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14 September 2010 @ 07:43 am
First Dance (PG-13, Castle/Beckett)  
Title: First Dance
Fandom: Castle
Pairings: Castle/Beckett, Martha/Roy
Rating: PG-13 (minor adult references)
Word Count: 4,500
Spoilers: None

Summary: Several years down the track, the Castle household is in a disarray as they prepare for Alexis’s wedding day. But with Kate Beckett arriving as a guest, Alexis soon sees that there is something more to the tentative partnership between the detective and her father.

Notes: Co-written with the amazing azuremonkey, for the Write With Me challenge at castleland. See if you can identify who wrote what. (Hint: someone’s excellent with the humour, and someone’s verbose and likes commas & semicolons. XD)


“Orchids! We should’ve requested more orchids for the centerpieces!”

“The centerpieces look fine, Richard,” Martha said, rolling her eyes for the fourth time in ten minutes. She was hardly paying any attention to him by this point.

“How can you say that, Mother? It’s a catastrophe.” Rick looked crestfallen. “I should’ve thought of it before, planned it better… Is it too late to call the florist now? Can someone give me the number?”

Richard Castle dashed around the reception hall, leaving a mess of panic behind him. Sure, he looked fine, dressed in his pristine tuxedo with a red bow and cummerbund, his hair perfectly combed and slightly gelled, and with a beautiful white rose in his boutonniere. But the way he looked was pretty much the only good thing about him that day.

He had been nothing short of crazy since he woke the entire household at 4:00 in the morning.

Alexis was staying in her former room, “for old time’s sake.” He had walked in on his soundly-sleeping daughter, frantically shook her awake and said, “A tent.”

A bleary-eyed Alexis moaned, “What vent?”

“No, no, a tent! We should’ve rented a tent.”

She looked at him in confusion. “For what?”

“It looks like it might rain.”

Alexis had put a pillow over her head; from under it, he could barely make out her next words. “Dad, get out!”

Undaunted, he ran into his mother’s room next. It had been Alexis’s idea that Martha spend the night at the apartment. She had wanted to do breakfast “the way we used to” and, of course, Martha couldn’t say no to her granddaughter’s wish.

Rick had opened the door without knocking and repeated, “We need a tent.”

Martha shot up. “What? What dent?”

Roy rolled over next to her. “My god, it’s only 4. Go back to bed.”

Martha removed her eye mask and rubbed her face. “Richard says he has a dent.”

“Please tell me he’s fallen on his head,” Roy grumbled, “and that that’s why he’s here at this time of the morning. Because if he doesn’t have an actual dent, I might be forced to give him one.”

Rick ignored the threat. “We should have rented a tent. What if it rains?”

To keep Roy from committing any real harm, Martha climbed out of bed and escorted Rick downstairs. She eventually got Alexis out of bed to help her calm Rick down.

“What rain?” Alexis asked sensibly once she got the stove going.

“It looks like it might rain.”

“How can you tell? The sun hasn’t even come up yet!” She flipped the eggs over on the fry pan. Rick poured them orange juice in little glasses. Martha was sitting on a stool, picking at a pastry.

“The forecast for the day, Richard, is bright sunny skies. All those hunky weathermen said so.”

“Those weather pea brains don’t know what they’re talking about most of the time.”

“There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky for days!”

“Exactly! We’re due for rain.”

Alexis put the eggs on a plate and handed it to Rick. “I don’t think weather works like that.”

“It might. We can’t take the chance. Not on your wedding day, sweetie.”

“Oh, dad...” Alexis leaned into him. “It’s going to be fine.”

“For at least another couple of hours, anyway,” Martha said. “When Roy wakes up again, he might just push Richard out of the window.”

Rick put his arm around his little girl. “Then we should enjoy this time together.”

He kissed the top of her head and tried very hard to ignore the fact that she wasn’t as tiny as she used to be. She very nearly reached his shoulders now. His little girl, all grown up, and getting married.

“Look,” he said, soft with nostalgia, “we’re having breakfast together. Just like old times.”

***


By the time Alexis had washed her face and come downstairs again, Rick had just gotten off the phone and declared that he had hired a tent.

“Where are we going to set it up?” she asked.

“Out by the garden.”

“But there’s a garden out by the garden. There’s not enough room out there,” she explained, but he wasn’t listening.

“Your dress should be a paler ivory. It’s beautiful, but do you think you can breathe in that corset? And your veil, it’s too short. We should’ve gotten something long. Oh! Something like what Princess Diana wore on her wedding day.”

“Princess Di, Dad? Really?”

“And where is your grandmother? We’re already late!”

“The ceremony doesn’t start for at least another four hours,” Alexis pouted. “I just got off the phone with Sarah and she’s still in bed, and the maid of honour’s supposed to be there before the bride.”

Rick continued as if Alexis hadn’t spoken. “We should check on the florist. And the caterer. And the musicians. Musicians are notoriously unreliable.”

Martha descended the stairs, wearing a pale lavender skirt and jacket, a cream blouse peeking out. “Unlike mystery writers, who are completely reliable. Right?”

“Hey, now!” Rick pointed at her in warning. “We should get going.”

But his fussing didn’t stop when they got to the hotel; in fact, it only worsened. By the time an hour had passed, Richard had complained about the table setting, the cleanliness of the reception hall, the poor lighting, and heaven knows what else. Martha had also became quite adept at tuning him out, rapidly reaching her breaking point. Now, while her son rambled on about some silly orchids, Martha spotted her salvation, her eyes lighting up.

“Kate!” Martha swept over to Kate Beckett with her arms wide open. “You look lovely.”

And she did. Kate was in a stunning coral dress, with thin straps and even flimsier heels in a neutral color, her mother’s ring glittering from its place on her neck. The look accentuated her dark hair and eyes—Martha had always thought his son’s “partner” was a stunner.

Kate accepted the hug and smiled. “Thanks. So do you, Martha. Grandmother of the bride suits you.”

“Thank you, dear, that’s very sweet of you to say.” Then she spotted her partner—the real sort—and waved him over. “Roy! Where have you been?”

Roy walked across the lobby of the hotel and placed an arm around Martha. “Sorry, I had to take a phone call.”

“For the last hour?” Martha asked.

“Are you accusing me of something?”

“Yes,” she said, “but considering the way my son’s been behaving, I can’t blame you for trying to find a peaceful moment. Or hour, as it were.”

Kate dipped her head in a respectful nod, her voice taking on the brisk tone that had become a part of her. “Captain.”

Roy nodded back. “Detective.”

Martha only threw up her hands, rolling her eyes. “For goodness sake, listen to the two of you! You both need to loosen up a bit—what do you say to a drink? First round is on me.”

“Mother,” Richard said as he joined them, “remember what we discussed about you freely offering booze I have to pay for?” He smiled, but his voice was tight.

“I’m sure everyone needs a drink, Richard. It’s an exciting day.”

“Yes, of course, except the florist can’t get here with more orchids before the ceremony, and I we still need to fix the lighting in the grand hall—it’s definitely too bright and it’ll positively drown Alexis out—”

“Take a deep breath,” Martha interrupted with a bite of impatience, “and say hello to Kate.”

Rick gave Kate an uneasy smile. “Hi.”

She returned it with a skittish one of her own. “Hi.”

“Thanks for coming.”

“Oh, of course. I’m really happy for Alexis,” Kate said. “And for all of you... of course.”

“Thank you.”

Martha rolled her eyes, again. “This is the most boring thing I’ve seen since Sheila Horten decided she could do Lady Macbeth justice. Believe me, she couldn’t. There was a mass exodus at intermission.” She tisked. “Poor thing.”

They were interrupted by Sarah, not yet changed into the bridesmaid dress, who ran to them, out of breath. Her panic seeped through the room and went straight to Richard.

“What’s wrong? Is Alexis okay? Did that bastard disappear? I knew I should’ve trusted my instincts—the name ‘Greg’ just reminds me of that doctor jerk on TV… I’m going to murder him if he’s hurt her!” He ignored Martha’s reprimands and Roy’s not-so-subtle clearing of his throat. “Dammit, I knew he isn’t good enough for my little girl. From the moment I met him, I should’ve—”

“Castle,” Kate warned, and Rick immediately feel silent. He didn’t look at her. Martha noticed he was doing an incredible job of trying not to look at Kate.

Sarah said, “We just got a call from Peter.”

“Who’s Peter?” Rick asked.

“Samantha’s brother.”

“Who’s Samantha?”

“Castle, let her talk.” It was clear Kate’s temper was running short. Then, in a gentler tone, “Sarah, tell us what happened.”

The girl gave Kate an appreciative nod. “Samantha’s the violist. She’s been in a car accident and can’t make it today.”

Martha’s gasp wasn’t entirely theatrical. “Oh darling, is she okay?”

Another nod. “She’s a bit bruised and on her way to the hospital now, just in case. The string quartet’s trying to figure out what to do. They were rehearsing without her and say they can pull off the wedding march and the rest of the ceremony, but...”

“But what?” Kate asked

Rick knew. “The first dance,” he groaned. “Oh god, Alexis must be freaking out!”

“Dear, I think you’re the one freaking out all day.”

“Mother, not the time. We need to check on Alexis.”

Martha suddenly brightened. “Kate, why don’t you go with him?”

Kate took a small step back. “I don’t think that’s such a great idea.”

“Of course it is.” Martha’s smile only widened. “Alexis would love to see you.”

“Today is for family only—I would just be in the way.” She tilted her head and fiddled with the ring around her neck. Now she was the one trying very hard not to look at Richard.

Martha wondered what they were fighting about this time, but she had problems of her own. The main one being her son. And she very much wanted to make him someone else’s problem. Kate was the perfect choice.

“Nonsense,” she enthused, “we consider you a member of the family. Alexis certainly does. You two go on up.” She pushed Kate and Rick toward the elevators. “Go on, now. Roy and I will join you in a few minutes.”

Kate and Rick gave her identical frightened looks, but it was too late: the elevator doors closed with the two of them inside.

Roy could only laugh. “Martha Rodgers, you are an evil woman.”

She leaned in and kissed him. “Don’t I know it.”

“You mentioned something about drinks...”

“Lead on to the bar, handsome.”

***


Alexis watched the musicians as they played a familiar piece, and slowly sipped her glass of water. It was almost surreal, sitting there with her wedding dress half on, a hairdresser working with her tresses, waiting for the minutes to pass before she would walk down the aisle to be married and begin a new chapter of her life. She was vaguely aware that Sarah had dashed off after hearing from the missing violist, but Alexis found she was strangely nonplussed—or perhaps this was just the calm before the storm.

She carefully put down her glass when she heard the clamour echoing up the hallway, and felt the hair stylist’s hold tighten. She was smiling when her father dashed into the suite, closely followed by Kate and Sarah.

“Alexis, I heard that…” Rick stopped in his tracks, and Kate, who was behind him, nearly lost her balance. He took a few moments to find his voice. “Wow, Alexis, you’re…you’re just…”

Alexis chuckled. “I think you might have to retire early from writing if you can’t even find a simple adjective.”

“No, it’s just…” Rick shook his head, and Alexis suddenly felt the tears well at the lifetime of love and laughter etched in his face. “Wow.”

She ducked her head to blink away those sentiments. “Dad, I’m not even properly in my dress, and my hair’s probably still a mess. Not ‘wow’ by far.”

Rick nodded to the stylist, who clipped Alexis’s hair and stepped back. Then he walked up to where Alexis sat, his fingers gently finding her chin. When he lifted her face, Alexis saw her own tears shining in his eyes. “Yes, ‘wow’. You are the wowest thing that’s ever happened to me, Alexis.”

And she was five years old again, sobbing into her father’s favourite sweater because of a nightmare. Except now, she was crying for the beautiful dreams he had given her, that he had help make reality, and he was crying, too, because she was his dream. They parted, and accepted tissues from Sarah. Alexis glanced nervously at the stylist, but the other woman simply shook her head and smiled.

Rick straightened, and Alexis saw his panic return. “Now that you mention it, your dress isn’t fully on! And your hair’s getting there, but you need makeup, and there’s only”—a quick glance at his watch, his pitch rising—”one more hour to the wedding and the string quartet, oh god, the string quartet’s now a string trio and—”

“Need some smelling salts, Castle?” Rick’s eyes snapped to Kate, though the detective’s voice was gently teasing. “Or maybe we can bring you a chair.”

Rick glared at Kate in response, his attempt half-hearted. But the tension was still there, in the misunderstandings, in the clenched fists, in the sudden heat of the room. Alexis cleared her throat.

“Dad, the string quartet’s lost a member and they can’t play the Sleeping Beauty waltz for the first dance anymore. It’s one of those pieces where they need all four people, and they just can’t do the Tchaikovsky without Samantha.” Rick inhaled, and Alexis held up a hand, not quite finished. “It’s okay, dad, I’ve been through this with Meg”—she nodded at the head violinist, who smiled grimly in return—”and they can make do with just the trio. They’ll still play everything for the ceremony and most of the music for the reception, so it’s just the first dance and we’ve already got an alternative.”

“iTunes! We can get the waltz there! Why didn’t I think of this before…” Rick was scrolling through his iPhone when Alexis took it away.

“No, dad, Greg and I want to have live music. The trio’ll play us something different.” She hesitated. “It’s just that the dance is a bit different and I’m not really sure about the steps.”

If anything, Rick looked even more uncertain. “Honey, are you sure you want to do this? The first dance is very important, and if you get the steps wrong…”

“Then we’ll just laugh it off. C’mon dad, it’s a really fun piece and I spoke to Greg—”

“What, you’ve seen him? That’s bad luck!”

“—I spoke to Greg over the phone and he agreed with me, so it’s a mutual decision. That’s why I asked Sarah to call you over, because you know this dance and I need you to teach it to me.”

“How do you know I know it?”

Alexis rolled her eyes. “Cause you’re my dad, and I just know.” She turned to the musicians. “Guys, if you could please show him a bit of the beginning?”

With a practiced nod, the music poured into the room, the notes rich and sensual, lingering in the air after the musicians finished playing the first few bars.

“The tango from Carmen.” There was wonder, and a tinge of regret, in his voice. “I do know it.”

“Great!” Alexis gestured for the hair stylist to continue. “I can’t move, but I can watch you demonstrate. Sarah, if you could help my dad…” She trailed off when she saw the makeup box. “Oh. You still need to do my face.”

Alexis felt the first sliver of panic.

“Maybe I can help?” Kate’s voice was small, almost shaky, but her gaze was determined. “I’ve done the tango before and…maybe I can help.”

Rick kept her attention on Alexis, and she was almost certain her father was trying to avoid Kate. “I’m not sure if this is the best idea… You can’t just watch someone perform the steps for you and expect to pull it off perfectly.”

“Uh, dad, dance lessons since I was five, remember? Besides, you can go slowly and talk me through it. I just need to see it a couple of times, and you two just have to duck into Greg’s suite and show it to him a few more times, then Greg and I will disappear for a bit after the ceremony, and everything’ll be fine.” She glanced apologetically at Kate. “Sorry for dragging you into this, Kate.”

The detective smiled. “It’s no problem at all. This is your day, and we’ll do anything to make sure things go the way you want.”

“All right then.” Her father swallowed, looking small and defeated in his tux with her tear stain. Then he closed his eyes, and Alexis saw the familiar magic play out before her, in the way his brow smoothed, his shoulders loosened, his mouth softened, into the dawn of a smile. Always the same look of contentment, of understanding, passed through his features when something simply clicked and the story came together; now, Alexis wondered whether the characters in his head were something more, someone more.

“All right, then,” he repeated, this time in his voice of molten gold, his eyes alight with his silent decision. He closed the distance that separated him from Kate, and drew a hand along her waist. “But the first time is a demonstration, not a lesson. On tempo, please.”

From where she sat, Alexis could hear the slide of his fingers over the silk of Kate’s dress, her quiet intake of breath, his murmur, “just relax and follow my lead,” barely audible. Then, silence, save the occasional pull of hair and the brush against her cheek, and then…

And then. The music began as it had before, with the chords in unison, perfectly in-tune, the violins fluttering with its light harmony and the cello promising something richer, deeper; but unlike before, the music wasn’t the end, but the means—the means upon which the two familiar figures glided across the floor, clothes kissing, breaths mingling, almost strangers to Alexis. Her father’s lips never strayed from the detective’s ear, nor his hands from the dip in the woman’s back that was no longer her back; they moved together, not always in time with the music but always with each other, perfect in their imperfections. Alexis had never seen two people so beautiful together.

And then, when the music swelled to its climax, Alexis saw what had always been there, hidden in plain sight: she saw the need, the desire, the silent ache and the parted hearts, the pull between them betraying their intimate secrets, the equally thick tension telling of the plans that burned to ashes. Alexis choked back a cry, tasting their bitterness and regret in her own mouth.

The music ended, and with it, the tango, the tangled lives, the echoes of all those other times. Rick dropped his arms, leaving them drooping, and stepped back. Kate seemed more lonely and alone than ever. Alexis looked for the appropriate words, the expected words.

“That was awesome.” Her voice was hollow, but somehow, she doubted they cared. “Could you guys show that to me again, please? More slowly, and with instructions, dad?”

They obliged, but it wasn’t the same. Rick explained, Kate demonstrated, but they were performing for her now, not each other. Alexis obediently nodded at all her cues, but she only heard the silent conversation they had held during their dance. She sighed in relief when, after a good fifteen minutes, they finally left her for Greg’s suit.

Alexis sat, watching the musicians leave with her father and his partner—she wondered, not for the first time, how much that term encompassed; only now, she knew the answer—and thought about her father and the sleepless nights that were from more than just writer’s block. Then she thought about her own sleepless nights, her own fears and demons permeating the walls of her room until daddy—yes, he would always be her daddy—banished them with his love. Even the evening before, her apprehension disappeared after he kissed her goodnight; Alexis would never admit it, but sleeping in her own bedroom had given her the strength and certainty to slip into her wedding dress this morning. And now, that knowledge gave her the wisdom and courage to do something even more important.

Her hair was done, and her makeup was complete. Alexis stood up, but before Sarah could lace her wedding corset, she asked to be excused. Somewhat confused, her maid of honour and hairdresser left the room. Next door, in the adjoining suite, Alexis could hear the final cadence for the music, then the shuffling of instruments and feet.

Alexis picked up her phone, her fingers drifting over the first two numbers of the keypad, the two most important people of her life on speed-dial. She smiled as her fingers drifted past the first number, and settled resolutely on the next, bringing the phone to her ear. Her heart lifted when she heard the voice of the man she loved.

But she knew—they both knew—that even if Greg was the one, her father, posing with a can of whipped cream over his mouth for his display picture, would always be Number One.

***


A quiet murmur trickled through the garden, the precise words lost in the spring breeze. Alexis kept her head high as she grabbed her father’s hand and walked him down the aisle, her azure reception gown brushing the grass. She reached the makeshift altar and turned towards her guests, her smile never faltering.

“Hi everyone, how are you all doing?”

The scattered “good”s were punctuated by the more enthusiastic responses from the handful of children.

“Firstly, Greg and I would like to thank you all for coming here today. We’re both grateful for your love and support.” She paused long enough for everyone to digest her words, but not long enough for them to question. “Secondly, and most importantly, I’d like to announce that there has been a slight misunderstanding about this occasion. The wedding today isn’t for Greg and me.”

The buzz started, but Alexis reclaimed attention with a hand.

“We are all here today to witness the joining of two people who are dearest to my heart.” She looked at Rick for the first time since she stepped out, and noted the confusion, the concern, the shock. Noted, and tucked away neatly to inspect another day. “I’m sure you all know my father, Richard Castle.”

The guests nodded, and several ladies straightened in their seats. Alexis took a moment to feel sorry for them, but it didn’t last long. She stepped to the front row where the guests of honour sat, and suppressed a laugh just in time when she saw the Martha’s blatant approval. Then, with a deep breath, Alexis held out her hand to the detective, the lady, the woman who in turn made her father laugh and look away with distant sadness, whose existence drove away all the other women in his life until he was utterly alone. But not for long.

“And the extraordinary Katherine Beckett, who’s like a mother to me.” The detective’s eyes were unreadable, but Alexis kept her hand extended, ignoring the mixed reactions around them. She had no doubt now what Kate wanted, but the final decision wasn’t up to her.

Alexis’s resolve began to fade when she felt her father’s presence, the reprimand clear in his voice. And with it, a trace of fear.

“Alexis Castle, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

She held onto his fear, because it had been so similar to her own, fears which he had easily vanquished with his understanding and belief in her. Now it was time for daughter to return the favour.

“I love you, daddy, and I will always love you, no matter whom you love.” Then, she repeated the words that had spurred her into action, that had haunted and comforted her for so long. “But I won’t forgive you if don’t tell that special someone how you feel, because it’s far better to live with my disappointment than to lose them and spend the rest of your life unable to forgive yourself.”

Rick stilled, his eyes bright. Then, slowly, hesitantly, he turned to his partner for so long, and said the one thing she had always wanted to hear. “Kate…”

She swallowed, and lifted her hand, just slightly.

It was enough for Alexis.

“And the extraordinary Katherine Beckett,” Alexis announced to their restless guests, “who will soon be a mother to me.”

Alexis withdrew her hand, and it was instantly replaced by Rick’s. Alexis stepped back and watched her father help Kate to her feet. Then, he gestured to Kate’s neck and asked in a voice so low almost indiscernible to even Alexis: “May I?”

Kate barely nodded, but Rick knew her well enough to understand her consent. He gently reached around to unclasp the necklace, dropping the ring into his palm.

“Here, I’ll take that,” Alexis gestured to the chain. She offered Rick a smile when he glared at her, though he gave her the jewelry.

“You, young lady, are going to be grounded until you’re forty.”

Alexis kept a straight face, though she was light with giddiness. “Yes, dad. And my allowance will be revoked for another thirty years.” Then, before she took her seat beside Greg in the front row, she added, “It’s a good thing Kate’ll keep you too busy to reinforce my punishment.”

Martha let loose a hearty laugh, and the atmosphere instantly relaxed. The whispers faded into silence as the bride and groom took their places. Alexis glanced at Greg, suddenly uncertain about her decision; his tender kiss atop her hair was answer enough. The minister began, the pedestrian words transformed by the warmth in her heart as she saw the joy radiating from Rick and Kate, Kate and Rick.

Tomorrow, the press would be all over them, branding Kate as the next victim in her father’s string of failed marriages. But Alexis knew better, and so would Martha, and Roy, and Kevin and Javier, all the people who mattered.

And, Alexis smiled as Greg took her hand, mirroring her father and Kate as their fingers entwined, so would the rest of their guests tonight, after they saw the first dance.
 
 
Current Music: Melissa Etheridge - The Universe Listened
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
Samantha: Castle - C/B lookmesmerising on September 14th, 2010 05:40 am (UTC)
Wahahaha yes, we are indeed epic win! :D And I hope you like what I did with the ending! :D ♥
(Deleted comment)
Samantha: Castle - C/B two heads are better thanmesmerising on September 15th, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC)
Yaaaaay!! And I uber adore the beginning--I was seriously laughing out loud when I read about the craziness. XD You write awesome comedy (which is one of my weak points), so we make an awesome team! :D ♥
Sabi: {Castle} Castle/Beckett - phone 'tick'love_kate_walsh on September 14th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
This? Most amazing thing I have read in quite a while. Really gorgeous work you two :)
Samantha: Castle - C/B lookmesmerising on September 15th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)
*uber huggles!* Thank you so much for your awesome comment!! ♥
Mierkemierke on September 30th, 2010 10:56 am (UTC)
I love this!!!! ♥♥