I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
These Three Things
i. a rainy day
He thinks he would be perfectly content to never leave his bed again.
There are conditions, of course. Someone would have to bring food, and they'd need to figure out the bathroom situation. And Kate. Kate would have to stay, or the whole endeavour would be pointless.
He's wearing a fresh pair of boxers from the drawer. Beside him in bed, Kate Beckett is wearing his shirt. She's propped up against the headboard, he on his stomach. Her fingers trace aimless patterns across the smooth plane between the twin peaks of his shoulder blades.
"Feels good," he hums.
Kate's suspension might be the best thing that has ever happened to him. He rolls over and heaves himself up in the bed until they're side by side, arms brushing. Turning her head, Kate dusts a soft kiss to the bare skin of his shoulder.
"What do you want to do today?"
"You?" he offers. It makes her snort on a laugh and he leans in. When he kisses her, she tastes sweet with mirth and he slicks his tongue inside the wet heat of her mouth. Slender fingers slide into his hair, her nails lightly scratching over his scalp. It makes him shiver and he has to break away from her.
Drawing her legs up, Kate rests her cheek to the crest of her knee. It makes her face all scrunchy and he chuckles, earns himself the narrowing of her eyes. "I want to go outside with you."
"Why?" he huffs. "Our relationship is still a secret. In here, I don't have to hide how much I want you."
"Yes, but Castle. The sun on our skin. The park. I want to feel the grass. I want to sit on a bench with you and eat ice cream and talk about nothing."
For a long moment, all he can do is stare. She's gorgeous, this woman in his bed and in his heart. He doesn't understand how it happened, who he owes up there. Castle hauls her against his chest and kisses her again. She's grinning into it, her fingers petting his cheeks as if to soothe.
"Okay," he breathes into her mouth. "Okay. Let's go out."
He allows himself to be chased out of bed. They share a shower. Kate is an eel in his grip, slippery and twisting as he tries to grab her. He's still continually astonished by how incredibly naked she is. He waited so long, spent so many nights trying to picture it, and now here she is like an apparition.
Getting dressed takes a long time. He's not exactly eager for Kate to be putting clothes on, and he does everything he can to distract her. She's wearing jeans and a white t-shirt, Chucks on her feet. It's so casual, so entirely not Beckett. She fits neatly underneath his chin in her flat shoes and he keeps her there, breathing in the apple scent of her damp hair.
Right as he's fastening his own shoes, the heavens open.
It's been a tumultuous summer. Storms have plagued the city for weeks. Castle moves for the floor to ceiling window in his office. A hand to the glass, he watches the bloom of haematoma across the sky. Lightning strikes its electric jolt into the heart of Manhattan and then the world seems to shiver as thunder booms.
"I'm sorry," he says when a cool palm comes to rest at his back. Kate lifts on tiptoe to see over his shoulder and her whole body aligns with his.
"Our plans are ruined." He turns to face her. Whenever she lets her hair air dry it spills in riotous curls over her cheeks, and he tucks it back for her. "We got dressed for nothing."
One eyebrow arches at him and Kate presses her lips together. Silently, she takes his hand and leads him to the coat closet beside the front door. She passes him his rain jacket and he puts it on obediently. Kate's own waterproof is in there as well and she shrugs her way into it. It's a deep redcurrant that's striking against her pale skin and dark hair.
"Kate," he says slowly. "It's storming. We can't go outside."
She lays her palms at his chest and slides them all the way up until her fingertips meet at the nape of his neck. Her kiss is peppered with amusement. She makes him chase her, makes him work for it. When they break apart she rubs her thumb at his bottom lip.
"I'm not letting a little rain spoil our day. Do you know how many lightning rods there are in this city? We'll be perfectly safe."
He groans about it, but he lets her slide her hand into his and lead him out of his own apartment. When they make it outside they're both drenched in seconds, and he wonders why they even bothered with their waterproofs. He prepares himself for Kate to take her hand back and put that careful distance between them. Instead, she threads her fingers through his and starts them walking.
The streets are empty. It's the middle of the day, so most people are at work. Those who have nowhere to be have ducked into cafes and stores to shelter from the storm. It makes her brave. He watches as she comes to a decision, and then she stops walking.
She stands in front of him and winds her arms around his neck, drawing him down to her kiss. Her skin is cool from the rain, but her mouth is hot and he breathes raggedly through his nose. Rainwater pours into the gap between his coat and his neck, running in rivulets down his spine, but Kate's body is pressed to his. The curves of her breasts crush against his chest and he slides his hands inside her jacket to flirt with the curves of her waist.
"I love rain," she says when they break apart. It makes him laugh and she giggles in echo, shoving her wet hair out of her face with both hands. "I'm not letting it ruin the day."
It makes his heart contract fiercely inside his chest and then expand again. He almost goes to the ground, has to clutch at her to stay standing. How much he loves her thunders down and pools on the sidewalk, makes his whole body erupt in gooseflesh, and he kisses her again.
ii. lost luggage
"This is a nightmare." Castle pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.
All he wanted was a weekend break with his girlfriend, so that they could get out of the city for a while. She starts back at work next week, so he wanted some uninterrupted time just the two of them before they have to dive back in to the grind of cases and coffee and snatched moments of intimacy.
He suggested Boston. They've both been before, but not together. He wants to walk down by the harbour with her, hand in hand and stealing kisses. Kate thought they should drive, but he didn't want to lose time out of their weekend trapped in the car, so they flew instead.
And now their bags are gone, they've got nothing but the clothes on their backs, and he wishes he'd just given in and made the drive. They weren't even supposed to check their luggage at all, but the flight was busy and they'd been allowed to board first if they checked their bags.
A representative for the airline is doing his best to appease the crowd. He asks everyone to write down their details and promises that their luggage will be sent on to them when it gets here. There's nothing more they can do, so Castle waits his turn in line and writes down the address for their hotel.
Once he's done, Kate slides her hand into his and leads him away from the gaggle of irritated passengers. She's smirking, and she squeezes his fingers in hers. "Come on, Castle. Let's go find a cab."
He's quiet for the ride to their hotel. Kate shrugged him off when he tried to get her to sit in the middle seat, so there's more space between them than he would have liked. Her sunglasses obscure most of her face and her head is turned away as she gazes out of the window.
The moment they make it through the door of their suite Kate fists her hands in his shirt and drags him against her. He follows the ripping line of her body, nudging her up against the door and kissing the creamy skin of her neck.
"Castle," she breathes into his mouth. "We've only got these clothes."
It sends a wash of irritation through him again and he scowls. She laughs and kisses the creases off his face, works her way down from his forehead and along the slope of his nose until her lips meet his. Her tongue strokes inside, confident and seeking, and he gives in.
"My point." He doesn't understand how she can be so coherent while her hips are rocking without rhythm against his thigh. He lifts his knee just a little more and she shivers, letting her head drop back against the door. "We have to keep them clean."
"Yeah." He bites the edge of her jaw and she growls, hips snapping upwards to crash into his.
"So." Her eyes are dark on his, her lips kiss-smudged. "We should probably wear them as little as possible."
He wants to laugh, but her confident fingers are already unbuttoning his shirt. One hand continues her work and the other drifts down to palm him through his jeans, and he forgets everything that isn't the warm touch of her skin to his.
They make it out of the room eventually. Kate's stomach rumbles and he feels it echo in the cavern of his own abdomen. She's draped over him, bare and sated, but she lifts her head to grin. The shower in their bathroom is massive and he draws her in with him. She keeps her hair mostly out of the spray, but a few curling tendrils cling to the skin of her neck like fissures in marble.
Kate regards herself in the mirror once she's back in her travel clothes. He winds his arms around her from behind and kisses the smooth spot behind her ear.
"I bought a new dress," she sighs. "I wanted to wear it to dinner. Drive you a little crazy."
"You don't need a dress for that," he laughs. Kate turns her head and steals a kiss from him, careful to keep it light.
They spill out of the hotel and into the dusk of Boston at the tail end of summer. It's warm out, making him feel good and a little lazy. Kate sticks close, their palms kissing and her fingers wrapped around his. He can smell the fresh salt of the harbour and they walk along beside it for a while.
After dinner he wants to take her back to the room and peel her clothes off again. His body aches with need, but she only grins and drags him along by the grip of their hands. She finds a store still open, selling souvenirs. Everything is kitschy and plastered with the name of the city.
"We need clothes." Kate pulls down a few shirts and heads for the curtained-off area at the back to try them on. She chooses a baby pink long sleeved tee, the front of it emblazoned with Boston and a four leaf clover.
It makes him laugh out loud and he kisses her right there in the store, tastes the wine they had with dinner still lingering on her tongue. He picks out a shirt for himself that says got lobster? on the front, underneath a cartoon drawing of one.
"Now we've got something to wear tomorrow," she tells him once she's paid for both shirts.
Castle makes a grumpy noise and takes the bag from her, fills her hand with his own instead. The sun has sunk into the belly of the earth now and the lights of the city blink slowly on. Everything feels softer than New York, cleaner. It's still warm out and they walk back to the hotel, pausing now and then to take everything in.
Being with Kate humbles him, makes him want to go to his knees in gratitude. The night is clear, the sky over their heads like a great swathe of velvet pricked with holes to let the light of the universe spill through.
"Worse things to lose than luggage, Castle," she tells him.
He's got the bag with their tourist shirts in one hand, Kate is holding his other. He loves her so fiercely that for a moment he flounders, feels alone in the universe with the depth of his emotion. And then she kisses him.
iii. tangled Christmas tree lights
"I can't believe you roped me into this," she says from the floor.
He's in the kitchen fixing them both hot chocolate. There's a dash of peppermint syrup in each of the mugs, marshmallows piled on top, and he hopes it will help erase that squiggle of irritation from between her eyebrows.
It's the time of year. He knows that. January is difficult for her. He actually wanted to avoid her being here when his decorations came down. Before Christmas, she told him that the last time she put away decorations it was like Christmas was being put away forever. The thought of putting her through that made him sick to his stomach.
He did try. He asked Alexis and his mother to take Kate out for the day, but she kept making excuses not to join them. Since she showed up at his door on Christmas Eve, she's just. . .stayed. He keeps bracing himself to say goodbye, but she hasn't made a move to leave in over a week.
This morning he gave up and got the boxes out of storage. Kate had laughed and teased him about trying to protect her, and then she'd gotten stuck in to packing everything away for another year. Everything's been fine up until now, but she's grumbling to herself and scowling as she battles with the last of the decorations.
"You don't have to help me," he offers. Castle sets their mugs down on the long table behind the couch and comes to join his partner on the floor.
She's got a wad of lights from the tree in both hands. Her nose wrinkles and she sighs, dropping the whole garbled mess onto the floor. "Well what am I gonna do? Just watch?"
"Sure. I don't mind if you help or not. I just like having your company."
Lately, while he writes, she's taken to curling up on the couch in his office and reading or working on cold cases or sometimes even napping. He loves that closeness, loves glancing up from his screen with Nikki flirting at the corners of his vision and seeing Kate.
"You're sweet." She knee-walks across the hardwood and captures his face in her palms, holding him in place so she can lean in and steal a kiss. "I don't mind helping out."
Kate picks up the lights again and carries on with her work. The entire string is in one knotted clump. She tries to trace the length of the wire, careful to separate the tiny bulbs, but she keeps coming up against snags.
"Want me to take a crack at it?" he offers.
"I can do it, Castle. Stop hovering." Her tongue is barbed and he recoils, showing her his palms.
When she lifts her face to meet his eyes hers are glassy and fathoms deep. Horror washes through him and he reaches for her, curls a hand around her shoulder because he doesn't know what else to do. He half expects her to shrug him off and retreat, to their room or even her own apartment.
Instead, she climbs into his lap. Kate hides her face against his neck and he wraps his arms tight around her, does his best not to rock her like an infant.
"I'm sorry, Rick," she whispers. "I want to be okay. I want it to not hurt. It shouldn't even be a thing anymore."
"It's okay for it to hurt." He kisses the crown of her head. When he swipes the pad of his thumb over her cheek it comes away dry and relief makes him suddenly exhausted. He shuffles until he's leaning against the couch, Kate still in his arms.
For a moment she stays curled up small, and then she slides out of his lap to sit beside him. Their arms brush, and she slides her hand into his. "I had a really good Christmas with you."
"I did too. But you don't have to pretend, Kate. Not in front of me. It's okay that you're hurting."
She nods, her teeth cutting into her bottom lip. For a moment he wonders if she really will cry. Instead she steels herself and reaches for the lights again.
"We don't have to do that now. It can wait."
"No. I can't just come for the fun parts and then hide when things get tough. I don't want to. I'm. . .I'm in this."
She turns her head and kisses the underside of his jaw. Her lips linger for a moment. He hasn't shaved the past couple of days and the very tip of her tongue darts out to touch his prickling regrowth. It makes his hips jerk and she laughs, promises him later.
They're on the floor surrounded by the ghosts of her hurt, and she's still able to laugh. Her bravery and her strength make his heart a trembling thing in his throat. He dips his chin just enough to steal a kiss from her mouth, the backs of his fingers brushing over her cheek, and he can't not tell her.
"Kate. I love you."
A/N: Five years ago, I posted my first story to this site. I had no idea what an extraordinary impact this community would have on my life over the next five years. I've made some incredible friendships through writing, friends that I will always hold dear. It's my honour and my joy to watch every one of you blossom. Thank you to all of you that have been so kind and supportive of my writing. You have made this experience one I will always treasure.