Author's Note: Should be obvious but y'all know I don't own Castle.
Cover Note: Stock/texture by pannaherbatka on deviantART.
"I don't know, bro," Esposito said. "You know how Beckett gets about surprises."
"Come on," Castle begged. "It's not really even a surprise."
Lanie rolled her eyes. "I think it's sweet. You just better hope she thinks so."
Ryan pointed a finger at Castle. "And you better hope we don't get a real call in the middle."
Castle waved a hand. "I've got that covered. Gates is doing me the favor, just this once."
Esposito didn't look so convinced. "Gates is doing you a favor?"
"I did say 'just this once'. I just don't get to ask for any more favors, like, ever."
Esposito stood and shook his head. "You're crazy, bro. For your sake, I hope this works." He shook the file he held in his hand, just for emphasis.
"It'll work," Castle assured him.
Ryan and Esposito walked out to start on their parts, shaking their heads.
Lanie searched through her file. "I pull some weird stuff out of dead bodies, Castle, but seriously?"
"Out of his pocket, Lanie."
"If it's in his pocket, she'll find it first."
"It won't be in his pocket. Not when she sees it. It'll be here, in the morgue."
Lanie shook her head. "It'd go to Evidence if it was actually in his pocket, not the morgue."
"Well, where would you have it?"
She didn't even have to think about it. "Somewhere near the crime scene. Have one of the boys say that CSU picked it up."
"But that's no fun!" Castle complained. "Then you don't get to be a part of it."
Lanie laughed. "Text me, and I'll make sure I'm there."
Rick frowned. "Okay, fine."
"Hey, guys," came Kate's voice from down the hallway. "You're here really early, Castle," Kate said, suspicious. "I only just got Lanie's text. I came over here right away."
"I was just around the corner," Castle said. "I got here, like, a minute ago."
Kate raised an eyebrow. "Then what were you talking about?"
"Lanie wouldn't let me in without you," he complained.
Kate seemed to buy the explanation for now. Castle was just very, very glad that the current investigation was almost over. He only needed this case to close, and then he could put his plan into action.
Kate's phone buzzed. She fished it out of her pocket. Esposito. That could only mean one thing. "Beckett," she answered. Esposito gave her the address of the little alleyway, and she cursed fate or the universe or whatever for interrupting her nice breakfast out. "Come on, Castle," she said.
He grinned. He seemed even more excited than usual about this particular body.
Lanie was already at the scene, and so were the boys, and the CSU crew. "What have you got?" she asked.
Esposito read off his note pad. "Vic's name is Will Yu. Neighbor saw him early this morning, thought maybe he'd passed out drunk, but she says the more she watched, the more she was sure he was dead."
Kate frowned. "Lanie, cause of death?"
"I won't know for sure till I get him back to the lab, but it wasn't a blow or a stab or a shot. Something pretty natural, I'm guessing."
"Or poison," Castle offered.
Lanie nodded. "Or poison."
Kate wasn't very satisfied with this case, and they'd only just started. That didn't look to her like a freshly dead body. "A mugging?" she asked.
Ryan shook his head. "Still got his wallet."
"Not a mugging, then," Kate amended. "Lanie, how long do you think he's been dead?"
Lanie glanced up at Castle. "Uh, a couple of days, maybe."
Kate frowned. "Then he's been moved since he was killed. But where was he killed?"
"And how did they keep the body hidden for that long?" Castle added.
"Oh, come on, Castle. You and I both know it's easy to hide a body if you know what you're doing."
Castle tried to hide an embarrassed blush. "Right, yeah."
At the precinct, Esposito and Ryan didn't look like they were working very hard. Castle was clearly not working at all, just fidgeting in his chair. He looked at the murder board every ten seconds. "Something you want to share with the class, Castle," she asked, "or do you need me to excuse you to the little boys' room?"
He looked at her. "No, nothing at all. Must have had too much coffee this morning."
Kate didn't buy it. "Okay, whatever."
"Hey, check this out," Ryan interrupted.
"Turns out our vic had a girlfriend," Esposito said. "And CSU found this at the scene, a few yards from the body." He held up an evidence bag with a ring in it. "Looks like someone was going to pop the question, but got popped instead."
Kate blinked. "But if he was moved, why was the ring near the body, not on the body?" She reached up to take the ring, but Castle snatched it away before she could get a good look at it. "Unless the girlfriend's the killer," she said. But nothing in this story was adding up for Kate. Something was very, very off about this whole case. "Who's the girlfriend?"
Kate could see Esposito and Ryan's facial muscles battling for control as Ryan put up a photo next to the vic and said, "Her name's Mary Mi."
Kate pursed her lips and turned to Castle. "You think you're so funny," she says. "Those aren't their real names."
Castle gave her his best innocent look, the one he used when he was going to get in trouble and was going to try to talk his way out of it. "Um... no?"
"This has you written all over it."
"Actually, just the victim's photo," Castle joked.
"It's not funny! I'm trying to be serious. It's like you don't even care about this victim. What has gotten into you?"
Castle held his hands up, still holding the evidence bag. "Kate, whoa. Calm down. There isn't a victim."
Kate blinked. She was incredibly confused. "What's going on, Castle?"
"There wasn't actually a murder. We borrowed a cadaver."
"Then what is it? A practical joke?" She crossed her arms. "It's really not funny."
"I'm not joking, Kate. I'm serious."
He was... wait. If this wasn't a practical joke, then... Kate's head spun. She looked at the murder board, where the two fake pictures sat, and then back at Castle. "Are you—?"
He held his hands behind his back, fidgeting. "Am I what?" he asked innocently.
Kate heard the rustle of plastic. It didn't take a detective to figure this out. He really was serious. "Castle..."
He took her hand, sliding off his chair onto the floor. Onto one knee. She was really glad she was sitting down, because she might have fallen over just now. "Katherine Beckett," Castle said. He was holding the ring in his other hand. "I really, really love you, and in case you didn't get the message yet, will you marry me?"
She was speechless. She looked at the murder board. He'd done this all for her? He'd even gotten Captain Gates to go along with it. Their relationship had been so tense, so hesitant over the past six years. There had even been a few times when she thought they'd be apart forever, but for some reason, she could never let go of him. But what about Meredith and Gina? Yes, she wanted to be Castle's wife, but she was afraid of being his ex-wife. She'd told him so before, though not in such exact words, when they'd talked about it. But she loved him. A lot. More than she'd loved anyone else ever. And they'd been through a lot together.
"Okay," she said, eliciting uproarious applause from the crowd she hadn't even noticed.
Castle looked happier than she'd ever seen him before. And despite her reservations, seeing him that happy made her kind of giddy. Giddy enough to toss her arms around his neck when he stood and kiss him. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her, then let her go. "Thanks," he said.
She grinned as the crowd dispersed. "Always."