It doesn't take long to unload the car. Alexis has already gotten her things out and up to her room, so it only takes a few trips. Kate's things and medical bags he puts in the library, right beside her room as not to wake her up. His suitcases go up to the master bedroom and the job is done.
He looks in and finds that Alexis is not in her room and her things seem to already be unpacked. He deduces that she must have won the race and is already down at the pool. He quickly pulls on a swimsuit and jogs down the stairs to find her.
He stops by Kate's room to ensure that she is still sleeping peacefully and leaves a note on her nightstand telling her that he is right outside and to call him when she wakes up. He knows that she will most likely sleep all afternoon, but he definitely doesn't want her to wake up scared and alone.
He heads outside through the main patio door and breathes in a deep breath of fresh, salty air. He loves the beach. It has been his sanctuary of sorts for years now. Whenever he has writers block or the city becomes too crowded for him he takes reprieve here. It is also where he feels closest to his family. He and Alexis have been coming to the house every summer since she was tiny. She has grown up here and he can't wait to spend another summer with her. He would never have missed this and he had no idea what he would have done if Kate had refused to come with them.
He spotted Alexis sunning herself on a chaise lounge-type float in the middle of the pool. As he came closer he saw no electronic device or book in her lap so he decided she was fair game. As soon as he was through the gate he dropped his towel and took off running for the pool. She noticed him much too late as he was already mid cannon ball.
Water goes everywhere as soon as he hits the surface. Everything within a ten foot radius is soaked. He had perfected the art of 'biggest, wettest cannonball' years ago. They had done actual experiments and stayed in the pool all day to figure out how to make the biggest splash or the loudest landing.
When he surfaced he was met with fiery blue eyes.
"Really? How old are you?" It still shocked Rick whenever he saw glimpses of teenager in his daughter. Normally she was so sweet and innocent, but he knew she was growing up and he would give her some leniency once in awhile.
"Oh, you know me, still 9 years old. That's what Kate says anyway." His comment was designed to cool off the mood and earn him at least a smile from his daughter, but instead it was met with an eye roll.
Rick swam over to the side and used his arms to hoist himself out of the pool. Using his towel to dry off, he came to sit on the edge of the pool as Alexis floated leisurely. She looked so grown up lounging in the chair with sunglasses covering her face. It still shocked him to see her looking this grown up. To him she would always be his baby girl.
"So it appears you won the race. You know what that means. What would you like for dinner?" Her head snapped in his direction, she almost looked confused.
"What? You didn't think I had forgotten, did you?" He smiled and she gave him one back. The first real smile he had seen from her in a while. It was short lived though as she thought about what she wanted to eat.
He wasn't blind. He knew there was something wrong with Alexis. She hadn't been herself lately. Ever since the shooting she had been a completely different person. She didn't smile as much and she was pulling away from him.
That was one of the reasons he made such a fuss about everyone being up here. He knew that he couldn't abandon her now. He knew that she needed some father daughter time, and probably some alone time too. Now he had everyone he loved under one roof and he made it his mission to make sure everyone was healing.
"Steak kabobs?" Alexis decided.
"Sounds delicious. I already have all of the ingredients for that, I'm pretty sure."
Alexis smiled again and went back to her sunning. Rick applied some sunscreen and waited for it to dry, mentally checking off what would need to be done to prep dinner and making the necessary changes in his mind for Kate's meal.
She was still pretty restricted on what she could and couldn't eat. She had to eat healthy and unseasoned foods for the most part. Her intestines were still regulating themselves and she was still too thin for everyone's comfort.
After his sunscreen had dried he decided to swim some laps. He had always been fit and enjoyed working out. He used this time to clear his head. Put all of his worries about Kate and Alexis out of his mind and simply swim. He only thought about his breathing and the hard and sharp movements he was making.
He had lost count of the number of laps he had swam when his legs and arms finally crossed the line from satisfying burn to about to give out. He slowed and flipped on his back to cool down and enjoy the sun.
Alexis had moved to a pool chair and was stretched out reading a book. He lazed a few more minutes before he got out and went over to check the time. His phone read 4:30 pm. Just in time.
"Alright, pumpkin. I've had enough for today. Dinner at…let's say 6:00. Text your Gram and let her know will you."
"Sure Dad." She said absentmindedly, still completely wrapped up in the book in her hands.
He sent a text to his mother on his way into the house, knowing that Alexis was most likely too far into the book to remember. She replied before he could even make it back to the house that her party was a bust and much too subdued for her taste, she would be home for dinner. He had to laugh to himself at her outrageousness. He always thought she was like Lindsey Lohan from Freaky Friday, teenager trapped in an older body.
When he reached the house he went straight to Kate's room. He was not surprised she was still fast asleep, he was glad that nightmares had not yet plagued her dreams. He decided that he would let her sleep only long enough for him to grab a shower and then he would wake her up.
He showered and dressed quickly. He unpacks most of his belongings and throws the suitcases under the bed, before heading back downstairs. He takes Kate's bags into her room and puts them into the closet, telling himself to make sure they are unpacked before tomorrow morning, and goes to wake her up.
He sits on the edge of the bed and her eyes flutter open. She must have been resting more than sleeping when he brought the bags in.
"Hey, Sleeping Beauty." Her eye roll is just as sassy as ever and he smiled at the sight. "Thought you might want to get up for a while before dinner."
She nods her head slowly, but stays perfectly still.
"s'comfortable, Castle." She almost purrs. He sighs in relief that it appears she isn't in excruciating pain at the moment. In fact, her forehead is free from lines and her brow is not creased. He is glad the mattress and sheets have her approval. She complained daily about the sheets at the rehab center in the midst of her daily rant spurred on by pain.
"We can stay here for a bit, I have some time before I have to start cooking." She hums her approval and wraps her hand around his, bringing their joined hands to rest on her chest. He loved her when she was in her post-pain medication sleep haze. She was so clingy and confused, like a little girl.
"I have some good news?" He sing-songed.
"hmmm?" One of her eyes cracked open and the other slowly followed as she focused on his face.
"No therapy tomorrow." Her smile is wide and happy, going all the way up to fill her eyes. She really hates therapy. It makes her sore and tired, she always requires more help afterwards, and she always feels a little bit like a failure.
It will be the first day since the shooting that will not be filled with either doctor's appointments or therapy sessions. It will also be the last free day they have for a while. Over the next several weeks she will be enduring quite a few sessions.
He has a schedule all set up for her. She will have therapy on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Every day, except for Saturday, will be at home. He found a fabulous PT program that focuses on comfortable, at-home care. He is hoping that if he is there during her sessions he can help her through them and maybe bring some joy into the room. Previously his visiting hours were restricted and he was not allowed to be with her during her sessions, he hoped that he could make them better for her this time around.
They will be working half on building and retaining muscles and the other half on completing everyday activities and tasks. The goal is for her to be as independent as possible. She will probably never live alone again, not that he wants her too, and she will most likely never be a detective full time, but she will slowly regain every day skills.
"Anything specific you might like to do with your free day?" She shakes her head. He has a few ideas that she might enjoy, but they will worry about that tomorrow.
After a few more minutes of silence her eyes stay open longer and she seems more alert. Her fingers squeeze his and he knows that she is okay to get up. He places a kiss on her hand and gets up to move her wheelchair back over to the bedside. He puts the wheel brake on and throws off the covers. He slowly helps her sit up and then carefully pulls her into his arms.
He takes longer than necessary to turn around and place her in the chair. He likes the feel of her weight in his arms and her head resting on his shoulder. Once she is situated he releases the brake and wheels her out into the living area.
"Do you want to watch TV in here while I cook?" She shakes her head a little too hard for his liking. "Alright how about a book then, I can set you up on the couch?" Again he is met with a shake of the head.
He stops when they arrive at the kitchen, puts the brake on, and comes to stand in front of her. That is when he sees it. Just a tiny flash of feeling in her eye, but he knows her. He knows her so well he doesn't need for her to say one word. He has only seen her like this a few times before and he never wants her to be afraid to just come out and say it. She is lonely.
She has just spent the last month in rehab where she has been surrounded by doctors and nurses and therapists, but she has been alone. They have strict visiting hours and the rest of the day is spent in the care of others. She misses people, him, she misses him.
"Actually, you know I would enjoy some company, would you like to join me?"
"I would like that." He can hear the relief in her voice. She likes to shut people out and pretend to be this strong super human robot, but she is only human.
So he gets all the ingredients out of the fridge and brings them over to the dining room table. He pushes her over to the table and takes the seat right next to her. He produces two knives and places one in her general direction.
"Alexis requested Steak Kabobs, but I am feeling grilled chicken instead. I figured I would make some steak, potato, and pepper kabobs for her and mother, and then we could have some chicken and vegetables. Care to help me chop?"
She saw right through him. She knew that he would rather have steak, too. He was going to eat with her, instead. She wanted to be angry and tell him that she was a big girl and if she had to eat something different she was perfectly capable of doing so alone. But, if she was being honest with herself, it was kind of sweet that he didn't want her eating alone. So she pretended not to notice.
Instead she picked up the knife and slowly slid a carrot towards her. Her entire body was weak, even her arms did not have their usual strength. It was frustrating, but she was determined to help. If Castle was going to do all of this for her the least she could do was help with the chopping.
She also knew that he didn't need any help chopping and in the end she was only able to chop the one long carrot into slices in the time it took him to finish everything else, including the meat. He wanted her to feel useful and to get a little mini workout in. Her therapists were always telling her to try and do little things every day to gain strength. Before today she had never tried. She had just sat and let others do it for her.
Castle made her want to get better. He gave her a glimpse of what her future would look like if she would fight. If she could do this, if she could heal enough to even be half the person she used to be, they could be happy together. He was her living, breathing motivation. And darn if she was going to let a silly carrot get in her way.
After all the vegetables and meat had been sliced, it was time to move to the grill. Luckily his outdoor kitchen was equipped with shade and a stove so that everything could cook at once without him having to run back and forth. He quickly took all of the food and supplies outside on a tray and then came back inside to get Kate.
She looked a little disheartened that she was too weak to get herself out of the kitchen, but he only smiled at her and pushed her onto the deck. It was a very large deck and he had no problem setting her up where she had a spectacular view of the ocean.
Once she was settled he went down to the pool to remind Alexis of dinner. She jumped up and gathered her things, saying something about a shower. He walked back up to the porch and began cooking, all the while keeping up a light conversation with Kate.
It was about 45 minutes later when everything was finishing up. He peeked his head inside and saw his mother and Alexis talking on the couch.
"Hello, Mother. Would you lovely ladies mind setting the table and making drinks for us, please?"
"Absolutely darling, come along Alexis."
With that taken care of he went back to the grill and began plating up the food. They had quite a spread. Half a dozen steak kabobs, two grilled chicken breasts with baked potatoes, lima beans, green beans, yeast rolls, and a salad.
He carried everything inside and put it on the table serving himself and Kate the chicken and potatoes and leaving the rest to be served when everyone sat down. When everything was set up and the drinks were being transferred to the table he went and got Kate.
He sat at the head of the table with Kate on his left and Alexis on the right followed by his mother. They all dug into the food, which was delicious. He kept his eye on Kate throughout the dinner. She answered the few questions Martha asked, all light and non-injury related, 'how was her father doing?' and 'when was the last time she had been to the beach?'. She answered them politely, but remained pretty focused on her plate.
Alexis was much the same way. She was quieter and more reserved than usual. Again she answered any questions her father or gram had, but never elaborated or got particularly excited. They all attributed it to the travel of the morning and a day spent at the pool sucking away at her energy, which was not entirely untrue.
Even so, it was the best dinner they had had in a long time. Everyone was safe and together. After they had finished eating Castle made eye contact with Kate and could tell she needed an escape. So he got up and began clearing plates, but Martha had other ideas.
"Why don't you take Katherine out to see the sunset, darling? Alexis and I will clean up here. I am sure you two could use some rest, hmm."
"Thank you, Mother." Normally he would protest, but he did want to take Kate out to see the stars come out and let her relax. She had been tense at dinner and he was sure she was fading as it approached time for more pain medication.With that he took hold of Kate's chair, unlocked the wheels, and led her away from the table and a slightly disgruntled Alexis.