"I'm here. He's here. He's sick."
"What's wrong with him? Why didn't he call?" Detective Javier Esposito's boss Kate Beckett asked worriedly, followed by one long, last swallow from her now empty coffee mug.
"Don't know. I just got here. But it smells like's he's thrown up recently. I'll call ya back when I know more."
"Okay, Esposito." Kate hung up the phone and turned to her equally worried 'partner'.
"So?" Rick Castle asked.
"He's there. Esposito says there are signs that he's been sick." Castle sniffed and made a face and Kate nodded knowingly.
"I hate that," Castle admitted. "I could never hide it from my mother when I'd been sick. . .that lovely aroma lingers."
"Mother's advantage," Beckett answered, a remembered memory noted with a sad smile.
Castle noticed the melancholy and refused to let the lead detective go there. "Damned frustrating when you were trying to hide certain 'activities' from the previous night," he countered, air quoting for emphasis.
"You weren't the smartest bad boy when you were young, were you?"
"Terrible," Castle admitted. Kate snorted as they both rose to refresh their coffee cups. "Talk about a reluctant day off," he mused as he walked side-by-side with the beautiful detective. "I hope Ryan's okay."
"Esposito will take care of him," Beckett assured.
Javier glanced around the living room as he clicked the 'End" button on his phone. Finding nothing amiss, he took a quick look toward the dining area and the kitchen beyond, and then made his way down the hallway. The bathroom was on the way, where he found the smell of vomit increased. Looks like he just barely made it, Esposito thought. He noticed the attempt a sick Ryan had made to clean up what didn't make it into the toilet: a haphazard smear the tell-tale sign that he'd been mostly successful. Javier shook his head and moved on.
Next was Kevin's bedroom. Javier walked up to the bed. The sheer curtain over the window let in just enough light for him to see what was happening, though he doubted the light was being kind to his friend; he'd been clued in to what was wrong as soon as he'd opened the door and been slammed by the smell. He was happy for the light even if Ryan right now was suffering for it. Kevin was lying on his side, facing the door. . .and away from the window. His hair was matted with sweat, his face overly pale against the navy blue sheets. Ryan's cheeks held a flush, his mouth a grimace of pain, his eyes were open and echoed that pain. Esposito squatted down so that he was eye to eye with his partner.
"Hey, bro, what's goin' on?" he asked softly. He started to reach to check his friend's forehead for fever, but was stopped short by the whispered plea.
"No," Kevin said, followed by a wince. "Don't," he begged, still whispering. "Hurts. Hurts when I move."
"Okay," Esposito echoed the pitch, taking his voice down several notches from the already soft tones. "I'll be careful."
Ryan sighed, "It'll go away."
"Eventually. I know," Javier agreed as he felt his best friend's forehead. Burning hot. "How long?" Javier asked quietly. Ryan moaned at the touch; Esposito couldn't tell if it was from pain or the feel of a cool hand on his over-heated face.
The sick man sighed, taking his time before answering. "Woke up this way," Kevin replied. Javier recalled the last time his partner hadn't been able to nip the migraine before it got too bad: Ryan had said that each word he spoke – that any word spoken by anyone – was like a pneumatic nail gun shooting three inch nails into his head.
"You shoulda called me," Esposito chastised.
"Tried," Ryan answered, waving his hand to the bedside table. Javier noticed that the portable home phone was missing from its charger, and Kevin's mobile wasn't there. Esposito looked around and found it on the nice hardwood floor, just beyond the thick wool rug. "Knocked it off," Kevin started to explain. "Got up. Mistake."
Esposito knew the rest. If Ryan couldn't get his migraine medicine right at the beginning, the symptoms usually then hit like a freight train barreling up fast out of a dark, foggy night: terrible pain, always concentrated on the right side of his head; fever, dizziness with nausea, and damned if he ever managed to avoid the sickness. And finally, extreme sensitivity to light, sound and touch. It was pretty miserable, and usually lasted the better part of a full day. Sometimes longer.
"Okay. I'm gonna get you your pills and some water."
"Might not stay down," Kevin warned pitifully.
"I know," Javier agreed soothingly. "We'll try, and then we'll try again 'til it takes."
"Can't wait," Ryan noted sarcastically, followed by a groan. Esposito smiled sadly. "Thanks, Javi."
Javier Esposito scowled back at that. "Shut up." Like I'd be anywhere else doing any other thing right now, Esposito thought.
"'Kay," Ryan said, a very faint smile forcing its way through the obvious misery.
Esposito knew full well that moving Ryan, even just to get the migraine medication into him, would bring on a round of barfing. He decided to gather everything he needed to help his partner through the unpleasantness to come as he phoned Kate Beckett with an update.
"Damn," she said, the sympathy in her voice mirrored in the look she sent Castle's way. "He didn't take his. . ."
Esposito cut her off. "It hit while he was sleeping. He doesn't wake up when that happens."
"I know," Kate said with understanding. She was fully aware of what it was like for her junior detective when he was able to nip it in the bud. She only had the terrible stories from Esposito about what it was like when he couldn't. Nobody would go through that pain if they could avoid it. "So, today is shot for him."
"Yeah. And you know. . ." This time Beckett cut Esposito off.
"We'll be lucky if it's resolved today."
"Okay. Tell him that Castle and I hope he feels better."
Rick looked at Kate once she'd hung up. "Speaking for me now?"
"All things considered, it's safer that way."
Castle pursed his lips and sent Beckett his patented not-at-all-serious scowl.
Esposito rejoined his partner in the bedroom. Ryan appeared to be dozing, though it was more likely he was just too tired to keep his eyes open: the migraine pain was exhausting as well as debilitating. Javier found the room stuffy, the early spring chill outside forcing the heat to remain persistently on inside. He went to crack open the window, just enough to temporarily let in a little fresh air. And he pulled the drapes so that just enough light remained for him to work.
Next, he positioned the large plastic bowl, the one they regularly used for popcorn, on the side table. He set the pile of washcloths on it next, laying them on top of the towel, ready for use. He left again to fill the water glass and to grab the migraine medicine. When he got back, his partner's glazed eyes, surrounded by dark shadows, looked up to him.
"Hey, you ready?" Javier asked.
"No. I'm gonna puke."
"Now?" Esposito asked as he rushed to grab for the bowl.
"No. But 's soon 's you make me take that stuff."
"Maybe you'll get sick before the pills and then they'll stay down after," Javier suggested hopefully.
"Uh-huh. And if pigs could fly. . ."
"Okay, smart-ass. Let's do this."
Javier let Kevin start, but it was pretty clear that he either didn't have the energy – or the will, knowing what likely would happen next – to get up on his own. Esposito placed his right hand behind Kevin's sweaty head and neck and grasped his friend's left arm with his own to pull him up. He quickly moved his body behind Kevin's, allowing the sick man to lean against him as he gathered a couple of pillows behind to prop Ryan up. It took neither a rocket scientist nor a doctor to see what was happening: Kevin had already started to breathe as though trying to avoid what they both knew was the inevitable.
"Javi," Ryan warned.
Esposito grabbed the bowl, and Kevin reached for it. He immediately made use of it, though not much more than a little bile came out. Javier looked worriedly into the bowl and then asked, "How much have you puked?" Kevin's exhaustion was proving too much as the bowl started to fall from his precarious hold. "Kev?" Esposito asked as he removed the bowl.
"A lot," Kevin replied, breathing heavily after the dry heaving workout. Javier took one of the damp cloths and wiped the mess from Ryan's mouth and chin. He took another cloth and wiped his friend's face and neck. Kevin continued, "I am now intimately familiar with the two hairline cracks on the second tile to the right of the toilet."
Esposito shook his head and smiled. It was something to see, how this thing that so incapacitated his partner still allowed his sense of humor to shine through. Esposito doubted that he would be as good-natured about things if he was going through anything like what his partner did with these migraines.
"Okay," Javier said. "That means that you're likely really dehydrated."
"Feels it," Kevin agreed. "Dizzy, light-headed," he offered, and then waved his hand sloppily toward the bowl. "Nauseous."
"Yeah, well, we have to try your pills and the water."
"I know. Hand 'em over."
As it turned out, the first attempt at getting the pills down was unsuccessful. Javier let Kevin rest a few minutes, and then fed his partner small sips of water a couple of minutes apart before trying the pills again. This time, a process that took nearly three-quarters of an hour was successful.
"Hey, don't fall asleep yet." Kevin didn't open his eyes or show any indication that he'd heard his partner. "Kev," Javier said, more persistent. Ryan opened his eyes. "I'm gonna head to the store and pick up a few things. I won't be long."
"'Kay," Kevin replied, followed by a moan.
"Head's really hurting, huh?" Javier asked as he gently sat on the edge of the bed.
"I'll be okay."
"Kevin, you don't have to be strong in front of me. That kind of crap is for your mom or your sisters or Beckett. Not even Beckett," Esposito corrected himself.
"I hate this. It feels like it's gotta be doin' damage to my brain." Ryan followed that with another moan.
"I know," Javier said as he placed a cool, damp cloth on Kevin's forehead. "Just rest. The bowl's right here. . .you don't have to rush to the bathroom."
"If you're awake, you should drink some." Esposito had left a full glass of water on the nightstand next to the clean bowl which they would no longer be using for popcorn.
"I'll be right back."
On his way back from the grocery store, Esposito checked in once more with Beckett.
"Poor Ryan," Beckett said to her senior detective.
"Yeah, but you know him, trying to be stoic through the whole thing. Idiot."
"We can't help much how we were raised, Esposito," Kate said in an attempt to justify Kevin's reaction.
"Fine, he's that, too. He should know that he has an awful lot of people who love him and want to help him."
"I think he gets that part, Beckett. I just think he thinks he's being less of a man if he shows a little hurt."
"And if that's not the pot calling the kettle black. . ." Kate answered wryly.
"I'm hangin' up now," Javier said in a snit.
"Bye," she said, biting back the laugh.
"Didn't like being challenged?" Castle asked.
Kate Beckett looked at Rick Castle. Like any man did. Oblivious, she thought. She rolled her eyes at him as she headed to the photocopier.
"What?" Castle asked, following along like a puppy.
Esposito finished putting away the groceries and took one bottle of energy drink into Ryan's bedroom. He found Kevin awake.
"Ah, shit, bro," he said as he looked at his partner. He looked over at the glass of water, that hadn't been touched. "You been awake since I left?"
"You need to replenish some electrolytes. Here," Javier said as he opened the bottle of blue liquid. "Drink some of this."
"Yes. I'm not kidding, Kev, you will drink this or I will take you to the emergency room."
"Don't need. . ."
"You do. Now come on, drink." Javier helped him up, and Kevin drank as ordered. And the stuff stayed put. "Have a little more." Ryan did, and again, nothing bad happened. "Let's just keep trying a little more and then you can try to get some sleep." They kept with the pattern for the next half hour. Kevin was clearly growing weary.
"Okay. How do you feel?"
"Like I could sleep," Ryan admitted.
"Good. I'll check in on you later."
"I'm gonna smack you up the side of that head of yours when you're feeling better."
"Lookin' forward to it," Kevin shot back.
I'll bet you are, Javier thought to himself as he left his partner to his rest.