It was Christmas Eve.
Manhattan was covered in white as snow had plagued the city relentlessly for days now. It made for a beautiful scenery for this time of the year as the city lights slowly came to life as the sunlight faded. The Christmas spirit was everywhere and the late shoppers were still hurrying through the slippery sidewalks on the search for some last minute presents. Everyone anxious to get home to their loved ones, to spend this magical night with their families.
It was Christmas Eve and here she was, swirling a glass of scotch as she looked out the window of the bar, with no one to get home to. It was pathetic, really, she thought with a shake of her head. It wasn't like she was going to accomplish anything by sitting here feeling sorry for herself, but here she was, anyway. It was the first time in years that she wasn't working on Christmas Eve and now that she had the night off unexpectedly, she didn't know what to do with herself.
It was at times like these that she wished her life had been different, that her mom was still around, that her dad hadn't drowned himself in a bottle of vodka. On nights like tonight, she just wanted to be normal, to have a normal family. To not have been so affected by tragedy.
Taking a sip, she looked out the window again, resting her head against the cold glass before closing her eyes. This drink wasn't even going down right, didn't even taste good, but it was all she had for tonight and just the thought of going home to an empty apartment nearly made her sick to her stomach. She knew she eventually would have to, but she would prolong the inevitable for as long as she possibly could. Who knows, maybe they would call her in to cover for someone.
A gush of icy wind blew through her hair as someone opened the door of the establishment, making her shiver with the sudden drop in temperature. She turned to look at the entrance and found a tall man standing just next to the door, running a hand over his dark hair and coat to shake the snow off. Kate felt a smile tug her lips up at his clumsiness and shook her head, amused.
He looked adorable.
She was still staring at him thoughtfully when he looked up and their eyes met. Even across the room, she felt his intense gaze on hers and only looked away when a shiver ran through her again, goose bumps spreading all over her skin. Interesting, she thought, stealing a glance at the stranger again a minute later. He had moved to the bar and was talking quietly to the bartender, probably asking for his poison of choice. The place was nearly deserted, so she figured he was here for reasons similar to hers. Loneliness, most likely.
After all, who came to a bar alone on Christmas Eve at night?
Kate sighed and took another sip of her scotch, grimacing when the strong liquid burned down her throat. Maybe she would just have one more of these and call it a night. Maybe this was enough to knock her out until she had to crawl out of bed to go to work tomorrow. A dreamless night; that was all she asked for.
A quiet, male voice interrupted her thoughts and she looked up, startled. Blue eyes looked back down at her and she felt her breath catch in her throat. He looked good. So good. But there was something lingering in his eyes, sadness, she thought to herself, which made her want to comfort him in any way she could.
"Uh, sure." She found her voice and gestured to the empty chair across from her. He offered a small, timid smile and sat down, placing his drink on the table.
"It's just… this place is pretty deserted you look like you could use some company." He told her with a shrug. "And I figured maybe we could just be alone together?" He says, but it comes out like a question and Kate can't help but chuckle at his awkwardness.
"Sounds like a plan." She smiled at him and found his eyes again. They were just so mystifyingly blue that she couldn't make herself look away.
"I'm Rick Castle, by the way." He introduced himself, offering his hand. She reached out, shook it and felt a delightful tingling sensation spreading from their joined palms out.
Who was this guy?
"Kate Beckett." She volunteered and realized they were still holding hands. Pulling hers away gently, she looked at her tingling palm for a moment, before looking up at him, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear self-consciously. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Castle."
"Please, you can call me Rick." He pulled his hand back to his side of the table and took a sip of his scotch. "What brings you here tonight?"
"Nowhere important I need to be." She replied quietly, breaking their gaze to look out the window once again. "How about you?" She asked after a moment, her eyes meeting his.
"Same. My daughter is spending Christmas with her mom." He shrugged, but she could see the longing in his eyes. "Don't really have anyone to go home to if she's not here."
"I'm sorry." Kate whispered and drank her whiskey. "How old is she?"
"Alexis? She's nine." His proud tone and the gleam in his eyes when he talked about his daughter made her smile. "How about you, Kate? Family out of town too?" He offered her a small smile and she sighed.
"No family, really. It's just me now." She said quietly and looked down at her drink, closing her eyes for a moment when the tears threatened to make an appearance.
"I'm so sorry." He reached out and touched her hand comfortingly, giving it a light squeeze.
"Didn't really want to go home tonight, you know? I was supposed to be working, but they switched my shift." She surprised herself by telling him this, didn't even notice that his hand still covered hers.
"What do you do?" He asked curiously, gently brushing his thumb over her skin. Kate looked down at their joined hands for a moment with a confused frown, but decided to just go with it. Hell, she needed this tonight.
"NYPD. I just made detective." She said a little proudly. After all, she had worked her ass off to make it here; to be the youngest woman to ever make detective in the force.
"Wow, really? That is really cool, Kate. Congratulations." His grin was infectious and she found herself smiling back.
"Thanks." She pushed a stubborn strand of hair behind her ear again and downed the rest of her drink, signaling the bartender for another one. "You?"
"What I do for a living? I'm a writer." He said, his thumb still drawing lazy patterns on her hand.
"Oh, I knew you looked familiar!" She exclaimed suddenly, recognition finally dawning on her. "Mystery novels, right?"
"Yeah, that's right. Ever read any of my books?"
He looked curious and self-conscious at the same time and Kate struggled not to reach out and soothe that worried line between his eyebrows with her lips, the desire to touch more of him so strong and sudden that she could only attribute it to alcohol.
"I have actually. I love the new character. Derek Storm." She smiled and he smiled back happily, his eyes crinkling at the sides. "He's badass."
"I'm glad you think so, detective. I aim to please." He said casually and she chuckled. "You really like it?" He insisted after a moment of silence and she turned her palm up so it could touch his.
"I really, really do. A friend of mine recommended it and I'm really glad he did. You're good, Rick." She nudged his foot with hers and squeezed his hand.
"Thank you. It means a lot, Kate."
"Can I ask you something, though?" She nodded at the bartender when he brought over her drink and took a sip while Rick ordered another glass of scotch for himself.
"Go ahead." He said, his fingers now daring to run further over her skin, sweeping over her wrist and back to her palm. She had no idea what was really happening between them, but for once she wouldn't fight it. It felt good and he was proving to be excellent company tonight, when she had thought she would end up miserable at home, crying for her lost family.
"How come a famous, good looking guy like you is spending Christmas alone?" She asked curiously and he sighed, looking out the window for a second.
"I could ask you the same thing." He threw back and she chuckled.
"It's completely different." She argued, but he shook his head and moved her hand until he could lace his fingers through hers.
"You may not be famous, but you're beautiful, Kate. Inside and out, I'm willing to bet. I can't believe there's no one special in your life."
"It's complicated." She shrugged, hoping he would leave it at that.
"I excel at complicated." He assured her with a grin and she shook her head, still baffled about how her night had turned on itself and changed completely.
"Excuse me, guys. We're closing shop. Sorry." The young bartender interrupted them and they both looked up at the young man. Kate pulled her hand away from his and reached for her purse, but Rick stopped her.
"It's on me." He told her and handed his credit card to the bartender before she could protest.
"You didn't have to do that." She complained after the young man left with his signed receipt.
"I wanted to." He stood up and threw his coat on. "Let's get out of here?" He lifted an eyebrow at her and smiled when she nodded, helping her put her trench coat on.
"What do you suggest?"
She let him guide her to the door, his hand resting comfortably on the small of her back. The freezing cold wind nearly took her breath away when they stepped out of the bar and she shivered, pulling her coat tighter around herself. Then she felt his hands running up and down her arms in an attempt to warm her up and she smiled at him. What was it with this guy and why did she feel so at ease with him? If it were any other person, she would have never let them touch her like he was doing right now.
"Well, I know there's this party down at Bowery that is supposed to be good and super traditional. Maybe we could go?" He suggested, shoving his hands into his pockets and she immediately missed the warmth. "I mean, unless you want to call it a night."
"Nah, we should go check it out." She told him and looped her arm through his. "Lead the way."
When they finally arrived at the club, the line to get in was ridiculously long, making Kate sigh in defeat. There was no way they would be able to get in sometime tonight and she was not willing to spend the rest of her night freezing her ass off out here. Just as she was turning to tell Rick that, he grabbed her hand and started leading her to the entrance of the club. Before she could really understand what was happening, the security guy was letting them in.
Once they got their coats checked in, Kate touched his arm before they could go any further into the club.
"How did you even manage that?" She asked curiously, her voice loud over the music already pumping inside.
"My name was on the list with a plus one. Got the invitation a few weeks ago." He winked at her and she shook her head, amused.
"Oh, how the other half lives." She teased and he nudged her side before taking her hand in his.
"Come on, let's go." He smiled at her, leading her to the bar. "Ever been here before?"
"Not really." She leaned against the counter and ordered a martini when the bartender reached them. "This is great." She grinned at him and looked out at the dance floor, already crowded with people. "Thank you." She took the drink from the bartender and clinked her glass with Rick's when he offered his for a toast.
"I'm so glad I found you tonight." He told her earnestly when they toasted and she smiled at him and looked down a little timidly. He touched her chin and made her look up at him. "Really, Kate. You saved my Christmas already." He cupped her cheek, his thumb gently tracing her skin.
"The feeling is very mutual, Rick." She replied and allowed herself to close her eyes, leaning against his touch. For some reason beyond her comprehension, this guy, this stranger, made her feel so completely safe. "Come on, let's go dance?" She asked and he brushed his thumb against her lips, his eyes following his actions before meeting hers.
She wanted to kiss him so badly.
"Yeah, let's go dance."
A/N: Thoughts? Should I go on?