Disclaimer: All Castle characters belong to Andrew Marlowe and ABC.
Author's note: Last chapter. Thanks for reading, reviewing, adding to alerts, etc. :)
For a long moment, they just stared at each other. Then Castle pressed his lips to her forehead, pulling her into one more hug.
"We should probably head back," he whispered, and she nodded against him.
He released her then, turning away from the water and sliding his hands into the pockets of his jacket. She keenly felt the absence of his warmth.
"Shall we stop for fresh coffee on our way? Maybe bring some for the boys?"
"Sure," he answered. "I'll even spring for some pastries."
"Come on, then," she said, tucking her hand into the crook of his elbow. "There's a little café a couple blocks over. They have this sour cherry pie that's to die for. And the guys will probably like the chocolate walnut cake."
He grinned, a genuine smile that lit up his face and warmed her heart.
"Lead on, dear Detective."
As they began to walk, she slipped her hand from his elbow into his pocket, intertwining her fingers with his. She caught him giving her a sideways glance that spoke of his confusion, but he said nothing out loud and she just gave him a small half smile.
The weather had cleared a bit while they had been standing near the water, and though she could still smell the moisture in the air, the sky was blue once again.
"Turned out to be a pretty day after all," Beckett said, lowering her gaze from the sky to smile at the writer at her side.
"Mmhmm...beautiful," Castle responded, but he wasn't looking at the sky.
Her breath caught in her throat and she felt a warm blush rising in her cheeks at the way he was looking at her. His eyes caught the sun and glittered at her, serious, but still crinkled at the edges.
She was struck by another memory. She had been in high school and far beyond the days spent coloring while her mother read to her, but despite the rebellious phase she was going through, she had kept a secret fondness for crayons. She remembered one day her mother had come home from the grocery store with a package of crayons. They were new colors with gem tones. She had outwardly scoffed at the childish gift, but inwardly looked forward to trying them out.
Moonstone had been her favorite. Long before the others were half used, it was down to barely a nub, used to color aquamarine skies. It was clear and cheerful, a color that reminded her of summer picnics and flying kites with her dad.
"Hey," Castle's voice tugged her from her reverie. "Everything okay?"
She realized they had stopped walking completely, and he was looking at her with a half-bewildered, half-amused expression on his handsome face.
"Oh yeah, I'm fine," she stuttered out. "Just got caught up in a memory for a second."
He quirked an eyebrow at her and she knew he wouldn't leave it alone until she answered.
"I was just thinking about how I used to go on picnics with my parents on days like this when I was little. My dad would always fly kites with me."
His eyes had softened, but not lost their amusement.
"And that made you blush? Why?"
She couldn't think of any possible reason she could tell him about why such a memory would have made her blush, so she settled for the truth.
"No, you made me blush. Just the way you looked at me when I said it was a pretty day and you said it was beautiful."
She couldn't believe she'd actually told him that, and she ducked her head in embarrassment.
"Kate," he said gently and squeezed the hand still wrapped around his own in his pocket.
She lifted her chin and looked at him. There was a small wrinkle in his forehead that always showed up when he was being particularly earnest. His eyes were clear and aquamarine and focused completely on her. And though he wasn't smiling, he still looked joyful.
"You're right, it is a pretty day," his voice was soft and he brought his free hand to her chin, steadying her and stroking his thumb across her jawbone. "But you're the one who's beautiful."
She felt her eyebrows furrow in surprise and he suddenly dropped his hand from her face, though the other stayed tight around hers in his pocket.
"I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, I'm sorry," he said, looking chagrined. "It's just the way the sunlight catches your hair and your eyes. You really are beautiful."
"It's okay, Castle," she said, gripping his hand a little more tightly. "I...thank you. You're sweet."
He smiled his adorable half-smile then, and bumped her shoulder with his own.
"Well, now that we've established that you're beautiful and I'm sweet, shall we continue on our quest for coffee and pie?"
"Yes," she declared. "We shall."
With a gentle tug, she steered them in the right direction, and before long they stood in front of a small café with a name she doubted Castle would be able to pronounce. She had found it early on in her career at the 12th, and she considered it one of New York's best-kept secrets. It served a variety of Slavic foods, and though it wasn't quite Russian, it was close enough that eating there brought back good memories of Kiev.
They ordered four coffees, two pieces of the chocolate walnut cake for Ryan and Esposito, and two slices of sour cherry pie for the writer and his muse. The girl behind the counter gave them their desserts first while she prepared their drinks, and Beckett insisted that Castle try his pie while it was still warm.
He took a single bite, and the detective watched as he closed his eyes in rapture, clearly savoring the treat.
"Good, isn't it?" she asked with a smile.
"This is amazing," he affirmed, slowly opening his eyes to meet her gaze.
"I'm glad you like it," she said sincerely, taking a bliss-filled bite of her own pie.
"You know, I discovered about a year and a half ago that I really love cherries."
Something about the tone of his voice caught her attention, and she lifted her eyes to see his glinting with something both mischievous and yet completely vulnerable at the same time.
She was about to respond when their order was called and the moment broken. Castle handed Beckett the bag with their desserts and he took the tray of steaming hot coffee.
"Can we come back here for lunch sometime?" he asked. "There are some things on the menu that look really interesting, but I'd prefer to come with someone who knows what's good."
"Sure, that'd be fun," she responded. "Most of it is pretty good, but I can help you steer clear of a few of the items that require, shall we say, a more acquired taste."
He laughed and they exited the café, heading back toward the precinct with their goodies. They had only gone a few paces when Beckett looked at her partner to find a thoughtful expression on his face.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
"Promise you won't laugh at me or tell me off?" he asked timidly.
She rolled her eyes.
"No, but I promise not to be offended. So spit it out."
"It's just that the pie got me thinking," he started and then paused. "When we were, uh, hugging earlier, I noticed that you don't smell like cherries like you used to. Any reason why? I know my mother used to always use a particular kind of perfume, and then it was discontinued and she couldn't find it anymore. But I managed to track some down on eBay and now she has enough bottles to probably last her the rest of her life."
She listened patiently to his observation, question, and thinly veiled suggestion that he could keep her in bath products for many years. And really, she had no doubt that he would do exactly that if she even hinted that she would appreciate it.
"Actually it's nothing like that," she said. "Josh is allergic to cherries, has been since he was a little kid. Apparently he had one too many bad experiences at family reunions and potlucks and even the smell of cherries makes him panic. So when we started dating, I switched lotions."
"Ahh," the writer said, humor shining in his sky-colored eyes. "It wouldn't do for your boyfriend to have a panic attack every time he was near you. I have a feeling that would give even the most confident woman some kind of complex."
She laughed and nodded her agreement.
"You still smell good, by the way, just less fruity," he said, and the words appeared to have tumbled out of his mouth before his brain could catch them. She could see a faint stain of red beginning to show on his cheeks.
"Thank you, Castle," she said sincerely, and he gave her a lopsided smile.
She had become accustomed to his small observations about her, and while it annoyed her at first, now she appreciated his attention to detail. She thought about his advice to the captain on a gift for his wife. She had to give the writer credit, he was always paying attention.
They had arrived at the precinct and greeted the officers on duty at the front desk as they walked in the doors.
Once they entered the empty elevator, Castle turned to the detective and took her hand.
"Thank you again, Kate," he said quietly, pressing a gentle kiss to back of her palm. "For listening and being there and just knowing what I needed."
She nodded, squeezing his fingers.
"We're partners, Rick. You've been there and listened to me so many times. I'm happy to return the favor."
He smiled and his blue eyes sparkled. There was something shining in them, something she had glimpsed a few times before, hidden in their cobalt depths.
But then the elevator dinged and he released her hand, prompting her with a slight pressure on her lower back to go out before him.
"Hey, they're back," she heard Esposito say.
"Ooh," came Ryan's voice. "And they brought sustenance!"
"Dude, sustenance?" Esposito replied, shaking his head. "You can't just say food?"
As Ryan began to argue his case, the detective and her shadow just grinned at each other, green eyes catching blue. And neither looked away until they realized they had been relieved of both the coffee and the bag of desserts.
"Touch the pie and I think she'll kill you, Esposito," Castle warned.
"No worries, bro," he replied, handing the container to Castle. "I know better than to come between Beckett and her cherries."
And she could have sworn she saw something like hope flash through her partner's beautiful blue eyes.