Hiiii. Been a while, yeah? Between nearly a year of quarantine and the holiday break, I've been digging in my old archives hoping to publish the last few stories I had written but never quite finished. Lots of little things that may or may not be worth sharing but here we are. This is one of them. Enjoy!
He's been in a foul mood all day if his texts have been any indication. Short-tight apologetic things that held none of his usual humor. She's not sure the exact reason but would guess it has something to do with the Black Pawn meetings that were thrown on him at the last minute this morning. He had told her not to come by tonight citing a growing headache and meetings that would last into the evening. Assured her that he'd be lousy company.
She could tell he was working real hard to sound okay on the phone but his frustration with his day laced every word. When she had stepped away from the boys to try and offer him some comfort, he had been forced off the phone by an all too sharp voice that certainly did his headache no favors. She hadn't even gotten to offer him any real support, her voice too hard and steady when he had first called, a front for the all too many prying ears at the station. She had regretted not stepping away sooner and texted him soon after apologizing for his day with hopes that it got better for him. Clearly he was upset and it troubled her he was so intent on shielding her from his bad mood.
Now she stands in the familiar hallway of his building. The handles from the heavy bags press painfully into her palm as she negotiates them all into one hand. She digs into her bag with her free hand, rooting around with a whispered curse as she fails to find what she's looking for. She nudges her leg against the bags, pressing them against the unyielding stronghold of his apartment in an attempt to relieve some of the strain. She shakes the leather bag thrown over her opposite shoulder in the hopes of hearing the rattle of the keys - for a confirmation of their existence. When they sound, her eyes light up and she digs in after them again.
"A-ha." She pulls the keys victoriously out of her bag, holding them up in the empty hallway with a smile.
Sliding the key in the door and turning the handle, she immediately realizes her mistake as the force of her own leg throws the door open. The sudden movement causes her to lose both her footing and her grip on one of the bags, sending her crashing into the entryway feet beating ungracefully as she tries to remain upright. A bottle of white wine slips from the loose bag, the rest of the contents following as she watches helplessly. The bottle crashes to the floor, landing hard on the stone floor of the kitchen and cracking open with a horrible sound. Shimmering glass shards ring as they skitter across the floor, damp and sharp things radiating from the point of impact. She feels the spray of the cooled wine against her bare legs. The awful noise echoing throughout the empty apartment even as she registers the puddle of wine slowly starting to expand from the fractured glass.
"Shit, shit, shit."
She drops the rest of the bags in the doorway and looks down helplessly at the mess she has made.
At the sound of the voice, she whips her head towards the top of the stairs, eyes wide as Martha appears.
"What on earth-" Martha comes to a stop as the scene below comes into view. She grins broadly. "Kate!"
Still shocked, she moves her jaw a few times unsuccessfully attempting to form words, eyes wide and mess temporarily forgotten. She finds her voice again, edging on mortified. "Martha. I'm so sorry. I didn't know you were home."
Martha accesses the situation with a sympathetic glance. "Don't you even worry about it Darling. I'll go grab some towels and a broom."
Oh yes, the mess. Martha disappears from her view and she looks back down and shakes her head, gritting her teeth at her own misstep. "Great."
She bends down and picks up a now sopping box of rice and two cartons of chicken stock. She walks towards the kitchen with her hand cupped under the items, attempting to catch the dripping wine from the questionably salvageable items. She tosses them in the sink and returns to the scene of the mess to grab another handful. On her second trip back from the sink Martha reappears from upstairs with an armful of towels.
"You're in luck. I'm an old pro at cleaning up wine." She winks as sets the towels on a nearby bar stool and heads for the laundry room, returning quickly with an old broom.
"I'm really sorry Martha. I had no idea you were home."
"Oh, no problem Dear. You certainly don't have to apologize for trying to do something nice for my son."
She winces, feels compelled to explain. "He didn't have a very good day so I was planning to – or well, was attempting to make him dinner." She looks back down to the mess with a wince. "So far I'm not doing a very good job."
Martha gives her a sympathetic smile and starts sweeping up the glass. Kate steps forward, taking the broom from her hands. "Here Martha, let me."
She opens her mouth to protest but one look at Kate's face and she knows there's no sense in arguing. "Well, if you insist." She passes her the broom and steps back accessing. She bends down looking at the label still stuck on the broken glass. "Oh, Chardonnay. And a very nice bottle at that."
Kate gives a half smile. "Was going to make risotto."
"Oh, comfort food. And one of his favorites. Very nice choice. Must have been quite a day he had to deserve all this."
She pulls the wet broom to a stop, watching as Martha gathers the towels over the wine-streaked paths of the broom. The silence stretches on and the sudden urge to elaborate surprises her. Ah yes, a similar tactic she herself uses in interrogation. "Well, his meetings today ran over and he sounded pretty pitiful when he called to say he wasn't going to make it in to the station." She ducks her head, hiding the small blush caused by the hundred watt smile his mother is shooting in her direction. She tries to redirect. "He said you were going to the Poconos today. I really didn't mean to barge in on you like this."
Martha waves off the apology. "No intrusion at all. I'm not being picked up for another hour."
"Well, I can clean the rest of this up if you need to continue getting your things together."
"For once in my life I'm running ahead of schedule. Let me see if we have a bottle of dry white to suit your needs."
"You really don't have to do that. I'll just order in something. I've probably ruined half the ingredients by now."
Martha quiets her with a wave of her hand. "Now I insist. I happen to believe this plan of yours is quite a good one."
Her warm smile loosens Kate's chest as she flitters away to gather a replacement bottle.
Kate turns her attention to the front door when she hears keys jingling on the other side. She watches in nervous anticipation as he opens it and walks through exhaustedly. He sets his laptop bag down and she sees the exact moment the scent hits his nose. His eyebrows raise and he whips his head towards the kitchen.
"Wha-" He takes a giant step forward, his frown slipping into a grin, delightfully confused. "You're in my kitchen." He pauses, eyes roaming over the array of ingredients on the counter. His gaze lands on the pan that she continues to stir. "And you're cooking."
She smiles at him, tugging nervously on the ridiculous apron Martha had given her right before she had walked out the door. At the time, she had assumed it was an innocent gesture, his mother simply being concerned for the dress she wore. (A rather unsurprising development due to the clumsiness she had already provided evidence for this evening.) However, after the door closed and she unfolded it, a wry smile passed over her lips as she read the words printed across it. Kiss The Cook. Somehow she wasn't surprised Castle owned such a thing.
She nods, watching his reaction carefully. "I know you said you didn't want company tonight-"
"For your own good. I was in a lousy mood. However this-" He spreads his arms out wide, the corners of his mouth following the movement. His eyes sparkling.
"Was?" She asks hopefully.
He removes his coat and throws it over a bar stool, smile broadly stretched across his face. "You're cooking me dinner?"
"Best surprise." He affirms. He moves into the kitchen excitedly and looks into the pan. "Risotto? I love y–" His words break off quickly but he recovers gracefully. "-Risotto." He quirks his mouth playfully.
She smirks. "Well you sounded like you were having a bad day so…" She turns back to the pan with the pretense of stirring, but dipping her chin slightly, happy to hide the blossom of pink on her cheeks.
He slides in behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist, chin peeking over her shoulder. "So you decided to make me dinner?" He turns and grazes his lips across her ear, dropping a gentle kiss there with a touched whisper. "Best girlfriend ever."
She turns her head towards him and he leans in, his parted lips sliding against hers, unhurried and welcome. With a gentle sweep of his tongue and a small contented sigh, he squeezes her tight against his body. He pulls his head back slightly to look at her, her mouth chasing his almost imperceptibly, a small sway against him. He grins and concedes, resting his lips against hers once more. "This is definitely turning my day around."
Her eyes find his, more timid than she usually shows. "Yeah?"
"Well good. It's almost done." She scrapes her teeth lightly on his jaw and smiles before turning and refocusing on her mission.
"Thank you." He nuzzles into her neck as she begins to stir once more. "Mmm, you smell good."
She laughs. "Stop trying to distract me. I have to keep stirring or it will stick." He takes a deep inhale at her neck, nose tucked under her jaw. The small growth of hair on his cheeks tickling her. She tilts her head against his in reflex. "Castle."
He doesn't let up. "No really. You smell like-" He moves up to her cheek and then further into her hair. Takes another whiff for confirmation. "Wine actually."
"God, you're like a dog right now."
He laughs; growls a little in her ear.
She shakes her head with a smile. "Down boy."
He smirks and bites at her ear playfully.
She hums. "So there may have been a casualty at the beginning of my adventure tonight."
"Should we call the boys?"
She leans her head against his and quips, "No, Martha already helped me hide the body."
He leans back grinning, hands on her waist as he accesses her face from the side. She doesn't remove her eyes from cooking, a smirk on her face. "Now this is a story I have to hear."