Wonderful Life - a Dash Companion
I thought of you again today
Reminded me how with time I've changed
If only you knew what you give to me. . .
It's a wonderful, wonderful life.
-Wonderful Life, Gwen Stefani
Kate shouldn't be so proud, but she is. She managed to get both kids to preschool and make it to the station on time - alone - for the third day in a row.
Her phone rings as she's getting espresso from the machine. She knows it's him, but lets it go to voicemail so she can finish making her coffee. He'll understand.
She burns her hand on the steamer in her eagerness to call him back; it's been a while since she did that. After Dash was born and before Rick left the precinct, he gave her private lessons on how to operate the espresso machine. Very private. It's seared into her brain, that hot, steamy lesson.
Kate grins to herself, sips at her cup, burning the tip of her tongue but eager for caffeine. She didn't have the time this morning to make any, plus that's always Castle's job.
She calls him back. He answers immediately. "Hey there."
"Mm, coffee," she murmurs.
She hears him laugh, rich and deep. "Sexy, coffee voice. I love it."
"So where are you?" she asks, heading towards her desk, the phone tucked between her ear and her shoulder. She logs into her computer, takes another short sip, rifles through the folders piled up in her inbox.
"I'm in Chicago. How'd it go this morning?"
"Mm, I got the kids to preschool all by myself."
He chuckles again. "Good job, Beckett." His voice wraps around her last name like a caress.
"No fair teasing me when I'm at work and can't do a thing about it," she husks.
His laughter this time is a little breathless, just how she likes it. "There are about, ah, six people around me right now. Phone sex is not ideal for me either."
"Who said anything about phone-" She glances around swiftly, lowers her voice. "Phone sex? You and your dirty mind."
"Uh-huh. You say that, but we both know better."
"Two more days," she sighs.
"Yeah. Oh, darn. Gotta go. Kiss the kids-"
"You too." She ends the call and puts her phone on the desk, works the kinks out of her neck by rotating her head side to side. She hasn't slept so hard in years. Must be having the bed all to herself and no furnace sleeping next to her all night, wanting to cuddle.
She grins, bites her lower lip as she checks the duty roster. She misses the furnace. And the cuddle. Funny enough.
She's stuffing a bagel with cream cheese into her mouth when her phone rings. Castle again. Weird. She didn't think she'd have to tell him to not call her during the middle of a case, middle of the day - he usually knows better.
She answers, chewing the dense mouthful as best she can around her greeting. "What's up?"
"Hey, uh, Kate?"
She swallows hard. "Castle. Why are you calling me?" she says, flicking crumbs off the financial records of their victim. Ryan walks back in with a bagel of his own - they've been in a bag in the break room fridge for who knows how long, but she and Ryan were both starving and it's fair game.
"Hey, yeah, the - the preschool just called me."
"What?" She drops the bagel, stands up from the conference room table. "Why? Why haven't they called me?"
"They usually call me first. I told them I'd have you call down there-"
"What's wrong?" Her stomach churns, the bagel a hard knot in her throat.
She drops back into her seat, waving off Ryan. "Oh. Okay. All right."
"They think he has chicken pox."
She groans and buries her head in her hand. "Are you kidding me?"
"Yeah. Apparently, kids can get a light case if they're exposed to someone with the disease, and since he hasn't yet gotten the second dose-"
"He has until he's six. That's what Dr. DeLameran told me."
After that single answer, Castle is silent on the other end - silently not judging.
It was her call - her decision not to let Dashiell get the second dose of the vaccine just yet, not after the hellish week the kid had as a 14 month old when he got the first dose. Fever, rash, no sleep, and she swears, she will always believe, that the rash with fever he got was a direct result of his immune system going nuts.
He's a sensitive kid - his body reacts differently. She wants to say all this in her own defense, but of course, her son is sick at preschool and she needs to get off the phone and go pick him up.
"Okay. I'm on my way to get him."
"And Ella," he adds softly.
"What? Why Ella?"
Shiiiiip. She sighs, presses the heel of her hand into her eyebrow. "Good point. What am I going to do with Ellery? She hasn't gotten the shot either."
He's silent. Still not judging. She can hear her own mother's voice in her head though, I told you so.
"Okay, all right. I'll figure it out. It's just for two days. Castle, you go. Do. Whatever. I need to get the boys caught up on this-"
"Yeah, I know. Kate. I'm sorry. I wish I could-"
"Hey, no. Don't." She clenches a fist as she stands up again, gathering files together, grabbing her jacket off the back of the chair. She had a hard enough time convincing him to do the book tour in the first place. "We'll be fine. This is no problem. Castle. Go do your thing."
"You think I can't handle my own kids?"
"Kate." Exasperated with her for it.
"I'm sure." She presses her phone to her ear with her shoulder to free up her hands, waves Esposito into the conference room. "I gotta go. I'll call you later."
"I can't get to my phone again until eight your time."
"I'll call at eight."
"Okay." He sounds reluctant to hang up. "But if you need me, text me, and I'll keep checking-"
"Castle. Go," she says softly, turning her back on the boys, closing her eyes so she can hear just him. Just him. "We're fine. I got this."
"I know. I just - I hate that Dash has chicken pox and you've got both of them by yourself-"
"I'll call my dad for help if I need it," she says quickly. "Now, seriously. Go."
"Bye." He ends the call this time, and she sighs, lowers her phone.
"What's up, boss?"
Beckett turns, levels her gaze on her team. "Okay. I need to take the next two days off. Dash has chicken pox."
Damn. She googled chicken pox before she left the station, and she totally should have caught it. Dash has been complaining about his ears hurting him for a week now - and apparently that's one of the early symptoms. And his sleep has been so good - another symptom.
If Castle had been here this past week, he would've caught it. She's fairly certain of that.
She pulls into the church's parking lot and gets out quickly. On the phone, Kim from the preschool was so nice, so understanding about Kate needing an hour to clear her desk and get down here, but she doesn't want to presume on them much more than she has to.
She checks her gun, makes sure it's snapped into the holster, and swipes the key card over the lock. The door gives a faint buzz and she yanks it open, heads inside. No one is at the front desk when she starts through the lobby, so she moves towards the director's office.
Kim comes out of a classroom instead though, snags Kate by the jacket. "Hey. He's in here. I kept Ellery away from Dash, just in case she hasn't gotten it yet."
"Oh, thank you," she says, and slips into the room after Kim. The lights are off and Dash is asleep curled up on his rest mat, his hair sticking to his temple with sweat. "Does he have a fever?" she whispers, creeping closer.
"Yeah. It's mild though. I didn't give him anything in case you have specific instructions from your doctor?"
"Dr. DeLameran told me to call back when I saw him myself." She crouches over Dash, brushes her fingers through his hair.
"He's got spots on his stomach and his back, a few along his shoulders."
Kate sighs and slides her hand under her son's shirt, bringing it up so she can look. "Oh. Yeah, poor baby. That's chicken pox alright."
"I'll go get Ellery, if you want to take him out to the car?"
"Thank you," Kate whispers back, smiling. "Can I take his rest mat too? Wash it."
"Yeah, definitely. His backpack is by the door. I'll go get Ellery." Kim slips back out of the room, leaving Kate alone with Dash in the dark.
She slides a hand under his neck, pulls him upright so she can scoop him up. Oof, he's heavy for such a skinny thing. She gets him into her lap, wraps the soft rest mat around him for warmth - it's brisk outside, an early spring day that could turn rainy at any moment - and then she struggles to her feet.
Kate carries him back out into the hallway, through the lobby, pushing open the door with her hip and digging for her keys. She remote unlocks the car, balances Dash as she opens the back door, then props him up with a knee while she tries to lower him into the booster seat.
She nearly hits his head on the frame, manages to crack her own instead, and then pinches her finger in the seatbelt. She sucks on her maimed digit, wincing as her forehead throbs - it will bruise for sure - and then shuts the door softly on a still-sleeping Dashiell.
Which is totally unheard of. Dash never sleeps through anything. He's definitely a sick kid.
When Kate gets back inside the preschool, it's Kelly bringing Ellery out into the lobby. Kate jerks to a stop and puts a hand to her throbbing head, then lowers herself down next to her daughter, giving Kelly a smile of thanks.
"Hey, baby girl. Dash got sick. How are you feeling?"
Ellery stares at her, mouth in a firm line. But she reaches out a little finger and traces it over Kate's forehead.
"Yeah, ouch. I bumped my head-"
Ella leans in and kisses it, pulling back with a smile.
Kate sighs and smiles back, brushing a hand through Ellery's dark hair. "Thank you, baby. I needed that. You feel ok?"
Ella nods once, then peers around Kate as if looking for her brother.
"He's in the car. You ready to go home?"
"Actually, Kate-" Kelly starts.
Kate glances up at the woman, surprised. Kelly is friendly with her here, of course she is, but she's been dating Kate's father for the last few years and it's always been rather awkward. Kate just isn't sure what to do with the woman, how to act. Does she ask Kelly how her father is doing, or does she pretend that Kelly hasn't been spending her nights at Kate's father's house?
"Hey, Kelly," she says, standing back up, catching hold of Ella's hand, smoothing her thumb over her daughter's fingers.
"I was thinking - I figured you'd call Jim, your dad, right?"
"I haven't yet. But I think I'll have to," Kate says. It is so very weird to talk about her family with Kelly, not that Kelly isn't nice and so very sweet to Kate's kids, but Kate just keeps forgetting that Kelly probably knows quite a whole lot about all of them.
"Why don't I take Ellery home with me? To your dad's."
Home? To her dad's? Those . . . those words are synonymous now?
Kate rubs at her forehead, wincing, tries to use the flare of pain to clear her head. "Uh. Well. I don't want to pull you away from your job-"
"I talked to Kim and she'll take my class for the rest of the day. But only if you're comfortable with it, Kate."
Oh man, she's just too nice. Too nice. Kate can't even figure out a way to say no because she really, really wants to say yes. Yes, please take Ellery and keep her out of Dashiell's germy range of fire. Because if those two are at home together, Kate knows there is absolutely no way she can keep them apart.
Last night, Ellery was using Dash like a stepstool in front of the pantry, aiming for the nutella, probably. Kate caught them right before Ella could grab it or fall on her head. Although, to be fair, Ellery's got some natural balance and grace. Dashiell would have fallen. Probably not Ellery.
Which might be why they were working together on that one. Smart kids.
"Kate? You could put her carseat in my car; I could take her. I know your dad's got clothes and toys and stuff at his place."
Kate nods slowly. He does. And Dash has the freaking chicken pox. And it's a really miserable disease. Kate remembers it all too well - she got it twice. A light case both times, but bad enough to stick with her.
But, wow, Ellery's never been away from home like this before. Kate leans over and scoops her daughter up, cuddling her close. "Hey there, baby girl. Want to go visit Papa today?"
Ellery wraps her arms around Kate's neck, nuzzles in against her mother's skin.
"I need to take Dash home and get him some medicine and he's gonna be cranky and probably kinda whiny and mean because he's sick. So you want to go to Papa's with Kelly and have fun?"
Ellery lets go, leans back as if to study her mother. She uses two hands to push her hair back from her eyes, and Kate uses that opportunity to lean in and kiss her nose.
"What do you say, baby girl? You can spend the night with Papa. I bet he'll show you his workshop. You want to go?"
Ellery glances over at Kelly. The older woman holds out her arms and takes Ella when the girl leans over. It's not a definite yes, but it's probably all Kate's going to get from the silent one.
"Thank you, Kelly. Really. I - I really appreciate this-"
"Oh, it's nothing, Kate. Ella and I are good friends. Right, sweetheart?"
Ellery gives her a shy little smile and looks back at Kate.
"Oh, good. You guys will have fun then." Kate smooths down Ellery's hair, brushes her thumb over her daughter's cheek. She meets Kelly's eyes, tries to force some cheer into her smile. "Thank you. This helps me a lot. Tell my dad to call me?"
"Of course. And Ellery can call you too, whenever she likes. How's that, Ella?"
The little girl gives Kelly a huge smile, something like relief on her face, and it strikes Kate that Ellery probably feels like she's getting shuttled away, handed off. At least Kelly isn't a stranger. Actually, Ellery really does like Kelly, Kate remembers, and she seems at ease in her arms.
"Yeah, you better call me," Kate murmurs, leaning in to kiss Ella's cheek. "I love you, little cricket. Be good for Papa. Call me before bedtime, and I can tell you a story over the phone."
"Yeah," Ella says softly.
Kate grins widely, her heart fluttering at the sound. "Yeah." She clears her throat and turns to Kelly. "You have my cell phone number-?"
"I got it. We'll be fine."
"I know," Kate says, nodding at her. She does. "I just - she's never been away from home." Kate gives a soft laugh, but Kelly's eyes have turned tender, knowing.
Kate shakes it off, gives her daughter a big smile. "All right, let's get your car seat so you can go."
She turns and leads the way out.