Castle Christmas FanFic Competition: Resplendent


Another story for our fanfic competition. Here you can find all the stories for the 12th Precinct Castle Halloween FanFic Competition. And here you can find the rules.
You can also find the stories at www.fanfiction.net for a possible easier read (blogspot doesn`t agree with word format most of the time).



Story: "Resplendent" 
Rating:  T
Words: 3,533






December 2011

“Let me take you somewhere, Kate?” 

It was out of his mouth before he could stop himself – he half regretted asking.  And he felt certain she’d shoot him down.  Braced himself for what was sure to be a rejection because they weren’t ready.  Well, she wasn’t ready.  Sometimes he wasn’t even sure of what she wanted to be ready for considering that all he had to go on was subtext and the way she’d been smiling at him lately.  But when Kate Beckett smiled, it did something to him.  Took a hold of him and shook everything up inside.  And wasn’t that the whole reason he’d come back here?  Because he couldn’t let it go – let her go.  He just really, really wanted to show her. 

She looked surprised, nervous maybe.  He couldn’t blame her.  He’d just walked back into the precinct after a not so long ago fight and now they were inching towards the edge of her very carefully constructed boundaries.  Questions they didn’t ask.  Places they couldn’t visit…yet.  But still, it was out there now.  And it was almost Christmas.  He’d wanted to show her this last year and…well, last year there’d been Josh and Gina.  A number of obstacles that they never spoke about yet, were always hyper aware of.  But now, now they were somewhere different.  Sometimes he just needed to give it a little push.  He couldn’t…he wouldn’t take it back. 

He’d tried to leave after their argument.  Had gone home, picked up the keys to his Ferrari and taken off.  She knew exactly how to get under his skin and damn it, it hurt.  He just needed to drive it out.  Feel the power under his fingertips as he shifted from fourth to fifth gear, racing away from the city.  A little bit of something he could control.  So unlike this thing with her.  She held all the power.  She always had, really.

But out there, distanced, driving away, he’d realized that maybe the reason she’d been snapping at him all day had less to do with not wanting him around and more to do with the fact that every time she’d glanced at the clock, she looked a little more worn down.  As though she was moving towards an inevitable breakdown.  Maybe she was.  Christmas couldn’t be all that easy for her.  So close to her mother’s death.  He hadn’t been around the precinct much around this time the last couple of years.  Had always been wrapped up in his own holiday traditions.  He could kick himself for not putting two and two together sooner.  Before he’d taken it personally – made it about him.  But he could do this for her now.  If only she’d let him.

He watched as she bit at her bottom lip, brow furrowed in that cute little way he’d noticed it always did when she was trying to figure something out. 

“Okay.”

His eyes immediately snapped to hers, breath catching in his throat.  “Yeah?”

“Yeah, Castle,” she said, her face unreadable but for the slightest hint of curiosity.  “Just let me grab my coat.”

XXX

She didn’t know why she was saying yes.  It was the day before Christmas Eve and she should be working.  She always worked extra this time of year.  It was the only thing she knew how to do to make it work.  Christmas.  It’d just never been the same for her since her mom died. 

But they’d had a stupid fight.  A really stupid fight.  She was tired and stressed and just on the edge of losing it because as much as she told herself that her tradition was what she needed, all she really wanted now was to have that same innocently hopeful look in her eyes that she’d been seeing all day in Castle’s.  He’d been nagging her about the holidays and her plans and trying his best to make her smile and she’d finally snapped at him. 

She’d watched as his face fell, suddenly felt sick to her stomach for taking away his joy.  Just because she was damaged didn’t mean she had to break him too.  And then, he’d left.  Told her he was sorry and that he’d let her work in peace.  Instead of feeling relieved, she’d only felt alone. 

Ugh, why did he have to be so freaking sensitive?  It wasn’t about him.  He always had to keep pushing one step further than what she was capable of. Couldn’t he understand that this time of the year wasn’t easy for her? 

But of course, he didn’t know.  How would he know when she didn’t let him past her barriers?  It was her fault he didn’t know that as soon as that winter chill set in, she didn’t warm up until well into spring.  Her fault that he’d felt like he needed to cheer her up in the first place.  She was being selfish and damn, if she didn’t miss him the minute he’d walked out the door.  He made her want things.  Things that seemed just out of reach.

And now she’d said yes.  Was letting him take her who knows where.  Because maybe, maybe she couldn’t give him everything yet.  But she could give him this.

XXX

He was trying so hard to keep his eyes on the road.  The holiday traffic in town was ridiculous.  He just still couldn’t believe Kate had agreed to come.  She’d said yes and had even gotten into his car with only the slightest raise of an eyebrow when she’d seen what he’d driven that night.  He’d expected some kind of sarcastic comment.  Expected her to at least hijack his keys until he told her where they were going. 

Instead, she sat quietly beside him in the passenger seat, staring out the window, and he was afraid if he didn’t keep checking to make sure she was there, she’d somehow vanish.  That she might just be a cruel figment of his imagination.

He snuck another glance in her direction, watching as the city lights and Christmas decorations glinted a pattern across her face, a sparkling red and green Manhattan reflected in her eyes.

She turned to meet his gaze, eyes amused.  “Quit staring at me, Castle, I’m not going to disappear on you or something.  But we’re not going to make it out of the city alive if you don’t start watching the road.”

He huffed out a nervous laugh, relaxing a little.  It really was creepy how she could do that. 

He heard her mumble something to the nature of, “This is why I never let you drive.” But he could see the hint of a smile on her face.

“Sorry, I just,” he paused, searching for the right words.  “Thanks for coming.”

She shrugged.  “Sorry I snapped at you earlier.  It’s just been a long…week.”

He reached over and squeezed her hand lightly.  “It’s okay, really.  I should have left you alone in the first place.”

He was about to pull back when her fingers closed around his, trapping his hand against her leg.

“Don’t,” she said, quietly.

His pulse quickened, a slow fire spreading throughout his body at her touch.  Don’t?

He looked at her.  Watched as she stared down at their joined hands, preoccupied, worrying her bottom lip again.  “Don’t what, Kate?

After a pause, she finally looked up - met his eyes.  “Don’t leave me alone, Castle.”

XXX

Her hand still burned from the contact.  Her body had completely betrayed her tonight.  First the touching; then, the words.  They had a will of their own, spilling from her mouth before her head could catch up.  But she couldn’t deny their truth.  She was tired of alone.  Tired of feeling empty.  Tired of living in the darkness.  She realized she didn’t want him to let her get away with things anymore.  He needed to push so that she would keep fighting, keep working towards them.

He looked as shocked as she felt.  Shocked and then…so hopeful she finally had to let go, turn back away to the window.  Baby steps, Kate.  Breathe.

She had no idea where he was taking her.  The city was long behind them now.  The only lights from the sporadic houses they’d pass, decorated with gleaming Santas and snowmen, and the glow of the dashboard of Castle’s car.  It cast a red shadow over his face.  She watched as he plugged his phone into the audio jack in the car, and scrolled through his music.

“This okay?” he asked, after choosing a music app that played the soft tones of Christmas jazz.  “I can put it on something else if you don’t want holiday music.”

“No, leave it, it’s nice,” she replied and he smiled contentedly, settling back into his seat.

She’d expected to be terrified, giving over the control, letting Castle surprise her.  But as nervous as she was about wherever he was taking her – whatever this plan of his was - she found herself relaxing deeper into her seat the further they drove.  She closed her eyes; let the lull of the engine and the warm melody of the piano soothe the stress of the day away, her mind drifting seamlessly as they sped past the border of New York and into Connecticut.  For the first time in weeks, she felt lighter somehow.  More at peace than she’d been in a while.

XXX

God, she was so beautiful.  She’d drifted off somewhere around the time they’d passed into Connecticut and he was more than content to let her sleep.  Judging by the dark circles under her eyes the last few days, she needed it.  And that’s what tonight was about anyway.  Sharing this little bit of peace with her.  Part of the joy and light and the good

He checked his phone to make sure he was on the right road and slowed to turn.  He and Alexis had found this place several years ago one day when they’d been on an epic drive to see lights.  They’d both fallen in love with it and his anticipation increased exponentially as he caught the first glimpse of the sign marking the attraction.

He hoped it would be every bit as breathtaking as he remembered.  It was all theirs tonight.

He’d remembered it several days ago.  Had been devastated to find that he was too late.  That the last night it’d been open had been the week before.  He’d had to call Paula, gotten her to pull some strings and they’d eventually agreed to open for them, for no small sum.  He used these perks less and less these days, no longer felt the need to constantly impress.  But he would use them in a heartbeat if it meant he had a chance to show this to Kate.

He came to a stop gradually and shifted into park, pausing for a moment before waking her.  Watched the steady rise and fall of her chest, the faint trace of a smile on her face.  His mind briefly replayed the horrors of the day of Montgomery’s funeral.  He was so lucky.  So lucky to have her sitting here beside him.  Even though they weren’t together, she was here.  She was here with him and he had hope. 

He resisted the urge to tuck the loose strands of hair that had fallen across her cheek behind her ear.  Settled instead for brushing his hand along her shoulder.  “Wake up, Kate.  We’re here,” he said, softly.

She sighed and he felt her lean into his touch.  “‘S not morning, Castle.  Go back to sleep,” she mumbled drowsily.

He choked on a breath, coughing a few times and shook his head in wonder.  She was going to be the death of him.  The things that two little half-asleep sentences did to his insides.  What was it about this woman?

His coughing fit seemed to rustle her back into consciousness and she blinked several times, eyes coming to focus on him. 

“What’s going on?” she asked, yawning as she leaned back to stretch.  He caught the barest glimpse of skin as her shirt rose up and struggled to pull his eyes away.

He could feel his pulse increasing and he swallowed nervously, suddenly anxious to see her reaction.  “We’re here.”

XXX

He still wouldn’t tell her where they were.  Part of her wanted to kill him.  She didn’t do these kinds of things.  Didn’t let a man take her away from work and the city two days before Christmas.  Certainly never let herself be completely surprised. 

But that was Castle, wasn’t it?  He somehow managed to be both the constant force in her life and a never-ending surprise.  She may be the one with walls but there was a depth to him that she’d written off initially.  A depth that wrapped around her heart and chipped away at the barriers, filling the cracks she’d thought were beyond repair.

She stepped cautiously through the darkness, Castle’s hand steady and warm against her side, a barrier that shielded her from the chill of the air.  And as much as she wished she could deny it, she felt her excitement building.

“Almost there,” his voice ghosted across her ear, whispering hot against the night and sent shivers racing down her spine.

She turned to him, unconvinced, as they went left around a cluster a trees, “Castle, I don’t see anything. Are you sure we’re in the right place?”

He grinned and stopped abruptly, removed his hand from her back and placed both hands on her shoulders instead.  Before she could protest, he’d spun her around, and was telling her: “Look.”

She opened her mouth; ready to question him again and then, suddenly stopped, no longer capable of forming words.  She felt her breath catch in her throat.  It was…stunning

She took in the scene around her, eyes wide and bright.  They were surrounded by giant oaks with branches swooping downward and stretching high into the air.  Twisting and curling a canopy over their heads.  The kind of trees with history, centuries old, heavy and solid.  And in the midst of this forest there were hundreds of candles in two rows, lighting a path to what appeared to be the entrance of a garden, shimmering full of light.

The tiny flames cast a glow that flickered and danced off the woods, brought everything to life in the night – rich, warm, magical.  It was as though she’d been swept into another time.  And she was completely enchanted by it all.

“Wow,” she gasped.

She didn’t know what she’d expected when she’d climbed into Castle’s car, letting him drive her away from the stress of the day.  But this…it was more than she could have ever imagined.  She could feel him close behind her, his body warm at her back and she unconsciously reached for his gloved hand.

“So, do you like you it?” Castle asked hesitantly, stepping up beside her, grasping her palm to his.

She nodded, still at a loss for words and he grinned knowingly at her, eyes sparkling in the candlelight.  “Come on, let me show you the gardens.”  He gently tugged on their joined hands, and guided her down the pathway.

XXX

It was incredibly surreal.  She felt as though all of her senses had been ignited, heightened by the luminous flames, the low hum of Castle’s voice painting pictures in her mind, and the soft sound of Christmas hymns as they weaved their way along the path.  He knew all of the history here.  Had been inspired after seeing this place with Alexis and gone home and researched it all.  He told her the stories of each of the gardens and sculptures as they moved throughout the night, stopping only to get hot cider from the couple who managed the property.

Castle said this was usually open for a few weeks leading up to Christmas.  Depending on the night there was different entertainment.  Carolers, children’s choirs, bells.  Tonight, since it was only open for them, they’d set up the sound system to play hymns.  The melodies lilted throughout the space, seemed to echo the rhythm of the light that danced across the trees.

Every time she thought she’d seen her favorite, they reached another garden that was even more captivating.  There were so many different lights. 

A fountain with sculptures that was full of colored floating balls and candles.  They reflected against the water, giving the illusion that they were both above and below the surface.

Christmas strands of white and multi-colored orbs were strung along trees and bushes. Candles spread everywhere throughout flowerbeds, on the stone walls separating different gardens, and set amongst the lowest branches of the oaks.

It was all so breathtakingly beautiful.  The perfect picture of hope and Christmas that filled her heart in a way she hadn’t believed was possible again.

They paused for a moment at the entry to the last garden and the moment she saw it, she knew it would stay her absolute favorite.  It was smaller, more intimate, and illuminated by hundreds of floating white lanterns, suspended in the air.  A canopy of soft light that shone resplendent above them.

“This one is my favorite, too,” Castle said, as they reached a bench engraved with two names. 

She watched as he traced the engraving with his fingertips, seemingly lost in thought.

“Do you know their story?” she asked, and found herself hoping that he did.

“I wish I could say yes but I don’t.  Although, the idea that it must have been their little secret is also niceWhen Alexis and I found this, I imagined them sitting here, him with a book or maybe writing.  Her stretched across the bench, head against his legs, reading, as he absentmindedly strokes his hand through her hair.  Just the two of them in their own little world together.  And I wondered what it must have been like to share such beauty with someone you love.”

She felt herself go still.  She could picture it all so vividly.  His words.  Always his words.  Reaching her in a way that nothing else – no one else ever had.  Both scaring her yet somehow infusing her with courage.  It was now or never.

She sat down on the bench and held out her hand to him.  “Share it with me?”

The look that he gave her was so full of love that she could feel her heart pounding in her chest.

He sat down beside her, a few inches away, still holding her hand.  “That’s all I want to do Kate, share it with you,” he said softly.

She took a deep breath.  Knew she needed to say this.  Another step, another brick removed from the wall.  He deserved to know.

“Thank you for coming back today.  For not letting me push you away.  Christmas…it’s not easy for me, Castle.  If you hadn’t already figured it out, my tradition is to work.  After my mom died and I joined the force, I decided to work for those who did have families left.  People to go home to.  But, tonight…this,” she said gesturing.  “I didn’t even realize how much I needed this.  You showed me light again.  That there is beauty and warmth and joy still left.  And, I know I’m not ready yet for…everything…but I want to be.  And this is the first time since that winter, that I’ve wanted it again,” she finished, turning to meet his gaze, eyes shining.

He looked at her, in awe for a moment, before tugging her over to his side, close against him. “You deserve that joy, Kate.  I hope you know that.  We’ll get there.”

“I know, Castle…I know,” she said, leaning against him, content to share the warmth he radiated.  Content to share the beauty.

XXX

As they walked away from the gardens, she turned to look one last time, soaking in the last of the twinkling lights, sad to leave them behind. 

She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to memorize the night.  Somehow imprint it onto her mind.  She never wanted to let go of this piece magic he’d given her.

She felt his grip tighten around her waist and he moved closer to press a kiss against her cheek.  “Merry Christmas, Kate.”

She wasn’t ready yet.  But she would be.  Nights like this gave her hope.  He gave her hope.  She wasn’t alone anymore. 

“Merry Christmas, Castle.”
Agent Angie Founder, Administrator, Editor and Writer

The moment that I met you, my life became extraordinary. You taught me to be my best self, to look forward to tomorrow's adventures. And when I was vulnerable, you were strong. I love you, Richard Castle. And I want to live my life in the warmth of your smile and the strength of your embrace. I promise you I will love you. I will be your friend and your partner in crime and in life, always. - Kate Beckett The moment we met, my life became extraordinary. You taught me more about myself than I knew there was to learn. You are the joy in my heart. You're the last person I want to see every night when I close my eyes. I love you, Katherine Beckett. And the mystery of you is the one I want to spend the rest of my life exploring. I promise to love you, to be your friend, and your partner in crime and life, 'till death do us part, and for the time of our lives. - Richard Castle

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