a/n: I wrote this back in December before Ryan's wedding aired and posted it on Livejournal. I was asked last night if I was going to post my stories on here since a lot of people hadn't read them and I figured I should in case anyone had the desire to do so. And yes, I won't lie, comments do make the world go round!

There are two parts and part 2 will be posted immediately! (Sorry it's so long. I'm...wordy, shall we say.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

8:58 a.m.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

The pain in his head is searing; intense, raw, reminiscent of college life and the parties he'd gone to after his first few books had hit the New York Times best seller list. A headache so incredibly immobilizing that Rick Castle swears he's dead. Heaven is supposed to be naked women attending to his every whim. It's supposed to be all light and airy, filled with alcohol that doesn't give hangovers and muses that never cause writer's block.

He opens one eye; the drapes are pulled open and despite the dreary day outside, he groans. There had been a wedding last night, he thinks. There had clearly been alcohol. Champagne, mixed fruity drinks that came with little pink and green umbrellas that he likes, tequila.

Oh yes. There had been tequila.

Lots and lots of shots of tequila. There were no umbrellas for those. Just salt and Beckett's bare skin…


Castle's eyes pop open; he grimaces. Headache. Pain. So much goddamn pain. He turns his head to the left, his neck cracking in need of release. It's her hair he sees first. That dark curtain of tousled locks that is splayed across the white hotel pillows. Her bare right shoulder peeks out from underneath the blanket, perfectly curved around the duvet.

"Beckett," he whispers.

Her shoulder doesn't move. The curtain of hair remains messily in place. He shifts to the left to poke her, rolling over something.


Well, he definitely isn't naked. Castle lifts the blanket, squints.

What. The. Fuck.

"Beckett," he whispers again. "Why am I in a kilt?"

Kate moans. It's low and deep in the back of her throat and the haze that clouds his mind softens. There had been a roof last night. Candy hearts. Confessions in the coldest parts of the night. Sex.

And after that, the blur is back; a hazy recollection of photos that don't quite come together.

The kilt, right.

"Ask Siri," Kate mumbles.

He considers asking who the hell Siri is, until he catches a glimpse of her cell on the nightstand. The iPhone. That little lady voice. He thinks he remembers her yelling at him in that stupid automated condescending tone of hers.

Now, now, Rick. I can't help you find your way to Candy Mountain. The nearest candy store is one point two miles away.

"Kate." His voice is a little louder now.

"Castle, shut up. I'm sleeping."

Burying her head into her pillow, Kate slides closer to him, raising an eyebrow as she lifts the covers. "Are you wearing a kilt?"

"This is what I'm saying!" His raised voice causes him to wince. "Do you think I stole this from someone?" he asks, now barely a whisper. "Did a spirit bring it to me? Did an Irish alien want to take part in Riverdance with me?"

Kate laughs, the sounds muffled by the threaded sheets. His fingers find her hair, tangled knots that snag on the crevices of his fingers. She groans in pleasure. "Why do you always assume it's a supernatural force when you can't find an answer for something?"

"I want to believe," Castle mumbles. He leans back against the headboard and closes his eyes. "Okay, I remember the roof. I remember that you came on to me-" Kate's eyes narrow. "You're giving me the look right now, aren't you?"

"Tread lightly, Castle."

"Right. We'll never speak of it again. We had sex. Incredible sex. And then it's all blank. Did you drug me, Beckett?"

She smacks his chest, eliciting a grunt from him. "Yeah, Castle. You caught me. I figured the only way to get you back into bed was to drug you."

"All you had to do was ask. Why do we keep waking up drugged?" His eyes open, focus on the floor beside him. Miniature tequila bottles are haphazardly thrown about, lying next to a drizzling of candy hearts. "Oh. Or we broke into the mini bar."

"I feel like you're going to try to piece this together like we're in The Hangover."

"If we were in The Hangover that damn tiger would be back and in the bathroom." He shudders, looking past the curve of the wall. "Do you think she is?"

"You know, I'm surprised you didn't buy her."

"She ruined my love of Frosted Flakes! Anyway, do you have a better idea in figuring this out?"

"I'm a cop, Castle. If I really wanted to know what happened, I'd investigate."

"You can't tell me you don't want to know!"

The smile lifts her lips before she can stop it. "Last thing I remember is you licking salt off of me. You tasted like tequila."

"Want to see if I still do?"

She scrunches her nose, shakes her head. "Not until you stop smelling like you drowned in it. Let's figure this out first and then maybe I'll shower with you."

Castle's eyes light up; he's a child at heart. "Really?"

"I said maybe, Castle."

He grins, despite feeling like shit. "Give me your phone."


"I'm asking Siri about this kilt!"

"I was joking. I think you asked her enough questions last night. Did she ever give you an answer as to why the Smurfs are blue?"

"I might have offended her with that. Maybe she has a thing for Papa Smurf."

"What about yours? Did you look?"

"I think it's on your side."

Kate reluctantly rolls over, grabbing his phone off the night stand. She presses the phone on, the light illuminating them in its shadows. She scrolls through his photos, her mouth opening. "Okay, where was I during this and what the hell are you and Espo doing?"

Saturday, January 7, 2012

4:12 p.m.

On the afternoon of Kevin Ryan's wedding, the first week of January miraculously feels like it has rumblings of spring in its forecast (something Kate is sure pleases all the men arriving in traditional Irish kilts.) There's a light breeze that comes in from the open windows in her apartment and it smells like freedom. (She's sure Castle would have something to say about her desire to label things she never would have before like intangible things having scents.)

With the last tousle of her hair, Kate applies a layer of lip gloss in her bathroom mirror. From the light overhead, the navy chiffon of her dress appears to shimmer. Her back is nearly bare due to the dipping of the material and it's sexy; too sexy or not sexy enough or maybe she's not sure what she's trying to convey tonight, to him.

When Castle had asked her to attend Ryan's wedding with him, ("As friends," he had clarified, as if she'd decline otherwise) she had agreed.

It was nine days before Christmas (and a week after he asked her) when their lies had hit the fan. First hers, then his. A fluke accident that had unraveled causing them not to speak for at least two weeks after. No calls on Christmas, no celebration as the year turned into another.

No word until Castle had called her a few days back. ("So, the wedding…should I still pick you up or…?") Much to her chagrin, she felt the hate she had reserved specifically for him melt away the slightest bit. She agreed to still go with him - God knows why - said it would be fine.

As she waits for him now, she's not all that sure it is.

He knocks on the door. One tap, another, and she steels herself, takes a breath because whether she's ready or not, there's no backing out.

"Wow," is out of his mouth the moment she opens the door, and she thinks that he's not aware because embarrassment doesn't color his face even after all they've been through. "You look great."

In the three and a half years she's known Rick Castle, she's never felt so out of her skin.

"Thanks. You don't look so bad yourself."

There's a beat of silence.

"Should we…" He nods to the elevator behind him.

"Yeah," Kate answers, "let's go."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

4:29 p.m.

It's when they're stuck behind the fifth red light in what must be three minutes that Castle gathers the courage to look at her. She's staring out the window, biting down on her lip like she did that first day they met; this mix of slyness and unsurity he's never fully been able to figure out. She's a book he wishes he knew by heart. One he's written, edited, reworked a hundred times over but the end never fits because he continues to discover something new about her, something he loves more than he thought he would.

In the reflection, she catches him staring. Their eyes meet and even through glass, he sees the regret there, the anger, the hope, the loss. She's a mix of contradictions, they both are and it's in times like these that the words come to him, swirling in his brain, yearning to form sentences, paragraphs, chapters.

The flecks of gold in Nikki's eyes as her secrets remain her own. It's moments like now that Rook realizes why no other relationships have worked. He's never felt like this and even as a writer, he finds that words can never convey enough. Nikki-

Castle tears his eyes away from her when her stare flits to the floor and he focuses on his driver, on making this normal. He's the king of jokes, of lighthearted behavior but she's changed him maybe as much as he's changed her.

"So Joe, when's the wife due?" he asks, and he can swear he hears Kate breathe a sigh of relief.

"Couple of weeks, Mr. Castle. Can't wait to meet my little girl."

He thinks of Alexis throughout her years, how he'd be nowhere without her. "They're the best. They grow up way too fast."

The quiet settles, a little more comforting this time. He's writing in his head again, and it's been a while since the words have willingly come.

"We have to talk before we go into this wedding," Kate mumbles.

He's not sure if she intends for him to hear, but he nods regardless. "Hey, Joe? You mind sticking the earphones in for a second?" He turns to Kate. "Little trick I learned from Connelly and The Lincoln Lawyer.

"A little trick that's illegal. You can't drive with two earbuds in."

"Then he'll put in one."

"That defeats the purpose of not hearing."

The center console slides up.

"I'm sorry," they both say at once and the ice breaks beneath them.

"Go ahead," Castle offers.

Kate looks down at her nails, a light pink that's perfectly polished. "I know that you were trying to help me," she says, lifting her eyes to him, "but you had no right to dig into my mother's case without me."

"They would have killed you, Kate. If they knew you were still looking into it they wouldn't hesitate. I wasn't going to let that happen. Not again."

He itches to say the words, to make her understand. But she's been his shadow for the past three years, much like he's been hers. She might not be penning books, but he knows she understands him like no one else ever has.

She bites her lower lip again, and this time it's all unsurity. "How mad are you at me?"

"I'm not mad, I'm...disappointed you thought you couldn't tell me."

"I could say the same thing to you."

"That's different."

"Is it?" she challenges. "Knowing that, knowing how you felt, I just, I needed time, Castle. I couldn't..." Kate looks at him through long, dark lashes and just like on the swings, he can't stay upset as much as he might want to. "I'm sorry. I hope you know how much you-"

The divider lowers a fraction of an inch.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. Castle, but we're at the church."

Startled, Castle looks out the window. He's almost forgotten where they are and timing hasn't been his strong suit, not lately. "We should finish this, Kate-"

She shakes her head and he sees the relief on her face. "We should get inside." Her hand lingers on the door handle. "Later, okay?"

His heart sinks. With Kate later will be months, possibly years.

"Yeah," he finally agrees. "Later."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

9:19 p.m.

It doesn't surprise her that Ryan and Jenny scatter each table with candy hearts. There are the standards, the ones she used to collect when she was in high school with Madison. They'd spend their study hall choosing the perfect ones to hand out to unsuspecting guys because February meant cold and adventure was lacking. Be Mine. Kiss Me. Let's Get Busy. There are also one's with today's date on one side, Ryan and Jenny's name on the other.

Had this been five years ago, Kate thinks she would have scoffed at the act of having these at a wedding. Not maliciously, but instead as a non-believer. She would have sat here, biding her time until she could leave, dreading the moment she was to head home alone because she didn't have the energy to even bring a date with her.

Five years ago, she didn't know Castle.

Now she wishes time would move slower as if that alone could help her figure this out with him. He's gone off to get a drink and she scans the room, her foot tapping to the beat of some Irish tune that she's actually enjoying. She grabs the cocktail in front of her, taking a swig of it. It's vodka and while it's not her favorite, it slides easily down her throat, putting her at ease.

"Lanie and Esposito off in a corner fighting somewhere?" Castle asks, and she's not sure where he's come from. There's a fresh drink in his hand, a green umbrella clashing with whatever concoction he's got going on.

"Don't ask. I think Esposito's twelve year old date might have run off with Jenny's brother. I don't even want to venture a guess as to where Lanie's is." She scowls at the odd blue color of his cocktail. "Do I want to know what that is?"

"I'll have you know that since owning a bar I've learned how to make some pretty awesome drinks. I like to call this 'The Smurfette.' Clever, right?"

Kate smiles, lifting an eyebrow. "It looks disgusting."

"Taste," he says.

She takes it from his offering hand, poising it at her lips. It smells like blueberries and rum, maybe a little bit like raspberries. It's fruity and bitter, the taste lingering on her lips and she will not allow herself to think about what it would be like to kiss him right now, how sweet he'd taste once he's done drinking this. The red creeps up on her cheeks and the sheath of material (or lack thereof) isn't enough to keep her cool. "Not as bad as I would have thought."

"In other words, you like it."

"In exactly the words I said, it's not as bad as I thought."

"I'll take it." He eyes her clear (and in his mind, boring) drink. "You need something more fun. What about a 'Betty White'?"

"I'm sure I'll regret this, but what exactly is in 'Betty White'?"

"I'm sure a lot of men over the years. Ba dum-"

"The drink, Castle."

"If I told you, it wouldn't be half as fun."

Kate rolls her eyes. "I'm going to pass."

He takes his phone out of his pocket. "I'll ask again later. You might be drunk enough to change your mind."

New Tweet. WriteRCastle.

Love weddings! Might be the open bar. Congrats Kevin and Jenny! Just wait until you see what I have planned. Intrigue!

"You're tweeting about this?"

"Just because you don't tweet, Detective - and by the way you should - doesn't mean that others can't during such a happy event."

"And what would I say, Castle? Went into what my partner believed was a haunted house today. The lights continued to flicker. I got up into the secret crawl space only to find a dead body which happens to be my job and solved a murder?"

"I miss that suit. And that is way more than 140 characters. Do you even understand the intricacies of Twitter?"

"No, I have better things to do with my time."

"You're just jealous."

"Of your many followers?"

"I will have you know that I have over sixty-two thousand of them," he responds with pride.

She doesn't hide the smile that creeps onto her lips. "How many does Jason Bateman have?"

Castle grabs his chest in mock wound. "That hurts, Beckett. If I were on a critically acclaimed show that went off the air too quickly I'd have more than him!"

"Whatever you say, Castle." She hears the arguing coming before she sees them. So far today, she's learned that Esposito gains a bit of an accent when he fights, that the aggressive New Yorker in Lanie comes out like Kate's never seen it before. "Incoming," she mutters.

"Should we duck and cover?"

"Too late."

Simultaneously (and mid argument), Esposito and Lanie pull out their chairs. "I never wanted to break up!" Esposito exclaims, and he's half on the chair, half off in case he needs to move the fight elsewhere. "That was your idea."

"My idea? You better get that selective memory of yours checked, Detective. You show up to the wedding with that top heavy twelve-year-old-"

"And you showed up with Mr. Muscles-"

"Guys," Kate interrupts, "come on, not here."

The argument stops as they turn, as if they hadn't realized where they were.

"Awkward," Castle mutters, popping a heart into his mouth. "Have you two considered couple's therapy?"

Kate nudges him, shaking her head. "Castle, stop."

"No, hold on. I'm being serious here. You're both being ridiculous. I don't know why you two broke up – mainly because no one cared to share the details with me – but all of this arguing? If you didn't still care, you wouldn't be doing it all these months later."

Esposito glares at him. "Dude, relationship advice? Really?"

"Yes, I've had two failed marriages. But I also never wanted to save the relationship enough to fight with either of them like the two of you do. You guys are good together. Esposito, your date ditched you for Jenny's little brother – best man and woman stealing, I might like this kid – and Lanie, I might have seen your date head off with someone who looked alarmingly like the stripper we hired in Atlantic City." Castle finishes off his blue concoction with a shrug. "So isn't it time you two kids dealt with your issues and made up already?"

"I could kill you, man."

"Only because you know I'm right. So go outside, use your words – the non-yelling kind – and either fix this or battle each other in some type of fight club because the arguing is ridiculous already."

The yelling has died down, and they're quiet as if debating. Castle's staring at them like they're a play, like he's their writer and the irony strikes her that in so many ways he's hers. She slides her fingers under his chin so he stops staring at Lanie and Esposito and then he's looking at her and it's like it was in the car earlier, like it's been for the past year or so.

It used to be a look of lust in his eyes, a conquest, a need to win when she had turned him down the moment they met. It's changed though, and she's not all that sure when except now he looks at her like she's everything. For a man who's made his living with words, she reads everything in his gaze that he never says and she drops her hand. Her drink becomes her savior and the buzzing of the phone is his. It's then she realizes that Lanie and Esposito are no longer there, and she's grateful no one has seen this all too personal moment between them.

"I'll be right back," Castle says, pushing out his chair. "Ryan and Jenny's wedding present is ready to be unveiled!"

On stage, the music dies down. The microphone is already in Castle's hands and there are so many ways this can go. Kevin and Jenny are on the dance floor in front of him and Ryan's muttering something, possibly urging Castle not to embarrass him in front of all of these people. She'd never say it hasn't been an adventure since Castle's come into their lives. She can only imagine what he's gotten them: a pony, a hot air balloon-

"For those of you who don't know me, I'm Rick Castle. I'm not the best man much to my disappointment, but I did want to get Kevin and Jenny a little something special to commemorate this day. Now, Kevin's partner Javier and I spent a lot of time, and I mean a lot of time, trying to get the first dance song out of Kevin. Mainly so we could mock him. And we did, by the way. So much mocking. However as it turns out, I happen to be friends with the very band that they chose and I couldn't think of a better present than this. Kevin, Jenny, I wish you nothing but the best in your marriage. To perform the first dance, allow me to introduce Chicago."

There is a squeal out of Jenny as the band takes position and the opening chords of the song begin. It hits Kate like a ton of bricks: the live piano, the song Ryan and Jenny had chosen. She had planned to humor Castle with his excitement to tell her on the day he found out, but a case had gotten in the way and they'd both forgotten.

You're the Inspiration.

She knows he's beside her before she looks (she always knows these days.) She takes in a breath, turns to face him.

"You got them Chicago as a wedding present?" Kate asks, incredulously.

"A wedding loaner. They turn into pumpkins at midnight." He holds out his hand to her. "Dance with me."

It's too much and not enough at the same time.

She's in his arms, and later she'll try to remember if she had agreed or he had taken her out there regardless of her response. Their fingers are laced together, and one hand slides down her back as he holds her against him, so close that she can feel his heart against hers. Her lips are nearly pressed into his neck and he smells like cologne and the slightest bit of rum and it's in moments like this that she hates her issues, that she hates herself for not allowing him in. They're moving slow and steady, dancing on air or not dancing at all.

"They look happy." His voice startles her and she turns her head to look at the bride and groom, her nose grazing his cheek. He brushes the hair away from her face, and he's looking at her like that again and it's right, unmarred by the past.

"Think you'll ever get married again?"

"Third time's a charm, right? Of course she'd have to cater to my every whim at all times. She'd have to make me breakfast when I'm up writing late. I demand mints on my pillow-"

Kate laughs. "So you're never getting married again."

The music is around them, live and gorgeous and perfect. Her eyes close as his grip around her tightens and it's quite possible this is everything she's ever hoped for. She's spinning and standing still; safe and petrified.

"When the time is right," he whispers, and he's bending down, lips pressed to her ear. The song is close to ending, but his voice is all she hears. His fingers are caressing the small of her back and she's being dropped from the tallest of heights, like love is something that can easily have comparisons. "I'll do it one more time."

It's in that moment that she knows he'll stay.

The spinning steadies; she's no longer standing still, but closing what little distance there is between them, feet moving in rhythm with his.

Kate squeezes his hand. Wait for me.

Without words, he knows her. He squeezes back. Always.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

12:04 a.m.

It's just the six of them now, an empty ballroom filled with remnants of a great party.

The wedding had ended over an hour ago and good-bye to the bride and groom (and congratulations to Lanie and Esposito for getting back together thanks to Castle's advice) turned into another bottle of champagne, more dancing, a reminder to Castle that these are his people now just as much as Patterson or Connelly and his writer crew have been for years. He's stealing another bottle when he hears Kate's laugh, loud and vibrant across the room. She's dancing with Esposito and he's whispering to her and she looks so comfortable in her own skin tonight that it makes Castle gleam with some undeserved pride.

"They keep the good stuff hidden back here," Jenny interrupts, carefully sliding out a bottle of Cristal from where he's currently looking. The white of her gown bunches around her and she looks like a princess, even at the end of the night. "Rick, I can't thank you enough for what you did tonight. You've been such a good friend to Kevin and me and having Chicago here…" They stand together and she kisses his cheek. "Thank you. You made tonight even more special than I could have imagined."

"It was my pleasure. And may I say what a beautiful bride you are. Kevin is one lucky guy."

"I'm the lucky one." Jenny looks behind her, and she takes in the group that remains, at the people she's inherited much like Castle. "You and Kate look really great together. I know after what happened with Javier and Lanie I should just shut my mouth, but…" She trails off, shrugging. "I just want everyone to be as happy as I am."

There isn't an answer that sounds good enough, because he knows he looks great with Kate, knows they would be great together. Instead, he guides her back to the table and pops the cork on the newest bottle. The song that's playing over the speaker system – something corny that seems like it would fit perfectly in Ryan's collection – ends and Kate's back in the chair next to his, her face flushed. She looks gorgeous, and her legs are dangling over the side of the chair with those silver stilettos she's wearing and she's smiling at him like he's actually worthy of that pride he was feeling earlier.

"Yo, bro, did you invite Montgomery's family tonight?" Esposito asks. He's back next to Lanie, an arm around the back of her chair and Castle's not sure he could write this moment better if he tried (and yes, it's an entirely cheesy thought on his behalf. Damn weddings.)

"We did. Evelyn was out of town with the kids this weekend, though, and I'm sure it would have been too hard for her to be here."

They let it sit between them, the loss of one of their own.

"At least you didn't invite Gates as a replacement. She would have been judging us from the corner with those pursed lips of hers. Mr. Castle," he imitates, "just what do you think you're doing dancing to this very upbeat band? There is no fun to be had. Ever." He shivers dramatically. "She's a witchy woman."

"I see her at the meetings all the time," Kate grins, taking a sip of champagne.

"Oh, funny! Because I once called you that. Look at the sense of humor that comes out of Beckett when you get her drinking!" She shakes her head and laughs, and to prove his point she finishes more than half the glass. "You and me, Old Haunt, drinking contest."

"I already told you, Castle, you don't wanna challenge Kate when it comes to alcohol. It's like she's a nineteen-year-old college guy when you get her going."

"That's great, Lanie, thanks. Do you guys remember Ryan's birthday, what was it? Five years ago?"

Ryan shakes his head. "No. Because someone," he enunciates, glaring at Esposito, "got me locked in a closet and I missed the entire night. It was my thirtieth birthday!"

"You got Ryan locked in a closet?" Castle asks, gleefully. "I already love this story!"

"Thanks, man," Ryan says. "Do you want to hear Esposito's version or the real version?"

"How long have you known me? Esposito's!"

"We were at some bar downtown," Esposito starts, "and Ryan's late. He was probably getting his hair to stand up and look pointy like he's Ryan Seacrest-"

"I was not-"

"So I meet this hot chick, smoking hot-"

"She was not that hot," Lanie intervenes. "She was all over you like she'd never seen a man before."

"Baby, I only had eyes for you even then."

"Such a bad liar, Javi. Remember that I know that."

"Anyway," Kate continues, rolling her eyes, "Ryan finally shows up, right? And Espo over here tells Ryan he has the perfect girl for him."

"Is this one of those stories where the hot girl turns out to be a guy? I love those stories!"

"You got some of those, Castle?" Lanie asks with a grin.

"You wouldn't be able to handle my wild days, Dr. Parish."

"I think we've all seen them on page six," Kate muses, patting his leg. "So, Javi tells Ryan that he has a little birthday surprise for him. He tells him to go to the bathroom, freshen up and come back out in ten minutes."

"I thought it was the bathroom!" Ryan argues. "It had the little symbol on the door. It could have happened to anyone."

"But it didn't, bro."

"No one went to look for him?" Jenny asks.

"And this is where drunk Beckett comes in," Lanie carries on. "Kate had found herself in the middle of a college reunion with a bunch of former frat guys from Syracuse."

Castle looks over at her, grinning, and she's blushing, burying her face in her hands. He's never seen this side of her and more than ever he wants to know who she is when she doesn't have the weight of the world digging into her shoulders.

"They kept going on and on about how adorable she was and kept asking to buy her pretty little drinks."

"Oh I'm sure you must have loved that, Kate," Jenny laughs.

"So I challenged them." Kate finishes off her champagne and he's pouring her another one. "Trying to liquor me up, Castle?"

"I want to see how much you can handle."

"Enough. I ended up challenging them to beer pong, followed by shots of tequila. I was drunk for the entire next day, but it was entirely worth it."

"Wait, what about Kevin?" Jenny asks.

"Thank you, honey. Yes, what about Kevin." He takes a sip of his drink, mock anger outling his features. "They forgot. Esposito lost interest in his girl because he was enthralled with Beckett's wild side and therefore forgot that he had supposedly set something up for me. It wasn't until three hours later when Montgomery showed up that they realized I was gone. I smelled like cleaning solution for a week."

"No one asked you to bathe in it," Esposito goads.

"It fell on my head when I was trying to get out of there! Worst thirtieth ever."

"I had fun," Kate and Esposito answer simultaneously.

Castle claps his hands together. "We have to do this. Next weekend, Old Haunt."

"After seeing Castle in Atlantic City, he might be able to take you, Beckett," Esposito claims. "I'm putting my money on him for this one."

Castle eyes crinkle. "On second thought, I don't need that kind of hangover again. I haven't had one that bad since I was thirty-one and I…No, I can't tell that story to a table full of cops."

"I think that's for the best, although thirty-one?" Kate narrows her eyes. "I would have thought it would have been later."

"Contrary to popular belief, in recent years before I became a cop-"

"Civilian investigator," Kate corrects.

"Fine. Before I became a civilian investigator I spent most of my drinking nights playing poker and drinking scotch with other mystery writers."

"Hey Rick?" Jenny asks. "You're friends with Patterson, right? How come you don't do commercials like he does?"

"Never needed them, I guess. Patterson likes to ham it up in front of the camera."

"And you don't?" Lanie asks.

"As Beckett so nicely pointed out, I've been on page six enough." He turns to Kate, poking her in the shoulder. Her eyes are bright and her face flushed as she raises an eyebrow at him. The smile is being drawn out of her, though, and tonight surrounded by friends flirting somehow seems okay.

"What is it, Castle?"

"You should do a commercial with me! In my dreams you have on these red heels, high, like the ones you're wearing now and you're in a short red dress leaning over a pool table-"

It's loud and unexpected when she laughs, and underneath the table her knee rests against his thigh. "That's quite the imagination you have."

"Girl, do it," Lanie says, pouring another glass. "I'd read it."

"Are you saying you don't read my novels, Lanie?"

"Not since I've known you, Castle."

"I think I should be insulted."

"Don't let her fool you, Castle," Esposito chimes in. "She still reads them, especially the scenes between Ochoa and Lauren. Muy caliente."

"You want to go for a second breakup, Javi?" Lanie threatens. "The man doesn't need an ego boost."

Castle frowns. "Still sitting right here, guys."

"If it makes you feel better, Rick, after Kevin brought home your books, I read all of them," Jenny offers. "Some more than once."

"Just for that, you're getting a character in my next book!"

"More than Honeymilk's wife?" Jenny jokes.

Ryan grimaces. "All right, so I like warm honeymilk! There is nothing wrong with that."

"Dude, it's a little weird."

"And while we're on the subject," Castle interjects, "can we please for five seconds make fun of the kilt? You're wearing a skirt. On your wedding day. It's in pictures forever."

Kate leans into him. Her hair smells like lilacs, her skin like cherries. She's all Nikki Heat tonight; extraordinary, vibrant, fearless. The champagne shines on her lips and she licks them with the glass still poised in her hand. "Your legs would look great in a kilt," she whispers.

If he bites his lip any harder, he'll draw blood. He looks down at her and she's grinning and it reminds him of Christmas and Santa's naughty or nice list and- "See, witchy!" he mumbles so only she can hear and the laughter that rumbles out of her warms him.

It takes him a second to realize his phone is vibrating and he slides it off the table into his hand. "Joe's wife went into labor!" he exclaims. The entire table with the exception of Kate stares at him in question. "My driver's wife. Looks like we're going to need to find a new way home."

"Luckily for us, we live in Manhattan where there are thousands of cabs at our disposal," Kate mocks. She presses a button on her iPhone. "Siri, what's the closest cab company to here?"

A little automated voice comes on, "Here is a list of the closest taxis, Kate."

"It's like you're best friends," Castle notes. "That's so cute! Can I play with her?" he asks reaching for it.

Kate slaps his hand away. "No."

"Oh come on! My phone is awesome, but it doesn't have a little voice who talks to me." He widens his eyes at her, pouts. "Please." She rolls her eyes, sliding it to him. "Hi Siri, I'm Rick. Want to be friends?"

"I think that's our cue to head upstairs," Jenny jokes. "Kev, you ready?"

"Yeah. Are you guys heading home?" he asks Lanie and Esposito.

"We decided to spend the night, celebrate our little reunion," Lanie responds.

"Little reunion that wouldn't have taken place if I hadn't of meddled," Castle mumbles, turning away from Lanie's death glare. "Beckett, we should get a room!"

She nearly chokes on her champagne. "What? No."

"Have you ever seen the penthouse suites in this hotel? It's an experience everyone should have at least once. I'll sleep in the living room. Promise. We can all do breakfast in the morning. Like a destination wedding, but in Manhattan!"

"Good luck with that Castle," Esposito says, pulling out Lanie's chair. "Call me if you're here in the morning," he mouths and Castle nods.

Goodnights are exchanged, hugs and congratulations going around until it's only the two of them. Kate's still turned sideways, her legs crossed over the other, dangling between his. The smile hasn't left her lips in hours and he wants to kiss her, wants her more than he ever has before. Her hand is propped against her cheek and she's leaning on the table lazily and it makes him think of the future too much, of hope and possibilities.

"I'm serious about the room, Kate. It has an amazing view of the city, a balcony. I promise I won't grope you. Even if you did make comments about my legs."

He watches the debate pass through her eyes, until she finally nods. "Fine, but you're on the couch."

"Wow, you gave in really easily!"

"I wouldn't get too cocky. I'm agreeing because I want to see this room you keep going on and on about."

"You ready?"

She glances at her watch – something softer tonight instead of her dad's – and sits up. "Come with me somewhere first?"


Her smile turns sheepish. "The roof. I want to see the skyline. I've lived in this city my entire life and I never get to appreciate it anymore."

He pulls out her chair and she's walking toward the door, the material draping across her back as she moves. "Do you want your jacket? It's freezing out there."

Kate grabs another bottle of champagne, gathering a couple of glasses. "No, I'll be fine."



Her eyes are brilliant with life and he doesn't want to argue, so he merely follows.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

1:11 a.m.

From the roof of the Mondrian, Manhattan glows.

Lights burn throughout the city; a twinkling skimming across the waters, over the balconies like a map of Christmas decorations. He had followed her up here with protests that she'd need a jacket; he had listed the stats of frost bite and she had rolled her eyes, reminding him about the freezer, that out of all people she understood what the medical definition of it was. (She was more than grateful that he didn't bring up Josh, although she figured he was biting his tongue on some witty comment he just had to get out.)

The moment the door slams shut behind them, she's regretting not taking her coat, even more so regretting that Castle is in fact right. It's chilly without the sun, the truth of January slipping past the mask of warmth from earlier. A shiver passes through her and then he's behind her, his breath hot against her ear. He's nearly against her and she resists the urge to lean back into his touch.

"Bet you're wishing you had taken your coat when I offered."

"Do you always have to be so smug?"

"You don't let me win a lot, Beckett. I have to take it when I can get it."

He's losing the jacket – some black, double-breasted pea coat she's sure costs more than her yearly salary- and she's shrugging into it with his help. He pulls her hair loose from the collar and she turns around, her lips lifting in a half smile.

"I let you win more than I should." The champagne flutes clink in her hand. "Choose the spot."

He walks to the railing and sits, shivering. "Your ass is not going to like how cold the ground is. Judging by the lack of material…You're sure you want to play out here? We can go inside to that gorgeous suite I just reserved for you so you don't have to take a cab home."

Kate laughs, hands him the bottle. "Oh, I'm sure your intentions on that are pure, Castle." She can do this. She'll just sit down and her ass will adjust to the- "Shit," she mumbles, and yeah, it's really fucking cold.

"Do you want to sit on my lap?" She glares at him, casting her eyes over his suit. "No. Kate, it's a $3,500 Valentino suit."

"That you're on the ground with anyway." She sees him losing the battle with himself. The jacket is off and she stands so he can place where she's sitting. "I'll get it cleaned for you."

He pops the cork on the champagne while she settles into his side – their third, maybe fourth shared bottle of the night. She's not drunk; it's more that she's at ease, more willing to admit things that she never might have before. A gust of wind passes her and she shields her face against it, her nose brushing the collar of his jacket. It smells like him; all cologne and body wash – some girly scent that she'll have to make fun of later. He'll say it smoothes the skin, or it hydrates his pores, or something else utterly ridiculous and she'll laugh – not because it's funny, but because she knows him well enough by now to know his answers. She stays in that position for seconds, maybe a minute or so and she's breathing him in. It's possible she's a little tipsier than she thought.

He hands her a glass and if he sees what she's doing, he doesn't say anything. The alcohol bubbles and she sips it, sticking her hand in his pocket to shield at least one from the cold. She's pulling out three bunches of candy hearts then, dropping them – one lands on her lap, one his, another split between them as if they're the same.

"Did you steal these from the reception?"

"It's not called stealing when the wedding is over and there are bags of them still left on tables," Castle corrects. He untangles the tie from the little gift bag, spilling a handful into his hand. "Want one?" He's rifling through them, their sayings faded in dark, red lettering. "Reach 4 It. What exactly do you think it's asking you to reach for? Oh! Let's ask Siri."

She pulls it out of her clutch, reluctantly handing it over. "Do me a favor and try not to kill my battery."

"Siri, what are we reaching for?"

The iPhone comes alive. "I do not understand your question."

Castle grunts. "Well, that's disappointing."

"She's a computer, Castle! What do you expect?"

"I will have you know that if you ask her for a blowjob, she will locate the nearest escort service." Her lashes lift and she's giving him that witchy look that makes him shudder. "Not that I asked that on your phone! Nor was I looking for an escort. But she's so smart, Beckett!" He presses the button again. "Siri, would you go out on a date with me?"


"Ha! Denied by Siri. Don't worry, Castle. I'm sure we can call up one of those escorts she offered."

"I feel so rejected right now. My phone would never treat me this poorly." He reaches his hand into the coat she's wearing, lingering a little too long over her upper thigh as he searches. "Found it!" he exclaims, pulling out his phone before she can blame him for any wrong doing. "Look how lovely she is. She has my Twitter all ready for me."

His fingers click over the keys and she pulls the phone down so it's in her line of vision. "On the roof with the real Nikki Heat. This is not a cry for help." She shakes her head. "You're not tweeting this. I don't need the precinct or your six thousand fans knowing what we're doing."

"Sixty-two thousand," he corrects. "Oh, that probably didn't help my case."

"It didn't." She shivers as the wind rumbles past them in full force and he's rubbing her arms before she knows it, warding out the chill. It makes her think of his hands on her bare skin, what it would feel like to be beneath him, over him, against him. She's flushed, and champagne, she needs more champagne. "How's the next book coming?"

It seems like a safe subject until she remembers that she is Nikki Heat (not that she ever really forgets.)

"It's been a while since I've written. There have been so many cases and I haven't had the time. Gina's ready to kill me."

His ex-wife's name feels like that first second she had been shot; loss of breath, unexpected shock, a need to hold on. His eyes are dark when she looks at him, but the truth still shines through them. She can still read the novel he wants to tell with just a look. "If being my partner is stopping you from doing your job…" But she trails off, because she doesn't want to finish that thought, she doesn't want to give him permission to leave.

"I'll get it done," Castle assures. "I work better under pressure. I like the deadlines." There's something else and she knows he's in her head trying to figure it out. "But this isn't about the book, is it?"

She isn't sure if she should move closer to him or further away, but she's so sick of running from this, from him. If she's gonna do this, she's going to let the courage of alcohol be her starting off point. "I wish you had known me before my mom died, Castle. I wasn't afraid of anything. I didn't constantly fear what was to come."

"You walk into rooms with guns and criminals every day, who you scare the shit out of by the way. You don't think that's fearless?"

"There's a difference between risking your life and living it."

He takes her hand that is resting in her lap, links his fingers between hers. He's giving her something to hold onto, that lifeline she needs more than he can ever realize. She curls her hand under her, taking his along with it. She had done this with him after Tyson had run, and it had felt right then, even more so now.

"I don't know who you were then, Kate. Maybe one day you'll fill it in for me or even become that person again but who you are now? It's who I…It's more than you think it is. It's more than enough."

He will forever be the person who can say I love you while saying something else entirely.

Kate's eyes shine and she blinks, the city lights obscuring her sight in the reflection of her tears. "I've had feelings for you for a long time, Rick," she admits, "but…" She stumbles because she's not him, there's not a place for each word no matter how hard she tries. "That summer you spent in the Hamptons, I was going to tell you. I thought I was ready to start something."

It flashes over his face: why she's bringing this up now, what would have happened had he not answered Gina's call. "Were you?"

"Maybe at the time, before it got so…complicated."

"That's what you were trying to tell me before I left. That you broke up with Demming, that you were going to come with me."

She nods. "Until Gina came in and I remembered you're Rick Castle."

The grip of his hand loosens slightly. "What does that mean?"

She picks up the glass with her other hand and downs the rest of it. It's chilled from the night; then again, so is she. It's all the cards on the table now. "You left when the going got tough for someone you knew was an easy answer."

"That's not fair. You can't begrudge me for getting into a relationship with someone else. You turned me down." She's about to loosen her fingers, to let him go, when he tightens his hold. "It's different now, Kate. I wouldn't…it's different."

Her voice is caught in her throat. "I know," she whispers.

"You didn't call me for months after Montgomery's funeral and I was still in that precinct every day trying to find out who had shot you. I took on your mother's murder so you would be safe. I've been by your side on every single case you've had since you've come back and the two and a half years before it. When I thought I lost you…." He stops and she hears it in his voice, the pain she never wanted to cause him. "You can't hold my past against me anymore."

"I'm not holding it against you, Castle." Their eye contact doesn't break; it never does. "I'm scared," she admits and she bends her head now, the curtain of dark hair falling over her eyes. "I don't know what I would do without your…partnership."

He picks up her phone, pushing the center button twice. "Siri, how do we get Detective Beckett to believe she's stuck with me?"

"The nearest tow truck service is ten miles away and are all closed for the evening."

The laughter comes out of her and it's loud, filled with relief. "She's so helpful."

Kate finds it easier to breathe now, puffs of white smoke all around them. The exhaustion starts to slip in – not just from the night but from the past twelve years – however her body begins to loosen as if it's slowly shifting into who she wants to be. Her head slips onto his shoulder, and his grip on her tightens. Their joint hands tap to an unheard beat on their laps.

"We should head in," Castle says gently after a few minutes. "We can't have you catching hypothermia. Again."

"As long as we don't get stuck up here overnight, I think we're fine."

He's reaching for her phone, a feat with his arm still around her. "Then at least put on some music."

"You go on and on about your phone contract on several occasions so stop taking mine."

"I want to see what music you have. And for the record, I had an iPhone, but the Windows Phone has so many better features. It has Xbox! I can play Xbox anywhere, Beckett! Plus, you have all these different sections. There's something called the people's hub which allows you to see what your core group of friends are up to. No matter what you do, I can follow your every move."

"Yeah, that doesn't sound like you're a stalker at all. Are you their new spokesperson or something? This is excessive phone talk, even for you."

"Oh good, you noticed! It's between me and Lou Diamond Phillips. The guy has two cameos on Cougar Town and all of a sudden he's a star again? I was just number one on the best seller list!"

Kate shakes her head. "It must be hard to be you, Castle."

"You don't even know the half of it. I have this hot partner who-"

"Is not about to have whatever conversation you're about to start."

He's scrolling through her music now, some grunts of disapproval, excitement in others. "I'm going to have to tell Jon how much Bon Jovi you have on here. You even have that country crap he's singing nowadays. No, nevermind. You'll take a liking to him and he has this thing for cops…"

"Jon? You know Bon Jovi? What other 80s bands do you know personally? Journey? REO Speedwagon? Jefferson Starship?"

"I lived next door to Billy Joel in the Hamptons for a while, but there was an incident with a hot tub, his ex-wife and a bottle of scotch…needless to say, he's not going to do me any favors in this lifetime."

She smiles against the collar of his jacket. "I'll be sure not to request him for my wedding song then."

"I never did like his music anyway."

She lets that settle, takes out a few hearts from the open bag. "Yet you still know all the words to Piano Man."

"Because he played it all the time, Beckett. Morning, noon, night. We get it, Billy. You're the Piano Man! But Petty," he says, pressing play, "actually is the man."

The opening chords of Kate's favorite Petty song starts and she loves that he's chosen this one, loves how the soft melody fits in-between them. She looks down at the hearts in her hand and reads what she can by the little light reflecting off the roof. Love you. Soul Mate. Me & You. True Love. First Kiss. Love her.

It's like he has written these himself, snuck a couple of extra ones in as if he was telling her a story, spinning theory on how they ended up here. She pops one into her mouth – it doesn't really matter at this point which one – and stares up at the sky.

"When I was younger, I hated that you could never see the stars in the city." She means to enjoy the silence, but the words come now. She's opening herself up to him and it's no longer in her control. "Every summer we'd head to this little cabin upstate and before I went to bed my mom and I would spend hours under the stars. It was so beautiful, Castle. Wide open, stretching for miles with no end in sight. I started to miss it during the school year so she would take me to Grand Central. She showed me the stars on the ceiling of the main concourse. I used to love the zodiac. I loved that it was created backwards."

"As seen from heaven," Castle murmurs. "Your mom's anniversary is tomorrow."

He steals her breath away and she should expect it by now, but she never does. "Yeah."

"What do you do on it?"

He's still holding her, grounding her, urging her to continue. "Work mostly. Distract myself. If I'm home, I'll read, take a bath with a glass of wine." She pauses and she's given him so much tonight, but she thinks maybe he deserves more. "The first few years were the worst. My dad was still drinking, I was alone and I would come home and re-read Gathering Storm. It was always my favorite in the series and there was something so comforting in it. Everything had a purpose, everything made sense."

He sounds flattered when he speaks, but the need to say thank you is irrelevant at this point. "I should have you writing my book reviews."

"I think you do just fine without me."

His lips are at her ear. "Can I take you out tomorrow? Or in. Whatever you're in the mood for."

"You don't need to babysit me, Castle. I've been through eleven of these before."

Kate lets go of his hand and she's facing him now. She sees it all in his eyes: the dedication, the devotion, the love.

He had been asking about Alexis at the time, but she remembers what she had said when he asked her how she knew she was in love. All the songs make sense. Tonight, as she danced with him to Chicago, as the lyrics to Tom Petty's music lingers around them, she knows the truth she can't yet admit, but can't deny either.

I'm in for the long run, wherever it goes.

Her lips are on his then, and his hands are bracing the back of her neck, tangled in her hair. He opens to her, and she tastes the champagne, tastes every nuance of him that she's allowed to slip into her dreams for years now. Her upper lip is between his and she sighs into his mouth, into all he's giving her. They stay like this until she can't breathe, until she needs the assaulting air of the night. Their lips part, but their foreheads are still pressed together and she inhales, tries to steady her heart.

"You can buy me a drink at the Old Haunt tomorrow," Kate whispers.

"No dinner?"

She rubs the corner of his lip with her finger. "We'll see how drinks go."

He's smiling at her like she allows him on those rare occasions, the one that tells her everything. And then his eyes widen in realization, the moment gone, and he looks like the excited little boy he was when she first met him. "Wait, so when you were re-reading my books, was it in the tub?" His mouth drops, voice filled with innuendo. "Sex scenes? Katherine Beckett, that is-"

"None of your business."

"Which could only mean yes! I've had dreams that started like this."

"Why does that not surprise me?" She pushes back from him, lifting a knee to stand, hoping she can. "I think it's time to go in."

"You really don't want to answer that question, do you?"

"Castle, shut up."

He doesn't; it doesn't bother her as much as it once did.