Cold

By Kate Carter

A/N: This was supposed to be part of my series "The Bedroom Confessions" but I'm still working on ones for "Tick Tick Tick"/"Boom" and I wanted to go ahead and get this up - plus, it doesn't quite fit with what I have already. Apologies for the delay in posting on that one, my time has been occupied with attending police academy (because I'm such a dedicated fanfic writer, I wanted to make sure it was authentic - haha, not quite, but I really am attending police academy!).

Takes place immediately after "Countdown" (you know, the one with the bomb, and the freezer!). HOWEVER, if you want to truly appreciate one of my finest little tie-ins to an episode (in my opinion, anyway), you should definitely watch "One Life To Lose" (or at least minute 34 of it) after reading this.

If you spot my "Firefly" reference, make sure you let me know!

"Helluva day, huh?"

"Hell of a day," she agreed. Well, more like helluva three days. Had it only been three days? They'd survived three near-death experiences (well, okay, the radiation scare had been just a scare, but they hadn't known that at the time), and had successfully saved hundreds of thousands of people, just because he had decided to take a wild chance. The thought made him puff up in pride. Who knew that being a writer could be such a thrilling career? What a story he could tell at poker night - except, you know, for that whole "sworn to secrecy" thing.

Still. He knew, and she knew, and that was what mattered. And looking into Beckett's eyes, Castle knew something else too.

Life was short. And you never knew when you might get exposed to fatal radiation, or trapped in a freezer, or blown up by a dirty bomb. So why deny what you felt? Why pretend that those feelings weren't there? What did it matter if there was Doctor Motorcycle Boy lurking around?

Carpe diem. Seize the moment.

"You know," he said, "I was thinking." Her eyes were captivating him. She quirked her eyebrows, the corners of her mouth rising slightly in a smile. Yes, he was going to do this. This was right. "I was thinking, maybe..." Maybe what? Maybe we should go grab some dinner? Maybe I should finally tell you how amazing you are? Maybe you would like to come have a drink with me? A movement behind her caught his eye. And suddenly, he couldn't do it. "...I should go home. Get some rest. Long day. Good night," he finished lamely, before he turned around. He couldn't do it. He couldn't tell her how he felt. He couldn't make her choose between him and Doctor Motorcycle Boy. He walked as quickly as he could to the elevator, looking at the floor, ignoring the suddenly downcast day.

"Good night," Beckett called after Castle, confused. That look in his eyes as he grinned at her. What had he been planning to say? It sure as well wasn't "I should go home."

Then she felt a touch against her back, and saw Josh. Even as she turned to embrace him, she couldn't help but watch Castle as he headed for the elevator. Couldn't help but notice that as the elevator doors closed, he was looking everywhere but at her.

"I was worried I wouldn't get to see you before I left," Josh said as he released her. "I stopped by earlier but they wouldn't let me come up, they just said you were busy."

"Yeah," Beckett said drily, pushing hair out of her face. "I was a bit busy." Just, you know, tracking down would-be terrorists, and preventing half of Manhattan from being destroyed. Suddenly, she registered what he had said. "Wait, left?"

"Yeah, one of the other doctors headed to Haiti had to drop out unexpectedly, so I'm headed there after all. I've got a cab waiting downstairs, I've got to go to the airport after this."

"Oh. Well, have a good time, helping people and all of that."

He leaned over and kissed her. At the last second, she twisted so it landed beside her mouth rather than on it. He looked at her quizzically. "Right. I'll see you when I get back," he said, before turning to leave.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Castle muttered under his breath as he walked into his loft. "I'm home," he called automatically, before remembering that there was no one home to hear him - Alexis and his mother were at the house in the Hamptons.

The weight of the empty apartment seemed to crash down onto him. He wandered toward the open door of his study, then moved on. No, he couldn't possibly write now.

He felt cold. It was probably psychological, but he had felt cold all day. Understandable. Almost freezing to death did that to a person.

He changed out of his suit into a pair of jeans, an old T-shirt, and an equally old sweatshirt. He pulled on a pair of thick socks and sneakers. He wandered down into the kitchen and grabbed the box of "emergency hot chocolate supplies." This was a good night to keep warm.

As he reached into the fridge, his eyes caught the bottle of red wine keeping cool in the door, and he thought back to another bottle of red wine - and he knew what he would do.

This was stupid. Doctor Motorcycle Boy was probably in there.

Castle clutched the basket tighter in one hand and, before he could lose his nerve, knocked on the door quickly. Within seconds, he heard the soft padding of feet as she walked to the door. A second's pause as she looked through the peephole, then he heard the chain sliding back and the deadlock thumping.

"Castle," Beckett said as she opened the door. "Hi."

"Hi," he said stupidly, glancing around her apartment. "Where's Josh?"

"He, uh, he went to Haiti," she said, letting him in. She was wearing old sweatpants and a "NYPD" shirt that had seen better days, and she held a blanket around her. "Apparently, one of the other doctors couldn't go and he wound up taking their place after all."

"Oh," he said. Well. That was...convenient.

"So, what are you doing here?" she asked, eying him and the basket he held.

"Oh! Right," he said, suddenly remembering it was there. "Well, Mother and Alexis are in the Hamptons, and I was- I thought you might be cold. I don't know about you, but I've been freezing all day. Probably a psychological thing from almost freezing last night. Anyway, I just thought I would ask if you wanted some hot chocolate? And maybe watch a movie?" He held up the basket and allowed her to inspect the contents.

She raised an eyebrow as she took the basket, carrying it to her kitchen counter. "Wow," she said, picking up items from it. "I didn't even realize they made this many kinds of hot chocolate mix."

"Well, you have to cover all your basics," Castle said, coming up beside her and picking the small tins out of the basket. "White chocolate, white chocolate strawberry, dark chocolate raspberry, Aztec chocolate - that's got chili peppers in it, not for a novice - peppermint chocolate, and of course, the classic milk chocolate."

"And a movie?" She picked up the DVD cases laying in the basket. "'A Dog's Breakfast,'" she read, looking at it. "I've never even heard of it."

"Most people haven't," he said, taking it from her hand. "A friend of a friend was heavily involved in making it - it's an indie comedy."

"And 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'?" she asked, holding that up. He shrugged. "I thought something funny was needed after the last couple days, and what better than the comedic talents of Monty Python?"

She smiled. "I haven't actually seen this since college," she confessed. "My friends used to quote this all the time. 'Your mother was a hamster, and your father-"

"Smelt of elderberries!" Castle finished with her. "I think it's one of those 'essential college movies.' Or boarding school, in my case. So what do you say? Can we watch a movie and sip a friendly cup of hot chocolate?"

Beckett fought a smile. "Maybe I'm doing something," she said. "Maybe I was planning to take a bath, or go to bed early."

He looked at her and raised one eyebrow. "Were you?" he asked. The smile won out. "No," she said. "I was just reading a book."

"One of mine?" he said, face brightening. Really, the man was too conceited.

"Castle, there are other authors in the world, and they've written plenty of good books," Beckett said, rolling her eyes at him. His heart stopped for just a second. Did she have any idea how damn sexy she was? Even in sweats and an old T-shirt, standing there with her hair falling loose around her shoulders, smiling at him...she was the sexiest woman he'd ever seen. Ever. She was standing there, just a foot and a half away, and his eyes seemed to lock in on her lips as the memory came flooding back of kissing her on the street just a couple of weeks before. Beckett was -

BECKETT, his brain supplied. Not yours. Down boy.

He jerked back. "How would you like your hot chocolate?" he said, turning away.

"How do you usually take yours?" she said, stepping back and leaning against the counter, watching him, trying to regain her equilibrium. Something had happened there, but she wasn't sure what. He grinned at her and she felt thrown off balance again.

"Ah, that's a secret recipe," he said. "I'll tell you what - you go put the movie on, and I'll be in there with it in just a moment."

"Okay," she said, picking up the movie as he reached for two mugs. She moved off in the direction of the DVD player.

He concentrated on making the hot chocolate. After a few minutes, he headed to the couch and sat down beside Beckett, handing her a mug. "Here you are," he said, "the Richard Castle Super Secret Special Hot Chocolate Recipe, complete with secret ingredient."

She took a sip and her eyes widened. "Oh, that's good," she said. "Let me guess - the secret ingredient is a peppermint candy cane?"

"How did you know?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow at her.

"I am a detective," she said, grinning back at him. "Besides, I saw them in the basket. I am quite impressed, although with the hot chocolate, the candy cane, the whipped cream, and the marshmallows, there's probably more sugar in this than you're supposed to consume in a month."

He held up a finger to his lips. "Shhh," he said. "That's what makes it good." The corners of his eyes crinkled.

She loved the way his eyes crinkled.

His attention was drawn to her. "Oh, um, you've got," he said, motioning vaguely around his mouth trying to describe something.

"What?" Kate asked, not understanding what he was getting at.

"There's-" Giving up, he reached out and cupped her cheek. Kate stilled as his hand rested against her face. Her heart beat wildly as his thumb stroked across the corner of her lip. Her mind flashed back to the kiss in the street, of pulling him back to her and kissing him back, of lonely nights...his hand drew away and she saw the flash of white on his finger. "Whipped cream," he said, wiping his thumb against his jeans.

Kate breathed again. "We should- probably start the movie," she choked out.

"Yeah," he said, his throat suddenly tight. "Right. The movie."

As the guards pondered the weight bearing capabilities of swallows, they sat on opposite ends of the couch. By the time they got to the witch trial, Kate had remembered that she had a few bags of popcorn in the kitchen. "I figured the next time someone blows my apartment up, I might as well have a snack while I watch the place burn," she said, causing Rick to chuckle.

He slid closer in order to dip his hand into the bag. As Sir Lancelot attempted the rescue of the supposed princess, they both reached in. Kate's breath caught in her throat as she felt his fingertips brush over hers. He shot her a quick glance that she couldn't interpret, before withdrawing his hand and offering her the bag.

When Arthur and Bedevere were talking with the Knights Who Til Recently Said Ni, Rick motioned towards the blanket draped over the end of the couch. "Do you mind if I use that?"

Kate glanced at it. "Actually, I was about to."

He raised an eyebrow. "You're wearing a sweatshirt and you've already got one blanket wrapped around you."

She laughed self-consciously. "Yeah, well, you'd think it'd be that simple. I might need a trip to California after this. Or at least, someplace warm and sunny."

He nodded. "I understand. Can I get the blanket?"

When she still hesitated , he said "Tell you what, I have an idea." Reaching over her, he grabbed the edge of the blanket. Pulling it over his shoulders while he moved so he was right next to her, he draped it over both of them, tucking his arm around her. He looked at her. Her eyes were large and uncertain. "Castle-" she started. "It's okay," he interrupted. "I promise, I will be a gentleman."

Gradually, she relaxed, allowing her body to mold against his through the blanket. Her head leaned back against his arm. He could get used to this - curled up with Kate on a couch, watching a movie. The long day began to take its toll on him as the movie progressed. By the time the movie ended, she was nearly asleep. He wasn't much better off, for that matter. They stayed there in a lazy stupor until finally Castle forced himself away. "Come on Kate, let's get you into bed." His side, no longer in contact with her, felt strangely cold.

He wrapped an arm around her and pulled her to her feet. "I'll see you tomorrow at the precinct," he told her. He felt like tomorrow couldn't come soon enough, all the sudden.

She looked at him. He was as tired as she was. The man could barely stand upright. "Castle, you're barely awake. You aren't safe to make it home."

He didn't even try to protest. "Do you mind if I sleep on your couch?"

"Of course not," she said. It felt as though there was a draft and she pulled the blanket tighter around her, suddenly missing the warmth she'd had pressed against him. "Actually - if you want -" she said hesitantly, mind questioning the wisdom of what she was about to say even as it came from her mouth, "you can come sleep in my bed. With me. I mean, as long as you're well behaved," she added drily. "I do still sleep with a gun, and I am occasionally looking for an excuse to shoot you."

He smiled. "I promise, no tricks," he said. "I'll stay wrapped up in my blanket."

"Good. I'm really just asking because I don't have an electric blanket," Beckett said as she opened the door to her bedroom and flipped on the bedside lamp.

"Oh, so you're using me?" Castle said, before pausing at the doorway. This felt like a significant moment. Like he should commemorate this in some way. Like -

Oh, damn it all, he was too tired.

"Of course I'm using you. I'm allowed to do that, seeing as how I'm the inspiration for your books." Beckett headed straight over to the side of the bed and slid in between the covers.

"You're not going to brush your teeth?" Castle said, raising an eyebrow.

"I'm making sure you're not tempted to try anything," Beckett yawned. "Would you prefer the couch?"

Well, that was a no-brainer. He got into the other side of the bed before she could change her mind, keeping the blanket wrapped around him as promised. Beckett turned the light out. She had to be quick about this. If she gave herself any time to think, she would realize what a truly horrible idea this was, inviting Castle to share her bed for the night. Never mind what she was about to do. She snuggled in closer to him, savoring his warmth.

He could smell cherries. The scent of cherries mixed with the odor that was completely indescribable, but pure Beckett. If he lost every sense but his sense of smell, he would know who she was. Even through the blankets and the thickness of the sweats, her body pressed against his felt so perfect, so wonderful. This - THIS - felt so right. And suddenly he had to know.

"Kate," he said softly, allowing his nose to brush against some of her hair, "can you tell me something?"

"What?" she murmured, not even bothering to open her eyes and look at him.

"What were you going to say, in the freezer, before you passed out?"

Her eyes flew open. She stared at the vague outline of him in the dark. No. She couldn't tell him that.

"I-I don't remember," she lied.

He hesitated a moment. "All right," he said softly. "We should sleep on it. Maybe it'll come back. I'd love to hear it." He was so close she felt his breath on her cheek.

She nodded slightly. "Okay. I'll sleep on it. Maybe I'll remember." Well, she knew perfectly well what she was going to say, but the ramblings of Katherine Beckett when she was freezing to death weren't - what? Important? Needed? Truthful? None of those words applied. Definitely not something she'd tell Castle.

"Good night, Kate," he whispered as her eyes closed once again. A smile curled up the corners of her mouth.

"Good night, Castle."