September 22, 2018

"There is no way I am doing that," Kate insists as she pushes the plate towards Castle. "I love you, babe, but no," she adds.

A smorelet sits in the middle of the kitchen table left untouched. "I bet Lily will eat it," Castle insists.

Beckett gapes at him. "Do not give that to our child," Kate growls as she takes a bite of her plain old egg and cheese omelet.

"Mine!" Lily shouts as she kicks her feet in her high chair. Her face is covered in blueberry from her half-eaten muffin she just tried for the first time this morning.

"You want to try this?" Rick asks her, holding up the abandoned plate.

"Yes," Lily answers with certainty.

Beckett rolls her eyes and shakes her head. "Lily, baby, you don't know what you are getting yourself into here. That is yucky, your muffin is much better," Kate says, trying to sway her.

Lily looks confused as she continues to stare down the plate in Castle's hand. "If she gets sick from your concoction, so help me God, Rick," Kate warns.

Rick doesn't seem to mind her empty threat and cuts off a small piece for Lily. "Here comes the airplane," Castle shouts as he twirls the fork about.

As soon as the food is in Lily's mouth Kate watches her reaction. Lily's face creases as she begins to chew and she looks to Kate for guidance. "Daddy wants you to eat it," Kate tells her daughter.

Lily shakes her head and spits the half-eaten smorelet onto her high chair. "No thanks," she states as she looks at her father.

"Smart girl," Kate congratulates as she picks Lily up from her high chair.

Rick is clearly stung by the realization that his youngest is not a fan of his experimental cooking. "You might want to clean that up, Castle," Kate says as she and Lily walk out of the kitchen.

Castle gathers up a dish cloth and throws it at his wife's back. "You don't always have to be right; you know?" Castle shouts.

Kate doesn't respond but Castle hears a series of giggles as they walk up the stairs.

Later in the day, after Beckett and Castle get back from grocery shopping and settle Lily down for a nap, they lay collapsed on the couch—both as if they could take a nap. "Taking a one-year-old anywhere is exhausting," Kate observes as she draws circles on Rick's bicep through his shirt. She glances up at him sideways and sees the lines around his eyes are more prominent since he's become a parent again. Just as he looks more tired now, the folds of his smile are more noticeable. Beckett knows that Lily is a miracle and he wouldn't trade it for anything—even a few less wrinkles. Seeing how Castle ages reminds her that they will grow old together and it gives her a tingling feeling in her stomach.

"Buck up, Beckett, this is just the beginning," Rick jokes as he leans down to kiss the top of her head.

"You ready for tonight?" she asks him. Castle has a book launch for the rest of his children's books and Gina suggested we make is a family affair now that Castle is expanding his horizons; he's thinking about writing a series on the faults in our justice system, more children's books, and of course more Nikki Heat novels. Tonight, Lily was going to make her first public appearance beside her parents while her father introduces a line of children's mystery books.

"I actually am. It'll be nice to have Lily there. I feel as if it sets the stage for a new beginning," Castle whispers.

"A new Richard Castle—the title of your memoir should be More Than Just a Mystery Novelist," Beckett jokes.

Rick chuckles lightly. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you," he tells her honestly.

Beckett doesn't respond but plants a kiss on his cheek. "I love you," he utters.

"I love you too," Kate responds before she closes her eyes and allows sleep to take her.

By the time they both wake up from their impromptu nap, they're already running late. Kate looks around blurry eyed and sees that Castle is reaching for his watch on the coffee table. "Da-da!" Lily is yelling from her nursery.

"Of course she calls for you," Kate scoffs, clearly a little stung. Lily is a daddy's girl—through and through. Beyond the superficial hurt, it really does warm Kate's heart to see Castle be a parent again; he's kind and patient and everything a father should be.

"I'll start getting her ready, we'll have to tag team this," Castle says as he bounces up off the couch with an audible grunt—sometimes, he's winded when he first wakes up. Clearly a perk of being shot in the lung.

Beckett wanders back into the master to find something to wear and settles on a bright red dress with a slit down the leg. Beckett throws off her NYPD t-shirt and inspects herself in the mirror. Since Lily was born, her body has changed—some days Kate feels as though her body has been through a war.

Beckett inspects her first scar, her first gunshot wound between her breasts, which looks like nothing more than a rounded scar now. Her fingers move lower to the slightly larger scar on her side which is where they cut her open to get her heart pumping again. Lower, she has a several inch scar across her side which is where she was shot and operated on the second time.

Besides her scars she inspects the way her hips are just the tiniest bit wider than they were before and how her breasts are slightly larger. All of which were left behind from bearing Lily. Kate feels a warmth in her stomach at the thought of her daughter and the chilly reminder of how close she came to losing her when she was shot.

Beckett's thoughts are pushed aside when she spots Rick in the mirror smiling at her figure. "Where's Lily?" Beckett asks.

Castle ignores the question at first and folds his arms around his wife's bare stomach—tracing his fingers over her scars. "She's in her playpen, all ready for her evening," Castle hums.

Beckett smiles to her husband in the mirror. "Are you admiring yourself? Because let me tell you, your really should. You should be worshipped," Castle whispers to Beckett, his warm whisper giving Beckett involuntary goosebumps which makes Castle laugh. He loves the affect he has on her.

"I just…look different now," Kate mumbles.

Castle sighs and puts his hands on Kate's shoulders, forcing her to look directly in the mirror again. "When I first saw you that night at my book launch, my initial thoughts were not anything a gentleman should be particularly proud of, but let me tell you Kate Houghton Beckett Castle, after I started working with you, there was nothing that could make you any less gorgeous, any less addicting, any less intelligent, or any less extraordinary. All these scars are a story, and the story always reminds me that you lived—that you are still mine to love," Castle tells Kate, his eyes filled with sincerity. He always finds the perfect words.

"So even if I am fat and look like Frankenstein…" Kate starts.

"I'll still think you're sexy as hell, Katherine," Castle interrupts as he turns her around and takes her into his arms. "Where is all this coming from?" he wonders aloud.

Beckett normally doesn't have moments of self-consciousness. Most of the time she is all too aware of the effect she has on her husband, but there are times where she looks at herself and wonders how a body could survive all that much. "Moment of weakness, I guess," Kate responds, putting a hand on top of Castle's.

Rick turns Kate around to look at him and then he kisses her square on the lips. "I love you," he whispers as he plants kisses down Kate's neck growling a bit, which makes Kate laugh.

"I love you too, now no funny business—," Kate starts.

"Yet…no funny business yet," Rick interrupts.

Beckett throws her head back and laughs. "Get out of here, I have to get dressed," she demands.

"I could help you change," Castle insists.

"Alexis and your mother will be here any minute," Kate reminds him. Castle grunts and gives Kate a kiss on the cheek in response before leaving.

By the time they arrive at the launch, they are only about fifteen minutes late due to Martha insisting that her hair needed to be re-curled. Lily is on her father's lap looking at the crowd, she sucks her thumb and puts her head on her father's shoulder. Together, they sit at a table in the front with Martha, Alexis, and Kate. "Now you're going to be shy?" Castle asks Lily who hides from the crowd while Gina greets everyone from the stage.

Lily is dressed in a gold ballerina style dress with a small bow in the back. Her shoes lace up and her hair is done accordingly. The outfit was put together by none other than Lily's grandmother.

"We would now like to present Mr. Richard Castle and his two daughters, his so called guests of honor—Alexis and Lily Castle," announces Gina at the podium with that great fake smile of hers.

Castle hears a clap arise from around the room and Kate meets his eyes, giving him a stunning smile. Castle carries Lily on his hip and Alexis follows them both towards the stage, where she gracefully stands beside her father and sister.

"First of all, I want to thank you all for your support. Mystery writing will always be a love of mine—even if it comes in a form of children's stories which were inspired by my two greatest loves—Lily and Alexis. As I raised Alexis, I got my first glimpse into a child's wondrous spirit and building personality. It was then I drafted a line of children's stories which I decided against publishing because of the rising popularity of Derrick Storm. As years past, I eventually met my wife and my inspiration Katherine Beckett which led to the birth of Nikki Heat. I poured my creativity and drive into Nikki, who carried all the passion and dedication that my muse, my love, my wife carries. But almost two years ago Kate and I were fortunate enough to welcome Lily into the world and my eyes were opened again. I dug out some old story boards and started writing with all the creativity and exploration I wanted Lily to someday ready and enjoy. Writing these children's books, and finally finishing this line of stories has truly been a labor of love for my children. Everything I am, everything I do, I do it for these two beautiful ladies right here. Thank you so much for joining me tonight, cheers," says Castle, his voice brimming with pride.

Kate can't help but feel amazed that he is truly her husband as she stands up in ovation. Rick meets her eyes and together they share a look of knowing. This is their life, and the path to heaven does indeed run through miles of clouded hell.