This will be a multi-author fic. Each chapter is unconnected to the others. These are different ways Kate could finally say ILY for the first time.
Saying she was sorry was necessary, but it's not enough. She still needs to say she loves him. There are so many ways it could happen...
Pumpkin spice filled the air of the loft. She was baking. From scratch. Castle had been evicted from the kitchen for his unhelpfulness, but he didn't go any further than the other side of the island to sit on a bar stool.
"I've got an apron here, somewhere, Kate. It'll keep you from getting flour all over your clothes."
"I don't get flour on my clothes, Castle. I'm a neat cook." She gave him a smug look and kneaded the dough. Pie was in the oven, and she was now working on a loaf of bread.
"You don't have to wear anything under it. That would make this more fun to watch." He raised an eyebrow suggestively.
She smiled and halfway rolled her eyes. "No fantasies being fulfilled while I'm baking, Rick."
He grinned. She kneaded. He watched.
Her fingers worked the dough, strong but gentle, forming it into a long, firm roll. She was lost in thought and had no idea she was providing fodder for his fantasies.
"Mom wasn't much of a baker. She enjoyed doing it, but rarely had the time." Her fingers kept kneading while her eyes looked somewhere far away. "But there was just something about the first cool snap of early fall that always put her in the mood. We'd bake pie and bread and take some to neighbors... and sometimes we had to freeze them because we'd made too many."
Her wistful smile and longing sigh held his attention and pulled his heartstrings.
"I got the boot for being in the way a lot when I was little. I wanted to help so much, but I'd get excited and wouldn't follow the recipe or would stir too vigorously and make a mess, and eventually Mom would get frustrated and tell me to sit at the table and color pictures to give to the people along with the pies."
She bit her lip. Her fingers stilled as she sank deeper into the memory. Castle's eyes crinkled with the joy of just listening to her, with his chin propped in his hand and his elbow on the countertop.
Kate breathed a little laugh and looked at the ceiling. "But when it came time to put the top crust on the pies, she'd always call me back into the kitchen. She said the top crust was just as important as the flavor, because it was the first impression. One look at the golden, flaky crust, and a whiff of that glorious smell..." she looked into Rick's eyes and smiled, "that was all it took to let that person know you loved them."
Her eyes danced as she watched for his reaction.
"So... fall baking says 'I love you'?"
"Fall baking says 'I love you'. Come help me bake, Castle."
He slid around the island and wrapped her in his arms and kissed her soundly, slowly, reverently. She melted into him, kissing back with equal adoration. Her forearms draped over his shoulders, flour covered hands in the air behind him.
"I'll make a mess." His lips moved against hers.
"Then wear your apron."
"You'll probably get frustrated with me."
"You're okay with that?" He kissed her again, softly.
"Yeah." She slid her tongue over his bottom lip.
"Why?" His tongue touched hers.
"Because I love you."
She kissed him again, trying to show him just how much, how much she loved him.
"Doesn't that dough have to rise?" His voice was quiet and filled with want.
She was going to bake an apple pie while it rose, but she was quickly abandoning that plan. "Yeah. For a couple of hours."
He hummed against her lips, "Mmm. That sounds perfect."
The oven timer was set so it would turn off automatically when the pumpkin pie was done, so he trailed kisses across the back of her neck and behind her ears while she washed her hands and placed a damp cloth over her dough.
"Say it again," he whispered when she turned back to him.
She smiled broadly, freeing something in her chest, bringing the words easily, "I love you, Castle."
She laced her fingers with his and he whispered, "And you said you weren't going to fulfill my fantasies while you were baking."
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