Life in Technicolor
Every road is a ray of light. . .
Time only can lead you on
Still it's such a beautiful night
Oh love don't let me go
-Life in Technicolor II, Coldplay
"You sure about this?" she asks, hands filled with her squirmy son, feels someone in the crowd stumble into her back. She rocks forward on her toes; Castle catches her.
When she really studies him, he doesn't look entirely certain about it.
But he only smiles at her and takes Dashiell from her arms, bouncing the kid to try and quiet him. Alexis and Martha have gone back to the car to put away their registration kits, the tshirt, and free stuff being handed out before the race. The free stuff that Castle just kept taking, like the big kid he is.
It's a huge crowd. Dash is over-stimulated by all the people; he babbles away in Castle's ear. She steps closer and lays her hand on the boy's back, still worries about Rick.
"Castle, really, you don't have to do the half marathon. Not the whole thing anyway. You just had surgery."
"Kate, I think if I'm cleared for sex, I'm cleared for a measly thirteen point one miles."
She can feel herself blushing, raises her eyebrow at him. "You wanna keep saying words like that in front of your son?"
"What? Sex? Or thirteen point one miles? Because both are dirty-"
She socks him in the arm and he laughs at her, jostling Dash.
"I just mean, you know. You haven't done anything that requires endurance, and I-"
He grumbles at her. "No endurance? Well, thanks, babe. Way to trample my ego right before a race that I'm certain you're going to win anyway-"
She buries her face against his shoulder, mortified, feels Dashiell tugging on her hair and has to pull away to untangle his fingers. Castle is laughing at her, at least there's that, and he helps get the kid's sticky hands out of her hair. What did the kid have for breakfast?
"I didn't mean that. Jeez, Castle. You have plenty of - oh my word - I'm not talking about this while we're in the middle of a crowd of thousands of people."
He grins at her, entirely too proud of himself, ducks his head to press a quick kiss to her mouth. She pushes at him, purses her lips at his still-smiling face.
"I just want you to take it easy. Thirteen miles is a long run. You didn't even get a chance to train with me."
"Naw, I'll be fine. After that whole disappearing act you pulled last week, where I nearly had a heart attack worrying, and then nearly had a heart attack from all the fun we had after that - well, if that didn't kill me-"
She grins back at him, remembers half-dancing with him in the living room and the way he felt against her, a little desperate, a lot relieved, and the sound of the music coming from the speakers. "You said I killed you."
"You did. True. You killed me. I don't think I've ever done-"
She catches his lips with her fingers, raising an eyebrow and then glancing around at the crowd. "Hush."
He kisses her palm, his arm looping around her waist. She lifts on her tennis-shoe-clad toes and steals his mouth for a moment, thoroughly indulging.
When she sinks back down, she sees Martha over his shoulder, flirting with Dash, so she steps back. Alexis comes up between her and Castle, hooks her arm around Kate's neck and kisses her cheek. "Good luck, guys." She moves to do the same to her father, grinning at them both.
Dash reaches for her, so she takes him. Martha is giving Castle last minute directions about where she and Alexis will stand. "The 5K mark - it has a finish line, or so they tell me. And don't forget the photograph. The MS Charity has brought in a photographer-"
Castle shoots Kate a look, but she nods at him. "Part of the deal, Castle. I told you. Whole family at the end of the race."
"Whole family?" he says.
"The photo will be sold to the paper, most likely, or whichever magazine has the highest bid. Then the money goes straight back to the charity."
"You're okay with Dash being in the photo?" He sounds surprised.
She nods at him, catches his hand and squeezes. "It's time. Remember? We give them a little and they'll stay off our backs. Keeps them polite at least."
His thumb strokes over the back of her fingers. "All right. Okay. Up to you."
Martha is tugging on Alexis, bringing her away. "You two need to get to the start line. Race starts in two minutes."
Kate smiles at her, then back over at Castle. "Come on, stud. Time to race."
"You okay?" she asks again, her gait smooth and even as she runs beside him.
"Seriously, if you start to hurt, or even just cramp-"
"Stop babying me," he mutters, reaching out to grip her elbow in a tight, reminding squeeze.
"I still don't think you should be doing this so soon after surgery," she says, turning her head to look at him. She's pulled ahead of him on the jogging path, but Castle doesn't stretch to match her. He did just have surgery (ha - it was weeks ago now). But he'll set the pace, thank you very much.
Kate drops back a little, evidently realizing she's running too fast; he lets go of her elbow and keeps his mouth shut. He can't keep the rhythm of his breathing if he's talking too.
The streets of New York have been blocked off for their route; the crowd of runners is huge, actually, bigger than he expected. It really has been a long time since he's done enough with the MS charity. He's glad now that Kate pushed him to do this.
"If you don't stop wincing, Castle, I'm gonna cut this short."
He laughs, shakes his head to get his rhythm back. "Yeah. No. I'm fine. Thinking about. How long it took me to get involved. Shoulda done it sooner."
She studies him for a moment, but seems to accept that. "All right. Well, the 5K finish line is just up there. So if you're-"
"I'm doing the half, Kate."
She shuts up, finally, and he finds his pace again. He runs better if he doesn't talk, runs easier if she's not distracting him.
Course, she should probably run behind him so he's not constantly watching the way her legs move, the stretch of her running shorts over her ass, the triangle of dark sweat at her lower back.
Jeez, so not fair.
He's never gonna make it.
He leans over on his hands and knees, and Kate comes jogging back to him, grinning, the little tease. How mean. Flaunting her athletic prowess in his face.
"You okay there, Castle?"
He holds up a finger, nods at her. "Good, good. Be right - right there."
She's still bouncing on her toes to keep her heart rate up. Really not fair. She got to train for this while he recovered from the reversal surgery.
"Just two more miles, Castle. You can do it. You've made it eleven. Two more is nothing."
He nods again, licks his dry lips, heaves himself upright. "Yeah."
"Dash is at the finish line. He wants to see Daddy make it."
"That's a low blow," he groans. When he made it to the 5K marker, and he was fine, and feeling good, he paused only long enough to tell Alexis and his mother to take Dash to the finish line, that he would run the rest of the race with ease.
Yeah, right. Ease? Who was he kidding?
"Come on, Daddy. Let's go," she murmurs, suddenly near him, tugging on his arm.
"Okay, okay. Two more miles."
"That's right. Two more miles."
He puts one foot in front of the other, another step, finds himself half-jogging, stumbling after her.
And then he is actually jogging, running, right at her side. Like before. Like always.
Kate takes the last step over the finish line, checking her time on one of the digital clocks displayed at either side, then looks back over her shoulder to find Castle.
He's right on her heels, nearly trips over her. She scoots forward, walking quickly to keep the lactic acid from building up in her muscles, letting her body cool down. Castle has a fingertip at her back, guiding her, and she shakes him off, feeling sweaty and too close, too much.
She wipes at her forehead and suddenly the world tilts, swaying. She stumbles and throws her arms out. Castle catches her, hauls her against his damp tshirt; she pushes at him, feels numbness tingling in her fingers, her toes.
"Let me-" she mumbles, sinks down.
Castle is hauling her back up, half-carrying her over to the side. She feels her feet trip in his even as her body shuts down, can't distinguish voices, registers a cool hand against her cheek even as her vision fades.
She blinks and brings herself back, realizes Castle has pushed her head between her knees. She's sitting on the curb, Castle over her to block her body from the runners still coming through.
She raises a hand at him, won't lift her head just yet. She feels the blackness hovering just on the horizon, doesn't want to make any sudden movements that might bring it back.
"Mother went to get you a soda. Some sugar will help."
"Yeah," she murmurs, presses her hand to her forehead.
"Didn't you eat breakfast?"
"I did," she says shortly. Can't think about the scrambled eggs and toast right now. She presses her hand to her mouth, blinks back the sway of the ground.
"Alexis, can you-"
And suddenly her senses return - the boy reaching for her and grunting because he can't get at his mother, Castle's knee at her shoulder that props her up, Alexis saying something about water to her father.
She lifts her head cautiously, blinks up at them. "I'm okay."
Alexis is trying to keep Dash away, keep him from squirming down.
Castle offers her a hand and she takes it slowly, wrapping her fingers around his, letting him pull her up. She sways, but she's okay. It's okay.
"What was that about?" he says quietly.
She glances up and is grateful to see that he's got an appropriate amount of mild concern. Good. No freaking out. No let's get you to a hospital right now. Good. She can - she can breathe easier knowing he's steady.
"Just got dizzy," she says back finally. "I'm okay. I need some sugar-"
At that moment, Martha buzzes back to them, the crowd of runners and sepctators parting for her without effort. She holds a Pepsi and a slice of pizza, a look of distaste on her face.
But it's heavensent. Kate grabs the pizza and crams it into her mouth, gulping the first bite without chewing very well, choking around the cheese that slides down her throat. Castle lifts an eyebrow but pops the top on the soda, hands it over. She washes down the pizza with the burning fizz.
After a second, the sugar hits her and she immediately feels better, less like jelly, and she straightens up, chews more slowly, drinks the soda after every bite. Energy buzzes in her limbs.
Alexis is watching her, Martha is too, but Castle is giving her space, reaching out for their son.
"Ewww," Dashiell drawls, arching his body away from his father's chest. "Sooty. Sooty. Dose, Daddy."
Kate grins. "Gross is right. We're both all sweaty." She feels good. She's fine. It was just - not enough calories for thirteen miles.
Castle holds Dash away a little bit, looks down at her with a raised eyebrow, asking all he needs to ask with just that gesture.
She nods back, tosses the crust of the pizza into a nearby barrel trash can.
"We need to go to the administration tent for that photograph," she says.
"Lead the way," he answers, nodding back at her.
He looks at ease, but she feels his fingertips at her hip as they thread their way through the crowd.
She nearly fainted. She's never done that before.
"Sooo dose," Dashiell says happily in her ear. Kate grins at him, tries not to hold him too closely, kisses his cheek.
"We're very gross, but it'll dry. Can you hang until then?"
"Hane, hane, hane. Momma."
"Yeah, that." She juggles him against her, but Castle reaches over and takes him. "Thanks."
"Eat your banana," he says, nodding at her plate.
She peels the banana, stomach fluttering at the thought of more food. But Castle's right. Her electrolytes are probably out of whack. She bought Luna vitamin bars and ate them before she went for training runs, but she mistakenly thought the protein and calories in her breakfast would be enough this morning.
Won't make that mistake again. She still doesn't feel exactly right.
They're all sitting in the admin tent with the race event coordinator and a couple of volunteers. Castle has been shaking hands and smiling and exchanging race stories with the others, as if he's done this every year and is a pro at it. The photographer caught some casual conversation, grouped them together for a family shot, and then went on his way. Easy. And Kate's actually looking forward to seeing the photo come out on page six.
"No, Dash," she jerks her banana away from his questing fingers. He sticks out his bottom lip and grunts, lunging for it.
Castle laughs and turns back to her, trying to corral Dashiell. "Lighten up, wild man. I'll get you your own banana."
Kate shoves the last of it into her mouth, swallows past the dry lump in her throat. She takes a moment to sip at the bottle of water at her feet, twists the top back on it.
"I'll go get it," Alexis says, hopping up and then disappearing. Her helpfulness has been on overload since Kate had to pick her up from a party in Spanish Harlem a few months ago.
She nudges Castle's shoulder, puts a hand on Martha's arm to include his mother. "Should we talk to her again? She's still trying to make up for things."
Castle sighs. "This is how Alexis works out her guilty conscience."
Martha waves a hand. "Richard's right. Just let her work through it. She'll relax again. Besides, might be good to keep her humble for a while."
Kate bites her bottom lip, glancing at the crowd where Alexis disappeared. "But it feels like she's trying to prove herself. I don't like that." She cuts her eyes to Castle, tries to read in his gaze what he really thinks.
Yeah, some concern lurks there, just below the surface. She's seen it enough times directed at herself to know what it is.
"I'm going to talk to her," Kate says finally. "I don't want her to think she's got to prove herself . . . worthy or something."
That thing in Castle's eyes clears like haze burned off in the sun; Kate nods to herself, determined now. She and Alexis are good; she's certain of that. This will just be a reminder between the two of them that if Alexis gets to call her mom, then Kate gets to love her.
No matter what.
Alexis slips back into the tent at that moment, handing the banana to her father. Dashiell perks up, grabbing for it.
"Want Is-sis," he grunts, curling the banana to his chest and leaning out for his sister.
Kate sees the flare in Alexis's eyes, feels grateful to her son for somehow doing the exact right thing this time. Including his sister.
Castle lets Dash go to Alexis, leans back in his chair and puts his arm around Kate's shoulders, his fingertips stroking the skin just under the sleeve of her running shirt.
She smiles to herself, presses into his side despite the sweat, the ripe smell of them both.
She turns her head and gives him a quick kiss on his cheek. "Love you," she whispers as she pulls back.
Castle turns, giving her a look that says everything she ever needs said.
And then he says it.
"Love you too, Kate."