Everyone's dressed and waiting for her in the living room by the time she gets ready and collects herself enough to emerge. Lily's wearing an adorable teal sundress with a light cardigan and Jake and Reece are in, respectively, navy blue and hunter green shorts with matching striped shirts. They're all precious, and she can feel the slight smile creeping onto her face.
"Hey," Castle says as he makes his way to her. "You good?"
She scoffs. "Don't really have a choice," she mumbles, then shakes her head. "I'm fine. Let's just..."
He gets it. Thankfully, he gets it, understands what she's trying to say without making her say it. This is Castle; he somehow always knows her tells, knows when she's out of her element and how she reacts. Probably even more than she's aware of now, here, in this future where they're apparently married. So he gets it, just squeezes her forearm before turning and animatedly speaking to the kids.
"Okay, Castle clan," he booms, clapping his hands together. "Off we go!"
"But daddy," Lily calls out as they head to the door, "you haven't told us where we're going!"
He swivels around and bops her nose. "Be prepared to get your hands dirty."
Hands dirty? What exactly is he planning?
"Mommy?" The girl turns to her mother, her, with the same question. Be her mother. She can do this. Not that she necessarily has many options, unless she wants to run out and traumatize these poor children.
So she just smiles with a small shake of her head.
"Sorry, Lil, I don't know where we're going either."
The trip to what turns out to be some kind of pottery place is a process with the three kids. Lily is calm and well-behaved, but the twins want to race everywhere and they climb on everything, including their parents, and the rambunctious three year olds require their non-stop attention.
How does Castle do this? Hell, how does she do this? She's only ever imagined one kid, if any at all, in her future, but standing here with three, twins nonetheless, it's mind blowing.
She gives her future self, and this future Castle, props.
They manage to get everyone seated around a round table in the corner of the shop, and everybody's allowed to pick out one piece of pottery they want to paint. The boys both pick plates, Lily decides on a bowl, Castle an oddly shaped vase, and she chooses a coffee mug for herself.
"Typical," he laughs, and she quirks a brow. "Coffee mug."
"Are you judging my coffee mug?"
"Judging? Me? No, never." She can't twist his nose with the children sitting beside her, so she settles for kicking at his shins under the table. "Ouch! Jeez, Beckett, that's not very nice!"
"Neither is your mocking."
Castle lets out a chuckle, bowing his head in acceptance. "Fine, fine. I apologize for mocking your choice of pottery."
She shoots him a satisfied look and turns her attention to the offending mug. Sure, she can paint, somewhat, but she's nowhere near an artist, and now she needs to figure out what to do. Looking over, her face breaks into a smile as she watches the twins smear their plates with squiggles and blobs, their tongues peeking out in concentration.
And hey, at least most of the paint is actually on the pottery.
"What're you making over there?" Castle asks Lily, who immediately covers her bowl with her hand in response.
He holds up a hand in surrender. "Sorry, sorry," he says, leaning over in an attempt to sneak a peek anyway. The girl swats at his shoulder to push him away. "Fine, I'll be patient."
"As if," Beckett mutters, giving an innocent shrug at the mock look of offense she receives. "Please, it's not like that's changed."
"I cannot confirm nor deny that hypothesis."
"Uh huh. Just paint your bong, honey."
His mouth drops open. "It is a vase, thank you. An... oddly shaped vase, yes, but a vase nonetheless."
"Mommy, what's a bong?"
Her eyes widen, but Castle's no help, just sits and stews in his amusement. "Yeah, mommy, what's a bong?" he teases, and oh, how she wants to smack that smirk right off his face.
"It's... a tall vase, Lil, don't you worry about it." Lily nods, satisfied, and Beckett's eyes narrow in his direction. "Thanks for the help, pal."
Castle gives her an innocent, puppy dog look and she shakes her head, stifles her chuckle as she goes back to work on her own piece of ceramic. She's decided on simple, something she can do. The background is a light blue, and she's painted varying floral patters around the mug. Some sunflowers, some lilies, tulips, and daisies. It's bright and vibrant, something she thinks more coffee mugs should be. They're always so dark, black, navy, or a plain white.
Some color will do it good.
"Mama, look!" Jake says, propped up on his knees as he leans across the table.
His plate is a lot of reds and blues, slashes here and some swirls there, a mixture of the colors in an abstract piece only capable by a three year old.
She smiles at him, holding the plate in front of her. "It's beautiful, sweetheart," she says, leaning over to ruffle his hair. "Good job."
Reece chimes in then, almost falling off the chair next to her as he tries to shove his into her view. "Mine too, mine too!"
She steadies him with a hand on his shoulder, makes sure he doesn't topple over with his excitement, and she doesn't miss the pang of panic that jolts through her at the mere possibility of him falling off. She shakes it off, pushes it back, and offers him a smile similar to the one she gave his brother.
"Careful there, buddy," she says first, rubbing at his back before turning her attention to his pottery piece. Like Jake's, it's a mixture of a bunch of colors, but it's clear he's tried to make some shapes. A tree, what she assumes to be the sun, and then a bunch of lines and squiggles around them. "It's so pretty, Reece."
"For you, Mama."
Her heart clenches at his smile, nothing but pure toddler love. "Thank you," she breathes, bending to kiss the top of his head. "I love it."
She catches Castle's look of unbridled joy out of the corner of her eye and dips her head, lets her hair fall into her face.
By the time they all finish their paintings, Castle's bong-like vase has turned into a panorama right out of The X Files. A dark sky background, a slightly lopsided spaceship in the center with two aliens beside it, who, if the red hair on one of them is any indication, are supposed to be Scully and Mulder. Horizontal along the neck of the vase is the phrase "the truth is out there" and she can't even say she's surprised.
It's so him. She's oddly happy to know that hasn't changed in all these years.
"Nice," she laughs, rolling her eyes. "I really should start calling you Mulder now."
"So does that make you Scully? Because I've got some ideas—"
"Don't push it."
He opens his mouth but she cuts off whatever far fetched and likely inappropriate explanation he has, turning her attention to Lily instead. "And what masterpiece did you come up with, Lil?"
There's a slight blush on the girl's cheeks as she slowly lowers her hands from the sides and holds it up.
She's chosen a light purple for the base color, and then on top of that sit blotches of gray she can't quite make out from where she is.
"They're elephants," Lily says, holding it out a bit more. She points to the two bigger ones. "Here's you and daddy, and then me and Jake and Reece."
Beckett can't stop the awed grin from forming. Sure, they're a little deformed, not perfect proportions or shapes or anything, but they're perfect. It's perfect.
"It's beautiful, bug," Castle says. "Your favorite, just like mommy, right?"
Her head bobs enthusiastically. "Right! Do you like it, mommy?"
All she can do is nod back. "I love it, it's beautiful."
She's still staring at the creations of the three kids when Castle begins to pack them up. He's trying to wrangle the twins off of the chairs and into their jackets when she steps up, plucks Jake's from his fingertips and helps tug his little arms in.
"Hmm?" She shakes her head. "Yeah, good. Still good."
They end up stopping for ice cream on the way back, prompted by one over-eager little boy who sees the sign for an ice cream cone and practically sprints away from his parents, only to be tugged back by Castle's quick reflexes.
"Hey, you, we talked about this," he says, bending down to Jake's level. "No running off, right?"
"No run off," Reece parrots from Beckett's side.
Castle nods. "Your brothers right, bud, you can't do that again. You could get separated and taken away from mommy and me. You don't want that, do you?"
Jake's little lip begins to tremble as he looks between his parents, shaking his head.
Beckett stares in awe at the interaction, her grip subconsciously tightening on Reece's hand. She didn't even see Jake run off until Castle was chasing after him. She doesn't even want to think about what would've happened if she was alone with them, if she somehow didn't notice, if he—
Her eyes cut to Castle, now standing in front of her, Jake's hand firmly in his.
"He's okay," he assures her quietly. "They're quick little buggers at this age, just gotta keep an eye on them, that's all."
She nods, but her heart still races. She's been a mother for less than 10 hours and she's already bad at it.
"Go give mommy a hug," Castle whispers, nodding in her direction.
Jake's arms wrap around her legs, his little face smushed against the fabric of her jeans. "Mommy okay?"
Beckett chuckles, nodding as she leans down to hug him back. "Mommy's okay."
Lily, who's been standing beside them all patiently, steps up until she's wedged between both of her parents.
"Are we getting ice cream?" she asks, big eyes switching from one of them to the other. There's an innocent smile on her face as she bats her eyelashes, and Beckett applauds the girl's tactics.
When she realizes she's waiting for an answer, gaze now solely on her, she pauses, still unsure how to play this, unsure of how to make decisions in regards to her future kids. Castle just shrugs at her, a small smile on his face, giving her the final vote.
With three pairs of pleading eyes looking up at her, she can't say no. She can't. She wonders briefly how her future self even begins to discipline these faces.
"A little ice cream never hurt anybody, right?" she says, laughing at the kids' cheering.
Castle wraps the arm that isn't holding Jake around her shoulder. "You're doing great," he tells her softly. "Really."
"Mommy, daddy, please."
They follow a now impatient Lily into the ice cream parlor, exchanging amused looks. There are free samples, which Castle limits to one per child lest they be there all night trying every single one.
"I thought you said one," Beckett teases, brow quirked as he unsuccessfully tries to sneak a third sample. "Tsk, tsk."
He waves her off. "Options, dear detective. Gotta know what they are."
"And you say the kids are bad."
She rolls her eyes, eventually settling on a simple chocolate and vanilla twist with rainbow sprinkles. Lily gets strawberry with gummy bears—her favorite, apparently—and Jake opts for vanilla with sprinkles. She's genuinely shocked at how normal his choice is, but Reece makes up for it when he asks for pistachio with gummy worms.
Castle, of course, chooses three flavors and a mixture of toppings she'll never understand the appeal of.
"Mommy, watch!" Lily waits until she's looking to toss a gummy bear in the air, catching it in her mouth on the first try. The way her face lights up as she chews her reward has Beckett's chest swelling, her own smile threatening to split her cheeks.
"Excellent form, bug," Castle says, fist bumping the girl.
"That was very impressive, Lil." Beckett high fives Lily, then turns to Castle, who has Reece sitting on his lap. "Teaching them how to play with their food, Castle?"
He just grins. "It's the little things."
Before she knows it, she's got her head tilted back as she lets Lily and Jake toss leftover gummy bears into her mouth for her to catch. Jake throws some at Castle too, both boys giggling so hard she's almost afraid they can't catch their breath, and Lily continues to cheer her on, a wide smile on her face.
She catches one, after many failed attempts and gummy bears to the face, and all of their hands fly into the air.
"Yes! Good job, mommy!"
"Hey, I caught one too!" Castle chimes in, and she can't stifle the laughter at his pout.
She reaches over, patting his shoulder. "We know," she soothes. "And you did a very good job, didn't he, Lil?"
"Very good, daddy!"
He mumbles something and she chuckles, then sets down her mostly finished ice cream. "Maybe we should start heading back," she suggests, looking to Castle. Reece has ice cream on his face, dribbling onto his shirt, and she reaches over to clean him off.
"Good idea," he agrees. "This one needs a bath, and I think Jake is falling asleep on Lily."
"I'll just..." She motions across the table and when Castle gives her a reassuring nod she stands, heads over and scoops Jake from where he's half-asleep against Lily's shoulder. "Let's go, sleepy head."
His head immediately snuggles into her neck, arms wrapped around her, and she breathes in.
With the rest of the Castle clan in tow, they head out, each holding a twin and Lily walking between them. He turns towards her a few minutes later, a look of admiration lighting up his face.
"You're good with them, Beckett. Trust in that."
Back at the loft, with the three little ones getting ready for bed, Beckett sinks into the plush cushions of the couch. As comfortable as she remembers it being when she stayed at the loft, back when her apartment blew up, this takes the cake.
Today was... fun. She's not sure how else to describe it, not sure how to put words to what she's feeling right now. Spending the day with the children she doesn't have yet, with the husband who right now is just her friend, her partner.
Among the mix of emotions, however, still sits confusion and a bit of frustration. This isn't her time, not yet at least, and she needs to get back, needs to return home and figure out what to do with herself, but she has no clue as to how.
"Hey," Castle says quietly as he comes up to her, a glass of wine in his hand as an offering. She takes it with a grateful smile. "Once they're in bed, we'll talk?"
She nods, taking a sip. Before long, the boys run into the living room, little feet padding against the hardwood, dressed once again in their superhero pajamas. They wrap their arms around her, both trying to climb onto her lap unsuccessfully until she lifts them up.
"Love you, Mama!"
"Goodnight," she whispers between them, pressing a kiss to both of their heads as they wrap themselves around her. "I love you too."
Castle watches on, and she catches his eye as she peeks her head between both of theirs.
"Alright, monsters, bedtime," he says after a minute. The boys wriggle out of her grasp and roll off the couch, both taking off full speed towards the stairs.
"Slowly, boys!" He makes his way to follow the two terrors, running into Lily on the way up. "Go say goodnight to Mommy, I'll be up to tuck you in in a minute."
Lily wanders into the living room just as Beckett's standing to take the wine glass into the kitchen. Turns out she needed that more than she thought.
"Going to bed too, huh?" she asks, tugging the girl into her chest. She holds her there for a few seconds longer, a feeling in her gut she can't explain, not yet, but she doesn't hate it.
She's pretty sure she likes it. A lot.
Once she pulls away, Lily looks at her. "Uh huh. Night, Mommy."
"Night, sweetheart," she says, taking a moment to just look at her. She can't get over those eyes. She sees them every day in the mirror, and now here they are staring back at her. "Sweet dreams."
She's curled back on the couch with her legs tucked beneath her when Castle finally appears once more, plopping down next to her.
"So," she echoes.
"How you holding up?"
Letting the back of her head fall against the cushion, she blows out a breath. "I'm—holding, I guess. I actually loved today, I really did, but I... I don't know what to make of any of this, Castle," she admits. "I mean, how did I get here? Why am I here? Is this even real, is this just some weird dream? Am I in a coma, or—"
"Hey, hey," he cuts in, a hand falling to her knee. "I don't know. I wish I had answers for you, I do, but I don't. I don't know why you're here right now, or why my Kate's presumably back in 2010."
"Or how to switch us back."
"That, too," he says with a nod. "But we'll figure it out. There's usually some kind of moral to these types of things, right?"
"I don't know, Castle, this is your area of expertise," she teases.
He chuckles. "Think about it. With Freaky Friday—"
"Freaky Friday, really? That's your reference here?"
"As I was saying," he continues, giving her a pointed look to which she just raises her hands and rolls her eyes, "in Freaky Friday, they switched bodies and were only switched back when they both had this huge revelation. So, have any revelations today?"
"I..." She pauses, screwing her eyes shut. "No? Maybe? I don't know!"
Her fingers come up to rub at her temples. This is ridiculous.
Castle's fingers rub circles through her jeans now, comforting. "Here," he says quietly, handing her another glass of wine she hadn't even noticed he'd grabbed. "Sit back. Relax. You probably won't even remember this when you get back. That's what I've read, at least."
Relax. Easy for him to say.
This isn't his fault, though, she reminds herself. She can't get annoyed with him; he's the one being patient, understanding, believing. She just... this is more than she can handle right now. Everything, all at once. As nice as the day was, as much fun as she had, as beautiful this glimpse into her future has been—
Her future. Wow.
It hits her then, around the second sip of wine, that this is it. Her future. Here, with Castle and a little girl, twin boys, and a loft that's been rearranged since she's last remembered being in it but beautiful nonetheless, the space filled with toys and happiness.
2010 Castle and Beckett have a while to go, a lot of work to put in to before they reach this future, but in time they will.
It's wonderful, it's terrifying. She's scared, more so than she thinks she's been in a long time, but she realizes in this moment... she wants it. Maybe she has had a revelation, after all.
A part of her's disappointed she won't remember.
"They're great," she murmurs quietly after a while. "Those kids. You did good."
Castle's smile softens, crinkles forming around his eyes. "We, Beckett. We did good." Right, yeah. "They're a handful, those three, but we make it work. I wouldn't change a single thing, and I'm certain future you wouldn't either."
Silence falls over the two of them, Beckett finishing her second glass of wine and Castle sitting contentedly beside her. Oddly quiet, but she figures maybe that's just something he's learned in the past years.
"You tired?" he asks then, eyes on her. "I have some of her—your? clothes you can borrow. Is it really borrowing if it's your own clothes? Future you, of course, but still you—"
"Castle." He stops. "Clothes would be nice, thank you."
Nodding, he eases himself from the couch and disappears through the office, coming back a few minutes later with a pair of sleep shorts and a gray NYPD t-shirt in his hands.
"Hope these are okay."
Taking them from him, she offers a smile. "They're great. So, I'll uh..." She's about to say she'll go to the guest room, but she doesn't even know if it's still there, if it hasn't been transformed into one of the bedrooms for the kids.
"Guest room is still upstairs," he confirms softly, as if reading her mind. "Right where you remember it."
"Night, Beckett," he says, squeezing her shoulder. "And who knows, maybe you'll wake up at home."
She chuckles. "Yeah, maybe. Goodnight." When he starts to turn, she calls his name, watches him stop and turn back around. "Thank you. For everything today."
His lips tug upwards at that. "Always, Beckett."
And with that he's gone again, into the bedroom. She wanders upstairs quickly to change, then tiptoes her way into the guest room. There's some weird kind of deja vu stepping inside but it's still the same, save for some small decoration changes.
The events of the day play in her head as she curls beneath the blankets, and while she's still unsure of what's happening or why, of what she's really supposed to be doing here, she realizes she's not as panicked.
Terrified, scared, of course, but no longer in fight or flight mode. Oddly content, even, in a weird kind of way.
You probably won't remember this when you get home.
She doesn't know if that's true, but hell, if time travel is real she supposes anything is possible. Hopping out of the bed for a minute, she rummages in the drawers for a piece of paper and a pen, jotting down something quickly before crossing the room to where her clothes lie neatly on the chair. She hesitates for a second, her bottom lip pulled between her teeth, but eventually just lets out a heavy exhale and tucks the paper in her jacket pocket.
The last thing she thinks before she falls into a deep sleep is that she's, for the first time in too long, optimistic about what the future holds.
She wakes to the slamming of a door, her body jolting upright. Her hands fly to her neck, rubbing at it in an attempt to soothe the ache. Looking around, she realizes she's—on the couch. In the break room. She doesn't remember falling asleep in the break room?
She must have though, obviously. Was it a late night?
"Beckett?" Lifting her head, fingers now rubbing at her bleary eyes, she's met with Castle. "What're you doing in here?"
"Did you sleep here?" he asks, but she's eyeing the coffees in his hand.
"That for me?"
He chuckles. "Of course, detective," he drawls, moving towards her with the coffee in his outstretched hand. "Rough night?"
A hum escapes her throat. "Yeah, I guess," she mumbles.
Weird. Something feels weird. Off. She can't put her finger on it but there's something different, something she feels like she should be remembering. Something to do with Castle, with... her? Both of them? It's on the tip of her tongue, prickling at the forefront of her mind, but she's got nothing. Nothing's sticking out.
Shrugging, she shakes it off. Falling asleep on the break room couch must have knocked her balance off.
Esposito and Ryan appear in the doorway, brows quirked. "Are we interrupting something, boss?"
Beckett levels them with a glare. "What is it?"
They rattle off something about a body drop and then disappear back to their desks to get their things, and Beckett blows out a breath, takes another gulp of the coffee before pushing herself off of the couch. She pulls her jacket from where it's strewn across the back and tosses it on, already stalking towards the elevator when she moves to grab her phone and feels something else in her pocket instead.
Her fingers wrap around a folded scrap of paper and she opens it slowly, noting the scrawled writing.
Your future will be beautiful.
Her brows furrow, lips pursed as she stares at the inked message. It's her hand-writing, that's for sure, but she has no memory of writing it. With a sigh, she tucks it back into her pocket. She'll try to figure it out where it's come from after the case.
She turns around, watching Castle fumble with his own coffee as he spins in a circle, obviously looking for her. A smile creeps onto her face as she shakes her head, a small chuckle escaping.
"You comin', Castle?"
A/N: Wow, the response to the first chapter absolutely blew me away, I was not expecting that whatsoever. I can't thank you guys enough for your sweet comments.
Also, because some of you are very enabling and I am easily convinced, there will be another one/two-shot to follow with 2023 Kate's time in 2010, so you can look for that at some point in the (hopefully) very near future!
If anyone has any questions/anything, you can catch me over on:
Edit: Turns out doing final edits at almost 3am results in small detail lapses and forgetting to post the prompt, so here it is: "Kate wakes one morning to three kids calling her mama and...Richard Castle as her husband? How many glasses of wine did she have last night? Time traveling fic"