A/N: You guys, I am completely blown away by the amazing feedback. You all seriously rock. I am so sorry this took so long. It has been a crazy couple of weeks and I was super busy. I hope you like this one. And that you don't mind the amount of fluff. What can I say, I was in a fluffy writing mood and this is what came out of it.
Disclaimer: I think we have already established that Castle is not mine.
Into the Night
They stay silent as Kate drives them to The Old Haunt, each lost in their own thoughts. After the boys left, they stayed another twenty minutes in the break room talking quietly with a few comfortable periods of silence, in which they just reveled in each other's presence. Although they moved to the couch so Kate could eat her bear claw and sip her coffee while they shyly tried to do some catching up on the past week, their physical contact never severed, even if it was just their arms touching slightly.
Now she has just parked her Crown Vic in front of The Old Haunt and they are almost at the door when he stops her with a hand on her arm. She looks at him questioningly.
"Just realized I never said thank you for calling last night." He says quietly and shrugs, trying to pass off as a casual comment.
"Castle, you don't have to thank me. I kind of felt guilty for calling you so late. Almost talked myself out of it." She tells him and his hand trails down her arm and grabs her hand.
"Well, I'm glad you called." He gives her hand a comforting squeeze and she smiles, squeezing his hand back. "I'd missed your voice." He confesses, tangling their fingers together for a moment.
"Just my voice?" she teases and he chuckles.
"Do you really have to ask?" he asks and she rolls her eyes with a smile.
"Come on, they're probably wondering where we are."
She tugs at his hand, giving it one final squeeze before letting go. She is not sure what exactly is going on between them, but she decided it's best to just go with the flow and see where this is going. Whatever this thing between them is it sure as hell feels good and right, so she is sticking to that for now.
Pushing the door open, she feels his hand brush against the small of her back lightly as he guides her inside the bar. Lanie and the boys are already seated at a booth sipping their beers and laughing.
"Took you guys long enough." Lanie teases when they reach their table and Kate feels her cheek heating up slightly.
"Miss Perfect here just had to double check everything was in order before leaving. You know how she is." Castle says, nudging Kate's side and she smiles at him in thanks. He winks at her and turns back to the group. "So what did we miss?" he asks, sitting next to Ryan.
Kate debates for a moment if she should sit with him or with Lanie and Esposito on the other side. Eventually, she slides in next to him, deciding it doesn't have to mean anything that they're sitting together and that she should stop overanalyzing everything.
"Oh, not much. Kevin here was just updating us on the wedding plans." Esposito tells them, taking a sip of his beer. Castle signals the waiter to come take their orders.
"Oh, have you guys set a date yet?" Kate asks curiously, while Castle orders a beer. "Yeah, beer for me too." She tells him when he looks at her questioningly.
"We have a tentative date. April 21st. We're still not sure, though." The young detective replies and she nods with a smile.
"A spring wedding. It's going to be great." She says and Castle casually rests his arm on the back of the chair. She can feel the warmth of his skin and unconsciously leans towards him, until their sides are touching.
"So, Castle. How was your week in the Hamptons?" Esposito asks while the waiter sets a new round of beers on their table.
"Quiet." Castle says and takes a swig of his beer. "Mother and Alexis came back after a couple of days so I had the place to myself."
"That huge place all to yourself? I would've felt lonely." Lanie comments and he shrugs, stealing a glance at Kate. She offers him a small smile.
"It did after a while, but I needed it. That bomb case was a little too intense, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah, man. We're glad you and Beckett didn't get blown up." Ryan quips and they nod.
"Or froze to death." Lanie adds somberly.
"That one was a little too close." Kate says quietly and her friend reaches across the table and squeezes her hand.
"Which is why we should celebrate. It's good to have you back, Castle." The medical examiner tells him and he grins at her.
"Why, Dr. Parish, did you actually miss me?" he teases and Lanie rolls her eyes.
"No, my morgue was quiet for once. But my girl here was moping all week because you weren't around."
"Lanie!" Kate protests and the others laugh. "I was not moping, okay? I was just having a tough week after everything that had happened." She tries to justify, but her friends look at her skeptically and she rolls her eyes. "Fine, believe whatever you want." She says and resists the urge to childishly stick her tongue out at them.
They keep teasing each other and laughing until Lanie drags Esposito to the small dance floor. Ryan excuses himself to go check in with Jenny, which leaves Kate alone with Castle for the first time since they arrived. Once Ryan is out of sight, Castle lets his arm fall around Kate's shoulder, pulling her closer to him.
"Are you having a good time?" he whispers and places a kiss on her hair. She looks around to check if any of her friends are paying attention to them and relaxes into his side.
"Yeah. I guess I really needed this kind of distraction." She says quietly, tracing patterns on his thigh absentmindedly.
"Were you really moping all week?" he asks teasingly and she slaps his thigh.
"I was not moping, okay." She insists and he laughs, running his fingers up and down on her arms.
"Well, we've already established that you missed me." He says and she shrugs.
"So that plus the statements of three eye witnesses concerning your mood for the past week equals a very mopey detective." He concludes and grins at her with a wink.
"Believe whatever you want, Castle." She rolls her eyes and rests her head on his shoulder. He smiles weakly at her action and presses another kiss to her hair.
"It's good to be back, though." He says after a few minutes in silence. "It got lonely there after a while."
"Why didn't you come back with Alexis and Martha?"
She sits up straighter to look at him, but doesn't sever their connection. He sighs heavily, pulling her closer and she smiles at him.
"I guess I just wanted to stay away for a while. I actually thought I was going to die that day. That you were going to die. It kind of takes a toll on a guy, you know?" he explains quietly and she nods.
"I wish you would've told me." She whispers and reaches out to brush his hair away from his forehead gently. "I was worried about you. You fell off the face of the Earth and I didn't know what to do, if you wanted me to call or not."
"I'm glad you did in the end." He tells her and she shakes her head.
"You could've called me sooner. You didn't have to go through that by yourself, you know?"
"I didn't want to bother you. I figured you'd be busy with Josh." He looks away and realization finally dawns on her.
"Rick" she touches his cheek, making him meet her gaze. "Even if I was with Josh – which I wasn't – you are my friend, first and foremost. After all we had gone through that day the person I wanted to be with was you. Make sure you were really alive and safe. Or do you think I wasn't feeling exactly like you were?"
He kisses her palm softly at her confession and she sighs.
"I'm sorry." He nuzzles her hand and places another kiss at her wrist. "I didn't think. I was just wallowing in my own misery." He says and she offers him a small, sad smile, knowing exactly what his misery was all about.
"There was no need to." She leans in and kisses his lips softly. He stiffens in surprise for a second, but kisses her back, his hand on the back of her neck to pull her closer. "Next time, talk to me before wallowing all by your lonesome for ten days, okay?" she says, resting her forehead on his and he smiles happily at her.
"Duly noted, detective."
He steals another kiss and pulls her in for a hug. She hugs him back tightly, her mind still reeling at the line they have just crossed. Surprisingly, she finds that she is rather calm about this whole thing; at least calmer than she thought she would be.
Kate pulls back and finds him smiling at her. She smiles shyly, her mind catching up with the fact that she has just kissed him, and tucks her face in the crook of his neck. They stay like that for a couple of minutes, with him running his hand on her arm lazily. She has no idea what they're doing and she knows there is no turning back now, but for the first time in a long time, she feels ready to take a chance.
"Kate" he interrupts her thoughts and she looks up at him. "Not that I'm not enjoying this, but our good friend Detective Ryan is returning. Unless you want to endure the inevitable questions, I think we should look more presentable." He explains and she sighs. He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear with a small smile. "We can always cuddle some more later." He winks at her and she slaps his chest.
"Shut up, Castle." She shakes her head, but can't fight the grin that makes its way to her lips.
"Hey, guys, I have to go. Jenny is having car trouble so I have to go pick her up." Ryan explains and Castle hands him his coat.
"Is she okay?" Kate asks, suddenly aware that she is still leaning on Castle's side and sits up straighter, putting some distance between them.
"Yeah, yeah. Apparently her car died near Central Park."
"Alright, I'll see you tomorrow. Tell her we said hi." She tells him and he waves goodbye, running to the door.
"Poor guy is so whipped." Castle comments and she rolls her eyes.
"Oh come on, he's in love. I think it's sweet." She says and he wraps an arm around her waist, pulling her back against him.
"Yeah? I hope you'll think it's sweet when I act like a puppy around you." He says against her neck, placing a kiss on her skin.
She stiffens for a moment, shocked at what he has just so casually said. Did he really just imply that he is in love with her?
"You already act like a puppy, Castle." She takes a deep breath and relaxes against him, feeling his chuckle reverberate through her.
"Can't argue with that."
He laughs and she looks around to check where Lanie and Esposito are. Satisfied that they are busy with each other by the bar, she turns around and leans in closer to Castle.
"Just don't expect me to act like a puppy around you, even if I may feel the same way." She whispers in his ear. "Understood?"
The way he kisses her then sounds like a resounding yes.