It was interesting to watch Alexis and Lily interact. It didn't seem to matter that they were almost a generation apart in age, they still managed to treat each other like siblings. Alexis would lean forward, blocking the young girl's view of the television and giggle as Lily yelled at her. Lily loved climbing all over her older sister like a jungle gym. They were far apart in age that they didn't fight about anything, but still close enough to fill their house with laughter.
Today was one of those days. Alexis came over for dinner, bringing a toss salad with her and her new boyfriend, Fred. As soon as the redhead made it through the door, she had been pulled away by Lily. "Lex! Come see my new toy!" Her step-daughter apologized to Fred with wide eyes, dropped the salad in his unsuspecting arms and followed the tiny brunette to the carpet.
"Fred! I've heard so much about you!" Her husband's voice boomed next to her, and his chest puffed out as he approached the young man. Kate had to stifle her laughter, her eyes tracking him as he approached the younger man. She watched as he took the salad from Fred's arms, and clapped his hand firmly on the young man's back. "Fred, follow me into the office, if you would."
"Castle," Her voice was a warning, "Don't take him to the office."
His eyes softened as he smirked at her, holding the salad out in her direction. "What Beckett? It's right there, the walls are bookcases, what's the worst I could do to him?"
With a sigh and an apologetic glance at Fred, she took the salad and turned away. "Be nice, please."
"I'm always nice!" He put his arms around the stunned young man's shoulders, and pulled him toward the other room, isolated from the only person he knew. "Did Alexis tell you how Beckett and I met?"
She laughed to herself, putting the salad on the dining room salad, her voice making one of the beings inside of her start to stir. Her left hand came up to stroke her rounded abdomen, as if it could actually calm them down. "This is what your Daddy does. He brings boys in the office and tells them all sorts of stories about when I used to be in the police, and how he followed me around. He tries to make himself seem tough and scary, but all the boys get more scared of me." Her voice only spurred them on, and they both kicked, making her laugh as she returned to the stove.
From the living room, Alexis had begun to raise her voice while Lily giggled, and Kate's curiosity peaked. "Lily, stop." The redhead was calm but firm, but Lily was stubborn like her father, and giggled like a maniac. "Lily, stop. Get down!"
"No! I'm gonna get you!"
"I'm not a popsicle, stop licking me!" This only spurred the young child on, her giggles becoming louder and higher pitched.
"Lily!" One shout from Kate had her daughter stopping in her tracks, and she could hear the thump as Lily fell to the floor. "What is Alexis?"
Her daughter huffed. "The boss."
Kate waited a moment before prompting further. "The boss of what?"
"Body." There was a hint of anger in her voice, but Kate heard the creak of the couch as she moved further away from her sister, who was still on the floor.
"Thank you, Lil. Keep your tongue to yourself please, unless Alexis tells you otherwise, okay?"
"Kay." It was a matter of seconds before Kate heard the familiar sound of the iPad, Alexis seemingly forgotten.
"I'm sorry, that was amazing." An unknown voice redirected her train of thought. She turned to find Fred standing there, his green eyes wide as he looked between Kate and Lily. Her husband watched the exchange with pride in his eyes. "And so simple!"
Kate shrugged, turning back to dinner. "It's important to teach her to respect those boundaries, just as her boundaries should be respected. She's never too young for that lesson."
Alexis rose from her seat on the carpet, feeling neglected, and melted into Fred's side, her arms wrapped around his waist. "Dad and Kate are all about body safety. It's pretty wonderful."
Fred let out a chuckle, pulling the redhead into his side. "No, it's great. I know a survivor of sexual abuse. She shares articles all the time about teaching respect, and body autonomy, and all that stuff. It's great to see it in action."
Before she could respond, there was a knock on the door. Castle moved to get it, his eyebrows furrowing. "Mother wouldn't knock, not enough fanfare." Kate took the spoon with her and followed him partway, looking over his shoulder to see who their mystery guest was. Waiting on the other side of the door were two people, a man and a woman. They both looked like they were in their 50's. The woman was brunette, her hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. The male had on a leather jacket, his sunglasses tucked into the collar of his shirt. "Can I help you?"
The woman spoke, her hands folded in front of her. "Richard Castle?" At Rick's nod, she continued. "I'm Lieutenant Benson, this is Detective Tutuola. We're from Manhattan SVU."
Sex crimes. Kate felt the blood draining from her face, and she handed the spoon she had been stirring with over to Alexis. "You've got dinner for a sec?"
The redhead's eyes searched Kate's face for answers, her smile drooping. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, it's all fine. Just give us a second." Alexis didn't argue, taking the spoon and pulling Fred along with her, away from the door. Kate made her way over to her husband, her hands falling on his waist, her head peering over his shoulder. "Is everything alright?" She directed her question to the Lieutenant.
"Is my Mother okay?"
"As far as we know, your mother is fine, Mr. Castle." Detective Tutuola answered. "Is there somewhere we could speak in private?"
"Of course, come in." Kate answered for them, pulling Rick out of the doorway.
Benson locked eyes with Kate, her hands now in her jacket pockets. "Mrs. Castle, it may be best if we talk to your husband alone."
At this, Rick shook his head. "No, my wife will be joining us, if that's okay." He didn't leave room for discussion as he led the group to the office. Kate followed the two unfamiliar cops, and shot a reassuring smile at her step-daughter, who watched them walk away with worry.
Benson seemed drawn quickly to the display Rick had bought her when she retired from the force, deciding to run for the Senate. Her old uniform hung in a stained shadow box with a bar across the top, her shoes polished to perfection behind the glass on the bottom, and her hat hanging from a peg on top. Benson turned to face them both, her eyes darting between them. "Captain, huh?"
"It feels like it was eons ago." Kate replied, her hand dropping again to her rounded stomach. "I miss it."
Benson laughed, her shoulders relaxing. "I heard a rumor that I would meet the youngest woman ever promoted to Captain today."
"My partner, Rollins, is a huge fan of yours, Mr. Castle." Tutuola spoke, making her husband grin with pride. "She raves about you two. She really wanted to come along."
"Why didn't she?" With his question, Rick lowered his hand and held onto his wife's.
"We thought it would be best if a male came along to talk to you." Tutuola responded, his gaze steady as he spoke. Rick looked between the two cops, confusion etched in his brows. She wondered how they would broach the subject with him, and tightened her hand around his for support.
Benson came forward, her approach soft. "Mr. Castle, do you know a man named Norman Jacobs?" At the mention of the name, Kate felt her husband's hand go limp. She watched as a shadow went over his eyes, the subtle twitch of his jaw as he struggled not to react. Benson must have seen it too, as she softened her approach and her voice. "He's being prosecuted for child sexual abuse. Your mother used to work with him. Rollins mentioned you sharing a video, she told us it was worth asking you if you knew anything." Kate heard her husband swallow, and felt as he tightened his grip on her hand. "Anything at all, even anything that seemed insignificant at the time, could help us establish a pattern of behavior."
The silence seemed to drag on forever. When he spoke, she heard ringing in her ears. "I'm not sure why Rollins made that connection. I'm sorry, I have nothing to say about him. I barely remember him." Kate pulled her hand away in shock, her head turning again to inspect him. He was as unwavering as he was when the name was first mentioned, but she could see the clench in his jaw and the darkness in his eyes.
Benson could see it too. She nodded slowly, closing her notebook and putting it away. Her hand came back out of her pocket with a card, which she held in his direction. "Well, if you think of anything, even the smallest thing, please give me a call."
"I told you, I don't remember him."
His curt reply both broke her heart and enraged her. Why wasn't he doing whatever he could to put this man behind bars? Her mind raced with questions she wanted to ask him, but she knew she wouldn't get answers in front of the strange officers. So she reached her hand out, taking the card Benson held forward. "Thank you. Can I show you out?"
Alexis' eyes burned holes in her back as she showed Benson and Tutuola to the door. She muttered apologies she didn't mean, her smile fake as she waved them away. And although she wanted to talk to him in private, Castle was already out of the office and playing with Lily. Unsure of how she should respond, Kate pulled out her phone and scrolled to facebook. She navigated easily to SUAA and typed out a quick advice post. HELP. sex crimes cops just came to our door. I think they have my husband's abuser in custody, but he doesn't want to pursue it. What should I do? Once she was done, she put the phone in her back pocket, and tried to act like her husband, pretending that everything was alright.
Dinner was awkward, as they dodged questions about the police. Alexis noticed her father's lack of eye contact with Kate and called him out on it. He chalked it up to writer's block, which Alexis didn't believe, and everyone ate the rest of the meal in relative silence.
Kate didn't look at her phone until she was putting Lily to bed. While her toddler made up a story to tell her bears, Kate was reading the comments on her post. All of them were telling her to follow her husband's lead. Some said he may come forward when he is ready, or he may not come forward at all. They all said to support his choice. But it left her feeling sick inside. She put the phone away and listened to one more of Lily's stories before tucking her baby in, pressing extra kisses into her cheeks. When she got to their bedroom, Castle was typing away on his laptop, the sound harsh and fast. She ignored him, pulling a pajama top out of her drawer and changing. It wasn't until she was brushing her hair in the mirror that he finally spoke, pushing the laptop off to the side. "Norman Jacobs was my attacker."
She took a moment to let that confession sink in, her gut twisting in knots. "I wasn't asking."
"Yeah. You still don't ask things very loudly."
At this, she chuckled, turning to join him on the bed. "You're one to talk." This cracked a smile out of him, and he closed the laptop lid and placed it on the nightstand. As she crawled closer to him, she took a breath, preparing to break the advice her group had given her. "I have to ask, though. Why didn't you tell the cops when they asked? They even brought a male officer along to help you cope."
His face turned to shadows, and he looked away from her, refusing to look her in the eye. "You wouldn't understand."
"Let me try." Her voice sounded helpless between them, and it drew his gaze back.
Castle looked at her for what seemed like ages, his mouth open like he wanted to say something, but no words coming out. He looked away again before speaking. "I'm not strong enough."
Kate's heart seemed to stop as she let those words sink in. Her mind struggled to come up with ways to tell him this wasn't true. She had watched him suffer through the case, heard the stories of how he coped as a child, and watched how much he had overcome. She'd read statistics that said he should have been a drug addict or alcoholic, or just angry and depressed. But he was none of these things. He always saw the good in people, and taught her how to have hope again. He was an amazing and attentive father. He told these amazing wild stories that could only come from a vibrant imagination. All of this screamed nothing but overwhelming strength. Yet as she watched him, he appeared to shrink into that nine year old boy, his shoulders slumped, his eyes looking anywhere but her face, his hands fidgeting in his lap. She couldn't help but sputter, "that's not true," her voice cracking as she tried to pull his face towards her.
"You wouldn't understand." His voice was harsh, startling her. "I can't face him, Beckett. He's out there, hurt, because I never spoke up, and is doing whatever he can to put this monster behind bars. I can't face that kid and explain what I did."
Kate rested her hand on his lower back, and rubbed soothing circles into his skin with her fingertips. "Do you really think he would blame you?"
"Beckett, I blame me. Why wouldn't he?" For the first time since she asked the question, he looked at her. His eyes glistened with sadness, his face appeared long. His lips pursed together with a guilt she couldn't understand. She brought a hand to his face, soothing him, before running her fingers slowly through his hair.
"You're right. I don't get it." She cocked her head to the side. "But I tried. I promised you we would figure this stuff out together. I just wondered where your head was at." She leaned up to kiss him on the forehead, pausing for a moment to prove to him that she was with him.
He pulled her closer, whispering in her ear. "I'm drained. I'm gonna go to sleep. Feel free to join me when you're ready."
"Okay." She whispered, pressing another kiss to his head. She withdrew from the bed and walked into the bathroom, the air in the room feeling heavier than it had earlier. After brushing her teeth and throwing her hair into a messy bun, she returned to the bed. Rick was turned away from her, blankets pulled around his shoulders to hide his face. When she climbed in, she laid next to him, her body close but not touching him, close enough that he would know her presence was there. She turned away from him and didn't prompt him, she had learned a long time ago to let him turn to her when he was ready.
It took ten minutes, which felt more like ten hours, but he did turn around, wrapping her in his arms. She took one of his hands and threaded her fingers through his, resting their palms on her bump. She waited for his breathing to slow before letting sleep take over, her fingers relaxing as she slipped into oblivion.
It took two weeks before the story of Norman Jacobs' arrest became national news. For Kate it was strange to finally have a face and a name to put to her husband's pain. For Castle it was hard to have his pain blasted on a national stage. Even though he wasn't ever mentioned and no one knew he was involved, she still saw how he avoided the news. He had thrown out newspapers with the man's picture on the front page. He had even taken to writing in notebooks, to avoid the news popping up as he procrastinated. The guilt seemed to be eating him alive.
Martha had heard the news, and called one day. She kept Rick on the phone for almost an hour, lamenting that she had ever worked for such a scumbag, and how she wished she could have those credits scratched off her resume. Rick bit his tongue and let her talk, but Kate could see how it broke him to tell her, "No, Mother, I never guessed he would be capable of such things." At that he sat, shrinking inward, his eyes staring at a spot on the carpet in front of him. When he finally hung up, Kate didn't say anything, the silence between them tearing a hole in her gut. Switching the TV to a new episode of Doctor Who, she watched him pace out of the corner of her eye.
When he'd had enough, he sat down next to her, pausing her program. "You know, I've rehearsed that sentence so many times in my life. That, plus, 'I've never heard of him,' or, 'why would you think it happened to me?' and saying it right now didn't make me feel any better."
"I'm sorry." It was all she could will herself to say so she was still supportive of her choice. "I couldn't imagine."
"Neither could I. I always thought it would help. Instead I feel… slimey. Like I just helped him get away with something."
"Yes I did." His voice was louder, more confident, and she could see a glimmer of determination in his eyes. "I've kept quiet and denied it for a long time. I've been enabling from afar."
"You've been healing." She corrected, worried he would get down on himself again.
"I know that. But by taking so long to heal, at least one other boy has been hurt. And I'm trying hard not to blame myself, but it's still there. But maybe, I can redeem myself. Maybe I can help." His hand reached for her knee, squeezing tightly. "Do you still have Benson's card hanging around?"
Her lips stretched into a smile as he spoke, her hand joining his on her knee. "Yes, I have her card. Let me grab it for you." As she rose, her lips met his, her hand caressing his cheek. "I'm so proud of you." Her words seemed trivial to the feeling in her body, how every muscle wanted to celebrate his bravery and strength. But she hoped he could feel it in the press of her lips, or the touch of her fingers.
Leaving Lily with Alexis, they both made it down to SVU. Rick made his statement alone, with her just outside the door waiting for him. When he came out she made sure to place herself right next to him, cementing her place as his rock to steady himself on. "What comes next?" She asked, locking eyes with the soft spoken lieutenant.
"Well we have a court date set in about a month. We will send you a notice for when you need to appear. And our DA will be in touch to prep you." She offered a soft smile. "I can't thank you enough, Mr. Castle for what you are doing. Nine times out of ten, when victims confront their attackers, they leave feeling stronger." Her hands reached into her pockets and she pulled out a card. "This is a number for victim's services. If you need a counselor, or have any questions about the legal process, please don't hesitate to call."
Rick wrapped his arm around Kate, pulling her closer as he took the card. "Thanks Lieutenant. I'll take it just in case, but I have all the support I need right here."
"We'll be in touch. Thank you for everything." Kate added as they left.
In the month leading up to court, Rick was all over the place. Some days he was great, like nothing was going on. Some days he was irritable, shutting himself off from them as he retreated into his work. The constant back and forth was exhausting, but Kate couldn't be upset with him. Sometimes she could pull him back to earth by talking about what was bothering him. Sometimes the only person who could put a smile on his face was Lily. But when the court date rolled around, she was more than ready to get out of the slump.
ADA Barba had prepared him well. She watched with pride as he gave his testimony without flinching, explaining in technical terms what that monster had done, while looking Jacobs in the eye. While standing near the jury box, ADA Barba asked his final question. "Mr. Castle, why did you never come forward all those years ago?"
"At the time, my Mother, Martha, was a struggling actress looking for her big break. Mr. Jacobs threatened to blacklist her. I was young, but I understood what that meant. We were already struggling. I couldn't do that to us."
Barba eyed the judge, then turned to smirk at the defense counsel. "No further questions."
Defense counsel, Trevor Langan, was a man in his mid-thirties, with sweeping brown hair and a bit of a scruff. He straightened his tie as he stood and approached Rick. "I'm sorry to hear about the abuse you suffered. I can't imagine going through such an ordeal." He stopped near the jury, turning to face them. "Barba asked you why you didn't come forward all those years ago. I would like to know why you waited so long to finally speak."
"Objection." Barba continued to sit as he spoke, his arms crossed over his chest. "Asked and answered."
"No, you asked why he didn't tell anyone back then. I'm asking why he waited forty years to come forward. Different questions entirely." Langan had a smug look on his face as he talked, turning to face the judge.
"I'll allow it. But tread lightly. You may answer, Mr. Castle."
Rick took a moment to formulate his answer, and Kate could feel herself holding her breath with him, waiting for him to speak. "This wasn't the first time I wanted to say something. Once my Mother had her break, I considered it, but I worried it would send her career to a screeching halt, so I held back. When I got thrown out of my second to last school and my Mother asked me why I was acting out so much, I almost did, but I didn't want her to think less of me than she already did. When my daughter was born, I worried I would be seen as less of a man, and therefore less of a father. When I had to talk to my daughter about consent, I didn't want to fall in her eyes. When my Wife and I caught a murder of a girl who spoke out, I thought it was too late. When detectives came to my door and mentioned his name, I turned them away, I wasn't going to. Because at that point, it had been forty years, and I felt like I was now responsible for anyone he had hurt in the meantime. The only thing that spurred me on, is the twelve year old boy this case is about." Castle broke eye contact with the attorney, and searched the gallery for the boy, Stephen, and his parents. "This young boy is strong. He is brave. Even if he doesn't feel like that, it's true. And if he can sit up here and say what happened to him, so can I. Especially if my testimony helps stop Jacobs from hurting more people."
Langan's look wasn't smug now. No, now his brows furrowed in anger, and his sholders slumped. "That's very moving. Too bad you couldn't have found the strength when it would have mattered." It was a case saving line, one meant to discredit Castle, and it angered Kate to her core. But instead of focusing on Trevor Langan, she watched her husband. He'd been in court with her enough times to know what that line meant. As realization dawned on his face, his shoulders relaxed, and his chest puffed out. He was proud of himself. And sitting in the gallery, Kate prayed that he could sense that she was proud of him too.
Barba pulled her concentration by standing and addressing the judge. "The prosecution rests, your honor."
The judge looked at the clock. "It's getting late, we've been at this all day. Let's adjourn until tomorrow. See you all back here at 9AM sharp."
At the sound of the gavel, everyone stood, filing to the exit. Kate stood to the side, her jacked pulled around her bump, scarf hanging from her shoulders. She greeted Castle with a warm embrace, her head burrowing into his shoulder as she ran her hands up and down his back. "I am so proud of you, Babe."
Pulling her closer, he pressed a kiss to her temple. "I couldn't have done it without you."
They remained in their bubble for mere moments, before a timid voice made them turn around. "Mr. Castle, may we have a moment?" Kate let him go and turned around, and found herself face to face with the young victim and his parents. A blonde woman with cropped hair held a hand out to them. "Hi, sorry. I'm Pamela, this is my wife, Kelli. We thought it would be a good idea for Stephen to talk to you."
His hand tightened around her, and he stammered as he responded. "Uh, yeah, sure. I'm Rick, and this is Beckett." He shook each woman's hand before reaching for Stephen, his approach soft. "I'm sorry you're here doing this right now. But everything I said was true."
The boy nodded, his long brown hair falling in his eyes. "Thanks." he looked at the ground as he spoke, looking especially small in a suit that was a bit too large for his narrow frame. After a nudge from his mother, he looked up, locking eyes with the older man. "So, you really can move on and have a life after all this?"
Kate grasped onto her husband's elbow at his words, her heart breaking at how small he sounded as he asked. She watched the faces of his parents, both women struggling to keep a straight face, their hands on his shoulders as they kept him close. Castle didn't hesitate to answer. "Of course you can. If anyone in this world deserves to live a full and happy life, it's you."
"But how can I if I'm just another statistic?"
"I never want to hear those words out of your mouth again." He replied harsher than he needed to, but it seemed to be exactly what Stephen needed to hear. "Don't let yourself be limited to a number on a data sheet. If you do that, you let him win. There is no scenario where he should win."
Stephen leaned back into Kelli, his left hand reaching for Pamela's hand on his right shoulder. "How do I do that?"
Castle's arm snaked around Kate's back. "You live your life to the fullest. Get good grades, discover the job that you love. Fall in love with the person of your choosing. Start a family, or don't! Travel. Whatever you do, don't give up." He let go of her for a moment, fishing around in his pocket for his wallet. After a moment, he offered Stephen a business card. "I want you to put this on the fridge at your house. I want your Moms to have my number too. And whenever you're feeling lost, or feel like you might give up, I want you to give me a call."
"Call us for the good things, too." Kate found herself speaking before she could stop herself, drawing the young boy's blue eyes to her. "I mean, I don't know about you, but I have found that celebrating the small victories with someone who understands is beneficial."
The boy had a hint of a smile on his face as he put the card in his pocket. "Thank you. I'll keep it handy."
"Yes, thank you." Kelli repeated, releasing her son for a moment to wrap Castle in an embrace. "This talk was more than Pam and I hoped it would be."
"Please, we mean it. Don't hesitate to call." With a final handshake and timid smiles, the groups parted ways.
Six days later, after a guilty verdict, Kate and Rick watched as Stephen left the courtroom with both of his Mothers, smiling as he confronted his new life.
A/N: So usually I post this on November 13th, but this year I didn't because I got distracted RUNNING A HALF MARATHON! I ran for all the survivors who have given me strength to keep going, and I raised money to help survivors who aren't yet ready to tell their stories.
I'm rusty, so bear with me for this chapter. Also, this story is complete as far as I can see. We have solved my murder, and we have given Castle the opportunity to confront his attacker. I don't know where else I can take this. I want to thank you all for your words of encouragement, your strength, and your support through this journey.