Standing In Front of You
for the anon on tumblr whose idea it was, and for manuxinhace who needed something light
Take a breath and listen.
Open up; stop wishing.
All that you've been missing is
Standing in front of you.
Everything you're fearing,
All the walls you're building -
Take a chance - your reason is
Standing in front of you
-'Standing in Front of You,' Kelly Clarkson
"Come with me," he says softly.
Kate lifts her eyes to his, the flush of wine in her cheeks, making her warm. Or maybe it's him, standing in her foyer with that hesitantly expectant look on his face.
"Where?" she says, and she knows she's already halfway out the door.
"Get your shoes on, Kate." He's smiling now, letting it creep slowly across his mouth as if he's allowing himself to actually hope.
"I don't want to go out. It's cold."
"I'll keep you warm-"
"-the car's downstairs. Come on."
She glances behind her to the empty living room, the half-empty glass of red, the half-empty bottle. She really doesn't want to spend another moment here, half-empty.
"Okay," she answers, turning her head to look at him, something dangerous filling her chest. Something that feels stronger than wine, more intoxicating. "Let me just-"
He nods and she heads for the bedroom, and shoes, trying to keep the burn of curiosity off her skin. When she gets to her closet, she realizes Castle is right behind her, a soft noise when he sees how many shoes she owns, laughter or recognition, something.
She turns to look at him over her shoulder, trying to narrow her eyes at him for following her into her bedroom, but he only reaches past her, grabs her black peacoat from the hanger. "You'll need this too."
"I thought you said you'd keep me warm."
And the meaning she took from it now hits him as well; he grins at her, eyebrow raised. "Oh, I can do that. You don't need to worry."
She presses her lips together to keep back a laugh, turns to her shoes. She's just in jeans, a white tshirt, loose black cardigan, but now he's pushing her inside, coming in behind her to grab a pair of Converse All-Stars.
"These, Kate. And thick socks."
She glances down at her bare toes. "This is starting to sound like you actually can't keep me warm."
"Just put on socks," he mutters, moving past her to get to the dresser against one wall. He's already pulling the top drawer open before she can stop him.
She waits as he freezes, hand on the knob, and then clears his throat and pushes the drawer back in.
"Having fun in my underwear drawer, Castle?"
He chokes; his cheeks are red when he turns to look at her. "I - uh - that is-"
She bites her bottom lip and comes to his side, opening the drawer back up. He stares down at her, blinking fast, and she doesn't break eye contact. It's been awhile since she's been able to tease him, mostly because it just hasn't felt like a good idea. It would be cruel of her to tease him now, wouldn't it?
But she is. This is nothing if not a tease.
"What are you doing?" he says finally.
"Getting thick socks," she answers, then reaches into the back for some grey athletic socks. When she pulls them out, Castle's breath releases on a huge sigh; it's like she's broken some kind of spell.
He steps back and sits down hard on her bed, hands on his thighs. She can't help being drawn to him, settling beside him on her bed, lifting one foot and sliding her sock on.
"Where we going, Castle?"
"I - uh - not telling."
Hmm. She puts on both socks, slides her Chucks on over them. Green canvas with white laces. She used to wear them all the time, but it's been awhile.
"Ready," she says.
Castle stands, reaches out for her hand to drag her up.
He lets go long enough to help her with her black peacoat, but takes her hand again once it's on. She collects her wallet, keys, phone, stuffing them into the pockets of her coat even while Castle stands at her side, waiting. She can't make her wallet fit, and he reaches out for it, puts it in his own coat pocket, then tugs her towards the door.
She locks her apartment after them, then follows Castle down the stairs.
He's still holding her hand; her wallet is in his pocket.
Wollman Rink in Central Park closes at 2:30 in the afternoon on Tuesdays. But it's six in the evening and Castle is leading them right to it.
"Castle. What did you do?"
He's grinning, his mouth in that whole-face smile, his eyes meeting hers as he tugs her down the broad avenue half circling the rink. The ticket kiosk, the skate rental - she stops before he can get there, grabbing his arm with her other hand, holding him back.
"What did you do?"
He glances back to the skate rental, holds up a finger, and she realizes there's someone there. Two someones. Employees of the park.
"It occurred to me that I haven't ice-skated in ages. Since Alexis was ten."
She gapes at him, turns her head to look back to the people watching them expectantly. "Castle."
"So I thought maybe you might want to go."
"Castle, I'm terrible!"
"You did say that. But-"
"I haven't been since my mother took me," she says finally and his face falls.
"Oh. I - I didn't think of that-"
Her heart pounds, and she doesn't know if it's because of her mother's presence or his. "It's okay. It's - just don't expect a whole lot of grace, Castle."
He studies her a moment. "Really? You're okay with this?"
She bites her bottom lip, glances over her shoulder to the broad, white rink. The twilight has sprinkled diamonds across it, fairy dust, magic.
And he wants to share it with her.
"I'm more than okay," she says finally.
She really is terrible. He laughs and catches her before she can fall again, trying not to let her bring him down with her.
She grunts and laughs as well, steadies herself. "I told you I'm terrible."
"You're . . ."
"Uh-huh. I'm terrible."
"You're usually so graceful. I'm astonished."
She gives him a look, eyebrow raised and everything, but then she hesitantly pushes off against her skate. "Ooh, look."
"Almost there, Beckett," he laughs, shaking his head at her as she gets going. He follows along behind her, watching her hold her arms out defensively as if she expects to fall at any moment.
He takes a quick glance behind them, but the two guys back at the rental kiosk are talking to each other; the place really is deserted. Castle skates closer to her, nudging her with a hand at her back, keeping her going.
She windmills her arms, gasps, but he's got her by her belt loop, keeps her upright.
"Oh, jeez," she moans, laughing and looking over at him.
His breath catches at the look in her eyes, the beautiful, amazing look directed right at him. Or at least including him.
"How's it going?"
"I think I'm getting the hang of it. Just don't push me," she says, reaching out and shoving on him.
Of course, he's still got a hold of her and it tugs her with him, making her yelp and clutch at his shirt, tight fists, breathless, her hair brushing his neck.
"I got you."
She laughs, lifts her head, her eyes dazzling him. Dark as night, wide as the rink. "I'm going to break a bone."
"No you won't. I promise."
"Still. Let me go. I think I can do it."
He laughs back, wraps his hands around her fists in his shirt. "I think you're gonna have to let go first, Kate."
She straightens up, rocking backward a little too suddenly, her hands tightening. He grabs her by the upper arms to keep her from falling, trying not to laugh at her again.
She bites her bottom lip. "Uh. Okay. Now let me go. I got it."
She's relentless; she won't ever stop trying, will she?
He releases her slowly, ducking to look her in the eyes as she studies her feet. When he's finally let go completely, she glides backward a little ways, holding her breath, and then looks up to give him such a beautiful, happy smile.
Wow. She's adorable. Just. So very adorable.
"You are. Try going forward?"
He shifts back himself, putting a little more distance between them, and she frowns, glances down at the ice again. When she pushes off with one foot, then the other, he sees that she's gotten the rhythm of it. He skates backward again, keeping a few feet between them, his hands held out to her.
He used to have Alexis walk to him like this when she was a baby, her little body canting towards his as she took her first stumbling, shaky steps. Ten months old.
Kate is doing the same now, fingers reaching for him.
"You got it," he says soothingly, slows down when she falters, picks up his pace again when she keeps coming. "Don't stop, Kate. You got it."
She gasps as her skate hits a too-smooth patch, lifts her eyes to his for a second. "I'm gonna fall."
"No you're not."
"I really am," she laughs, then presses her lips together. "Oh, I so am."
"I won't let you-"
And then her foot slides back too far and she's going down before he can even move.
He winces when her knee cracks the ice, reaches her side in time to wrap his fingers around her upper arm, haul her back to her feet.
"You were saying?" she mutters, but a smile is still on her face, laughter in her eyes. "I'm hopeless."
"Just keep trying."
"Oh, that wasn't me giving up, Castle. There's no way I'm giving up."
He grins back at her, inordinately proud. "Good. Let's try it again."
Okay, she's hopeless. She really is. But of course, she can't stop trying. She won't. It's just not in her nature.
Castle is patient, and he doesn't laugh at her. Which is a little surprising. He's also not taking pictures with his phone every time she sprawls on her ass, so he's practically a saint at this point.
She's stopped counting how many times she's fallen. After nine, it seemed too ridiculous to keep track. Two have been his fault - he was stopped right in front of her and she was trying to avoid him, and then, of course, she pushed on him and he was still holding on to her, so down she went.
Her knee is throbbing when they finally skate to the exit. Castle holds her by the arm as they disembark; she wobbles across the rubber to the benches and sinks down gratefully on the first one she comes to.
Castle stands over her for a minute and she smiles up at him. "I'm good; I promise."
She knows he's thinking about those photos he found, the ones her mother took of her unlacing her skates. But it really is okay. It's been magical tonight, the two of them alone in the darkness, the sounds of ice scraping under their skates, and his laughter as she fumbles her way around the rink.
He sits down beside her and she nudges his shoulder with her own. "Thanks, Castle."
"Yeah. You had fun? Despite falling every ten seconds?"
"Every ten seconds?" she says, indignant but laughing. He's bent over and taking his skates off. He pulls his feet out and wriggles his toes as she watches.
She looks at her own skates and flexes her fingers; they're stiff and achingly cold. She's spent too much time with her hands on the ice, catching her falls or pushing herself back up.
Castle already has his shoes back on and he gets down in front of her in the floor, grinning at her. "Hands cold?"
"Freezing," she says with a shake of her head.
"Put your hands in your pockets." He starts unlacing her skates and she goes still, watching him, suddenly breathless again. "Where are your shoes?"
She blinks and glances over her shoulder. "Back there. I didn't think I could make it to that bench."
He grins and tugs on the skate, pulling it off. He moves to the other skate and she curls her toes, presses her foot against his thigh. His flicks her a look under his bangs, that grin faltering a little, but he keeps unlacing her skate.
She licks her bottom lip and presses her cheek into the shoulder of her coat, not sure what she's doing.
When he pulls off her other skate, pain pulses in her knee. She gasps and his hand catches her ankle.
"I . . . my knee," she answers, and leans down to press her fingers to the material of her jeans, feels the hot skin now throbbing.
His fingers slide up her calf, drawing her jeans up with his hand, folding it back at her knee. She looks at it, winces.
"Oh, you need some ice on this."
"I needed a little less ice on this," she sighs. Her knee is already a couple sizes larger, a still-swelling knot forming just below her patella. A nasty bruise mottles her skin.
He huffs a laugh at her, brushing his icy fingers over her knee. She clutches the edge of the bench. "Ouch."
"Sorry. Let me get your shoes."
Her other foot slides off his thigh as he moves away. She touches her knee in exploration, bites her bottom lip at the hot and pulsing feel of it. She flexes her leg, straightens it, and while there is some pain, it's mostly just stiff.
He comes back with her shoes, kneels down in front of her again to tug them on her feet. She puts a hand to his shoulder and stands up, testing her weight on her right knee. He wraps his arm around her waist for support.
"I can walk." She takes a sidestep away from him, but he doesn't let go.
"Come on, Kate, let's get you home."
He takes her to his home, not hers.
She's not really tired, and the two hours of ice skating with him have made her blood sing, her cheeks flush. She doesn't want to go home anyway, and when he leads her inside his loft, it's dark and quiet and warm.
He makes her sit on the couch while he makes an ice pack. She rolls up the pant of her jeans and lifts her leg up onto the couch, sitting sideways. When Castle comes back, he raises her leg and sits close, draping her knee across his lap, her foot at the bottom of the couch. He settles the ice over the knot and holds it in place.
"Sorry," he says softly.
"Don't be sorry," she replies. "I had fun."
He lifts his eyes to hers with a hopeful smile. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." She can't stop herself; she reaches out and brushes the hair back off his forehead. He traps her hand with one of his cold ones, turns his mouth to brush his lips into her palm.
Kate forgets to breathe.
His lips feather to her wrist before he lets go. Instead of drawing her hand back like she should, she brushes her fingers over his cheek, settles her at his neck.
He reaches out and snags her by the shoulder, tugs her closer. She's bent at the waist, leaning into him, and his mouth finds hers.
His kiss is barely there, faint and warm, before he comes back again, again and again, soft exhales against her skin when he pauses. She opens her mouth to him and keeps him there, sliding her tongue along the seam of his lips.
He makes a noise in his throat that she can feel under her hand and lets her in, waiting on her to explore before he cradles her cheek in his hand and breaks away.
She opens her eyes, sees the man in front of her as if for the first time - how in love with her he is. How that love radiates from him.
Her cheeks are hot, she's practically in his lap, but she can't look away. She trails her fingers over his ear and into his hair, hears her own breathlessness.
"Castle," she says finally, desperation tinging her voice. "I'm not graceful at this. I'm gonna fall more times than I can count-"
"I don't care," he says quickly, and that hope flares up brightly in his eyes. "I'll be here. I might not be quick enough to catch you, Kate, but I can at least pick you back up."
She leans in, touches her mouth to his in a promise. "Okay."
"Okay?" His voice is rough, his hand clenches a fist in her hair. "You mean it?"
"Yeah. Yeah, Castle."
And then, because he doesn't seem to believe his good luck, she cradles his face in her hands and brushes her thumbs over his cheekbones.
"Castle. I love you too."