"What are you doing?"
Castle looked up at Kate when she suddenly stood up, putting her coat on. She looked like she had just made her mind up about something by the sheer look of determination in her eyes. She grabbed her keys and then her purse, before turning back to him, biting her lip for a second. He couldn't help it; his eyes strayed down to her beautiful pink lips as her teeth worked on them and he dreamed for the millionth time what it would be like if it were his teeth assaulting her flesh like that.
"Come on." She simply said, tucking her hair behind her ear in what could be considered a nervous gesture. He still looked at her, confused, and almost jumped in surprise when she reached out and grabbed his hand, pulling him to his feet. "Come on." She repeated, a little more firmly this time. "I want to show you something." She added softly, when he finally stood up and squeezed his hand for a moment before letting go.
"What?" he asked, curiosity winning out this time as he followed her to the elevator. She smiled that little smile he loved so much and pushed the elevator button.
"You'll see." She said cryptically and he could tell she was totally getting a kick out of watching him fight his curiosity. "We're calling it a day, guys." She called out to Ryan and Esposito.
"We still going to the Old Haunt later, birthday girl?" Ryan asked, his feet resting comfortably on his desk.
It had been a slow day and Castle had been itching to take her out somewhere to celebrate her birthday. She wouldn't agree to anything and had been unusually quiet all day, but he had managed to convince her to at least go out for drinks after work.
"Sure. We'll meet you there. I just need to take care of something first." She smiled at the young detective and he nodded. Castle really admired the camaraderie between Kate and her boys and knew that they had her back no matter what. "See you guys later." She waved at them and pushed Castle into the elevator. He watched her lean against the wall and rest her head back on the cool surface, closing her eyes.
"You okay?" He touched her arm and she opened her eyes, throwing a smile his way.
"Yeah, just…" She bit her lip again and then shook her head. "I'm fine, Castle. Really." She added when he lifted his eyebrows skeptically at her. "I just want to take you somewhere."
"Where are we going?" he asked, still eyeing her carefully. She rolled her eyes at his unbridled curiosity.
"You'll have to wait and see." She teased and he groaned, a pout forming on his lips. "Do you trust me?"
"You know I do." He responded immediately, slightly taken aback by her sudden inquiry. She looked nervous again. He leaned back against the wall next to her, their arms touching, and decided to just follow her lead on this. "Alright, Detective. A surprise it is." He deliberately spoke with a light, teasing tone and was relieved when he saw a small smile appear on her lips.
They remained quiet for the rest of the elevator ride and stayed that way as they made their way out of the precinct. As soon as they walked out the door, however, Kate looped her arm through his, pulling him in the opposite direction of her car. He frowned, but chose to say nothing. Whatever this was, wherever she was taking him, it seemed to be important and it was making her nervous. He decided to just go with it and take her mind off of whatever was clearly bothering her.
"How's your birthday so far?" he asked quietly, nudging her shoulder with his playfully. She looked at him and smiled.
"Good, I guess. Normal." She sighed and his hand slid down her arm to catch hers in a light grip. "Loved the present, by the way."
She lifted their joined hands to look at the charm bracelet he had given her this morning. It was a delicate silver strand holding several charms that represented their friendship. There was a book – and upon closer inspection, Kate had realized it was actually the Heat Wave cover in a tiny version – a police badge, a gun, a feather pen, a miniature castle.
"I'm glad." He grinned at her. "You're a tough woman to choose presents for."
"Well, I loved it. It means a lot." She gave him a small smile, but the look in her eyes gave away just how much she had loved it. He had caught her looking at it and playing with it several times that day and felt his chest swell with pride that she had really, truly loved it.
He squeezed her hand and resisted the temptation of lacing his fingers through hers. He was still amazed that she hadn't pulled her hand out of his grasp. As they walked through the cold streets of New York, he felt her slowly get closer to him, up until the point that their sides were brushing against each other, her hand still holding his firmly a good ten minutes later. Silence hung between them, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Nothing ever seemed to be between them, he mused to himself, looking at her again, a loving smile on his lips.
Suddenly she stopped and he almost bumped into her.
"We're here." She said quietly and he looked around, immediately identifying their surroundings. They were at the entrance of the Empire State Building. He looked at her, lifting an eyebrow in question. "Come on." She tugged on his hand and pulled him into the building.
"Are we going up?" He asked curiously and she nodded, biting her lip again, before reaching into her purse for her wallet. "I got it." He stilled her movements and she sighed.
"Castle…" she complained, but he shook his head.
"It's your birthday, Kate. I got it." He insisted, holding her gaze until she gave in and nodded. "Come on." He took her hand in his again and led her in the direction of the ticket place. After purchasing two tickets to the observation deck, they got in line to take the elevator up. Kate looked nervous again. "You okay?" he asked for the second time since they had left the precinct and she nodded, leaning slightly into his side.
Castle was surprised at her sudden closeness, but decided to take a chance. Letting go of her hand, he wrapped an arm around her waist, squeezing her hip lightly. He had only meant to offer some kind of comfort and then take her hand again, but when she relaxed against him, leaning further into his side, he decided to stay right where he was and not move, for fear she would come to her senses and push him away. Granted, they had gotten a lot closer over the past few months and would occasionally touch each other in a friendly way – he knew Kate was partial to resting her head on his shoulder whenever they watched a movie together – but never in public.
The line moved and she pulled away from him to get into the elevator. When they were safely in, backs against the wall, he felt her hand find his again, this time threading her fingers through his. He didn't look at her, not wanting the bubble to burst. Caressing the back of her hand with her thumb, he tried to suppress a smile. A few minutes later, they reached their destination and followed the group of Japanese tourists out of the elevator. Still not understanding why they were there, Castle let her lead him in the direction she wanted. The sky was darkening outside and the lights shining brightly a hundred floors below were mesmerizing. He hadn't been here in years and had forgotten how beautiful New York was from this angle.
"My mom used to bring me here." Kate's quiet voice pulled him out of his reverie and he turned to look at her. She was staring straight ahead, one hand tucked safely in his and the other resting against the glass window in front of her. "Every year on my birthday, ever since I can remember. We would come here just as night was falling and watch the city lights." She said, barely above a whisper and he wrapped his arm around her waist again, hoping against hope she wouldn't push him away. She didn't. Instead, she leaned against him and sighed, closing her eyes. "Every year, she would tell me to make a wish up here. It was our thing." She turned to him and offered a small, sad smile. He pressed his lips to her forehead.
"What would you wish for?" He asked quietly and watched as she smiled at the memories probably running through her mind.
"All sorts of things. A toy I really wanted, for this boy I had a crush on to ask me out, a bike, a motorcycle…" she trailed off and then shook her head. "Silly things, really. I used to think we had all the time in the world to do this. Still many birthdays to come." She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder, her hand finding his as it touched her hip. "I was in Kiev when I turned 19. Only came home in December for Christmas." Her voice shook and he pulled her tighter against his side. She took a deep breath. "We never got to come here one last time."
"You couldn't have known what was going to happen, Kate." He whispered, turning her to face him, and wiped away with his thumb a tear that had escaped and was trailing down her cheek.
"I know, but still..." She took another deep, steadying breath and smiled shyly at him. "I never came back here until now." She confessed and he felt his chest tighten, his love for her, his sorrow for all the pain she had endured these past twelve years, everything, it took his breath away. "But I wanted to share that with someone again." She continued and he held her gaze, his hand touching her neck.
He couldn't help it when he involuntarily started to lean in. It was stronger than him, this magnetic force between them; it pulled him to her even when he tried so hard to resist. He gave her a way out, leaning in slowly, but her eyes flickered to his lips and then back to his as her hand fisted his shirt in a death grip. He closed the distance between them and touched her lips with his. It felt like an inferno was burning him from inside out. The kiss was slow and tender and so full of emotion that he thought he wouldn't be able to survive it as his feelings overwhelmed him in a tidal wave. Her lips moved over his and her tongue danced with his with so much ease and familiarity that it felt like they had been doing this for a long time. He pulled her closer, wrapping his arms around her waist until her body was pressed tightly against his.
After a moment – it could have been years for all he cared; he had lost all sense of time and space with her in his arms – they pulled apart, breathless. Her eyes were shining with emotion as she reached up and touched his cheek, pressing her lips against his again in a sweet kiss. He rested his forehead on hers and closed his eyes for a moment, trying to get his breathing and his heart under control. When he opened them again, she was watching him intently, her eyes a vivid green.
"Thank you." He murmured into the inch of space that existed between their lips. "This means the world to me, Kate." She nodded and he felt her arms sneaking around his waist, holding him tight against her.
"I want some new memories here." She swallowed hard and bit her lip. "And I want them to be with someone I love."
Her words took a moment to sink in and he stared at her dumbfounded for a second. When it finally registered in his brain what she had said, he closed the distance between them and crashed his lips against hers.
"I love you." He finally whispered against her lips and it felt like a weight had been lifted from his chest. He felt lighter, giddy, almost high from his feelings for her. "I love you, Kate. So much." He repeated and she said it right back to him and he couldn't believe this was really happening.
A few minutes later, she turned in his arms, letting her back rest comfortably against his chest as they watched the city lights below. It felt almost like an out of body experience as he wrapped his arms around her stomach and showered butterfly kisses on her neck.
"Happy birthday." He whispered in her ear and saw her reflection smile in the glass in front of them. "Should we head out to the Old Haunt?" he asked quietly after a while.
She shook her head and then rested it back on his shoulder, turning to press a kiss to his neck.
"Let's stay a little while longer?" She asked, an almost timid tone to her voice. He smiled and pulled her tighter against him, his chin resting on her shoulder.
"You're the birthday girl." He acquiesced and felt her sigh contently.
As they watched the city come alive with lights below them, he made a wish, only to realize it had just been granted.
A/N: Fear not, I have not abandoned Someone Like You, in case you're wondering. I am hoping to post a new chapter this weekend. But until then, tell me what you thought of this? Please? Pretty please?