A one-shot prequel in the Dash Universe
Rick Castle rubs his palms on his thighs, the material of his dress pants catching his skin. He feels clammy, the world not quite in focus, and he's not sure if it's because of Kate or himself.
They're waiting on Alexis to get home from school.
Kate's head is bowed over the breakfast bar, her elbows on the granite countertop. She suddenly looks so much like a girl herself that his throat closes up with something chokingly close to indignation.
It wasn't this bad when she told her father, but that's probably because he wasn't there. "You don't have to do this with me if you-"
"Half my problem, isn't it?" she shoots back, lifting an eyebrow.
You don't have to do this with me.
His guts twist but he only studies her, studies her with absorption, hoping for just a hint that this is more than a problem to her. A problem. He rubs his hand down his face and has to stop looking. Maybe the signs would be there, maybe they wouldn't - he wants to continue believing that there's something other than grief on her face, wants it to be true, so he needs a little ignorance is bliss right now.
"You told your father without me," he points out.
"You told your mother without me," she says.
He opens his eyes and finds himself startled. "You - I - she figured it out. She - I was... uh."
"You were what?"
That's the portion of his incoherence she wants clarified? "I was crying," he says bluntly. "She found me."
Her mouth drops open and her spine straightens, something flooding her cheeks that he knows - in an instant - is anger. She took that wrong.
"No, wait," he starts, coming around the kitchen island towards her. "Hold on. I was afraid you would do something - ah, without me."
"Do something with-" Her confusion drops off suddenly with a flinch, like he's actually slapped her. He leans weakly against the counter and waits for whatever comes next. Her hand scrapes through her hair. "Well. I wouldn't. Without you. This is - like I said - we're both the cause. So we're both the solution."
"You keep saying that like it's a problem," he mutters, turning his head from her. He regrets it the moment the words leave him; he closes his eyes in a wash of aching disbelief. He's supposed to be smoother than this.
He steadies himself and turns back to her. "Yeah."
She reaches her hand out and hooks her finger in his loose ones, drawing him in. "That was... imprecise language. I'm - Castle, shit - I'm about to tell your daughter we're wrecking her entire-"
"We're not wrecking anything, Kate," he sighs. Every word out of her mouth is like this. Like - well, like a wrecking ball. She destroys every pretty fantasy he has about them.
"Okay, okay," she says, placating him. Her fingers twitch in his but she doesn't make a move for more - or less either, and that's what he has to focus on. She's stopped making a move for less. "Castle. I'm - this is scary for me. This is - scary."
He darts her a fast look, not sure exactly what this is, what she's doing, and he opens his mouth to ask if she can't maybe start using positive language (hey, Kate, maybe your outlook will change if you're not constantly broadcasting doom and gloom) but then a key scrapes in the lock and the front door crashes open.
They both jump, Kate's face flushing bright red, and he turns around to find his daughter hauling a mountain of things inside the loft. He hurries towards her, grabbing her violin case from one hand, scooping up the business project display from the crook of her arm, saving the architectural model with the other hand. Alexis gives him a happy grin that he can't help beaming back, put at ease by his daughter's charming inelegance this afternoon.
"Thanks, Dad. I nearly dropped it all twice on my way up here. Oh, Beckett. Kate, hi."
"Where do you want these things?" he says to Alexis, winking at her when she gives him a what's up look.
"Oh, uh. Upstairs. If you don't mind, Dad."
"Here, give me your book bag as well. I'll take it all with me."
Alexis grins even wider and positions the strap over his shoulder, lifting up on her toes to kiss his cheek. Her voice is soft in his ear, and for him alone. "Is Kate sick? She doesn't look good and you're both..."
Castle chuckles softly and shakes his head. "No. Not - no. Hold on. Tell you what's up when I get back down here."
Alexis darts a nervous look to Kate. Castle pauses on the bottom stair when Kate actually stands up from the bar stool and heads their way. His daughter reaches out to him and tugs on his sleeve, holding him up. "Just tell me now. Get it out. I can't stand waiting."
Kate lets out a breath that Castle can see release from her whole body, but he figures he ought to do this. Not just because it's obviously twisting Kate in knots, but it's his kid. Both his kids. Holy crap.
He has two kids. Will have. Soon.
"Dad?" Alexis asks, a sharp spike of fear in her voice.
"We wanted to let you know," he starts quickly. "It's good news, pumpkin. We just wanted to tell you together. We're-"
"Are you getting married?" she squeals, rising up on her toes so that her pony tail swings. "Oh, that's-"
"No," Kate blurts out. She sounds - well, horrified is the kind way to put it. "No, we're not getting married-"
"Yet," he interrupts.
She shoots him a glare. "But I am-"
"Pregnant," he supplies. "We are pregnant."
Alexis's mouth drops open, her cheeks flush, her excitement melting off into something else. Something that he can't name, something that has more hesitance to it than he would like - but he knows it only mirrors his own. And Kate's. The hesitance of not knowing what happens next.
"Wow," Alexis breathes. Her eyes dart to Kate and then back to him, questions, and then she cautiously puts her arms around Kate in a hug. "Wow. Kate. Dad - I - wow."
Wow. Wow is good, right? He lets out a breath only to have Alexis throw herself at him, almost desperately, her grip a tight squeeze as if she's try to prove something to both of them. He can't even hug her back, his arms filled. "All right, okay. Thanks, Alexis."
"Wow," she breathes. She sinks back onto her toes and the hesitance is still there, the dance of her eyes back and forth between them, but he hopes he sees some building excitement as it hits her. "Wow. I..."
"Let me put your stuff upstairs and then we can talk about it," he cuts in firmly. It will be fine; they'll figure this out and Alexis will be - already is - happy for him. Them. Not just him any longer - it's a them.
When Castle disappears up the stairs, Kate lets out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. She has to make a conscious effort to untangle her fingers and splay them at her sides, to be in control, and she lifts her head and looks Alexis in the eye.
"I want you to know," she starts. Stops. She planned this in her head, all the things she needs to say in this moment, but the reality of the reality is hitting her all over again.
She's pregnant. With Castle. She and Rick Castle are pregnant.
"Are you... excited?" Alexis asks before Kate can begin again.
Because she's geared herself up for this, because she's been giving herself pep talks for days now, her honest answer comes tumbling out of her. "Excited? I'm terrified. And it doesn't leave a whole of room for much else."
"You'll be a great-"
Beckett shakes her head once and steps back, stops listening so she can do this. Say this. What needs to be said. Pleasantries are fine, but they're not exactly pertinent to her case, and Beckett needs to follow the plan she set out for herself two weeks ago when she could finally start thinking rationally.
"Alexis, I want you to know that nothing has to change," she says firmly. Alexis has her round, innocent face turned to Kate, a superficial surface that nothing penetrates. The girl is just too earnest to be real. So Kate tries again. "You are still your dad's, and your relationship with him isn't threatened by me or - this."
"Nothing has to change," she repeats, standing up straighter. "Just because this has happened, it doesn't mean that I'll make demands on him or we'll suddenly do things without you. I understand that you and your father have your own world, and that's really special, and I don't want that to be altered in any way by this."
"By the baby," Alexis says. She has that same uncanny knack of repeating back to Kate exactly what she's already said but with slightly different words - so that it sounds harsher than Kate meant it.
"I'm... it's fine. It won't - well, I mean, isn't it supposed to change things?"
"Not for you and Castle." She winces and shakes her head. "Your father. Between the two of you, I mean. You'll still be... this doesn't change that."
"O-okay," Alexis draws out. "Um. Thanks."
Beckett nods and crosses her arms over her chest. "I just - I didn't want you to wonder about me."
Alexis's mouth drops open and she blushes, which Kate takes to mean there's still quite a lot of wondering, but this is the best she can do. She won't take Castle from Alexis - that's the most honest thing she knows right now. She won't wreck any of their lives over this.
Castle rubs at the bridge of his nose. "Well, that went well."
"I thought it did," Kate answers, sounding defensive. He lowers his hand and, yeah, sure enough, she looks defensive.
"I think it was kind of awkward," he says slowly. "But honestly, she looked more worried about you than anything else."
"Me?" Kate says, startling back. They're both on the couch where they had this conversation with Alexis, but his daughter has disappeared to her room. Kate, however, is still holding herself stiffly. "Why is she worried about me?"
"Uh, Kate. Because I got you pregnant."
She looks so floored by this, that it makes him laugh. He can't help it - nervous tension or something - but his laughter starts communicating to her as well. She sits back against the couch, her hand falling to the cushion, palm up and open, watching him, and then she sighs and her lips twist, a smile she doesn't want to give.
He lets the laughter dwindle, shakes his head at her. In a move that surprises him, she draws her feet up onto his couch and tucks her knees in against his thigh. Those two points of contact - each knee cap against him - are like beacons. Bright and hopeful and stark in the darkness that has been their relationship these past few weeks.
He reaches out and takes her hand, and she lets him - even laces their fingers together. He could sit like this for hours, just being with her in a moment out of time, the mess of telling his daughter over with and the uncertainty of tomorrow far on the horizon. When they're like this, he can believe they'll be okay.
Kate squeezes his hand. "I won't mess this up," she says.
He lifts his head in bewilderment - how did she know? - and she continues on.
"What you have with Alexis is part of why... you're a good father to her, Castle. That's at least one thing I can count on," she says, quirking her lips at him like that's a self-deprecating joke. "And I won't let this mess it up."
"I'm not worried about my relationship with my daughter," he says carefully. They should have had this conversation the moment... "I'm worried about my relationship with you."
She doesn't refute him, doesn't even look surprised, and that hurts.
Yeah, okay. Reason to worry then.
"I don't want this to break us," he rasps. "This could be-"
"The worst, I know," she offers, shaking her head. "It won't-"
"No," he insists, crushing her hand in his. "No, that's not at all what I was going to say. This could be amazing, Kate. Not the worst. I promise you... just give me the time to prove it to you."
She stares at him, wordless as she so often is these days, her hesitance and her caution too much for even him to overcome.
"Give us a chance," he says, trying out his firmest voice. Sounding certain in ways he doesn't feel. But hopes for. "You'll see. I know you will. It's a lot right now - believe me, I've been there. But with us... Kate, we're good together, and a baby - this will be good for all of us. Together." He feels like he's fighting for them, this time, not just for the baby, not just for that little life, but for their life. "We can do it."
Her other hand comes to cradle his, pressed into her lap, and she's carefully not looking at him. He knows she's thinking, studying, analyzing, that it's all there behind her eyes, and if it's more words she needs, he has them.
He strokes his thumb over the vulnerable skin at the inside of her wrist, watching her. "However it looks, whatever steps we have to take, we can do it. I know it's a lot, but Kate, we would have gotten here eventually. You and me. Together was always going to happen. Give me the time to prove it to you."
"Time," she scrapes out finally. "We have about... seven months." Her mouth tilts ironically, but her eyes are storming.
"No," he insists. "We have all the time we need. There's no limit on this. We take it day by day, and you'll see. One day at a time."
"I can do today," she says tightly.
"We've been doing today," he offers with a smile. "We've been doing it ever since the Butcher case-"
She shudders and holds her hand up, shaking her head and stopping him. "No. It was - no, it's more than that case. What I - my - I do love you, Castle."
He expels a breath and splays his hand over her thigh. "I know you do, Kate. I know. And this is scary and sudden, but we are going to be so good at this."
"I don't have that faith," she admits, her throat working as she finally looks at him. Working not to cry. "I don't even have my mom to tell me what not to do. I'm-"
"Hey, that's - we can deal with that. You got me, and your dad, and Alexis is a great baby-sitter. My mother can at least be entertaining and - from time to time - actually helpful. Lanie won't let you fail at this, the boys would do anything for you - even change dirty diapers, right? And Kate, us together... just give it time." He's gone from confident to practically begging.
"I can do today," she repeats. "And I can do tomorrow. Those I can give you, Castle."
"I'll take it. That works for me. So today and tomorrow - today and tomorrow, Kate - I'll show you how good this will be. I'll prove it. We got this."
"Today and tomorrow," she gives in. But on her, it doesn't even look like surrender; it looks like a battle plan.
He can do that. Battle for her. He can wait and he can do the work and he will claim the life for them that he knows is waiting.
"Yeah?" he answers, filled up with all the ways this works, this works. And he'll prove it to her.
"I could really use a hug," she mutters.
Castle chokes out a laugh, but he reaches for her, tugging her into him and burying his face in her hair, her body warm and strong, and if he didn't know better - clinging.
He broke out of a pair of NYPD-issue handcuffs to save her life, he put a machete in a guy's skull to save them. A baby he can totally do.
"I love you, too, Kate," he remembers. "I love you so much."