“Are you ready?” Castle looks at her with a mix of concern and…is that excitement? Must be. Oddly, it reassures her.
“Yeah.” She nods at him and he raps his knuckles three times against the door, their signal to L.T.
“I still wish we’d gotten to bring the battering ram,” her partner laments. “I’ve always wanted to try that thing. Remind me to look up if you can buy one on Amazon when we get home.” It’s sad that she thinks this is normal. A battering ram, really? She can imagine all too well the loft in shambles as he learns to use the thing. He glances down at his watch. “That’s thirty seconds. Go.”
Castle pushes the door open and away from them hard enough that it smacks against the wall behind it. Kate surges forward into the room, gun raised, vest donned, flashlight in hand. Her wrists are crossed, flashlight shining underneath her rubber firearm. Castle follows her in, but he doesn’t move enough like Esposito or Ryan for her to resist clearing an entire room by herself instead of sticking to her section as she learned in the Academy.
There’s a door at the other end of the room, and she stops on one side of it and Castle positions himself on the other, meeting her gaze seriously. Somewhere deep down she knows it’s a simulation, just practice, no danger, but it certainly feels real enough. “Three, two, one…” he says quietly and pushes the door open with a slight bang. Kate moves swiftly into the room, eyes roving everywhere—up, down, left, and right. Something jumps out at her from behind a bookcase and she startles badly, still managing to keep her gun up.
Somewhere in the blur that is L.T. she identifies that he’s holding a gun, and without a thought her finger’s on the trigger, not pressing, but poised heavily. The two of them are still for several seconds, Castle bobbing in the background. Then L.T. lowers his gun. “That was good, Beckett.”
“Not good enough.”
“A good start then. Ready to go again?” She nods, rejoining Castle and walking back to their initial point of breach and closing the door they had opened on their way. The three of them repeat the scenario, and this time she finds L.T. in the first room pointing a gun directly at her, and after a millisecond’s pause she shoots him with her own. By two in the afternoon she has explored every facet of the building and Castle’s enthusiasm has worn off.
But she’s happy. Her adrenaline levels upon bursting through the first door have settled to near-normal spikes, and her tactical training has fully kicked in. So when Castle suggests they stop for the day—and she knows that that means they won’t do this again—she acquiesces easily. They offer to take L.T. for a drink but he declines, wishing her luck on her reexaminations and returning home to spend some quality time with his son on his day off.
Castle proposes midday s’morelets and she shoots that idea down quickly, but Kate does agree that dinner tonight with Alexis, Martha, and her dad sounds like a wonderful idea. He postulates going to the store for ingredients and she happily agrees.
Accompanying a rich man-child on a shopping trip, it turns out, is a very interesting experience. She was not aware just how much ice cream the Castles consume, but either he isn’t planning on going shopping for the next year or they each eat a carton a week. Then there’s the chocolate, marshmallows, and carton of eggs, and she pretends vociferously she doesn’t know exactly what those will end up in. Yet another item on Castle’s mental list is bottles of chocolate syrup—apparently he believes in fetching the desserts first despite the fact that half of them belong in a freezer case. Then it’s the expensive wine, which she does enjoy picking out, and finally the ingredients for dinner—a large hunk of steak, russet potatoes, and the makings of caesar salad. Her mouth is watering just at the thought.
Jim arrives exactly at six o’clock, and Kate invites him inside with a tight hug. He appraises her with his eyes, and he smiles upon seeing her look healthy, happy, and whole. She leads him to the kitchen where Castle greets him as well, balancing a bowl of salad in one hand and four wine glasses in the other.
Alexis bounds down the stairs just in time to lay out the napkins and silverware and say a quick hello to Jim before it’s time to eat. Martha sweeps in the door at the last minute, gushing apologies for her lateness. Food is served and they all dig in, Martha starting off the conversation with, “So, Katherine, when’s requalification going to be?”
“Soon,” Kate smiles at her with a glance at Castle. “I’m going to call the precinct tomorrow and set a date. Sometime next week.”
“Nervous?” her father asks.
She laughs. “Of course. But I think I’ll be ready.”
“You will be,” Castle promises.
After dinner, Jim takes her aside quietly. “How are you, really?”
“I’m good, Dad,” she smiles. His eyes search her face for a moment, but she means what she said. “I’m ready to go back to work. Dr. Burke practically said so the last time I was there, last week.”
“Practically,” the lawyer in him repeats.
“He’ll say it for sure tomorrow,” Kate tells him. “It’s my final session with him. He won’t be the one clearing me for duty, but…it’ll be good going in there having his confidence with me.”
“If you’re not sure on your own, Katie… No one would fault you if you needed—wanted—a little more time off.”
“No, Dad, really. Castle and I have been working on it, and I can do it. I can. I can shoot, and I can have a gun pointed at me.”
Jim smiles sheepishly. “Yes, because that’s exactly what a father wants to hear.”
Kate laughs lightly and envelops him in a hug. “I can shoot them before they shoot me. Besides, Castle has my back. I’m ready to start putting bad guys behind bars again.”
“Officer Hastings,” she says.
“Detective Beckett,” her fellow officer replies. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” Kate says. “How’d you get stuck on desk duty? Problem with the new Captain? Montgomery was always fond of you, but from what I’m told Victoria Gates runs an entirely different rodeo.”
“No, no, nothing like that,” Hastings says. “I was chasing a suspect down 2nd. Wrenched my arm in the takedown. What can I do for you, Detective?”
“I was actually looking to make an appointment to requalify,” Kate tells her. She’s sitting on the couch with her cell phone pressed to her ear.
“Just a second, Detective.” Kate can detect the tapping of keys on the other end. “According to your file, the first day you are legally able to requalify is next Monday, the eighteenth, but unfortunately the necessary facilities are being used for some special training of the new uniforms. The first day they’re available is Thursday the twenty-first.”
“Schedule me for then.”
“All right, Beckett. You’ll be put through the obstacle course, tactical, and a psychological assessment. You’ll also need to bring your medical clearance form from your surgeon.”
“Got it, thanks Hastings. What time should I arrive?”
“You should get here by ten for the physical portion and then there’ll be a break before Dr. Carter will see you at two thirty.”
“Okay, sounds good. Hope your arm feels better,” Kate says.
“Thanks.” Hastings terminates the call.
“All set?” Castle asks, coming into the room from the kitchen.
“Yep. Thursday,” she responds. “Once more unto the breach.”
He offers her the plate in his hands with mocking, childlike innocence. “For strength?”
“Castle, I am not eating that.”