The Spleen Is a Non-Vital Organ

She drags for a few days.

Good word, he thinks. Drags, draggy, dragging. She does that.

He watches Beckett like he's always watched Beckett, so she doesn't even really notice. His ears are safe.

He's got enough experience now with Alexis's mono to know the signs. Mainly tiredness. Alexis came home to sleep it off; she didn't even really have a lot of head cold stuff, just a persistent sore throat, and her sinuses got stopped up. And she slept.

A lot.

A whole lot.

Which was why Meredith had finally left, of course. Thank goodness for small favors. Immediately after his ex-wife flew to Paris, Alexis's mono fell off the cliff into severe aches and swollen lymph nodes and her stomach seemed to hurt. He took her back to the doctor and discovered it was merely an enlarged spleen.

"Merely an enlarged spleen," he hisses to Beckett. "I mean. Seriously."

"Seriously," Kate echoes, and he knows she's not exactly paying attention.

He's not telling her this because he's really all that concerned. It's just a safe subject to introduce the not-safe subject.


I think you might have mono, Beckett, and based on the doctor's warnings to Alexis, you probably shouldn't be at work right now.

Not safe. Definitely not a safe subject.

"Do you know what happens with an enlarged spleen, Beckett?"

She turns her head from a study of the board, and he can see it's an effort to bring her focus back to him. But she tries. And she manages it too; she's present with him and bringing her attention to bear on his 'problem' (aka whining).

He loves her. Look at her, actually trying and being concerned and participatory. In this. She's in this.

And it stumbles him for a moment, makes him stare dumbly at her until he too can bring himself back to the present.

She lifts an eyebrow while he makes this attempt, then arousal dumps hotly over her face, a burn of lust that glitters her eyes and makes her mouth part, and even as his own body is responding to her automatically, he realizes she thought he was fantasizing about her in that one distracted instant.

And she's hot for it.

Her fingers curl at his on the edge of her desk, a second's connection, and then she stands up and paces to the board, and then she turns back to him.

"Alexis doing okay?"

"Oh. She's back at school for two days a week. Still wipes her out. But the enlarged spleen. That's what has me worried."

Not for Alexis. Though it's there, hovering at the edges. But Alexis - naw, he's not worried about her that much.

It's Kate.

Who has mono.

He is almost 100% certain.

She drags. She is dragging. She looks exhausted.

Which means she has an enlarged spleen.

Which leads him to-

"Enlarged spleen," she says, lifting an eyebrow at him again as if to say, get on with it.

"She can't do any horse-back riding," he spits out stupidly. Ung, not the best work there. Little panicky. And he's not panicky about Alexis. She's fine - well, she'll be fine. She's getting there. It's Kate. And her horse-back riding-like activities.

"Oh, well. Does she do a lot of that?" Kate asks, being really just too nice and consoling now. She's making such a beautiful effort, really she is. Has she always done this and he just didn't notice? Because he's paying attention now, and not really as wrapped up in himself as he usually is, and so he's seeing just how good a girlfriend - a friend - she really is to him.

Not that he's ever been complaining. Just that, really, they are at work, her work, and he's distracting her from the case, and all to talk about his own problems - which are admittedly made up at this point - but she's still considerate and concerned and trying to talk him down.

He dives back into it. "She doesn't ride that much, but I mean full body contact is out."

Kate's eyebrow does that dance, that smirking dance, the fall and lift again that means she's holding back some really great joke.

"I would think," she says slowly. "You'd be grateful there's less fully body contact."

Oh. Haha. That's a good one. "Thanks for that. Really. The mental images springing forth are just lovely."

"You said it."

"You went there. And no. This is really about the fact that any hard shove or a fall - say a tackle? - has the potential to rupture her spleen. Kate. Rupture her spleen."

She gives him a sympathetic look. "Yeah, that doesn't sound good. But I doubt Alexis does a lot of tackling? And I assume you'll ease up on the laser tag games anyway, so no falls or shoves from you."

"Haha," he says gruffly. She hasn't seen his point yet. He'll have to spell it out. "She doesn't. But you do."

"Laser tag? Not in years." And then her face does that melting thing, where she gets a good idea that she's going to attribute to him, give him the credit for. "Oh, but we should. It'd be fun, Castle." Her eyes are bright and hopeful on him, a shy smile, like he sometimes gets to see now, where she's laying it out for him, her secret and vulnerable places, and offering it to him with a toe digging in the dirt.

She's adorable. She's really just adorable. And how can he possible say no? "Yeah. You really wanna play with me?"

And then all that shy adorableness gets swept right off her face in favor of a sultry, devious look and he gasps because he doesn't even need her to say it; he knows. He knows. Filthy, amazing mind.

He grins and wishes he could kiss her, but he settles for just staring at her for a moment until he remembers the point of all this.

"Oh, not what I was going for. The laser tag is fine - good idea. But. I meant. You do tackling."

"Mm," she murmurs, more like a hum really, and that look, that look. Oh wow. Yeah, gotta stop staring at each other like this if he wants to make it out with any shred of dignity. She mentioned once something about locking the cameraman in a supply closet?

No. No, back to the point.

"Suspect tackling, Beckett. And takedowns. And that kind of thing. Full body contact of the innocent variety." Oh. Well. "Of the guilty variety. Of the alleged guilty - huh. This is just sounding worse and worse."

She's giving him one of those head shaking smiles, and then it seems to dawn on her because she stutters to a stop and stares at him.

"Castle, I do not have mono."

He winces at her. "I think-"

"It's been a long week, and a long case, and I am just - a little tired."

A lot tired. "You fell asleep on me last night."

"I fell - oh." She flushes and glances around the bullpen, then she steps closer to him with a berating look. "I didn't fall asleep. You took too long."

"I was practically-"

"Shut up," she hisses. "I do not have mono."

He shuts up.

But she does.

If she has mono, she's gonna kill him.

It's got to be his fault, right?

Except he doesn't have mono, so she can't have mono either. She's only been kissing him.

Kate bites her lip as that thought filters in, and she sinks back down to her desk chair, still watching the board like it'll reveal its secrets. She's got about three more days on this case before it gets boxed and she'll have to make copies of everything to stick in a folder and put it in a drawer so that she can get to it when the time comes where she can go back to her cold cases and just-

be less tired than this and actually figure it out.

She is tired. She'll admit that much. She can feel the ache in her head starting up every time she looks to the murder board, which really isn't any different than a normal case, and it's possible she's getting a head cold.

It's possible.

If he doesn't have mono, then she doesn't either.

She's sticking to that.

She curls up in the couch and rests her cheek against the back as she watches him make dinner for them both - and Alexis too, who is at home still, asleep upstairs. She doesn't think Alexis is even coming down for dinner; she's been taking meals in her bed when she can wake up long enough to eat.

Kate licks her dry lips and rouses from the couch, seeking lip gloss. She left some here on his dresser top, and when she heads into the cool and dim interior of his room, she flips on the lamp and searches for the tube.

Her eyes graze over the framed photo of Castle and his daughter and mother, a well-done family portrait from maybe four years ago. Alexis looks young, and Castle looks immature, and she has to smile. She snags the gloss and unscrews it, skates color and moisture back over her lips, puts it back. She stands in his bedroom with her eyes closed a moment, how lovely it is to just stand there and do nothing, be nothing, and then she sways on her feet.


She's so disoriented that she stumbles forward into the dresser and the frame knocks over and crashes into her lip gloss and it goes rolling to the floor and she can't even catch it in time. She just watches it fall.

And then Castle comes through the door and stares at her.

"Kate. You have-"

"No," she insists and swoops down to pick up her fallen lip gloss.

She fights hard to stay balanced and puts it back, and then she sways again and he's there.

So she pushes into him and stays, arms around his waist until he hugs her back. He doesn't say anything either, which is so nice, a relief really, and she closes her eyes again and hangs on to him through the dizzying wave of exhaustion.

"You don't have to eat dinner," he murmurs against the top of her head. "Just get in bed, Kate. It can heat up later - midnight snack."

She stays right where she is and almost - almost - gives in.

But she's really okay. It's not mono.

"No, Castle. You worked hard," she smiles, tilting her head back to look at him. "Let's go eat."

She has a cold.

She feels like crap.

She is going in to work today. Nobody better try to stop her.

Beckett takes a shower first, instead of coffee, hoping the heat and the water will loosen the thickness in her head. She feels clobbered.

She realizes she's been standing under the spray for too long, rouses to start washing her hair. She finds herself drifting in the middle of her routines, coming to consciousness only when the razor drops from her fingers or the soap circles the drain or the water gets in her eyes.

She has a cold. Yes. She can admit that.

She could kill Castle, though. Yesterday when she had to give chase to their homeless witness, she did a half-stutter step because of the things he's said about ruptured spleens and one rough tackle. She nearly lost their man because of it, and without that testimony, they wouldn't be closing the case today.

His fault. All his fault. He's lucky she's so fast.

And well - she looked up information on the spleen and really. Really. It's not that big a deal.

She turns off the water and shivers in the sudden absence of heat, pulls the shower curtain aside to grab a towel. Still freezing, but she ignores the discomfort and scrapes her hair back, rings it out into the tub. She has to pull strands of hair from between her fingers, a whole clump of it, more than usual.

Beckett runs a comb through it, gets even more hair, frowning at herself in the mirror. Hormones, usually, but it's the wrong week for it. There's stress too - that can do it, and now that she thinks about it, she's pulled hair from the tub for a while now.

She needs to let go of this case. The sooner it's wrapped, the better. And then she'll invite herself over to Castle's loft for the weekend and veg. He likes to putter around her, ply her with wine and food, make lewd suggestions when she's least expecting it. It'll be a nice weekend.

She takes Vitamin C with her coffee and - for good measure - sucks on a zinc lozenge as she blow dries her hair.

She has to brush her teeth three times to get the nasty taste out of her mouth, but she feels better already.

Kate falls asleep on him.

And this time, it's actually on him, and not on in the sense of her falling asleep while he's in the middle of foreplay (which was all her idea in the first place).

No, she actually lies down with him on the couch (Exhibit A for the prosecution) and then while he channel surfs and tries to decide which HBO on Demand show to watch, she falls asleep (Exhibit B). She's not so much on him as curled at his side, half on and half off, but when he pushes her hair back to wake her, she doesn't wake.

She's really out of it.

Castle watches Oz, because she hates that show, and then he gets sucked into a season one marathon of The Wire, which he finds both fascinating and horrifying and entirely too real. In a gritty way, which he feels like he's caught glimpses of with Beckett, but he's never seen it quite so stark.

He has this odd moment where he wonders if maybe it was so stark, if it used to be, and if the guys at the precinct all banded together to keep him out of the worst of it in the beginning. Keep him from knowing. Because there were only a handful of cases he was allowed on that first year, maybe only ten, and while some crazy stuff has gone down since then, it's nothing like this.

Well, no. Okay, sometimes it is like this.

But it's not quite so brutal. She's here, and that makes everything really-

Yeah. Okay. He's in love with her and that's gotta be the explanation. For so many things - even for the last three or four years' worth of not-so-gritty cases. Because some of those were really bad. She arrested him. She cried about it; he had to make a prison break without even telling her about it and then-

And then she came, she found him in the Public Library, and everything was good again and smiles and she was in his arms and-

he is one gigantic sap.

And she definitely has mono.

He's laid here on the couch with her for five hours tonight, and he realizes now that he's been stroking his fingers through her hair and rubbing his hand over her back and caressing her as he's been reminiscing about how good they are together and she hasn't woken up once to tell him off for being creepy.

She's got mono.

She grunts awake, feeling like crap, eyes burning and her body aching. Her mouth is dry and sock-like, and she can't get away from the tangle of sheets. She moves to get out of bed and can't help the groan that comes out of her mouth.

He stirs beside her, a snuffling sigh, and she trips in the sheets and falls to the floor, her knees cracking and her teeth jarring. And she wakes up a little, rubs her face into the side of the mattress, sighs at her own stupidity.

She's definitely got a cold. She wants to go home.

Kate shuts the door to his bathroom and presses her palms to the countertop, blinks at herself in the mirror. Boba Fett's dark presence makes her jump, her heart pounding madly, and she curses Castle again for that thing. She flicks on the faucet and cups her hands under the cool water, splashes it over her face, rubs her eyes fiercely, then pats her cheeks dry with a towel.

She gives Fett a death stare and turns in the bathroom to look for her clothes. She searches for her pants, but she can't remember what happened to them. Can't remember actually taking them off, now that she thinks about. In fact, she might have fallen asleep on the couch.

Oh, yeah, that's it. Did Castle carry her to bed? Huh. Didn't think he had it in him.

Kate grins but winces, her whole face aching, her very bones tight against her skin. She rolls her shoulders and opens the bathroom door to find Castle standing there, about to knock.

He tilts his head at her, his hand coming to her hip and his eyes sleepy. "What are you - oh. You sick?"

She nods. "I feel bad. I'm gonna go home."

He shakes his head. "Now?"

"I'm sick," she mutters, rubbing her eyes. "I feel bad. I want to go home."

"Just - sleep here and I'll take you in the morning."

She presses her hand to her cheek, can't even shake her head. Her face is hot. "No, I want-"

"Right, yeah. I get it. Like Alexis - just want your own bed. I'll take you home right now."

She blinks at him. "What?"

"Your clothes are in the chair on top of your bag. And-"

"You don't have to take me home."

"You're sick," he laughs, rubbing a hand in one eye and then scratching his jaw. "Never gonna let you go out into the city at three in the morning like this. Alone. No way."

"It's three?" she says. Oh. "Never mind. I'll just sleep on your couch and-"

"No way. Come on. I'll take you home."

"No, really, that's ridiculous. It's three in the morning. I can tough it out."

"Yes, true. We all know you're tough. But you're not sleeping on the couch," he says quietly. "Back to bed, Kate."

She stands there a second, and then she slumps toward his bed, slipping back under the now-cool sheets, pressing her cheek to the pillow. Her eyes sink shut and she feels him get in behind her, his palm pressing to her back.

She's just about to fall asleep when his mouth brushes against her shoulder. "Need anything. You wake me."