As promised, the conclusion. Another quickie, but hopefully satisfying.

Kate stares at her ceiling, a contented smile on her face, a pleasing warm ache between her legs, while Castle lazily strokes her right hand, his fingers repeatedly coming back to twist the ring around the finger of her right hand.

Shadows creep and swirl across the ceiling as her blinds sway in the breeze, and as the post-coital rush wears off, a sense of melancholy sets in. She wishes she could have a do-over; turn the clock back a month or so and start fresh. Because all she wants to do is forget the last few weeks and make a point of actually talking to him, instead of brushing everything under the rug and pretending it doesn't exist.

Maybe if they had…

Maybe if they had, he would have asked and she would have said yes without any qualms. Maybe now she'd be the fiancée of Richard Castle instead of the almost, kinda, sorta, soon to be fiancée of Richard Castle if he ever grows the nerve to ask her again.

She wouldn't blame him if he didn't.

The more he twists the ring, the more the knot of worry and fear grows inside her belly. Is he doing it on purpose? She can feel her blood pressure rising with each and every turn, the diamonds scraping across the thin webbing between her fingers.


"Hmm," she replies, distracted, still too caught up in her distressing thoughts to really pay attention.

"Stop thinking so loud."

"I just…"

How does she tell him she wants him to ask her again? She'd just finished telling him he had to wait. She'd told him that he could ask again soon, but this was ridiculous. Wasn't it? How would he even know she was serious?

Again, he twists the ring. "What Kate? Just tell me. Nothing you can say can make me stop loving you. You know this."

Gah! He's right. She does.

She wishes she wasn't this way. She wishes she didn't have to stop and analyze each and every moment and look for ways that it can all go wrong. She wishes she could be more like him; fearless and open, heart on his sleeve.

But... Well, maybe she can be. He's always telling her that she's brave. But in matters of the heart, it's always been he that throws caution to the wind and goes for broke. Maybe it's her turn to take a leap and trust that he will catch her.

She places her hand upon his, stills his fingers before they can make the next turn. Gently she removes his hand and his face falls, as though he's bracing for bad news.

Shit. This isn't how she wants it to go, she needs to do this fast.

Quickly, she slides the ring off her finger, his eyes watching with barely concealed terror. She presses the ring into his palm and closes his fingers around the band, pressing it into his chest.

"Ask me again," she whispers.

His eyes widen, his heart pummels at the back of her hands from within his chest.

"Rick, ask me again," she repeats, staring into his eyes, trying to convey just how much she wants this. All of it. The good, the bad, she's in this.

Why wait?

"Kate?" he asks, his voice barely above a gravelly undertone. "Are you sure?"

"Castle," she smiles, gently inclining her head, urging him on. "Do you remember what I said about next time?"

She hadn't imagined 'next time' being sweaty and naked, mere hours after his last attempt. Still... she's literally laid bare before him, and he her. Somehow it's fitting.

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath; she pulls his hand holding the ring to her chest and lets him feel the matching staccato of her own heart. He opens his eyes and finally she sees it, the spark that's been missing despite all the progress they'd made today.

"Katherine Houghton Beckett, will you marry me?"

This time he's smiling and his face is a visage of hope. And just like that, the tightly coiled spring of worry releases and the pressure that is always in the back of her mind is replaced by an all-encompassing sense of joy.

This time, her answer comes easily.

"Yes, Castle, I'll marry you."

Well, there ya have it. I gotta say, I'm kinda sad to see this story be over. It's the first thing longer than a one-shot that I've written in months and it felt good to have a little bit of mojo back.

To Becky: For flailing pre-finale with me and making me write my speculation.

To everyone else: For pushing me to continue and weave in canon once Watershed had aired and it was all wrong! (Okay, not all. I got the end location and the Martha chat right. Whoopsies on the 'late' thing.) It was a slog at times but I'm glad you made me stick with it.

To Avi: For being a perv and making me laugh and for being my bestest buddy above all else.

Finally, to Kellie: For being the best, most hilarious, most evil and most grammar Nazi of betas. Thank you.

To all who reviewed and followed and added to your favorites: I love you. But you still have time to leave me a review. It'd be a lovely parting gift. *wink wink* *nudge nudge*

I'll just be over here... manically refreshing my inbox. Moving on, nothing more to see here.