over right, but she uncrosses them to switch (one leg is starting to fall asleep), and when she does, her calf slants across his shin, brushing the fabric of his pants. She curls her leg back, trying to avoid invading his space, and finds that now her toe curls up under the back of his knee.
Castle shifts, his elbow comes back against hers, pressing her arm into the stiff wooden pew as if to warn her to stop squirming. Kate leaves it alone, lets her foot rest in the crook of his knee, warm and intimate.
She leans in towards him to see better, realizes her hand is hovering just over his thigh as if she might place it there for balance.
And then she does. Because she just wants to see Ryan's face for a moment, get a better glimpse through all the people, and then she settles back, slides her fingers from the top of his thigh, wraps them around the program.
The priest has the audience stand for the first reading; they rise as one, the whole audience, and Kate feels again her fingers right at his, the heat of him nudging at her, tempting and close. The backs of their hands brush; the flush of joy that masquerades as need comes rippling through her.
She shouldn't kid herself any longer; it's not just attraction.
A girl in a pretty white dress goes up to the podium off to one side, begins to read from the Bible:
"Love is patient. . .It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
It is only a murmur beside her, only a faint repetition of the reading, as if it slipped thoughtlessly out from his lips, but it's Castle. It's Castle softly whispering, and it shades the whole verse with meaning.
Love is patient. Love never fails.
They *are* expected to sing, Castle realizes, as they get to the first song and the priest asks them to stand again. His knees are starting to protest the repeated movement (not old age, he tells himself adamantly, just the lack of sleep) but he would never complain about it, not when it means Kate's long body so close to his, and the slow, skittish dance of their hands.
So he stands, glancing at the people on his left, noticing that they all have their programs open to the page of the song. Damn. In what he hopes is a smooth move, he bends backwards as much as he can, feels for their own copy, and retrieves it as gracefully as possible.
Kate is staring stoically ahead, but her close-lipped smile tells him that she didn't miss any of it.
Great. The song is starting now, so he flips quickly to the right page (after checking over his neighbor's shoulder where they're at), surveys the words and attempts to mouth them. Such a crowd, anyway: no one will be able to tell whether or not he's actually singing.
He holds the program so that Kate can see too, but after the first verse he cuts his eyes to her and realizes that she's not singing. She's not even pretending to. She's watching him, with that look in her eyes - halfway between amused and tender - and he feels his breath catch in his throat, the next words of the chorus instantly forgotten.
"You're not singing," he murmurs.
"I think you're doing a fine enough job for the two of us," she breathes back, a tease of a smile flickering on her lips.
He wants to kiss her, wipe the smirk off her laughing face.
"I think you're just embarrassed," he shoots back instead.
The woman next to Kate gives them a stern look before turning back to the priest. He obediently starts mouthing the words again, but Kate rolls her eyes at him, steps closer to get a better view of the music.
He feels her sway - the heels, maybe, or the lack of space - whatever the reason, he doesn't care so long as he gets to steady her with a hand at her elbow, feel the side of her collide into him.
And then she parts her lips and starts singing the chorus along with the rest of them, and his whole body thrums at the sound of her. Her beautiful voice hits all the right notes - there's *no way* she's hearing this song for the first time - and he watches her in stunned admiration, the lovely lines of her profile, the heart she pours into it.
She elbows him after a few seconds, and he's suddenly reminded that he still holds her arm, his palm cradling her elbow, his fingers curled around her warm skin.
He has no intention of letting go before the song is over.
"Stop staring," she orders before the last verse, something suspiciously like a smile dancing on her face. Joy flares in his stomach, bathes him with light and bright hope. Because she looks so comfortable with him, because she's not shaking his hand off her elbow, because she said...
Maybe third time's the charm.
He doesn't doubt it will be. If it's with her.
She loves the look on Ryan's face, can't get enough of it. He's swimming in tears, of course, but they don't fall, stubborn man. Kate can practically feel Esposito's fierce machismo tunneling through the crowd to lend Ryan some extra amount of stoicism.
She leans in to Castle again, catching sight of Ryan just before the priest turns them around to take the Host together. The wine and bread glitter in gold plates at the low table. She feels Castle turn his head slightly, his lips at her ear, breath hot as he speaks.
"What are they doing?" His voice is rich in her ear.
He seriously hasn't been to a mass before? "Communion-"
"Oh. They do that at weddings?" he murmurs, the sounds curling through her insides like a flame.
"Mm," she acknowledges, half-closing her eyes at the heat along her side, the heat building in her body.
"Huh," he huffs softly, and his head turns back to the wedding ceremony, the couple up front. Cool air rushes in to displace the feel of his warm breath, his almost-there lips.
Kate blinks and leans back, then bows her head with the congregation as the priest prays over the Eucharist.
Nothing will still inside her, nothing will bow down. She lifts her head slightly, an eye open, slides a glance over at Castle.
He's doing the same; his face breaks into a sly smile. Her heart pounds.
Kate plus one equals. . .
More. More than she is now.
And isn't that the goal?
Of course he knows what happens at mass. He's a writer; he's researched this before. Wikipedia can be quite helpful when it's not completely and mystifyingly wrong.
He just wanted to touch his mouth to the shell of her ear, speak to her quietly so that only she could hear him.
It looks like it worked. She perhaps meant to lean back into her own space, but she's canted halfway into him, close and familiar, while her hand is hot in her own lap but still partially touching his thigh.
Whenever she's not paying attention, she bobs her foot up and down restlessly so that he feels the toe of her shoe, the strong tendons of her foot alternately touch the back of his knee. Over and over like a caress. There is no way he's moving his leg.
Jenny and Ryan stand after they take communion together; every pew has to stand with them as well. Another prayer, another chance to hold her gaze as they look at each other from under bowed heads, lowered lashes.
Her profile in this dress is just stunning, but what's more stunning is the fact that this isn't what he noticed first. What he noticed first about Kate Beckett was the joyful smile she gave him when she finally caught sight of him, and in that moment when he couldn't take his eyes off her gorgeous face, she came down that little step towards him with a light and effervescent appeal, fresh and familiar and pleased.
He keeps catching glimpses of that same look all through the wedding ceremony.
They move to sit down again and Castle realizes he's got her by the elbow, angling them into their seats, and then it's just a slow slide of his palm down the inside of her arm before his fingers circle around her wrist.
His index finger he leaves in the cradle of her palm, stroking the so-soft skin there, their arms clasped (not hands; he wouldn't hold her hand in a church, not yet).
After a moment, her fingers curl down around his index finger, the only part of him she can reach, but she shifts so that their hands are now in her lap, the heat of her body scorching his arm.
He has to take a slow, measured breath to keep it from getting to him.
Still. It gets to him. He doesn't move, doesn't try to brush his thumb along her skin, doesn't push for it. He's quite content to hold her by the wrist and have his arm held in the soft angle of her body.
Her fingers have a mind of their own. It's not often that she notices them, grants them any special consideration - these long useful things that can curl around chopsticks, fire a gun, undo the clasp of the chain that holds her mother's ring - but today she has to.
Because her fingers are very intent on sliding down into Rick Castle's hand and lacing with his own.
She tells them no, of course, vaguely shocked and somewhat indignant that they'd even think of it. But they're stubborn. They won't take no for an answer. And Castle's thumb is resting right on her wrist bone, not moving but warm and heavy all the same, and her fingers tingle, itching to make up for the lack of movement, to slide down that hand and have their palms kiss.
She forces her mind away from her treacherous hand, realizes that the priest is now pronouncing the nuptial blessing. Jenny is openly crying by now, but her tears only seem like a perfect counterpoint to the dazzling smile on her face.
"And now," the man says with a kind smile, "I invite all members of the assembly to follow the example of our lovely couple, Kevin and Jenny, and exchange a sign of peace with those immediately around them."
Ryan leans in and kisses his new wife on the lips, a sweet, delicate, intimate gesture, and Kate's heart trips in her chest. What was that? Follow the example - sign of peace - what?
She doesn't dare look at Castle, her palm suddenly slick with sweat, and anxiously turns her eyes to the other guests instead, more or less hoping that she's dreamed the part about following the example of our lovely couple.
She hasn't. But the good news is, not everyone has suddenly started kissing. In fact, most people are shaking the hand of their neighbors, or kissing them on the cheek, murmuring, "Peace be with you."
A great exhale of relief escapes her as the woman sitting beside her gives her a smile and holds out a hand. "Peace be with you," she says as they shake, and Kate repeats the words, dazed, heart in her throat with gratitude.
A light squeeze on her wrist makes her turn, but she's not afraid anymore. She's fine, she can do it; she's already offering her right hand when Castle leans in, his scent, his heat invading her space, leaving her breathless. His lips brush her temple, then down to her jaw, before finally pressing against her cheek.
It's not the corner of her mouth, but it's not that far either. Right in the middle.
His mouth stays there for a beat longer than it should, warm and tender, delicious against her skin. She sucks in a shaky breath, drowns in it, her blood too loud in her temples, and she's not - she's not thinking - she wants -
Castle moves away, his blue eyes shimmering, meaning and emotion staring at her.
"Peace be with you," he rasps, his voice this deep, attractive rumble that makes her wish she were in a bed with him.
Peace is certainly *not* the right word for the state she's in.
She doesn't manage to summon the words to say it back; all she can do is swallow heavily, and try to calm the wild pounding of her heart.
People are moving around them, standing up (is it over?) and Castle stands too, takes her with him (she doesn't remember lacing their hands together, but it must have happened at some point, because now they're clasped, palm to palm, as he slowly leads her outside - those treacherous fingers).
Strangely enough, it's the sound of the crowd, the loud wishes that drown out the joyful chatter, the laughter and the hugging, that bring Kate back to herself, help her find her balance again.
They meet up with Lanie and Esposito outside (both of them beaming: they must have followed Ryan and Jenny's example to the letter) and suddenly, her hand is free.
She parts her lips, thinks better of it, closes her mouth.
And she keeps her eyes averted from Castle's.
She is *not* disappointed.