Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.
He really had spent the entire month of June at the Hamptons, which was hard on both of them but made the weekends that much more delicious. She had been a little apprehensive about fitting in, since the so-called Hamptons Scene was definitely something she was less than eager to join or even look at from the fringes.
"Party Girl's not my middle name," she'd told him a little shyly on Memorial Day.
"I should hope not," he'd said, toweling off after doing 20 lengths of the pool. "Party Girl would be two middle names."
She needn't have worried. He may have been–no, definitely had been–a party heartier in the past, but those days are long gone. They sometimes go out with a few of his friends, or go to a neighbor's barbeque, but it's low-key. What they really relish is being together, spending time with no one but each other. Alexis is at a pre-college science program for eight weeks, and Martha comes and goes. Her father had come out for a happy weekend, having told them long before that he'd also known that they were a couple.
Since Castle finished the edits on his book in late July and she has plenty of vacation days in the bank, she takes off the first two weeks of August–the same time that Martha and some of her friends go on a road trip to summer theaters in the Northeast.
"Gotcha all to myself, Castle," she had said the first evening of her vacation, her elbows propped on the edge of the pool as he had come out from the kitchen with a bowl of grapes.
He'd set the bowl on the table between a pair of chaise longues, and taken a few steps closer to the water. "And I've got you all to myself." He'd looked down at her and grinned. "All of you, in the altogether, all to myself. Where's your bathing suit?"
"Right where yours should be. Not on," she'd said, slipping below the surface. Just as she'd reached the far end of the pool she'd felt his hand at her waist. A hand that had very quickly slithered up to her breast. "I sense," she'd said, tilting her head back so that she could see him, even in the near darkness, "that I have you in the altogether now, too."
"Did you know this is my favorite time of day?"
"Because we're naked? Because it's almost bedtime?"
"Well, there's that. But what I was going to say was that it's astronomical twilight, the beautiful last stage of dusk, and what makes today's astronomical twilight totally amazing is that the most heavenly body I've ever seen is in my arms."
It had been corny, but it had also been sweet, and adorably nerdy that he knew about astronomical twilight. "I hope you haven't said that to a lot of women."
"Not one. Until you. And it will never be anyone but you."
She'd turned around to face him. "Will it swell your head if I tell you that you're a pretty celestial body yourself?"
"You set me up for what I'm about to say, didn't you?" He'd laughed and it had vibrated against her. "It'll swell both my heads."
"Good. That's what I was hoping."
And that had been the last thing that either of them said for quite a while, until they were lying on their backs on the bluestone terrace, still faintly warm. "I love that you can see the stars so well here," she'd said, and squeezed his hand. "They're almost invisible in the city."
"It's one of the reasons I wanted this place."
"It's one of the reasons I love visiting."
That had been a week ago, but she still remembers viscerally how he had responded. He'd tried to cover it up, but she's so attuned to him now, in every way, that she had known that he'd flinched. She hadn't understood why, not at first, and she hadn't asked because he hadn't said anything until a minute or so later, when he'd started talking about constellations. Still, she'd been positive that he'd reacted to something she'd said, and by the time she'd replayed it in her head several times, by the time she'd finally figured it out, he'd been asleep next to her in bed. Too late she'd realized exactly how he felt, and what she had done to make him feel that way. It was the simple, ordinarily harmless word "visiting." It had been anything but harmless this time. She had referred to herself as a visitor here, when he treats her as anything but, thinks of her as anything but. She hasn't been a visitor in any part of his life, in any place he calls home, for months. She's certain that she's wounded him. She hadn't apologized for the stupid, stupid, stupid thing that she'd said because he hadn't said anything at all. He'd pretended that he hadn't noticed, but she knows that she'd crushed his heart. She'd thought of waking him up to apologize, but she hadn't. Why? Because he would have brushed it off, said it was nothing, said he was being too sensitive.
A full week later it's still gnawing at her. She and Castle have had a wonderful time, and she shoves her worry down so deep that he doesn't detect it. But for seven days she has wondered if some part of her had wanted to call herself a visitor because she couldn't make the leap to something else, to something permanent. In some unexplored corner of her psyche, had she been hanging on to noncommittal? How could that be?
She's done a lot of exploring this week, a lot of secret, painful self-examination, and now, exactly 168 hours later, she's done. No question, no doubts. A plan has arisen, full-blown, in her head, and she's going to put it in motion. Now. A quick scan of the house proves fruitless; she needs something. It's imperative. She can't do without it. Fortunately, stores are open late.
He's reading on the sofa, absorbed in a new book, A Visit From the Goon Squad. "Castle," she says. " Castle. Castle." On the third iteration he looks up and smiles.
"Sorry. I lost track of everything. You okay?"
"Fine. I just have to run into the village for something."
"You sure you're all right?"
"Positive. Go back to your goons." She's halfway to the door when she pivots. "You want anything?"
"Nope. I'm good."
If she'd asked him that question last week, would he have said, "I already have everything I want" instead of "I'm good"? Probably. It makes her want to run back to him and beg his forgiveness, but she keeps going. She has a plan.
Fifteen minutes later and $5.89 lighter, she's back in the house. "Hi," she calls to him.
"Hi," he responds, waving vaguely but obviously deep into the book again.
She's glad. It gives her time. She runs upstairs to their bedroom and gets to work. First, she gets a piece of paper from the desk drawer and cuts it into four thin strips. Using a brown Sharpie that she'd just purchased, she carefully prints one word, in capital letters, on each of bit of paper. Then she opens the bag that she'd bought at the same drug store, shakes four pieces of candy out of it, and even more carefully unwraps them. She winds a paper strip around each one, and wraps it up again. Satisfied with her handiwork, she takes the four candies and the bag downstairs to the kitchen, fills a small dish, and returns to the living room.
He hasn't moved. Maybe she shouldn't interrupt. Yes, she should. This is more important than that book, even if it has gotten reviews for which many writers would sell their souls.
"Castle?" She tickles the bottom of his foot, which always gets his attention. "Would you like some candy?"
"Have I ever said no to that question?"
"Probably not. But this better not be the first time." She chooses one and drops it into his open palm.
"You trying to fatten me up or something?"
"Or make me even sweeter?"
"Not possible. Go on, eat your candy."
"Bossy. I like that." He looks in his hand. "Ooooh. You haven't given me one of these since you know when."
"I do know when."
"Why haven't we had these every day?"
"Same reason you don't drink Champagne every day, Castle. Then it wouldn't be so special. Celebratory."
He sits up. "Are we celebrating something?"
"Eat your Hershey Kiss."
"With an almond." He peels off the foil, pays no attention to the hand-made paper strip that's emerging from the top and then drifts downward as he pops the chocolate into his mouth. "Mmmmmmm," he says, eyes lighting up as he points to his cheek. "I'm sucking on it."
"I see that you are. But the paper, the uh, little strip? It fell onto your lap."
"Oh. Okay." He crumples it and drops it onto the coffee table. Dammit.
"Have another," she says, making sure that she has the right one before pressing it into his hand.
"Wow, Beckett. You trying to get me drunk on Hershey Kisses with almonds?"
"Because you know what they do to me. Especially if I'm also watching you eat one." He hold out to her the piece that she'd just given to him. "Here. Have this."
"No, no. You have that one. That's yours. I'll take another. Please."
His eyes are still sparkling, but they're also narrowing. "This one isn't poisoned is it?"
"No. I promise. Tell you what. If you unwrap it, I'll eat it."
Looking directly at her and not the chocolate, he unwraps the Kiss, wads up the foil and the paper, and passes the candy to her. "Here you go. I'm not taking my eyes off you 'til you finish sucking the whole thing. And nibble the nut, of course."
She eats it far more quickly than she would have at any other time, and sits down on the floor next to him. "Castle, didn't you notice anything different about these?"
"Why? Are they a special vintage that I don't know about?"
"The wrappers," she says.
"The little strips of paper."
He picks up one and smoothes it out on his thigh. "Oh. It says YOU."
Shit! "No, no. The other one. I mean, first the other one and then that one."
Looking suitably mystified, he retrieves it and reads it. "WILL. It says WILL. WILL YOU."
She thrusts two more pieces into his hand. "Now these."
For the first time in his life he's far more interested in the outside of a package than the inside. He takes the two papers and reads them to himself before he speaks. She has moved onto her knees in front of him.
"MARRY. ME? WILL YOU MARRY ME?"
"Yes, Castle." She reaches for his hand. "Will you marry me? I don't want to be a visitor any more."
He's transfixed, at least that's how he appears to her. She doesn't know what else to say, so she adds, "Please?"
He takes her hand and presses it against his chest. "Feel that? You moved in there a long time ago. Yes. Yes, I will marry you."
She sometimes forgets how strong he is, as now, when he lifts her off the floor and onto his lap with one arm. And then he kisses her and she melts faster than chocolate in the hot sun. "Let's go to bed," she whispers into his neck.
"Yes. And tomorrow lets find a baker who will make a wedding cake in the shape of a Hershey Kiss."
"With an almond. Because I'm nuts about you."
A/N That's a wrap–or an unwrap–for this story! Thank you all for sticking with it and for so many kind words. I'll be back very soon.