Christmas 2013- Secret Santa spoilers.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight
-Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland
December 9th 2013
She couldn't resist his hopeful smile and charming grin when he asked her to accompany him. He was so enamoured by the season and his enthusiasm was catching. She clung tightly to his hand, admiring the lights and sounds of the Rockefeller Centre at Christmas time, the joy in the air bringing a smile to her face and a chill to her bones. Her old sadness was there, a longing for something that would never be present, but her grief didn't threaten to choke her as it once had.
Her cheeks pink from the wind, she followed Castle into a café, content to allow him to order hot chocolate as she looked out the window to the rink filled with skaters, their paths lit by the sparkling tree. Kate was well aware that she'd handled the holidays abominably the year before. She wouldn't hurt him again.
"We need to talk about Christmas," she said seriously as their small buckets of whipped cream topped cocoa were presented to them. "HR brought in new regulations about shift swapping over the Christmas break. With my record, they've told me I can't work the holiday this year," Kate paused, her fingers brushing Castle's palm. "And I'm not sure if I want to," she admitted, her free hand brushing through her freshly darkened curls.
A shy grin spread across Castle's face. He was well aware that Kate hated showing her vulnerability and he wouldn't damper her barely there excitement for the season with his typical exuberance.
"My Mom loved this city," Kate reminisced. "She said New York City was the land of opportunity, and she especially loved it around Christmas. I think," she paused, careful to gather her words. "I think it would be easier to enjoy the season without her if I wasn't in the city she loved so much."
"Mother's performing on the West End this Christmas season," he informed her, "And I know Alexis is hell bent on doing a school volunteer trip in Venezuela, but hasn't said anything because she doesn't want to leave me with nobody to keep the tradition alive with."
Kate put her mug down, wiping whipped cream from the tip of her nose. "Maybe it's time we found some traditions of our own?" She suggested. The lump in her chest loosened when she saw his eyes light up. She was on the right track.
"Do you trust me?" He asked her.
Kate raised her eyebrow at him. "Always," she intoned seriously.
"Do you trust me enough to plan Christmas for you?"
Kate's emotions were at war. She had spent so many Christmases wallowing in grief for her mother, but she so wanted to latch on to Castle's joy.
December 20th 2013
Kate had been fighting every single control freak nerve in her body since Castle had asked her if he could plan their Christmas. The packing suggestions sheet he'd given her implied that wherever they were going, they'd be in the Northern Hemisphere and the private jet he'd commandeered for their journey gave her no indication of their destination.
Kate could see the excitement dancing in Castle's eyes and she wouldn't ruin his carefully laid plans with her determination to solve the case before they'd even landed. Instead, she obediently curled into Castle's side, watching old films and occasionally napping.
The plane slipped into its steady descent and she could bear it no longer. She extricated herself from Castle's embrace and dashed over to a window seat, clipping herself in. The snow covered countryside failed to give away their location and Kate felt like the anticipation may actually crawl up her throat and choke her.
The wheels of the aircraft hit the tarmac and slowly screeched to a stop. Kate looked at Castle expectantly, secretly thrilled at the excitement coursing through her veins. He only grinned, waiting for the burst of static to indicate that the pilot would be addressing them.
"Bonjour, this is your captain speaking. It's 2pm and we have just touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport. Be sure to rug up, because the temperature is just above freezing and have a very Merry Christmas."
Kate could only gape, a shocked smile gracing her features. "You took me to Paris?"
"I know Nikki got here first, but I thought you might like it," He shrugged modestly. "Paris has been good to me. It seemed like the perfect place to start some new traditions."
Kate rose on her toes, brushing a kiss against Castle's mouth, heart softening all over again at his bashful expression. "Let's get off this plane and start making memories."
Customs had been relatively stress free and they'd managed to make their way across the airport to their waiting car with minimal fuss. The only thing that had been slowing them down was Castle's insistence that he needed to photo document every step of their journey.
Kate rested back on the seat of the car, content to look out the window at the snow-dusted city. He'd brought her to Paris.
She resisted the urge to sigh. There was no point comparing their lifestyles; the significant difference in their pocketbooks was undeniable, but it was a cesspool she wouldn't be drawn into; it would only lead to resentment. Richard Castle was generous to a fault and she knew that he hadn't planned this trip solely to be ostentatious with his wealth. He was genuinely trying to ensure that she enjoyed her experience of Christmas. She leaned over and kissed his cheek. "You brought me to Paris," she marvelled. Her eyes widened when she saw the building the car pulled up at. She allowed Castle to help her out of the car, completely drawn in by the classic Parisian architecture of L'Hotel. She was busy admiring the gorgeous lobby and barely registered Castle's fairly impressive use of French as he checked them in.
Kate followed Castle into the elevator. "Is this the hotel Oscar Wilde was found dead in?"
He gave her a slightly mischievous grin. "Three rooms down." He swung their door open and ushered her inside.
"I don't think I want to leave the room," Kate mused, plopping down on the edge of the bed and peeling off her boots. "This is incredible."
Castle flopped down next to her. "I wasn't sure how you'd react. If you want to scour every inch of the city, I'm happy to act as interpreter, but I'm more than happy to stay right in this room. Everything is in your control, Kate," he told her sincerely.
Kate leaned over and kissed him, affection for her considerate, tender hearted man rushing through her. "I'm sure I can find a few ways to fill in the time."
Kate burrowed closer into Castle's warmth, the lights of the Champs-Elyees illuminating the busy street.
"Every Christmas, there are markets right along here," Castle explained. "I thought you might enjoy that."
Kate gave him a wicked grin. "Are you really going to endure shopping with me?"
"You cannot be anywhere near as bad as my mother."
Kate dropped his arm, making her way up to the stall, greeting the stallholder in polite, rudimentary French. Castle was more than happy to follow after her, carrying her bags of trinkets, if only to observe her. Detective Beckett had remained in New York City, and bohemian, free spirited Kate, with her eclectic tastes and infectious giggle had accompanied him to the City of Lights.
Kate held up a delicate gold chain, a pale green jewelled butterfly handing from it.
"Castle, do you think Alexis would like this?" She asked. The relationship between Kate and Alexis was still a little sticky. Alexis's initial fear was that Kate was going to run and leave her father broken-hearted. Now that Kate had proven she was in it for the long run, the sticking point was that when Alexis came home from college (which was less frequent now that she was an experienced sophomore) she still wanted to be Daddy's Little Girl. She still wasn't used to sharing the limelight with Kate Beckett, the only woman that had ever captivated Rick Castle as thoroughly as his daughter had.
"I'm not trying to buy her affection, I just saw it and thought of her," Kate added hesitantly.
"Alexis was spoilt with my attention her whole life. She's struggling to accept you're not going anywhere. If she thinks you're buying her love, she's grasping at straws. Surely you would have tried that a long time ago."
Kate tugged on the end of his navy scarf, forcing him to stop on the street. "Why would I go anywhere?" she asked, punctuating her question with a kiss. "You're too well trained as a shopping donkey."
After a meal of nutella and banana crepes (bought from a street vendor, at Castle's insistence that they were the only thing to have as one's first meal in Paris) they made their way down to admire the Eiffel Tower, lit up and sparkling brightly above the city.
Kate stood with her back pressed against Castle's chest, absorbing his warmth as his arms wrapped around her waist, taking full advantage of the fact that Paris is the City of Public Displays of Affection.
"It is so pretty," Kate sighed. She twisted her head to press a kiss on his cheek, enjoying the rasp of his five o'clock shadow against her lips. "The entire city is amazing. I can see why you love it so much."
"Mr Richelieu was my French teacher through all of junior and senior year. He was the kind of teacher that inspired me to be great. He was so alive and passionate about his work and he cared so much about all of us," Castle's arms tightened around her waist as he recounted the story. "He was a huge mystery novel fan and was the one who insisted I read Sherlock Holmes. He let me read it in English instead of French. He was the first person to read my first ever completed novel."
"He was your John Keating," Kate murmured.
"He was. He was originally from Chartres, which is a little further north of here, but he told the most amazing stories about Paris. I think I fell a little in love with this place before I'd even come here."
Kate nuzzled her nose against the underside of his jaw. Castle revealing one of his most closely guarded secrets warmed her heart and she didn't have the words to thank him. She shifted her focus back to la Dame de Fur, "Are people ice skating up there?"
"Every winter there's an ice skating rink placed on the first level of the Tower," Castle explained.
"Can we go?" Kate insisted, twisting in his embrace to study his face, her eyes shining with excitement.
Castle grinned, her enthusiasm contagious. "Whatever you like, Kate. Tomorrow night?"
December 21st 2013
They'd spent the days exploring museums; Kate geeking out over the centuries worth of weaponry at the Musee de Armee; Castle taking advantage of his long arms to snap a picture a picture of the Mona Lisa from amongst the thick crowds of the Louvre.
Kate ignored the gypsy child that approached her as she strapped on her borrowed ice skates. "I hope you're ready to catch me when I fall," she warned him, shuffling into the elevator. "I haven't skated in a long time."
"I am more than happy to be your knight in shining armour," he offered gallantly, offering his arm to escort her onto the platform, shuffling them to the side as the more seasoned skaters made their way to the intimate rink.
It was then that Castle recalled the photos of Johanna and Kate in those ridiculous neon skates. "We don't have to…" Castle began. Kate silenced him with a look. Her jaw was set. She unlinked their arm and stepped out onto the ice.
At first, she was completely focussed on making sure she didn't fall on her ass. After a few strokes, her muscle memory kicked in and she glided effortlessly across the ice. A few moments later, Kate realised that her grief wasn't overwhelming her. She was recalling memories of cold winter days spent on the ice with her mother, but those memories didn't cause fresh hurt. If anything, she could recall them with nothing but fondness.
Kate picked up her speed, desperate to make her way back to Castle. She skidded to a neat stop, giggles of mirth threatening to bubble out of her chest. "We're ice skating on the Eiffel freaking Tower, Castle. This is amazing!" Her cheeks were flushed with both excitement and the cold and she kissed him swiftly, her little girl joy catching as she snagged his hand and dragged him onto the ice.
She clung to his hand, the pair of them making lazy figure eights around the rink.
"You're so beautiful when you're happy," Castle blurted out. "You're gorgeous when you're sad too," he hastened to add. "From the second I saw you, I always thought you were the most captivating thing I'd ever seen. But you're the most magnificent when you smile."
Kate ducked her head, his words sending warmth throughout her body. "You make me happy," she murmured, her gloved hand brushing his cheek. "You were my anchor when my world collapsed around me." Kate knew that if they continued in this vein much longer it would all turn to melancholy and she wanted so badly to be happy this Christmas. "C'mon. Let's go take a thousand photos to make everybody at home jealous."
December 22nd 2013
The bed was empty when she woke up, nobody there to nuzzle her neck when she made her baby dinosaur noise. She stretched a hand out across the sheets, realising that the bed had been empty for quite some time. She peeked around the corner, spying Castle scribbling furiously into a ratty notebook, seated in the nook next to the window.
Kate rummaged through her clothing, quickly pulling out her workout gear. She walked back out to where he was hunched over, writing furiously.
"I'm going for a run," she murmured in his ear, her hands bracing his broad shoulders. "I'll bring back coffee."
"Do you know your way around?" He asked, barely looking up from the page.
Kate held up her phone. "Map app." She shrugged. "I won't be long!"
Kate didn't push herself as she began to jog down the Rue de Seine. She mentally repeated the statement that she'd taught herself via her English/French dictionary, desperately hoping that the bouquinistes would be able to understand her.
When Kate returned to the hotel room, she found Castle in the exact position she'd left him in; his ink stained fingers clinging to his pen as if his life depended on it, the very picture of an idealistic novelist seeking inspiration from the streets of Paris. Kate took advantage of his distraction to snap a picture.
He startled, but shot her a grin. "How was the run?" He asked her.
She shrugged, placing the cups of café au lait and the bag with still warm croissants onto the tiny table. "There probably wasn't much point. I kept stopping to look at things."
"What do you want to do today?" Castle asked.
Kate pondered, gently tearing away the corner of her croissant. "Why don't we just wander?" she suggested. "Go look at all the holiday displays in the windows and just enjoy being in the city."
"Can we be really touristy?" Castle asked.
"If we must."
A second hand English bookshop on the left bank of the Seine seemed like a beacon to two bibliophiles. You could almost smell the history caked between the pages and Kate was hesitant to breathe loudly as she wandered the tightly packed shelves, admiring the well-loved works of Fitzgerald and Lawrence.
"Kate!" Castle's baritone echoed throughout the shelves. "Kate, come and see this!"
Kate followed the sound of his voice, to find him standing, transfixed as he gazed at a shelf. Kate stood next to him, her head dropping automatically to his shoulder as she took in what had him so excited. She gasped. Proudly sitting on the shelves were several Richard Castle novels.
"My books are in one of the most famous second hand bookstores in the world," he marvelled, awe heavy in his tone. "Best Christmas ever," he added.
"Why shouldn't they be? You're an amazing writer Castle." Kate handed him a pen, slipping out her phone. "Sign them," she encouraged.
Her pride threatened to overwhelm her as she watched Castle place his signature and a short message in each of the books. She took several photos of him; certain that she'd want to frame at least a few of them.
"Can I tweet this one?" he asked her, holding up the image of the pair of them standing next to the shelves, silly grins on their faces as they held up one of his books near a sign for the store.
"Absolutely," she agreed. She loved that he still wanted to protect her privacy, but knowing Castle the way he did, he wanted to share his joy with the world, and she wouldn't begrudge him that.
24th December 2013, 9.15pm
They had agreed that Christmas Day would be a lazy affair involving wine, cheese, macaroons and their bed. Kate had finally sorted out Castle's Christmas present, but there was one niggling thought at the back of her head that she just couldn't erase.
"My Mom used to take me to Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's every single year," She revealed to Castle. "She was never a regular church goer, but we went every Christmas and Easter without fail and she went along whenever she needed peace." She dropped her gaze, the tenderness of Castle's eyes on her overwhelming. "I haven't been since I last went with her. My first semester at Stanford had been the biggest six months of my life and I finally understood what she meant about peace."
"You want to go this year," Castle supplied, voicing the thought that she was dancing around, but was hesitant to give voice to.
"I can go by myself," she told him quickly. "But yes, I think I'd like to go."
"Of course I'm going with you. Partners, remember?" He scoffed. "Besides, it's not like you'd understand a word without me."
The pale stoned walls of the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur spoke of centuries of French piety. Kate was happy to simply sit, watching the devotion of churchgoers as they celebrated. The Mass had been punctuated by Castle's warm hand on her back, his deep voice whispering translation in her ear.
Serenity settled deeply into Kate's bones as she watched people line up to take communion, the rich soprano of a Benedictine nun echoing through the congregation.
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
The hymn by Schubert had been one of her mother's favourites, and Kate fondly recalled her mother singing it throughout the house, hopelessly off-key. Christmas had been one of Johanna Beckett's favourite times and Kate wanted to celebrate it and be happy. She'd been sad for so long, and she wanted nothing more than to open herself up to joy.
Castle had insisted that it was already Christmas morning by the time they made it back to their hotel room and that there was no reason for them not to open presents as soon as they arrived.
Kate handed him the cup of hot chocolate she'd managed to whip together in the tiny kitchenette. She placed the mugs on the tiny desk, handing Castle the gift she'd been running off to procure.
He childishly tore away the paper. He froze when he saw the stack of books she'd scoured for at the secondhand bookstalls on the Seine.
"My French wasn't good enough to make sure they're first editions," she told him ruefully.
"They're perfect," he told her, admiring the titles of the French mystery novels she'd bought him. He pulled her to sit on his lap, peppering her cheek with kisses. He handed her a box. "Merry Christmas, Kate," he murmured warmly.
She gracefully untied the crimson ribbon, tugging away the lid to find several ragged notebooks inside. He'd given her the first incarnation of the Nikki Heat novels. "These books brought us together. I wanted you to have them," he breathed into her ear.
She opened up the first notebook and froze. Tied to the bookmark slipped into the first page was an antique diamond ring. "Katherine Beckett, I cannot imagine spending a day without you by my side. Will you marry me?"
He'd brought her to the City of Love. He'd given her a way to remember joy. She was in a hotel room in Paris, surrounded by his words and his love. She slipped the ring onto her finger.