From a Dark Place
Kate sat lounging on the sofa, mesmerized by the draft of Castle's latest bestseller-to-be that she had finally been granted permission to read. She was momentarily distracted as the front door opened and Alexis entered, new 'boyfriend' in tow.
"Hey Kate." Alexis grinned and gestured to her male companion. "This is Max. Max, this is my Dad's partner, Kate."
"Hello Kate. I've heard a lot about you." Max smiled and offered her his hand, no doubt hoping to earn brownie points for politeness with Alexis's dad.
"Uh.. Nice to meet you." Kate stared at his outstretched hand wearily but made no move to take it.
Max leaned over casually in an attempt to view the document in question.
Quite suddenly Kate froze, her sharp intake of breath sounding unusually loud in the unexpected silence.
"Kate?" Alexis stared at her in alarm as the printed sheaf of pages fell from Kate's lifeless hands and scattered on the floor in a disorganized jumble.
She had moved to the other end of the sofa, her arms wrapped around her trembling knees and her head bowed as she attempted to control her breathing.
Alexis looked on helplessly, unsure of what she could do to help. She grabbed her phone and speed dialed her father.
"Alexis? What's up?" Castle was unnerved by the urgency in her voice.
"What? Slow down."
"Kates' having a panic attack and I don't know what I should do."
"Oh." Castle swore into the phone. "Is she there with you? Don't leave her alone."
"It's okay Alexis." Kate spoke up weakly from the couch. "I'm okay."
Alexis passed the handset over to Kate who fumbled with it in shaky fingers.
"Kate! What the hell happened."
"It's nothing really." She glanced at Alexis and her boyfriend. "I'm fine."
"Did you have another flashback?"
Castle fought to keep the disappointment out of his voice. It had been two months since her last panic attack and he had hoped she had finally gotten past them.
"Yes. I'm okay really. I'm dealing with it. I'm fine."
"Do you want me to come home? I can get on a flight tonight."
"No Castle." Kate laughed softly. "Don't be ridiculous. I have Alexis here with me and Martha will be home tonight. I'm sure I can cope without you for another day."
"Okay. You know you can call me at anytime. Even if it's the middle of the night."
Kate handed the phone back to Alexis who had a short conversation with her father before hanging up and glancing back at Kate, who still looked deathly pale.
"Um.. Is there anything I can do?" Alexis stammered.
"No." Kate shook her head. "Just give me a few minutes."
Kate placed her hand over her nose and mouth and shut her eyes, composing herself.
"Alexis have you been smoking?"
"No." She looked over at Max uneasily. "I haven't. I mean it wasn't…."
"It's okay Alexis. I'm not mad. You're not in any trouble." Kate replied more calmly. "I can smell it, that's all."
"It was me actually." Max piped up. "Alexis was just standing next to me. She didn't smoke anything."
"Was that it? Was it the smell that upset you?" Alexis looked horribly guilty.
"I.. Um I think I should go." Max made his way to the door and Alexis stood to let him out.
"Sorry to scare your new boyfriend away." Kate apologized weakly as Alexis returned to the couch. "I'm sure my behavior made quite an impression on him. He must think I'm crazy."
"No. It's no problem. I told him you were a cop and had been injured on the job. If he can't deal with a little dose of reality then I don't want him around me."
"All the same, it's ruined your afternoon. Did you have plans? I will be okay if you want to go out."
"You're more important than my plans Detect…. I mean Kate. I'm happy to stay home with you. Did you want to watch a movie or something? Keep your mind occupied for a while?"
"I'll be fine Alexis. Just don't come too close to me. You smell like you've been in a bar or something."
"Oh." Alexis glanced down at herself and sniffed her shirt. "Oh, sorry. I'll go change."
When Alexis returned a few minutes later Kate had resumed her reading and was looking more relaxed.
"Better?" Alexis grinned.
"Yeah much." Kate returned her smile sheepishly. "Sorry about that. I was hoping I'd gotten over the flashbacks."
"Smells can generate the strongest memories."
"You're not wrong about that." Kate shuddered. "Memories I still can't quite deal with yet."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Sure." Kate replied hesitantly, wondering where this was heading.
"Why did this affect you so much?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, a few years ago you were shot and almost died, and yet you carried on like nothing happened, like you were fine. Then last year you get beaten up and you're still recovering. Why? Is there something that Dad or I should be doing to help you? Is Dad's coddling making things worse? Is he making you talk about it too much?"
"No… Um.." Kate pondered on how best to explain. "Firstly I wasn't fine at all after I was shot. You weren't seeing as much of me then so you wouldn't have noticed but I was really struggling to barely stay afloat. I tried to hide it from everyone, including your father, but eventually I realized that by keeping it all in I was actually making things worse. I never really moved on until I was able to deal with it all and I'm still dealing with it I guess… in some ways." Kate's voice drifted off.
"And what happened to me last year.. well that was so much…worse" Kate found herself tearing up as the memories engulfed her. "I've never felt so helpless and so… so.. disgusted with myself in my whole life. I'm supposed to be able to look after myself and yet I couldn't stop them from touching me. I don't think I've ever been so scared - or so ashamed before."
Alexis looked confused. "They touched you?"
Kate flinched. "I guess that's one way to put it."
"You mean they…"
Kate's eyes widened as it dawned on her. Alexis apparently hadn't been told the full story.
"I was raped Alexis. I'm sorry, I thought your Dad had already told you."
"But…" Alexis looked stunned. "I… I had no idea. Dad, he told me that you had been abducted and beaten up. He didn't tell me…. Shit!" Alexis swore in a very uncharacteristic manner. "I'm so sorry. That's awful. I didn't… God. I shouldn't have made you talk about it. That's just… unimaginable."
"It's okay. I ought to be able to cope with talking about it by now. I'm really sorry about this Alexis."
"Sorry about what?"
"All of this." Kate shrugged for emphasis. "I mean… I'm intruding on your space, the nightmares, getting drunk…. scaring your boyfriend."
Alexis grinned. "Not my boyfriend…..yet! And it's fine. I really don't mind having you around. Dad is less-you know, stressed out when he knows your okay."
"Yeah." Kate looked glum. "I bet I've stressed him out now. I was so sure I was doing better. I haven't been having as many nightmares, I've been seeing a therapist. I'd really hoped I was over all this."
Alexis was momentarily amazed by Kate's sudden willingness to confide in her.
"I guess it will just take more time. It sounds like you're doing everything right."
"Yeah." Kate chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. "Maybe just more time…"