another kind of memory
A/N: Trigger warning for death, notably death of an infant. I tried to handle the subject matter with sensitivity but if I've crossed any lines please let me know. Title is taken as a part of a quote by M. L. Stedman. This is my humble contribution for Castle Fanfic Monday.
She keeps his clothes. She keeps them in the closet, each item hanging like tiny men on gallows. On days where she misses him the most, the days where each second without having him in her arms feels like an eon, she runs her fingers along every outfit, tracing the lines of the fabrics and letting her tears fall on the sleeves.
Logically, she knows she should get rid of his things. They do no good here, taking up space, and surely a Goodwill would love to have them to give to someone in need. Martha's told her how macabre the whole thing is, how she needs to symbolically let him go by giving away his possessions.
But she had already done that, already let him go, the moment she handed his small cold body to the nurse.
Her husband barely speaks to her. Around each other they are two ghosts, aimlessly wandering about for the life they once shared. She's asked him about seeing a counselor, about trying to work through the insurmountable grief together, but did not have the strength to argue when he refused without a word. Most nights he never comes to their bed, preferring to sit in silence with five fingers of scotch that take the place of his son wrapping five fingers around one of his. Before this happened, she would have thought she would be the one to lose herself behind walls and in the bottle.
Before this happened, she would have thought 'this' could never happen.
When she's alone and it's dark and she should be hushing a little boy's cries, she writes. Before, when they'd had all the hope in the world for him, she had begun to journal. Now, she writes because it's all the words that stick in her throat any time she tries to speak. Love Mommy, she signs, even though she never got a chance to mother her sweet son.
We found out today we're going to have you, baby.
You're growing so fast that it makes Mommy hungry all the time, but you're so worth it.
When you're bigger, you're going to have to tell me all the stories Daddy whispers to you when I'm asleep.
You're a boy.
I think we're going to name you James Alexander.
We're so close to meeting you.
They let me hold you for ten minutes.
Your coffin should have been much bigger.
Today was the first time I visited you and Daddy didn't want to come.
Baby, please come back.
It starts to become therapeutic, healing. It won't ever take the sting of losing him away, won't ever fill the permanent void in her heart, but it helps. It helps her learn to breathe again, to feel again, to cry without abandon and even to smile at the good. With each word, the wounds begin to scar. The scars won't fade, she knows this, but they'll remain as a reminder of all they could have had and all they still have a chance to have, if only they don't give up on each other.
She prays Castle will start to scar too.
"I think I need to get away for a little while," her husband informs her at breakfast one morning. "Get some space from this place, from everything." From you. He doesn't say it, but she suspects it's what he means.
"Where will you be going?" she asks, without lifting her eyes from the coffee she made herself this morning. The coffee she's made herself every day since they lost him. It's especially bitter.
"The Hamptons, maybe. Or I might just drive for a while, see where I end up." There's nothing in his tone. No sadness. No anger. No fear. Just hollow words from a broken man.
"So you're running away from all this?" Her words have more bite than she intended, but she doesn't have it in her to take them back, and she's not altogether sure she wants to. He vowed for the time of our lives. And it breaks her heart that she's slowly managing to find a semblance of peace with what has happened, but so far he seems to stubbornly refuse it.
"I'm not running, Kate," he snaps. "I said I needed space. I'm grieving. As you may have noticed, you lost our son a month ago." At that, she whirls around.
"This is not my fault, Castle. How dare you suggest I did something to harm James? I'm grieving him JUST AS MUCH AS YOU ARE. He's MY SON. I carried him thirty-eight weeks in my body, felt him move inside of me. And then the nurse handed him to me and said he didn't make it. So don't you DARE act like I'm not in pain or try to put the blame on me. Because despite what you think, despite how far I've come in trying to accept all this, I still blame myself enough for the both of us." Tears course down her cheeks and she wipes them off with shaking digits.
It's the most they've said to each other since the day they put their tiny boy in the ground.
"Kate, I'm sorry," he murmurs, all anger disappearing as he comes to stand beside her and places a steadying hand at the small of her back. "I shouldn't have said that…I didn't mean it. I know it's not your fault. Believe me, I know."
"I know, Rick. We aren't ourselves right now." She sighs deeply, her whole body trembling as she exhales. His thumb begins to rub tiny circles into her skin, soothing her.
"We aren't," he agrees. "I just don't know how to get back to it. To me. To us." She watches a solitary tear escape his eye. "And I know I haven't been there for you, I know I haven't. I just don't know how to be. That's a big part of why I said I needed space."
"We won't get back to ourselves, Castle. Not ever. We can move forward, but we will never be the same." That's one thing she's learned from this, learned from the nights spent journaling and reflecting and touching his clothes, just missing him.
"But…..but I want to be happy with you again. I still want to build a life with you. Despite the way I've been acting. Please know that."
"I do." And she does. She's always known he loves her, even through the weeks of silence and haunted stares and waking to a cold side of the bed.
"Then how do we move forward? And how do we do that without forgetting him? Without forgetting James, and the joy he gave us, even though we never met him?"
She reaches out and captures one of his hands in hers. For the first time in a month he isn't pulling away.
"I don't know. I don't. But I know this: we have to try together."
"Together," he whispers, trying the word out on his tongue. "I can try to do that."
That night, he writes to James for the first time. Love Daddy, he signs, his grief staining the page. But she holds his hand through it.
That week, he visits James for the first time. I miss you, he sobs, his cries not heard by the one he calls to. But she holds his hand through it.
That month, they give his clothes to Goodwill. Goodbye, he whispers, though the boxes have no answer. But she holds his hand through it.
He joins her in their bed that night. Their scars match.