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IOU

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Title: IOU

Pairing: Nikki/Rook (from Richard Castle's Nikki Heat series)

Spoilers: Heat Rises

Notes: beckett-loves-her-castle-coffee prompted me to tackle a Nikki/Rook prompt: Another round of strip Proust, or something like that. Here's what I came up with, I hope you enjoy!

Summary:

"And lastly, I brought you a game."

"A game?"

"Yes, a game. I play them, too."

"I know you do." He smiled dopily again, probably remembered the games they usually played. "Is it my kind of game?"


He greeted her before she had even made it through the door.

"Hey," he was still croaking from the tubes, but Nikki knew she'd take his abused voice over his silence. Over the nothingness of watching him fight for his life because he'd stupidly (bravely) put her life over his.

"Hey, Superman," she echoed, the affectionate nickname slipping out before she could stop it. "Not jumping in front of any speeding bullets today, I see."

Oh, he was on the good drugs, still. She could tell by the dopey grin that he shot her way at the moniker. Definitely the good stuff. Not that Rook wasn't always a little goofy, but he at least tried to stay composed. This Rook was not composed.

He was a dork but she'd have to keep him, it seemed.

"Not today. M'a little tired from the last time. Didn't even duck when they threw the gun."

She managed a laugh for his attempt at making light as she dumped the bags in her arms onto the nearest chair. His mother's perfume lingered in the air, letting Nikki know he hadn't been alone all day. Not that he was ever actually alone with the number of nurses he'd somehow managed to charm even while he was unconscious, but it made her feel better knowing someone familiar was with him when she couldn't be. She was doing half days at work, trying to stay on top of everything and keep enough of her vacation time to help him through his recovery, but it meant having to leave while he was still asleep and coming back around this time each day.

"What'd you bring me today, Nik?" He tapped her hip with a sure finger.

Hmm, maybe he was more lucid than she gave him credit for. At least he remembered she'd come bearing gifts each day.

"I hope it's real food," he continued, his voice catching on a wistful sigh.

She smiled contritely. She wished. "Sorry, not this time. Doc says it's still sludge for you for now." She settled gingerly at his hip.

"Rats."

Rats? Dork.

She just shook her head as her hand landed in his hair, brushing the mussed strands off his forehead.

"Getting a little shiny. Thought your nurse harem was going to help you wash it?" she murmured, dropping a kiss on his forehead only to realize the rest of him was a little ripe, too.

"Nah, m'going au naturale." He pouted a little when she wrinkled her nose. "You don't like it?"

"It reminds me a little bit of being on a farm. And not in the charming, rustic way."

That got his nose wrinkling, too. "Too sleeping with the pigs?"

She stole another kiss, this one from his mouth. Ugh, that breath. She made a mental note to bring him a box of mints from the gift shop next time she left the room.

"Yeah, yeah a little bit." Her nose crinkled again.

"Sorry."

"I'll allow it, this time. You have a pretty good excuse."

"Hardball, I like it."

"Of course you do."

"Nik-ki, what'd you bring me?" he whined, his brain apparently switching back to her gifts now that he was forgiven for his lack of hygiene.

"Fine," she sighed, dragging the chair over with her foot. "Well first, I thought you might want something to wear that isn't of the ass-baring variety, so I brought you pants and some of the intriguing t-shirts I found at the bottom of your drawer. So many hair band concerts, Rook."

"Hah hah."

She smothered a smile. "Next, I brought you your laptop. I asked when they moved you and they said you could use it on this floor. Thought you'd want to work on your solitaire game when I can't be here." She chanced a glance at him at the last part, but found no upset because of her absence. Just understanding and eagerness.

"Thoughtful."

She tried.

"And lastly, I brought you a game."

"A game?"

"Yes, a game. I play them, too."

"I know you do." He smiled dopily again, probably remembered the games they usually played. "Is it my kind of game?"

Yeah, definitely remembering their usual games. Her lips pursed. "Kind of."

"What's kind of mean?"

"Well nobody's getting naked while you're in the hospital… or in your case more naked than you already are." She patted high on his thigh for emphasis, ignoring the Tony-worthy scandalized look he sent her way.

"But," she paused again to retrieve the stack of printer sheets she had taken from his place. The ones that had been dumped unceremoniously on the floor when answering his questions had been better suited through actions, not words. "I brought this and some extra paper. For every question we don't answer, it goes on the paper with a piece of clothing of the opponent's choice. And once you're out of here and cleared… we settle the debt.

"Strip Proust IOU." He sounded thoughtful, contemplative.

"Uh huh," she hummed, meeting his eyes. When he'd been in ICU, she'd promised herself they would be better. This was their first step. "Something like that."

Rook grinned. It was still that slightly maniacal, just a little stoned grin, but he grinned and she echoed it with a smile of her own.

"Let's do it."

"Okay," she agreed softly. She leaned in to kiss him again, only to stop short. "After you've had a bath. And brushed your teeth."

She settled for a pat on the cheek. "I'll get your nurse girlfriend. She was giving me the death glare when I came in."

"You could take her," he boasted, his confidence filling her with something ridiculous.

"Damn right I could."


Somehow, despite an afternoon filled with snickers, stolen (thankfully mint-flavored) kisses, and promises to make good on the IOU as soon as they could, the interview questions and their scratch paper ended up being put aside. It was in favor of physical therapy, recuperation and casework, but it was still pushed aside. She only found the bundle by fluke as she loaded a white banker's box with old bills to shred and take to the recycling.

She contemplated whether she should remind her boyfriend of their game. He hadn't mentioned it since the day they played, and honestly, with the pain meds he'd been on, she wasn't sure he even remembered. They didn't need the game now, really. They talked about this stuff without it.

"Hey! Is that what I think that is?"

She jumped, her hand automatically going to her hip for the gun that wasn't there even as she knew it was just Rook. Somehow he'd let himself in without her hearing.

"Don't sneak up on me like that," she warned, palm resting heavily on her hip. "If I'd been packing, you'd be in trouble."

"Not for the first time. Sorry." He didn't sound repentant in the least. "I thought you heard me come in. What with me calling your name and everything."

"Nope. Hear the music?"

Rook touched her hip, dipping his head to kiss her cheek. "Detective Heat, are you asking me to dance with you?"

Her eyes rolled on their own accord. "Not particularly. How was your flight? You get your story?"

"Got it, wrote it on the plane, and I'll make my edits as soon as my editor gets it back to me."

His hand was already wandering under her – well technically his – shirt, his long fingers spreading across her belly and leaving trails of warmth in their wake. She inhaled, feeling a spark of need take hold of her.

"Look at you being so efficient," she said, her hips bumping back against him.

"Oh I'm the model of efficiency, Nikki." His breath fanned across her face, reminding her of the long weeks he had been gone chasing his next award; of the way he'd left her sleeping in his bed the morning he flew out. She remembered the ghost of his breath and a soft kiss, but when she'd opened her eyes to find a note with a giant yellow smiley face on his pillow, she was almost sure she had imagined it.

Her hand left her hip, reaching up to caress the curve of his ear. She'd missed him. Although the occasional check-ins had been unexpected and unnecessary (but far, far nicer than going weeks without talking), they hadn't been the same as having him there to touch. To kiss.

So she did just that, craning her neck just a little awkwardly and using her grip on his ear to bring his mouth to hers. If Rook was surprised, he didn't show it. Instead, he pressed closer, lips parting almost immediately under hers. She groaned as his palm skated across her belly.

"Don't be too efficient, Rook," she breathed. "Dawdling is encouraged in this case." She bit his lip for emphasis, grinning when he moaned his approval.

She pulled away enough to see his eyebrows wiggling in return. "In that case, let's get started on those IOUs. Starting with…" He pretended to sweep his eyes over the paper. "Oh good, your shirt. Of course, it's really my shirt, so what are the rules for that? Does it count as taking it off of me or yo-"

She kissed him hard again, her hand drawing the hem of the shirt up her stomach. "Rook? Shut up."

"Shutting up."