"Don't eat all the lo mein," Kate said, trying to grab the carton away from Rick.
"I'm not," he protested, holding it out of her reach. "I just need a little more. You could have ordered your own, you know."
"You said you'd share."
"I am sharing." He shoveled some more noodles onto his plate and handed the carton over. "You're just insatiable."
"True," she agreed with a sly smirk, making him groan and shift in his seat. If they could just get through this meal...
After calling in the takeout order, they had fallen onto her couch and spent the next few minutes making out. It was a good thing the delivery boy had been quick, or they might not have been in any condition to answer his knock.
"So," Kate said, as she was piling her plate with food, "you really couldn't handle one more day of peace and quiet, huh? Was it that bad?"
"No, well, I mean, the cabin is great," he said quickly. "Really great. I was thinking I'd love to bring Alexis there sometime. But trying to write up there, all by myself, wasn't so successful."
"It looked to me like you were doing plenty of writing."
"Well, yeah, sure. Because you were there."
Her head came up sharply, startled. "What?"
"Kate..." He chewed and swallowed a mouthful, buying time to prepare himself for his confession. "I went up to that cabin hoping to find inspiration."
"For a new character, to start a new series after Derrick Storm," she supplied.
"Right. And I found that inspiration. Or, I should say, it found me. You found me."
"Me?" She scowled a little, her eyes guarded, wary. "I'm not an inspiration for anything."
"Oh, but you are. Listen," he sighed, "it was a big mistake on my part, thinking I could find a new character by isolating myself from people. I should have known better - that's not how it works."
"How does it work?" she asked uneasily.
"Characters are people," he explained, warming to the subject. "You have to know people to create characters. Like I told you - everyone has a story, and the more people's stories you hear, the easier it is to create new ones." He paused, trying to choose his words carefully. "And sometimes, a really special character can only be sparked by meeting a really special person."
"That's crazy," Kate said, her voice low and trembling. "I'm nothing special."
"Of course you are," he said simply. "You're extraordinary."
She stared at him, her expression unreadable.
"So you're trying to tell me," she said slowly, after a long uncomfortable moment, "that your new character is based on me? And this is what you were writing while we were - while I was there?"
"Only part of the time," he said defensively. "I also worked on the next Storm book. I'm under contract for that one, so I gotta get it done."
"Hmm," she said, and ate a few more bites, frowning, letting him stew. He had no idea what she was thinking, and the urge to fidget was unbearable. He felt sweat forming on his brow and thought dizzily that she was going to be the most intimidating, most effective detective the NYPD had ever seen.
At last her expression cleared, her shoulders eased downward, and she took a slow sip of her water. "So ... you didn't get any writing done after I left, then?" she asked skeptically.
"Yes, I did!" he protested, sitting up straighter. "But ... well, not very much, really."
"Uh-huh," she said, rolling her eyes. "So with no one around to police you, you just waste the whole day playing solitaire and surfing the web, right?"
"It's like you know me," he gushed, and she burst out laughing. He couldn't help smiling himself - he just loved that sound. Besides, somehow it seemed to release the tension, and suddenly things felt easy between them again.
"Tell me about your day," he requested, and Kate shrugged, ducking her head.
"Just another typical day," she said, but this time he didn't have to prod her. She told him all about it, pausing only to take a few bites of her food each time he cut in with a question or comment.
"What else? There must be more," he urged when she wound down, and she rolled her eyes in exasperation.
"There's no more," she declared firmly. "That must be enough already. Surely your curiosity is," and she quirked an eyebrow suggestively, "satisfied."
Rick grinned appreciatively. "Oh, I think we're going to have to work a little harder to achieve complete ... satisfaction."
"Harder, you say?" she shot back, and bit her lip, making him groan again.
"Harder is not gonna be a problem," he growled.
Kate's eyes were dark and smoky. "Are you done eating yet?"
Now it was his turn to smirk, waggling his eyebrows; and her turn to groan.
"The food, Rick. I meant the food."
"What food?" he gasped, suddenly desperate, as he felt her toes sliding up his leg inside his pants. "Oh god, Kate."
"Come on," and she was already up out of her chair, reaching for him. He surged upward, claiming her mouth again with a deep growl of pleasure.
Their lips had barely come together before she was shoving him up against the wall once again, her mouth sealed to his, her hands eagerly pushing his jacket off. His own hands were no less busy, boldly sliding up under her shirt, discovering to his delight that she wasn't wearing a bra. She moaned into his mouth and lifted one long leg around his hip, her fingers working frantically at his belt.
They managed to make it to the bed for round two, though.
Later, as they were lying sweaty and satisfied in Kate's bed, she said quietly, "Rick, don't take this the wrong way..."
"What?" he asked, turning his head to look at her. She bit her lip and didn't meet his eyes.
"Um, you can't stay." Seeing his eyes widen, she quickly added, "Not that I wouldn't - I mean - it's just that I have to be up really early for the start of my shift."
"You have to work tomorrow?" he said, disappointed. "But it's Saturday."
"Well, police work knows no weekends."
Suddenly solemn, she lifted herself up and away from him, pulling the sheet up to cover her breasts. She sat leaning against the headboard, staring away at the opposite wall. Rick sensed that she was working her way up to something, so he sat up too, but held his tongue, waiting.
"I," she began at last. "Um ... I called my dad."
"You did?" he breathed, amazed. The woman was so much stronger than he could ever hope to write her.
"Yeah..." She dipped her chin, still not looking at him. "So we, um, we're going to meet for coffee tomorrow, in the middle of my shift. At my lunch break."
"Wow, Kate." Rick reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. "Wow, that's ... a big step. That's great."
"Is it?" She turned her face to him now, her eyes clouded with uncertainty. "What if ... what if it's not great? I mean, what if he's..." She clearly didn't know how to finish the sentence, but it wasn't necessary. Rick understood all the many possible endings.
"It'll be better to know than to wonder," he said, softly, but with confidence.
Kate nodded slowly. "That's what I've been telling myself."
Rick scooted closer to her on the bed and put his arm around her. "You're so strong, Kate," he murmured into her ear. "I know you don't believe it, but to me it's obvious. You're incredible. Extraordinary."
"Stop it," she choked out, and he saw to his horror that there were tears running down her cheeks.
"Stop," she said again, turning her face against his chest, hiding behind her hair. Her tears dampened his bare skin. He wrapped both arms around her and held her while she cried.
"I'm sorry," he whispered inanely. "I'm sorry."
After a long while, she calmed down. The tears stopped flowing and she pulled away from him, embarrassed.
"I got you all wet," she muttered guiltily.
"It's okay. I don't mind."
She lifted her head and looked at him again. Her eyes were swollen and reddened, her face damp, hair a messy tangle. She was beautiful.
"You're definitely not what I expected," she said, with a watery chuckle. He laughed softly, relieved.
"That feeling is mutual, Officer."
She made a face and said, "I'm sorry that I ... reacted badly when you asked for my phone number."
"Oh," he said, surprised. "That's okay. I kind of sprang that on you out of the blue."
"Yeah. Well." She turned her face away again, blushing. "Like I said, not what I expected."
He frowned slightly, wondering why she seemed so embarrassed. But suddenly he remembered that conversation in the cabin hallway, and the penny dropped.
"Oh, I get it," he said, smirking. "You only slept with me because you thought you'd never see me again after you left the cabin."
"Shut up," she groaned, burying her face in her hands.
"Hey, it's okay. Lots of women would love to go to bed with me and then never speak to me again." He paused. "Well, wait, that doesn't sound very flattering when I put it that way."
"No, it doesn't," she agreed, her voice muffled behind her hands.
"Seriously, Kate, it's really okay." He leaned over and tugged at her wrist, pulling her hand away from her face. "I'm not offended. I get it, okay? We both had some unplanned learning experiences up there at the cabin."
She lifted her head reluctantly and looked at him. Her cheeks were still a little pink, but she seemed relieved. "Really? You're not mad?"
"How could I be mad?" he grinned. "I knocked on your door unexpectedly, and you let me in. All the way in," he added, with an eyebrow waggle.
She couldn't help laughing at that one, and rolling her eyes. She shook her head ruefully at him and got up out of the bed, snagging his shirt from the floor to cover herself. "I'll be right back."
While Kate was in the bathroom, Rick lay back down on her bed and stared at the ceiling, thinking about serendipity. He believed in fate - yes, as illogical as it was, he did - and so it was no stretch for him to believe that the thunderstorm, which had broken at just the right moment to trap him and Kate together, was a sign from the universe. It may have been foolish of him to think that he would find inspiration in a secluded cabin in the woods, but the hand of fate had intervened to make it happen anyway.
Dreams do come true, he thought, and grinned at how ridiculously sappy it sounded inside his head. Just then Kate came back into the bedroom, looking much more composed and back to herself again.
"What's so funny?" she asked.
"Nothing." He shook his head. "Just wondering how I got so lucky."
"Oh, really?" She prowled across the room and crawled onto the bed, looming over him. She had only buttoned one of the buttons on his shirt, leaving the fabric to gape open suggestively as she hovered above him. "I bet I can make you feel even luckier."
"I'll take that bet," he murmured, flicking the button out of its hole and watching the shirt fall open around him.
Rick didn't want to leave, but Kate had said that he must, and he knew it made sense. She should be rested for her shift at work tomorrow, and her coffee date with Jim.
So at last he reluctantly dragged himself out of her bed and put his clothes back on, watching with regret as Kate did the same.
"So," he said, as she trailed behind him through her apartment toward the door, "tomorrow you're working, and then on Sunday Alexis comes back, but ... I can see you again on Monday. Right?" His heart was in his throat all of a sudden. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he couldn't quite bring himself to believe that Kate was going to say yes.
And she didn't. "Maybe," she said instead. "I don't have my work schedule for next week yet."
"Oh. Okay." At the door, he pushed his feet into his loafers and put on his jacket, then turned to look at her again. "But if not Monday, then soon?" he asked, almost pleading. "I'll call you? Take you out for a real date? The kind where we actually leave your apartment."
She blushed and smiled softly, nodding. "Yeah. That sounds nice."
"Okay." His heart was singing, leaping, pounding in his chest. "Great."
He leaned down to brush his lips across hers, reaching reluctantly for the doorknob. "Goodnight, Kate."
"'Night," she said, but the corners of her mouth had turned downward, and her eyes were distant. He paused, looking at her with concern.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah," she sighed unconvincingly. "Fine."
"You're not fine." He took his hand off the doorknob and touched her shoulder lightly. "Is it - are you worried about tomorrow? Seeing your dad?"
She lifted her eyes to him, frustrated, and he knew he had guessed right. "I don't want to think about it. I don't want to spend all night obsessing."
"Oh." He leaned in again and kissed her, softly, and then again, more firmly. "Can I help?" he rumbled against her mouth.
He was pleased to see her lips turn slowly upward again.
"I suppose you could distract me one more time," she said, her eyes sparking with mischief. "Since you are the master of distraction, after all."
"I would be delighted to assist," he breathed, and dropped his jacket on the floor as she pulled him back to her bedroom again.
(SEVEN MONTHS LATER)
"You're sure there aren't gonna be any bears, right?" Alexis asked for the dozenth time as Rick steered the Mercedes along the bumpy road leading to the Beckett cabin. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and the car's windows were open, letting in the fresh spring air.
"There aren't gonna be bears. Don't worry," said Kate from the passenger seat, twisting around to give the little redhead a reassuring smile. "But if we did see one, you and I could definitely outrun it while it was distracted by your dad trying to poke it."
"Hey," Rick protested, but he was grinning, and the giggles coming from the back seat were irresistible.
"So you've never seen a bear up here, ever?" Alexis persisted.
"Never," Kate said firmly. "This one time, when I was about your age, my dad came up here while I was in school to fix the roof. He fell off the ladder and gave himself a black eye and busted lip, but when he came back home, he told me that a bear had attacked him."
"Really?" Alexis gasped.
"Yeah. And I almost believed him, too. Until he added the part where Wonder Woman flew down in her invisible jet and saved him."
"Oh. Yeah, that was a step too far," Alexis tsk'd, shaking her head. "Dads are so silly."
"That's true," Rick agreed, sneaking a concerned glance sideways at Kate, but she just smiled at him.
"It sure is."
Alexis's eyes were bright and curious. "When am I gonna meet your dad, Kate?"
"Alexis-" Rick began, but Kate overrode him, slipping her hand onto his arm in reassurance.
"Soon, I hope," she said lightly. "When he's done with his treatment."
"Oh. You mean when he gets out of rehab?"
Kate huffed in surprise, lifting her eyebrows questioningly at Rick. He shrugged ruefully as he made the turn into the driveway.
"Hollywood mom," he explained.
"Oh, right." Kate nodded, pursing her lips, then turned back to Alexis again. "Yeah, after he gets out of rehab, I'm sure he's gonna love to meet you."
"Okay. And after we see your cabin, you're gonna come to our Hamptons house, right?" Alexis turned a stern eye on her father in the rear-view mirror. "Daddy, you did invite her out there for Memorial Day, right?"
"Of course I did, pumpkin. We can all go out there together for the holiday weekend. That's the plan, as long as Kate doesn't get tired of me in the next few weeks."
"Probably won't happen," Kate murmured, smirking. But her hand slipped over to squeeze his knee, reassuring him.
"Okay," Alexis chirped, bouncing out of the car as soon as it came to a stop. "Oh wow! This is so cool. Look at the grass, it's so pretty! Daddy, I gotta put my bathing suit on."
"Okay, okay," Rick laughed, and popped the trunk. Alexis grabbed her bag and dashed into the cabin.
Rick came around the side of the car toward Kate, pursing his lips, hoping that Alexis's innocent questions hadn't upset her.
It had been a long road for Kate over the past few months, since she began the process of reconnecting with her father and rebuilding their relationship. It didn't help that both Becketts were hot-tempered, quick to go on the defensive, and reluctant to talk about their feelings. But they were both working on it.
Jim's decision to enter a residential rehab center for his alcoholism had surprised Kate, but in a good way. Rick knew that she was trying very hard not to get her hopes up, not to have unrealistically high expectations for what things would be like between them when Jim finished the program.
For his part, Rick had mostly tried to stay out of the way, except for offering Kate his support when she seemed to need it. But at the same time, their relationship had been progressing, and he couldn't stop feeling like the luckiest man on Earth. Not only was he dating this incredible woman, but he had a front-row seat to the process of turning a rookie cop into a seasoned investigator. Almost every day she had a new story to tell him, which was fodder for his writing and also for his ever-growing sense of respect for Kate. She was the strongest person he knew. He'd been excited to introduce her to Alexis, and even more so when the two of them hit it off. He couldn't possibly think of a better role model for his little girl.
So now he could only hope that Alexis hadn't soured things for Kate just as their weekend retreat to the place where they'd met was getting started.
"Hey," he said, slipping his arm around Kate's waist as she got out of the car. "You okay?"
"Yeah." She looked up at him with a little smile. "Fine." Looping her arms around his neck, she added, "She asks almost as many questions as you."
"That's true," he admitted, grinning. Kate stretched up to brush her lips across his.
"But it's okay. It's not upsetting me, see? I'm fine."
He studied her face for a long moment. Her eyes were clear, her expression calm.
"Okay. As long as you're sure."
"I am," she said firmly.
"Good." He leaned down and kissed her more thoroughly, her lips parting willingly under his.
"Eww, you guys, cut it out!"
They broke apart, chuckling. "Sorry," Kate called, grinning, as Alexis bounded down the stairs, her bathing suit already on.
"You can do that later, after I'm asleep," she scolded. "Come on!" She grabbed Kate's hand, pulling her toward the lake. "Show me the boat we can use to escape from the zombies. Daddy told me all about it."
"Oh, he did, huh?" Kate threw a glance at Rick over her shoulder as she followed the eager redhead. "What else did he tell you about this place?"
Rick smiled to himself as he kicked off his shoes and followed them across the grass. Unloading the rest of their bags from the car could wait.
"Just that he met you here, and you made s'mores," Alexis's voice floated back. "And you didn't beat him up, even though you totally could have because you're a badass cop."
Kate laughed, the carefree sound making Rick's heart swell with pleasure. "Maybe I should have."
"You still could!" Alexis said, and without further ado she let go of Kate's hand and raced down the dock and jumped. She hit the water with an enormous splash and surfaced almost immediately, shrieking with delight.
"This is awesome. Daddy, come on!"
"Coming, pumpkin," he called, snaking an arm around Kate's waist and pulling her against him again. "Hey," he said softly, "thanks for coming up here with us."
"No, thank you," Kate replied, turning her head so that her hair shielded her face, the way she did when she was embarrassed by her own emotions. "Somehow you just knew that I needed to get away from the city."
"Just to keep your mind off of things," he shrugged. "Relax a bit." Jim's treatment program had only begun a week ago, and Rick knew that Kate was trying not to let it occupy too much of her mind.
She nodded. "It's good to be here again. And I'm looking forward to showing Alexis around, making some new memories of this place."
"And later, making some new memories of your parents' bed, right?" he murmured into her ear. She blushed and huffed, smacking him lightly on the chest.
"You're so strong, Kate," he said, turning serious again. "You spend all your time being strong, but now we're up here, so you can let it go for a little while."
"You always know what to say," she murmured, and then ducked her head, embarrassed again. He bent down to kiss her cheek, and she turned back, capturing his lips with hers.
"Daaaaaddeeeee! The zombies are gonna get me!"
"How soon can we put her to bed?" Rick mumbled against Kate's mouth. She laughed and pushed him away.
"Come on, Rick. Your daughter's waiting."
He watched in astonishment as Kate stripped off her t-shirt and then her jeans, revealing a skimpy red bikini that hugged her like a second skin, accentuating her curves perfectly.
"You - you've been wearing that this whole time?" he choked, unable to tear his eyes off of her. She was stunning. She was incredible. She was laughing at him.
"Last one in's a rotten egg!" she announced, and took off toward the dock.
By the time he gathered his wits and got himself stripped down to his boxers, his girlfriend and daughter were splashing around in the water together, shrieking with laughter as they fought off imaginary zombies. He plunged in without hesitation and joined the fray.
"This place is awesome," Alexis exclaimed breathlessly, when the game finally wound down and they dragged themselves out of the lake. "You're so lucky, Kate."
"Yeah," Kate agreed, casting a soft smile sideways at Rick. "I really am."
"We all are," he replied, smiling back. "Now, who wants a s'morelet for lunch?"
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story.
Thanks again to Lindsey for betaing, and to rtds9fan on tumblr for the prompt that inspired this piece.
By the way, the bit about Jim falling off the roof and making up a story about a bear attack was taken from my real life, except it was my brother, a bunk bed, and He-Man. ;)