Author's note: This story is cross-posted at: yourfanfiction.com/viewstory.php?sid=2051. Might I suggest that you check that site out? Call it an alternative, a backup, whatever you like. Oh, also there are three stories posted there under my name which have not been posted under my name here, though a few of you will recognize them. ;) -Joy

P.S. I promise this one is nothing like Sweetheart and The Message. Back to my usual fluff. As always, I deeply appreciate the feedback you guys have given me, but especially on those two.

The packages arrive one by one, a new box appearing at the door each afternoon, starting on the third day after he left for his book tour to the West Coast. They vary in shape and size and weight, ranging from one that looks like it might hold some kind of jewelry to one that takes up nearly a quarter of his office when the delivery men finally haul it inside.

He calls every evening, of course. Sometimes they spend hours on the phone, other times only a few minutes. It depends on if he has a late night appearance as much as it depends on whether she has a case.

They miss each other terribly.

But while they talk about everything else - their respective jobs, their future, the old married couple fight Ryan and Esposito had the day before - she never mentions the accumulation of boxes, and neither does he.

She figures that whatever things he's buying, he'll have been tracking the packages anyway and thus will know they each one has been delivered. He has to know. And so she works from that assumption, assumes that he'd have told her if he wanted her to open them when they arrived.

Her natural curiosity, her drive for all the facts - she can tame those facets of herself for a little while.

For him.

For the wide grin she knows he'll wear when he reveals whatever he's got up his sleeve.

It is getting a bit ridiculous though.

When Alexis stops by for dinner one evening, her eyes dart around the loft in an odd mixture of horror and awe at the myriad of cardboard boxes littering the loft.

"What is all this?" the young woman wonders aloud.

Kate shrugs. "No idea. They're all addressed to your dad though."

"And you haven't opened any of them?"

"I didn't want to ruin his surprise," she says softly, shaking her head. "You know how he is."

His daughter nods, a slight smile curling her lips as she regards her father's girlfriend. It was rocky at first, this thing between Kate and Alexis. But they've put the past behind them, mended their fences, and formed a budding friendship. The detective had expected they'd bond at some point over the man they both love more than anything else in the world. But while yes, Richard Castle forms an integral part of their relationship with each other, they've forged their own friendship as well.

Alexis leans in then to give the older woman a swift hug.

"I hope you know what you're getting into," the young redhead murmurs as they embrace lightly, but Kate just laughs.

"Don't worry. I can handle your dad."

Pulling away, she catches the slightly grossed out look and the bright pink of the younger girl's face. "Alexis! Not what I meant!"

The teenager ducks her head, pushing a stray lock of hair behind her eyes, but the detective catches her wrist, giving it a quick squeeze, not letting her escape. She smirks when Alexis looks up, still blushing, rolls her eyes at the girl's embarrassment.

Two days later, it's Kate's turn for awkwardness when an oddly similar conversation takes place with Martha. Except she's certain Martha meant what she said exactly as it sounded. The matriarch of the family certainly has no problems with Kate's presence in their lives.

They'd been living together for a month prior to his tour. She's comfortable enough in the loft. But it's still the first time she's been there much without him. So the detective is grateful when Castle comes home after two and a half weeks gone.

He wraps her in a hug first, and she nuzzles into the crook of his neck, smelling sweat and cologne and airplane and him.

"Hey," she whispers as he straightens, his hands rising to cup her cheeks tenderly.

"Hey to you too," he returns, leaning in to press his lips to hers in a sweet kiss that soon turns heated, leaving them both panting.

It's not until he pulls away that he looks around the loft. Kate's eyes follow his as he takes in all of the packages.

"Looks like everything made it," he says.

She laughs. "I certainly hope so. What is all of this?"

He turns toward her again, his eyes forsaking his cluttered apartment. "You didn't open any of them?"

"No," she answers, shaking her head. "They were addressed to you."

He shrugs. "What's mine is yours."

It doesn't really surprise her to hear him say the words, but they set her heart fluttering anyway, and she reaches for his hand, snagging his fingers and tugging him closer.

"Thank you," she says softly. "But I figured it might be a surprise or something, and I didn't want to ruin it."

She knows she's made the right choice when his entire face lights up, blue eyes sparkling as he pulls her into the late afternoon light that streams through the windows of his office.

The giant box sits in the corner, but he picks up another instead, begins to carefully open the box. He pulls out a mask. A cowl, really, solid black. Batman. She shakes her head.

"What?" he says defensively when he looks up. "This is awesome."

She laughs, but doesn't refute his statement.

"Besides," he continues, "I got you something too."

She holds out a hand, palm forward. "Tell me it's not a Catwoman costume."

The mischief in his eyes scares her for a moment, but then he shakes his head. "Not Catwoman. And I couldn't find Electra either."

He doesn't give her a chance to answer, just begins rummaging through other boxes until he finds the one he wants.

"Aha!" he finally pronounces, thrusting the partially open box toward her.

She pulls both lips between her teeth, keeps one eye on him as she pulls apart the flaps. He's practically bouncing in his excitement.

It's- oh no.

It's bright red with yellow cuffs, collar, and belt, a double W embroidered on the left chest. It's a Wonder Woman bathrobe.

She bursts into laughter, and he steps up next to her, unfolding the garment and draping it loosely over her shoulders. Tugging the lapels closed, he stands in front of her, happiness shining in his eyes, the corners of his mouth twitching.

"Wanna see what else we can find?" he offers as she maneuvers her arms into the sleeves of the robe.

She nods, belting it shut over her casual jeans and t-shirt. "I can't say I haven't wondered."

One by one, they open each of the boxes, revealing the treasures therein. He'd spent far too much time perusing the SkyMall catalog during his many flights, Castle explains as they open a medium sized box to unearth what turns out to be a voice activated R2-D2 replica.

The other boxes hold similar curiosities:

a do-it-yourself soda maker, complete with root beer and orange flavorings;

a two-foot wide gong;

the headstock and top of the neck of a guitar ("It's an air guitar!" he announces, pressing a few buttons as chords echo in the room);

a two person Slanket, so they can cuddle more easily;

a Litter Kwitter to train a cat to use the toilet (she reminds him they don't have a cat, but the look on his face tells her they might end up at an animal shelter someday soon).

The giant box that took two delivery men turns out to be a statue of a Yeti.

"Where are you even going to put that?" she asks incredulously.

He just shrugs. "Don't know. I've just always wanted one."

The last box is the smallest, resting in the center of his desk. He nods toward it, and she picks it up, opening the cardboard flaps to find a smaller box inside.

This one is wooden, ornate, with an indecipherable script etched across the top.

Oh, wait, she recognizes that. It's- it's Elvish.

"Let me guess," she teases, turning toward him and rolling her eyes playfully. "One ring to rule them all?"

His face falls unexpectedly, but surely he's not serious. "What? Did you want me to wear it or something?"

Solemn eyes regard her, but there's still that underlying happiness in the blue of his gaze, mixed with a hint of inexplicable nervousness.

"I hope you will," he says. "I really do."

"Castle, you know it won't turn me invisible, don't-" she begins, lifting the box and flipping open the lid.

But then her voice gives out, all the air rushing from her lungs.

Because there, where she should have found a silly movie prop, there is the most beautiful diamond ring she's ever seen.

She lifts her eyes back to Castle, but he's already down on one knee and reaching for the box.

"Kate," he says quietly, taking the ring from the case and holding it out to her. "Will you marry me?"

"On one condition," she says, leaning down to run her fingers through the short hair at his temple.

He nods. "Anything."

"Promise me you won't spend our honeymoon buying Yeti statues and gongs from Skymall?"

Laughing, he surges up, kisses all the remaining breath out of her, breaks from her lips to grin at her. "I'm pretty sure I'll have other things on my mind then."

"Then yes," she says, wrapping her right arm around his neck and pressing her forehead to his while he slips the ring onto her left hand. "Yes."

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