Sorry for the wait on this! Writers block hit me hard. But thanks to Cathey I got this ready in time for Fanfic Monday.
I would also like to thank you guys for your support on this story. I am blown away by the response. I've never had so many reviews on a story before so thank you. And I would like to announced that with this chapter we have made half way through the ficathon. Only 25,000 more words to go! :))))
It's great to be back in the precinct, immersed back in the world where good always wins, and the coffee is always brewed. The boys are going through their victim's financial records and Beckett is finishing the paperwork for her recent investigations. But they'd solved their last case with Castle's help, or rather, Castle's stroke of genius when Beckett let him back at the precinct.
It felt amazing to put another killer away. The job is gruesome, but he understands why they do it. Why Beckett does it, Ryan and Esposito too. The gratitude that fills him when they solve a case is so invigorating that none of them could ever give it up. Yeah, it's a hard, dirty job that he sometimes gets nightmares from, but when the good guys win, it's one of the best feelings in the world.
It's the same feeling with Beckett; with her he's found something to keep him grounded and grateful for the life he's been given, for the time to spend with his daughter.
He's sitting in his chair while Beckett types away on her keyboard, eyes glued to her computer screen, her fingers flying fast over the keys in attempt to make her deadline. She wants to be finished all her paperwork by the end of this week. He assumes it's because she's packing up her house and her father's place, so going back and forth between the precinct and the houses won't be easy. The Apple Valley Police Department probably wants to have some kind of orientation with her, too; introduce her to their department and show her how they run things there in Minnesota.
He would offer to help, knowing how important this is, but the longer she takes to do the paperwork, the longer she'll stay at the precinct. The longer he'll get to see her, but even if he won't help with her paperwork, that doesn't mean he can't stay and offer a joke or two, keep her company.
"Want some coffee?" Castle asks. A second after the words come out, he takes them back, "Oh, wait, you're trying to-"
"Wean myself off coffee? Yep." Beckett stops typing, fingers poised over the keys like she's lost the words. He's all too familiar with that feeling.
"But that's not why you don't want coffee?" he speaks, his voice raising at the end to prompt Beckett to confirm or refute the claim. He waits her out, needing her to speak up.
She shakes her head and turns her entire body to face him. She sighs, biting her tongue to buy some time before she speaks again, and he's briefly distracted by her tongue. The little pink, plump thing comes out to wet her lips before her teeth bite down into it. He finds his tongue peeking out the same way hers does, as if he can taste her-
Castle's breath catches somewhere between his lungs and throat, stopping his heart's steady rhythm to skip beats and slam against his rib cage. He knew this was coming, he knew and yet hearing those words tumble from her lips still shocks him, still sends his mind into a fit of worry. He grips the arm rest of the chair just a little tighter. She's going to have a kid and she's leaving. But as much bittersweet as it is he's also genuinely happy for her. If a child will bring her happiness because it makes her father happy, then he will support her no matter what. In a way, he's going to be an uncle.
"That's- that's amazing. Congratulations, Beckett! I'm so happy for you." The smile he gives her is real and she must be able to tell because she beams, her whole body lights up with joy. She looks beautiful, smiling like this. Damn, he's going to miss her. Badly.
"Thanks, Castle." She swallows with unease, clearing her throat of the lump that's swelled, but keeps her eyes on him.
"Did you tell Will?" He tries not to say the other man's name with venom, but it comes out bitingly anyway.
"Yes," she responds, giving a firm nod while turning back to her computer screen. "He called yesterday to hear the results of the test."
"It's only been about two weeks though. You can find out that quickly?"
She smirks while tucking her hair behind her ear, fights to roll her eyes. "Yeah, exactly two weeks. Plus, I've been taking home tests almost every day since the procedure."
"Eager, huh?" he teases, nodding his head with a smirk.
"Yes," she answers, placing a hand gently on her stomach. "And now that I know she's there, I-" she freezes, her eyes traveling cautiously to his.
"She, huh? You do want a girl. Good to know." Castle sits straighter in his chair. He does his fantastical eyebrow dance for her and grins, watching as her cheeks start to darken.
"Oh shut up. You and Lanie got that in my head."
"Ahh, so Lanie's rooting for a girl too?"
"Ryan and I got money on a boy," Esposito interrupts from across the room. "Come on, look at her. A boy just feels right."
"Yeah, Beckett. A boy seems…fitting. But I'll be happy with whatever, as long as you come back and we get to meet the kid. Can't have 'em all to yourself."
"Right, we're family too."
"Alright, guys. Back to work." Beckett shoos them off to their desks.
"Nope. Not until you promise," Espo demands, his face showing no signs that he's joking.
"Of course I promise." Esposito nods, heads back to his desk with a smile. Beckett watches him retreat until he's far enough away to be out of ear shot.
She glances back at Castle and he holds her gaze, not wanting to let go.
He can see in her eyes how excited she is about this, how the next part of her life is unfolding so quickly. Motherhood is never something he imagined she would be happy about, but seeing her so eager to move forward, he wants to be able to help her over this last hurtle. So if that means filling out a couple of forms, then so be it. What are partners for?
"Here, pass me a file." He's going to help her with this damn paperwork. Because as much as he hates to see her go, he still doesn't want her to burn out shuffling papers when there is still so much to do.
She gasps, jaw dropping in mock surprise, but hands him a file and a pen. "Thanks, Castle."
"Don't get used to it," he laughs.
Two weeks later, she leaves for Minnesota to start a new life for her family. She calls to let everyone know she and her father are settling in okay, but that's all they hear from her for a while. Life hasn't been the same since.
A Few Weeks Later
Castle hates not seeing Beckett every day, hates not knowing how she's doing, if she's taking care of herself the way she should. Alexis misses her; from the way her eyes light up every time the front door opens or she hears a female voice, it becomes too clear to miss. Longing coils a million times around his heart; missing Kate Beckett has him wishing he could call every day, help her out if maybe the hormones are getting her emotions all bunched up. If they are, she could possibly be having second thoughts about the baby as Meredith did during this time of her pregnancy. Maybe, wondering if it's a good idea, and he wishes he could remind her that she's remarkable and extraordinary, and that what's she's doing for her father is honorable. But if she wanted to hear from him, surely she would've called by now?
On top of missing her, Beckett leaving has made him think harder about his own life, his own daughter, and the people in their lives. He thinks Alexis needs someone who is going to be around all the time, at the very least. His mother is there, of course, but Alexis is looking for the kind of connection a child has with their own parent. He wonders if she'd found what she was looking for in Beckett. He thinks he did too. Everything's he's ever wanted was in those gorgeous green eyes. As much as he tries to play both roles, mother and father, eventually Alexis is going to realize what kind of parent Meredith is and it will break her tiny, fragile heart. He hopes that day never comes, futile though that may be.
Deep thoughts aside, today is Alexis' first birthday and he's having too much fun with all the little kids at the party. He snaps a ton of pictures of her with cake all over her face and her bright yellow tutu bunch up in the front, relishing in how cute she looks. Fear shoots up his spine as he contemplates sending them to Beckett. Sharing this moment with her is something he, admittedly, had been looking forward to, hoping it would bring them closer together. But given her silence, he's not sure she wants him to contact her, especially after these few weeks. After hesitating over the send button for a few moments, he finally decides to swallow his irrational fear. What exactly is he afraid of anyway? Pushing the button, he adds a caption that says, "This will be yours soon."
She replies almost instantly.
Can't wait :)
His heart stutters. He wants to say more, so much more, but decides to leave it at that. Today is his daughter's day and he wants to make it as special as he can.
Alexis is adorable. Her bottom teeth show when she smiles and she can eat more solid food now. She's taken to mac and cheese and fudgy brownies with little bites of cookies in them. They had a blast making some this morning before her grandmother left to run some last minute errands. Castle thinks she had more fun playing in the batter rather than eating the finished product, though.
His little girl plays well with the kids, but he quickly gets tired of running around after them. Never ever play horse with small kids; they will never let you stand up again.
It's then that Castle begins to wonder how Beckett is going to juggle a kid, a full time job, and taking care of her father at the same time. He could hire a babysitter for her, maybe even a nurse if Jim gets too sick. Someone who can live with them or even stay in the same building and can treat Jim if Beckett is too tied up. He's already helped with finding a place, why not ask her to let him help some more?
Before he has time to really sink his teeth into a decision, a kid has attached herself to his leg and won't let go until he promises to play pony with her. His saving grace comes when someone knocks on the door. Only, he isn't prepared for who's behind his rescue.
Meredith stands on the other side with a small cake that reads, "Happy Birthday Little Angel," and a smile as wide as the one she had when he caught her sitting on top of her director. In their bed, he should add. On the king size mattress he'd just bought them when they moved into the loft together. They hadn't even had sex in it yet.
He cannot possibly still be bitter about that.
Looking at the redhead now, with her large smile and big blue eyes, he is so still bitter about it.
"What're you doing here?" he asks, dumbfounded.
"Do you really think I would miss our daughter's first birthday? Where is she?"
"Uh, yeah I did. You walked away from her, remember?"
"Why didn't you call me? I would've come sooner if I knew you were throwing a party!" Pushing past him and heading straight for the birthday girl, Meredith's shrill of excitement is louder than every kid combined.
His mother gives him a 'what the hell?' look from across the room, but neither of them say anything when Meredith makes her way to Alexis. Castle decides to let it be while the party is going on, determined not to let his ex-wife ruin the day.
Later on, when the party is over, he wakes at close to midnight and finds Alexis curled up against his side with a Dr. Seuss book bunched up under his neck. He must've fallen asleep reading to her. Meredith is upstairs in the guest room.
Closing the book and tossing it to the other side of his bed, he gently scoops his daughter up in his arms and tucks her into the middle of the mattress. She likes sleeping in his bed more than her own, but he's always nervous about her peeing in it. On more than one occasion, he has had to change his sheets at three am because of her pull-up being over-full. Castle checks it, just to make sure she isn't already wet before pulling the blanket up over her.
Not fun times.
Sliding out of the bed, he retrieves his laptop from his office, and eases back under the blankets without startling Alexis.
He's about halfway through his next Nikki Heat novel, but he's also been doing a lot of research on lawyers and what it takes to become district attorney. Nikki could possibly be in the wrong line of work, or find herself in some trouble for which she'd need some legal help. Hence the new character, the new storyline.
It seems too easy and he doesn't like it. It feels wrong and tastes bitter in his mouth when he says he's slowly writing Nikki out. Or away. Pushing her to the back. Going out of focus.
No. No matter how it's phrased, it's wrong. He has to find a way back to her. Both Nikki and Kate.
Someone raps lightly on his bedroom door, interrupting his train of thought.
Meredith pokes her head inside, her long red hair tied up in a floppy bun on the top of her head. "Hey. Thought you might still be awake."
"I was just about to hit the hay, actually," he lies, closing his laptop as if to prove his point.
"Mind if I sleep in here, you know it gets drafty upstairs." She goes to slide in bed next to Castle, but he stops her before she accidently hurts Alexis.
"You let her sleep in your bed?" she asks, immediately lowering her voice. Combing her fingers through Alexis' hair, his little girl seems more at peace.
"She looks like angel while she sleeps." Meredith observes, completely in awe.
"She is one."
Neither speak for a minute, content just to watch their creation as she lays flat on her belly, and her eyes move from chasing dreams.
"Rick, I'm sorry I-"
"It's okay. You don't have to explain." He sets his laptop on the table next to him. "I know you're a busy woman. And that you're not going to be here for every moment of our daughter's life."
"But I should be. You didn't even call to let me know she was walking."
"Do you want me to be sorry about that? Because you gave up all your rights, Meredith. Legally, I don't have to, and you didn't ask for updates."
"I know, I know." Her lips form a small pucker as she whines. Making her way to him, she reaches out her hands to cup his face. "But I'm here now. This is a milestone. I love our daughter, Rick. And despite what you might think, I love you too." Castle bites back a groan.
"Custody is just a legal term. We both know she is better off with you because I'm not the best of mothers. I know that, but I'm here when it counts."
Sighing, he runs his fingers through his hair, drawing his ex-wife's eyes higher. "Besides," she continued, her hands replacing his. "I thought you'd be happy to see me."
"After you served me with divorce papers?"
"Since this is the longest we've gone without each other since we started dating."
She stares at him pensively, like she's trying to remember every detail of his face. Leaning in slowly, she pecks him once on the lips. Castle closes his eyes and braces his hands on either side of her waist wanting to push her away, but not having the strength to. Kissing him again, she lingers now, moves her mouth gently over his.
"Our daughter is in this bed." With his eyes closed he silently scolds himself for giving in to his ex-wife, but it seems he's still powerless to her charms. She still has a hold on him, and he's not entirely sure how he feels about it.
"I know that, Richard. I wasn't gonna try anything," she chuckles, the sarcasm dripping from each word. "It was just a goodnight kiss."
"Well goodnight," he says, impassive, as she tucks herself into the other side of the bed. She faces Alexis, her hand rubbing soothing circles on the girls back.
He is so screwed.