Summary: A touch was just the beginning
A/N: Takes off from 3XK. (Yeah, I know.) This story is fluff, angst, and romance rolled up into one neat package and although this chapter does not warrant an M rating, please note that subsequent chapters will – the story gets more, let's say, racy, so run away if you are underage or do not like sexy times! (C'mon, who doesn't like sexy times?)
(It starts off innocuously as these things do.)
When she had placed her hand on his leg that night, it was partly to let him know, "I'm here for you" and partly to reassure herself, "He's here with me".
Kate had driven him home. Had even gone up to his apartment with him because he had seemed a little lost. The keys hadn't even had time to turn in the lock when the door had flown open to reveal a very anxious Martha and an equally nerve-wracked Alexis. They had both engulfed Castle from both sides, Martha chattering about how worried she had been when she had heard him say, "I love you" to her on the phone. And then, to Kate's surprise, Alexis had rushed towards her and hugged her fiercely as well. "Thanks for saving my dad," she had said.
The next day, Kate doesn't call him when she gets a new case.
"Where's Castle?" Lanie asks when she arrives at the scene.
"I didn't call him." Lanie's eyebrows rise. "He had a rough night," Kate explains.
"I think he's going to be pissed when he finds out," chirrups Ryan from behind her.
"Shouldn't you be at home recovering or something?" A hint of sarcasm tints Kate's question.
"Definitely pissed." Esposito says, adding his unwanted two cents to the conversation.
Kate waves at the crime scene in front of them. "Can we concentrate on the murder, please?"
That night, by the time Kate deems herself too tired to analyse the evidence anymore, it is 9 o'clock. She stops to pick up some take-out on the way home and is too preoccupied with not spilling the two bags of Chinese food in her left hand as she wrangles her keys with her right to notice the figure sitting outside her doorway until she's practically on top of him.
"Castle!" He jumps up at the sound of her voice. "What are you doing here?"
"You had a case today."
"What? How – "
"You only leave the precinct this late when you have an unsolved case." He helps her with the bags of take-out so she can open the door. "And you've ordered an obscene amount of food for one person because you've forgotten to feed yourself today."
She rolls her eyes. "Very astute, Castle."
Kate locks the door behind her and takes off her jacket before joining Castle in her kitchen, where he has already started unpacking the food and rifling through her cupboards for a plate and cutlery.
"Thanks," she says, sitting down at the table. She starts picking at some noodles with her chopsticks. "Did you want some?"
He sits down beside her. "No, thanks. Alexis made chicken cacciatore tonight."
"Of course she did." Silence descends as she chews and his gaze varies from watching her chew to examining her new apartment. Castle is too quiet and that worries her. Finally, she asks because he doesn't tell her. "What're you doing here, Castle?"
He fidgets with the edge of one of the take-out bags. "Alexis disappeared on me once. Did I ever tell you that?"
Kate doesn't know where Castle is going with this story but she shakes her head, no, and lets him continue.
"She was little. Meredith had already left and I was dating Gina by then. The three of us had gone Christmas shopping on 5th Avenue, you know, where the big FAO Schwartz is. Alexis had been so excited and she had run off ahead of us into the store. Except when we went inside after her, she was nowhere to be found." He pauses as if trying to remember the details. "I had been frantic, running all over the place thinking she might have gone into another store. And Gina… Gina kept telling me not to worry, that we'd find her eventually."
"You did find her eventually." Kate has stopped eating.
Castle nods. "The cops found her next to a dressed up Santa Claus who was collecting money for the Salvation Army down the street. She was trying to tell him all the things she wanted to get for Christmas."
"Obviously, she was okay."
"But the thing that bothered me the most, even while I was frantic, was what people kept saying to me. That everything would be okay. That I shouldn't worry or over-think things and let my imagination run away with me. It's like they couldn't even begin to understand what I was feeling and what I was going through." Castle met her eyes then. "Gina, especially, because Alexis wasn't her daughter and she had never had kids of her own so she could never understand the fear of it all."
Kate places her hand on top of his, the second voluntary contact they've made in as many days. She knows why he's told her this story now and it kills her to think that Castle has joined a club that Kate had never wanted him to be a part of. Because Castle is not a cop. He shouldn't have to know what it feels like to have a killer get away with murder. He shouldn't have to feel responsible for any of the future murders that the Triple Killer is likely to commit.
Castle grips her hand. The same grip she had felt by the pool yesterday night. "I tried to tell her. Gina. She was mad at me today because I seemed different." Castle's voice takes on a bitter tone that Kate has rarely heard him use. He's usually so chipper and optimistic. It normally makes her want to club him over the head with cruel reality and now she thinks how she could have possibly wanted that for him. "She doesn't know the feeling," he says, an echo of her words from before.
Her chair scrapes as she pulls it closer to him. He turns to the side to face her. "I'm sorry, Castle."
"For what? You didn't do anything. In fact, you came to my rescue. Again." And both of their lips turn up into faint smiles at that.
Kate leans forward in her chair, her elbows resting on her knees. She looks down at their hands – somehow finding that they've been clasped together. "I'm sorry that you have to go through this. You're not even a cop."
"But, I follow one around for a living." Kate hears that classic Castle charm edging back into his voice.
She doesn't bother to counter him or take his obvious bait to change the topic. Instead she says seriously, "You can talk to me, you know. Anytime. I understand what you're going through."
She releases her hold on his hand and sits back up to resume eating. When he finally leaves, hours later, he kisses her on the cheek and she lets him. She thinks it's an apology for barging in on her evening and he thinks it's a thank you for listening. It seems innocent enough to both of them and they don't think about it until two days later when they realise that that had just been the beginning.
A/N: The story is not really this dark but I just wanted to set up where their relationship is coming from. Also, I wrote that scene of Alexis getting lost before the show had Castle tell a similar story a couple of episodes ago… am I psychic or what?
Anyway, please review and tell me what you think! Should I bother to continue? Is there interest?