Kate dusts her fingers along the soft skin of Lily's forehead, brushing back the dark tuft of baby fine hairs, soothing the brief bout of fussiness. Her lips twitch as Lily's smack together, her eyes falling closed while Kate slowly rocks the edge of her daughter's carrier with her hand, lulls her back to sleep.
"Sorry," she murmurs, shooting Doctor Burke an apologetic glance for the interruption, but he shakes his head in dismissal.
Rick had a meeting today with Black Pawn, same time as her first appointment with Burke since she had had her daughter, and even though her husband had insisted he be the one to cancel, she had refused to allow it. It's the first time he's focused on his writing since welcoming Lily into the world, far too preoccupied with being a parent, a doting husband, to settle in with a laptop and write. Watching the interest come alive in his eyes like ripples in the blue pools of his irises had sparked a smile to her lips, a somewhat rare thing these days, and she had practically shoved him out the door this morning so he wouldn't miss the meeting for her.
She had called Burke to cancel the day before, when she and Castle had realized their conflicting schedules, but her therapist had assured her that bringing her newborn along to her session wouldn't be a problem and to her surprise, it hadn't been. Lily was only a few weeks old, nothing more than a tiny bundle of pale pink fabric and dark hair swallowed by the plush interior of the travel carrier Rick had splurged on mere months into her pregnancy, but the girl had been relaxed throughout the trip to Burke's office, cooing when her doctor had greeted the baby with a gentle smile and soft voice, sleeping otherwise.
"Will she need a bottle soon?" Burke inquires, his kind eyes drifting to the dozing baby, and Kate nods, pats the bag by her feet stuffed with supplies – diapers and bottles and blankets, toys and backup outfits Castle always folded into the side pockets in case of 'emergencies'.
"In about an hour," Kate answers, trailing her index finger along Lily's onesie covered foot before she straightens in her seat, folds her hands over her lap and tries to locate the peace her daughter has found in a place where she's spilled her heart out more than once, let it bleed all over the polished hardwood floors of Carter Burke's office. "I fed her before we came."
"That's good. Now, what's going on, Kate? You sounded a bit distressed over the phone," Burke comments, diving right in, just like always. "And you mentioned concerns over postpartum?"
Kate swallows her nerves and nods. It isn't talking to Burke that has her on edge, it's the potential outcome, the possible diagnosis, that has anxiety sloshing through her guts. She could handle postpartum, many women did and emerged from the battle with depression just fine; she just hoped she didn't have to. She bites the inside of her cheek when she shifts in her seat, causing one of her many scars to tug uncomfortably.
She was just so very tired of fighting.
"It's the first thing that came to mind," she sighs, propping her elbow atop the cushioned arm of the chair, slipping her fingers through her hair to rest her temple to her palm. "I researched the symptoms and I don't meet many of the markers, but I know everyone's different, and I just – ever since I had Lily, it's been amazing. She's amazing, and Castle's been wonderful, but lately it's felt like my emotions are all over the place, like I have less control of them, like… like I'm missing something."
Burke steeples his fingers beneath his chin, knowledge already shining in his eyes.
"Your mother." Beckett purses her lips and diverts her gaze to the sleeping little girl at her feet. "You know, it will always be okay to miss her, Kate, and it's okay to feel sorrow despite all the joy Lily's brought into your life."
She had sworn she would keep it together for this session, no more tears, but she finds herself swiping beneath her eyes nonetheless, catching them as they fall.
"I just can't stop thinking about everything she's missed, all the times I would have given anything for her to be here," she confesses, a truth she's been denying lately, blinking away the sting of moisture to no avail. "She never got to meet Castle, never got to see my accomplishments, or be there for my wedding, my daughter. And I know I'll never not miss my mother, but I - sometimes I wish it would just stop hurting so much," Kate whispers, returning her gaze to her baby, unable to let it stray for long anyway, and feeling her heart swell at the flutter of Lily's lashes, hints of amber visible through the slits of her opening eyes. "I need to be okay for her. I want to be the mother she deserves. I want to be there for her every second, every step and word, every good day and bad, everything from now until she's my age, even longer."
Lily's little fingers unfurl, clench into fists that she draws to her face, her lips twisting as she manages a yawn, and Kate chuckles, bends forward to unfasten her daughter from the carrier.
"Knew I was talking about you, huh?" Kate hums, easing Lily up into her arms, sitting back in the leather chair with her little girl cuddling against her chest.
"Do you want my professional opinion?" Burke inquires, the corner of his mouth curled into a smile, his eyes tender as he watches from across his desk.
Kate rubs her hand up and down Lily's back, finding comfort in the reassuring rise and fall of her daughter's lungs expanding beneath her palm, allowing Lily to claim her index finger when she taps her tiny fist against Kate's chest.
"I think it's safe to say you aren't suffering from postpartum," Burke informs her and the tight knot in her chest unleashes, frees her lungs of their restraints, and allows her to breathe deeply for the first time all day. "It's natural to be overwhelmed, especially when this is your first child, but that sadness you've been feeling? It stems from a place of mourning, one you know well, and it's completely normal for the grief associated with your mother to flare up during times like these, milestones in your life that she should be a part of. But you know what else?"
Kate quirks her brow, rocking back and forth in the chair to retain her composure, bracing her heart for what Burke has left to say.
"Every time you look at that little girl, every time you mention her or Castle, your entire face lights up," Burke notes, his own smile growing as she feels hers spark to life once more. "I've honestly never seen you look happier."
Kate's smile blooms wider and she doesn't try to stop it, relishing in the cascade of relief, the happiness Burke spoke of bleeding through her chest beneath the weight of her daughter.
"You said you want to be there for her and you will," he continues with confidence, feeding the seeds of encouragement Castle has been planting within her every day, promising her that she was doing fine, better than fine. You're a natural at this, Kate. Our baby is so lucky. "You're doing a good job, Kate. You're being exactly what she deserves, don't doubt that."
"Thank you," Kate murmurs, hoping Burke can read the depths of her gratitude as well as he can decipher every other emotion she's ever allowed him to unearth.
"My pleasure, I'm glad you came in," he returns, rising when she does, gaining Lily's attention as he steps up beside Kate, offers a finger that Lily reaches for, latches onto with her entire hand.
"Castle's to thank for that," Kate grins, watching Lily study the grasp of her fingers around Burke's like a conundrum, her brown eyes wide with wonder.
"Feel free to bring him along if you ever decide to come back and do tell him I said hello, and congratulations. You two have quite the adorable little girl here," Burke states, easing his hand from Lily's. "I'll let you to go now, though. Unless you had more to say, of course."
"No, thank you," Kate sighs, swaying with Lily on the spot before slowly descending to her haunches to tuck her daughter back into her carrier, strapping her in and hefting the baby bag onto her shoulder. "I'm good, even better, actually."
Burke offers his hand to help her to her feet and drifts towards the office doorway once she's standing, holds it open for her. "Then I hope you both have a great rest of the afternoon."
"You too," she returns, easing Lily through the entryway, and walking out into the hall with a final nod of gratitude towards her therapist before she steps into the elevator, humming softly to ensure the baby that she was still there even though she was temporarily out of sight.
She checks once more that Lily is safely strapped in and comfortable in her carrier as they descend, just before the elevator doors slide open, and she strides through the front office to exit the building. She had taken the car service from the loft and Andrews should still be right outside.
"You were such a good girl, Lily," Kate murmurs aloud as they step outside into the cool spring air, aware that Lily has far more interest in the newfound fascination of her fingers than her mother's praise, but Castle was right – she had fallen into the habit of one sided conversations with their daughter that she didn't see stopping any time soon. "Pretty sure Dr. Burke adores you."
Kate's eyes fly upwards to find Castle leaning against the wall of the building, a gentle half smile on his lips and a bouquet of flowers in his hands, waiting on her.
"Hey," she breathes, her chest clenching in the best way at the sight of him, expanding when her husband steps forward to present her with the flowers. Lilies, of course. "What're you doing here?"
Castle relieves her of the baby bag, trades off with her as she accepts the beautiful bouquet of multicolored lilies, and dusts a kiss to her lips that has her heart skipping.
"The meeting ended early, so I hoped I would make it here in time to take my girls out to lunch," he quips, his eyes bright in the afternoon sunlight peaking through the clouds overhead, flickering between her and their daughter with shimmering joy. "If you want to, that is, if not we can just go back home to-"
He's still close enough that all she has to do is drift forward, tilt her chin up to touch her mouth to his in a fleeting kiss on the sidewalk, Lily balanced between them, and Castle sighs out content and lovely against the tender press of her mouth.
"I'd love that, Castle."