I do not own Uncommon Criminals, or any of the characters that Ally Carter created. I'm just borrowing them, and I promise I'll put them back where I found them when I'm done.
A Scaredy Kat
Contains spoilers for "Uncommon Criminals"
Hale liked to think that he knew almost everything there was to know about Katarina Bishop. He knew how she liked her hot chocolate (not too hot with a little bit of cinnamon), he knew how to tell when she was on the rag (she got much louder and her shirts stopped fitting right for a week or so), and he knew where she went whenever she was upset (no matter what country they were in, she would always end up in front of a bakery, hands in her pockets). But there were moments when he felt like he didn't know her at all.
One of those moments was when he woke with a start aboard the W. W. Hale to a sound he had only heard in some of his worst nightmares. Kat, screaming into the Monaco air.
As Hale jumped out of his bed and threw the door to his cabin open with a bang, his first thought was that Maggie had found the boat and was trying to take Kat out of the picture. As he sprinted down the hall, his second thought was that she had found a rat in her bunk (another thing that he knew about Kat; she was as terrified of rats as she was of water). But when he stormed into her room, he thought of a third option that he doubt any one would have ever considered.
Katarina Bishops was caught in the clutches of a nightmare. And a pretty bad one by the looks of it.
"Kat," he said in a calm voice. "Kat, wake up, it's just a dream!"
"NO! STAY BACK!" Kat screamed, her big blue eyes screwed shut and her black hair stuck to her sweat covered forehead. She tossed and turned wildly, her sheets in a heap on the ground. Hale tried to ignore the fact that she was clad in nothing but an oversized t-shirt (which, he noted with equal satisfaction and annoyance, was his) and a pair of boy short undies, but the part of him that was a teenage boy refused to ignore the long sweat covered legs that emerging for under his t-shirt.
"KAT!" he yelled, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her slightly. "Wake up!"
Kat's eyes shot open, the bright blue irises darting around the room and Hale sighed in relief at the sight. But Kat continued to jerk around in his grip, making small whimpering noises.
"Oh god," she gasped, shaking like a leaf. "Oh god please no!"
"Kitty Kat," Hale cooed, pulling her closer. "It's okay, it was just a dream." He held her close to his bare chest, resting his chin on her rat's nest of hair. "It's going to be fine."
It took a few moments for Kat to realize that she was awake and in the arms of her best friend. She relaxed slightly, her head tilting up so that she could look up into his worried eyes. "I…" she started, but Hale just twined his fingers into her dark hair and pressed her head into his chest again.
"Sh," he whispered, stroking the top of her head soothingly. "It's okay. I've got you."
Kat was used to being lied to, but as she sat shivering in Hale's arms, she knew that he wasn't conning her. So she let herself be pulled closer. She didn't object to it when he pressed his lips to the top of her head and whispered calming words in her ear. She simply wrapped her arms around his waist and began to sob into his chest.
"Oh god Hale!" she sobbed. Her entire body felt like it was on fire, but as Hale's broad hands drifted up and down her arms soothingly, she began to cool down.
"Shhh, Kitty Kat, it's okay. You don't have to worry." Hale had been in the business long enough to notice the smaller things, so he didn't miss the sound of Kat's door (which had rebounded against the wall when the worried sixteen year old had thrown it open with as much force as he could) creaking open slightly, or the sound of four teens breathing outside said door. He also heard when Hamish whistled lowly and said, "Kat's still got legs," but he would have to deal with that later.
"What happened baby," he said calmly, tipping her head back slightly so that he could look her dead in the eye. Kat's puffy red eyes widened slightly at the "baby," and she unconsciously thought, 'I kissed you. I kissed you and you left.'
Suddenly Hale's arms felt too hot, too constricting around her tiny frame.
"I…" Kat started again, pushing lightly on Hale's chest and scooting back slightly."I had a nightmare, that's all."
"Looked more like someone was trying to kill you," Hale said, trying to hide his hurt expression after Kat had pushed him away. His mind flashed to a street in New York and a sudden kiss in the back of a limo, and he couldn't stop the shivers that ran down his back. He still lay awake at night wondering why he hadn't kissed her back. After all, it's what he had been waiting for for nearly two years, so why had he held back?
"It was a really bad one," Kat admitted quietly, drawing her knees up to her chest and not hearing three teenage boys gasp collectively in awe of the two pale limbs.
"I didn't know you had nightmares."
Kat winced, looking down at her toes. Until recently, she hadn't. It had started when the boy sitting in front of her had taken her from (the Bagshaws preferred the term "broken her out of") the Colgan School, telling her that her father had a noose around his neck and that a man by the name of Taccone was about to drop the floor out from under his feet. The flight over to Paris was the first one, featuring empty school grounds and a faceless man with a thick accent. After that, they got progressively worse, though until now she had been able to hide it.
"I don't." Hale's eyebrow rose. "I didn't," she amended, not being able to look her friend in the eye.
"How long?" Kat curled up even more, trying to hide behind black bangs that were too short to cover her eyes.
"Ever since the Henley job," she admitted. She winced again when Hale stood from the bed, running his fingers through his light brown hair and cussing under his breath.
"Damn it," he hissed, and Kat's eyes widened. Hale didn't cuss often, but when he did, it meant he was either upset, pissed, or scared. 'Why didn't you tell me Kat?" he asked, his voice taking on a whole new tone. He was hurt that she hadn't told him, but then again, she hadn't told him much in the past two months.
"I didn't want to worry you," she said pathetically. She knew it was the wrong thing to say the second it came out of her mouth, and this was confirmed when Hale growled in the back of his throat and trapped Kat against her backboard. Her eyes widened slightly at the close proximity and once again, she thought 'I kissed you and you left.'
"Kat," Hale said slowly, his voice low and smooth. "If you didn't want to worry me, you would never have left for Rio, or Moscow." Kat's mouth opened, but Hale beat her to it. "I worry about you Kat. I worry every time you're gone and I don't know where you are. So don't you dare say that you 'didn't want to worry me,' because I'm going to be gray from worrying about you before I'm thirty."
Kat stared up at him with wide eyes, their breath mingling. "Hale," she whispered, her lip quivering slightly.
Katarina Bishop didn't cry.
W. W. Hale the Fifth was one of the few who could make her.
Hale sighed, pushing away from the silent girl before wiping a few tears away from her dark lashes. "I wasn't aiming to make you cry," he said quietly. Kat just nodded, wiping the rest of her tears with the heel of her hand.
"I never thought you were," she said with a quiet hiccup. Hale pulled her close to him again, his hand resting on the back of her head. "… It was Maggie," she said quietly, her eyes fluttering closed as she focused on Hale's heart beat.
"What was Maggie?" Hale asked quietly, tilting his head down a little so that he could look at her better.
"My nightmare. We were back at the casino, all dressed up, but when I turned around, everybody was gone except for you. I tried to yell, but you couldn't hear me. I heard someone laugh behind me and I turned around, and I was in a different room. There was nothing but a chair and a big mirror, but when I looked in the mirror, it wasn't me. It was Maggie, wearing the same dress I was. She said 'We're the same, you and I,' and then the reflection lunged at me, clawing at my face and my chest. That's when I started screaming, and then you woke me up."
Hale was silent for a few moments before sighing, pulling the quietly crying girl closer to him and resting his chin on her head again.
"You make it really difficult for me to take care of you, you know that right?"
Kat didn't try to push him away when she said, "I didn't know you were trying."
"Well then, for a genius, you're pretty stupid." Kat laughed quietly at this, and Hale smiled, pressing his lips against her forehead. "You doing better?" he asked, his lips moving against her pale skin.
"I think so," Kat replied, curling up closer to her best friend. They were both silent for a few minutes, and it wasn't until Hale felt Kat's soft even breathing did he realize that she had fallen asleep, the even beats of his heart her lullaby. He sighed, shaking his head as he ran his fingers through her soft black hair.
"I'm not gonna be able to leave, am I?" he sighed.
"I wasn't asking you Gabrielle," Hale snapped quietly, glaring over his shoulder at the four teens that had just strolled in.
"I didn't know Kat had nightmares," Simon said quietly, leaning closer to the soundly sleeping girl.
"Yeah well, she does-Would you stop staring at her!" he snapped, pushing the three boys away with one hand and cradling Kat closer to his body with the other.
"Sorry man," Angus said with a smirk. "It's the legs, they're calling to us."
"They're not calling to anyone," Hale hissed, grabbing Kat's legs and drawing them closer so that she was curled up in his lap. "Now I suggest you all leave."
"Even if we-"
"Leave." The three boys took a quick step away from the growling boy. Gabrielle just rolled her eyes and took a few steps closer, brushing a few strands of hair out of the young thief's face and placing a blanket over both Hale and Kat. She leaned closer and pressed her lips to Kat's forehead in a sisterly show of affection, then kissed Hale's cheek.
"Goodnight," she said with a soft smile, ruffling Hale's hair affectionately. Hale simply smirked and stuck his tongue out at the blonde girl. He adjusted himself and Kat so that he was leaning against the wall, his legs on either side of her and her petite form curled up between his legs. Hale's head fell back and he found himself falling asleep to the soft sounds of his Kitty Kat breathing.