It's here, everyone! The final chapter! I have author's notes at the end, so I'm not going to do more than say I hope you all enjoy!
Out of the Blue - Chapter 15
"Hey Ian," he singsongs, palming his young son's belly in a fruitless attempt to curb his wiggles just long enough to let him get this outfit on him. So far, all of his efforts have been unsuccessful. "Ian James, are you excited about our adventure today? I'm excited about our adventure today."
He takes a foot to the chin, but even that doesn't deter him. He will get this kid dressed.
"Yeah, yeah, you love kicking me in the face. You always have. I'm onto you, buddy," he teases, kissing the sole of his son's foot. "Too bad I have your feet now. You can't get away from me, Ian." He laughs his silly evil laugh, pretending to nibble his toes.
His son grins, popping the bubbles he's been blowing since he finished his bottle and let out one of his hearty belches. Damn this kid is cute, though Castle knows he's completely biased.
Ian's the perfect blend of him and Beckett. His eyes started out bright blue like Castle's, but over the last couple months have become more like Kate's, although they're still more green than hazel. Their son has his wife's – wife-to-be's – slender nose, her lips, and a head of hair just like Rick's own. The boy's a lanky thing, too, just like Beckett; long and lean. Though apparently Castle had been a scrawny thing at first, too, according to Martha.
Regardless of what he got from whom, Ian James is eleven and a half weeks old and he's the center of the world for the entire Castle house. His sister adores him, his grandmother dotes on him, and – even for writer – words barely begin to describe the love his parents have for him.
"Yeah, you're cute, pal. You wanna take a picture for mommy? Show her how cute and uncooperative you are?"
Already he's digging into his pocket for his phone, holding Ian's little feet with one hand. Pulling up the camera, he takes a few pictures for Kate; Ian's feet, Ian's cheeky little grin at getting away with hanging out in just his diaper when they have places to go and people to see, even one of the two of them. He's pretty good at taking selfies while holding a squirmy baby, if he can brag about that.
Beckett's been back at work for just over a week and it's been, well, difficult. As happy as she was to get back to work, she misses the baby fiercely. She misses the baby and the baby misses her, so he spends more than a third of his days photographing their every move and sending her dozens of texts with pictures and videos of their son.
Not that it's a chore to document the way this kid experiences his world. He's even thought about setting up some sort of private, secure live feed for Beckett, so she can be here even when she's not here, but apparently the military won't share their security measures with civilians and he's worked with the police long enough to know exactly how shoddy the security on commercial systems can be. For now he'll stick with what works, at least until he can make friends with someone in the Army. Oh, maybe Espo knows someone. He'll ask him today.
If they ever make it out of the house, that is. At this point, he's accepted being late as an inevitability. Now it's a matter of how late they'll be.
He always takes great care to craft the perfect message when he sends pictures to his partner and today is no exception,
We're still working on getting ready, one squirming foot at a time. How's it going there?
Snapping another picture of Ian, this one of his profile as he watches the window, Rick puts his phone down on the edge of the changing table and prepares to dive into his task once more.
The plan is to meet Beckett at the precinct, but the longer it takes to get their son changed, the more likely it is that they'll be joining her at their destination instead. Which is a little bit of a disappointment, because he'd been looking forward to parading Ian around the place his parents fell in love. Ah well, another time.
"Okay, little man, this is the way it's going to go," he begins, changing his voice to get his son's attention again. The sliver of sunlight coming in through the blinds is proving to be a worthy distraction. "We're gonna get you into your ruggedly handsome clothes and your favorite socks, and then I'm going to put you in your swing while I get dressed. After that, we're gonna hopefully go see your mommy at work before everybody comes with us to watch us get married."
He and Beckett are getting married in the park, near the swings where he proposed. They'd looked for other venues, ballrooms and rooftops around the city, but nothing was available for the exact day they wanted it. They'd even considered the Hamptons, but Kate hadn't wanted to make people drive in the middle of the week only to send them home at the end of the evening. No, their Wednesday afternoon anniversary wedding is happening in the city, with the most important people at their sides. His mother and Alexis, Jim, the boys, Jenny and Sarah Grace, Lanie, the captain if she can make it, each other, and Ian.
It'll be perfect.
"That's right, we're getting married today. Which reminds me, we need to make sure we grab the rings before we leave. Help me remember, okay? Mommy's wearing her engagement ring, but the other rings are in the safe." He makes eye contact with the boy as he props him up and steadies him for the hard part.
Ian whines pitifully as the onesie goes over his head, earning a sympathetic noise from his father. "I know, little man, you don't like that. Next tuxedo outfit I buy you will have snaps all the way up the front, I promise."
Kissing his son's fingers, he weaves his little arms through the short sleeves before settling him back on the changing table to snap the fabric over his diaper. Pants from another outfit go on next, because even though he thinks the boy will be warm enough in just the onesie, he already knows Beckett will not agree. And there's no arguing with Mama Bear Beckett.
"Okay buddy, almost done. Your socks are next." He widens his eyes for effect, grinning when Ian tries to mimic the gesture. Brandishing the brightly colored stripes earns him a happy kick from his son. "See, I knew you'd like this outfit. And we're gonna take a picture for your mom as soon as we're done."
He reaches kisses each foot quickly, covering his son's tiny toes just a second later. There, now he's dressed. And he seems to like it, too, judging by the happy squeaks. Score one for Dad.
Grabbing his phone, he sees Beckett has replied, amused at his photos and asking when he thinks they'll be leaving. He takes a picture of his handiwork, using that to illustrate their progress instead of making up a time.
Baby's dressed. How adorable is he? I think the socks pair well with the tux, personally. Anyway, I'm next.
Of course, he has to follow up with a picture of himself, still in the t-shirt and lounge pants she'd seen him tug on at 6:45 when her alarm went off.
Adorable, Castle. Now hurry up.
He grins, leaning over to kiss Ian's little cheeks. "Mommy's a little impatient today, Ian. She's excited get married."
Ian squeaks in what he's going to assume is agreement. Maybe skepticism. He's still working on deciphering his son's language.
"She is," he promises, lifting the boy gently. "She told me the night you were born that she couldn't wait to marry me. I can't wait to marry her, either, in case you're worried."
Ian exhales, patting his chest gently. Oh good, he wasn't worried about that.
"I haven't seen her dress yet, but I bet it's going to be amazing. Your mom's always amazing, Ian. That's your first lesson. Your mom's gorgeous, but she's amazing in every way."
He kisses his son's temple, carrying him out of the nursery and taking the stairs carefully. Alexis smiles from the couch, already dressed in her wedding clothes.
His steps falter, but he recovers easily. Ian doesn't even complain about the way his arms tighten around him.
"Daughter! What are you doing here? I thought we weren't going to see you until later?"
"Oh, he's so cute." Alexis grins, waving off his surprised questions. "I got out of my final early, and since Gram couldn't cancel her class, I figured I'd come and see if you needed help getting ready. Hi little brother, you look so handsome," she coos, rubbing Ian's leg as soon as they're close enough.
Ian grins, soaking up the affection from his sister. He's going to be so spoiled if they're not careful. He'll need a little brother or sister to really keep him honest.
Rick's not opposed and he knows his fiancée isn't either. Yeah, when she'd entered the second hour of pushing and their son just did not want to budge, Beckett swore Alexis would be Ian's only sibling, but then once she had him in her arms, she'd confessed she'd do it all over again. A few times if they could.
They'll just wait for him to get a little bigger first. Maybe attempt to plan for it next time.
Not that out of the blue surprises aren't wonderful. Ian was one, after all. In fact, he's absolute proof that they can handle stuff coming at them out of the blue.
"Weren't you going to the precinct first?" his daughter interrupts his thoughts, checking the delicate pearled watch on her wrist.
"Oh, yeah I was. But I think it'll be better to just go straight to the park. We can let R2 play for a while if we end up beating Beckett there." He leans to catch a glimpse of the time. Yeah, they definitely can't make it to the precinct and have time to see everyone.
Alexis smiles, nodding easily. "Do you want me to hold him while you get dressed?"
"I was going to put him in his swing, but that'd be great, sweetheart." He dips, kissing her carefully styled hair gently before passing the baby over. "And oh, since you're here I can grab a quick shower, too. But I'll be fast. I'll be fast," he swears.
Alexis laughs, leaning back against the pillows with her brother. "We'll be fine, won't we, Ian?"
The baby smiles, pushing his feet against her belly. She laughs again, running her fingertip down Ian's nose.
"Just don't fall asleep in the water, Dad," Alexis adds in warning.
He waves her off. "I won't, I won't. I'm not that tired."
Of course, as soon as he says it, he also feels a tug of fatigue; she might have a point. It'd been a long night with the baby and he hasn't rested much today either. He'll just have to be quick, too quick to fall asleep.
Ian's little squeak has him stopping in the doorway. Not because he sounds distressed, quite the opposite actually; the kid's totally content with his sister. He just needs to see it.
Pulling the phone out of his pocket, Castle snaps a quick photo of the two of them. Alexis looks up at the shutter sound, but doesn't scold him for wasting time. Instead, her baby brother immediately recaptures her gaze.
There's something about it, about watching his baby girl with the newest member of her family that gets his heart hammering against his ribs. It'd been them for so long, just the two of them, there almost hadn't been room for anyone else. He'd all-but closed himself off to that possibility.
But he'd been wrong, he'd been so wrong. There's always room for more. For Beckett and Ian, and any other kids they decide to add to the bunch later on. There will always be room for them.
"Go, Dad. Or you really will be late to your own wedding," Alexis chides finally, kicking him back into action once more. "And send me that picture when you text it to Beckett."
"You got it." He steps into his office again, glancing at the safe in reminder. Rings; get the rings after getting dressed. And the marriage license. And the gift he bought for Beckett – a new chain for her mother's ring, one with a stronger clasp for when Ian learns to yank on it.
To streamline the process, he grabs his clothes from the closet first. That way he doesn't have to go hunting for everything after his shower. The suit, socks, and dress shirt go onto the bed, while his shoes are placed alongside the dresser with his watch and wallet. Scooping his undershirt and boxers into one hand, he finally skids into the bathroom to get the show on the road.
The picture's still up on his phone, text ready and waiting to be sent to the entire family before he steps into the shower. Each time he glances at the screen to do just that, his finger falters and he's struck a little bit dumb.
His son has his smile.
He emerges from the shower to three missed texts. One's from Beckett letting him know Gates won't be there, but she sends her regards. Another is from his mother, praising the Rodgers genes (he praises Beckett for having the patience to teach his mother how to use her cell phone). The final one is from Jim thanking him for the picture and promising to see them soon. Direct, yet heartfelt. Just like Jim.
Jim will see them sooner if he can just get his pants on and get them out the door.
He's in the process of buttoning his shirt when Alexis taps on the door. "Dad? Are you decent?"
"Am I ever?" he can't help but tease, opening the door to her. She's holding Ian in her arms, that odd u-shaped pillow he refuses to call a 'boppy' draped awkwardly around her neck.
"You're never funny either," she says, stepping around him to settle the pillow and the baby in the middle of the bed. "Kate asked me to help speed things along, so I'm going to let him watch you get ready and I'm going to gather everything else we need."
She always has helped keep him on track.
"Thank you, sweetheart. I keep repeating the things I have to remember to grab and I just know I'm going to forget everything anyway."
"You won't," Alexis promises, tickling her brother's foot gently. "Now, I'm looking for your rings, the paperwork, what else?"
"Ah," he stops to think, wracking his brain as his large fingers clumsily attempt to close his cuffs. "All of that, and oh! Kate's gift. But that's… actually in here. I'll get that, I'll get that."
His daughter nods easily, ticking things off on her fingers. "And your checkbook to pay the officiant, correct?"
"Correct. The officiant and the photographer."
Alexis grins. "And your wallet to pay for dinner."
Finally, he gets the stubborn little buttons to cooperate. "Thank you, it's going into my pocket right now."
"Good. I'll grab those things and then we'll go from there. Safe combination still the same?"
His little taskmaster. He nods absently, checking for his phone for probably the fifteenth time in five minutes. "Wait, how do you know the combination?"
That earns him an affectionate, but indulgent smile from over her shoulder. "Dad, it's my birthday. You're not as sneaky as you think sometimes."
Well, she does have him there. But hey, now he has a few birthdays to work with. Maybe he'll change it to confuse her.
"Why didn't you tell me you knew?"
"Why would I?" She shrugs. "There was nothing I was interested in most of the time. And when there was…" she trails off, wiggling her eyebrows evilly.
Turning back to his son, he shakes his head. "This is what we're up against, Ian. Your sister, your grandmother, your mom. It's you and me against a lot of really awesome, scary smart women. Then again, we have Grandpa, too. That might even things up a bit."
Climbing onto the bed isn't the best idea – already he can hear his mother's reminder that nobody wants to see a wrinkled groom, unless he's standing on the beach wearing linen pants – but he does it anyway. It'll be fine; he just wants ten seconds to catch his breath and to sneak a kiss from his kid.
"Speaking of scary smart, did you know that your mom threw out most of our name ideas the night you were born?"
Ian squeaks, kicking his feet like he knows exactly what his old man means.
"She did. You would've probably been named David Aaron, but she looked at me as I held you for the first time and she said you weren't a David. Or an Aaron. They're nice names, obviously, but they weren't you." He offers the baby his index finger, smiling as the tiny hand wraps around the digit. That still blows him away every time.
"Anyway, instead of using the names we'd picked out, your mom asked me for the name of someone special to me. At first I couldn't think of anyone; most of my friends haven't… been the type of people I'd name my kid after, and my dad's not exactly father of the year – though he did save your big sister's life once."
Ian looks up at him, green eyes bright and curious. He can't help but grin, dipping his chin. His kid's just so damn cute.
"But as I was holding you, I kept thinking about something my father had given me. Besides a great head of hair," he adds, kissing the dark fuzz on his son's head. "He'd given me a book, and that book changed my life. Casino Royale. It's probably not great bedtime reading for a little guy, but your mom'll make an exception when I read it to you. At least I think she will, because you're named after the man who wrote it. He's the one who made me want to do what I do. So we named you Ian."
Kissing his son's delicate hand, he smiles. "You're kind of named after his character, too: James. But we'll pretend you're named after Grandpa Jim instead. Give him that glory just in case you end up the only boy in the family."
Ian grins again, wide and gummy. Castle grins right back, pressing his face into his son's little hand.
"I'm gonna give you lots more than just a book, Ian. I promise you that. Everything I can, just like I gave your sister."
He looks up, finding Alexis watching them both. Apparently she's put everything he sent her into the office for into his old laptop bag. It's been sitting empty since Kate presented him with a hand-stitched leather satchel for Christmas. Smart choice, baby bird. He'll ask if she wants to keep it.
"And now your sister is giving me the evil eye," he says, clearing the emotion from his voice quickly," which means I better get off the bed and fix my hair."
"And put your shoes on," Alexis guides, glancing at his feet. "Dad, you're wearing socks with holes in them? Hulk socks with holes in them?"
"They're lucky," Rick defends, sticking his tongue out and getting to his feet. Maybe his big toes shouldn't be sticking out quite as much as they do, but they're still his lucky socks; there's no forgetting them today.
"Sure," his daughter agrees flippantly, parting the edges of the bag to list its contents for his final approval. He hands over Beckett's gift quickly, watching her tuck it securely into the zippered pocket on the inside.
"I think that's it," he observes, knotting his shoelaces with shaky fingers and running a comb through his hair. Behind him, he sees Ian watching with rapt attention.
Alexis disappears into the bathroom, returning with the hairspray he likes. "Here, just a little of this. Kate's going to want to feel your hair, not crunchiness."
"Yes, daughter." He doesn't use much, and runs the comb through it after the fact, just to make sure it's all distributed evenly. That always helps with the crunch factor.
Alexis smiles beside him, tugging at his half-open collar. "No tie?"
"No, Beckett didn't want it."
She nods, tilting her head. "This suits you. Both of you, but especially you."
Taking a deep breath, he nods. "I think so, too."
She looks so grown up beside him, but she still tucks herself under his chin when he pulls her in. "I'm proud of you, Dad."
"Thanks, pumpkin. I'm proud of you, too."
She giggles against him. "You should be, because I packed Ian's diaper bag, and everything. Now come on, put your jacket on and let's go. You have a baby mama to marry."
Laughing, he kisses her forehead. "Don't let Beckett hear you call her that. But you're right, I totally do."
Alexis pulls away, checking his shirt for makeup smudges and nodding in satisfaction when she finds none.
Reaching over, he tickles Ian's belly before lifting his jacket. "You grabbed bottles, too?"
"Uh huh, I went for overkill and put four in the cooler, just in case we're at the restaurant late. Better to put it back when we get home if you don't use it than to have to leave earlier than you want to because he's hungry. And I put his elephant and his blanket in there. Along with the diapers, of course."
God, he's never going to be able to repay his daughter for the way she's rescued him today. Judging by her smirk, she knows that, too.
"Are you sure you're okay to drive, Dad?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Which color light means go?"
Alexis sticks her tongue out, slinging the bag over her shoulder again and tucking his phone and his car keys into his jacket pocket.
"Baby," she orders, pointing to Ian, grinning when he rolls his eyes.
His son exhales as soon as he's in his arms, cheek resting easily on his shoulder. There's probably going to be a drool spot on his jacket by the time they get to the car, but oh well. There are wipes. Besides, that's what he's paying a photographer to use Photoshop to take care of. Flyaway hairs and baby drool.
"Okay, troops. Ready?" He takes a long look around the bedroom, wracking his brain one last time for anything they might've forgotten.
"Ready, Captain," his voice of reason chirps easily.
"Good, let's move out."
Alexis precedes him out of the bedroom and through the office – no doubt to jog his memory one last time – slowing only to pick up the brightly colored diaper bag and drape that over her other shoulder. She grabs an ivory cardigan off the back of the couch, too, pointing at the carrier resting by the door.
It's easier to put Ian in the carrier before they leave the house, but the boy hates being carted that way. He hesitates to do anything to upset him before this event; the last thing anyone wants is a crying, red-faced baby, and Ian's already looking a little bit put out by all of this. (He has his mother's expressions, there's no doubt about that.) So Castle simply grips the handle, keeping Ian securely against his chest with one hand and one forearm.
A quick nod to his daughter has her killing most of the lights and opening the front door –
To reveal his fiancée?
His fiancée smiles broadly, looking between the three of them before focusing on his daughter. "Oh, Alexis, you look stunning."
He and Ian can only watch as Beckett cups Alexis' cheek and hugs her tightly.
"Thank you for keeping your dad on track," Beckett murmurs, winking over his daughter's shoulder at him.
Ohhh, he gets it now. She's here to wrangle them.
Alexis laughs. "Of course. I've only had to shoo him a few times." Both women look at him pointedly. He just shrugs in return. "He keeps stopping to tell Ian stories."
Beckett smiles softly, and he's thrown back to the first time she ever stepped foot in this house. She'd been so uncomfortable then, so unsure of him. Now she's home. She's really home.
He shrugs. "He likes my stories."
"We all like your stories, Castle," she hums, tenderly cupping his son's head before taking him out of his arms entirely. Ian flops against his mother, heaving a sigh that can only be meant to communicate his every trouble to her.
Kate shares a grin with him. "Tell me all about it, baby," she murmurs soothingly, her lips brushing over the delicate, tiny shell of her son's ear.
"Don't I get a kiss, too?" Castle asks, tugging on the belt of her coat as she starts to turn away from him.
Beckett twists, mischief blooming in her eyes once more, but she lets him tow her back. "You'll get your kiss soon, if you hurry up." She winks.
"Mean," he mumbles, swooping in to steal one from the corner of her mouth anyway.
Beckett laughs, leaning into the affection without protest. "I'm not mean, I'm practical. Aren't I, Ian?"
"Speaking of practical, someone here's not dressed for a wedding. I don't want to point fingers, but it's not me, Alexis, or this incredibly handsome child," he teases, pushing a strand of hair behind Kate's ear.
His fiancée rolls her eyes. "Lanie has my stuff. I'm going to change when we get there."
"Good," he sneaks another kiss before she steps away, throwing a grin that's brimming with promise over her shoulder.
It staggers him again how different everything is now.
Gone is the hesitant woman seeing inside his life for the first time. The woman who compared walking into his office to seeing the batcave. The woman who'd seen for the first time that maybe he wasn't everything she'd thought he was, but still needed time to let him in.
Gone is the woman who'd hurt him so badly – the woman he'd hurt just as terribly – coming in from the pouring rain and putting herself at his feet to beg his forgiveness. To ask him to make a fresh start with her. To dive into all of this together.
Gone, even, is the woman who'd come to his door just months ago, weary and worried about the news she was about to give him. The woman who'd given up field work and had been willing to quit her job to have this life with him.
All of those women are gone, but they're all still here, too. They've all blended and changed to become this woman. This vibrant, happy, eager woman who has shouldered their son's diaper bag and is beckoning him out the door. His best friend, his partner, his son's mother, the love of his life.
And, as soon as he makes his feet cooperate, his wife.
Beckett stops just over the threshold, palm making slow swipes over their son's back. She must understand his awe, because her eyes soften and her hand reaches for his.
"I love you," she says, simple as that. Like there's no other truth in the world.
"I love you, too, Beckett," he croaks, choking on the emotion, the ease of it all.
Her face splits open on a grin. "Good. Now, you coming, Castle?"
The door closes behind him as his fingers lace with hers.
"Yeah, I'm coming."
A/N: I'm not sure I have the words to express my gratitude to everyone who has read, liked, commented on, shared, and sent me little notes about this story. This story started as a 1200 word oneshot and became a journey. Thank you to everyone for encouraging me, enabling me, and generally sticking with me. Thank you all. Thank you for helping me give this story life.
And for your viewing pleasure, the tuxedo onesie can be found on my tumblr: bunysliper . tumblr (dot com) / post / 114854147683 / castle - fanf ic -out - of - the - blue - 15-15