Convalescence

Nine-Year-Olds

“Damn it,” Kate whispers. She’s seated on their bed with her shirt hiked up, revealing her midsection and the two scars that run across it. Castle hovers at her side as she fiddles with the used bandage she’s changing out from the one that runs under her ribcage.

“You okay?” he asks concernedly.

“Yeah, fine; the cloth just got caught on one of the stitches, that’s all,” she says as she unhooks it. The brief spike of pain fades, leaving just a smarting feeling behind.

“You sure you don’t want me to do that?” he asks.

“No, I got it,” she says absentmindedly, running a damp towel gently around the mostly-healed incision. “It’s been a week since we left the hospital; I can change my own bandage.” She applies a fresh piece over it and stands. “So, what’s on the slate for today?”

“Whatever you want to do,” Castle says.

“We could go out,” she suggests lightly.

He looks at her, startled. “Kate…”

“Come on, Castle,” she sighs, trying her best not to make it sound like a whine, “I’ve been cooped up in here for seven days. Seven. Days. So have you! You’ve sent Alexis grocery shopping twice and Martha once for take out! Don’t you want to go outside?” She catches his eye. “Not to someplace busy or anything, but a change of scenery would be nice. A…a picnic at Central Park!”

“Kate, it’s a hundred and two degrees outside today.”

“Oh. Well, the theater then. Come on, I’ll be sitting down and everything.” She has nothing on his puppy dog eyes, but she’s fairly certain she can convince him to come around.

Castle considers it, and by the look dawning on his face she knows she’s winning. Neither of them is used to being stuck inside all day every day, and deep down she knows he’s going as stir-crazy as she is. Even Martha and Alexis have noticed, and they’re part of the reason she’s suggesting this. For Alexis to offer up her binoculars so they can people watch the apartment across the way shows just how far gone they are.

“Okay,” he concedes. “Do you have a movie in mind?”

“I don’t even know what’s playing in theaters right now,” Kate confesses. “Just no action movies. Avoid loud noises and guns.”

“So like a chick flick?” Castle makes a face.

She sticks her tongue out at him. “Problem with that?”

“No,” he replies defiantly. “For you, I would brave a documentary on the life cycle of dung beetles.” Castle grins. “Although I can’t promise I wouldn’t start snoring in the middle of it. So yes, chick flick A-okay. Can’t be worse than those Temptation Lane marathons you’ve been forcing me to watch.”

Kate bounces out of the room and immediately regrets it as her wounds protest vociferously. She presses her arm to her stomach lightly and doesn’t let them stop her, though, glad to be getting out of the loft.

“Whoa, where are you going?” Alexis laughs as Kate snatches up her purse from the table with one big whoosh.

“Movie theater,” Kate answers happily. “You wanna come?”

“Meeting Ashley,” Alexis says.

“Another time, then,” Kate replies. She raises her voice. “Castle?”

“Coming, coming,” he emerges from the bedroom. “Wow, I haven’t seen you this excited since…since I can’t even remember when. You’re acting like me!”

Kate adopts a look of mock horror. “Like a nine-year-old on a sugar rush? My reputation is ruined!”

“To which reputation are you referring?” Castle teases as they exit his apartment.

“Hardass cop,” Kate laughs. “How dare you rub off on me.” She punches his arm lightly. “Stop it at once!”

It’s his turn to stick his tongue out at her and waggle his eyebrows. “You know you like it.”

“Do not,” she mutters softly under her breath, but they’re both grinning like children.

Kate doesn’t even know the name of the movie when they walk into the darkened theater and choose seats, as Castle had paid for the tickets and she strongly suspects he used eeny-meeny-miny-moe to select this film among the two or three with romantic-sounding titles. It’s clear once it starts that it’s pretty much your classic teenage girl-meets-slightly-older-teenage-boy love story, except the parents don’t approve and they talk about running away together. Her head is resting on Castle’s shoulder, and her right hand is intertwined with his left.

About halfway through the movie, they’re swimming together in the girl’s backyard, and the father finds out and yells at the boy to get off his property and not bother them again. “Why in every chick flick does there have to be a scene with the girl in a bikini or the guy shirtless?” Kate whispers to Castle.

“Shh,” her partner puts his finger to his lips. “I was told once by a very wise man that there’s a special level of hell reserved for people who talk at the theater.”

She scoffs quietly. “Or maybe you just like seeing the underage girl with almost no clothes on.”

“I prefer my scantily dressed women to be adult brunettes with badges,” he whispers in a deep voice, moving slightly closer to her and raising one wicked eyebrow. So much for the special hell.

She clenches her teeth hard and concentrates on her breathing trying not to blush, but in the semi-darkness she doesn’t think he can see the color of her skin anyway. A comeback springs into her mind, and she covers for her momentary lapse. “Oh, is that why your previous marriages didn’t work out, then? Wrong hair color?” He narrows his eyes at her—not in an angry way, but that small-child-trying-to-look-furious-but-actually-either-going-to-burst-out-laughing-or-have-their-brain-explode way—and places his finger to his lips again. She grins to herself silently.

When the movie’s over, Kate convinces him quite easily to stop for frozen yogurt on the way home. Hers has chocolate syrup and brownies while she swears his is half rainbow sprinkles. Upon their arrival at home he negotiates a deal with her that if she sleeps for a couple hours this afternoon they can go for a medium length walk this evening. She agrees immediately, giving him time to write and her another step back towards her regular exercise schedule. She misses going to the gym and her runs in Central Park. She’s also convinced that PTSD wouldn’t be nearly so much of a problem if she could take it out by punching people under the banner of ‘sparring’ in the precinct fitness center—or, if her normal partners chickened out, hitting her frustration into innocent dummies.

She’s up in time to help cook dinner, an activity she loves but never had time for with her detective duties in full swing. Of course, it’s much more fun with Castle there as well, and more than once Alexis or Martha have walked in to find one or both of them covered in flour or with suspiciously large spills of water on their shirts.

Somehow, as she's cutting up the onions and trying stiffly not to cry, Kate doesn’t think his allotted ‘writing time’ was actually spent writing. He’s humming again, and it doesn’t take her more than a second to identify the tune. “You have to stop thinking about it, Castle. I know you saw those tweets with spoilers in them, but dwelling on it isn’t going to help you any.”

“I can’t! I just finished the series, and they’re right! It left me hanging. It left us hanging!” The indignation in his voice is palpable, so much so that it takes all of Kate’s interrogation-room-poker-face training not to burst out laughing. She silently congratulates herself on her spidey sense being absolutely correct. No writing done. Whatsoever. Perhaps all her nagging at the precinct is questionable—she's pretty sure he'd be no use for paperwork anyways.

“It’s just a TV show.”

“Yes, a TV show that was the third of a series of sci-fi phenomena! Undoubtedly a flawed, inferior continuation, but it was Stargate. Aliens that enter your body and control you, a race made of tiny nanite machines, creatures that suck the life out of you with their hands!”

“I think I get why you write mystery novels. You have a closure problem. In your books you can end everything wrapped up in a neat little bow. Like killing off Derrick Storm—clean cut ending.”

“Well, yeah! They all got stuck in stasis pods, Kate! Who knows if they’ll ever get out!”

“They’re not real people, Castle. You do know that, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know—”

“Then you have to stop dwelling on it. You’re gonna end up beamed up by an Asgard in your dreams tonight if you don’t.”

“Ooh, that would be cool.”

“Or taken over by a Goa’uld.”

“Not so cool.”

“Yeah. So unless you wanna be dreaming about that while I dream about Gates cutting me out of the precinct, stop thinking about it.”

“You don’t have to dream about it, she already did it. I, on the other hand, have yet to experience being taken over by a power-hungry snake-thing.”

She sets the knife down next to a pile of onion and turns to face him. “Thanks, Castle. That makes me feel so much better.”

“You’re welcome.” He loves this, the playful banter. He loves that she can match him stride for stride. Except... “I do not have a closure problem!”

“Do too.”

“Do not.”

“Do too.”

“Do not.”

“Do too.”

“I’m not going to win this argument, am I?”

“No, you’re not.” She’s smiling; she’s teasing him.

“Well if I have a closure problem, then you do too.”

“How so?”

“You solve murders for a living and get cranky when you don’t have suspects.”

“It’s my job, Castle.”

“Mine too.” She gives him a look. “...as a cop-helper!”

“Right,” she says sarcastically. There’s a pause. “What do you mean, cranky?” He gulps and shifts slightly away as she picks the cutting knife back up off the chopping board. It's probably involuntary. She probably doesn't even know she's holding it. Probably. But the chance to tickle her further is too sweet to resist.

“I can call Esposito and he’ll tell you.”

Kate rolls her eyes. “I do not get cranky! And don’t, he’ll think we’ve gone bonkers or turned into one of those couples that coo at each other in public. I need to preserve my professionalism.”

“Maybe I will...” Castle slides his hand slowly into his pocket for his phone, making a show of it.

“Professionalism, Castle! Don’t. You. Dare.” She lunges for his arm, her fingers scrabbling helplessly at the back of his hand. He stands from the couch, holding the phone straight up in the air. Her injury still doesn’t allow her to raise her arms above her head, and besides, she’d never reach anyways—she’s not currently in heels. “Castle, I will SHOOT YOU.”

He’s laughing aggravatingly, replying back, “Oh, you know you love me,” before he realizes what he’s said. Their eyes connect for a half second, and then suddenly she’s brushing it off, moving past it.

“Only for your cuddliness in bed,” she replies with the slightest hint of snark.

The look he gives her is priceless.


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