Dash It All
A Dash Away sequel dedicated to every single person who reviewed that story, asked for more, and didn't want it to end - even at chapter 100. Think we can do it again?
Kate grabs the random underwear off the floor and shoves it into the bag over her shoulder, checking for more scattered items. This isn't efficient packing, but it wasn't her job. It was his.
He yells back from upstairs, so she drops the bag at the foot and heads up.
"Hey, have you seen the phone charger?"
"I know, I know," she grumbles, coming around the corner and into the hallway. "I left everything in a pile in your study though, and I was hoping-"
"Don't look at me," he says, coming out of Dash's room with a handful of neatly folded laundry. "That was your job, babe."
"Don't babe me," she retorts, leaning in to brush a kiss across his forehead.
"New heels?" The hand at her waist grips hard.
"All day," she smiles, lifting an eyebrow.
"Sexy. And a little intimidating. Sooo tall."
"Ran down a guy from the fire escape, too."
He lifts appreciative eyebrows at that and heads back into Dash's room, dumping the clothes into an open suitcase, as she leans against the doorjamb. "We'll be ready to go in like. . .thirty?" he asks.
"Thirty minutes? No way. I have to find the phone charger. And then pack the rest of it."
"Ask the little one. Always hiding stuff."
Kate sighs and glances in at Dash's room.
"No. And Dash is in the bathroom making himself look good, he says."
She laughs, holding a hand to her mouth so the sound won't carry to her son. "Oh, he's a Castle all right."
"He might be a Rodgers," Castle says mournfully.
Kate quirks her lips and changes direction for the closed bathroom door. Over her shoulder she asks, "Did Alexis-"
He sighs. "No. She'll fly down later though."
"Oh good, at least she'll have a few days with us."
He nods and heads back into Dash's room to finish packing the kids' stuff.
Kate taps on the bathroom door and pushes it open. Dashiell is at the sink using his comb and water to tame his hair, which is her color but Castle's consistency. Dash has a tongue sticking out as he concentrates, all four year old intensity.
"So. What little girl told you that your hair didn't look good?" she asks, bumping her hip into his shoulder.
"Mommy!" He scowls at her in the mirror, then turns to look at her. "No girl."
"Then what are you doing, little man?"
"Making it lay down!" He growls at his reflection in the mirror, all dark eyes, dark hair, glittering with indignant force of will.
Kate can't help herself; she brushes a hand through his hair and spikes it up, undoing all his hard work, grinning at him.
"Mommy!" he protests, pushing her hand out of the way.
"Looks better like that," she comments, leaning over to envelop him in a hug, kissing his cheek with a smack.
"Ew, gross, girl germs."
"Girls have germs?"
"Of course," he scoffs. "Cooties. Duh."
Duh? She pulls a hurt look and slumps back; Dash immediately turns around and hugs her around the waist. "But not mommies. Mommies don't have germs."
Kate laughs to let him know she was teasing him, then unlatches his arms from her waist. "Are you packed, handsome?"
Kate lifts him up onto the bathroom counter, letting him sit before her, his swinging legs kicking the cabinets underneath. "Of course. Isn't your Daddy handsome?"
"Ew, I don't know." He shrugs at her while she runs her hands through his hair, flicking the water out, letting it stand up straight on top, trying to tame the cowlick.
"Well, he is. So that means you are too."
"What happens when Daddy isn't handsome anymore?"
Kate laughs. "Well, buddy, we're all in trouble-"
"Hey, I heard that!" Castle rounds the doorway with a scowl. "Where's Ted?"
Dash shrugs. "Dunno."
"Dash," Kate admonishes, tugging him off the counter and setting him on his feet. "Be polite. And go look for your bear. Handsome Daddy is trying to help you pack."
Dash reaches up to feel his hair, takes another quick look in the bathroom mirror, then scampers off.
Castle leans in to check his own reflection, which makes Kate laugh at him, sliding her arms around his neck. "Don't worry, Daddy. Still handsome."
"Now I'm gonna be paranoid-"
"Oh yeah, cause the second you lose those looks, I'm outta here. Forget the money, the loft, the cars, the books, the kids-"
Rick catches her ear with his teeth, making her stumble to a halt. She closes her eyes, presses up against him.
"Missed you," he says.
"Always," she murmurs back.
Castle takes a kiss, quick and dirty, leaving her breathless, and breaks away. "Thirty minutes, Kate. Have to get to the airport on time."
She grips the sink behind her to steady herself, tries to catch her breath. Airport. Right. Gotta go.
Kate hunts through the basket of miscellaneous electronics, finding mostly her son's toys, video game controllers, and old play cell phones. No charger. She drops the basket next to the upstairs television – a small sigh escaping her lips as she glances around what used to be the guestroom and now has been commandeered by the boys for a game room (sadly) – and heads for the other room.
To be honest, this room makes her sad too. Alexis spends less and less time coming home.
Which is fine. Sure it is. But Kate's supposed to be a young mom, not an empty nester, and it feels worse than it should when Alexis doesn't come home for spring break or Thanksgiving. Or maybe it's going to feel like this when her littlest don't come home either.
Ug, she hopes not. Practice makes perfect, right?
Kate opens the bedroom door and glances inside. It's still bright, the sheer curtains pulled against the blinds but not blocking any light. She can see a little foot sticking out from under the bed.
Here's the likely culprit.
Kate gets on her knees and tugs on the foot, getting a giggle for her efforts.
"Come on, baby. Cough it up."
The foot disappears under the bed with a swirl of bedskirt. Kate sits down, her legs out in front of her, hoping her shoes will catch some attention.
"I wore the shoes you helped me pick out," she starts.
Sure enough, the little girl crawls out, dust bunnies caught in her hair, her eyes on her mother's shoes.
Kate wiggles her feet, letting the sunlight catch the shiny maroon leather of her high heels. "Still like them?"
The girl nods softly, brushes her dark hair back out of her eyes with both hands. Her cheeks have little apples of color just under her blue eyes.
"Daddy and I are packing up for our trip."
She plants herself next to her mother, mimicking Kate's position, glancing upward.
"Do you know that there were some things in the study we needed? Cords and stuff? Not videogames. Not toys."
The little girl nods back, looking solemn, uses her hands again to slide the thick locks of dark hair out of her eyes. Kate leans over and uses her fingers like a barette, holding it back. The brilliant blue eyes look back at her. Rick's eyes, except. . .less playful, more intense.
"Did you take one of the cords, svraka?"
The girl nods softly, then turns around and crawls back under the bed. Little magpie. She collects everything, moves things to other places, finds little holes to put things in. She started it as a baby, hiding the pacifier.
Kate still finds newborn pacifiers every other month or so. They bought packages and packages of them, which is crazy, because how many places can a newborn reach?
The little girl crawls back out, a cord in one hand, the charger bumping along the floor behind her like a pet. Kate wonders if that's it, if the phone charger looked like a puppy to play with. The girl loves doggies.
"Thank you, sweetheart." Kate takes the charger and wraps the cord around it, then glances around the room the girl shares with Alexis. Her toddler bookcase stands next to Alexis's six foot one, most of the storybooks pulled down and paged through on the floor. The two twin beds are both messy, because the girl sleeps in one at night and the other for naptime. "Has Daddy packed all your clothes?"
She shrugs, points at the dresser. Kate gets up and tugs open the top drawer, finds most of the underwear and socks are gone, as well as all the swim suits. "Looks like he has. Wanna come downstairs with me?"
The girl bounces to her feet, flinging herself at Kate's legs to be picked up.
Kate waits, looking down at the little girl, watching the mulish look come over her face. Her blue eyes, usually so clear, always expressive, glitter hard like sapphires. Kate would laugh at her expression, but it's just not funny anymore.
"You can walk then." Kate pries the two year old off her legs and heads for the door, the charger in the pocket of her dress slacks.
Just when she passes the threshold, she hears it.
"No." Quiet but definite. Insistent. Proud.
Kate lets a grin escape before she turns around, face composed again. "No?"
The girl digs her bare toes into the carpet and scrapes her hair back again. (They need to get it cut, Kate thinks.)
A breath. "Uppie."
The fist in Kate's chest eases and she drops to her knees, holds her arms out for her daughter.
Ellery runs to her, squeezing tightly around her mother's neck, legs coming up to wrap around Kate's ribs.
"Hey beautiful girl, been waiting to hear that." Kate stands up, catching her balance with a hand at the doorframe as her heels throw her off - taller than she remembered - and then she turns for the stairs.
"I've got Ella," she calls over her shoulder towards the room where Castle disappeared.
And then, in a soft and rarely heard voice, her daughter says with a sigh. "Got Ella."
Kate squeezes her harder, kisses her cheek, and unlatches the baby gate. "Mommy's always got you."
Ellery snuggles against her mother's chest and wriggles for a good position.
"Hey, little worm. You get to help Mommy pack, okay?"
Her answer this time is a nod against her neck, then the wet, ticklish raspberry of a secretive but silly two year old.