Disclaimer: I do not own "Castle," or any of its various spin-off materials, books, comics, or the like. This is purely for my own amusement.
Synopsis: She has a baby. She brought a baby back from Haiti. Can you even do that? Season 3 AU.
He gets the voicemail at 5am, missing the phone by one second as the last of "Dream a Little Dream of Me," blares from the tiny speakers. He really needs to change the tone before she gets back.
He fumbles with the device in the dark, blinking against the harsh light of his screen as he swipes his thumb over the lock and presses for the voicemail. He punches in his password and holds the phone to his ear, yawning and throwing the covers off to keep himself awake.
The message at the end of the run-around has him sitting up, alert, awake, confused.
"Castle, Rick, I," there's a pause and he hears her breathing. "I just touched down in Florida. I know it's early, but could you…I need someone to pick me up from the airport and I," she trails off again and he tries to figure out what it is in her tone—anxiety, humor, unease? "I did something—something crazy, I think. I don't know, but I need…just, uh, text me, okay? The plane takes off in about fifteen, and I just need to know…I…You'll see when you come to the airport. I land in about two hours. JFK, terminal four."
He smiles, a little shocked. He didn't expect her back yet, nor did he expect to be picking her up. The use of the singular pronoun doesn't slip past him, and he feels a surge of hope he hasn't felt in a little over a month; and this time he's not potentially dying from radiation poisoning.
He texts her, telling her that of course he'll be there, and he can't wait to hear what's up. Nothing more. He doesn't need to tell her how much he's missed her, doesn't need to tell her how dull his life has been without her there.
He won't tell her how much it stabbed, that she went for those four weeks—it was supposed to be six—leaving him alone, leaving them all behind. But he can't begrudge her it, either. Or at least, he's gotten himself to a place where he can't begrudge her it anymore, at any rate. She did the right thing, manned up, or womaned up, as it were, and took time to fix her relationship.
Only now she's back, two weeks early, and calling him. And calling him Rick, no less.
He's out of bed as that thought settles in, and in forty minutes, he's out the door, a note left for his daughter, who will probably still be asleep by the time he gets back—teenagers and their long weekends. He calls for a town car, unsure of what he'll be bringing back with him. What does something crazy even mean, anyway, especially with Kate?
He ponders over so many things through the drive, some outlandish, some horrible, some strangely romantic, though he pushes those away. Even if she has, finally, gotten rid of Dr. Motorcycle-has-to-save-the-world-and-take-me-with-him boy, she's only been without him for a day, maybe less, even. And he's eager, beyond eager, but even he has standards to keep, for her, and for him. He doesn't want to be the rebound guy.
Whatever he's worked up in his head, it doesn't compare at all to the sight of her as he steps out of the car, walking across the street to meet her as she wheels her bag out of the double doors. She's tan and a little thinner than when she left, with her hair back in a messy pony tail and bags under her eyes.
She's got the suitcase behind her in one hand and a bag over her other shoulder, but it's her right hand that's captured him—the hand cradling the swaddled infant in the colorful sling across her chest, one tiny, dark little hand reaching up toward her face.
She looks down at the baby, her face as unguarded and open as he's ever seen it, with a smile that's so luminescent that it stops him in his tracks. Slowly, she raises her eyes to meet his as she pulls to a stop in front of him, a few feet left between them.
"Hi," she says quietly, releasing the suitcase to bring her hand around and offer her finger to the baby. He can't really see the child, just the hand, which wraps around her finger, pulling it inside the sling.
"You…baby," he manages, and the laugh she lets out might just be the most amazing thing he's ever heard—all throat and delight and shock. It might be the only thing he can hear over the word, 'baby, baby, baby.'
"Yeah," she says, glancing down at the little bundle. "Yeah, she's…yeah."
"So when you said something crazy…"
"I meant possibly the craziest thing I've ever done," she finishes for him as she wraps her arm more fully around the sling, looking a little lost. "But we should get in the car, she's—it's so much colder here."
He nods and grabs her suitcase, ushering her—them—across the street, his hand dangerously close to her back. She has a baby. She brought a baby back from Haiti. Can you even do that?
He opens the door for her and waits until she's settled, the baby cradled to her chest. Just as he's about to close the door, he gets a glimpse of the largest, darkest little eyes he's ever seen. They blink once, peering at him, before he remembers himself and shuts the door, dazed.
He tosses the bag into the trunk and speeds around to the other side of the car, hopping in and pulling the door closed with an odd finality. His driver just smiles at him through the rearview mirror and slides up the privacy shield. And then it's just the three of them—him, her, and her baby.
He realizes she's talking, her voice a low murmur over the rumble of the wheels and the wind of the highway.
"You're okay," she says, smiling down at the fussing baby. "Hey there, pretty girl. You wanna look around?"
The baby squirms and Kate laughs lightly, reaching inside the sling to lift the baby up, settling her in the crook of her right arm, so he and the baby are staring at each other, powder blue eyes meeting midnight black. She's dressed in a little blue dress, white-socked-feet kicking slightly as she stares at him. She can't be much older than four months, and she's all eyes, wide and searching, her tiny lips curving in a small yawn beneath a little, upturned nose. Her hair is still short and tightly curled in little black ringlets all over her head. She's beautiful, and he looks up to meet Kate's gaze.
"Takes your breath away, huh?" she asks, rubbing a hand over the girl's belly. The baby giggles, and if he thought Kate's laugh was something to hear, it's nothing compared to this one—all high and squeaky and breathy and utterly, completely adorable.
He's never considered himself a particularly stoic guy. Some, including the woman holding this child, have even called him metrosexual. But he's never been shy about the fact that he loves kids. And he has the sinking suspicion that he's just fallen hard for this little girl.
"So you, uh. She's…" he's not doing so hot in the speech department.
"Rick, meet Johanne," she says as she raises one of the baby's hands to wave at him.
"I know," she breathes out, lifting her eyes to meet his. "Once I heard, I just…I couldn't leave her," she whispers.
He sits in slight shock for a moment, staring at the picture in front of him— Kate Beckett holding Johanne, the little girl from Haiti, about as perfect as possible, and named for her mother. Kismet.
"How did you…doesn't it take, like, two years to adopt a child?"
Kate sighs and traces a finger over Johanne's cheek. "Her mother was killed in a border dispute," she says quietly, and he finds himself leaning in to hear her soft voice. "No family, no relatives, no anything. And we get to this village, where Josh is setting up the clinic, and they take us to this back room of their hospital, and there she is, all alone, in a little, dark room, crying."
She shakes her head and lifts the baby up to hold her against her chest, the little girl's face resting on her shoulder, her big black eyes still trained near him, contemplative. "So I ask if I can pick her up, and Josh asks if she's sick. She's not, so they let me hold her and she stops crying immediately and takes my finger, just staring up at me, like no one ever came when she cried, like I was special."
She looks over at him and he has to blink to tear his eyes away from the infant. "That's how I looked too," she says with a laugh. "Eventually though, Josh said we had to go, so I had to give her back. But I spent most of my time there, with her, and after about a week, I asked what would happen to her."
She falls silent and he watches as she cups Johanne's head in her hand, fingers brushing through the short curls.
"There was no one who could take her, and all the orphanages within two hundred miles were full. They're still recovering from the earthquake," she recounts for him, eyes distant as they stare past his head and out the window. "So she was going to live in the clinic indefinitely. But one of the other doctors pulled me aside to tell me that her chances weren't great, what with all the sickness and lack of supplies, even with Doctors Without Borders coming in a few times a year. There just wouldn't be anyone to care for her."
"And you couldn't let her die," he surmises.
It's evident in the way she clutches the baby to her, protective, fierce, defiant. Meredith used to hold Alexis; Kate is cradling Johanne, practically curling around her.
"No," she admits, bringing her eyes back to meet his. "And so, you know, I called around, visited officials; no one in the village had an issue with it. But I needed the paperwork, and the visas, and the passport, and the I600—it's complicated."
"How did you do it in under a month?" he murmurs, caught up in her story, in her struggle, in the quest that ultimately led to her in his car with a baby in her arms.
"I called in some favors," she says, biting her lip. "Lots of favors."
"Favors from people in incredibly high places?" he asks with a small grin.
She nods, her eyes sparkling a bit. "And there's still things to finalize. I have to pass inspection here, and I have to go through the whole process again with the American side, but she's legally mine, almost."
The sparkle falls away and she pulls Johanne from her shoulder to look at her face. "I'm crazy, aren't I, huh?" she asks the baby, who just stares up at her, toothless and bright-eyed. "But I couldn't leave you there."
Watching her with this child, he can't remember any time he's seen her so happy, so alive, so free. It clenches something in his gut that feels a lot like resolve. He realizes suddenly that he'll do anything to give her this child, to make sure she gets to keep her daughter.
"Kate," he says, waiting until she lifts her eyes to meet his. "Tell me what I need to do."