It's late Friday afternoon and apart from their all too brief mid-morning coffee ritual he hasn't seen her for two days, though they have talked on the phone. Wednesday evening he could tell she was edgy, nothing too noticeable and when she'd explained about her father, he'd understood, had decided not to push. Yesterday she'd spent time with her friend Lanie and this morning he'd had to go in to Black Pawn for a meeting with Gina, the presentation of the outline and first part of the book in draft form the only way to get her off his back for a while. The meeting had been both painful and encouraging, a raking over the coals for so much procrastination, raised eyebrows and looks of disdain when he'd presented the outline, a softening of shoulders and mouth once the chapters had been skimmed through. Unfortunately, by the time he'd left it was too late to meet up with Kate so he'd headed home with even more motivation to get some further writing done.
So today he's impatient to see her, willing the clock to spin hands at faster than normal speed, frustrated when they barely seem to move each time he looks up to check. Words aren't forming either today, their flow stuttering at best, stagnant at worst. He's been fighting the same two paragraphs for the last half an hour, too many repetitive words, too many ands and hes and shes ... it's not the block he'd been suffering up till a month ago, he knows that, its lack of concentration, his ear trained on the front door rather than his inner 'conversations'.
Then he hears it, the knock on the door and he's happily saving nothing new and dropping the laptop on the desk before heading out to open the door, pulling her in for a hug and a kiss which leaves her breathless and slightly blushed and saying "Shouldn't you close the door first if you're going to ravish me Castle?"
Then he's helping her off with her coat, hanging it up in the closet and slipping his arm round her waist as he leads her towards the kitchen. "Coffee?"
She nods, looks around and asks "Where's Alexis?"
"Upstairs, doing homework, I don't know where that girl gets it from, if it was me, I'd be running a mile before opening the cover of a homework book!"
"You don't have to swear it Castle" she says, sitting on one of the stools by the kitchen island whilst he gets a couple of coffees ready. Alexis comes down the stairs and if she's surprised to see Kate she doesn't show it, giving her a hello and a wave before pulling a soda from the fridge and heading back upstairs. Kate watches her then turns to Castle who's dropping a couple of vanilla pumps into her coffee. "Castle, is your daughter ok with me spending so much time here?" she whispers.
Castle pushes her cup across and them turns his head to look up at the stairs. Eventually he shrugs, "She hasn't said anything to make me think otherwise, why?"
"Well … you bring me in here all battered up and look after me as a friend …" using her fingers to quote the last word, "… that's maybe clear enough, given she doesn't know the rest of the story …" and she glances quickly at his face before continuing "… but since then I seem to be spending as much time here as at home," colouring slightly, she adds "and the other night, on the couch, I don't know if she noticed, your Mom certainly did! But I don't think friend covers that exactly," again making quotation marks as she says the word.
He looks at her, slightly amused before moving round, placing his coffee on the counter and taking the stool next to her. Picking up her free hand whose thumb is nervously stroking the edge of the granite, he pulls it gently towards him, forcing her to turn slightly to face him. She's looking at him from under her lashes, slightly embarrassed, teeth trapping her lip, making him want to kiss her and banish the doubts. However he keeps his distance, his own thumb now rubbing on the back of her hand in soothing circles which has her eyes dropping to stare at their joined hands.
"Are you asking because of Alexis …. or for yourself?" and her startled look tells him he's guessed right. He wants to sigh in frustration, to him it's perfectly clear … well … sort of, but he's beginning to understand that Kate Beckett doesn't even trust her own shadow, so he keeps his sigh to himself and says "I know where I want to go, with you, and it's not a one night stand … or even a two or a three" he adds jokingly, unable to supress his sense of fun, but hastily adds, "I'm willing to take this a step at a time, like you told me the other day … and I can tell you that's difficult for me … Christ! It's almost impossible! But I don't want to spook you, and if you need time then I'll give it to you. As to what we are … what do you want us to be?"
At least now she's smiling at him, even if she's still mistreating her lip. He reaches out despite himself and gently pulls it lose, her eyes following his thumb and then shooting back to meet his. Her hand in his is relaxed, her thumb unconsciously returning his gentle caress. "I don't know Castle … well I do, but I'm not used to sharing so much of myself … I don't want this to be something that we'll live to regret, I'm frightened that I'll screw up somewhere along the line, break your trust or … or hurt you without meaning to …"
He interrupts her with a grin "Does that mean you're going to hurt me on purpose?" he says, waggling his eyebrows.
She slaps his arm with her other hand "Stoopid!", but can't help the answering smile twitching her lips. "Seriously Castle, what if I'm not what you think I am … what happens when you get bored with me?" and suddenly it's out there, the real fear, the belief that she's not good enough for him and he understands it clearly for the first time.
He releases her hand, slips off the stool, spins hers around slightly so that he can stand between her legs and places his arms around her, dropping a kiss to the crown of her head. "Listen to me Kate, I can't promise anything for the future, we both know that things can happen, but I don't think I could ever get bored with you, are you crazy? You're amazing in so many ways! … and you're hot!" an answering huff from somewhere near his chest tells him she's amused by that sally. "We've known each other for little more than a month, it's too soon to know where we'll end up in a year or two's time, but trust me, right now I want us to be having this conversation then!"
She pushes away from him, looking up and seemingly trying to penetrate his soul with those hazel eyes with the green speckles swimming in them. Then she nods, "Ok, so are you my boyfriend or just a friend with benefits?" and he's relieved to see the glint of laughter in there as well.
"So …" he says, "… you ready for …" then his phone interrupts him. Picking it up he looks at the caller ID and sees it's Detective Esposito. Showing it to her he sits back on his stool and taps the answer button "Hey Espo, what's up?"