A Dash of Summer
For everyone who loves the Dash Universe and asked for more. A Mini-Epic. Let's see how far this takes us.
It's dark for bedtime, but Ellery isn't in bed. She has her pajamas on like she's supposed to, teeths all brushed, but she did run away from the comb Mommy had. No comb. It hurts in all her tangles. She did run so fast, and then she did the secret mean thing, and now she's safe.
And she can hear Dash.
He deserves it.
She smiles to herself and peers into the terrarium where her dragon goes, reaches inside.
"Ella Kate. What did you do?"
Ellery jerks her hand out of Abe Lincoln's home and turns to the door of her room. Mommy has her hands on her hips. Uh-oh.
"I not do it."
Mommy huffs. "Why is your brother screaming his head off?"
Ellery closes her hand into a fist and shifts away from Abe Lincoln's home. Mommy narrows her eyes and stalks inside Ella's room, stops at the terrarium.
And she sees the nothing inside.
Ella juts her chin and stares back at Mommy.
"Ellery Kate Castle," Mommy says. Very quietly. Very serious.
"I did do it," she whispers back.
"Go. Right now." Mommy points towards the door and Ellery scrambles fast-fast out of her room, running down the hall to Dash's room, bare feet slapping against the wood floor and she pushes open the door.
Dashiell is screeching and jumping around. She zips past him and yanks down the covers, snatches Abe Lincoln out from the foot of the bed. Dash squawks louder, yelling at her now, but she cradles her baby dragon to her chest and hustles out the door.
She runs right into Mommy.
"Oof," Ella grunts, falling back. Mommy catches her up and carries her back to her own room, Linc still in Ellery's hands. He is kind of shivering. That's not good.
Mommy dumps her on her bed and takes Linc away, puts him in his home and closes the lid on top, and then turns back around to Ella.
"That's not a nice way to treat your baby dragon, Ellery. Let alone your brother."
"It was him's idea."
"Dash?" Mommy snorts.
"No. Abe Lincoln. Him's idea."
"I don't think so. All Abe Lincoln asks is that you treat him kindly, feed him, pet him. He does not want your brother's smelly feet getting shoved in his face. Would you like it?"
Ellery wrinkles her nose, but she giggles too, and that does it, makes Mommy put on her cop face.
"Dashiell," Mommy calls out. "Get in here."
Dashiell thuds down the hall, screeching still, tattling to Mommy about what Ellery did, and she crosses her arms over her chest and ignores both of them. She can have a cop face; Daddy says she is good at cop face.
But Mommy is whispering something to Dash and she peeks one eye, and then she sees Dashiell grinning like crazy and coming for her. Ella scrambles back on her bed but Dash jumps up and keeps jumping, making her bounce all over, and then he jumps on her, and he puts his feet in her face - she tastes his stinky feet.
"Dash-UHL," she yells, shoving at him. But then there's Mommy scooping him up out of the bed and away, away those gross, sweaty boy feet, so so gross. Mommy is telling him enough for now, my man and Ellery glares at Dash over Mommy's shoulder.
"See?" Mommy murmurs, putting Dash down on the floor. "Do you think Abe Lincoln liked that very much? And imagine with Dashiell screaming and hollering and maybe even kicking at-"
"You better not kick my dragon," Ellery growls, lunging past Mommy to get at him, but Mommy snatches her out of the air and holds her too tight, too close; she can't get, cant get at him.
"Ella, Ella," Mommy whispers, her fingers around Ellery's neck, mouth at her ear. "You put your dragon there. What happens to him is your fault, sweetheart. You see? You're responsible for your pet."
"I'm more responsible than you. I don't put T-Rex where he can get kicked," Dashiell says hotly.
"I kick T-Rex all I want," Ellery fumes, but Mommy wraps her fingers around Ella's mouth and she's all shut up. Mommy tells Dash to go back to bed now, Daddy is coming upstairs, and when it's just them, Mommy sits down with her on the bed in the darkness of bedtime.
"No kicking, Ella. Not Rex, not your brother. Not me either, if you know what's good for you."
Mommy is pushing her to lie down, tucking her into bed. Ella put on her pajamas real quick while Dash was crying about his shower - who's the baby? - and then she grabbed Abe Lincoln super fast and sneaked him down the bed - lickety split.
"I need you to be nice to your brother," Mommy says softly, getting up from the bed. Ellery rolls onto her side and watches Mommy turn on the ladybug nightlight, green tonight with the stars in white against her ceiling. Mommy comes back to the bed and her fingers are light and soft on Ella's neck and cheek, up to her forehead and through her hair. Like maybe she's not so-so-so mad. Just a little mad.
"Dash be mean to me."
"Baby girl, what you did to Abe Lincoln is mean. He can't protect himself." Mommy looks sad at her. Ella did something to make her that sad face. She feels the hot hurt of tears glueing up her eyes, making it all choked, and she turns her eyes into her pillow to push it back.
Mommy strokes the hair off her neck. "Did you like having Dashiell's feet in your face?"
"You tell him to," she cried out.
"That's right. I'm responsible for you and Dash and I told him to. Exactly. It's not very fair when someone bigger than you puts their feet in your face just because someone made them, is it?"
"Oh." She's the bigger one who put Abe in where Dashy could kick him. She turns her head to look at Mommy. "Oh. I not like it. Abe Lincoln not like it, I guess, too."
Mommy strokes the hair at Ella's forehead and kisses her so softly, each eyelid, and the tears aren't so thick back there anymore. The hurt part starts to melt.
"I'm sorry, Mommy," she whispers.
"Thank you," Mommy says, even quieter, her face so very close, her fingers stroking at Ella's hair. "That's better. Can you come with me and tell Dash you're sorry too?"
Ellery presses her mouth together and frowns hard, but Mommy keeps stroking, pressing her fingers into all the frowning lines and smoothing them out.
"You need a minute?"
"I need many minutes," Ellery growls.
"You guys fought a lot today," Mommy says. "I know that's hard to let go but just because he gets on your nerves sometimes doesn't mean you get to treat him - and Lincoln - so poorly. That wasn't kind. And Ella, sweetheart, you're such a kind girl."
"I'm a kind girl?"
"You are. Remember when Rex hurt his paw and it made Dash so very sad and you crawled into bed with him?"
"Oh. He was so sad, Mommy. And Rex had to go to the vet. He not have Rex to sleep with."
"See, sweetheart? You're a kind girl."
"I not know."
"But I know," Mommy says softly. She taps on Ella's chest. "You have a fierce heart in there. Remember how sad it makes you when people are hurt? Even if you did make Dash pay for whatever he did to you today, it still ends up hurting you too."
"I not know, Mommy," she says again, but she snakes an arm around Mommy's neck and clings to her a little tighter. Holding her there. "Is Daddy going to come in and say good night?"
"Of course he is. Remember what I said, baby girl. You've got all that kindness inside your heart. Use that instead."
"When else was I a kind girl?"
"Do you remember when I was so sad about Uncle Mo?"
"He died," she says solemnly. "We went to his funeral. It was so sad."
"I know it was. But you sat with me, curled up in my lap. You made me feel better."
"I make it a sunny day, Mommy?"
"I love it when you're a sunny day," Mommy whispers back, kissing both her cheeks now. "I would love for you to always have sunny days. No more storm clouds, baby girl."
"Sometimes Dash does rain all over everything," she sighs, her whole body slumping into Mommy. "It's so hard to be sunny if he is just rain rain rain."
"Dash is... you know that your brother has a different kind of brain. Sometimes he has trouble being sunny, and he has to be by himself. If you feel it's too hard for you to be sunny too, if you start to feel mad at him, then stop playing with Dash and come find me or Daddy, okay?"
Ella rolls her head back to look at Mommy. Dash was not sunny today ever. He was mean. He took her markers and hid them. He ignored her and watched tv with Rex and told her to shut up; you're too loud. And she was not even close to loud. She's not a loud girl.
"Ellery?" Mommy says softly. "Do you understand?"
"I come play with you instead?"
"We'll do something else," Mommy promises. "We help Dash the ways we can, and Daddy and I will help you too. I don't want you to feel like you have to put Abe Lincoln in Dash's bed."
Yeah, that did make her sunny for a little bit. But not anymore. "I not want to make Abe Lincoln smell Dash's stinky feet ever again."
"Thank you, baby. Me neither." Mommy gets off the floor and leans over Ellery, kisses her forehead with a loud smack. "I'll tell Daddy to come say good-night. Tell you a story."
"You come too?"
"Yeah, baby. I'll come too."
Ella throws out her arms and hooks them around Mommy's neck again, digging in close and tight, smelling her - Mommy - and giving her lots and lots of kisses, all over.
She was in big trouble, but it's okay now. It's okay. She won't put Abe Lincoln in Dash's bed ever again.
Because she's a kind girl. Mommy said it. Mommy say she has a fierce heart. Like a dragon.
Dashiell rolls over and looks at the lock. A five. That's better.
He throws off his covers and scrambles to the foot of the bed (at least there's no gross lizard this time), leans over upside down to look for his remote control. It's dark in here and darker under his bed and he doesn't see it.
There could be Abe Lincoln under the bed. It's possible. Ellery does stuff like that. She thinks she's so smart.
Dash sits back in a huff and glares at the television. It does not turn on with a Jedi mind trick.
He needs to find his remote. He's not supposed to get out of bed before it's a six.
On the floor, Rex wags his tail and lumbers up to his feet, waiting on him, so Dash leans over and hugs him around the neck. "Morning times, T-Rex. I gotta find my remote."
Rex slobbers kisses on Dash's cheeks and pulls Dash right out of bed in excitement. Uh-oh. But now that he's here, maybe he can go looking for his remote - that might be an okay bend to the rules. He pushes his dog off and crawls under his bed, brave face, he can do it, looking for his remote. An army man greets him at the head like a sentry, hand up in salute, and Dash flicks his finger at it to send it flying into the darkness.
"You're my scout," he whispers. No lizard moving back there. But Linc can be very very still for a very very long time.
Dash inches forward a little more and finds a lego piece. It's the red wing from his space cowboy ship. He'll leave it here for next time. It was a crash - a huge spectacular crash - and he can do it again. Maybe with Rafe. He wriggles deeper into the darkness under his bed, his elbows out to brush away the lizard if it's down here, and then he finds the heavy blanket. Oh yeah, he used to have this when he was a baby like Ella. It was pretty cool. Must've fallen down here a long time ago.
Dashiell uses his feet to push the weighted blanket back outside, shoving hard and maybe accidentally kicking Rex, oops. "Sorry," he calls back, pushing the blanket free. And then he goes back to his voyage of discovery.
The high seas under his bed. No, wait. A jungle. It's a jungle under here, all kinds of strange animals never before seen by mankind. And maybe one bearded dragon. Dash slowly stretches his arm out and slides it along the carpet until it hits something.
Oh, a sock. And the wall.
What is he under here for?
Last time it was here. But it could be stuck in his covers. Or it could be some other place. Sometimes Dash has it in his hand and carries it around and doesn't realize it's still there and then Bam! Gone, says the lady.
It is maybe gone. It's not here that's for sure.
He sighs and wriggles halfway out from under the bed and gets licked all over again, making him laugh, and he wraps his arms around Rex's neck. "Pull me out, Rex. You're my rescue dog and it's a lake of fire. Hurry! Pull! Pull!"
Rex growls and shakes his head but Dash holds on tight and Rex backs up a little step and that's enough, that's plenty for pretend, so Dash crawls right out and jumps up and down.
"Yay! Good job, Rex. You saved me. You saved me."
He hustles Rex around the room in a victory lap, making the cheer sound with his mouth like a whole lot of people are in the crowd applauding, and then Rex wriggles away with a whine and crawls under the bed.
Well. "Good point. Gotta find my remote. No playing at a five."
He's only allowed to watch the television. No getting out of bed. Still, he can turn it on now that he's up and then he can jump back in bed real quick and not be in trouble. Dash stands in front of the tv and finds the cool button with its blue light, presses it. The tv takes a second to wake up after being asleep all night, so he runs to his bed and flings himself into it, snuggles down under the covers.
Rex comes out from under the bed and Dash leans over the side. "You find it?"
His dog just wags his tail and jumps up on the bed, settling down at the foot, a big huffy sigh.
"Yeah, I didn't see it either," Dash mourns. The television pops on and the sound is down like it should be so it's okay. He doesn't even have to get up and adjust it.
He can ask Mom about his remote when she comes to get him up for the day. And if the cartoons are good and he's very still, maybe he'll even fall back asleep again.
Probably not. It's a swim meet day and he's really high engine about the swimming and he doesn't feel at all tired. But sometimes it happens. Sometimes he falls right back to sleep.
Kate luxuriates in bed, stretching her arms over her head and pushing her toes deep into the sheets. She feels Castle shift at her side and turns her head in time to see him draw his arm around her waist and lift up on one elbow with a sleepy smile.
"First full week off," he murmurs, leaning in to glance a lazy kiss off the corner of her mouth. "How's it feel?"
"Full," she gives, smiling through another yawn. "I'm not exactly doing nothing."
"No, I know," he grins back. "Gina says all my writers are cowering in fear of you."
"It's been two days." Kate rolls her eyes and turns on her side into him.
"At least you're whipping them into shape."
"Castle, one of your writers keeps trying to shove a loaded weapon down the front of his main character's pants."
"Preaching to the choir," he laughs. "I already learned my lesson, remember?"
Kate lets the issue go and instead settles against his chest, yawning again as the morning light spills into her eyes. She blinks and her eyelashes smear golden streaks across her sight; his fingers move up and down her spine, brush her hair to one side.
"I like being a consultant," she says slowly, her breath slipping in and out in the quiet. "So far."
Castle hums something like agreement and his thumb presses into the knotted muscle under her shoulder blade, making her body melt even further against his.
"I miss work," she says finally. "But not like I thought I would."
"It's only been a handful of days. You needed a break."
"Hmm, yeah. Think so." After her father's wedding, it felt like their lives just got more complicated and stressed when her mother's murder came up again. She's needed this - a few weeks of being away during the summer. Just family and loving her kids and catching up on life.
She's got one more full week before she goes back to the 12th, and she's kind of dreading it. Which is weird.
"You always need a break," he grumbles. "But when I want to spend two weeks in the Hamtpons, you're all, oh no, Castle, I couldn't possibly get away. But when Alexis calls and says-"
"Shut up," she mutters. "She needs me more." She's surprised by how much she liked working at Black Pawn those two days this past week, even if Castle is stressed and working non-stop to get his new YA department off the ground. But they'll have the weekend.
Castle hums something and draws his arms around her, snuggling in. Not stressed right now, is he? "Not true. I always need you more," he murmurs.
She huffs and touches her finger to his cheek, lifts to trace the ridge of his eyebrow.
"You know, you need a break too, Rick," she says finally. "We should talk about summer vacation. Dashiell's been pestering me."
"I told him we'd go to the beach for fall break - a reward for having a good start to kindergarten next school year."
Yeah, another reason she's glad to have these two weeks only 'helping out' at Black Pawn. Dashiell goes to real school in September and he'll officially no longer be her baby boy. He'll be six at the end of October and he's already too cool for his mother; Kate will be able to treasure his five year old self, his summer days, be fully present now that she has some time.
"But the Hamptons this weekend?" Kate prompts, nudging her leg into Castle's thigh.
His fingers skate down her side and grip the back of her knee, a thumb rubbing across her skin. "Yeah, you said Allie has some things she needs us to do before the wedding."
"Flowers - we're making all the bouquets, but I told your mother she has to be in charge of that. I'm terrible at flower arrangement, Castle. Please tell me Martha is-"
"She's coming. I already heard from her."
"Oh, good." Kate pushes up off his chest, her hair spilling over her shoulder. He grins and tries to pull her back to him, mostly successful, and she allows his kiss, slow and exploratory, lets her body sink down over his once more. She was ready to get up and get going just a moment ago, but now she's ready for this.
She feathers her fingers over his sides and to his pajama pants, teasing at the waistband until he breaks the kiss with a grunt. "Shower or-"
"Or," she murmurs.
"How about and?" he says back, and his hands are already sliding into play and rocking her hips against him.
She smiles. "I can do and."