A/N: Inspired by a prompt from the castlefanficprompts page that will be posted at the end of this story to avoid spoiling the path it will take. I will be updating every day until we reach the Christmas holiday and I'd like to think of this as my gift to you for all of the gracious support that has been shown to me throughout this year. Hope you enjoy.
"Benny, heel," he huffs, following after the dog who completely ignores his command and plows forward down the sidewalk, hopefully towards the coffee shop he's trying to make it to in one piece.
He likes Benny the black Labrador, he loves his daughter and mother for picking the dog out for his most recent birthday, but they're both still new at this - Benny's still a pup fresh out of training and Castle's still used to relying on his cane for getting around, not another living thing. Especially not a living thing with a short attention span and apparent control issues.
The GPS specially enabled on his phone beeps and he tightens his grip on the dog's leash, bringing him to an easy halt. Castle takes a breath of relief and reaches for the handle of the coffee shop's door, allowing the dog to step inside ahead of him.
He comes here often, maybe once or twice a week if he has the time, and they all know him, all know why he sometimes struggles to enter the establishment or accidentally bumps into another patron if he isn't careful. He's barely gotten through the door when a familiar hand touches his shoulder.
"Hey there, Mr. Castle. Your usual window seat?" Marianne, a girl Alexis's age and also his favorite of the servers, asks and he nods.
"Of course, you know I love the view," he jokes, listening to Marianne greet Benny with soft words and the stroke of her hand along his back before she leads them towards the corner of the shop.
But after only a handful of cautious steps, before they can maneuver their way to the booth, Benny guides him straight into another person.
"Hey, watch where you're going," the woman snaps, her hands braced at his chest, ready to push him away, but he grips her elbows.
"I'm sorry, it was an accident, I promise. My dog is still a puppy and he still has the tendency to get distracted."
There's a pause and he can hear the woman's soft intake of breath as realization sets in.
"Shit, you're - I'm sorry."
He chuckles and let's her go, making sure they both have their footing before he takes a step back. "It's fine. Easy mistake."
"Maybe, but that was just - it was rude. Let me buy you a coffee to make up for it," he listens to her decide, her tone of voice leaving no room for argument, so he shrugs, points towards the memorized direction of his usual spot.
"If you insist."
Her hand cups his elbow, long slender fingers curling around the bone, and it remains there until they're sitting safely at the booth with Benny beneath the table.
"By the way, I'm Kate."
Her hand leaves his elbow to take one of his own when he holds it out to her.
"Lovely to meet you, Kate. I'm Rick."
Kate chuckles as she shakes his hand and he smiles, finding pleasure in the soft sound of her laughter.
"I know who you are, Mr. Castle."
His heart sinks a little at that. If she knows who he is, she knows about the accident, about his reputation beforehand, and he feels his chances - not that he had many to begin with - to be anything more than the blind guy she's buying a pity drink for rapidly diminishing.
"Ah," he murmurs, releasing her hand and dropping his to the table. "Should have figured that."
"Thought you'd appreciate the recognition," she quips, bumping him with her shoulder, eliciting a grin from his lips.
Normally, other people tend to behave cautiously when around him, afraid to touch or jostle him, as if his entire body is something fragile. So far, this woman Benny drove him into has treated him like a normal human being.
He already likes her.
"Not so much anymore," he confesses on a shrug, turning his head towards the sound of Marianne's approaching footsteps.
Kate insists he orders first and he decides to try one of the holiday flavors the shop always whips up for this time of year. Kate orders a latte, skinny with two pumps of sugar free vanilla, and he finds himself memorizing the beverage preference. Just in case he's ever lucky enough to run into her here again after today.
"I miss your writing," she says once Marianne has disappeared from their table, her voice laced with shyness, and he glances in her direction, wondering if the surprise he feels has slipped onto his face.
"You read my work?"
"Derrick Storm was... your books were kind of important to me, yeah," she admits, the movement of her arm beside him causing him to believe she's brushing a strand of hair behind her ear, as if she's nervous telling him this.
"Sorry I killed him," Rick winces, listening to her laugh, finding he loves that sound the more he hears it. "I was - it hadn't necessarily been the plan, but after... after I lost my sight, I lost my inspiration as well."
"Understandable," she hums, a change of tune from the usual sigh of disappointment he tends to receive for that answer. "Working on anything new?"
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were a reporter trying to finagle answers out of me," he teases, but she huffs, something like amusement slipping past her lips, and a second later she's taking his hand, placing something leather, like a belt clip, in his palm.
Castle swipes his thumb over the item, feels the cool metal beneath his fingertip.
"Is this a badge?" he murmurs, concentrating on the shape of numbers he's tracing over, the letters and the design in the middle.
"Detective's badge," she affirms and his eyebrows shoot upwards.
"Detective?" She hums in assent while he returns the badge to her. "What division?"
"Homicide," she sighs, a whisper of sadness to her voice that he immediately wants to understand. "Still afraid I'm a reporter?"
Castle smirks. "Oh no, Detective. But you can interrogate me anytime."
Kate scoffs and he listens as Benny's nails click on the wooden floor, quietly moving beneath the table, closer to the woman at his side.
He fears they're both already quite smitten with her.
"I usually have a cane," he explains, circling the mug of his peppermint latte with his thumb. "It's way more cooperative."
"Don't hurt his feelings," Kate teases, rubbing between the dog's ears while he stares up at her with his big brown eyes. She's been sitting with Rick and Benny for the last hour, long after she finished her coffee, and she's in no hurry to leave. It's her day off after all and this is the nicest one she's had in a while. "So why are you using him then?"
Richard Castle shrugs. "Alexis picked him out for my birthday earlier this year. He's a good dog, but like I said when he threw us together earlier, still a bit of a puppy."
Kate smiles softly at Benny, the dog's head on her knees. She hadn't recognized her favorite author at first, not until after she had insulted him, but after talking with him for an hour about the dog, his daughter, and even a bit about herself, she thinks she's made up for her momentary blunder.
"He seems to like you."
"You can tell?"
She likes his smile, it makes his blue eyes shine, and she bites her lip.
She doesn't have the room to like him.
"I bet his head is in your lap. He does the same thing with Alexis. Am I right?"
Kate glances between him and the dog, trying to conceal her smile even though Rick can't see it - he still seems to know, to sense, when she smiles - and shrugs even though he can't see that either.
He laughs, soft and deep, the warmth in his voice rich and enticing, and she wouldn't normally rush into things with a guy, wouldn't normally be so forward, and she shouldn't, but there's something about Rick that pulls her in. There's something about him that makes her want to talk with him for hours despite the fact that they've only just met. It scares her, it excites her, and it's restricting her from saying goodbye.
"What are you doing for the rest of the day?"
His eyebrows quirk and he orientates himself towards her in the booth they're taking up very little space in.
"Why, Detective Beckett, are you asking me to spend the rest of the day with you?"
"Don't be presumptuous, it's unattractive," she mumbles, glad she doesn't have to hide the blush of her cheeks. "I just thought I would be a better guide than Benny here."
"Ah, well, can't argue that logic," he grins, accepting the hand she offers.
Kate pays for their drinks and holds to his arm while she leads him towards the door, keeping her grip light but assuring as she walks with him and the dog out into the December chill.
"What do you look like?" he asks, trying to shift his focus from the pleasant warmth of her fingers curled around the crook of his elbow. He's never liked anyone to guide him, only ever allowing Alexis and his mother the opportunity in the early days when he could hardly take a step forward without stumbling, but he doesn't mind Kate leading him, not if it gives her the excuse to touch him.
"Does that matter to you?" Kate counters, an edge to her voice, but mostly just curiosity.
They're in a park, he thinks. He can hear the pounding sneakers from joggers on the nearby trail, hears the bustle of families with young children, the overly familiar sound of a dog barking in the nearby distance.
Castle shrugs. "No, I just want to know if you're anything close to what I'm picturing in my head."
"What are you picturing in your head?" she murmurs, countering again, but he doesn't mind. He just hopes he isn't too off the mark with his mental image of her, because judging solely from her voice and the sweet scent of cherries she carries with her, he's built her up into something along the lines of a modern day goddess in his mind.
"Mm, more of a hazel," she replies, tugging him closer as he feels a group of pedestrians pass them by. "My mom always said they were a mixture between green and brown, with little gold specks. Made me sound like I had some rare jewel tone decorating my eyeballs."
Castle chuckles, silently rejoicing when she doesn't attempt to regain that inch of space she eradicated between them.
"You're tall," he continues, feeling a little more confident after his short string of correct guesses. "I don't need to see to know that. And from what you've told me about your job, I assume you're in good shape. Athletic, probably super hot."
"Castle," she huffs, nudging his shoulder with her own.
"Ooh, I'm right, aren't I? I just met a badass detective who looks like a supermodel, didn't I?"
"Shut up," she mutters and he laughs, managing a small pump of his fist that has her joining in.
Benny tugs against the restraint of his harness, a little excited from the increasing sounds of amusement, and Castle tightens his hand around the leash to keep the dog at a steady pace.
"Maybe you could lead me around the city more often," Castle muses, smothering the hope from seeping into his voice. If Kate is as beautiful as he's imagined, she probably has options - better options - than an unsuccessful blind author, and ever since the accident, ever since his loss of sight, he's grown accustomed to rejection.
But instead of the gentle letdown he's expecting, the fingers around his arm slide down, trailing along the inside of his arm until her palm slips into his. Their fingers fit effortlessly, the leather glove stretched across her palm kissing his, and she secures her grip with a soft squeeze.
"I'd like that."
Kate walks him up to his loft an hour later, presses a smile to his cheek after she enters her number into his phone, and just before he can go inside and she can disappear down the hall, he holds her close by the hand for just a moment.
"Thank you," he murmurs, giving her fingers a gentle squeeze. "Today was a lot of fun for me."
He swears he can feel her smiling. He so badly wishes he could see it.
"For me too," she answers. "You and Benny are great company."
"I hope next time you can settle for just me," he teases and she laughs quietly in response, shifting in front of him.
"Next time, huh?"
He pauses, his face falling in hesitation. Maybe she hadn't meant what she'd said earlier, maybe she was just being nice to him, showing him sympathy just like everyone else.
"Well - I just assumed because of - when you said-"
"Shh, Castle," she chuckles, touching her lips to his cheek for a second time, allowing him to feel her smile. "As soon as I get a day off, okay?"
They've only spent the last four hours together and he doesn't want to cross any lines, especially when Kate seems a bit guarded from what he's gathered, but he wraps an arm around her waist, loose and brief, allowing her the option to escape. Instead, she returns the one armed embrace and he allows his eyes to flutter closed for a moment.
For the past five years, he hasn't had a reason to be excited for much. Learning to read and write in Braille turned his original career into something intimidating, his lack of direction had made going outside on his own into a field trip, and for a while, he hadn't wanted to do anything more than lie in bed and imagine how the world used to look through eyes that could see.
And he shouldn't invest so much hope in her, not so soon, but Kate Beckett has given him something to look forward to.
Kate steps away and he lets her, making sure to have a friendly smile ready for her, and she curls her fingers around his bicep in one final squeeze.
"I'll call you," she murmurs.
"Looking forward to it," he responds, a smirk on his lips while he retrieves his keys from his coat pocket.
"Castle," she huffs in reprimand, her voice already disappearing down the hall.
"Night, Kate," he chuckles, offering a wave in the general direction of the elevator.
"Until tomorrow," he catches, the words soft and hopeful as they reach his ears.
He's almost afraid of how hopeful she makes him.