It's stifling outside and the air conditioning in Castle's Mercedes doesn't provide much of a relief. The sun burns their thighs through the windshield and while Kate can scoot her seat back a little and curl one leg under her, Castle is forced to remain in the same position in the driver's seat, completely exposed to the unrelenting sun.
They are on a book tour, driving south. Castle had signed his fingers to the bone yesterday, so today was a welcome relief. There was nothing on their schedule except the drive to their next destination and the desire to spend the day in each other's company.
Kate had taken a full week off of work and because Castle had always been so supportive of her job, she thought she should offer him the same. Although she doesn't like the publicity, doesn't like other women flirting with her fiancé and him being all charming, it was his job that brought them together, that ensures them the lifestyle they have and she's grateful for that.
She's been acceptive of the fact that she hasn't seen him much these past few days, that she had to share him and that he'd been exhausted after long hours of signing books, taking pictures and shaking hands, but today she wants it to be just the two of them and she wants to savor every minute of it.
"Maybe we should stop somewhere for lunch," she suggests when she sees him squirming in his seat, desperately trying to escape the harsh rays of the sun.
"Good idea," Castle agrees and pushes on the accelerator just a little harder. "Let's take the next exit and see where it leads us."
They are only a few miles from the next exit, and when they take it, the sun shines into the car at a different angle, and gives them a chance to cool off.
They seem to be in a small town and Kate spots a small diner right off what must be the main street of the town.
Castle easily finds a spot to park his car and when they get out and lock it, they laugh at how ridiculous his expensive, silver Mercedes looks next to the rustic trucks and pick-ups that are parked in the small lot behind the diner.
Kate finds them a booth near the window where they can overlook the busy main street of the town and when Castle slides onto the worn plastic leather next to her and drops a hand to her thigh, she leans her head on his shoulder and heaves a sigh.
Her fiancé squeezes her thigh in question and when she looks up at him, she finds his brow crinkled the way it always is when he's worried.
With a soft smile on her lips, she smooths her thumb over it. "Missed you, that's all."
"I missed you too," he murmurs into the crown of her head before dropping a kiss there.
Their waitress hands them each a menu and they both order cheeseburgers and milkshakes. A strawberry one for Kate, a chocolate one for Castle.
Throughout lunch they are very touchy-feely and Castle thinks, this might be his favorite version of Kate. The version in which she wears thong sandals, a comfortable pair of jeans and a light, white tunic with dark blue embroidered swirls on the front and lets her hair tumble in naturally soft curls down her back.
They pay for their meal and when they leave the diner, Kate can't help but overhear a couple talk about an open-air festival in a town not far from where they are right now.
She asks the owner of the diner about it who grabs a yellowed map from somewhere under the counter, shows them where they currently are and then points to the town where the festival is. She doesn't know what kind of music is being played, but Kate and Castle both don't care, they just want to enjoy the weather and do something together.
The drive to the festival is short, and Kate drives with her window down. The wind is tangling her hair but it drowns out Castle's bellowing to an old country song, so she'll gladly accept it.
When he notices what she's doing and that he can barely hear himself singing over the bleak wind blowing in through the window, he sings even louder and is delighted by the way Kate presses her hands to her ears.
She shoots him a glare when Castle parks in one of the last empty spots next to the park and tries to smooth her hair down with her fingers. It's no use, and more than once a knot catches in the diamond of her ring and pulls sharply at her scalp. She'd never take it off, though.
Once out of the car, they are a little flabbergasted at the amount of people that are streaming through the park entrance. They had expected a small, nondescript festival, but there are several stages in the park and security everywhere. There are also a lot more people than they thought there would be. The park takes slight downward slope and they are currently at the highest spot with an overview of the whole park. There must be thousands of people there.
"Do you still want to go?" he asks Kate because he isn't sure if this is what she'd imagined when she'd said she just wanted to spend time with him. This was going to be a rather crowded affair, and not very intimate.
"I haven't been to a festival in ages," she admits with some longing in her eyes as she surveys the crowd, the stages. "But we can do something else, if you don't want to."
"What? No? Come on!" He knots their fingers together and pulls her to the entrance of the park where they have to go through a security check. He'd do whatever it takes to make her happy and maybe he'll even learn a little more about her wild child phase. It's the phase of Kate Beckett that interests him the most but knows the littlest about and every time she drops a line or two about it, he sponges it up.
After roughly patting them down, the security guard waves them through and Kate grabs a pamphlet that tells them who plays on what stage and when. They both don't know any of the musicians but Kate thinks the band that will be playing on the second stage in about an hour sounds interesting.
Close to the entrance, people stand scattered and they have no problem strolling around hand in hand but the closer they get to the first stage, the tighter the crowd gets.
Castle holds on to her hand a little tighter and she squeezes him back reassuringly. She won't let go. They won't lose each other in the crowd.
It's a tight fit, but they manage to bypass the first stage and its spectators without stepping on anyone's toes but when they reach the second stage, there are even more people.
"Come on, let's try to get a spot in the front," Kate says over the cheering and whistling of the people, even though they are only just setting up equipment on stage and testing the microphones.
Castle is a little skeptical, the crowd seems pretty serried but Kate boxes herself through it. She's lithe and people are much more ready to make space for a pretty girl like her than for a tall man like him and he is the recipient of quite a few glares and disapproving head shakes.
At last, he tugs Kate to a halt. They are only in the middle of the crowd and it's clear that people are beginning to get restless, blocking the way of people that want to get through, some people are already shouting angrily when they get bumped into and Castle doesn't feel too comfortable here with Kate. Even though it's only early afternoon, some people have already had a few beers and are pushing each other when they think someone is a little too close to their girlfriend and Kate is only wearing sandals. He's not sure he would be able to carry her to the car when she has a broken toe.
She looks at him questioningly and he leans down to her so she can hear him over the noise. "I think we should stay a little more at the sides. You're wearing sandals and I'm pretty sure I saw some teenagers drinking beer over there."
Kate is not on duty, this town is not her jurisdiction, yet she's well-known with the Police Force all over the country. Mainly because she's engaged to Richard Castle, but also because she's solved a few pretty high profile cases and she'd probably get in trouble for being around law-breakers without intervening.
He turns to his right, cutting his way through the thick mass of people with Kate's hand securely in his. At the edge of the crowd, near the park fence, it's a little less dense and they are able to breathe freely. They are still relatively close to the stage but the angle is all wrong and they can only see parts of the stage. Well, he can see parts of the stage, Kate is significantly smaller than him without heels and she has to look at the screens that hang next to the stage on both sides.
It's not optimal and he is truly sorry for it but this is the best they can do.
After only a few more minutes of waiting, the band comes out on the stage and when the roar of the fans dies down, they play their first song. It's a slow song and Kate leans into his side, their hips bumping, her eyes glued to the screen. He loops an arm around her shoulders, fiddles with a curl that tumbles down her arm and she hooks her thumb through the belt loops of his jeans.
The next song is a little faster and Kate taps her fingers against his spine in rhythm to it, but when the third song starts playing, the crowd starts jumping up and down, cheering, and Kate raises on her tiptoes to see. It's hard for him to see now as well but he doesn't need to see. He'd much rather look at his joyful fiancée while the music plays.
But right now, she isn't joyful, she's rather annoyed, and in a swift move, Castle grabs her around the hips, bends, and sticks his head right between her thighs.
Kate lets out a squeak of surprise and grabs onto his ears while she whirls through the air, for a second not knowing where is up and where is down, but when Castle stills and looks up at her with a grin, she regains her equilibrium.
When his hands leave her hips and instead hold onto her shins, it's a little wobbly and she feels like she's standing on stilts.
"Castle, put me down," she laughs and he peaks up at her with one eye squinted closed to protect it from the sun.
"Because I'm not seventeen anymore," she retorts and Castle shrugs - or at least tries to with her weight on his shoulders.
"You could pass for seventeen," he argues and for a moment she wonders if she's heard right.
"What did you just say?" she demands and tightens her thighs against his neck a little in warning.
There is a moment of confusion, where he replays the words he has just said, and then gulps visibly when he realizes just what he said.
Kate looks down her body, her gaze lingering on the swell of her breast and the flare of her hip before she glares at him. "Are you trying to tell me I look like a seventeen-year-old?"
"No!" he protests sharply. "You look like you're, uh, well, you know ...," he drifts off. If he says she looks like she's thirty, she'll probably tighten her knees even more, if he says she looks like she's twenty-five, she'll think he's lying, telling her what she thinks she wants to hear and she'll rip his head off. Which is quite easy from the position she's currently in.
"Yes?" she urges and uses the grip she still has on his ears and pulls them away from his head.
Castle winces and ducks his head before blinking his blue eyes innocently at her. "I actually think I may be sun-struck."
"I think so too," Kate grumbles under her breath but Castle still hears her and presses a kiss to the inside of her jeans-clad knee.
She relaxes then and softly sways to the music while absentmindedly running a hair through Castle's hair. "Are you sure I'm not too heavy?" she asks with some concern between songs. His bad knee is still giving him trouble from time to time and while she may be slim, she is also quite tall and physically fit.
"Light as a feather," he replies, but during the next song, Kate begins to shift and squirm on his shoulders.
"Okay?" he mouths over the loud music and when Kate shakes her head, he crouches to let her slide off. She grimaces when her feet touch the ground but after a few experimental steps, the furrow of her brow smooths out again and she presses a kiss to his cheek, letting him know she's okay.
"The angle was off," she explains after the song ends, "It was straining my thighs."
They listen to the last songs of the band and only notice the dark clouds in the sky when it starts drizzling.
"Let's go," whispers Castle and they're one of the first to move. Most of the crowd stays to listen to the last one or two songs but he knows, once they are over, everyone will be racing for the exit and there will be a lot of pushing and jostling.
Kate nods and follows him, but it starts to drizzle harder and suddenly more and more people decide to leave and they're still far away from the exit when the crowd tightens and the pushing begins.
It's okay at first, people respect Castle's size and try to not come too close but the gates through which they exit are narrow and only allow a few people at a time to pass through and soon they find themselves shoulder to shoulder with others, only taking a step every few seconds. People begin to be impatient and when it rains harder, they start to scramble.
Castle steps behind Kate, his feet framing hers, and by slinging his arms around her shoulders from behind, he creates some kind of retaining wall around her. She's completely enveloped by him, his broad chest a solid wall against her back and when she turns her head to look at him, there is so much trust and love shining in her eyes that his heart thumps wildly in his chest. After all these years, she still has that effect on him.
They progress slowly and while people do jostle him, Kate doesn't notice any of it and they're both calm and patient.
It takes minutes until they make it out of the park and Kate's white tunic is sticking to her skin but thankfully the blue embroidery doesn't make it completely see-through. His own shirt is soaked through as well but when they reach the car, he gets the thin jacket he keeps in the trunk for emergencies and instead drapes it over Kate's shoulders.
With the rain comes the wind and they're both shaking by the time they slide into their seats and Castle turns the heater on.
"That was so us," Kate laughs when her teeth stop chattering and pulls his jacket tighter around her shoulders.
"What do you mean?"
"It's been hot and sunny all week long and we were both stuck inside buildings. The only day we get to ourselves and have time to enjoy the weather, we get caught in a rainstorm."
"Yeah, only we get this lucky," Castle agrees with a smirk and twists a damp strand of hair behind Kate's ear.
"I still think it was a perfect day."
"Everyday day with you is a perfect day." He gives her his most charming smile and she swats at his arm before letting her head drop back against the headrest with a groan.
"Even for you that's a little too cheesy."
"You love me anyway," he singsongs, dropping a hand to her thigh, and his happiness is just so infectious that she cracks a smile.
"That I do. And do you want to know what would make me love you even more?" she teases and Castle leans in, so eager. She drops her chin a little so she can peek at him from through her thick lashes and her voice drops to a cheeky whisper. "If you'd finally put the car into first gear and peel me out of these clothes so we can make use of the little hot tub our hotel room has."
Her breath washes hotly over him and if that in combination with the white shirt glued to her front wasn't enough teasing already, her fingers start tripping over the inseam of his jeans.
"Maybe we can extend the perfect day into a perfect day and night?" she suggests and he's finally breaking out of his daze.
He wiggles his eyebrows playfully before giving her thigh one last squeeze and then starting the car. "Or maybe, we can extend this perfect day into a perfect day, a perfect night, and a perfect morning."
At that, Kate lets out a peel of laughter. "So long as you get me out of these dripping clothes soon you can certainly give it a try."
"I will not only give it a try, I will also succeed."