Author's Note: I'm tearing up as I post this. Literally. Because this fic has been over a year in the making and I've absolutely loved writing it and I can't believe it's over. So before the chapter, allow me to ramble a bit and express my gratitude. Thank you to:

1. katiic for the original post that inspired this idea and for allowing me to run with it.

2. flashofblue for designing the cover art.

3. Andy - thanks for betaing every single chapter, and for your suggestions and constant encouragement. This fic wouldn't even exist if you hadn't convinced me to post it in the first place!

4. Everyone who ever sent me ideas/suggestions. There are parts of this story that never would have turned out the way they did without your input.

5. And finally, to everyone who ever read/favorited/followed/reviewed this fic and/or reblogged/retweeted the link. Without you guys and your support, this fic wouldn't be what it is today. I love all of you so much. Thank you.


Epilogue

Six Months Later

The room was silent as Kate stepped through the doorway, the soft breathing of her fiancé the only sound. The first rays of sun were just peeking over the horizon, golden in the early morning sky. They'd left the blinds open last night, fallen asleep gazing out at the moon and stars over the Atlantic, and now the morning light was making its way through the glass, illuminating Castle's sleeping form.

He was sprawled on the bed facing her, arms stretched out toward where she'd lain just twenty minutes earlier, before she'd silently slipped out of his embrace, found a piece of paper and a pen in his office, and scrawled down the plethora of words floating through her mind. She could only hope that her sentences came out more clearly than the jumbled mass of thoughts in her head.

Kate crept across the bedroom to the nightstand to retrieve their journal, silently thanking Castle for thinking to bring it along. Hypothetically, she could have written in the book herself, but there was just something so special about the fact that he was the only person ever to have written in it. Somehow, it seemed right to keep it that way.

So instead she picked it up, flicked through to the last entry, and slipped her folded letter in between the pages, a surprise for him someday soon. As she secured the sheet of paper, though, her eyes caught sight of the date at the top of the page and she froze as she realized why the journal had made the trip.

The date in the corner of the page...it was today's.

He'd written to her today, though it was only seven a.m., meaning he either did this sometime in the middle of the night or within the last couple of days and dated it a few days in advance. Kate shook her head, smiled. That man.

She was debating whether to let her curiosity get the better of her and read his words when she heard Castle stir behind her. She froze, moved only enough to turn her head in his direction. He blinked open bleary eyes, blindly reached for the tails of her shirt. His shirt.

"Come back to bed."

His voice was soft and sleepy and it wrapped around her, pulled her to him. She quietly closed the journal and set it aside, though not softly enough to escape detection.

"Mmm, what...?" Castle asked, blinking both eyes open.

She lifted her gaze to his, saw the question in his expression.

"I..."

"Are you..."

They both stopped, spoke again at the same time. "You first."

Castle laughed awkwardly. "Are you reading?"

"I..." Kate hesitated. It wasn't that she never intended for him to see this letter. She just hadn't planned on 'someday' being today.

But she made a snap decision, extracted the piece of paper, and held it up. "I was putting this in here for later but I...I saw the date on this last page and..."

"Oh," he breathed, curling his legs and pushing himself into a more seated position. "I umm..."

"I didn't read it," she clarified. "I just...saw it."

"Did you do the same thing?" he asked, gesturing to the paper in her hands.

Kate laughed softly. "I did, yeah."

Sometimes it was scary how similarly their minds worked.

"Do you..." he paused, nodded to the journal. "I don't mind if you read it now."

She looked down at the contents of her hands, back up to him. "I...sure, okay." She hesitated a moment, extended her own letter to him. "I guess you might as well, too."

"You're sure?"

She nodded and he reached out to take the paper from her, fingers brushing hers as he did so. Kate could feel the tension between them, the excitement of the coming day combined with uncovering the content of these letters, of each person's reaction to the other's words.

"Together?" Castle asked, unfolding the page tentatively.

Kate crawled back into bed, slipped her bare legs beneath the covers as she sat facing him, knees meeting in the middle. "Let's read mine first."

Dear Castle,

We're getting married today. And I know I'm going to be so overwhelmed that coherency isn't going to be high on my priority list, so I'm writing you a letter instead. And when you read this someday, you'll know everything I'm going to want to say to you today but won't be able to find the words for. I have no idea when you'll find this but I know that you will one day in the future. Our future.

Ever since I was a little girl, I've dreamed that one day I'd find the man I'd spend the rest of my life with. I never knew when or where or how we'd meet, but deep down, I knew that we would. My parents were married for 22 years, and the majority of my memories of them are that they were always so genuinely happy. They both worked a lot, but they always made time for each other. Whether it was to get dressed up and go out on a date once a month or have a movie night in our living room or laze in bed on a Sunday morning with coffee and breakfast as they worked their way through the crossword puzzle, they were always there for each other. Sure, they fought. But their love was so unwavering, such a strong and solid foundation. Even from a young age, I could tell that what they had was the real thing. And I wanted that.

Until my world came crashing down around me and I saw the ugly side of life, of love. I saw what people were capable of, and how their thoughtless actions could shatter your life in a matter of seconds. I saw what it did to my father to have his wife torn away from him so tragically and seemingly without reason. I felt what it did to me as I lived through the nightmare, the pain so sharp and encompassing that there were days I wasn't sure I would make it. Or that I wanted to. Losing someone so near and dear to your heart is something from which you never truly recover, and I never wanted to go through that type of pain again.

I still believed that the day I arrested you for the first time, the day you wormed your way into my life against my wishes. I believed that falling in love wasn't worth it, that opening myself up to another person was a risk that was guaranteed to end in heartbreak. Sure, I'd had relationships, some that even lasted a decent amount of time. But none of them ever stood a chance of succeeding, not when I'd closed myself off from even the possibility of falling in love. Those walls I told you about on the swings almost four years ago...they were impenetrable, which was exactly what I wanted. And no one ever made it past even the first layer of bricks.

Until you.

God, it used to drive me crazy, the way you managed to find your way inside even when you barely knew me. I still remember that very first case, the way you profiled me almost exactly. No one had ever done that before, and it scared me because your words reached places in me that no one else's had in a long time. I guess I should have known even then that you'd find your way through one day.

And you did, though it was a long time before I admitted that to myself. I pretended that I wasn't affected by you, that you didn't stir up these feelings inside of me that I hadn't felt in a long time. Because the stronger the feelings, the harder the fall, and I couldn't afford to crash and burn again.

But you stuck around, annoyed me, pushed and pried and bulldozed your way to my heart and no matter what I tried, I just couldn't seem to keep you out. And slowly but surely I realized that maybe letting you in wasn't such a bad thing. You know as well as I do how stubborn I can be, how difficult it was for me to completely let go of my past and stop allowing it to dictate my future. How hard it was to let myself let you in.

But you proved yourself over and over again by sticking around, by coming back to me even when I did my best to push you away, by being willing to do absolutely anything for me. And most importantly, you made me smile and laugh and learn to live again. You brought light to my life where before there was only darkness. You brought a sense of hope and optimism when I was surrounded by so much death that it was hard not to be pessimistic.

You made me believe again...in happiness, in magic, and in forever.

And somewhere along the way, I fell so irrevocably in love with you that I can't imagine my life any other way than with you in my heart.

It still terrifies me, the possibility of ever living without you. I still don't know how I'd ever survive if something happened to you, and the mere thought of it is utterly paralyzing. But I realized at some point that no matter what the future throws at us, what we have is worth any pain I might endure along the way. My mom used to say that life never gives you anything you can't handle. For a long time I thought she was wrong, but you've helped me to realize the truth in her words.

So thank you, for sticking around and driving me crazy, for believing in us and never giving up on me, for seeing what we had long before I did and being willing to wait for me to work through everything. For loving me.

In just a few hours, my long lost childhood dream will finally come true. I'll put on a white dress and my father will walk me down the aisle and hand me over to the man who will always have my heart. I'll slide a ring on his finger as I promise to love him for the rest of my life, and he'll do the same to me. Both of us will probably cry. We'll share our first kiss as husband and wife, the first of many. There will be delicious food and cake and dancing but I won't notice any of it because he'll be by my side and when he's there, nothing else matters. Only him.

Only you.

I know that no words will ever be enough to describe how much I love you, Castle, but I hope that with this letter you will realize that you are my everything, my always, and that my heart forever belongs to you.

I love you so much and I promise to show you that every day for the rest of our lives.

Love,

Kate

There were tears in his eyes when he finished reading and lifted his eyes to hers.

"Castle," she whispered anxiously, nervous as to his reaction to her words. But even through his watery gaze, she could see the pure love radiating from his features and understood that the droplets on his cheeks were tears of happiness.

He was at a complete loss of words, simply picked up the journal and handed it to her. She silently took it from him, adjusted the angle so they could both read his letter.

Dear Kate,

The very first letter in these journals marks the beginning of our story, and while I know that today is nowhere near the end, it only seems right to document the closing of this chapter and the opening of the next. These last few years have been so unbelievably amazing but I know that the best is yet to come.

We're getting married tomorrow. Or, well, today, considering that it's currently 1:30 in the morning.

Well, that explained when he'd written the letter, Kate realized with a shake of her head. Only Castle would wake up in the middle of the night to write to her on their wedding day. It made her love him even a little bit more.

It all seems so surreal still that by this time tomorrow you'll be my wife. I never imagined when I first met you that you would be anything more than a passing fling, one woman in a string of many. You were commanding and gorgeous and so very sexy, and I'm sure our one night together would have been hot and wild and passionate.

But if you'd said yes to me back then, where would we be right now? Would I have come back after that first case? Would there have been more than one night? Would we have crashed and burned as we tried to figure out what exactly was going on between us, what we both wanted?

Whatever would have happened, I'm almost positive it wouldn't have led us here, and I'm so glad you turned me away, because I can't imagine the last six and a half years without you by my side. I don't know what my life would be like but I know with absolute certainty that it would never be anything like it is now. With you, I'm happier than I've ever been. With you, I'm a better man. And with you, I've learned to believe that forever is possible. I can only hope that I've been able to give to you what you've given to me.

As I sit here writing by the light of the full moon outside, you're asleep next to me, burrowed into the pillows. The sheet is bunched down around your waist and I just want to lean over and leave a trail of kisses up your spine, whisper soft words of love in your ear. But at the same time, I don't want to wake you, because I never tire of watching you sleep. You're always stunning, but right now you look so peaceful and beautiful, so angelic, the way the moonlight is illuminating your features, casting a glow off your skin. So ethereal.

It's been three years now and I still can't believe I'm the one who gets to fall asleep next to you every night. I don't know what I ever did to deserve that, to deserve you, but I'm so unbelievably thankful to you for giving me a chance, for taking the risk and letting me into your heart.

No matter what it took to get to this point, no matter what we may endure in the future, I wouldn't have it any other way. I treasure every moment we have spent together and I know that there are only more to come, each as special as the one before.

I've always been at a loss of words when it comes to you, Kate, and perhaps that's because there are none to describe how much you mean to me. Maybe one of these days I'll find the right ones. Until then, never forget that you have my heart, my love, and everything else I have to give, always.

I love you so much.

Rick

By the time she reached the end of the letter, the ink was swimming on the page, blurred by her own tears. God, this man and his words. He knew exactly what to write to plunge straight down to the very depths of her heart.

"Castle," she breathed, lifting her head. Teary eyes met teary eyes and Kate reached out her free hand to cup his jaw, guide him closer. He came willingly, pressed their lips together so sweetly that the tears escaped from her eyes at the gentleness of the gesture.

He pulled away briefly, folded her letter and secured it back in the journal. He set it safely aside and when he turned back to her, he wasn't sure who moved first. All he knew was that he was suddenly lying on his back in the bed, Kate on top of him, limbs wrapped around him. Her face was buried in his neck, his in her hair, and he was no longer sure whose tears were whose.

"God, I love you," he whispered into her hair, lips brushing the shell of her ear as he spoke. "So much, Kate."

She pressed her lips to his neck in response, still not trusting her voice to work.

"We're getting married," Castle choked out a minute later.

Kate nodded, raised her head to meet his eyes. "We are," she managed, so many emotions laced in her words.

Their mouths lifted into simultaneous smiles as they gazed at each other lovingly, paragraphs of feelings, of love, flowing between them.

At long last he blinked, broke the spell. "When do you have to start getting ready?"

Kate glanced at the clock on the bedside table, back to him. "In about two hours."

"Good," Castle replied immediately, rolled them so she was beneath him, and she could see the sudden appearance of mischief in his twinkling blue eyes.

"And why's that?" she asked with a smirk.

"Because, Almost-Mrs.-Castle," he husked, and Kate raised her eyebrow because she wasn't changing her name - at least not professionally - but he still insisted that he was going to call her Mrs. Castle, and she knew that he knew that she secretly loved the sound of it even if she pretended not to.

She smiled widely, eyes beautiful and sparkling as she spoke. "Because what, Mr. Castle?"

He dropped his lips to hers, a feather of a touch laced with the promise of so much more. "Because that means that I have one last chance to show Katherine Beckett exactly how much I love her."


END