Because I just found out I'm having a fifth nephew.
fortuitous: (adjective) happening by chance rather than design
He pulls the thin sheet over her body, resting its hem where her midsection curves with the hospital's bed. And his lips press lightly to her forehead, lingering there for a moment. Her hand finds his, her fingers wrapping around his tightly, and she tugs gently on his arm as he takes a seat in the chair at her bedside. He smiles at her, but she looks scared. He knows why.
"He'll be okay, Kate," he whispers to her, squeezing her hand with his. He shifts the chair so he's closer to her, carefully roles the pole of her IV towards the bed so he can be as close to her as possible. "They just want to make sure. They run tests on all babies, even those that were planned and prepared for. Our little man was just a surprise." He smiles at her, hopes it's reassuring.
"But, Castle," she says, her brows furrowed, her forehead creased with worry, "I didn't… I didn't do everything they say you should do during pregnancy. I drank so much wine, and, God, my coffee intake was worse than ever. I didn't have any prenatal care. I didn't take vitamins or watch what I eat. I was out chasing killers. I, oh God, Castle, we almost got blown up last month."
Tears are glistening in her eyes, making the bright hospital lights reflect in them. Her breath is shaky with emotion. Her eyes are swirling with emotion like he's never seen, with fear and love and joy and the lingering surprise at the fact that they're here in the labor and delivery wing of the hospital, and they have a baby boy. But their little boy isn't here with them. He's in the NICU, getting checked out because the doctors want to confirm that everything is, in fact, okay.
"But you didn't know, Kate," he whispers. He brings his free hand up to caress the side of her face, runs his thumb along the ridge of her cheekbone to wipe away a stray tear that has fallen. "And that's not your fault. Trust me, I lived with you the entire time, you never once looked or acted pregnant. And if that's not enough for you, my mother has been pregnant, and she saw you almost every day, and she didn't see it, either. This is not your fault, no matter what happens. But you heard him cry, Kate. Didn't he sound healthy to you?"
A slight, almost invisible smile comes across her face. "He did, didn't he?" she whispers, sounding cautiously optimistic. "He's gonna be like you," she says, and she squeezes his hand, smiling, "talkative and loud." She's actually smiling now, happy and imagining a future with a little boy, talkative and creative and stubborn, ready to rule the world one day.
He grins at her. "I think," he says, presses his lips into a forced, exaggerated line before shaking his head and grinning again. "No, I know that you can be pretty loud, too." He sees the glimmer of recognition in her eyes before she leans over and slaps his shoulder lightly, happy and smiling and teasing and they're still them, sitting in this hospital room waiting for news about their baby.
"Don't talk like that here, Castle," she tells him, settling back on the bed, wincing in discomfort. He squeezes her hand, wants to take any lingering pain away from her, away for her. But he knows he can't. He knows that this is something only she can deal with, and knows it's something she'll take willingly, for the baby boy they've only known about for just a couple hours. "And especially not when I'm talking about our son."
His smile must be obvious, because she raises her brows in silent question. "I like hearing that," he explains, locking his gaze on hers, "our son, Kate. Isn't it amazing? We have a son. We have a little boy." And it's cheesy and emotional and yet he can feel the sting of tears behind his eyes, because this is everything he ever wanted, albeit under less unique and frightening circumstances, and it's finally here.
"I know," she says. "That's all I keep thinking, Rick. We have a little boy." She looks down at the floor for a moment before meeting his gaze again. "And I know, babe, that no matter what, whether he's perfectly healthy or if he does have some health issues, because...you know… He'll have a good and happy life." She squeezes his hand, and he smiles at her, because now she seems happy. "I already love him so much."
"I told you," he whispers to her, "it's like lightening. It hits you so suddenly, Kate, but it's so strong and there's nothing you can do to stop it. That love you have for him, Kate, it's amazing. It's so beautiful." He hopes she knows how honest he's being, can see in the vulnerable widening of her eyes that she knows he's being genuine. "You were amazing today, you know that? I've always known you were extraordinary, Kate, but today… That was just… Wow."
"You were, too," she tells him. "You were so calm and composed and I was panicking." Her smile falls slightly at that, but then she locks her gaze with his and smiles again. "You were amazing," she says, squeezing his hand. "Castle, you delivered our son."
"You did all the hard work," he tells her. "And you had reason to be scared, Kate. You were giving birth and you had no idea you were even pregnant." He sees her go to open her mouth to speak, and holds up his free hand to stop her. "You're the one who spent today in pain. You're the one who had to bring our little boy into the world, Kate. You're the one who did all the work. I just caught him and handed him to you. It was nothing. You were amazing."
"Thanks," she whispers, her eyes falling to the sheet covering her lower body. When she looks back up at him, she's no longer smiling, and it makes his own smile fade slightly. He can see the insecurity swirling in her eyes, the pain and the fear of what the doctor might say when he comes back. He can see it all, every overwhelming emotion she's feeling right now. "I just wish I had known."
His heart breaks for her, and he knows that if anything is wrong with their son, she will never stop blaming herself.
She searches his eyes for reassurance, and finds love and sympathy and joy, all things she's feeling, too. Except he looks more optimistic, happier, like this situation isn't nearly as scary to him as it is to her. Because she's overwhelmed by fear, fear that their son is not okay, fear that their son is not okay because of something she did. But Castle looks nothing but happy and loving and proud.
And she needs to feel that, too. She needs him to help calm the storm of fears that fills her mind as much as her heart, just like he does after nightmares tear her from sleep. She needs that. She needs his arms, strong and reassuring. She needs his words, eloquent and sweet and comforting long before they even met. She needs him and the optimism that he has and she wants.
So she moves over, pushes herself to the side of the bed. It aches, pulls at her tired muscles and burns at her center, and makes her wince. She feels his hand tighten around hers in worry, and she manages to smile at him, silently telling him that this pain is okay. She can deal with this, especially knowing that it's only there because they have a beautiful baby boy. He nods in understanding, and she taps the empty space next to her.
He hesitates, but he must see how much she truly needs him close, because he does eventually take a seat next to her. He settles back on the bed, squished, and then releases her hand to hold his arm out to her. She shifts closer to him, wishing she could roll onto her side and curl up against him, but her attempt is feeble, the pain getting worse, and she knows she'll have to settle for his arm around her shoulders, her head resting on his chest.
"No one thought you were pregnant, Kate," he whispers immediately, squeezing her shoulder. She reaches over to take his hand, and the pair rests on his stomach. "You didn't have any morning sickness or cravings or anything like that. You weren't overly tired. You definitely didn't look pregnant. You even still had your period every month. I don't even know how you could have known."
"But I'm a detective, Castle," she protests, and for a moment it sounds like a statement out of place because, really, being a homicide detective has nothing to do with pregnancy. "I mean, my job is to detect things. I get payed to notice things, and I didn't even realize I was nine months pregnant." She sighs and he squeezes her shoulder again. "What if he's sick?"
"Even if he is," he whispers, "which he won't be, by the way, it won't be your fault." It's a promise, sincere and true. He genuinely means that. If their baby is sick, even if it's with something that could have been prevented had she known, he won't blame her. And that makes her love him even more. "But I bet you he's healthy, Kate. You saw him. He's perfect."
"Yeah," she agrees, a smile coming across her face at the memory of how beautiful their little boy is, how amazing it felt to hold him in her arms before the paramedics snatched him to make sure he was healthy. She remembers how at peace she had felt then, looking down at her perfect, crying little boy, before the paramedics scared her by taking her baby from her. "Yeah, he's perfect. I'm just…" she trails.
"You're a mom," he finishes for her, and that makes her smile grow even more, because hearing him say it is truly making it all sink in. She's a mom. She has a son. "It's normal to worry, Kate. Trust me, that part never goes away. Alexis was born a state of the art hospital after nine months of preparation and I was still scared half to death, Kate. It comes with being a parent." She feels him move, and looks up to find him looking back down at her. "But trust me, the love and the joy will make all this, all the fear and the worry and the sleepless nights worth it."
She smiles up at him, feels him gently press his lips to her forehead, and then she leans up, ignoring the ache in her abdomen, to press her lips against his. "It already has," she mumbles to him. "Everything that happened today, Castle, all the pain and the fear, I would do this all over again for him." She settles back against his chest, the steady beat of his heart audible and comforting. "He's everything."
"I know," he agrees. "You know, I don't think I've ever felt more love for anyone or anything than I did today, when I saw you give birth to our little baby boy, and when I saw you holding him." He lets out a deep breath. "I feel kind of bad saying that, you know, because of Alexis? But I just… I didn't love Meredith like I love you, Kate. I didn't get that moment with Alexis." His lips press to her head, gentle and loving. "It was amazing."
She smiles and nods her agreement. "It was," she agrees. "That moment, right after he was born, right before you called 911, Castle, that was the best moment of my life." And it was. She remembers it so clearly, their baby in her arms, the pain gone, her husband at her side. It had been perfect, despite everything, it was perfect. She'll never, ever forget that moment.
"You were so beautiful," he whispers. "You looked so happy, Kate. I've never seen you like that." His lips press to her head again, and she nuzzles deeper into his chest. "You know, no matter what happens from here on out, no matter what he doctor has to say, that moment will always be perfect, and our little boy will always be the greatest surprise of my life."
She chuckles softly. "Yeah, I guess the surprise party I threw you really pales in comparison to this, doesn't it?" she asks. And his answer is a soft laugh and a nod that she feels rather than sees and another press to her head that has her smiling. Because, really, as much work as she put into that party, and as proud of herself for it as she was, this has truly been the greatest surprise of her life, too.
And then a nurse and a pair of doctors appear at her door.
The nurse is an older woman, perhaps in her early fifties. Her fingers are curled around the edges of a standard hospital bassinet. And though the low quality glass slightly distorts his view, he can see the blue of a blanket within the bassinet and smiles, because, though nobody has said it, he knows that's their son. That's their little boy, and he's back here, with them, where he belongs.
The nurse wheels the bassinet into the room as he crawls out of Kate's bed and takes a seat in the chair once again. Kate's smile is wide and happy and proud as the nurse delicately picks up their son. The nurse smiles, her experienced hands easily cradling their boy as she lifts him from the bassinet and carefully hands him to Kate. It's a beautiful sight, watching Kate hold their son, already a natural.
The nurse congratulates them softly and then wheels the bassinet to the side of the room. She tells them they can put the baby in it whenever, and that she'll be back later to bring him to the nursery. He sees Kate pull the baby closer, as though she's scared someone will take him away, and the nurse smiles reassuringly before disappearing down the hall.
His focus, however, is on the two doctors still standing near the door. One is a woman, and he recognizes her as the OB that checked Kate when they first got here. She had simply run some tests to make sure Kate was okay, but he also remembers her telling them that, based on what she could see, she was optimistic that everything would be okay. He's pretty optimistic, too, considering that Kate looks perfectly fine to him.
The other doctor, however, is one he doesn't recognize. He's a younger man, perhaps around Kate's age, wearing seafoam green scrubs. He assumes, looking at the doctor, that this is the doctor from the NICU that took care of their son, but he doesn't really know for sure. The doctor's calm, schooled features, though, are making him slightly more nervous than he expected.
The OB steps towards them first. She smiles. "As expected, Mrs. Castle," she begins, "everything is fine. You are in perfect health. Despite the unique circumstances under which you delivered, I expect you to have a full and easy recovery." She nods her head, takes Kate's chart off the end of the bed and scribbles down something before placing the chart back where it was. "Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Castle. Enjoy your baby." She taps the edge of the bed gently before going back to stand next to the other doctor.
And now the worry truly, fully sets it, because they have their baby, and he looks healthy and he's not in the NICU and he doesn't have an IV or an oxygen tank or anything like that. He looks perfect, but this doctor, this man who stands near the door has the power to tell them otherwise, to take this happy, albeit scary, day and turn it incredibly bittersweet.
He steps forward, deeper into the room. "Mr. and Mrs. Castle," he addresses them, "I must admit that I had some concerns due to your lack of prenatal care, mainly." He takes another step into the room. "However, I am happy to tell you both that your son appears to be in perfect health." His once emotionless features turn happy. "Congratulations, guys. You are the parents of a beautiful, healthy little boy."
He hears Kate's sigh of absolute relief, and he reaches over to cup their baby's head in his palm. He's a little bigger than Alexis was when she was born, and he can't help but wonder how this baby was inside Kate for nine months without anyone, especially him, noticing any change in her. But he shrugs that away, because Kate and their son are perfectly healthy, and no matter what happened over the past nine months, their future is bright.
Kate's not paying attention, so he listens as the OB starts speaking again. She explains that, albeit rare, some women do go through pregnancy with very little or no symptoms. She also explains that the lack of bump was very, very likely because she was carrying more towards the back than the front. She tells them that it's nothing to worry about, and that, chances are, if they ever do have another child, the pregnancy will be more normal. She also tells him to make sure Kate books an appointment with her OB for in a few weeks. And the other doctor tells them to book an appointment with a pediatrician for in a few weeks, too. He promises he will.
And then the doctors leave and he turns his focus back to Kate and their baby. He stands up from his seat and presses a kiss to Kate's head before looking down at their son. He's sleeping now, his eyes closed, his lips parted as he breathes. He's beautiful, takes after his mother that way. And he's perfectly healthy. He's simply, absolutely perfect.
And then Kate looks up at him. "He needs a name," she says.
They name him Brandon. She tells him she's always loved that name. Castle tells her it means brave, which is very fitting. She doesn't bother asking him how he knows that, having a feeling it has something to do with research for a novel or something like that. Besides, right now, it doesn't really matter. They have a son. And their son has a name. Brandon.
His middle name is James. It's actually Castle that suggests it, suggests that they give their little miracle baby her father's name. He says that her father is a strong man who has overcome great obstacles, and that if he wants anything for their son, it would be for him to do that, too. And she can't really argue, because as much as there was a time in her life when her relationship with her father was strained, he truly is a strong, intelligent man. She would be proud and happy if her son turned out like her father.
Castle fills in the information for the birth certificate, starting with their son's new name. Brandon James Castle, their beautiful little boy. He asks her for the time of birth at one point, and all she can do is raise a brow at him because, really, she has no idea. She has other things to focus on. He puts an approximate time, and they laugh softly about it. Brandon wiggles in her arms at the sound, but he doesn't wake up.
Once the forms are filled, she shifts on the bed again so he can sit next to her. He does, holding his arm out for her. She leans against him, and his one hand lands on her upper-arm, the other below hers, holding Brandon with her. He squeezes her arm, pulling her slightly closer, and she sighs of contentment because, really, how could she not. She has her husband and their son, and it's perfect.
They sit in silence for a while, letting the sounds of the hospital wash over them, watching the slight movements of Brandon's face as he sleeps. His lips part wider, his breathing becoming slightly louder for a moment. His little nose crinkles. And he wiggles in her arms, one of his fists coming out of the blanket in which he's swaddled. She wraps her fingers around his fist and smiles down at him.
"You know, we don't have anything for him at home," she whispers. "He doesn't have a crib or a bassinet or even diapers or a carseat, Castle. We need to get all that stuff before we go home. Or, well, maybe just a bassinet for in our bedroom and then we can design the nursery and get a crib later? But we will need diapers and wipes and definitely a carseat. And, uh, I think I want to breastfeed him. It just seems...right."
"Anything you want, Kate," he agrees. "We can send Alexis out to get the stuff he'll need right away, and once your recovered and we're a little more settled we can work on a nursery and all that stuff. Anything, Kate. Anything you want, for you, for him, you got it, okay?"
She runs her thumb along Brandon's cheek. "Do you think Alexis will be happy?" she asks. "I mean, I know she's talked about it, about being a big sister and everything, and she always sounds like she wants siblings. But I'm pretty sure she expected nine months to prepare, not a call telling her to get to the hospital because he baby brother was just born."
He laughs softly at that. "I'm pretty sure you're right," he agrees. "But, I think I'll wait to tell her in person." She chuckles softly and nods in agreement. "But she'll be happy, Kate. Surprised, yes, but so were we, and we're happy, right?" It's not a question, but she nods anyway, unable to not tell him just how happy she is. "Alexis will be happy, too. She loves you and she'll definitely love her little brother."
"You're probably right," she says, nodding against him. "Look at this face, though," she gently taps the tip of Brandon's nose and smiles as he gurgles in his sleep. "How could someone not love him. He's too precious." She feels him nod his agreement, his hand squeezing hers gently before he takes his hand away from hers. He adjusts the blanket around Brandon, runs his thumb along their son's cheek.
"You know, this is the last thing I expected when I woke up with cramps this morning," she tells him, tearing her eyes away from her son to look into the loving eyes of her husband. "I was right, though. I was fine," she tells him, and chuckles softly, making him shake his head at her. "But this, babe, this has been the very best day of my life. And this was definitely the best surprise of my life."
"Trust me, Kate. I know," he responds, and he leans down and presses a gentle kiss to her lips. "I love you, so much. And today, Kate, has just made me love you even more, more than I ever thought I could." She nods at him, silently telling him that she feels the exact same way, and his lips press against hers again. "I love you," he says again, pulling her close again.
She rests her head on his shoulder. "I love you, too," she whispers. "And, uh, thank you, for being there today and for giving me him." She pulls Brandon closer, adjusts her arms around him. He gurgles again, eyelids fluttering, and she smiles. And then baby blue eyes open up into hers, their baby boy awake and quiet in her arms, lips parting on a breath and she gasps softly at the sight.
"Castle," she whispers, "this is magic."
For starters, thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, followed and/or favorited this story. The response has been overwhelming, in the best of ways. Also, for anyone interested, I am planning two short sequels to this story, each also a three-shot, named revelation and divulgement. So stay tuned for those.