Juice Cups and Coffee Mugs


Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have this wish I wish tonight.



I. First Star


When her interview is finally over at One Police Plaza, Kate seeks out her partner.

Since her text went unanswered, she has a fair idea of what's kept him away from his phone, and it's a matter of twenty minutes on the subway to Tribeca even during rush hour. She heads up the stairs and out into New York City, smelling Greek food and the Hudson River, and she lets her eyes absorb the sidewalks, the architecture, the busyness surrounding New York Law School and its supporting culture.

Two weeks back in her city, and she's still seeing the facades first, even if her anxiety is leveling off. For instance, she knows where Rick is despite not reaching him, and she heads down Franklin Street towards her gym with the confidence of a native.

This is her neighborhood. Her apartment just down the block, near Hudson, and her local gym where she used to box with the trainer, hit the heavy bag, take out her frustration. She pauses just outside the grimy exterior, cement and peeling paint where the graffiti is showing through, and then she opens the frosted glass door and pushes up her sunglasses to see inside.

Instead of finding Rick at one of the weight benches, he's in the boxing ring.

She stands stunned just inside, like prey frozen and witless, but her old trainer catches sight of her and comes off the ropes, reaching out an arm to her. His hug is rough and strong around her shoulders, and she follows after him wordlessly.

"He's doing good, promise you that." Joe pats her on the back and resumes his place, hanging on the lower rope, watching Castle take a swift punch to the body.

But her husband keeps his elbows tucked in, his head up, and some of the knot in her stomach begins to ease. He gets in a jab that's more solid than she would have expected from her writer, and he follows it quickly with a forceful punch that knocks his opponent back. He has power.

"You've been training him for how long?" she says in a low voice, swallowing past her own instinctive aversion.

Joe grins back at her over his shoulder. "Two weeks."

Since they moved back.

She realizes her arms are crossed over her chest; she's holding tightly to her elbows as if to protect them all. Castle weaves, drops back, comes in heavily, just as a man his size would, and it gives his attacker the opportunity to beat him back again. More body blows, though she's pleased to see that Castle is keeping himself well-guarded. Chin tucked.

It's a slow fight, which means it's a good one, as she learned long ago, and the blows are quick and well-placed. The two are evenly matched, though she thinks, not at all biased, that Castle is better.

He's also drenched in sweat, shirtless, and flexing muscle she swears she's never seen before.

And the butterflies are feathering at her lungs again, making her lips numb and her fingers hot. Wanting. Desperate in ways she doesn't like to look at too closely.

The fight is called a draw, and the two trade light punches to the shoulders, Castle first, and then his opponent, and when he takes off the headgear and turns around, she sees the beaming and childish pride on his face, how much he loves this.

But his smile wipes clean off when he recognizes her standing just past his trainer - her trainer - and he comes to a halt still inside the ring.

She steps up beside Joe, curls her fingers around the bottom rope, and she pushes it down. "Come on out of there, Rick. They want to start."

He glances guiltily over his shoulder at the next teacher and pupil, and then comes slinking under the ropes, stepping over the one she's holding for him. He puts a heavy gloved hand on her good shoulder and drops to the floor, his bare feet slapping the concrete.

"Good fight, Richard. Very nice - did you notice his shoulder dropping?" Joe mimes the action. "You could have gone in when he was close-"

"I noticed," Castle interrupts, smiling. At her. He drops a sweaty kiss on her cheek, inhaling her. "Mm, sweet." His tongue against her skin, darting. "And savory."

"Not in my gym," she husks, can't resist lightly slapping his cheek. "If you're through here, we need to talk."

"I'm not quitting," he says darkly, pulling away from her with a scowl. All caught-out little boy.

"I would never ask," she answers, a finger and thumb circling his wrist just above the glove. "Never."

He studies her intently. "Something went wrong at the interview."

She shakes her head. "Not wrong. Just - didn't know what to expect." She touches his waist, the sweat of him at her fingers, damp and warm. Like celebrating in bed, like when he works for it, for her. "Did you know Esposito was 'relieved of command'? That's what they called it. He was demoted back to sergeant working Homicide."

A cautious flicker over his face. "When?"

"A month after we left for the Hamptons." She shakes her head. "For impeding a federal investigation. Demoted instead of arrested, they hinted at me, though I think they were overstating things to impress upon me the seriousness of it."

Castle looks surprised but not bewildered, not like she felt hearing it.

She narrows her eyes at him. "What do you know?"

He glances around the gym, but the boxing match is taking most of the room's attention, including Joe's. Her husband shrugs, rubs one of his taped hands down his face. "I might have - I told him you wanted clear of it. That it was done for us. Agent Greene was on us all the time and I guess Espo took it a little too far?"

"Castle," she whispers. But there's an element of relief, like finding out they've all had her back, protected her, and she doesn't have to do it alone.

He draws a careful arm around her, and sweaty as he is, she likes it. Likes the overwarm feeling of his body close, and how her stomach flutters. She closes her eyes, turns her face into his.

Okay, little too sweaty. "Ew. Let go, babe."

He does, a grin, glancing down her body in that check he does now, as if to be sure they're still here. His taped knuckles fist bump her stomach. "What did they say about you taking back the captaincy?"

She breathes. "A conditional yes." Her jaw works. "They want us to testify at the trial. The prosecution's case against Mason apparently - isn't all that hot."

Castle goes very still.

She smooths her hand down his shirt, sweat-stained as it is. "I won't if you-"

"Captaincy is contingent on our testifying. They need us or they got nothing. That's what you're telling me."

She doesn't answer, trying to contain her own feelings, keep from influencing his. He's the one who still has nightmares.

Rick catches her hand, squeezing. "We'll do it. You deserve that desk."

And so does the baby.