Strong T rating.

#25: What if… Castle and Beckett hooked up at Ryan & Jenny's wedding?

Prompt by Lou

"You know, I gotta say, I kind of envy him."

"Well who knows, Castle, maybe third time's the charm."

"Yeah. Could be."

She's never torn a picture of a wedding gown out of a magazine.

She wasn't just messing with him two years ago when they had that conversation. She really hasn't. She was never the girl who planned her dream wedding, and ever since her mom died and she built the wall around her heart, she's all but dismissed the idea of ever getting married. Her heart belongs to her mother's case, first and foremost. To finding justice.

But Castle has been challenging her loyalties since day one, slowly weaseling his way in and vying for priority. It irritated and scared her at first – and she's still somewhat terrified by the depth and strength of her feelings for him – but she's beginning to realize that maybe there's more to life than her mother's case. Maybe she can be more. It's why she's been going to therapy. It's why she's working to get rid of that wall. She wants to get to a place where her heart, first and foremost, belongs to him.

It's always been easy – easier than she cares to admit – to imagine a physical relationship with him. The chemistry has been there since day one, and there's no doubt the sex will be amazing. She'll never confess to just how much time she spends thinking about it, dreaming about it, anticipating the moment her wall comes down and they take the leap.

But within her deepest, most vulnerable, most secret daydreams are thoughts of not just sex, but a life with him. A long-term relationship. Maybe even a marriage. One and done.

And though she's moved past most of her initial reservations about being with him, there's one that still lingers: marriage. He's been making jokes about it since the beginning of their partnership, but behind the humor she recognizes it for what it really is. He's not interested in getting married again. It's not necessarily a deal breaker, and she's not ready for marriage right now anyway, but it does leave her wary of his ability and desire to truly commit to a long-term relationship.

So when he mentions being envious of Ryan and doesn't respond to her "maybe third time's the charm" with a cavalier quip, she feels an unexpected wave of relief. She's not quite ready yet, but maybe he is.

Castle escorts her down the aisle with their arms locked together, steps aside and gently guides her into her seat with a hand on the small of her back. He slides into the pew next to her but not touching her, and she immediately finds herself missing the physical contact, craving more of it.

This last minute arrangement to be each other's date could be dangerous. His proximity has already set her heart aflutter, and soon there will be champagne to lower her inhibitions. And dancing. But rather than fear, she finds herself brimming with anticipation. The evening is rife with possibility. This can be a trial run of sorts for when she's finally ready for them to be more. And reassurance for Castle that she's worth waiting for.

It's a beautiful ceremony and, more than once, Kate catches herself watching Castle watch Ryan and Jenny. He looks wistful and she swears she sees him wipe away a few tears. She's a little misty-eyed herself. They're both so happy. The wide grins and the tears of joy and the pure love in their eyes is beautiful. She's never had a relationship like that. She's never experienced that sort of intense, all-consuming love.

Kate casts another glance at her partner. She could have it. She knows once they cross that line, it will be unlike anything she's felt before. She's already in love with him. She finally confessed these feelings to Burke a few days ago. It's the first time she's ever said the words aloud, and since that moment she hasn't been able to stop thinking about it. She's in love with Castle.

She's just not sure she's quite ready to take the leap.

Castle guides her out of the pew with a hand spanning her lower back once more, his touch gentle but confident. The reception is just a block away and they fall in with the crowd exiting the church. Castle retrieves their coats and helps her into hers, carefully freeing her hair from the collar as she focuses on the buttons. He fastens his own coat and offers his elbow; Kate easily links her arm with his and allows him to escort her out onto the street.

She finds her eyes drawn to him again as they walk. He looks pensive, furrowed brow emphasized by the late evening shadows. "Are you okay?"

He shrugs, eyes fixed firmly ahead. "Just… coming to terms with some regrets."


"My marriages," he offers, though he still doesn't look at her. "I could never regret having Alexis. But after seeing Ryan and Jenny, I wish…" he pauses, shakes his head, "I'd waited and gotten it right the first time."

"Did you know it wasn't right?" she questions. He's never discussed his marriages, not seriously, and she's curious.

Castle shrugs again. "I thought I was doing the right thing. But it wasn't for the right reasons."

"What do you mean?"

He sighs heavily, runs a hand over his face, and she almost regrets asking him to relive what are clearly upsetting memories. "I married Meredith because she got pregnant. But the truth is we were both too young and she wasn't ready to settle down."

"And Gina?"

"I loved her," he offers. "And I wanted Alexis to have a mother figure. A responsible one," he adds with something resembling a laugh. "But it was never exciting or passionate and we both got bored and just stopped trying."

Kate hums a reply.

"It's never bothered me before. Being divorced twice," he clarifies. "But now I worry that it changes how people see me."

He's not referring to people; he's referring to her, and they both know it.

Kate pauses, chooses her words carefully. "We all have a past," is what she finally settles on. "But that doesn't mean we can't change."

The reception hall is elegant. Chandeliers overhead, candles in the windows, and a dozen round tables dressed in white tablecloths with crystal stemware arranged around flowered centerpieces.

After checking their coats, Castle and Kate find themselves funneled through the entryway where waiters are offering champagne and hors d'oeuvres. Eventually they wind up seated at a table with Lanie and Esposito and their respective dates, and Kate is equal parts disappointed and relieved to have a break from her one-on-one interactions with Castle. Her resolve has been slipping since the moment she asked him to be her date tonight, and she can't decide if she wants to refortify it or allow it all to come crashing down.

After a delectable multi-course dinner and toasts and the cake cutting, they all end up on the dance floor together, alternately dancing as a group or pairing off, taking periodic breaks to sip some champagne, chat, and for Kate and Lanie to give their feet a few moments out of their heels.

Kate dances with Castle a handful of times and he's always careful to maintain an appropriate amount of space between them. But she can see in his eyes all that he's holding back; he's usually better at disguising it. And maybe it's the champagne or maybe it's the proximity or maybe she's just tired of waiting, but she doesn't want him to hold back anymore.

So when the DJ announces the final song of the evening and he catches her around the waist, she steps into his embrace with ease, laces her left arm around his neck and rests her chin in the crease of his shoulder, brings their joined hands in to rest between them. He's caught off guard. She can feel it as he stiffens against her before gradually relaxing, his chest rising and falling in slow deep breaths. His right hand rests on her lower back, but it's far too tentative for her liking.

"Castle," she whispers, lips at his ear.


"Is this okay?"

He tightens his hold in response. "More than." The words catch in his throat; clearly the proximity is wrecking him too.

They sway to the slow melody, toe to toe, bodies pressed together from hip to shoulder, and she's aware of nothing but him. He's warm and solid against her, so steady, and she sinks further into his embrace as the last of her carefully cultivated restraint evaporates. He welcomes her in, catching her, holding her up as he always does, even as she feels her heart plummeting into a freefall. She's so utterly in love with him.

By the end of the song his temple is resting against hers and he's cradling her so tenderly, fingers tracing soft patterns on her lower back. The music fades away but Castle doesn't release her. She doesn't want him to.

"Come home with me."

She both hears and feels his sharp intake of breath. But when he doesn't reply she reluctantly disentangles herself, stepping back enough to meet his eyes. He looks uncertain and maybe a little afraid, but she can see the brimming hope there as well.

"Kate?" he asks.

She holds his gaze with certainty. "Castle."

Kate is grateful he's still embracing her because she feels suddenly light-headed with the adrenaline flooding her system. Her heart is racing, her stomach fluttering, and she's sure he can feel the nervous anticipation thrumming through her veins as she awaits his answer.

She can hear Burke's voice in the back of her head reminding her of all the reasons she's not ready. All the reasons they should wait.

She ignores them.

She wants this. Him. Them. And she's so tired of waiting.

Castle is fighting his own battle, she can see it in his eyes as he searches her gaze; seeking reassurance, she assumes. But slowly he nods and his lips spread into a grin, the one that makes his eyes crinkle in the corners and twinkle with happiness. Kate feels her own smile break free and she trails both hands down his arms until her fingers can tangle with his. She takes a step back, tugging him with her, and he follows with ease.

The venue is only a handful of blocks from her apartment so they decide to walk. She twines her fingers with his as they exit the hall, and Castle tucks their joined hands into his coat pocket a minute later as a cold gust of wind swirls up the street.

They walk in silence; Kate because she appears to be lost in thought and Castle because his words seem to have vanished. He will never understand how the woman who has inspired three novels can so easily render him speechless.

A red light across the street from her apartment brings them to a halt, and Kate lifts her gaze to him just as he hazards a glance at her. Her lips are arranged in a soft smile, one that widens as their eyes meet. Since the moment she extended the invitation, Castle has been waiting for fear or rationality to return, for her to withdraw and apologetically send him home alone. But she looks calm.

The light turns green but he's too caught up in her to notice, in the dance of the city lights in her eyes and the sculpted lines of her face painted in shadow. She nudges him with her shoulder, tugs them forward, and he falls into step beside her even as his brain struggles to comprehend this open, confident version of Kate Beckett who is leading him through the front door of her building with conviction.

The elevator is waiting for them, mercifully empty as the doors part, then slide closed behind them. Kate rests her head on Castle's shoulder as the lift ascends and he automatically twists his chin, presses a kiss to her hair. It's so simple, so natural, and it's not until he's pulling away that he realizes they don't usually do that. They don't usually do any of this. They've crossed so many lines in the last few hours, and yet everything about tonight has been so easy.

It's so easy for him to love her like this.

The elevator doors open and she steps out first, leading him down the hallway, fingers still twined with his. They pause outside her door as she fishes for her keys; she has to release his hand to open her clutch so he splays it across her low back instead, reveling in the perfect fit of his palm against the curve of her spine.

The door swings open and Castle guides her inside. He closes and locks the door, drapes his coat over the back of a dining room chair while she discards her clutch and jacket and slips out of her shoes. She steps through the glass doors as he turns, and… he sometimes forgets she's actually quite a bit shorter than he is.

But before he can comment Kate reaches for him, one hand settling on each side of his jaw as she steps into him, rises onto her toes, and kisses him. His body reacts instinctively, hands finding the curve of her spine. It's become a familiar resting spot this evening, and he feels her muscles ripple through the fabric of her dress. She wastes no time in deepening the kiss, welcoming him inside. At the first swipe of his tongue she moans, and it's the same damn moan that's been haunting his dreams for a year.

The desire courses through him like wildfire, rapidly eliminating any remaining semblance of control, and he tugs her closer until their hips collide. He knows she can feel exactly how badly he wants her. But even as she rolls her hips against him the small voice in the back of his head asserts itself, reminding him that they haven't actually talked about this. And they really should. He hates that even with her lips on his he's entertaining these doubts. But she holds his heart in the palm of her hands, has the power to wreck him, so he needs to be certain. He needs her to be certain.

It's when her hands find his tie, begin loosening the knot, that he gathers the wherewithal to step back, reluctantly inserting some space between them. The silk strip of fabric falls from her fingers, leaving her hands suspended in midair.

"Kate, wait."

She looks up at him, hair tousled and lips thoroughly kissed, and it's sexy as hell. Her eyes are dark and shimmering with desire and anticipation, and it momentarily derails his train of thought.

"If we do this," he begins, forcing himself to focus, "it's not just for tonight." The apprehension instantly flares in her eyes. "If you're not ready for everything else, that's fine," he placates. "But we're not going to pretend this never happened. We're not going to wake up tomorrow morning and go back to how things were."

He watches as the fear boils down to a simmer, replaced by a steely resolve. "I know."

Castle cups her jaw with both hands and kisses her deeply in response.

It's amazing.

It's every bit as amazing as she imagined, and then some.

Round one is a heady mixture of desperation and restraint, the need to slow down and savor the moment battling with their overwhelming desire after so many months – years – of waiting. In the end desire wins, and they collapse in the middle of her bed in a breathless, sweaty heap.

Round two is less frantic as they take the time to explore each other's naked bodies, fingers and lips and tongues seeking to uncover every secret. Castle pays reverence to her scars, determinedly searches for the places that make her writhe and moan, and she'll never admit to anyone how easily he turns her into a quivering, needy mess.

Round three happens in the early hours before dawn, wrapped in the shadows and tangled beneath her sheets. It's soft and slow and so passionate, and with every kiss, every touch, every stroke, Kate can feel how much he loves her. She tries her best to return the sentiment, communicating with her body everything she can't yet find the courage to say aloud.

Never before has she poured so much of her heart and soul into sex. Never before has she surrendered to another person like this. And the realization that he has the ability to make her lose control so completely scares her. But tonight has shown her that surrendering makes everything so much more intense and fulfilling, leaves her wholly sated in a way she's never experienced. She can feel it in every fiber of her being.

And with Castle sprawled on top of her, pressing her into the mattress and anchoring her to reality, she feels loved and cherished and safe in a way she never has before.

Maybe everything she's been so afraid of isn't so frightening after all.

Maybe it's okay that they're doing this now, even though the wall around her heart is still partially intact.

Because maybe she's already allowed him inside.