We Could Always Just Cuddle

He wakes alone sometime around one in the morning and the darkness presses cold fingers to his eyelids, trails like ice down his neck. Castle winces and rolls deeper into her bed, but she's gone and so is the warmth.

He sighs and flops onto his back, cracks his neck with a roll side to side, and then he pushes a toe out from under the comforter.

Brr, it's cold. She turns the heater down when he stays over, sometimes even all the way off if the weather is mild enough. So she can sleep cuddled up next to him. Otherwise, she complains it's too hot to touch. I know I'm hot, Beckett-

But it's one a.m. and it's freezing and this isn't the deal, Beckett.

Now he's gonna have to go get her, drag her back.

Castle pushes both feet to the floor and curls his toes on the bare wood, shivers as he searches for his robe at the end of the bed. Huh. Not here. Did he bring it? He can't remember. He needs to buy a second robe, leave it here.

It's freezing.

He shuffles to his Drawer (he's thinks about it with a capital D; he thinks about naming it. Oh, who is he kidding? He's named it already - it's Harvey, like the big bunny that follows Jimmy Stewart). He fumbles his hand around inside the Drawer and discovers she's washed some of his stuff, folded it nicely, and put it back.

She's washed some of his stuff. Wow.

He tugs on a blue tshirt that he remembers searching for all last week, and then he pulls a plaid shirt on over it for the warmth. It smells like her laundry, and he realizes strangely that he has no idea how she does her laundry. Dryer sheets or fabric softener? Liquid or powder?

Is he using up the free time she'd normally spend camped out at a laundromat, thus forcing her to spend money on dry cleaning?

Well, her clothes are expensive and name brand, and if he had to guess, he'd say she gets quite a lot of it dry cleaned anyway, but still.

There are parts of her life he doesn't know. Downtime and recreational fun (other than fantastic sex) and her favorite painter and-

Where she is at two o'clock in the morning if she's not in bed with him?

Huh, he should find that out.

Castle cracks the knuckle of his big toe against the floor and heads for the doorway, slips through to find a small light licking along the floor. He turns left at the living room and sees her sitting on her counter next to the fridge - or well, he sees her knees poking out and the long line of her calves and the swing of her feet from behind the fridge.

Swinging her feet like a kid.

"Kate?" he laughs, heading farther into the kitchen to see her face.

She's eating saltine crackers and licking her thumb as she does, her hair in a mess around her face, and she's got one shoulder propped against the fridge like she's too tired to sit up straight.

"Hey," she murmurs, looking somehow fierce and shy at the same time.

"What are you doing?" he says, stepping up to her and sliding his hands to her knees, resting there.

"Eating crackers," she says, a little defensively.

He strokes her skin with his thumbs, reassuring her. "Uh-huh. I see that."

"I got hungry." Not quite as defensive, but maybe a little petulant.

"Guess so," he chuckles.

"You know me," she mutters, rolling her eyes at him. "I have to graze all day long."

"I do know you. Didn't exactly realize that grazing all day meant you ate a midnight snack."

"Not midnight," she points out, holding up a cracker. "Want one?"

He eyes it for a second, and no, he's not hungry. But. "Sure." Castle opens his mouth and leans in, expecting to have to wait for it, even cajole her into feeding him.

But she pops it right in, her thumb and finger giving the corners of his mouth a little skimming touch, and he chews slowly, watching her.

She takes another from the plastic sleeve and eats it as well, her fingers playing with the packaging in her lap. Castle swallows his mouthful and slides his palms up a little higher on her thighs, tests the waters with a question.

"You dry clean your clothes?"

"Mm, yes. Most of my work wardrobe. Why?"

"And the rest of them?"

"Laundromat." Her nose wrinkles, little shrug. She offers him another cracker and he shakes his head, so she pops it in her mouth and chews.

She washed his clothes at a laundromat. So she's got detergent and stuff here somewhere, some shelf he's not yet poked his nose into - maybe that strange closet just under the stairs - and sometime this past week she took her stuff and grabbed his as well and washed it all together. Does she have a roll of quarters set aside next to the detergent? He could replenish them, make sure she never runs out so she won't have go to the bank for more.

"Liquid or powder?" he asks.

She tilts her head, but there's no confusion on her face. "Liquid. High efficiency washers."

He nods. "Fabr-"

"Dryer sheets," she says, answering before he can ask. "It takes four dollars and twenty-five cents now to wash. Five to dry, but it's a bitch to lug the wet stuff home, hang it up here to dry."

"I have a washing machine," he blurts out. He didn't intend for the conversation to steer this direction; he only meant to find out details he didn't know.

"I know," she says slowly.

"You could. . .or I could do my own laundry, you know," he laughs weakly.

She doesn't seem to get it at first, and then her eyes drift to his chest and she reaches out with both hands and grasps the sides of his plaid shirt, tugs him in a little closer. Her thumbs are warm and pressing into his chest as she lifts her mouth to his. She tastes salty, and a little sweet, and her tongue skirts his lips and plays with him.

She hums as she releases him, the sound zipping through his body, and then she gives that little satisfied, appreciative noise that always makes him feel like he did exactly right by her.

"Rick, you left your shirts in my dirty clothes hamper. I found them after I washed everything, when I folded my clothes."

Oh, she's laughing at him a little.

"Huh." He blinks and shifts, feels the warm skin of her bare thighs under his hands. "Oops. I don't remember doing that."

"Guess not," she smiles.

"But you really could use my laundry room, you know," he tries. "I mean, five dollars to dry? That's crazy."

She laughs again and shakes her head. "It's not even worth it. Most everything goes to the cleaners, Rick. I just happened to have some time and figured why not. One load."

"But if you came to my place, we could do fun things while you waited."

She raises an eyebrow. "What fun things?" Her voice is low, and don't think he didn't notice her put away those crackers, leaving the way clear for him.

He slides his fingers right up under her pajama shorts, finds the crease where her legs meet her hips, and she sucks in a breath, her eyes growing dark.

Castle leans in and ghosts his lips along her cheek, the sensation of warmth without the contact, just lovely anticipation.

"Or we could always just cuddle," he murmurs finally.

She lets out a laughing breath at his neck and erases the distance between them, her arms coming up to wrap around him and bring him in. Her feet hook behind his knees and he grips her thighs, pulls her to his waist.

She nuzzles her nose against him and he feels the smile on her lips pressed into his skin; he can't help grinning into her hair.

"Who needs laundry for an excuse?" she murmurs then. "Come cuddle with me now."

He wraps his arms around her waist and picks her up off the counter; she lowers her feet and slides down his body until she's standing, pressed against him and looking so pleased with herself.

"What about your midnight - sorry - one a.m. snack?"

"Crackers aren't doing it for me," she grins. Her fingers twine through his and she gives him a little tug, stepping back, all that certainty and knowledge in her eyes.

And he follows.