“Sometimes when I am bored, I go to Glechik Café in Little Odessa and pretend to be Muscovite.”
“...That's kinda hot.”
It's a Thursday afternoon in March in New York, and it's cold and dreary and drizzly and just sort of blah, and somewhere around three o'clock, Kate Beckett finds herself zoning out on the couch, staring at the living room wall with a kind of sullen resentment that tells her it's time to get out of her apartment. She forces herself to stand, to comb her hair, to put on street-appropriate clothing. She digs out a pea coat and a brightly-colored scarf-and-hat set, tucks a book into her pocket, and leaves home, stepping out onto the street and taking a deep breath of wet, cold air.
It's not invigorating in the least.
She grumbles in a generally sky-ward direction and considers her options. She could go to a movie, drop in on a friend, check out a gallery, actually do her grocery shopping...
Her stomach rumbles slightly, and suddenly she realizes exactly what she wants. She wants borscht. And there is really only one place to get borscht in New York at three in the afternoon on a Thursday - or, really, anytime - so she trots herself down the street to the nearest subway entrance and the B train takes her straight out to Brighton Beach. When she emerges, she can't help but smile at the familiar Cyrillic characters that jump out at her from so many signs and shopfronts. She loves Little Odessa; her time in Kiev was amazing and when she's here, she can almost pretend that she's there again.
Speaking of pretending; she takes a moment of deep breathing to reset herself. She's not Kate any more; now she's Kateryna, an expat longing for home. She makes her way to the cafe - less crowded on a weekday, but she still mourns for the days before it got so well-known and became such a trendy tourist destination - and stakes out a quiet spot on the covered patio. She orders borscht with pompushka and a mug of kvass, and she settles in comfortably with her book - the second Harry Potter, in Russian.
She passes her meal in silence, reading while she eats. She converses with no one but her server until after her empty bowl has been taken away. She's still reading when a muscular blonde man pauses on his way past the patio to eye her up. She notes his scrutiny and returns it unpleasantly, and when he grins at her, she does not return that. He asks her name, and she responds by telling him, in Russian, that she does not speak English. He continues to study her for a long moment before shrugging, clearly giving himself a gold star for effort as he walks away.
He's barely turned the corner, and Kate has barely turned her page, before there is movement directly in front of her again. She lowers her book once more, and finds herself eye to very amused blue eye with an attractive, slender redhead. There is danger in every move the other woman makes, despite their seeming nonchalance, and Kate has seen enough well-trained women to know that this woman has been well-trained indeed. She doesn't need a weapon; she is a weapon. Kate wonders if she works for the Russian mafia.
The woman is examining Kate closely. “You're very good,” she says finally, in Russian. “I almost didn't notice you.”
“Congratulations,” Kate replies, also in Russian. “Feel free to continue doing so.”
“I couldn't possibly,” the redhead refuses. “You're far too intriguing.”
Resigned, Kate places her bookmark, closes her book, and slips it into her pocket. “All right.”
“As I said,” the woman continues, “you almost had me convinced. But your accent isn't quite right. There's something about the way you draw out your a sounds.”
“I'll work on that,” Kate assures her, with only a slight hint of sarcasm. “Was that all?”
The redhead smiles now. “Will you tell me your name?” she asks. “I'm called Natasha.”
Kate raises an eyebrow at being offered the diminutive form of the name so immediately; she considers it for a long moment, then shrugs. “Katya.”
“Katya,” Natasha repeats, and the name flows like warm honey off her tongue. “I find you intriguing,” she continues, leaning forward and resting her elbows on the table, her clasped hands held under her chin. “As I say, I almost didn't notice you. But your accent is not quite right, and I would be willing to bet any amount of money that you are not who you seem to be.”
“And who do I seem to be?” Kate asks, mimicking Natasha's pose with a soft, acidic smile. “Surely I am just a woman sitting in a café, reading a book.”
“No, no.” Natasha shakes her head. “Everything about you screams that this is as close to home as you will ever be again, and you are loath to leave this place and go back to wherever it is you lay your head at night. You are no tourist; you are a defector.” She pauses, flagging down the waitress as she passes and asking for two vodkas. When she returns her attention to Kate, she quirks an eyebrow. “Am I right?”
Kate sits back in her chair and sighs. “You're a professional,” she mutters. “I should've known.” She shakes her head. “Are you attached to the embassy?”
Natasha grins broadly. “No. I actually work for the American government now. Classified, of course. You're not, then? You had me fooled. I'm very impressed.”
Kate gives her a rueful smile. “I spent a semester abroad in Kiev,” she explains. “Sometimes when I get bored...” She waves a hand at the table and the cafe and the two vodkas which have just arrived in an all-encompassing gesture.
“Ah, of course,” Natasha nods. “Nostalgia.”
Kate shrugs, a little embarrassed, but Natasha's smile is indulgent and it's very good vodka.
By the time they finish their drinks, the rain has stopped, and Natasha asks if Kate would like to go for a walk. “It's seldom that I have a chance to talk about literature with anyone who can appreciate it,” she says, “and even more seldom that I have a chance to talk so freely in Russian. I do miss it, sometimes.”
And Kate isn't foolish or blind, and Natasha is very pretty, so when the chance comes up, she offers casually, “I have a first edition Trediakovsky that I bought in St. Petersburg.”
“Really,” Natasha says, and she does Kate the honor of restraining her amusement. “I should very much like to see that.”
The sun is just setting when Kate unlocks the door of her apartment, and Natasha follows her in, her eyes sizing up the place immediately. Kate tosses her hat, scarf, and coat onto the couch, giving her a moment to familiarize herself with the layout and the exits, and then she steps forward, reaching up to ghost her fingers along Natasha's jawline.
The redhead turns and, despite the six-inch difference in their height, takes Kate in her arms. “It's been some time since I've done this,” Kate admits between kisses, as her fingers slide through that silky red hair.
“With a woman?” Natasha clarifies.
“With anyone,” Kate explains.
Natasha chuckles. “I'll go easy on you.”
They're both still speaking Russian, and somehow that makes it even hotter, as they shed their clothing piece by piece. Natasha is pale as a porcelain doll, but the muscles under that fair skin give the lie to any illusion of fragility. She is powerful and fierce, and she lays Kate back on the couch and makes her come twice with her fingers before granting her the favor of her mouth.
When Kate finally gets her turn, she doesn't even try to assume the dominant position; she pulls Natasha up from between her own thighs, guiding her to kneel on the couch above her head, and she owns Natasha with her lips and teeth and tongue and watches the redhead shatter above her, arching her back and shuddering and swearing.
Sometime later, they move to the bedroom, and here they tussle playfully, and Natasha is at least willing to let Kate win about forty percent of the time. One of those times is because Kate has a kinky box under her bed and one of the items inside it is a double-headed strap-on that she hasn't used with anyone in years, but it still fits and she still remembers the way of it, and she braces herself on her elbows with Natasha's legs bracketing her waist and their breath mingles between them as the slow, slick push and pull works them both into a frenzy of need that ends with both of them slightly hoarse and panting.
They nap, cuddled together under Kate's green cotton sheets, and sometime in the dark of night, Natasha wakes her with kisses and they crash together again, and it's hot and sweaty and desperate and before it's over, they're both sporting claw and teeth marks. They sleep again.
Near sunrise, Kate rolls over, stretching her arm out across the bed, and is utterly unsurprised to find it empty. She rises, snagging her robe, and comes out of her bedroom and into the living room, looking around. Natasha's things are all gone, the door locked behind her. Kate isn't surprised, but she is maybe a little disappointed. She sighs softly, pads into the kitchen to start the coffee maker. There she finds the note. It is lying on the counter beside her coffee mug.
I'm sorry I had to leave suddenly, it reads, the Cyrillic characters graceful in blue ink. I would have liked to have seen how beautiful you were writhing underneath me in the light of dawn. It is signed simply, N. There is no telephone number, but Kate isn't surprised about that either.
She can't explain why she doesn't throw the note away, but she doesn't; instead, she tucks it safely into one of her many shoeboxes full of memories.
Three years later, there is pandemonium in midtown. There are aliens coming out of the sky, there's a huge green monster marauding through the streets, Captain freaking America is out there slinging his shield around. Kate is at home with Castle when it happens, on day two of a ten-day suspension, and she watches the news coverage with Castle, sitting in front of the television on his giant couch, a hand over her mouth in shock as she tries to process what she is seeing.
And then, something in the corner of one frame catches her eye. It's a flash of red. She blinks, not sure if she's really seeing what she thinks she's seeing. And then one of the cameras focuses on the woman fighting alongside Captain freaking America, and Kate gasps. “Natasha,” she blurts, reflexively, and Castle's head whips around, his eyes pinning her to her seat like a bug to a display board.
“Do you know her?” he asks, as if the answer to that question isn't totally obvious, since she just basically vomited the woman's name all over their living room floor.
She gives him a slight smile, her eyes glued to the screen as she watches the fighting. “Yes, I know her,” she says. “I haven't been in ages, but I used to like to go to the Glechik Café when I was bored, and pretend to be a Russian expatriate...”