She's been dozing fitfully, but the shift from smooth pavement to noisy gravel rouses her fully.

"Castle, what are you-"

"Go back to sleep," he whispers, and something flutters in her chest when his warm hand lands on her thigh. "You'll see in a bit."

She shouldn't. She should insist that they get back to the city, back to her job and her murder board that will remain filled with facts and questions. This trip upstate wasn't exactly fruitful when it came to putting the pieces together.

But she's had fun, nevertheless. Castle's good company.

They started off discussing the case. Then they played Twenty Questions. And then he told her stories. Mostly of his daughter, but with a few of his own childhood misadventures thrown in. She returned the favor, glancing over at him from time to time to find a soft sort of amusement in his blue eyes.

He made a variety of inappropriate jokes as they passed through Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest. He begged for her to make a detour up to Lake Placid (It'd only be another hour, Beckett. Maybe an hour and a half. Don't you want to see where the Miracle on Ice happened?) and she rolled her eyes.

And then they arrived in Newcomb and spent two and a half hours with a very unhelpful witness.

Oh, it wasn't that he was hostile. Not even intentionally unhelpful. He'd just seen and heard a lot less than they'd hoped.

So she was in a less than great mood by the time they walked out of the man's house. And she was hungry.

"Did you know Teddy Roosevelt was in Newcomb when he found out McKinley was dying?"

His trivia came out of nowhere, and she snapped at him, rolling her eyes. She felt bad immediately, but he just studied her for a moment and then tugged on her elbow.

"Come on," he said gently. "We passed a hot dog place on our way in. Let's go get some dinner and then we'll head home. I'll drive so you can get some rest."

She shook her head, but he wouldn't take no for an answer of course. So they'd found themselves scarfing down hot dogs and fries at a little restaurant called Scoops. He stepped away from the table as she was dipping his last french fry in her ketchup. When he returned, he was holding out a strawberry shake for her eager hands.

"Trade you," he said. "Keys for shake."

She sighed, but passed over the car keys as he handed her the shake. And he's been driving ever since

The detective isn't sure what time it is now, but when the car grinds to a stop, she glances over at her partner. "What are we doing?"

He grins. "Just hold on."

She watches as he unbuckles his seat belt and steps out of the car, rounding the hood to open her door. Kate looks up at him, his face in shadows but still smiling.

"Come with me," he whispers, and she obeys, untangling herself from the seat belt and taking the hand he offers to help her out of the car.

"Where are we going?" she asks as she steps into the darkness.

He laughs. "So many questions, Detective."

His hand still enfolds hers and she doesn't take it back. But she does bump her shoulder to his. "How long have you known me, Castle?"

Her heart races when he looks down at her, squeezing her fingers lightly. "

Sometimes it seems like forever," he murmurs. "Sometimes it seems like I just met you."

She doesn't ask any more questions after that. Just follows him as he leads her to a picnic table by the waterside.

Wait. The waterside? Where has he-

"Lake George," he answers her unspoken question. "We're just a couple miles off the highway."

She turns to meet his eyes, but he's not looking at her. He's staring up at the sky.

The detective follows his gaze, and-


Oh. It's beautiful.

He tugs on her hand, and she glances back to find an expression of complete wonder on his face.

She doesn't say a word when he sits on the tabletop and leans back, just follows. Just lets her body rest next to his, their hands still twined as they watch the sky.

"I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights," he murmurs in the quiet. "Have you ever seen them?"

She turns her head to face him, watches the play of shadows dancing across the joy in his upturned lips, the awe in his eyes. "Not until tonight."

He tilts his head and meets her eyes, his own sparkling, flecked with green in the odd light. "First time for both of us, then."

She nods silently and holds his gaze. He tightens his grip on her fingers for a moment and then loosens it again, and they both turn their eyes once more toward the sky.

Later, though she can't say for certain how much later, she sighs.

"We should get going," she says reluctantly. "We've still got another three and a half hours to drive."

He doesn't speak for a moment, and she wonders if he might have fallen asleep.

But no. When she turns to look at him, his eyes are open, his brows furrowed a little.

"Castle?" she says softly.

"You're right," he finally answers. "We should get going."

He releases her hand and heaves himself up and off the surface of the picnic table. She sits up as well, twisting her back to relieve the stiffness in her bones.

Before she can stand, he stills her movement with a light pressure on her knee. "Wait."

She arches an eyebrow. "What's up?"

His eyes have become serious, his face solemn. "I just need to do one more thing."

"Castle?" she repeats, setting a hand on top of his fist on her knee. "What? What do you need to do?"

"This," he answers, flipping his hand and opening his fist to reveal a small box.

Her heart stutters as her fingers trace the lid. "Castle..."

"Open it, Kate," he murmurs. "Open it."

She does, her hand trembling. A simple diamond ring glitters in the dark, catching the reflection of the aurora and flinging back a rainbow of colors.

"I've had it for weeks," Castle whispers. "Been burning a hole in my pocket."

She drags her gaze away from the diamond to meet his eyes.

"Yes," she breathes.

He laughs. "I haven't even asked."

She shakes her head, closing one hand around his and the ring and throwing the other around his neck. "I don't care. It's a yes. Yes. Yes."

His free hand curls around her lower back and he pulls her from the tabletop, lifting her one-armed into the air.

"Oh, Kate," he murmurs, his voice breathless and filled with joy. "Oh, I love you."

She grins, giddy. "I love you too, Castle. Now put me down before I drop the ring."

His laughter echoes in the empty park as he sets her back on her feet. Gentle hands pry the box from her grip and she can't tear her eyes away as he slides the band onto her finger.

"There," he whispers, lifting her hand to press his lips to her knuckles just above the ring. "Now it's not going anywhere.

She pulls her hand from his grasp, watches the way the diamond flashes as she cups his cheek, pushing herself up to meet his lips. "No. Definitely not going anywhere."

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