There is a photo that accompanies this fic, although it isn't required to understand the story. It can be found at castleincalifornia dot tumblr dot com slash post slash 138498395769, or, simply click on the cover image above.
"Oh. My. God. Seriously Castle. Enough!"
"C'mon, Kate! Just one more, with a smile. Pleeeeease? Then I'll stop. I promise! And I'll make you coffee…and waffles!"
She hears the shutter of the camera app from behind her hands as he takes a picture, then another, and another, of what she can only imagine is her covered face. As much as she wants to hold out, to torment him and resist his childish whine, her growling stomach and desperate need for caffeine might take precedence. Not to mention, she's already well aware that the path of least resistance is probably the better option here. If there's one thing she's learned in the four years that she's known Richard Castle, it's that the man does not give up easily. Being in a relationship with him has only cemented the fact that he's as stubborn as a mule.
Although to be fair, she's not exactly a pushover either.
But somehow, this thing just works for them. Today marks exactly one month to the day since she showed up at his door, soaked and sorry and ready, and so far, it's been…well, if she's being completely truthful, it's been amazing. They've proven to be a remarkably compatible couple, both in the bedroom and out of it as well. It's been easy and fun, yes, but it's been so much more than that. He's made her feel cherished and important and perfect. She feels loved, wholly and completely, and for the first time in her life, that idea doesn't have her plotting her escape.
She's not above admitting that she worried about what would happen when he put his mother and daughter on a plane to Europe two weeks ago, after which it would just be her and him and the remainder her suspension stretching out before them. Would they drive each other crazy after spending too much time together? Step on the other's toes? Invade their personal space? Grow weary of the other's constant presence?
As it turned out, the answer to all of those questions was a resounding no. Castle turned out to have hidden depths she wasn't yet aware of, his intuitions guiding him almost flawlessly, allowing him to anticipate her needs and desires sometimes before she's even conscious of them. Years of shadowing her has given him an uncanny ability to read her silent cues, her inflections and body language with stunning accuracy. He just knows the right time to leave her alone with her book and coffee, or when to make her laugh, or when she really just needs to be stripped bare and pinned to his sheets.
But now? Now he's been snapping pictures of her with his phone since she clawed her way into wakefulness and she is done. She's sporting zero makeup and a raging case of bed head, not to mention she's naked and her stomach is growling with an angry intensity now. All she wants is that coffee he promised and a hot shower, and maybe another hour or two of sleep, since he kept her up until the wee hours, until she was moaning his name and begging him to do all manner of filthy things to her (not that she's complaining about that last part).
"Castle!" It comes out sounding more like a growl, and the next thing she knows the sound of the shutter ceases, and he falls quiet. She risks a peek between two fingers to investigate his unnatural silence and ohhhhh he looks like a reprimanded child, his head lowered and his brow furrowed and his lips pressed into a tight line. She'll gladly go back to being annoyed if it means that beautiful, beaming smile will return to his face. After all of the heartache they've endured to get here, she wants to be the cause of his joy, not to rob him of it.
Pulling her hands away from her face altogether, she reaches to wrap her fingers around his wrists where his arms hang slack at his sides now. She wasn't really that upset, but she made him think she was, and she curses herself for lashing out. It's a reminder to her that as good as they are together, they're still learning how to do this, still learning each other.
He looks up at her with pleading little boy eyes, guileless and so blue reflecting the morning sunlight, the ones that silently scream please don't hate me. And of course she doesn't; quite the opposite in fact, because this is what they do, what they've always done. They poke and prod and needle, tease and play, forcing each other of their comfort zones. But they're still in that fragile, nascent phase of being more than partners, of feeling the other out as not just a friend but a lover, too. He meant no harm, was just having a little fun with her, and now he's worried that he pushed too far, and she wants nothing more than to put his mind at ease about it, but he speaks before she can get a word out.
"Shall I go make that coffee now?" His smile is painfully forced, and it makes her heart ache to think that he believes he's ruined their morning. That won't do at all.
He begins to pull away from where he's kneeling beside her, but she's not having any of it, tugging back so hard on his wrists that he topples over and just manages to brace himself on his elbows before falling on top of her.
"Whoa! Kate! Careful, I don't want to crush you."
"Castle, if I haven't already made it abundantly clear, I like having you on top of me." Her smile is soft, her bottom lip trapped between her teeth as she laces her arms around his neck. She has to squirm a little to free one leg from the sheets, so she can draw her toe up the back of his calf and twine her leg around his thigh, essentially trapping his body against hers. Whatever she has to do to get this morning back on track.
"You do, huh?" He beams at her, genuine and easy this time, and she revels in the fact that she can turn his mood around with a few simple words and a smile and the press of her skin to his.
"Uh huh," she murmurs, drawing him close for a sweet, lingering kiss, her fingers running through the soft strands of his own bed-mussed hair. He finally lowers the welcome weight of his body onto her, the residual tension in his body dispelled with the slow smudging of their lips and the subtle rocking of her hips into his own.
When he finally manages to pull his mouth away, it's only far enough to tilt his forehead into her own, their noses bumping and brushing like Eskimos.
"I'm sorry, Kate."
She uses the fingers still firmly embedded in his hair to leverage his face far enough away to see him clearly. "Don't apologize. I was being grumpy and overreacted."
"I shouldn't have been so obnoxious before you'd barely had a chance to wake up."
"I should have just let you take my picture."
He smiles at that, gently trailing one finger down the side of her face and tucking a wild curl behind her ear. His touch never fails to draw a reaction from her body, the crackle of electricity always arcing between them.
"Kate, you know you're always beautiful to me, right? Whether or not you're wearing makeup, whether or not your hair is styled, whether you're wearing a knock-out dress or just your birthday suit."
She blurts out a very uncharacteristic giggle at that, but doesn't even consider feeling self-conscious about it. His whole-hearted acceptance of her, good and bad, serious and ridiculous, grants her the freedom to not second-guess herself for once. It's liberating, intoxicating. It's only been a month and already she's addicted to how safe and loved he makes her feel.
He cradles her jaw in one wide, warm palm, his thumb skating over her upturned lips. "This. Just your smile. That's all I need. You're never not gorgeous, Kate, but when you smile, you own me. Completely."
Oh this man… He wears his heart on his sleeve for her so readily, and her heart beats out a staccato rhythm within her chest at his willingness to bare his soul to her. He gives her the words she needs without complaint, without hesitation, without fear of rejection; he knows no other way, and there's nothing she wants more than to give that back to him. He deserves it.
"You're gorgeous, too, Castle." He snorts and bows his head, and she knows an attempt at self-deprecation when she sees it. No woman has ever loved this beautiful man the way he deserves to be loved, and he's not used to his affection being returned so completely and unconditionally.
Well, enough of that.
She tilts his chin upward, denying his attempt to escape her knowing gaze. "Hey, I mean it. I'm not as good with words as you are, but you're just as stunning to me."
His response is the adorable, crooked grin he wears when he's pleased and proud, and she's thankful to be the one who gets to put it on his face.
"Now, why don't you take that picture."
He sits up on his knees again as she strikes a pose for him, her arms thrown over her head and her smile seductive. He holds up his phone and the shutter sounds once before he's throwing it to the side, lost in the jumble of bedding.
She pulls him down on top of her again, relishing the weight of him between her thighs and kissing him soundly. The fire that's becoming all too familiar to her when they're together like this ignites embers in her belly, heats her blood.
They're both a little breathless when he pulls away, his lips feather-light against hers, teasing her mercilessly as he whispers, "Shall I go make you that coffee now?"
Suddenly, the caffeine fix that seemed so essential to her just minutes ago is lost in a haze of more pleasurable pursuits. She manages to rid herself of the sheet separating their bodies, going to work to tug his boxers off next, her heart racing and her skin buzzing with the promise of their shared bliss.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read. I hope you enjoyed the story, and if you feel so inclined, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.
Thank you to the people who have cheered me on as I struggled with some difficult personal issues and a case of brutal writer's block over the last several months, and a special shout-out to Alex and Maribea for their unwavering support and editing skills.