A/N: This was supposed to be for Jill's birthday but it is very late, and not a season 1 fic like she asked. Sorry Jill. Let's just call it a thank you for being a wonderful person and friend, love you lots. I hope you enjoy this piece of fluff. :)
He doesn't know what he'd hoped to find when he came down to Rockefeller Center, but his favorite detective was definitely not it.
It's a cold but clear day, perfect for ice skating. He and Alexis were planning to go together, but she had cancelled on him last minute, her friends taking priority over her dad today. He definitely wasn't upset about it. Not at all. Okay, maybe a little, but she's growing up and he wants her to enjoy life as much as she can. He decided he would go anyway - he wanted to get out of the house, and figured he could people watch, maybe get some inspiration. Plus ice skating always made him feel freer, brighter.
But now, as he stands on the edge of the rink, his skates done up tight, he could not be happier with his decision as he watches a bundled up Kate Beckett glide around the rink.
She's dazzling, looks like a winter wonderland in a red coat, white scarf, and the most adorable grey beanie. Her hair peeks through, the tips now long enough to brush her shoulders. And- oh, my God, she's got neon skates on. Green neon skates. He has to cover his mouth with his hand to contain his joy, because this is so unlike her. And he loves it. He can't help but watch her, drink in this glimpse of her outside of the precinct - something that he is so rarely allowed to see.
It's only been a couple of weeks since she stayed at his house after her apartment blew up. He had offered for her to stay longer, but disappointment had seeped inside him when she declined, his yearning to keep her close and safe filling him every time he sees her. He relished the two nights she did stay though, soaking up every ounce of domestic Beckett as he could. Seeing her in her pajamas, having her cook breakfast, it was almost more than he could take, his heart having palpitations at every new piece of the Beckett puzzle.
He likes her, he knows he does, but he wants more with her. Be with Kate is now taking up the number one position of his bucket list, because if her almost dying had a bright side, it's that he knows what he wants, what he dreams of when no one can see. It's almost stupid how his heart is racing right now just from watching her, how it does the same thing every time he sees her. It brightens his day. He can picture them together, honestly believes he could bring something to her life that she's missing. She wants him around - at the precinct at least - she told him exactly that, but she's skittish. He still feels like he has to tiptoe around her. So non-date 'dates' and late nights at the precinct will have to do, for now.
His eyes follow her around the rink, and as he does he realizes that glide may not have been the right word choice to describe what she's doing. Shuffle? Stumble? She's not that bad, but she is staying awfully close to the bar on the side and has her hands held out to balance herself. She's getting there, managing to pick up the technique for moments at a time, until she slips or loses her balance, and regresses back to tiny steps and a furrowed brow.
He wonders why she's here alone. She shows no embarrassment for her technique - more so determination - and doesn't spare a glance to anyone watching. His heart can't help but skip a little, the presumption of no boyfriend nagging at the hope permanently etched in his brain.
She's coming around towards the entrance, completing another loop, so he decides to make his presence known.
"Beckett!" he shouts, definitely too abruptly because she flicks her head towards the sound, and her feet slip, slide, and she gasps as she falls, her ass hitting the ice with a thud.
He skates over, almost falls down himself in his rush, and glides to her reaching out his hand to help her up. She doesn't take it though, using her own strength to help herself back up, a scowl written across her features.
"I'm so sorry, Beckett, are you ok?" he rushes out, his hands clenching, itching to help, to comfort.
She purses her lips, brushes her hands on her coat, smearing the melted ice over her pockets, and then turns her eyes to him. Oh, that's a look.
"What are you doing here, Castle?" she huffs, folding her arms, and as much as he doesn't want her angry with him, it's kinda hot.
"I- uh- I'm going ice skating, what do you think?" he defends.
"And you thought it was a good idea to shout at me while I'm skating on very slippery ice?"
"Uh… yes?" He winces. "I really am sorry though."
He tries to project his sincerity, blinking down at her without so much as a hint of a smile, and she rolls her eyes, softening a little.
"It's ok. I'm fine," she concedes, and he smiles; an apology and thank you all wrapped up in one.
"Why are you here anyway?" he questions, and embarrassment flickers across her face. He wishes it wouldn't.
"I… haven't been here in a while. But I like it. It's- peaceful, calming," she murmurs, her gloved hands now fiddling with each other as she avoids eye contact.
"I'm here for the exact same reasons," he reassures, his lips turning up again.
"Yeah, you're so calming," she scoffs.
"Hey, I didn't know you'd be here."
"Yeah, well," she starts to argue, then pauses, shakes her head. "Let's just skate, Castle."
She glides off before he even has a chance to realize she's gone, but her fast take off has her skates stuttering to correct her balance and he moves quickly to catch up to her. She's not going fast so he has no trouble matching her, his practiced movements looking effortless next to hers.
Being better at skating than her should definitely not make him as happy as it does.
He comes around to her side, skates close but hopefully not too off putting. She squints her eyes at him - so cute - but focuses on her movements, her arms still extending occasionally to steady herself. She's a never ending surprise, her unsteadiness on the ice opposing the pedestal he's placed her on in which she excels at everything. But he's absorbing this knowledge, so enamoured by every part of her. He wants to know everything she's bad at, everything she's good at.
He wants it all.
They skate in silence, the air between them delicate and peaceful despite the busy atmosphere of Rockefeller Center. A smile is plastered on his face - so far she hasn't told him to leave, doesn't seem against him staying with her. If it was actually planned and not a total coincidence that they are both here, this could almost be a date. And oh, doesn't that thought make his blood thrum.
They skate over an especially icy patch, worn down from too much use, and she stumbles a little, so he reaches out, but her fingers flick up, telling him to stop before he can touch her. She gains her balance back, a tiny smile of triumph graces her face, and his brain clicks; she doesn't want any help, wants to improve by herself. Not surprising. He likes her a little more because of it.
"So, can you do any tricks?" he asks once she's gotten her rhythm back, though he second guesses his question the moment it comes out. He probably knows the answer.
"Castle, I can barely stop by myself, what do you think?" she scowls.
"You're not that bad."
"Yeah, well, I'm not that good either," she replies, her voice heavy with discontent.
"It's ok, you'll get better with practice." He stops, thinks. "Hey I could teach you!"
"Yeah, I taught Alexis, I'm great at it!"
"Yeah, okay, Castle," she scoffs.
He skates ahead of her, and then reverses directions to start skating backwards. She looks a little impressed, and a little annoyed at that, and his chest expands, his smile creeping up into his cheeks.
"Here, show me how you stop."
"Uh, I usually just skate towards the wall and grab onto it."
"Here, take my hands."
"What?" she repeats.
He holds his gloved hands out, raising his eyebrows, almost daring her to touch him.
She looks at his hands and back up to his face, skeptical, but reaches out and grasps onto them, tightly. His pulse picks up, glad there's two layers of fabric blocking the pounding emanating from his fingertips and creeping up to his throat. His large hands encase hers, and he has to fight the urge to rub his thumb over the back of her hand. Yeah. This was a great idea.
He starts explaining the technique of stopping, and she listens intently, nods as he goes. He probably explains a little too in depth. Pure joy floods his system from getting to touch her, hold her so he prolongs their hand holding to savor his chance. The way her fingers squeeze his, the way her eyes focus as he talks, the way she genuinely wants to learn, makes his heart clench. They would look like a couple to onlookers, and his brain flicks to a future where this is an actual date, and they are holding hands because they want to. His pulse thrums, pounds in his head, and he has to snap his brain back to the present before he loses total concentration.
"Okay, now you try," he says.
She glances up at him, bites her lip. She's nervous. He has to stop himself from smiling at her.
"I'll hold you the first time, so you can get used it."
"Okay," she breathes out, and a sharp nod of her head follows as she draws in confidence.
Her teeth sink into her lip, brows furrowing as she prepares herself. She looks up, searching his eyes, and he nods back, squeezes her hand as they slowly glide in a straight line so she can get ready to stop.
She moves her feet, repeating the process he showed her, and they slow down to an easy stop. She's gripping him hard though, not wanting to fall, and despite it making his hands a little numb he can't help but clutch her hard back, grounding her and making her feel safe. A smile spreads wide on her face once they've come to a halt, and his blood sings. It makes him want to wrap his arms around her and never let go.
He mirrors her smile, can't stop the stretch of his lips, her happiness making his bloom a thousand times more. She laughs, loud and bright, excited and a little embarrassed at herself. He squeezes her hands as the sound of her laugh does the same to his heart. He wants to hear it every day. He's doomed.
She shakes her head, her hair falling forward as she looks down, but when she lifts back up her eyes search his, tinged with gratitude and a look of contentment that she so rarely offers.
"Again?" he asks, every part of him tingling from this moment, a look and a smile from her staggering him like a punch in the heart.
She nods and they start back up, him still skating backwards and her still gripping his hands tight, but her shoulders have less tension now, more relaxed than before.
"Try on your own this time?" he questions, and her face morphs, worry and concentration lacing her features again, focusing hard on what her feet are doing.
"You'll be ok, I won't let you fall," he assures, serious and sincere, and she raises her head, brushes her thumbs over his hand - a thank you - and then lets go, confirming that she's ready to try.
He misses her warmth immediately, still reeling from the caress, wants the heat of her as close as possible. They cover more distance, a slow glide across the ice as he studies every inch of her.
"Stop now, Beckett," he says, when they get around two-thirds of the way down the rink. He stays close, watches her as she psychs herself up.
She performs the movement as before, accurate if a little hesitant, but she runs over some patchy ice and her skate skids. She overcompensates with the other foot, leaning too far forward as her right foot slips out from underneath her, and he rushes forward as she falls.
She makes a squeaking sound as she slides, but he's there, catching her before she can hit the ice, heart thudding from the panic he felt for her in that moment. His arms grip her waist, steadying her as she calms herself, her breath heavy and her eyes swimming with embarrassment. His face is close to hers, the tinge of pink dusting her cheeks and the way her eyelashes flutter more evident than before and his heart twitches, so many things he wants to say all crammed in his throat. Her arms have grabbed on to his forearms, and she looks up in shock. God, she's so beautiful. His blood is warm, tingling, a contrast to the cold rink and he moves his thumbs ever so slightly over the fabric of her coat. They stand there, her breath dusting across his neck, eliciting shivers and setting his body ablaze. He doesn't know what to say, except can we be this close all the time?
"You okay?" comes out instead, and she finally meets his eyes.
She coughs, nods and pulls back, but not completely out of his grip, and his lips twitch, delighted. Her hands hold tight on his arms and he wants to say never let go.
She sucks her lips into her mouth before speaking. "I- uh…yeah. Let's keep trying."
"Yeah. Okay," he stumbles, his voice hoarse.
"And, uh- thank you, for catching me," she murmurs, her lips turning up as she breaks away, and he lets his hands drop, aching for the lost contact already, his heart bound to her, a rope that squeezes too tight if she leaves.
He turns, pulling her back to him as he loops his arm through hers, elbows kissing - an anchor as they begin to glide around the rink for a few more minutes. She's not protesting, her arm wrapping tight around his, his body ignited by the warmth radiating from where they are joined. Joy ripples through him, endless waves of happiness just from having Kate Beckett next to him, linked together.
"So… nice skates," he says, a touch of teasing lacing his voice.
"Shut up," she mumbles. "These skates are awesome."
"Hey, no, I like them. They're cute." They really are, but the fact that she's defending them is even cuter.
She pinches his arm.
"They are! It's a different side of you, Beckett. I am thoroughly enjoying it." He grins, looks down at her, encouraging a further explanation.
"I- uh- got them not long after my mom died. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Trying to bring some brightness back into my life, I guess."
He wants to hug her. Wants to press his lips to her forehead and run his hands down her back. Anytime she mentions her mom he wants to hold her and tell her everything is going to be alright.
"Did it work?" he asks, squeezing her arm a little tighter.
"For a moment. Helps more now than back then, I think." She sighs. "Can we just rest against the wall for a moment? My ankles are getting sore."
The topic change is not lost on him, but he won't push. He guides them over to an unoccupied space against the edge of the rink, grasping on to the bar to pull them in, smooth and effortless. She lets go of his arm, using the edge to hold her up instead of him, and his heart sinks yet again as they lose contact.
They stand with their backs against the wall, shoulders brushing. It's tentative, delicate, the tension between them building. It feels like more, like something's changed. His heart is assaulting his rib cage, the proximity of her, the touch of her arm making his skin prickle and his hand itch to wrap around hers.
He can't stop his head from twisting to look at her. She's watching the other skaters as they glide past but her lips lift into a knowing smile as he stares, and she lists her body into his - a gentle nudge to tell him to stop staring.
As he turns his head away he sees a talented skater performing tricks in the middle of the rink, fast pirouettes and graceful arabesques, impressing him so much that he points her out to Beckett. His body buzzes as her eyes light up and her mouth opens in awe. She looks up at him to share her smile. He wants to kiss her.
Content in watching the skaters together, they lean in silence, peaceful as they gaze over the rink. They move on from the skater doing tricks, Beckett pointing at a little girl, around four years old, struggling to stay on her feet as her mom leads her around the rink. The girl reminds him of Alexis, when he first brought her here, and he laughs as she falls over yet again, Beckett echoing his amusement beside him.
"At least you're not the worst skater in the room," he teases, receiving an elbow to his ribs and a roll of her eyes that does nothing to dampen the elation swirling through his system.
"I'm having fun, Beckett, I'm… glad you were here," he mumbles, stupidly nervous. They've been enjoying themselves, she's been enjoying herself, he can see it, but expressing their feelings is not their strong suit.
She smiles, bites her lip as if to try and contain the stretch of her lips.
"Me too," she whispers, and he strains to hear her response over the din of the rink, and might have missed it entirely if he hadn't been staring at her glossy lips, his mouth going dry as the urge to kiss her overwhelmed him.
He takes a risk and wraps his fingers around hers, tethers himself to her and already feels safer, stable, now that he's touching her. He feels her body stiffen, darts his eyes to the side to see her smile faltering, her panic mode activated, and no, he's not letting her run.
"We should do this more often. Hang out, outside of the precinct I mean. Go see a movie, or dinner... or something." Now he's the one panicking, stomach flipping as he makes his offer.
"Those sound a lot like dates, Castle," she replies, eyes glued to the floor.
"Well, would that be so bad?" he asks, his voice wavering, laced with hope. He's pushing, he knows it, but the need to be something, to have something with her pounds in his heart, the drumming vibrating through his body and charging his determination.
She tries to pull her hand away but he grasps it tight. I'm not letting you go, Beckett.
"Castle," she says, hesitant and shaky, but not overly protesting. Her head falls onto his shoulder and hope manifests in his gut, climbing up and consuming his heart. "What if it doesn't work," she whispers, and he presses their palms together tighter, closes his eyes as his breath catches in his throat. She didn't say no.
"But what if it does?"
He turns, faces her, dislodging her head from it's perch on his shoulder. Her eyes don't meet his, her face is covered in uncertainty, hesitance, and his fingers itch to wipe it away. He brings his free hand up to her waist, holding her there, feels her torso quiver at his touch as his does the same.
"Kate," he says, and her eyes, golden and shimmering, flick up to his at the use of her first name. His stomach lurches and he takes a deep breath.
"I think… I think you're remarkable, and strong, and beautiful, and I really, really like you. I think... we could be great." He exhales, searches her eyes, the beating of his heart travelling up his throat, into his head and he sways with it, trying to project his sincerity.
The press of her lips to his is so unexpected it takes him a second to realize that's what is happening, until his whole body is on fire, cracking and splintering. He pushes back, causing them to slip on their skates a little, and she gasps and releases their mouths. He untangles their hands, grabs the bar to steady them and fuses their lips back together. His other arm wraps around her, and he presses his palm into her lower back forcing their bodies to touch. His body melts at every brush of their lips, their torsos. It's soft, delicate, her lips so smooth and warm, and he thinks he could live like this forever. Her hands wrap around his waist, holding on tight like she's afraid of slipping again, and if it's possible he falls for her even more. She pulls back, her lips flushed and eyes wide, and he holds her tight to keep her close. Their breaths mingle, adding to the heat coursing through his body. He looks down at her, so beautiful and and wondrous, and holy crap they just kissed.
She smiles, a gorgeous thing that blossoms across her face and projects her happiness across the rink. He caused that. His own smile spreads wide, joy springing through his body and lighting up his heart. He reaches up, dusts his fingers along her hair, brushes them over her ear, along her jaw. She cants into his touch and his stomach clenches, the yearning he has for her bubbling in his throat.
"Let's go on a date, Castle," she beams, her grin splitting wider and her eyes sparkling, making him think of sunshine, and God, he needs to kiss her again.
"We're already on one, Beckett," he teases, eyebrows raising as he skims down her neck, to rest on her shoulder.
"Then you should probably kiss me again," she says, arms squeezing his waist tighter, and he doesn't even hesitate to lean in.
A/N: Huge thank you to Lou for betaing and letting me use her words in a couple of places, I owe you so much. And thank you to Emily for making me sound American :)
I also apologise for any ice skating inaccuracies as I have only been twice :)