prompt au: castle helping beckett with physical therapy after she was shot. during situps, with castle holding her legs down, they accidentally kiss when beckett uses a bit too much force while doing the exercise.
“You’re good at these,” he quips as she rises. She glares at him through the stray strands of hair that have slipped from her braid, dusting along her forehead and clinging to her damp skin, before she descends to her back once more. “That’s seventeen. Just eight more.”
“I can count,” she growls through grit teeth, but he knows she doesn’t mean the irritation. Not towards him anyway, not any more than usual. She’s just in pain and he’s learned that Kate doesn’t handle her pain with patience and positivity.
Not that he blames her. After he witnessed the bullet penetrate her chest, take her down, he didn’t care about how her behavior may be during the recovery process, only that she lived to see one.
And he still doesn’t care now, as long as she lets him stick around like she has been these last few weeks since he tracked her down at her father’s cabin, started driving her to the city for her physical therapy appointments that have been paid in full by an “anonymous donor”.
She still doesn’t know about that, Castle and her father conspiring to keep the ‘donation’ between the two of them.
“Come on, Beckett. Eighteen, let’s go,” he prompts when she remains on her back atop the dock, her rib bones expanding harshly beneath the thin tank top she wears.
She may be attending physical therapy three times a week, but that doesn’t mean her instructor sends her away without homework. Sit ups tend to be a reoccurring exercise she’s often stuck practicing here at the cabin, one of the only exercises she needs him for.
“I hate you,” she wheezes, her hands clenching behind her head, her arms trembling, but Castle only smirks.
“Are you giving up?”
“No,” she scoffs, her jaw squaring, but she’s still trying to catch her breath.
Rick leans forwards a little, adjusting his grip on the bones of her ankles while he works to block the glare of the sun from beating down so harshly on her.
She insisted upon doing this outside for once, pressing that she’ll go insane if she has to spend another day cooped up inside the cabin. So he dragged her yoga mat out, laid it along the length of the dock above the lake, and dropped to his knees to hold Kate’s feet down while she forced her body to work through the set of sit ups she was assigned.
“If you give up, I win,” he teases, enjoying the advantage of their little bet, one of the few ways they have of making her treatments less agonizing.
“Not giving up,” she grinds out, her abdominals visibly shaking beneath her shirt as she tightens her core.
Castle tilts his head to avoid the glitter of sunlight dancing across the water, wishing he brought his sunglasses out with him. “You sure about that, Beckett? Because-”
Her body jerks then, lurching upwards a little too roughly, and Castle quickly releases his hold on her legs to catch her upper body before it can crash back down.
He grabs for her shoulders, braced on his knees and leaning in too far, barely maintaining his own balance in the process. Kate’s lips brush his chin as he manages to hold her up, her nose bumping along his cheek, and he releases a startled breath at the contact, the ripple of electricity the accidental touch elicits.
“Castle,” she hisses, her arms falling apart behind her head, gripping the front of his shirt instead to remain upright. Her lips are still grazing his skin, dangerously close to his mouth, but she must be in far too much pain to notice. “What the hell?”
“You can’t jerk like that,” he reprimands, feeling her growl reverberate through his flesh. “You could tear something or lose your balance or-”
“I had it,” she protests, but her eyes are squeezed shut and her breathing is ragged, and he forgets for a moment about the proximity, the almost kiss. She’s in pain and that’s all that matters to him.
“You did eighteen, that’s a new record-”
“It’s pathetic,” she rasps, but the quivering of her chest is slowing, and Castle carefully begins to ease her back down, following the lowering of her spine, shifting sideways to avoid the points of her still bent knees.
“It is not, you were just shot six weeks ago and you’re making progress. There’s nothing pathetic about that,” he argues, bowed over her, her fingers still fisted in the sides of his t-shirt.
“You’re just happy you won the stupid bet,” she mutters, and he can’t help laughing at that, grinning as her eyes peel open.
Some of her pain seems to have receded, replaced with amusement that spills across her mouth.
“Mm, maybe. Mainly just proud of you,” he shrugs. “Though, I do admit I’m looking forward to marathoning Star Trek over Temptation Lane tonight.”
“Hate you,” she sighs again, her eyes fluttering closed, her brow still knit with the agony he’s sure lances through her chest.
Castle echoes a small sigh of his own, propped on an elbow above her cramping body, unintentionally hovering, and dusts a kiss to the crease between her brows while he’s stuck there.
Her eyes slide back open, lashes kissing his chin, his bottom lip. But she doesn’t push him away, lifting her head ever so slightly to nudge her nose to his jaw instead, a brush of a kiss, of silent gratitude, and he takes it.
He’ll take anything she’s willing to give, until she’s ready to take from him too.