Seven Year Itch.

A post finale one-shot.

Written based on what I know from fan fiction and social media. Still got 4 episodes of S8 to watch as I would not commit until I knew that they had a shot at the ending the characters and fans deserve.

She's been, hmm, what's the word. Antsy is good. Not one of his usual words, he's normally more verbose even with the kids, but it is an apt word, short and sharp. She's been antsy for weeks. Even if he hasn't seen or had to worry for years he remembers the signs. She's hiding something, or at least trying.

He didn't notice at first, not until recently. Then he put it all together. And he feels guilty about that. His inattention. Taking things for granted. But seven years will do that do you. Make you let your guard down. Stop waiting for the inevitable. After all no one had tried to kill them for that length of time. Most definitely a record.

So he asks her. Confront would be too extreme, but it is a direct question, because even after all the missteps and near misses, apparently subtext is still their thing mainly. Admittedly most of the time it is fine because of the shared-brain thing that leaves those who don't know them gawping and the kids giggling. Not this time.

He catches her by surprise. And just like bad habits of years gone by, she deflects and bites back to avoid the emotional turmoil and self-doubt. It's not him, it's her. But she can't tell him that. Yet. Because she doesn't know enough.

"There's something wrong isn't there?"

"No of course not!"

"Come on! Don't lie to me Beckett."

He's not called her that in years. Except perhaps in bed on occasion. It sets her on edge in the wrong way this time.

She exercise her diplomatic skills and evades the question. Then she leaves, now that is outright evasion. Oh Hell, she should just admit it. She ran away. He doesn't follow. He knows she will come back.

But she can't but help admit it. He's right. There's something missing.

She just doesn't know what. It has been bugging her months. She thought she had a handle on it but apparently not.

Lanie provides the sounding board just like she had over the years and especially seven and six years ago.

It had taken the ME's dispassionate review of the medical evidence to help her reconcile the stark facts. Medically unfit to resume service, even behind a desk. So she had taken the honorable discharge and retired from the NYPD.

Even with Rick she had been lost for six months, not inconsolable, just directionless. Sure it had been more than fun for a few months living in Paris and travelling Europe. But even Rick had got bored and they missed their family and friends so they had come back. Plus he still had a job. Nikki Heat was not yet done.

New York was not much better until something changed. It had taken a miracle to shake them out of it. She got pregnant. Apparently that night on the beach in the south of France before they flew home. Which resulted in another round of consultant with Lanie as well as specialists. Rick was informed in no uncertain terms that their child would not be called 'Sandy'.

So here they are now. All happy families. Except that she's not.

Unloading on Lanie helps momentarily but it does not resolve anything. Only leaves her with more questions.

She still catches up with Esposito from time to time. He's the last one still serving. He's happy topped out as a Detective First Class. No longer homicide, he's a general duties floater, dabbles a bit in everything. He trains rookies a lot. She still cannot believe that. But he's good at it. Patient, supportive, a maybe a little bit tough. She sees some of Royce in him. Gruff and sour but tough enough to ensure his charges make it.

They catch up for a beer and he tells her some stories. And she misses it sometimes, especially for a little while after each meet up. The cases, the drive, the quest for justice, the camaraderie, the sense of purpose.

But she had to give that up. There had been more than enough compensations though. Family first and foremost. Then there was the whole millionaire thing. The good life was nice. It was not as if they needed her pension but she had earned it and felt no compunction to not take it.

And the truth is that most of the time she doesn't miss it. Her life is complete.

Her family.

Lily, Jake and Reece. All of them miracles for different reasons. They had feared she was infertile after her last shooting. Then with her first that her heart had not given out. The decision to try again several years later had been tough especially when they learnt they were having twins. They declined all recommendations to abort one to increase the chances of survival for herself and the child. And it had been draining. The last four months were virtually imprisonment of enforced bed rest topped off by an elective cesarean to deliver the two boys six weeks early.

And of course Rick. She rarely thought of him as Castle these days. And if she uttered the name, he knew he was in trouble, or in bed, or at least naked or mostly naked somewhere.

He had wrapped Nikki Heat's tale up with a seventh book. He had drafts and an outline for an eighth but they had hated it. To this day he refuses to even given Black Pawn sight of it so adamant was he that it was betrayal of his readers and the fans. So he gave them the honorable ending they so desired with an open future full of hope for Nikki and Rook that wrapped up the major plot lines and gave them their happy ever after in glorious detail and emotion not just an afterthought.

They're at Martha's grave.

She's still surprised at how much she misses his mother in the year since. The sudden stroke barely gave them time to say goodbye but they managed it, all crowded around the hospital bed and both Rick and Alexis holding her hands and feeling one last squeeze before the monitors confirmed what their hearts already knew.

But of them, it was Alexis who was most affected by Martha's sudden death. The young woman still cannot face the gravestone without immediate tears. It takes a little more time for Rick and herself but their tears come too.

She and Rick we able to reconcile her loss with the almost five years Lily had with Grammy, and the more than two for the boys. The kids all missed her but they still had 'Lex and Granpa Jim. That's where they are today and for the weekend. With her dad and big sister at the cabin enjoying the wilderness.

Alexis had moved back home for a month after Martha's death, sleeping in Grammy's room as Lily called it, before she felt it was time to head out again. She has a good job as a security consultant working with companies on all manner of threat assessment. But despite the profession it was a safe job doing risk assessment from behind a desk, and corporate briefings. It is just not what Rick had envisaged for his first born. She had seemed destined for so much more. There is still time.

After Kate's and his retirement from the NYPD, Alexis had kept the PI business running for 2 years with Haley as her partner and lead investigator until Haley disappeared without a trace never to be heard from again. There was a temptation search for answers but all of them knew firsthand how painful that was even for family, and Haley never was. So they let her go. Then Alexis' first solo case involved a violent husband who put both the wife and her in hospital. It was her last case. Brains did not always outdo brawn and without the multi-skilled former MI6 agent Alexis no longer had the necessary backup.

Their date night was subdued. Visiting Martha was cathartic but simultaneously distressing. But they still went ahead with their infrequent ritual. After all it was not often they were left to themselves especially with the loft empty. A quiet table in a small restaurant with no stars but a cook with sixty years of magic, a bottle of red and their own company.

"I wish she was happy." And they are back on Alexis.

"She is. But not as happy as she could be admittedly. But I have faith and you should too. She'll find her way Babe."

"I don't doubt it. Look Kate it took me until almost forty to find who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. And several more years to actually achieve it."

"But at what cost?"

"Nothing I would not pay again." He parses his thoughts and resumes their conversation track, "but not that I want Alexis to face those challenges. She should be able to make her way in life without the scars we bear."

When they get home they take full advantage of their empty home. Sometime later she concedes that she is no longer as fit as she once was and resolves to do some running and training. But not right now. She has her naked space heater to snuggle with. With young, mobile kids the option of being naked in bed was no longer as appealing.

She's no closer to resolving things a few weeks later they visit the Ryan's. It is always good to visit this self-contained happy family. She is still surprised she has one of her own complete with three kids to compete with the Ryans' brood.

Four years ago Kevin took three stab wounds on a case and after nearly bleeding out, took retirement when it was offered. No longer willing to risk it all for the job. Twelve months in college and some serious application and he is a school teacher now. He teaches drama at a High School here in New Jersey. Something for which he still catches shit from Espo. Money is still tight for the Ryans, and yet their family is happy and there is no small pride in rejecting offers of help from equally committed friends. Rick has given up offering but it doesn't mean that there are not trust funds for the Ryan children's college educations.

Ryan may be retired but he is still that deceptively resolute and smart man. She still remembers the timbre of Jenny's voice as she recounted how some young punks thought they would intimidate the new drama teacher. To this day, Ryan's channeling of an Irish mobster, reverberates through his school district. No one messes with Mister Ryan or his students. He is also a good sounding board for her. Dispassionate, logical, a little bit whimsical but not to her husband's level. So she seeks him out while her husband is buried under six children with Jenny supervising so no one – likely Rick - gets hurt.

It is unintentional. But if she had to blame anyone it could be Ryan for putting the gem of the idea in her head. She should thank him really.

Change is constant, and here in New Jersey the Ryan family are having issues as the local building regulations are being relaxed and small condominiums being built in what was an area of free standing houses. The whole neighborhood is changing. The local councilman is unwilling to challenge or represent his constituents. That seeming abrogation of duty and responsibility more than irks her. Kevin is too busy to do anything except voice his protest. But it occurs to her that she isn't. She has the time. Does she have the inclination?

The seed planted she seeks advice.

She asks her Dad.

He's quiet for quite some time. "It could work. But it puts you in the public eye. Somewhere you and Rick have worked hard not to be with the kids."

"I know. But I want to do more. Be more. I've been a bit lost. I think now that this is something I could do. Something I could be good at."

"I know you would put your heart and soul into it Katie. But can you do it and balance your life?"

"I'd start small. City Councilman. Not state senate. That can wait. I'll find my feet and prove myself. And if it is too detrimental then I'll only serve one term." They both know that quitting is not in her character.

"So what does Rick think?"

Her face says it all. Her dad's lecture surprises her. It is a long time coming. Being a grandad means that there is more than the adults in his daughter's relationship at stake. But she knows what she needs to do.

There is no symbolism, no familiar place, just the two of them on the sofa after the kids have gone to bed.

Rick is surprised and relieved.

"That's all?!"

She hits him. Not gently. He huffs as the air whooshes out of him. Clown!

She glares at him. Nearly half a year of feeling increasingly unsettled and off-balance, culminating with weeks of agonising and that is all he says.

Oh he's laughing at her. It may be relief. He was probably worried. Definitely relief.

"God we're still awful at this."

"True. But if this is what you want to do then I support you one hundred percent. Always Kate."

She is having second thoughts all the way through to the moment she registers. She presses send the electronic submission is on its way.

"So we're really doing this?"

"I have to say that I hate that what Doyle said could be coming true."

"You are such a skeptic Scully. You need the evidence."

"Why Mulder whatever lead you to that conclusion?"

"I'd rather you lead me to bed."

"Yeah well that got us that lot." She wafts her hand at the linen cupboard's worth of sheets that occupy the living room. Somewhere under there are their three munchkins enjoying a family tradition and soon they will be required to crawl back in and join them.

The campaign office is small. They do not flaunt their wealth or prior fame. They build a grass-roots team and go from there. There is a little bit of extra press attention but the reporters and those that seek to volunteer for ulterior motives are soon disappointed.

Candidate Kate as she is known is very serious. So is her mildly famous husband when he is not playing with their photogenic kids. Of course she is striking and can charm almost anyone, especially if she smiles.

More importantly she is no joke candidate. New York has had enough of those. She knows her facts, assiduously researches the issues, and speaks with honesty and respect. She wins discussions with the force of her logic and information. She amends her positions on the basis of information and persuasion not on a whim for a poll or the press.

But she is running behind in the polls. Her opponent is good, experienced as well. She is too composed, too logical, and nice but seemingly not emotionally committed.

Then the debate happens. The words are meant to break her but they only provoke. She lets them wash over her before her answer to them hums with near indignation and fire. She will not be taken for granted, pigeon-holed or dismissed. She dismantles her opponent and his campaign as precisely as a suspect in the box. She still has it.

Perhaps the only person surprised when she wins is herself.

She's not a State Senator. At least not yet. She is a Councillor for their ward but already the press are talking of a seat in Albany and maybe higher things. But they have their plan. City Councillor until the kids are older, and then see where it takes them.

It is the start of another great adventure. But one she is doing with her husband and her children by her side.

That night she comes to bed to find her husband frantically typing for the first time in years. She bites her lip in anticipation. She has inspired him again. She didn't realise just how much she missed confirmation of that.

It is time to reward him, so she steps back into the walk-in-robe and then minutes later the bathroom.

He catches her grand entrance. His jaw drops a little and his eyes darken a lot. He stops typing. Holds a hand up to signal a moment to ensure his document is saved, and then the laptop is gone and he's out of the bed and on her in moments.

No seven year itch in their story.

Author's note - Update for a couple of minor corrections.

Thank you to all the reviewers