12th Precinct Castle Valentine's Day FanFIc Competition Entries

Here you can find all the entries for our first 12th Precinct Castle Valentine's Day FanFic Competition.

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Story: Poker And Valentines 
Rating:  T
Words: 2700

"Dude, where did you get heart-shaped poker cards?" Esposito asks sarcastically, making a face and holding up one of the red and pink cards by its edge, as though it's about to give him cooties.
"You got a problem with Castle injecting a little Valentine's Day fun into our poker game, Javier?" Lanie asks, throwing a classic Lanie-esque side-glance at him. She surreptitiously peeks at his 'assets' as he takes the seat next to her.
Esposito drops the offensive card back on the deck piled in the middle of Castle's custom built poker table, ignoring Lanie. Which, admittedly, isn't easy because she's looking sexy as hell in a tight red sweater that perfectly accentuates her very womanly curves and nicely compliments her smooth ebony skin. He schools his features then looks at Castle with mock disgust. "Not very manly, bro."
Kate grins from her spot on Espo's left then reaches to her left and pats the back of Castle's hand. "Castle is perfectly comfortable in his metrosexual skin, Javi," Kate defends, glancing at her partner with shiny eyes and a crooked grin.
"Thank you, Beckett." Castle smiles, shuffling the cards.
"Bro, that's not a compliment!" Esposito exclaims, taking a swig from his bottle of Stela Artois.
"Javier Esposito. Just because YOU are insecure about your manhood doesn't mean EVERY man is," Lanie exclaims.
"Whaaaat?" Espo defends. "I am NOT insecure about my manhood. Besides, you've seen my manhood, and..."
"Dude," Ryan interrupts, shaking his head at Esposito.
Espo looks across the table at his partner, raises his shoulders and mouths 'what?'
Ryan just continues to shake his head, his eyes shifting to the left to indicate Jenny, then darts across the table to eye-point at Kate.
Javi rolls his eyes, then takes another generous gulp of beer. "Whatever. Let's get this game started," he rubs his hands together greedily, "I am about to win me some doe-rey-me!"
Castle reaches behind him to pick up a huge box filled with poker chips. "I special ordered these just for the occasion!" He announces, opening the box.
They all scoot forward, leaning over the table to more closely inspect them. Jenny squeals, "Oh, that is so CUTE, Rick!"
Esposito groans, "Dude. Chocolate poker chips? Have you lost your frickin mind?"
"What?" Castle grins, unwrapping the sleeves of the variously colored wrapped chocolate casino tokens.

"I'm gonna have to take away your man card, bro."
"Because I bought chocolate poker chips?"
"Because you like Valentines Day! Guys only PUT UP with Valentines day, Castle. They don't LIKe it!"
"I seem to recall you liking it just fine last year, Javier." Lanie reminds him.
Javi pulls $200 from his wallet and tosses it at Castle, "Yeah," He blushes, "Well, that was different."
"Mmm hmm," Lanie teases, "It was different all right." She leans to her right and whispers to Jenny, "He thought it would be all sexy to dress up like cupid? I didn't have the heart to tell him he looked more like the tooth fairy!"
Ryan did a spit-take as Jenny covered her mouth, giggling. Kate and Castle grinned, knowingly, having already heard this story, while Javi raised his hands, his face beet red.
"Lanie!" He roars. "Some things between a man and a woman should be kept private!"
"It's not like you need to be ashamed of it, Javier. As I recall, you shot me with your arrow three times that night."
Now it's Kate's turn to do a spit-take as Castle's ears turn pink. "Okay, so, how about we play cards?" He interjects, handing out the chocolate casino tokens while Kate collects everyone's money.
Castle shuffles the cards, no small venture since they're shaped like hearts and don't easily shuffle. But, he manages. "Okay, everyone ante up. Opening bet is a dollar."
They all toss a white token towards the center of the table and Castle deals the cards. "Texas Hold Em. No blind. Nothing wild." He deals two cards each from left to right. Everyone picks up their cards. Lanie hums, Espo keeps a steely face, Kate swings her leg back and forth, Castle taps the back of his cards, and Jenny and Ryan show each other their hands.
'Hey," Kate admonishes, pointing her finger at the pair. "None of that, this is not a team sport!"
While Lanie continues to hum, Esposito smirks. "Lanie has a good hand, everyone."
She holds her cards to her ample chest. "What? Why would you say that?"
"You're humming. You think I can't tell when you're happy?"
"I could be bluffing, Javi. I'm pretty good at it."
Esposito snorts.
She looks him square in the eye, her lips pursed, an eyebrow raised. "In fact, I am VERY good at it, as you may RECALL."
Espo coughs uncomfortably. "Whose bet, Castle? C'mon, man, take control of this game."
"Whoa!" Ryan cries.
Everyone looks at him. His face bright red.
He glances around the table. "Sorry. I just noticed, Castle. Um, where did you get these cards from?"
Castle just smiles. "Ryan, your bet."
Ryan is studying his cards, a smirk planted firmly on his face. He grabs a red token and rolls it towards the pile. "I bet five." He doesn't take his eyes off the cards and Jenny elbows him angrily. "What?" He looks at her then Castle, a grin spreading from ear to ear.
"Jenny?" Castle asks sheepishly, avoiding eye contact with Ryan.
"I'm in." She picks up a red token and tosses it to the middle of the table.
Lanie is ready and throws her token at the pile. "In."
Esposito considers his cards, chewing the inside of his cheek. "Oh, what the hell," and tosses a red token on the pile.
Castle turns to Kate and does a double take. She's staring at him with narrowed eyes and he realizes he might be in trouble. Not removing her eyes from his, she picks up a red token and dramatically drops it in the pile.
Ryan chuckles, "Dude, you are in truh-baaaall."
Lanie and Esposito look confused.
Castle turns to look at Ryan then back at Kate and flinches. She's still staring at him with narrowed eyes, her teeth chewing the inside of her cheek. She raises an eyebrow. "Are you in, Mr. inappropriate man?"
"What the hell is going on?" Lanie asks, looking from Ryan to Kate to Castle.
Kate, not taking her eyes off Castle, explains, "Oh, I have a feeling you'll find out very soon." She pauses. "Rick? You in?"
He clears his throat, grabs a red chip and carefully sets it next to the pile at the center of the table. "I'm in," He says sheepishly, then grabs the deck to deal the flop. Placing them on the table in front of him one by one.
"The Seven of Clubs." He turns the second card. "A Six of Hearts," he hesitates, peeking at the next card, then shifting in his seat uncomfortably. He coughs again, holding his fist up to his mouth for dramatic effect. 'And, ah, the," he lays the card down, "...Queen of Diamonds."
Lanie and Esposito lean forward to look more closely at the card. Kate just continues to stare at Castle, and Ryan and Jenny wear matching amused expressions.
"Holy shit, Castle. I take back what I said earlier! Your manhood is fully intact."
Kate smirks, mumbling, "Yes. It. Is." Then looks up surprised, her face crimson. "Um, did I just say that out loud?"
Lanie rolls her eyes, grinning at Kate, then glances back at Castle. "Where did you get these cards, Castle? At a sex shop?"
Castle grins, "I thought they were funny. You know, get us all in the mood for a...?" He stops when he looks at Kate who is shaking her head at him. He turns around and looks to Ryan. "Okay, so, to recap. We have a Seven of Clubs, a Six of Hearts, and ah, a very naked and slightly aroused Queen of Diamonds. Ryan, your bet."
Ryan is still grinning stupidly while Jenny looks on disapprovingly. "Yes, I, ah, I am definitely in." He throws another red token at the growing pile.
"In." A red token goes flying at the pile but misses and lands in Kate's lap.
"I'm out. I got nothing." She slaps her cards down on the table in mock disgust, then picks up her wine glass and takes a long sip of the smooth amber liquid.
"I'm in." Esposito mumbles, flicking a balled up token wrapper towards the middle of the table.
Ryan points at it, "I don't think you're supposed to eat those until after the game, bro."
Castle almost doesn't want to look at Kate, but he does, and she's staring him down. "Oh. Me? Yeah, Castle, I'm in. I am very much IN." She throws her red token absently towards the middle of the table, never taking her eyes off her partner. She's rather enjoying his discomfort and a cool smirk graces the corners of her mouth.
He clears his throat again, then shakes his head as though coming out of a trance. "Okay, ah, I'm in, too." He adds a token to the pile, then picks up the deck of cards to deal the turn. He flips the card over and another naked queen stares up at them. This time of the spades variety. "Ryan?"
Ryan practically squeals and throws an orange token at the pile. "I. Am. In."
Jenny knows what he has, and knows she can't beat him, so she folds. "Out. Fifty bucks is too rich for my blood."
"Lanie's out, how about you Javier? You in still."
Esposito flicks another balled up wrapper towards the pile. "Yup."
Lanie narrows her eyes at him, "You got nothing, Javi, what the hell are you doing?"
Esposito holds his cards to his chest, "Woman! Mind you're business."
She points at the growing pile of balled up token wrappers, "You keep eating those and you're going to be up all night, you know."
He waggles his eyebrows at her, "So?" He leans in and whispers in her ear and after a couple of seconds her expression changes, her face rearranging itself, and she giggles.
Kate looks from one to the other than shakes her head. When will they ever decide if they are a couple or not? She picks up an orange token and sends it rolling towards the pile. "In."
"Me too," Castle agrees, throwing his orange token at the pile. "And, now the river!" He flips over the last card, a knowing smirk spreading across his face. "The king of hearts!"
The women lean forward while the men look away.
"Whoa," Lanie says,
"Oh my," Jenny exclaims.
"Hello!" Kate jokes.
"Dude!" Esposito complains, shielding his eyes so he doesn't have to look at the card.
"That isn't even realistic," Ryan complains. "No guy is that..."
Jenny kicks him.
Castle grins, "See? Something for everyone!" He taps the naked, and very well endowed, King of Hearts and smiles at the three women, all of whom are looking at him slack jawed.
"So," he turns towards Ryan who is still looking at the saluting king, his head cocked to one side, his forehead wrinkled with troubled thoughts, "Ryan, man, you in?"
Castle chuckles. "You in? It's your bet."
He jumps, glances at Jenny who is still staring dreamily at the King, frowns, then throws a red token at the pile. "Yeah, I'm in."
"Okay, then. Jenny is out. Lanie is out. Esposito, you still trying to convince all of us that you have a worthy hand?"
Esposito makes a face, then pops another chocolate in his mouth. "Eh, forget it," he throws his cards down, "I'm out!"
She's still staring at the King, a crooked grin on her face.
She jumps.
"You in?" Castle asks, feigning annoyance.
"Oh, ah, yes, I am still very much in." She laughs.
"As am I," Castle declares, throwing a red token at the pile.
"Okay folks. Moment of truth. Watcha got?"
Ryan lays down his cards, a Two of Diamonds and Queen of Hearts, in his best porno voice, which sounds more like Moose of Moose and Squirrel than Ron Jeremy, declares, "Three lovely, naked ladies! King high."
Esposito smiles, "Nice, bro!"
Castle turns to Kate, an eyebrow raised.
She lays down her cards, one at a time, an Ace of Hearts and Queen of Clubs. "Not so fast, BRO. Read 'em and weep. Three Queens, ACE high!" She grins at Ryan.
"Ooooh," Esposito hisses, "She beat you, partner."
Castle leans back and smiles, the corners of his eyes crinkle with amusement. "Well, you two have very good hands, I'll grant you that." He scratches his chin. "But," he lays his cards down dramatically. "...you can't beat three naked dudes!"
"Bro!" Esposito complains, once again shielding his eyes. "That's just wrong."
"Oh, no," Lanie declares. "No, no. That is very, very right!"
Kate leans back, tipping her wine glass to drink while Castle rakes in his winnings. She has to admit this is a much better way of spending Valentine's Day than at some romantic dinner at an overpriced, pretentious restaurant that serves tiny food in tiny portions on huge plates. She smiles, her eyes betraying the warmth she feels for him, glad they have the same ideas about what constitutes 'fun'.
"Okay Ryan, your deal. Anyone need a refill?" Castle asks, standing up and grabbing his empty beer bottle.
Esposito hands him his empty, Jenny points at her nearly empty glass of wine, as does Lanie. He saunters to the kitchen, opens the frig for more beer, then brings the de-corked bottle of wine back to the poker table with him.
"How the hell do you shuffle these, Castle?" Ryan asks, heart shaped cards flying everywhere.
Castle is about to help him when the front door flies open and Martha breezes in. She freezes when she sees the gathered guests, then graces them with a dazzling smile.
"Darling! Oh, you're having a poker party. On Valentine's Day. How," She flicks her wrist in the air, "...dreadfully unromantic."
Castle stands, gesturing back at the group, "Mother, you remember everyone?"
Martha smiles at them, "Of course, of course. It's lovely to see all of you."
"Is your party over already?" Castle asks, glancing at his watch. It's not even nine o'clock yet.
"No. No, no. I just need to grab a different pair of shoes," She holds up one sparkling red shoe, a match to her sparkling red dress. "Broke the heel on this one!" She heads upstairs as Ryan finally corrals the cards, then simply mixes them up on the table to shuffle them.
Martha is back downstairs in a matter of seconds, a pair of sparkling black shoes on her feet. "Don't wait up for me darling," She warns Castle. Then eyeing Kate, she holds her hand up to the side of her mouth and half-whispers. "I ran into an ex of mine and I have a feeling this night might end up with us doing the horizontal tango!" She crosses her fingers and smiles broadly
Castle drops his head as Kate giggles, nodding at Martha, completely used to her inappropriate banter by now.
"As I recall, he can rattle a headboard like a sailor on leave!" She wraps a pink feather boa around her neck dramatically, "IF you know what I mean!" She chuckles.
Castle groans, "Everyone knows what you mean, Mother."
"Oh, good. Well you kids have fun! I know I will!" And, with a wave of her hand, she disappears out the door.
Castle bangs his head repeatedly against the felt poker table. Kate reaches over and tickles the back of his neck sympathetically.
Jenny slowly nods, as though something profound has just occurred to her. "So," She nods towards the door, "THAT explains a lot!"
Everyone laughs.
Castle looks up. "What?"
She grabs one of the naked queens and holds it up, "You come by it naturally, Rick."
He bangs his head against the table again, groaning, while everyone else laughs sympathetically.
Ryan checks the deck, his eyes bugging out, "Ahem, did you guys see the Jacks? Holy cow!"


Story: For Future Reference 
Rating:  T
Words: 1410

Kate Beckett was not the kind of girl to get dressed up and let him take her out to elegant restaurants; she was a classy kind of girl, sure, but she much preferred the cheap grease of a burger at Remy's to the extravagant cuisine of a place like Atelier. She hadn't even let him take her out for her birthday so, when she'd agreed to let Castle take her out for Valentine's Day, and to let him take care of her dress, no less, the man had nearly fainted in excitement.
The images of Kate in another evening gown had him speechless; what color would she wear this time? Maybe an emerald, to bring out her eyes? Or a sapphirey color, like that one negligee she liked to wear; the one that made her skin glow. How would she do her hair? Soft curls, like usual? Maybe something a little sharper, tighter? Or perhaps an up-do like she'd done when she'd gone undercover with Hunt?
He could sit there all day thinking about it; the possibilities really are endless, though as long as he gets to see Kate all done up again he doesn't really care about the specifics. This is a rarity in and of itself and he won't ruin it by fretting over every little detail; just having her agreement is enough.
He calls up his guy, the same man that had whipped up the red number that Kate had worn during the jewelry heist their first year together, requests to have it delivered by five and promises a generous tip in order to have it done so. He ensures that his suit is still at the back of his closet, come on, Castle. Where would it have gone? and calls to check that his reservation is still intact, as though they'd really give it away, before grabbing the little velvet box from its hiding spot in a secret pocket in the life-sized Boba Fett's cape and leaving the loft.
She'd been thinking about their date all morning, daydreaming about where they might go, what her dress might look like, what they might do afterwards… so she doesn't notice him sneaking up behind her until he's already placed a kiss on her temple and a coffee in front of her. "Hey," she smiles excitedly. "What are you doing here?"
"Just dropped in to see how it was going," he shrugs, a little too casually. "Any breaks?"
"Nah," she sighs, sipping at the mug, burning her lip a little in the process. "The boys are out doing some digging, but so far we've got nothing."
"Shame," he mutters absentmindedly, plopping down in his chair and leaning against the desk to stare at her.
"What are you really doing here?" she smirks, setting her coffee down and nudging it towards him.

He takes a sip, postponing his response just long enough to come up with a feasible excuse. "I missed you." Not that it's much of an excuse.
"Castle, we saw each other five hours ago."
"You may have seen me but I was still asleep when you left."
"It's not my fault that you sleep like the dead! A tornado could rip off your roof and you'd still be asleep."
"Or probably just actually dead," he mutters, leaving out the fact that a tornado would never hit New York City.
She flicks him playfully, signing off on the file in front of her and opening the next one. "All right, fine. Don't tell me," she sighs dramatically, sniffing indignantly.
"Ooooh, bringing out the big guns. You've spent a little too much time in the company of my mother, it seems."
"At least your mother doesn't drop into my place of employment just to annoy me," she quips.
"Just for that, now you don't get your present," he pretends to be offended.
She freezes, her grasp on her pen going slack as she looks back to him. "You got me a present?" She tilts her head, regarding him thoughtfully.
"Well, not anymore," he shakes his head, attempting to look innocent.
"But I di-"
"Your agreeance to accompany me to a nice dinner is enough," he assures her. "I have been waiting for you to be a willing participant forever," he groans.
"Now who's been spending too much time with your mother?"
"Well I do live with her."
Kate eyes him out of the corner of her eye, waiting for him to catch on to what he'd just said.
"She lives with me," he rushes to correct. "In my house."
"Mmhmm," she agrees halfheartedly.
"She does!" he insists. "Rent free, might I add."
"I'm well aware of the situation, Castle," she dismisses, bringing the coffee back to her lips.
"This is ridiculous," Castle shakes his head. "I did not come here to be-"
"To be what?" Kate interrupts him, raising her eyebrow.
"I came here to give you your present," he repeats softly, reaching into his coat pocket. "That's all." He puts the small red box on the edge of her desk, nudging it towards her slowly, his breath caught in his chest as he pictures what this situation could've become.
"Castle," she warns, eyes going wide and her heart immediately threatening to break through the cage of her ribs.
"Just open it," he rolls his eyes, pushing the box a little closer.
Butterflies claw viciously at her stomach lining, bumping into each other like gas molecules as she reaches out a shaky hand, dragging the box towards her and holding it steady while she flips the lid open to reveal a miniaturized replica of an engagement ring.
The butterflies drop dead as a wave of emotion washes over her. What's that… disappointment? she wonders vaguely, puzzled as she extracts the tiny charm from its nest.No. Well, yes. But while she may be in this, she knows she's not ready for marriage just yet.
And, in all honestly, he's not quite sure if he's ready to take that step, either. Rushing into his first two marriages played a key role in their demise, he believes, and he cannot, will not, ruin what they have between them, even if that means never getting to marry her.
But oh, who is he kidding? He'll trick her into marrying him someday.
He shakes the thought from his mind, taking her hand in both of his and rolling up the sleeve of her sweater to reveal the bracelet he'd given her for Christmas. Everything about it's custom made, from the little platinum links to the handful of charms dangling from it; a pair of handcuffs, detailed down to the one little cuff clasped and the other wide open, the miniscule key sticking out of the lock, a pair of coffee cups, police engraved on one and writer on the other to mimic their vests, a tiny engraved copy of Heat Wave, an elephant, to match the collection on her desk, and now, the little ring.
"What're you trying to say, Castle?" she rasps, her voice hiding low in her throat.
He purses his lips, shakes his head as he ensures that the charm is secure. "What do you want me to say?"
She mimics his initial response, taking back her hand to finger the newest addition to the story of them.
He gives her a moment, his heart thrilling at the soft smile that graces her face as she plays with his gift, before asking, "You ready for dinner?"
"Do I look ready?" she grins, glancing down at her jeans.
"Right. Ready to go get ready?"
"I suppose," she smiles coyly, tugging her sleeve back down as she turns to shut down her computer and store her paperwork. He holds her coat out for her as she stand up, sweeping her hair out of the way as she adjusts it on her shoulders.
He grabs her bag for her as she does up her buttons, slinging it over his shoulder as she wraps her scarf around her neck. "So that's it?" she asks as they walk to the elevator. "You give me a charm shaped like a ring and then we don't talk about it?"
"In case you hadn't noticed, that's kind of how we roll."
She gives him the look, stopping him in his tracks as they step inside. "I just wanted to see how you'd react," he shrugs, holding his arm out for her to latch onto. "Y'know. For future reference."


Story: Oops! 
Rating:  T
Words: 1581

"Bro, I thought you went to get lunch."
Castle gestures to his left where Kate is arranging a collection of take-out containers across the break room table.
"I did."
"Then what's this?"
He whirls around to find Ryan and Esposito crowding the corner of Beckett's desk, mild looks of disgust on their faces. And Ryan is holding up a...
"I...guys, no!" Castle exclaims, reaching for the red lacy number dangling from Ryan's left hand, but the detective turns just in time, holds the garment out of reach.
Esposito reaches out to run his finger over the strap, pretending to contemplate the skimpy...outfit.
"It's not really my type, Castle, but I'm flattered," he jokes, is met with a glare from the writer.
"Bro, I don't ever want to see you in something like this," Ryan teases.
"What, you don't think I'd look good in it?" he shoots back, swaying his hips in a dance very reminiscent of the one he performed with the Santa outfit Ryan picked out for Jenny two months back.
He wrinkles his nose, eyes fixed on the fabric. Or, well, what there is of it. "Mental images I really don't need."
"Guys, seriously, just give it back," Castle pleads, eyes darting back and forth between the break room and the lingerie, hoping that every scenario playing through his mind right now does not actually pan out. It's supposed to be a surprise gift. And Ryan and Esposito were certainly not supposed to find out about it.
Ryan passes the chemise to his partner instead, thwarting Castle's attempt to wrestle it from his hands.
"This is what you had in mind when you said you were hungry?" Espo asks jokingly as he examines the red material.
"Way too much info, bro," Ryan shoots back with a shudder. He really, really doesn't need to think about his coworkers in that way.
"Javi," Castle hisses, desperate to retrieve the gift before the commotion attracts Kate and the surprise is ruined. Enough other people in the room are already looking on in interest and he is not in the mood to deal with this amount of teasing or rumor-spreading or whatever other outcomes this may lead to.
"Why, you planning to have her try it on for you during her lunch break?" Ryan teases, blue eyes twinkling, and they are enjoying this way too much.
"The store is two doors down from the restaurant, okay?" Castle huffs. "And it's Valentine's Day. Now will you please just give it back?"
The detective finally relents, passes the lacy, barely there piece of fabric back to Castle, who begins to fold it and place it back in the box. He is just arranging it neatly, smoothing out the wrinkles, when a voice sounds behind them and he startles, nearly sends the box clattering to the floor.
"Mr. Castle."

He freezes, slowly lifts his hands from the garment and turns, but not before executing a very unsubtle attempt at sliding the lid back on the box.
"Yes, Captain?"
"What exactly is going on out here, if you don't mind explaining?"
He does mind. He minds a lot because even his writer's brain is unable to think up a successful way out of this situation. But he also has a feeling that her question is rather rhetorical and she does in fact expect an answer.
"I was just...I brought lunch," he offers, gesturing over her shoulder. "You know, because everyone was getting hungry. And I just..."
"Thought you would bring back a little something extra?" she cuts in, anything but amused.
"I...well...it's just...it's nothing, really."
She gestures to the male detectives who stand to Castle's right, acting completely innocent in the matter, and Castle is so going to hurt them. "I'm guessing it's not a gift for either of them."
"No sir," Castle gets in while Ryan stifles a laugh.
"In which case there's really no reason for all three of you to be...putting on a show."
This time it's Esposito who snickers.
"No, sir," Castle mumbles again, embarrassed and annoyed and he should have just gone back to the store after work tonight instead.
"Now, if you're quite finished, I suggest you get back to work. Our vic's financials came in as well as the footage from the surveillance tapes."
Ryan and Esposito take that as their cue to leave, snagging a folder from Beckett's desk on their way to the break room for lunch and...more work, apparently...leaving Castle awkwardly standing in the bullpen with Gates.
"I'm just...going to put this away," Castle stammers, turns to grasp the box and fumble the lid the rest of the way on.
"Actually, I believe I'll be holding on to this for now," Gates demands, and Castle's mouth drops open in horror. From the break room doorway, Ryan and Esposito look on, entertained smiles on their faces as they try...and fail...not to laugh at Castle's current situation. "No need for any more inappropriate behavior."
"I...but...uh...Captain, is that really necessary?" he asks desperately and is this seriously happening to him right now?
His palms are sweaty against the box and he can't even believe this and he really just wants to turn around and walk out and go home for the rest of the day. But then Kate would wonder where he was and she'd call him and how exactly is he supposed to explain that he got in trouble for bringing sexy red lingerie to the precinct?
The captain extends her hands, fixes him with a stern glare. "You can pick it up at the end of the day."
He sighs, reluctantly hands it over to her, crossing his fingers that she won't open the box. Then again, she obviously already saw what's in it or he wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place.
Kate is so going to kill him when she finds out about this.
"And Mr. Castle," Gates calls over her shoulder.
"Yes sir?" he replies, voice strained.
She gestures to the break room where Kate is seated with her back to them, digging into a container of sweet and sour chicken. "Don't think I don't know exactly what's going on between the two of you. You're not as subtle as you think you are."
Before he has a chance to formulate a response she's gone, shutting her office doors behind her and setting the box on the corner of her desk.
Castle nervously glances over to Kate, tries to decide how he's going to explain to her that Gates knows about them because he was stupid enough to bring a box of lingerie to the precinct and let it out of his sight.
Then again, it's Valentine's Day. Maybe, if he's lucky, he'll be able to pass it off as a romantic gesture.
Or maybe not so much.
Maybe he should...
Roses make everything better.
He pulls out his phone, dials an old friend who owes him a favor from a couple years back, and winds up leaving the precinct an hour before the others to make sure everything is set up just so, completely forgetting about the box perched in Gates' office.
Before the team heads out for the night, the captain pulls Kate aside, informs her that her...personal behavior...regarding her partner is being closely scrutinized and that any future inappropriate interactions will be subject to disciplinary action.
She nods in confusion, clueless as to what inspired this sudden interest in her...relationship...with Castle. Until the woman hands her a box, tells her that she assumes it's for her, and wishes her a good night.
Kate manages to wait until she steps into the elevator to open the box and when she does, she almost drops it. How did this even...?
Oh, she is so going to kill him.
When Kate walks into her apartment twenty minutes later to find candles flickering from every surface and a trail of rose petals leading to her bedroom, she almost forgets about the fact that she is holding a box of lingerie that Gates handed her.
After he hands her a dozen beautiful roses and bumbles his way through an explanation, she decides to take pity on him, because it was sweet and he meant well, he just...didn't do so well.
Kate disappears into her bathroom, emerges ten minutes later with tousled hair and smoky eye makeup and the red chemise that leaves very little to the imagination and Castle is so not going to make it through the night.
She crawls onto the bed in a manner far, far too sexy to be legal, settles herself on his lap, thighs bracketing his hips, and leans in for a deep kiss. His hands rise to cradle her waist, the pads of his fingers running over the lace, and the sensation of the fabric against her skin sends tingles shooting through her veins.
For all the trouble he went through to buy the lingerie for her, it spends a remarkably short amount of time actually being worn.
By the sated way she wishes him a Happy Valentine's Day three hours later and then curls up against his side, limp and exhausted, he's pretty sure she has no complaints.
Neither does he.


Story: Valentine's Day 
Rating:  T
Words: 2490

It was shortly after 6 am. Kate was still sleeping after a very romantic night filled with love, passion and even more love. Today was Valentine's Day. Their first Valentine's Day as a couple. This was special. He had convinced her to stay the night. They had watched a movie, drunk some of Kate's favorite red wine. There has also been a lot of cuddling and kissing involved until she was sitting on his lap, kissing him, her fingers running through his hair. Her voice had been low and sensual. He had taken her to the bedroom. It has been a very long night, he thought with a warm smile on his lips.
Now he was on his way into the kitchen to make heart shaped pancakes for the love of his life. He was thinking about making pancakes that tasted like cherries or apples, but he discarded the idea after a few seconds of thinking about it.
Twenty minutes later he entered the bedroom with a tray filled with pancakes, two cups of coffee, a bowl of fresh strawberries and two little presents. The first one he had bought at Tiffany & Co a week ago, the second one was a little bit more mysterious. He hoped she would like her present, cause she was going to need it tonight. He placed the tray on the nightstand and kneeled down in front of her naked form. He was nervous. Everything was ready and they just had to get to the airport. Okay, he was verynervous.
"Katie?", he asked.
She mumbled something and pulled the blanket up to her chin. He laughed and pulled the blanket down. He leaned forward to her ear.
"Katherine, wake up", he whispered.
She blinked with her eyes. "Rick", she said still half asleep.
"Morning beautiful. I made you breakfast."
She smiled and set herself up, her naked body exposed.
"Evil woman."
She grinned. "Patience is a valuable strength, Mr. Castle."
He leaned forward and kissed her.
"Heart shaped Pancakes, eh?"
"Yes, heart shaped Pancakes, Ms. Beckett."
"Mmhh, and coffee and, oh, strawberries!"
"Your favorites, I know."
"That's sweet, thank you."
"I know. May you make some space and I climb under the blankets with you and…"
"Castle, focus."
"Good boy." She made some space for him and let him settle down beside her. He put an arm around his girlfriend and took the plate of pancakes from the tray. After that he took the two cups of coffee and handed Kate her cup. He had made a heart with cacao powder on her cream. Without him noticing, she placed the cup on her nightstand.
"You…you did what?"
"Kate, calm down."

"You…you tell me to calm down? Are you crazy, Castle? You told her about our relationship!"
"Yes I did and she's fine with it. She didn't do a happy dance but she's okay with it as long as it doesn't affect our work."
She shook her head. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I…um…I wanted to make it…I don't know Kate. I want you to be happy. I want us to not have to hide our relationship. I'm sorry…"
She grabbed his hand. "Don't be…I'm sorry. I overreacted. It's sweet, really. Thank you."
"No. I'm sorry. We should have spoken about that a lot earlier. It's my fault. So, your present?"
"Paris. These are boarding tickets. We have to be at the airport in two hours."
"It's our first Valentine's Day as a couple, Ms. Beckett."
She leaned into him and kissed him tenderly. "Thank you."
"I love you, Kate."
"I love you, too, Rick."
In Paris…
She was dresses in skintight Jeans, that he wanted to rip off of her body so badly, a red blouse, which he liked a lot, he favorite Burberry coat and some black killer heels. All in one, she was incredible hot and he was totally turned on. And she knew it!
"Castle, focus, I thought we wanted to make it to our hotel room", she whispered.
"It's quiet hard to focus when you are dressed like that", he whispered back. They were sitting in a cab on their way to their hotel.
"So, what are we going to do tonight?"
"The youth free version?"
She laughed. "Yes."
"Okay. I reserved a table in a romantic little restaurant. We stay here for three days. You decide what else you want us to do. We could visit the art gallery, or have a walk in a little romantic park and…"
"I thought you said youth free, Castle."
"I…yeah. So, art gallery?"
"Yes, I would like to do that."
She smiled at him and kissed him. She was tired, but on the other side she had a lot of great things in mind, that she wanted to do with her boyfriend.
Fifteen minutes later she was pressed to the wall, her leg around his waist and her lips pressed to his lips. She smiled into the kiss and run her fingers through his hair.
They were sitting in a little restaurant near the Eiffel Tower. It was a very romantic little restaurant. They were sitting aside the other guest and some candles lighted their table and there was a big bunch of red roses he had bought her earlier. She was dressed in a long, skintight red dress, which hugged her curves to perfection, and a pair of red killer high heels which made her legs really long and incredible sexy. She was also wearing the Diamond earrings he had bought her for Christmas and the matching necklace he gave her in the morning. Both were simply beautiful.
He was dressed in a simple black tuxedo, his favorite black leather boots and a simple white shirt.
They had had a romantic dinner in the little French restaurant, now they were sharing some Mouse au Chocolat. They were feeding each other with it. Kate refused at first, but he wouldn't give up so she gave in. Now she was laughing at one of his silly jokes. She enjoyed this, being with him without having to care about anything. She could enjoy herself, she could enjoy being with him in the city of love. Paris. She always imagined how it would be to be here with Castle and now she was getting to know what it was like. It was great. They were having fun, could enjoy their love. Each other.
"You look truly beautiful tonight, Ms. Beckett", he said. They were walking down the streets towards their hotel, holding hands and stopping from time to time for a quick kiss, or when nobody was watching, he pressed her against a wall and kissed her a little more…intensive.
"Thank you. You don't look that bad yourself, Mr. Castle."
"Well, thank you."
"So, our hotel is the next corner. You want to continue our walk, or do you want to bring me up to our hotel room and…?"
"I'll take that as an offer, Ms. Beckett."
She leaned in and kissed him. "Good, then let's go."
He pinned her between himself and the wall. She was nearly stripped out of her dress. She had already lost her shoes in the process. He was still fully clothed. Only his jacket was missing. Now it was her turn. She unbuttoned his shirt, unbuckled his belt. He stepped out of his trousers and helped her with the dress. He really had to peal her out of it, but he liked it so much. He pushed her onto the bed and towered above her. He kissed her softly, passionate, full of love. She put her arms around his neck and pulled him towards her. Neither of them said a word.
The next morning…
She woke up when the sun hit her face. She was jet lagged, but she couldn't sleep anymore. She got up and looked out of the window. She could see the Eiffel Tower and the little Park she wanted to go to later. With one time she felt sick. Really sick. Like she had to throw up. She run to the bathroom. After she threw up half of the dinner from last night, she splashed some cold water into her face. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She knew it since a week. She checked her calendar after the recurring morning sickness and the stay out of her period. She had taken a test. Positive. At first she had been scared, but a few hours later? She had been happy. She wanted kids, his kids, and he wanted to have kids with her, too. She hadn't had time to tell him yet. She didn't want to make a big deal out of it. She was pregnant. She was going to have a cute little baby in a few months. Okay, yes, it was a big deal. Life changing, to be exactly. She was a little bit cold. She wanted to slip back under the covers. Without making any noise she went back to bed and covered herself with the fluffy blanket.
Ten minutes later Castle woke up. He smiled at her.
"You're already up. Why didn't you wake me up?"
"You are as jet legged as I am, so I wanted to let you sleep. Besides, I could think about something."
"Kate, you scare me a little. Is something wrong?"
He held his blanket up for her to roll over to him. Her bare back was pressed into his naked chest. He gave her a kiss to the temple and put his arm around her waist.
"What is working up your beautiful head, Katherine?"
She took a deep breath. Now or never. "I…Castle, I'm…"
There was a knock on the door. "I'm sorry, I'll just go and answer the door and then we will talk about whatever you were just going to tell me", he said and was already up. He caught himself a bathrobe and went to answer the door.
"Room service", he told her when he came back.
Kate had his blanket draped around her body.
"So what?"
"What were you talking about? What did you want to tell me?"
"Sit down?", she asked.
"Katherine Houghton Beckett, you do scare me", he said and sat down.
She smiled vaguely. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it lightly. "Castle, this is really important and I need you to listen, okay?"
"Okay. So it's something serious, eh? You want to marry me?"
She laughed and lay down on the bed.
He stared down at her. "You're beautiful."
"Focus, yes. Sorry."
She nodded and stroke his cheek. "We…I…I'm pregnant, Rick. We're having a baby."
He stared at her. "You…wow…a-are you sure? I mean…"
"Yes, I knew it since a week and since Valentine's Day was coming along, I thought it would be…eh…a nice present. I'm six weeks along."
"New Years Eve", he said with a knowing grin. "So we are really having a cute little baby? You and me?"
"Yes. You and me are going to have a baby."
He pressed his lips to hers. His hands freed her from the blanket and exposed her naked belly. He laid a hand on her belly. "Hey there little one. I'm your daddy and I can't wait to meet you, little one", he said in a low and caring voice and pressed a soft kiss to her belly.
"You're ridiculous, Castle."
"I'm happy, over the top happy, Kate. You're pregnant!"
She smiled at him and nodded. "Yes."
"Have you told your dad yet?"
"No. The only people who know I'm pregnant are you and I."
"Our sweet little mystery."
"Yeah. And I don't want anybody else to know."
"Sure, my lips are sealed."
They both laughed and he pulled her into his arms for a slow kiss.
Two month later…
"Jim, hi", he greeted the older man.
"Hello Rick."
They sat down.
"So, what do you want to talk about, Rick? I guess it's about Katie?"
"So? Are you guys alright?"
"Yes. We are…perfectly fine. I'll make it short. I want to marry her, Jim."
Jim nodded. "I thought you would never ask", he said with a big grin.
"So it's okay for you?"
"Yes, of course it is, Rick. She loves you and you love her, what else could I ask for? You have my blessing Rick. Go and ask her."
"Thank you."
"You have already bought the ring, didn't you?"
Jim smiled.
"Do you want to see it? I'm coming directly from the Jewelers. It's custom made."
"Sure, if it doesn't make problems."
"No, not at all. You know her and that probably better than I do."
"Oh no, Rick. I don't know her that well anymore. She's a gown up now. She doesn't share everything with her old man anymore."
Rick gave her father the little velvet box and watched him.
Jim carefully opened the little box and gasped when he saw the ring. "Rick, she's going to love this ring. She can't say no when she sees it."
It was a little silver band with four little diamonds on each side if the round Diamond in the middle.
"When I saw it…it practically screamed buy me for Kate, but I had them ingrave her name", he explained.
"Like I told you, she's going to love it."
"Yeah. I'm going to ask her. Tonight."
"Okay. I can't wait for Katie's call tomorrow."
"Yes. I'm so nervous…"
"Yeah…she's special Jim. She's nothing like my ex-wives. Meredith…you probably don't want to hear that."
"Oh, I would want to, if it doesn't make problems."
"Okay, sure. Well, Meredith. I married her because she was pregnant and it seemed right to marry her. I wanted to give my kid a stable family. A mom and a Dad. Everything it would ever need, you know?"
"Yes, I do understand that."
"Yeah and Gina…I thought she could be a good mother for Alexis. She was grown up, serious. Well, apparently I was wrong."
"But in the end that was good, because after all I met Kate and I love her like I never loved another woman. I don't think it's possible to love anybody more than I love Kate. Maybe a kid, like I love Alexis…"
"Nothing is stronger than the love to your kid, yes."
Rick smiled.
"I assume you and Katie want to have kids, too?"
"Okay, that's fine with me…but, if you get my girl pregnant anytime soon, I swear Richard Castle, I'll make your life a living hell."
Richard gulped. Loudly. He stared at his father-in law-to be.
"Oh no…Rick tell me…she's pregnant, isn't she?"
Richard gulped again. "Yes", he said. He was scared. Really really scared.
"Is that why you want to marry her?"
"What? No! No Jim. I want to marry Kate, because I love her. I would never ever marry her just because she was pregnant. Jim, I swear…"
"Enough. So you just told me my little girl is pregnant", he stated.
"Yes, she is pregnant. Three months along, to be more exactly."
"Three month? Why didn't she tell me anything?"
"She wanted to keep it between the two of us. At least for the first trimester."
"Of course, yes, I understand that. So, you two are getting really serious about all of that?"
"Yes. And I can tell you, she put on a little weigh and she looks so much more beautiful. Yesterday morning she stood in front of the mirror, turned around and told me 'I'm fatting up.' I stood there and nearly laughed, which, by the way, made her a little angry. Well, I told her that there is a baby inside her belly that needs space to grow and she started laughing again. I love it Jim! She has changed so much during the last few weeks. It's awesome to see her like that. She's going to be an amazing mom. She isn't drinking any coffee, alcohol or anything that is not good for the baby. She even comes home from work earlier, so she can cook and doesn't need to order in."
"Yeah, she can be really protective if needed."
"Yes, I know. And I really love that part of her."
"When she was younger she had a little doll and she took care of it as if it was her little sister."
"Yeah, Alexis did that, too."
Jim smiled. "So, my little girl is pregnant. Wow. That means I'm going to have a grandchild. I'm going to be a grandpa."
"And I can't believe it."
"Yeah…that must be…irritating. If I imagine that Alexis would tell me that she's pregnant…I don't want that to happen anytime soon. I know how you feel, Jim, but I can promise you. I love your daughter and I love our baby. I will never let her go again, I won't ever hurt her on purpose. I won't ever leave her, for nothing anyone could ever give me."
"I know and I trust you with my daughter's life Rick. You love her, that's enough. Make her happy her whole life, that's all I can ask for."
"Thank you, Jim."
"Take care of my daughter and grandchild."
"I will."
"Now it's my turn to say thank you."
"You are welcome, Jim. Very welcome."
"You, too."

Story: Paperwork 
Rating:  T
Words: 1633

His mother suggests a diamond ring, or perhaps a nice onesie. She thinks she's funny.
Esposito suggests lingerie, but he's tried before, knows that Kate considers that a gift for him, not a gift for her.
And as it turns out, Ryan's gift to Jenny is a onesie.
Valentine's Day gift, he should have this, he's supposed to give her something that she asked for when she didn't think he was listening. He used to be great at that.
But then she went and let him see her naked.
It's really hard to listen after that.

He's started a new campaign, a Valentine resolution of sorts. Listen for the gift.
"Remind me to get coffee creamer," she tells him absently, filling out a form while he stretches out in his chair playing the latest version of Angry Birds on his phone. He can't help glaring at her.
She's giving him nothing.

Three days in, they solve the case. He might have helped her solve it quicker, but the whole time he's been mildly distracted.
Kate smells like Fracas.
He takes his place at the corner of her desk, a little more settled now that he has reservations at The Four Seasons for the weekend and her gift tucked in his pocket. Bracelet: simple, elegant. Not super personal, but no Christmas debacle. Jewelry. It's exactly what she asked for.
She gives him a quizzical look.
"You got what you wanted, case solved before our weekend," he points out.
"Not solved Castle, finished."
"I believe you said, 'put to bed,'" he says with the waggle of his brow.
"Yeah, well, it's not either of those things so long as there's paperwork."
And that's when he realizes. He's gotten her the wrong gift entirely.

He suspects she doesn't like it when other people show up at her door unannounced. Not him of course.
"Castle?" Oh, she knows what he's after, she will never get this workload finished if he distracts her.
Loaded down with bags and balancing two coffees, he side-swipes her with a kiss to the cheek as he moves to dump his burden on the kitchen counter, leaving her to shut the front door.
"Castle, I thought we talked about this before I left the precinct," she says, following him, "if you want us to have a romantic weekend, I need to finish my work tonight."
"That's why I'm here," he says, sliding his hands under her crossed-arms and around her waist, "You got paperwork? Writer to the rescue. I am great with paper. "
She doesn't uncross her arms.
"Castle, you can't be here."
"You won't even give me a shot at being the perfect partner?"
She rolls her eyes at him. "Four years, Castle."
"Wearing you down, Kate. And look where we are now," he says swaying her body like she's a pinball machine, trying to shake her out of her doubt. "I'm your partner, I just want to pull my weight."
And then to prove it, he pulls his hips into hers.

"This stack needs a transfer of just the basic information, case number, my badge number, name of suspect, date, then you attach this to the front of my notes, like this," she says indicating what to do, "I'll sign them later."
"Thrilling," he says dryly, running his pinky-finger down her arm.
She stops and stares.
"I'm sorry, are you complaining to me about having to do paperwork? Do you even know how many interviews we have conducted over the years?"
Kate knows he thinks if he doesn't meet her eyes, it will somehow soothe the beast.
His once-bold digit withdraws quickly.
She slides a stack in front of him and slips into her paperwork mode.
It takes all of two minutes before the vibration in the floor from his restless, shaking leg is driving her crazy.
"Castle," she chastises, not looking up but putting her hand on his knee.
Another minute and he's tapping his pen to some imaginary tune.
"Castle," she meets his eye and he stops.
Kate speed reads through half a stack of affidavits that need her signature before
she feels it.
His toe on her shin.
Not an accident.
"Castle," she warns.

He doesn't meet her eyes; he's learned that puts an end to a lot of fun. Besides, she'll forgive him, maybe he can move this night along.
It's taken a few minutes, just long enough for her to get back into the groove, when the foot is replaced by his hand. This time, it's on her knee.
Maybe if she ignores him he'll go away.
The hand moves to her thigh.

He can't help it, she's adorable, tip of the pen in her mouth, ribbons of curls slung over one shoulder exposing that long column of kissable neck. Her perfume.
He knows what logic she's using, and you'd think for such a smart detective, she learn how much he loves it when she tries to disregard him.
Challenge accepted.
It's too late by the time he realizes he has underestimated her response because as soon as his hand slides up her leg, she's standing over him, his wandering hand now in one of her crazy ninja holds.
"Uncle, Uncle!" he's shouting.
If she breaks his wrist it is totally going to ruin their Valentine's weekend.
She doesn't let go, but she does back-off enough so he'll listen as she hisses, "Are you here to make things easier or harder?"
Oh, not easy to let that opening slide.
"Don't you know you make my . . ." he glances up and down, "life harder?"
She presses on his hand again. He's pretty sure he heard something crack in there.
"Ow, ow, Ka-ate. I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
"And now you see that is exactly the problem Castle, I don't think you are sorry."
"Kate, wait."
He's in trouble; she's headed for the front door.

"Okay," he says a bit breathless from chasing after her, grabbing her arm, spinning her around, "okay, just . . . listen for a minute."
"Listen? The way you listen to me when I say I need to get this work done?"
He takes a deep breath, exhaling slowly, before the words come out in a desperate tangle to appease her, the words rushing out of him, "I wanted to give you something. Something special for Valentine's Day, I couldn't think of anything good enough, and after the misfortunate Christmas situation, I just wanted to do right by you. And then I thought, 'what would make Kate happy?' And I realized it was the perfect partner. One who does paperwork, and I'm sorry I got all carried away, it's just . . . it's hard to be around you and not touch you. And it's kind of your fault because you smell good and you let me do stuff with you and oh my God, sometimes I just can't think about anything but you. You do that to me you know? So really . . . this . . . is . . . your . . .fault." He kind of wishes for one of those slow bullet scenes from The Matrix, only with the words he just uttered. Maybe he could reach out and pull them back.
"My fault, huh?" Her raised-brow expression gives away nothing.
He doesn't quite know how to read her, but he may have just ruined them. He's an idiot.
He's pretty sure he just saw her twitch.
"Come on Castle, we have work to do."

"Finished mine," he declares. And then his eyes fall to her stack of work.
"You still have more to do. Do you want me to help you?"
Dumfounded, she stares at him.
"You were right," he says pausing, "all that staring is creepy."

"You. Doing paperwork."
"I've always suspected I was in your dreams Kate Beckett."
She can't believe she's going to tell him this; she'll never live it down. It might be better to distract him first.
She takes the pen from his hand and stands over him as she slides a hand across his shoulder and back, slipping down perch on his knee. "If I'd known all I had to do was cave to your sexual harassment to get you to do all this, I would have done it years ago. You could have saved me a lot of time at the precinct."
"Liar," he accuses, more interested in the sweet spot on her neck than her words.
"Eh, you'll never know, but I'm pretty sure this would have shaved some time off that four-year wait."
"Oh well if that's the case, you can watch me clean this up later." He stands, holding her to his chest as he sweeps the desktop with his free-hand, knocking almost all their newly-minted files to the floor.
Almost all.
Kate buries her head in his shoulder as he tries again, she can barely contain her laughter as she watches him throw a pack of paper clips, followed by a stapler, over the edge of the desk to make a truly clean sweep.
"Suave," she teases.
"It will be when I write it."
She can't help smiling at him, "Castle, you make me happy. Perfect or not."
"Are you ever going to admit what makes you hot for me Detective?"
She doesn't reply, just leans in where old perfumes of past insecurities are overwhelmed by a touch of lips, a play of tongue, and a taste of future hope.
And then his hands are under her hips and he's lifting her up to sit on the edge of the desk. Face to face his hands lovingly brush the hair off her cheek and she can't help but admit the answer, whispering in his ear, "you smell like ink."

Story: All The Things You Are 
Rating:  T
Words: 3488

It's not the kind of bar that gets crowded on Valentine's Day. Five steps below street level and a dank, dimly lit entry opening into a space just wide enough for a sticky bar top faced with shag carpet that's seen better decades and a handful of tables across a narrow aisle.
It's probably not the kind of bar that ever gets crowded, and that's fine with him. More than fine.
Beckett stops short and he almost plows into her. She's been forging ahead, threading through the early evening crowds while he follows blindly. He's living in 10-second increments. It's about all he has in him at the moment.
He almost plows into her. His chin jerks up and he expects to find himself on the receiving end of her trademark glare. Instead, she rests a hand on his elbow and turns sideways. He follows suit. She coaxes his elbow upward and they're both pressing their backs into one of the tables bolted to the wall, arms held out to the side, away from their bodies, to make way for a dour, grey-faced barmaid.
She herds him into one of the booths and tells him to stay put. That she'll be right back. It's weird. It's motherly, and he feels a flare of anger. At her, because the last thing—the very last thing—he wants from her is motherly. At himself, because motherly feels good right now. So does anger. So does anything but this.
He jerks his coat off his shoulders, hating the feel of it. The heat. The weight and the expense and pretense. He feels like a kid in ill-fitting hand-me-downs and wonders how he knows. How he could possibly know that feeling. He shoves the coat aside, as deep into the corner of the booth as it will go.
Out of habit he pulls a pen and his moleskine from his inside pocket and flips to the most recent page, but there's nothing. Just the guttering flame of a candle through cheap red glass and nothing else. Not a single word. He pushes the pad away. Squares the pen alongside it and tries to ignore the unfamiliar stillness of his own hands.
There's a clattering of glass as she sets the drinks down. It's loud—shockingly loud—and it's only then he realizes that there's no music and hardly any conversation to speak of.
But she's come bearing gifts. Two empty glasses and the generous end of a bottle. He looks up at her curiously. He wasn't expecting a bottle. He wasn't anticipating anything more than a quick drink. A friendly formality. He wasn't expecting anything at all, but she brought a bottle and she's already sliding in across from him. She's already pouring and he's grateful to have something to do with his hands.

"I've got a couple of hours," she repeats in answer to the question he didn't ask.
She slides her glass over the scarred table top and angles it against his. It's loud enough to draw glares from both sides of the bar. Neither the bartender or the waitress seems to welcome the intrusion of paying customers, but she doesn't seem to notice. She dips her head. Holds her glass against his until he meets her eyes.
"What are we toasting?" he asks finally as he tips his glass against hers in answer.
She thinks a moment. Stares down into the amber liquid as though it has an answer. Whatever face this is she's been wearing since she bumped her shoulder against his and called him a liar wavers for the first time. It wavers for an instant and she recovers, surer and more determined than ever.
"Truth," she says.
He nods. It's a good toast. He'd rather know than not. He'd always rather know, and that makes him feel a little less empty.
"Truth," he repeats and raises his glass. He tips the entire contents down his throat and she's there with the bottle before the bottom hits the table again.
She's only sipped hers, but she tops it off again anyway and he flashes her a smile. A cheap imitation, but no less grateful for all that. He's grateful for the company.
They're quiet for a few long minutes. He's fine with that, but she's not. He files that away for later, thinking he'll laugh at it some day. The knowledge that his silence drives her crazier than his babbling ever could.
"So," she says. She takes a bigger swallow of the scotch. "So."
He casts about for words. He has her and he wants to keep her. Because he doesn't want to be alone. Because he doesn't want her to go. Because she might if he can't find any words, but they're not there. For literally the first time he can remember, they're not there.
"So." It's bright and she grits her teeth. She takes another big swallow and she's topping off both their glasses again. "Worst Valentine's Day?"
He huffs out a laugh and gives her a look he'll regret at some point. Amused and incredulous and he'll definitely regret it at some point. "This one?"
Her eyes widen. She hadn't thought of it that way. She honestly hadn't, and she's just trying to take his mind off things and he's a brooding, privileged, self-absorbed ass, and he wouldn't blame her for getting up and walking out and he doesn't want her to. He doesn't want her to go.
His eyes burn. Scotch and humiliation and 8-year-old cigarette smoke rising up from the crackling vinyl of the booth every time either one of them moves. He blinks hard and gives up. Raises his eyes to hers in apology, but she waves it off and tops off his glass again. Not hers, he notices, but maybe that's for the best. She has a couple of hours. She doesn't have all night.
"You wanna hear mine?" she asks when the silence stretches out again.
"My worst Valentine's Day," she says in answer to the puzzled look he gives her. She kicks him under the table. "You wanna hear about it or not?"
"I do," he hears himself saying, but he's not sure it's true. He's not sure he's up for it, but he doesn't want her to go.
She senses it. She senses his reluctance. That's obvious, but he wonders how much she knows. If she realizes that he doesn't like knowing her heart is someone else's to break. That it's ever been someone else's to break.
Whatever she knows or doesn't know she starts quietly. She starts quietly and has his attention immediately. "He was a writer."

She's a great storyteller. A complete natural and he'd hate her for it if he could. If that were an option, he'd hate her.
The bottle is at her elbow, all but forgotten, and she's killing him. The pacing. The ruthless picture she paints of herself. Eighteen, stubborn, stupid, and broke. Spending a hefty chunk of her Winter quarter book allowance for a plane ticket for a long weekend. Six hours from SFO to Logan for a long weekend. Another twelve lost. Fog on her end. A snowstorm and a dead car battery on his.
But she'd made it. They'd finally made it to his parents' house on Cape Cod.
"It was like nothing I'd ever seen," she says into her glass.
Her hair falls in a curtain on either side of her face and he wants to brush it back behind her ears. He wants to see the color painting her cheeks, but he tightens his hold on his own glass and keeps his hands to himself.
"Two houses," she continues. "Two giant houses, really, and they just . . . stuck them together. Knocked out the walls in between and built out on each side. And there was this weird spiral staircase."
She twirls her finger up from the table. Traces the tight arc in the air between them and she's smiling at the memory.
He smiles back at her and it feels strange on his face. Tight and alien, but he loves the gesture. He loves when she loses the battle and talks with her hands.
"Right in the middle of the great room," she slaps her palm down on the table and gives him a look. Like she's asking if he can believe it.
He can. He can see all of it because she makes him see. She's a great storyteller.
"So?" He nudges her fingertips with his own.
He just wants to know what happens next, but the move startles her. She comes out of the moment. Out of the story and he's sorry. He's sorry for more than one reason. Because he wants to hear the rest of the story. Because he doesn't know how much time has passed. Because he doesn't want her to go.
"So what happened?" He asks. It's loud and false. He grabs the bottle and tries to cover by pouring them both a little more.
She touches her finger to the lip of her glass like she's going to wave him away. Like she's going to cut herself off. Like she's going to go. But she pulls her hand back and nods.
"What happened?" He asks again, and it sounds more like him this time. "Sounds romantic so far."
She laughs at that. Full and sincere and only a little sorry for her eighteen-year-old self. Not at all sorry for herself right now and he loves the story a little more.
"Oh, it wasn't," she tells him. "It was not romantic at all. No one had been to the house in weeks and it was freezing. He had no idea how to make the furnace work, and no one in the family was answering the phone. He built a fire and we almost burned the place down. He'd forgotten about the flue.
"And you didn't have a chimney," he breaks in. "A city girl who'd never even heard of a flue."
"You would remember that, Castle." She shoots him the tight-lipped scowl that's really a grin.
"My job," he says as he raises his glass to her briefly.
"It is," she says quietly. She gives him a real grin, then. Like she's glad he remembers. Like she's glad he still knows who he is.
He's not sure he does, but it feels like a possibility. Like he might still be a writer underneath, and that's something.
"So you didn't freeze to death or go up in flames," he prompts. "What did you do?"
She does go up in flames, then. Her cheeks do, and he's worried. He can tell she hadn't thought this far ahead. He feels warmth creep up his own cheeks in answer and the silence is terrible.
"I . . . that's," he stutters. "You don't have to tell . . ."
"We went to bed." She cuts in sharply and her fingertips just brush over his. Like she's sorry, but she's going to have to gun the motor if she's going to go on. Like she wants to go on. "It was even colder upstairs. No idea how that was even possible, but it was freezing. And . . . oh, God, I forgot . . . the lights didn't work upstairs and there's like . . . a dozen bedroom, and we're walking down this creepy hallway with a little penlight and he turns into the last one—the very last one—and it's two twin beds and cowboy wallpaper."
The detail just sends him over the edge. He doesn't even know why. If it's the scotch kicking in or the sum total of it all or the exasperated look on her face. He doesn't even know, but he's laughing hard enough that his forehead is brushing the table and she's swatting at him. Aiming her toes at his shins in half-hearted kicks, but she's laughing, too.
"Oh, Beckett," he sighs finally. He wipes his eyes. "Did you take the Tiki idol back to the island?"
She's working on a scowl, but it doesn't hold. It blooms into another grin. "No, but I nearly broke an ankle helping him push those beds together in the dark."
"At least you couldn't really see the cowboy wallpaper," he offers. He hides his smile behind his glass and half expects another kick, but she just nods.
"I was not cursing the darkness," she agrees with a laugh. But she stops, then, and her eyes drop to the table. The color is back on her cheeks and her hands are worrying a napkin all of a sudden.
He pulls back. Sits upright in the booth like he's seen something he shouldn't have. That she doesn't want him to. He sits back like he can give back her privacy. Like he wants to give her back her privacy even more than he wants to know what happens next. And he really wants to know. He really wants to know.
She stills her hands. Sweeps the shreds of the napkins into a neat pile and makes up her mind to go on. "It was so cold. And so . . . awkward."
She looks up at him and he has that feeling again. Like he's been caught listening in on her, but she tilts her head and he realizes that's not it at all. She wants him to listen. She's making sure he's listening. He nods slowly to say he is and she flashes him a tight smile.
"We hadn't . . ." she trails off. Rolls her eyes at herself and goes on. "It was nothing. Crazy jumping on a plane like that after a few drunk kisses at a New Year's party. Stupid."
"Romantic," he says. Someone has to stand up for eighteen-year-old her.
"Maybe," she says like she's really considering it. "Maybe it was at one point. But when you're alone in the dark, curled up under a cowboy quilt the romance is gone."
"Alone?" He sounds shocked. Affronted. He is. Twin beds or no—cowboy quilt or no—he can't quite believe any man would leave Kate Beckett alone.
"He didn't have any condoms." She groans and buries her face in her hands. "And I didn't . . . I didn't even really think about it. But I think maybe I thought it would look . . ."
"I do not miss those days." He shakes his head and thinks back. No change and jammed machines and awkward conversations through the crack of a dorm room door. "You couldn't pay me to be that age again."
Her face appears between her hands and she looks startled. Stricken. Like he's undone all her work with nine careless words. And it's not . . . it's true. It's true because of Damian, too, but that's not what he meant.
He reaches out for her hand. Before he even realizes what he's doing, he reaches for her hand and wraps his fingers around hers and squeezes. She gets it. She gets it right away and squeezes back. They linger like that a moment, then their hands fall away.
Their hands fall away, but he can still feel her skin against his and he doesn't want to hear the rest of the story. Not this part anyway. He wants to go back in time and destroy every condom in Massachusetts and he doesn't care what kind of fool that makes him.
He doesn't want to hear it, but he asks anyway. He tells the next part of the story. "So he went out to get some. He left you alone."
"He left me alone," she repeats and falls silent. She looks at her glass as though she's just remembered it and takes a grateful swallow. "He said they didn't have any."
His jaw drops open and he knows he must look ridiculous. Knows he must sound ridiculous when he repeats it. "They didn't have any."
"That's what he said." She tosses back the last swallow of her scotch and looks at the empty bottle a little regretfully. "He came back with this huge, glittery pink heart full of drugstore chocolate and said they didn't have any. But the chocolate was half price. He was pretty excited about that."
"He . . . I . . . what?" He blinks at her. Looks down at his empty glass as though it might be to blame. As if he might understand this ridiculous plot twist if he'd had less to drink. "He . . ?"
"He," she says and nods. She rolls her eyes and laughs.
"So what did you do?" There must have been violence. With Kate Beckett—his Kate Beckett—he can't imagine anything less.
But she's not his Kate, is she? This stubborn, romantic kid isn't the Kate he knows. He peers up at her. Her face is a little pink at the edges. It still stings a little after all this time, but it's mostly a funny story to her. Someone else's story, because this girl isn't his Kate any more than he's a homesick 14-year-old who doesn't know who he is or who he'll ever be.
He wants to touch her. He wants to grab her hand again and bring her fingers to his lips. He wants to thank her, somehow, but he just asks again. "What did you do?"
"Went to sleep." She shrugs. "Drove back into Boston the next morning and spent an incredibly awkward day pretending to have fun."
She toys with the empty bottle and he wants to say something. Wants to tell her that this guy was a fool and if he ever had or ever got any sense at all he must regret everything about that weekend. Every day of his life he must regret it.
But she goes on before he can open his mouth. "He dropped me at the curb. At the airport. Didn't even get out of the car. And two days later . . ."
"The call?" he winces.
"Voicemail." She gives him a rueful smile. Rueful at first, but it widens to a real one. "But it wasn't all bad."
He feels the corners of his own mouth curving up as he waits for it. One eyebrow quirks up and he waits for the punchline. "No?"
"Half price chocolate didn't suck."

They climb the stairs out of the bar. Shoulder to shoulder, they step up and out into the street. It's been a long time. More than a couple hours and he should feel guilty. He should apologize and thank her and say he hopes he hasn't made her late for her date. He should but he doesn't want to. He doesn't want her to go.
The thing is, she doesn't seem to be in any particular hurry, either. It's been more than a couple hours and she's not rushing off. She's staring and their feet, toe to toe in the circle of streetlight, and she's not rushing off.
"So," he says. "Best Valentine's Day?"
She tips her head to the side like she's thinking about it.
"Yet to come, I think," she says finally.
Yet to come. She has a date. She's looking forward to it. Yet to come.
He wants to kick himself. He wishes his words would go back to wherever they've been all night. His heart drops and he hopes she can't see it. He's staring at their feet, too, so maybe she can't. Yet to come.
He looks up when he can't stand it anymore and she's not looking at their feet. She's looking at him. Intent. And she's not going anywhere.
"What about you, Castle?" she asks softly. "Best Valentine's Day?"
He shrugs. Shakes his head and gives her what he hopes passes for a brave smile.
She's still looking at him and it's like . . . it's like she's disappointed. It's like she's disappointed and he's just thinking again that she doesn't seem to be in any particular hurry.
Her phone buzzes then and her face changes entirely. It closes up and he misses her already.
She says she has to go and he tells her she should. That she should have a good time. He thanks her for the scotch and the story and the company. She touches his elbow and turns away. She goes.
She goes and he whispers after her.
"This one. This one."


Story: Sing To Me Sweetly 
Rating:  T
Words: 1630

Kate hummed, the soft tone of her voice settling around them and she sighed, letting her back fall against the arm of the couch and her knees rise up from beneath her. It took a little bit of wiggling but she finally found herself in a comfortable place and with a poke and a tug, a gentle slide, she pressed the tiny head against the width of her thighs, pulling the small chubby knees and feet onto her chest.
Once the baby was in position she shuffled back and smooshed them both down, until her chin rested on her chest and the baby was angled above her, staring down.
"There." She smiled sweetly up at the child, pleased with herself. "No muss no fuss, happy baby, comfy me." She ran her finger over the little girls nose, drew a circle at the tip before her thumb danced out to join the others and she found herself caressing her soft bottom lip. "Don't tell anyone." She whispered conspiratorially to the infant, "But this is actually pretty easy."
Hearing a snort from behind her, Kate rolled her eyes and pressed the baby's nose again, watching as she scrunched in on herself at the contact. "He is going to disagree." She whispered again, just loud enough to be sure Castle could hear her. "But you can ignore him, I do."
"Just wait for the screaming and the three a.m feeds." Castle chuckled. "Diaper rash and temperatures, hissy fits and baby vomit."
Kate heard the soft shuffle of feet as he moved closer, felt a hand cup the back of her head and she looked up into the upside down, smiling face above.
He laughed and she pushed his hand away with her head, "Don't make fun." She warned, one hand sliding over the baby's pudgy tummy as the other drew slower circles on her cheeks.
"I'm not." He promised, dropping down onto the floor next to them both, "I was laughing at her, watching me. Copying you already."
"She did?" Kate asked, ridiculously pleased and smiling at the little girl.
Castle watched as Kate fussed and cooed at the baby, completely relaxed and unaware of how adorable they both looked, then just as drastically her demeanor changed. She bit her lip frowning, a single digit tracing the shell of the baby's ear.
"Promise not to make fun?" She breathed, angling her head so she could see him again. Her eyes so wide with hope and something unknown that he would promise her the world if he thought it would make her happy.
Castle pulled himself up, until his head was level with the baby's and together they stared back at Kate. "I won't." He smiled softly, nudging his nose against her fingers where they rested at the little girl's ear. "You can tell me anything." The unspoken 'you know that' resting between them until she drew in enough breath, and courage, to let her secret out.
"I...I kind of want...to keep her." Kate scrunched her nose and smiled, and Castle's head dropped onto her leg as he laughed.
"I think we're stuck with her for a while at least." He gestured towards the door and the bags upon bags that littered the floor. "We did agree to the whole weekend, you know, for Valentines day."

"I know." She flicked out her finger, deliberately missing the tiny head cocooned in her lap and hitting the big dopey one instead. "I meant beyond the whole weekend, babysitting thing...I want to-"
She stopped abruptly, shrugging, not knowing if she had said too much, not enough or the wrong thing entirely.
"Oh." He blinked a few times, "Oh...You wanna go on the lamb and kidnap the Ryan's baby?"
"Little bit, yeah." She laughed, relieved that he understood.
"It could be arranged. I know a guy." He winked, and grinned when the tone of his voice so close to her little head made the baby turn to watch him. Her eyes opened, wide circles of the lightest blue darting rapidly as she followed him, her mouth parting and popping open and closed like a fish.
Castle let himself sink into the gentle peace of the contented baby as she grunted, smacked her lips together and made a squeaky sound. Her little fists danced in the air, pleased with herself, before she caught hold of Kate's fingers and tried to pull herself up.
"She's so -"
"Beautiful." Kate said softly, but when he looked up her eyes were focused on him, shimmering gently in the muted light before she turned back to the baby.
The silence held for a few seconds, disturbed only by their breathing and the occasional baby squeak. He let the quiet pass for as long as he could, holding onto her thigh and brushing the back of the baby's hand with his thumb.
"So." He pressed his lips together, watching as she smiled again, so freely and serenely at the baby who held her attention. "You wanting to keep her, what does that-?"
"I don't know." Kate answered honestly. She held the baby in place with one hand so she could reach for him, brushing her fingers through the hair that fell against his forehead. She wished she could be more giving, more open with her answers. She wanted so much for him to not always be waiting on her ifs ands or maybes. It wasn't fair.
He nodded as if he already knew that would be her answer. Their second Valentines day as a couple, no ring on her finger and a tentative agreement to move in together at some point, all vague possibilities of a future they were working at creating, whilst not actually doing much to cement it.
He felt her fingers still in his hair, but he had to ask, "Does it mean maybe?"
There was such hope in his voice, infused to the very depths of his gentle, kind and loving eyes, that it pressed at her heart, making it feel full to bursting and painfully empty at the same time.
The need she had to give him more of herself, let them both have more of what they deserved, so powerfully intoxicating and all resting in her hands.
"No." Kate shook her head, closing her eyes to stem the tears that rose immediately the moment she saw the light in his own diminish. "No. It doesn't mean maybe."
His fingers fell away from the baby's chest and he gripped her arm tightly, holding on until she opened her eyes. "It means one day." Kate vowed, lifting the baby to her chest and shuffling to sit up so she could pull him. One hand on his sleeve she dragged him up with her on the couch, cradling the babbling child as she did.
She gave the girl up willingly into his safe and waiting hands so she could burrow into his side, finding her head on his shoulder and her hand on the small curve of the girls spine as they shared his chest.
Kate pressed her lips to the hollow of his throat, listened to his heart beating a little too fast, just like her own. She breathed in the scent of him, her partner, her Castle and the overpowering smell of baby that lingered against his skin.
"One day." She said again, softer still as the little girl's eyes drooped, "I want this for us, for you, Castle. I want to give this to you."
A sense of family and peace and somewhere to belong. Somewhere to curl up and feel loved and protected, somewhere to spill your secrets and feel safe enough to ask not to be laughed at. She wanted to create something magical with him.
"I want this for you too, Kate." His voice quaked with a rough, raw edge that made her rise up and press her lips to the corner of his mouth. So much of what he wanted to give her going unsaid as she kissed him, tasting every little bit of it on the tip of his tongue.
"Soon." He pleaded to her retreating lips as she slowly pulled away.
"I don't know how soon is-"
"Move in." His hand curled tightly around her back, the tips of his fingers pressing at her neck and holding her to him. "Properly, after this weekend, the first chance we get." Her forehead fell against his and she hummed in agreement.
"Yes." She said, so faintly he wasn't sure she had actually spoken the words until he opened his eyes and saw her smiling down at him. Her hot breath fanned across his lips and she held tight, nose to nose, not moving away.
"We won't need to kidnap the Ryan's baby." He whispered up into her smile, "We can just make a whole heap of our own."
He felt the slight shiver run through her body, the soft and gentle shudder that he wasn't sure belonged to the side of her terrified by the idea, or the part of her longing for it, aching for it as much as he was.
"Let me unpack a bag first." She challenged back, not moving now save for the soft drift of her fingers against the sleeping child's head.
"I saw what you packed for the weekend, Kate." Castle teased quietly, "Underwear, heels and your gun. What more do you need?"
He took in the soft tumbling wave of her hair over one shoulder. The luminescent way her eyes lit up with the everything and all of their future and he drew in an unsteady breath, waiting.
"You." She answered honestly, leaning in for another kiss, finding it so very easy to divulge her secrets when he was the one hearing them.


Story: You Sound Like One Hell Of A Girl 
Rating:  K+
Words: 1716

02/14/04, 18:00

It was more usual than she liked to admit for Kate Beckett to be working on a Saturday night; the fact that it was Valentine's day only added to her feeling of inadequacy. She flopped down at her desk and looked out at the deserted bull pen. She sat right on the edge of it, a lowly newcomer to the homicide squad, but at least she was there.
Royce was there to. It had been his leverage that had helped her to get here so quickly. Less than four years on the job and she was already well known for her part in some vice operations – and not just for dressing up as a hooker, either. It had taken a lot of fighting and a lot of refusing to let anything get to her... But at least she was hear now. She smiled – Royce was coming over, holding two cups of coffee.
At least it was warm, Kate thought, grimacing as she sipped the vile-tasting liquid. Royce frowned sympathetically.
"Sorry, kid. I'll buy you a real one when I take you home."
It was just a given that he would take her. He always did, now. He had done ever since he found out she lived alone in a fairly dodgy neighbourhood, and walked back. She had protested – she could take care of herself, and she enjoyed walking at night, but he hadn't given in so she had been forced to accept his kindness.
He was always so kind. He had looked after her since the day they met, three and a half years ago when she left the academy and began to shadow him at the 12th. She looked at him now, the handsome set of his jaw, his kind, welcoming eyes, his strong, muscular body... In a way he was her knight in shining armour. When everything got to much, and she was at risk of spiralling away into her grief, he was the only one who could bring her back; help her to face reality; show her that the world wasn't all bad.
Royce looked at his protégée. 24 years old, far too young to have the weight of the world on her shoulders. She was fiddling with her long brown hair; the cap that went with her uniform was on her desk, and she had shaken it loose from its bun. She was beautiful; he was so proud of her. She was the daughter, the family, he'd never had.
She began filling out a form, never one to slack. He sat on the edge of the desk, smiling at the cute way her brow furrowed when she was thinking.
"Royce. You're watching me do paperwork. It's creepy."
He laughed.

"You could help," she added, looking up at him.
"Oh, no, watching you is far more fun."
She groaned, then threw a paper clip at him. Grinning, he took the whole pot of them, and began making a necklace. When it was finished, he hung it around her neck.
"You are such a child sometimes," she muttered, but she was smiling.
"It's a Valentine's gift for you," he said. "Speaking of which, why did you request this shift? Shouldn't you be out on a date with that gorgeous fire fighter your ME friend set you up with?"
Kate sighed. "He asked me. But I said it was too soon to do the whole Valentine's thing. Too much pressure – and it's so commercialised, anyway. I'd rather earn some money than give my hard earned wages to a card company."
Royce nodded. Kate winked.
"What about you? Aren't you seeing that doctor we met on that case?"
Royce shrugged. "She didn't want to do anything. And frankly, I'd rather hang out with you, anyway. There is such a thing as too smart."
Kate pretended to gasp. "Are you saying she's smarter than me?"
Royce laughed. "No one's smarter than you, Beckett. Done with the form?"
She nodded. He checked the time – it was almost seven.
Half an hour later they were sitting on the break room floor with a carpet picnic of delicious Chinese food and chilled beer. Kate struggled with her noodles – at home, her mother had always brought out plates and forks, even when they ordered in. Chopsticks were not her forte. Royce laughed, watching as she tried hopelessly to get some into her mouth. He scooted over to sit beside her and took the little box away.
"Hey, I was eating that!" she said.
"I beg to differ. Watch," he said, his eyes twinkling as he expertly swirled some noodles onto the fiddly chopsticks. "Open wide," he said, making aeroplane noises as he popped the food into her mouth. She chewed happily, and he handed the carton back to her.
"Think you can manage now?"
She nodded, but when he tried to move away to sit opposite her, she stopped him. She looked into his eyes, and a moment which had been fun and teasing suddenly became deadly serious.
"I... I wanted to spend Valentine's day with you, Royce," she whispered, hardly daring to say it. His regretful expression confirmed her fears, and she instantly backtracked.
"Sorry, sorry, forget it, too much beer-"
He put his finger to his lips, and kissed her softly on the cheek.
"That's very sweet of you, Kate, and I know how you feel. Believe me. If I were ten years younger-"
He shook his head as he saw the glimmer of hope in her sad eyes.
"But I'm not, Kate. I'm your training officer, and I love you like a daughter. I always will."
Tears began to pour down her cheeks, and he pulled her into a hug.
"I'm sorry Katie," he said gently into her hair. When she had calmed down, he stood up and disappeared into the bull pen. She sighed. She felt like an idiot. A heartbroken idiot. He came back with a bright pink gift bag, and she couldn't help but laugh.
"I did get you a present," he said. "And, between me and you, I think this'll be much better night time company than I'd ever be."
Kate dried her eyes and laughed again. He always could cheer her up. She accepted the bag and pulled out what was inside. It was a book – Richard Castle's newest novel,Unholy Storm. She couldn't help but smile with delight.
"Wow. Thank you," she said, but as she looked at this man who she was sure she was in love with, she couldn't help thinking that this perfect present was yet another sign that they would be great together. Royce saw this in her face, and he sat with her again, putting his arm around her.
"Look, I know you've had a hard time, kid, and I know we have a great thing going on here. I don't want to break your heart – but if start anything with you, that's exactly what I'll do. Anyway, I'm leaving soon. You're set to make detective in a few weeks, and I just know you're going to be wonderful."
"You're leaving?" Kate gasped, yet more tears in her eyes. Royce rocked her gently.
"It's for the best. I've taught you everything I know – you don't need me any more."
"Yes, I do! I need you, Royce, I'm in-"
He covered her mouth with his hand.
"No you're not. I'm not the one, Kate. It might be tomorrow, it might be five, even ten years from now, but one day, you will be with the right guy and it'll feel like nothing you've ever felt before. Thousands of times bigger and better than what you're feeling now. It'll be like fireworks, Kate. And that man will be a very lucky guy."
Kate just cried quietly into his sleeve. She couldn't believe him...
She let him take her home, and he walked her up to her apartment. He kissed her on the cheek again when he left.
"Goodnight, Katie," he said, patting her on the shoulder as she adjusted her pink gift bag to get her keys out of her pocket.
"Night, Royce," she managed. She let herself in and went to run herself a bubble bath. She put the book on the ledge in the bathroom, and fetched her robe.
When the bath was full, she sank gratefully into the water, letting her tired muscles relax. She felt terrible – but Royce had given her the one thing that would make her feel better – a Castle crime novel.
She opened the book, more than ready to be whisked away into a mysterious fantasy world – but she gasped in amazement when she saw what was written on the first page.
You sound like one hell of a girl – I sincerely hope I get to meet you one day. Happy Valentine's!
Richard Castle
Though there were tears in her eyes, she managed to smile. She trusted Royce completely, and he knew her so well. She was hurt now, but she tried to believe him. One day, she would spend this day with the right guy. She glanced at Rick's picture on the back cover, and grinned. She couldn't believe Royce had actually gotten her a signed copy – Richard Castle had signed a book to her. And he had said she sounded like one hell of a girl. Kate laughed. The joke that matched the book's title hadn't been lost on her.
An hour later she was tucked up in bed, completely absorbed in the book, not over her troubles, but at least they were out of her mind. Maybe spending Valentine's day with Richard Castle had been the best option after all...

Rick raised his wine glass, and Kate smiled.
"To our first Valentine's day together," he said, grinning.
Kate winked, and got up to get something from her bookshelf.
"Actually, it isn't."
His eyes followed her, a look of surprise on his face. "What?"
Kate laughed, and went to sit by him again, putting her copy of Unholy Storm down on the coffee table.
"Well, it all started back in 2004, on a boring Saturday night at the 12th precinct..."


Story: An Impossibility 
Rating:  K
Words: 1259

She's trying to concentrate, really she is, but the paperwork that has been steadily piling up on her desk since Monday morning is quickly becoming second best to the ocean eyes that roam heatedly over her entire body, their owner a distraction so trilling that Beckett is balanced on the very edge of losing herself to him completely. She is doing all that she can to ignore the hold he has over her, to blow out a little puff of air in the direction of her beautiful writer and silently tell him that she needs to get her work finished, but the dusky blush of her cheeks is a sure giveaway that she is enjoying their little game of flirtation far more than is perhaps safe for the precinct.

It has always been this way between them; no matter how much she used to want to tell herself otherwise, deep down Beckett has always known that Castle had her under his spell from the very second he walked into the precinct and claimed the chair at the foot of her desk as his own. His eyes so blue, the deepest of oceans and the darkest of nights never quite able to fulfil their beauty, always observing her, admiring her, writing the story that nobody else has ever taken the time to uncover. Every glance in her direction an admittance of love, making her feel safe in ways she had once thought belonged only to the fairy stories of her childhood.
They both knew that she never stood a chance, neither of them did
; Richard Castle set eyes upon Katherine Beckett and the world realised that it could never permit him to look away again.

Since they have been together his effect on her has only increased; because now he is allowed to watch her, to distract her. Everyday sitting so dangerously close that the warmth of his body radiates against her ivory skin, the wind that rattles its way through the ancient windows of the twelfth soothed by the sparks of want that reverberate between them as they sit like two teenagers wrapped up in the reckless whirlwind of first love.
But today it feels like more than anything Beckett has ever experienced before; because today is their first Valentine’s Day as a couple, and she is sure that if she were to look up from the paperwork keeping her barely tied the realms of professionalism, she would surely fall headlong into her desire to throw caution to the rules and show the world how truly she loves the man sitting mere inches from her lust-tingled body.

Another hour passes by in the bitter-sweet torture of having Castle so tantalisingly close, and yet even on the most romantic day of the year not being able to leave behind their promise of keeping their relationship a secret whilst at the precinct. An hour in which Beckett has agonized over every neatly printed word on the yellowing sheets of paper in front of her; searching for the strength to think only of the elongated flick of her handwriting as her pen scratches frustratedly over its mundane canvas, and not her desperate longing to share with Castle the magic of Valentine’s Day.
Just as Beckett’s pleasurably haunted mind is screaming out at her to send Castle away to the breakroom before she caves under his affection and does something they will both regret, the distinctive creak of Gates’ office door rings out across the bullpen, alerting them both to their captain as she weaves her way slowly towards the elevator doors, bidding her team a quick hello before heading down to the lobby to collect the old case files she had ordered for the day.

Suddenly Beckett is filled with the knowledge that this tiny window of safety from their captain will be the only opportunity for her and Castle to be together without raising too much suspicion, but for a moment she is powerless to the battle that rages between her head and her heart; one playing the detective and one the lover, the cautious and the carefree.
Closing her eyes to the fluorescent lights and endless chatter of the precinct, she gives into her desire and allows her heart to win, to take courage from the teasing run of Castle’s index finger as he dares to write sprawling patterns against the fabric of her trousers, hidden beneath her desk and edging delicately from the tickle of her knee to the curve of her thigh. His touch careful, controlled, and yet somehow unravelling her heart more and more with every blissful millisecond of contact; propelling Beckett into her decision to live, if only for a moment, not as Detective Beckett, but simply as Kate, a woman very much in love and willing to risk the world as she knows it to make sure that Castle knows this.

The drum of her heart is a marching band of giddy excitement, a thrill of life as their feet stride through the precinct in perfect unison, every step bringing them closer to the heavy fire door that leads to the staircase so few people remember exists. The metal bar a shock of cold against her clammy palms, the neon ‘exit’ sign that shines high above them a beacon to their souls, welcoming them both to the ethereal delights of Valentine’s Day as they try to pass through its light unnoticed by their colleagues.
Kate reaches out for Castle’s hand as soon as the door pulls itself shut behind them, fingers needy as they entwine together, holding tight and running as fast as they can to the corridor they know awaits them just a few floors up. Their very own secret reverie from the bustle of their professional lives, a little slice of the precinct in which they can simply enjoy the fleeting moments of tenderness that they so rarely afford themselves at work.
Reaching their destination with feet still stepped together; Kate pulls Castle fast towards the far corner of the platform that joins the two staircases leading down from the roof, her body flush to his chest as her thudding heart fights to recover from adrenaline that courses deliciously through her veins. Looking up, she finds Castle’s exquisite eyes watching her as they had been at her desk, dark with lust and sparkling with magic, laughter falling fearlessly from their lips even as she tightens her grip on the strong weight of his shoulders, searching for the breath to speak aloud the words that they both know she brought them here to say.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” she whispers, voice etched with love as their noses bump with the funny little Eskimo kisses that will forever remain an echo of their first night together.  

“Happy Valentine’s Day, my love,” replies Castle, bodies a breath apart as their words tumble together, his strong hands reaching out to lovingly caress her cheeks, thumbs pressed to the soft line of her jaw and fingertips seeking permission to capture her smiling lips.

But Beckett doesn’t need words to reply, her mouth hot and heavy against Castle’s, knowing that they could be caught at any moment but kissing him regardless. Kissing him because to not do so was an impossibility when her heart ached so desperately for his touch; the fleeting glimmer of their love a promise of all that their first Valentine’s would hold when they finally made it home that night, and of the always that was theirs to cherish until the end of time.


Story: Five Years 
Rating:  K
Words: 3365

Valentine's Day 2009
This year it was like any other day. The year before both she and Will had had the day off and they'd spent it together, doing all the Valentine's Day clichés. But now Will was in Boston and she was alone so today she was working her way through the mountain of paper work in her in tray. She'd even offered to do the boys for them, just so she didn't dwell on memories of today.
At one point she caught herself staring into space, remembering Valentine's Day when she was younger, before her mother had been killed by random gang violence. Every year without fail her dad would make pancakes for both Kate and her mother, even the years when Johanna had been in the middle of a big case and had been up all night working, there was always pancakes to be had. She shook her head and turned her attention back to the file on her desk.
She managed maybe two more pages before she gave up completely. She couldn't concentrate and guessed that the fact the case was a stabbing in an alley wasn't helping her ignore the memories from the first eighteen years of her life.
She looked around and saw that the bull pen was mostly empty; lots of people have taken a day off today to be with their other half's because it was a Sunday so a lot of the partners had had the day off as well. Anyone left in the bull pen was going through paper work, like Kate had been attempting to do. It had been a quiet day for the homicide detectives and most of the open cases from the week had been closed, or were stalled.
She stood and made her way to the break room. Once she had poured herself a cup of coffee she headed back to her desk and opened the bottom draw. She took another quick look around, just making sure that no one was looking her way, before she pulled out the book that was always there. She kept it for the nights when she was here with nothing happening and needed a break.
She put it on the desk and picked up a pen, so that it looked like she was working if anyone happened to glance in her direction, before she opened the cover and looked at the writing there. She had gotten it signed years ago and she always read the words before starting to read properly.
Stay unique and follow your heart
Richard Castle
It always made her smile no matter how bad the day had been, remembering getting the book signed. She had stood in line for hours clutching at her copy of In a Hail of Bullets. When she had gotten to the front he had smiled at her before asking, "Who am I making it out to?" she had told him her name and handed him the book. The she had gotten another, different more genuine smile when he had seen what book it was, and how loved it looked.
He had actually been there to publicise his new book but had happily signed her old one before handing it back to her and saying, "It's nice to meet someone who is an actually fan of my work."
She remembered smiling and leaving the book shop. She hadn't read what he had written until she had gotten back to her apartment.
She read a few chapters before returning to the paper work, her mind now clear enough to concentrate.
It may have been Valentine's Day and she was remembering her dead mother, more than nearly every other day of the year, at every turn but Richard Castle's words could, and would, always make her feel better about anything.

Valentine's Day 2010
She was reading one of his books, the copy of Heat Wave he had given her before Halloween, to keep the memories at bay, although they were much better than they had been last year, when her mobile rang. She sighed and put the book mark in before putting it on the coffee table before the cup of coffee and picking up the phone that was on the other side.
"Beckett," she answered without looking at the caller ID.
"Hello Detective," came Castle's voice, "What are you up to?"
"Doesn't that normally go what are you wearing?" she teased, settling back into the sofa cushions.
"Not with you, unless I want to be on the wrong end of your gun," Castle shot back and Kate could tell he was smiling.
She smiled too before saying, "Why did you call Castle? Don't you have a hot date to spend Valentine's Day with?"
He chuckled on the other end of the phone before saying, "Nope, I'm all on my own today."
She smiled despite herself, "So why did you ring me Castle?"
"Well," he said slowly, "While we were on the Cano Vega case Alexis was doing a family tree project for school."
"Yes," Kate said, understanding now why he had been 'reading' her mind all day.
"When I got home afterwards we were playing catch in the loft because she wanted to give me something my father hadn't."
"That's really sweet Castle," Kate interrupted.
"Yeah it was." Kate could almost see the proud smile that was no doubt now adorning his face, "Well today she and mother gave me two tickets to the baseball game their having in memory of Vega."
"I still don't see what this has to do with me Castle," Kate said, looking longingly at the book that was on the table.
"I asked mother and Alexis if they wanted to join me but they've already got plans, Alexis is going out with some of her friends and mother is doing whatever it is mother does best." They both laughed as he continued, "So I was wondering, as long as you don't have plans already of course, if you'd like to come with me."
"I'd love to Castle," she answered honestly, not giving her brain a chance to kick in and make her say no, "Beats sitting around here all day on my own."
"Good, I'll pick you up in an hour," Castle said.
"See you in a bit Castle," she replied before hanging up and putting the phone back on the table. She picked up the book again, intending to read for a half hour or so which would give her plenty of time to get ready later.
It didn't work out like that however. The next thing she knew there was a knock at the door. She checked the time and mentally cursed before sticking the bookmark back in and getting up to answer the door. She smiled at Castle and then stepped to the side to let him in.
He walked in slowly and started looking around. Kate shook her head and shut the door. "Give me two minutes to get changed and then we can go," she said, heading towards her bedroom.
Castle sat on the sofa and laughed when he saw what was sitting on the table. "Why Detective Beckett, did you get distracted by my book and lose track of time?"
The glare he got in answer was all he needed to confirm his suspicion. He laughed as she continued into her room, shutting the door firmly behind her.
Two minutes later she came out wearing a baseball jersey and smiled at him. He stood and the two of them headed towards the door. "Oh by the way," he said as she locked the door to her apartment and then they headed towards the lift, "I spoke to Joe Torre earlier and mentioned that the two of us were coming to the game. He asked if you couldn't say something since you were the one who closed the case but I knew you wouldn't like that so I told him that and he told me to tell you that he'd happily sign anything you wanted by way of thanks."
Kate smiled, "You were right about me not wanting to say anything but I may just have to take him up on the signing offer, my dad would get a kick out of it I know."
Castle smiled back at her and then the two of them headed out of the building and towards Castle's car.
Kate couldn't help but smile to herself, last year she had read his book on Valentine's Day at work and today she had done the same, but unlike this year she had got to see him today, which was helping with the memories even more.

Valentine's Day 2011
She'd been distracted today by the case which meant she hadn't needed to read any of his books to keep the memories at bay, even if the case had been a nightmare for the both of them.
They go to the Old Haunt for drinks and are soon sat in one of the corner booths at the back of the bar with a bottle of tequila some salt and a bowl of limes and two pints of beer. "What time do you have to meet Josh?" Castle asks after knocking back the first tequila shot and biting into a lime slice.
"No idea," she replies, copying his motion before pulling her beer towards her, it probably wasn't a good idea to get drunk with Castle before going out with her boyfriend. "But he said he'd ring me when he gets off work, if he gets off work," the last bit sounded almost like she was moaning, but Kate Beckett didn't moan about anything.
"Well when he does ring I'll leave you to whatever it is he has planned," Castle said, drinking some of his beer.
"Mhum," Kate said, running her finger along the top of her pint glass, "Won't be as fun as the baseball game last year though." She looked up as she finished speaking, her eyes wide, she obviously hadn't meant to say that.
Castle smirked, "Why Detective Beckett, are you saying you enjoyed my company last Valentine's Day?"
She shook her head, "Nope. I was saying I enjoyed the game, and meeting Joe Torres."
"Did your dad like the signed stuff you got?" Castle questioned.
Kate nodded, "He did yes. He also told me to thank you for taking me, which I'm pretty sure I did."
Castle nodded, "You did; you brought me dinner at Remy's."
She laughed and then looked at her phone as it began to ring. She picked it up and said, "Hi Josh, you ready to meet up?"
Castle made to leave but she shook her head as she listened to what was being said on the phone. "Ok, I understand. Maybe some other time." She hung up and looked back at Castle, placing the phone on the table.
"Change of plans?" he asked quietly.
She nodded, "He got called into an emergency surgery and probably won't be done for a couple of hours."
"So," Castle said, holding up the tequila bottle, "Want another shot?"
She smiled and held up her glass for him to fill, "Sure, why not."

Valentine's Day 2012
The case had been hard on the both of them. Castle had found out that someone he had trusted, and written about was a traitor to his country and she had had some serious doubts placed in her mind by Sophia about whether or not Castle really did love her or if he was just going to sleep with her and then find out that he didn't.
Which was why the two of them were having a movie night at Castle's loft. Alexis had walked in half way through the first movie and Kate had promptly invited her to join them. Alexis had hesitated for a moment but then had smiled and plopped herself down on the sofa beside her father.
The teen had quickly joined in with Kate when she was teasing Castle about his movie choices. Even so Kate could see that she was still a little bothered and not quiet herself. So when Castle went to go to the loo and replenish the popcorn she moved closer to the red head and said in a low voice, "I know I'm not your favourite person Alexis but are you alright?"
Alexis looked shocked for a moment before she said, "It's the first Valentine's Day since I broke up with Ashley and Paige told me today that he started dating another girl pretty much the day after I broke it off with him."
"I'm sorry," Kate said, "Valentine's Day is never all that nice if you're on your own, or if you have memories of being happy on that day."
"Detective," Alexis whispered in an even lower voice, "I don't have anything against you, not anymore at least. After your shooting it felt like I lost my dad but then as soon as he was back working with you at the precinct he was back to his normal self."
"I'm sorry," Kate whispered as they heard the popcorn machine begin to finish, "I never meant to hurt you or your dad."
Alexis shook her head, "Just keep him safe, and keep yourself safe. I don't want to lose either of you."
Kate reached across and squeezed the girls hand briefly, before leaving her hand resting there, "I'll do my best to get him home to you every night Alexis, I promise."
Alexis squeezed it back and said, "That's all I can ask for Detective."
They both pulled their hands a part when a voice from behind them said, "Plotting something ladies?"
Kate turned and smiled at Castle, "No, just picking the next film."
Castle smiled, "So what did you decide on?"
Kate looked at Alexis who shrugged and said, "Maybe Star Wars, episode 4, 5 and 6." Kate smiled at her and nodded, she thought it was a good choice, she liked Star Wars nearly as much as Forbidden Planet.
Castle's face lit up as he sat down on the sofa between them, putting the popcorn bowl on the table as he did so. "Now that is what I call a movie to watch on Valentine's Day. A little bit of love wrapped up in one hell of a story line." As Alexis got up to go and put on the film he looked at Kate and asked, "More wine Beckett?"
She thought for a moment before shaking her head, "I'd love to but I've got to drive home."
Castle pouted, "I'll call you a cab, or even better you can stay in the guest room."
"Yeah Detective," Alexis said from the TV, "Stay, that way we can watch more films."
Kate smiled at the girl, "Ok Alexis, if you insist."
Castle starting beaming again as he poured her more wine and then turned to the screen as the movie started.
Alexis moved back to one side while Kate got comfortable on the other, her feet wiggling their way under his leg which made him laugh lightly.
Every so often Castle would say the lines along with the actors which made both Alexis and Kate laugh, and sometimes join in.
It wasn't quite the same as reading one of his books but listening to him speak soon sent her into a deep and dreamless sleep, which on Valentine's Day was quite an accomplishment in her eyes.

Valentine's Day 2013
She woke to the smell of coffee and pancakes. She blinked a few times and saw that Castle was standing in the doorway watching her, holding a covered tray. "The staring is still creepy," she said with a smile as she began to sit up.
Castle smiled and moved towards the bed saying, "There's a beautiful woman lying naked in my bed, how could I not stare." He stopped on her side of the bed and kissed her forehead lightly before putting the tray on the bedside table. He moved his head back and pulled the tea towel off the tray, revealing what lay beneath.
Kate smiled at him as she saw what he had done. On the tray there was a plate of pancakes, a cup of coffee and one red rose lying along the front. She picked up the rose and inhaled its scent before pushing herself off the head board and capturing his lips in a sweet kiss. "Thank you Castle," she murmured as she sank back against the head board.
Castle moved the tray from the bed side cabinet and onto her knee. He made to walk away but Kate stopped him, "Come on Romeo, you can have some too."
He smiled and got back onto the bed beside her. She cut him a piece of pancake and feed it to him and as he chewed she cut a piece for herself. They shared the pancakes but as soon as Castle tried to take a sip of coffee she slapped his hand away, "I will happily share pancakes Castle but I draw the line at you drinking my coffee."
Castle pouted but soon stopped as Kate leant across and captured his lips in another kiss, this one a lot more powerful than the first. When she pulled back she said, "Are we going to spend the whole day in bed Castle? Because, with the risk of inflating your ego, I'm not sure I could manage it."
Castle smiled at her brightly before shaking his head and saying, "Nope, I have plans that don't involve going all cave man on your delightful body."
Kate laughed, she couldn't help it; it just bubbled out. Castle smiled at her and then stood saying, "Go and get in the shower Kate while I clear up."
Kate nodded and made to get out of the bed but stopped and asked, "So what do I need to wear Castle? Anything in particular?"
"Something comfortable for a day out," he said over his shoulder as he exited his bed room.
Kate smiled and headed towards the wardrobe, wearing only one of Castle's shirts. While she hadn't actually moved in both she and Castle had agreed, more like Castle had begged until she had given in, the she keep some of her clothes here all the time, just in case there was an urgent call from work that meant she couldn't go home.
After she had pulled out slacks and shirt and underwear she headed into Castle's en suite, leaving her clothes on the chair by the door, ready for when she got out.
She showered quickly, using the cherry shampoo and body wash that Castle had brought her one time because it was still his favourite smell on her but she was adamant about not bringing her own toiletries to the loft and just using what was there, but now they were there she used them all the time.
After she got out and dried herself off she headed back into the bedroom and pulled on her clothes. She hadn't washed her hair so she didn't have to worry about drying it. Instead she snagged a bobble off the bed side table and began braiding it as she walked towards the kitchen, where she could hear Castle banging around.
He looked up as she walked in and then pointed her towards the door before he followed. After they had their shoes and coats on Castle offered his arm which she took with a smile and the two of them exited the loft and headed down towards the garage.
In the garage Castle handed her the keys and then led them over to where the Ferrari was parked. She smiled at him and then when she opened the door gave him a kiss. On the front seat were the other elven roses.
"A dozen roses for my valentine," he whispered in her ear.
She didn't need his books anymore; she had the man himself to keep her occupied on Valentine's Day, to keep the memories of her mother away, although in the last few years with him by her side the memories had been easier to deal with anyway.


Story: Anticipation 
Rating:  T
Words: 3442

Richard Castle knew the signs, but beyond the conventional evidence, he seemed to register a nearly palpable shift in the air. Kate was holding him at an introspective distance born from the truth that all would soon change.
Last time he had been terrified when a precious little life had been placed in his arms, being so young himself. He and Meredith had shared a fun relationship; they had been spontaneous and felt so invincible that they weren't exactly careful all the time.
Alexis had been both a surprise and a sobering reality that actions had consequences. Yet, through the panic the author in him had anticipated that Alexis' birth would be the inciting incident which would bring about a better version of himself. She had drawn on his affections from the moment she drew breath. His life was no longer his, but he would sacrifice it willingly for her.
His character had only improved again by such a measure with the influence of Kate Beckett and the anticipation welling within him foreshadowed another chapter of growth.
Well before he had wormed his way into her life, Kate had figuratively served a restraining order to all men, keeping them at a safe emotional distance. Detective Beckett had a zero tolerance policy yet from the first time he tried to pry into her back-story, Castle had disregarded her emotional boundaries as brazenly as he defied her first order to stay in the car.
He knew that as much as Kate had challenged him to evolve, that he had prodded her as well, stretching her to grow beyond the aloof constructs in which she comfortably had dwelt her whole adult life. Never before had she experienced that; in the right context, vulnerability could be a strength. Yet she had started to open herself to him, a flawed man, because he gave her the security of knowing that his devotion trumped the chinks in his character, and hers.
Castle knew he had the ability to inspire, but he could also be overwhelming. Years of crossing that line with Kate had taught him that some moments called for cautious restraint.
As he stared at the tiny NYPD onesie, he wondered if she felt insecure about her own ability to be a parent or fearful of what this would mean to her independent life. They hadn't discussed kids in earnest, so was she fretting about his reaction? He never wanted her to question his commitment to her or to their future family. This was a welcome blessing, not an inconvenient roadblock.
He was beyond excited. He was nervous in the best possible way, never having believed that he could have wanted this so badly so soon.
His only regret was that the romantic in him wanted to do this in a more conventional order this time; marriage, then after a few years, kids. He had rushed into a marriage with Meredith because of Alexis. He had been committed to his wife and would have made it work out of obligation and love for his daughter alone, but he couldn't abide unfaithfulness. He didn't even fault Meredith for long since their relationship had begun with such a tenuous foundation.
Kate was a different story. He had been ready to commit to her well before they were together. They spoke of always, but a proposal at this point had seemed like too big of a risk.
Now he wished he would have taken that chance because the last thing he wanted was for Kate to wonder if his request for her hand would be more about their child than her. He never wanted a doubt to flit through her mind on that score.
It was too late now.
Their timing had never been conventional, but maybe this was a hint from the universe to pick up the pace. Castle had always respected the universe. Maybe it was not ideal on paper, but when has that ever stopped them?
Kate needed to get used to the idea. Verbalizing all that she felt would be difficult. She had no script for it, no precedent. He saw the telltale signs of retreat. She wouldn't run altogether, of that he was sure. But he was equally sure that she needed to get her bearings because being vulnerable was one thing, an all-out anxious free fall of epic proportions was quite another.
As he brushed the navy fabric with the pads of his fingers he mentally ran through all the evidence.
For the past week she met his morning coffee offering with a smile, but he couldn't be sure she was drinking any of it. Then instead of chasing it with several more cups, she had been opting for water. Reduced caffeine intake should have been his first red flag but she said she had been having trouble sleeping and was temporarily cutting back. He foolishly had bought the lie.
She had been reluctant to stay over, parting with various apologies. She even had resorted to the headache cliché twice this week. He would have been worried except that her soft expressions had pleaded for patience, assuring him that it was not foreshadowing of an end, just a need for elbow room.
Since the first few months of their relationship he frankly had been surprised that she hadn't needed blocks of time away from him, but by the fifth night in a row of separation he had started to worry. She tended to get distracted this time of year, but never before had he seen her so pale and spent.
Castle had attributed her aloofness to tragedy induced seasonal depression, at least until he had started to do the math. He was observant enough to know when it was best to tread lightly, and if Kate were late, she would have known this week.
He realized that lately not only did she not want him to stay, but she had been deflecting his attentions. She had been keeping kisses light, hugs brief. She had been distracted, always offering an excuse to make an exit, and he combined that with her frequent trips to the ladies' room and did the math. His suspicions were confirmed with her urgent need to leave a crime scene, twice, punctuated by a glare to keep him from following her. Then there was the secret appointment, and well, it all pointed to one conclusion, well two actually.
Kate was pregnant.
She didn't know how to tell him.
He had spent the hours since this revelation desperately trying to think of how to let her know that he would meet the good news, and it was spectacular news, without any hesitation. He wanted to rub her feet at the end of the day, to draw her baths and let her sleep as much as she needed, hopefully in his arms, and he would even let her verbally abuse him through the caffeine withdrawal.
Despite his mastery of words, he hadn't known the best way to say all those things.
Instead he had bought a onesie.
He knew Kate had been excited enough about their first Valentine's Day date to go dress shopping with Lanie in January. So, when she had to cancel their date with the third headache of the week, Castle had decided that it was time to step in. If she couldn't tell him, he would give her an out.
Originally he had bought Kate earrings which were intricately designed but subtle enough that she would feel comfortable wearing them to work. He resisted getting her diamonds, knowing she would think them too pretentious for the precinct, and whatever he bought he wanted to see on her often. Earrings weren't an engagement ring, but the thought of seeing Kate in any jewelry he bought secretly filled him with territorial pride.
Before buying the onesie he had considered going back for a ring, but knew she wouldn't accept it under the circumstances. So, he found himself standing at her door with two small packages and a hopeful yet nervous expression.
Kate, dressed in one of his sweatshirts and leggings, opened the door after nearly a minute. Her hair was tousled and she looked worse than when they had parted ways at the precinct. He remembered Meredith feeling not just nauseous but exhausted, and Kate definitely looked the part. He stepped in, put his packages on the side table next to her keys and gloves, and pulled her in for an embrace, then remembering that she likely was sore, distanced himself enough to alleviate pressure. He kissed her forehead then pulled her head against his shoulder and nuzzled his nose in her hair.
"Are you okay?"
"Headache, Castle, remember?"
Caffeine withdrawal, of course.
"Yeah, it's just that you don't normally have headaches and this week you've had a few. Is everything alright?"
"Yeah, I just need to ride it out."
For the next eight months, Castle mentally added.
"Did I wake you? I should have called, but I wasn't sure you'd let me come over."
She kissed his cheek, "I was resting on the couch, and I would have told you not to bother because all you'd be doing is watching me sleep. Not that exciting."
"Well, then we have vastly different definitions of excitement." She looked at him tenderly, most likely in response to Castle's nearly palpable adoration. "Can I stay, just for a bit?"
She relented. "Yeah, alright, but I'm heading back to the couch."
"Fair enough."
She nearly plopped down as Castle dimmed the lights. He lifted her legs and started massaging her calves and feet. Kate hummed in appreciation. After a few minutes something seemed to register and she squinted at him.
"Did you bring me gifts?" She looked towards the packages.
"Yeah, it's Valentine's Day no matter where we are. You can open them whenever you're ready." She hummed again but her eyes stayed closed.
Castle's pulse started racing. He had thought it was the right move, but suddenly he wasn't so sure. Maybe he was being too rash. Still, his gaze wandered to her abdomen thinking of the secrets it held, about the little life there wondering if he or she would look like her or have the same blue eyes that he shared with Alexis. Kate hadn't been this unguarded with him in the past week so this was the first chance he had just to bask in this, in her, in the new life she was growing.
He should wait for her to break the news to him, but with her track record, she would be showing by the time she worked up the courage to tell him. He lifted her legs then walked over to grab the gifts. Kate roused, sat up and rubbed her eyes.
"I haven't had a chance to get you anything yet. I've been . . . tired, so if you want to wait until later . . . " She ended in a yawn.
"No!" Her eyebrows rose with his emphatic answer, "I mean, Kate, I don't want anything. You're present enough."
She looked down on her frazzled appearance and rolled her eyes.
"Seriously, you're going with that line right now?"
He sat down facing her and took her hand in his, "Kate, if you knew how terribly I wanted to see you wearing my clothes a year ago, you'd understand, but I think you know that this attraction goes well beyond your general hotness."
"Well, as long as you keep your hair, it goes both ways." Good, she was joking with him, something she hadn't done much lately.
"Noted. I have a preemptive membership to 'Hair Club for Men' so at the first signs of a bald patch I'm quite literally covered."
"Good to know." She ran her fingers through his thick hair slowly, resting them at his neck. She felt how quickly his pulse was beating, eyed the gifts again then pulled her hand back. Suddenly Castle understood that she was doing her own math.
He was nervous and there was a jewelry box.
No, Kate, not a proposal.
"It's not a ring!"
He must have looked slightly ridiculous because she almost laughed at his blustery response to her suspicions.
"Well, that's good because I'd hate to look like this when you do propose."
When you do propose, not 'if' but 'when.'
He couldn't hide the giddy grin as he replied; "I'll keep that in mind. Anything else I should consider?"
"Nothing too outlandish, or public. That about covers it."
"Okay, what should I open first?"
He placed both gifts down on the floor and took both her hands in his.
"Kate, it's Valentine's Day, I'm allowed to be sappy, so bear with me." She nodded and tried to suppress a smile as she humored him. "What we have is not conditional, there's nothing that would make me happier than to know that our futures aligned, that I will have you by my side for a lifetime, as my partner in everything. To face any changes together."
Kate interrupted, "Wait, this is not a proposal?" She said it with a forced lightness. He was making her nervous.
He pressed his lips together, and shook his head slightly. "Sorry. I guess I just never want you to doubt me, to doubt that I'm more than on board with this, us, everything. Kate, I'm all in, and I'll be by your side through everything, not because I should be but always because I want to be."
He lifted the gift bag with a tremor in his hand. Kate was biting her lower lip, anxious about what he had done. She accepted the bag with equally shaky fingers, pulled out the tissue paper and then lifted out the tiny navy onesie.
She seemed to hold her breath as tears gathered, but she hadn't allowed them to release. Castle rested his hand on her knee as the seconds passed, his world at a standstill.
"Castle, I . . . it's . . ." She couldn't form words, and he wondered if it was too much.
His instinct was to flood a situation with words, and since he couldn't formulate a better plan, he opened the floodgates.
"It's okay, Kate, I figured it out and you need to know that I am here because I love you, because you are my future and my family. I wanted that box to hold a ring, but I didn't want you to think that it was a knee-jerk reaction. I am going to propose, but not today. I want to celebrate one thing at a time, so today, it's this," He laid a hand over hers that pinned the onesie to her lap. "I am so excited and I can't wait to see that on our baby. I love you, Katherine Beckett, and I already love that baby."
It took everything in him not to place his hand on her stomach, not to gather her in his arms, but he needed to let her respond.
"Castle, . . . Rick . . . I don't know what to say." Her tears let loose. She looked nearly anguished as she worried her lip and smoothed the little onesie with the pad of one finger. Castle's hand still rested heavily on hers and his finger followed her lead. "This is beautiful and would be, will be perfect, someday, but not today. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry but . . . I'm not pregnant."
His mouth went slack and dry. His own eyes rapidly watered and he just blinked slowly while she waited for him to speak.
"But you were rushing to the bathroom, and Esposito said you had gone to an appointment, and the timing and . . . I just thought . . ." He removed his hand and his whole body canted away from her. "I'm such an idiot." He swiped at his eye, "Can we just rewind and forget that ever happened?"
Kate curled in his lap, holding the onesie. He couldn't look at her. "I am so sorry, Castle, I hadn't thought of how it looked. I should have explained." She lifted her free hand to gently stroke his cheek with her thumb. "I've been fighting some sort of stomach virus. It's not severe, just persistent and not exactly something I wanted to share with my partner, in any sense of the word. Once I had to leave the crime scene I made the appointment and got medications to help with the side effects, but I have to wait for it to run its course. I knew you'd want to hover over me, but call me vain, I'm just not willing to be that openly unattractive in front of my partner." Her fingers massaged the edge of his ear as she playfully admitted, "Castle, this is the one and only time I'm going to confess that I'm still trying to impress you."
With that his arms finally responded. He no longer had to worry about soreness, so he hugged her against him intensely and smoothed his hands up and down her back as she rested her head on his shoulder. He closed his eyes and affirmed, "You will always impress me, Kate. I'm more amazed by you every day."
She drew her arms around him, and he felt the onesie still in her grasp kissing the skin on his neck. She tentatively asked, "You're disappointed?"
She felt him shrug, "No, yeah . . . a little." He felt her fingers and the soft material kneading the nape of his neck. "I've had time to get more than used to the idea, but I know it's too soon. Anyway, I would like to give you a ring before we have need of that onesie and, Kate?"
"Next time I promise not to steal your thunder."
He felt a lighthearted puff of air hit his shirt in response.
After a few minutes of reassuring cuddling Kate broke the silence.
"Thank you, Castle."
He huffed at how far he had missed the mark, "For what? Jumping to conclusions?"
"No, for giving me the most adorable and least conventional Valentine's Day present ever and for being excited when most men would have bolted."
"Well then, most men would be idiots." He kissed her hair softly, and she could feel his emotions blanketing her.
"Rick, I know it will be on your mind, but I'm not ready yet. I'm so, so sorry. I feel like so much of our relationship has been you waiting for me."
It was true his timetable would have gone differently, but what they had would have been different as well, and he wouldn't trade this version of their relationship for anything.
"I have you. As long as I'll always have you, I'm fulfilled. I am not in a hurry, Kate, and I'm certainly not going anywhere."
She sat straighter and Castle loosened his hold on her, resting his hand on her thigh as they both took in the other's reddened eyes. He saw her tender concern for him morph into a full, glowing smile, something he hadn't seen for a while.
"I know, Rick, and I plan on keeping this until I have a reason to give it back to you."
His disappointment had not run its course, but he offered her a wan smile as he shifted her back to the couch and stood.
"I should let you get some rest. The other present can wait."
She ran the back of her finger along his arm and pleaded, "Stay."
"I thought you wanted to be alone."
"Not anymore."

A week later a miserable Castle had to excuse himself several times until Kate kicked him out of the precinct. That night she presented him with a container of soup and a gift bag.
"I finally have your Valentine's Day present."
He gave her a cautious look then removed the tissue paper and pulled out a navy onesie with white block letters that said, "WRITER." He knew she hadn't been late and with her being sick then him . . . well, there was no way she was pregnant, so he looked at her uncertainly.
She shrugged and said, "You left the crime scene to vomit, I wanted to cover all my bases."
He fingered the precious garment and his eyes glistened as he pulled her into his chest. She had given him his own little symbol of hope for their future.
As he nuzzled his cheek in her hair he replied, "I don't know how to tell you this, Kate . . . but I'm not pregnant."


Story: Not-So-Happy Valentine's Day 
Rating:  K
Words: 1100

Kate Beckett Rodgers stood in the middle of the living room in the loft staring at the door that her husband of only three months, Special Agent Richard Rodgers had just recently stormed out through and slammed shut. She was completely stunned and hurt, not knowing what had set him off.
She had risen two hours early and decorated the loft for their first Valentine's Day as a married couple. The three years before she was shot, when she had still been a police detective, there had never been time and she hadn't been in the right place herself. After her recovery from the shooting which had cost her her job, and the soul searching she had done afterward she had been too busy writing Heat Wave.
She had purchased the decorations and the bowls full of heart shaped candy quietly over the past two weeks while Rick was at work at the New York City Field Office. When she was done, the living room had looked like cupid exploded in it. She waited for him to get up holding a gift box from Victoria's Secret containing the sexy sheer lingerie she had ordered to wear just for him when he got home that night. She had meant to surprise him by doing something spontaneous and fun.
When he came out of their bedroom, he was shocked. She could tell right away, by the haunted look in his eyes before he turned and stalked back into the bedroom that something was terribly wrong. He wouldn't look at her, barely said two words in her direction after he got out of the shower and dressed for work. The hurt, haunted look in his eyes when he slammed the door shut on his way out nearly tore her heart in two.

"Martha, he was so upset, and he wouldn't talk or even look at me, please...tell me what I did wrong." Kate sobbed into Martha Rodgers' phone, unable to contain herself any longer.
"Oh...dear one...you really didn't know, did you?" Martha replied
"Know what?" Kate replied quietly.
"Valentines Day was Rick and Alexis' special day." Martha explained, "After Meredith left, Alexis' birthday always left her feeling sad and disappointed when her mother forgot or didn't call or come to visit like she promised, and Richard generally got dragged away to parties on his. So they always set aside February fourteenth just for them. She would make a card and a present for him, and the two of them would decorate the loft, just like you did here. They would spend the whole day watching movies, eating ice cream and playing video games, whatever she wanted. Especially the two years she was...sick."
Kate shuddered, because she suspected what was coming next.
"The Valentine's Day after she...passed, he had been drinking the night before and he forgot himself. He woke up at the crack of dawn and decorated the whole loft like he always had...and then it hit him that she was gone." Martha stopped for a moment and Kate could hear sniffling on the other end of the line before she continued.
"Gina called me three days later and asked me to look in on him, the lights were all on in the loft but he hadn't answered the door, or the phone, or his cell, and she had tried repeatedly. When I got there the whole place looked like a war zone, smelled like a brewery and I found him passed out on his bedroom floor clutching her picture. When I woke him to get him back in bed, he told me all about it, and we haven't marked Valentine's Day since."
Kate eyes widened in shock as she took in the loft with new eyes, the stunned, blindsided expression on his face suddenly made perfect sense for the first time. She recalled an opaque pink plastic box that she had seen on the top shelf of his walk in closet the day she had moved her meager possessions from the guest room upstairs to the bedroom they now occupied together as husband and wife. When she had asked him about it he gave her a sad look and told her they were just "family heirlooms."
After she finished her call to Martha and hung up, Kate took down the decorations and put them in a box, then opened the walk-in closet and took down the pink plastic box, confirming her worst fears, inside were homemade cards and decorations each made by the tiny hands of Rick's little girl, one each for every year since she was two. She closed the box back up, returned it carefully to its shelf and curled up on the floor of the closet to cry.
She knew of course that he had days of the year that overwhelmed him, just like she had, many of which, like Christmas and January ninth, they shared in common and worked through quietly together. It just never occurred to her that Valentine's Day would be such a painful day for him and she felt positively awful for springing the festive nature of this day on him without any warning. It all seemed so silly to her now.

Two hours later she found herself driving through midtown traffic. She had gone to the FBI field office only to find that he had called in a personal day after leaving the loft. She tried calling him twice but his cell went straight to voice mail, something he rarely did, though she now knew he tended to do that when he was upset and was trying to work through it. Though considering the discussion she had had with Martha on the phone, she had a feeling where he might be.

Kate brushed her fingers along her mother's headstone for a moment, though she was here for a different reason, she could never walk past this spot without at least acknowledging her own reason to grieve. But this time the flowers in her hand were not for her mother.
As she walked a little farther down the path to the little knoll where Alexis' small, white stone lay, and found Rick standing there, just as she expected, a Valentine's Day arrangement in his hand. He turned and looked at her before extending his hand to her, a look of quiet forgiveness in his eyes as she took his arm and together they placed their bouquets in front of her stone. Rick kissed his fingers and touched the raised letters of her name before he spoke.
"Happy Valentines Day, Pumpkin."
Captain 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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