Kate Beckett never expected to find herself nineteen, pregnant, and motherless, but that was the hand life dealt her and she was dealing with it the best she could. She had finally decided to give her baby up for adoption when the baby's father showed up and complicated things. Richard Castle had a tendency to do that. (Caskett AU)
A/N: I'm very excited about this one guys! 20 Chapter + Epilogue. This time I will be doing 2-3 chapters a week in order to finish by year's end.
"Daaad! Come oooon." Alexis whined while standing several feet away on the sidewalk. "You're so slooooow!"
"I'm comin' pumpkin—I'm comin'." Richard Castle jogged the last ten feet to catch up with his little girl as they neared the entrance to the book store. Logically, it made no sense. Her legs were only a fraction of the length of his, but she was just so quick! He chalked it up to the energy of youth. Then again, despite living in a fast-paced city like New York, Rick never had felt the need to rush very many places. The faster you went, the more likely you were to miss observing something interesting, or taking in the scenery around you—and who didn't want to do that? Apparently, his five-year-old.
"Now, honey, remember – what did we talk about earlier?" He cautioned as he observed her heaving at the heavy door. Of course her fifty pound frame could barely make it bump forward, but that didn't stop her from trying.
Alexis dropped her hands from the door handle and dusted them along the bottom of her eggplant colored dress. When she looked up at him, he saw her chest rising and falling a bit quicker than normal due to her battle with the door. "Only one book."
He smiled down at her as he pulled open the door. "Exactly; so you'd better make it a good one."
Normally, Rick did not like shopping at large chain bookstores like the on the one they were entering. Yes, they kept the royalty checks arriving in his mailbox and he would never turn down doing a signing in one of them, but they felt so impersonal. Stores like this one weren't just about titles on a shelf anymore. They had toys and games and fancy things at the ends of the aisles to attract children and adults alike.
If he was forced to choose, Rick preferred smaller, more independent stores, where the owner connected personally with many if not all of his patrons. He enjoyed the quieter atmosphere to browse the aisles and pick up titles that seemed interesting—ones he might not have heard of before—which, considering he was in the literary business, was saying something. Unfortunately, stores like those did not often have a wide array of children's books, which was why they were at the busy chain on that Sunday afternoon.
"So what are you thinking, sweet pea? A funny story? Perhaps another one about that family of bears?"
Alexis sighed and dragged her index finger across the shelf of an endcap display of books on Italy. "No. I'd prefer more serious literature."
The man fought a chuckle. How Alexis had become so serious and adult-like when her parents were anything but he'd never know, but he couldn't say he was disappointed; he loved it. He loved that they were able to have conversations that might have been grown up for someone three or four years older than her. He loved that she'd bypassed toddler books by three and had moved onto just as she described—serious literature. Of course, given her age, he still tried to restrict her to books geared towards those in elementary school, but every once in a while she surprised him with something completely out of the box.
"Okay, then you'll have to look around."
She gazed up at him with her ice blue eyes and grinned. "I'll know it when I see it!"
With her eyes skimming across the many titles and books of varying sizes, Kate Beckett felt a dull ache behind her eyes begin to form. Yeah, she was definitely going cross-eyed. That's what happened when you stared at the exact same shelf for over ten minutes. She picked up one of the titles towards the end of the row, flipped it over to examine the back, and frowned.
Realistically, even though there were twenty-five different books on the subject, she knew they more or less had to say the same things. How many different ways were there to say, "you will get cravings, your feet will swell, and your belly will grow until you think it's about to burst?" Even if each book had a different take on pregnancy, she hardly had time to read them all. Not that she wanted to—just the thought of opening the classic What to Expect When You're Expecting had her heart palpitating.
One step at a time, Kate—that's what she had promised herself.
Okay, she was definitely getting the What to Expect book and then she would get just one more, she decided. Well, maybe two more. The one book she had found seemed more reference-like instead of narrative, and that could be helpful. But what book would be her third?
Tucking the chosen two under one arm, Kate picked up a book with a soft pink cover and flipped it open to read the table of contents. The first chapter entitled, "Congratulations; you're pregnant!" seemed to mock her. A happy pink congratulatory emotion was not the one pulsating inside her chest. If she had found a book with a black cover that played a funeral dirge when opened she would have felt much more comfortable. Alas, she very much doubted that book was in print.
With a huff of breath, Kate shoved the pink book back on the shelf and instead chose a light yellow one entitled, The Only Pregnancy Book You'll Ever Need, which seemed convincing enough. Still, she doubted the book could possibly answer her every question—her every curiosity. How could it?
God, she hated this. She hated having to seek out pregnancy advice from a book—well, books. It was so horrible and impersonal. The book couldn't talk back. The book couldn't hold her hand while she cried. The book couldn't accompany her into the delivery room and tell her everything would be fine.
Kate felt the tears welling in her eyes and she bit hard against her bottom lip in a foolish attempt to abate them. She would not cry in Barnes & Noble; she would not. Once she got home she could curl up in her bed with her new purchases and sob all she wanted, but she had to check out first.
Cradling her three books in the crook of her left elbow, Kate turned and moved towards the area of the store with the registers, but a hovering bunch of balloons caught her eye. The children's section. Well, she could just peek in, right? That was allowed.
Moving across the aisle of displays filled with summer games and crafts for children, Kate felt the concrete weight settling back against her chest and sucked in a deep breath. She knew her breathing wasn't actually restricted, but that's not how the anxiety made her feel. Moments like this made her long for her mother so much that every centimeter of her body ached—from her toes to the roots of the hair on her head. Barely four months had passed since the funeral and the wound was still raw enough, but this? Having a baby. Having a baby at nineteen without her mother—that was definitely not how Kate had seen her life going.
When a tear escaped her eye without permission, she brushed it away quickly and cleared her throat. It was okay; it was going to be fine. She had a plan and as long as she stuck to the plan everything would be fine. Well, it would be fine in twenty-three weeks; she just had to get there.
As Kate passed the twin bunches of balloons lining the children's area she immediately regretted her decision. This section of the store was packed with mothers, fathers and their babbling, laughing children. As a woman passed by and flashed her a polite smile Kate felt her ears heat with embarrassment. Could they see it on her? Could they tell? Would they figure out she was not as dedicated of an almost-parent as they?
She tried to suppress the shudder that went down her spine at the memories, but she couldn't. Sitting in her dark dorm room typing "abortion options" into her AOL search bar. She'd scanned the pages for hours and hours, reading methods and personal accounts until she had—quote literally—vomited in her bedside trash can. Taking the bus not once but three separate times to Planned Parenthood and pacing the sidewalk outside just daring herself to go in. She did on the third visit and even waited for twenty minutes among other women, wondering if they were there for the same purpose as she, but in the end she couldn't go through with it; she just…couldn't.
She had not planned on coming home for Easter break, but the thought of having very serious—and terrifying—conversations with a doctor she had never met or spoken to before made the trip home worth it. Of course, she had started crying less than thirty seconds into the appointment, but to her credit the doctor was very kind to her. Kate had left the appointment feeling moderately better and with a pamphlet on adoption clutched in her fist.
Standing in the children's section Kate was not fully convinced she'd made the right decision. Maybe she should have ended it before it began; maybe that would have been the better path. It certainly would have been the easier one—at least physically. But as she watched a woman snuggle her grinning baby boy, Kate nodded and hugged her books a little tighter to her chest. Yes, her baby—boy or girl—would make some mother very happy; that mother just was not going to be her.
Knowing exiting the area filled with those under four feet tall was the best thing to do emotionally, Kate turned to leave, but was immediately almost plowed over by twin three year old boys charging towards her. She clutched her books close to her chest as the whipped by on either side of her. Their bedraggled looking mother followed a moment later; she uttered out a soft apology to Kate.
Unconsciously, Kate's right hand fell to her belly as she said a silent thank you that only one child was growing inside her womb at that moment. Funnily enough, during her first ultrasound she had not even considered the possibility that her pregnancy could involve twins. Why would she have? She did not know of any occurrences of twins her in family and she was so young it was statistically unlikely, though admittedly not impossible. Still, she was glad.
As she continued to make her way back towards the balloon-filed entranceway, Kate's hand rested firmly on the small protrusion beneath her cardigan. Her stomach had finally "popped" just a few weeks earlier. It had happened just as her doctor said it might—one night she went to bed with her belly looking no different than if she'd consumed a hearty pasta dinner and the next morning she woke up with a small, but definitely-there baby bump. Anyone who did not know her well probably would not take much notice; it was also still small enough to be covered with multiple layers of clothing, but that time was coming to an end.
As the month continued she knew they would be drawing too near the summer's heat for her to continuously wear a sweatshirt or a cardigan. Not to mention the fact that her pants were growing decidedly less roomy by the day. She already couldn't get some of her snugger jeans on and knew that by week's end she would need to—god help her—purchase some maternity ones.
She didn't mind the belly, exactly. Well, she wasn't thrilled, but a growing belly meant that her baby was also growing and healthy, which was the most important thing. What was unfortunate was the larger she became, the less likely she would be able to hide the pregnancy from her father, and that was definitely not a conversation she looked forward to in any way.
Kate was midway through the exit to the kids section when she frozen in place as though liquid nitrogen had just been poured through her veins.
Shit. Oh Shit.
If the petite girl bounding towards her registered the horrified expression on Kate's face, she didn't show it. She merely waved happily, her orange-red ponytail swinging behind her.
Oh god. Oh god. If Alexis was here then—oh god—that probably meant her father was there, too. Her father, the father…oh god, she definitely wasn't ready for this.
Maybe—okay—maybe it was fine. Maybe Alexis was spending the day with her grandmother. Maybe her estranged mother had shown up and—
Oh. No. There he was. Rounding the corner of a display of Harry Potter novels and smiling with his sparkling blue eyes and floppy hair. Her heart stuttered at the memory of the last time she saw him, passed out in the mess of sheets and blankets on his bed, blissfully unaware she had hastily redressed and was about to sprint from his apartment. In that moment, she expected to never see him again. Then…well, things got complicated. She had not yet decided how she was going to incorporate Rick into her pregnancy or if she was going to incorporate him. Maybe, if she was very lucky in the next few minutes, she would still have the opportunity to decide.
"Alexis! H-hi." Kate was finally able to force a smile on her face as she tucked the books deeper into the crook of her elbow, making sure that only their open edge was exposed, thus limiting the likelihood that the father or daughter would see the titles.
Alexis continued to run full-speed into Kate and hug her around the hips so tightly that the elder girl was almost thrown off balance. Alexis and her bear hugs; some things never changed. Though they had spent barely more than a dozen days together spread out over three weeks, Kate did feel like she and the girl had bonded. Well, clearly Alexis felt that way by the way her arms had become like lobster claws. During previous babysitting experiences Kate had been tearing her hair out; ready to escape practically before the day even got started, but not with Alexis. She had even told her mother, during what most unfortunately became one of their last conversations, just how disappointed she would be when her babysitting time came to an end.
A moment later the girl's father stepped up in front of Kate and she felt her entire face flush. Shit, there he was, smiling and gazing at her kindly. The situation would have been awkward enough if they had just slept together and she had subsequently snuck out but this? Oh god, this. What a nightmare!
"Kate. It's nice to see you again. Alexis has been asking about you. I'm assuming your semester is over now—how did it go?"
Kate almost laughed. How did her second semester of college go? The one before which she was sent in an emotional tailspin by her mother's murder and then just when she thought she found her footing and would be able to survive her four classes, she was faced with the petite pink plus sign on a pregnancy test. Oh yeah, it had been great. The fact that her lowest grade had been a C was a downright miracle.
"Oh, um, fine I guess."
Alexis finally released her death grip on Kate's waist and fell back against her father's leg. The man rested his hands atop the little girl's shoulders and dipped his middle fingers into her armpits, which mad her giggle. "And you're staying in the city for the summer?" he asked. She nodded in confirmation and he grinned. "Great!"
"You should come hang out with us!" Alexis suggested.
Her father gazed down at her cautiously. "I'm sure Kate will be very busy this summer. She probably has a job and maybe even some classwork to do."
Though Kate did nod in acknowledgment, she internally panicked. Right. A job. She definitely needed one of those, but did she need to tell her employer about her pregnancy? Technically they weren't supposed to discriminate, but she suspected one or two might. And what kind of job would she apply for? Previously, she'd worked in a café preparing drinks and sandwiches, but that environment had been so tight, she doubted she would be able to sidle between kitchen equipment and other employees the larger she became. Perhaps there were retail jobs she could apply for, but would those be flexible enough so she could also take the summer courses she wanted? She definitely needed to look into that.
Shaking such thoughts from her mind, Kate looked at the father and daughter in turn. She definitely needed to escape this meeting as quickly as she could to limit the likelihood of them discovering her secret. Still, she didn't want to be rude or too obvious, so she worded her escape in an apologetic way. "Well, I don't want to take up any more of your time, since I'm sure that you're-"
"What are you reading?" Alexis's tiny hand reached up for the book at the top of Kate's stack. She had been so distracted over wondering what job a pregnant nineteen year old could practically acquire that she had forgotten to keep them tight against her chest. Because of her divided attention, when Alexis reached up for the top book, she was able to offset it enough that it slid from the stack and toppled to the floor followed quickly behind by its two companions.
"Oh!" Kate gasped at the same moment the man scolded his daughter.
"I'm sorry," the petite redhead said quickly.
Kate shook her head and dropped into a crouch. The quick action knocked her hair from behind her ears so she reached back to tuck I with both hands. "It's fine; it was an accident I can get…them…" Kate's voice drifted off as a large man's hand landed right on top of What to Expect When You're Expecting. For the second time in five minutes her blood turned to ice in her veins.
If Rick picked up the book then he could very easily read its title and that would mean she would have a lot of explaining to do. But it was fine, maybe he wouldn't—
She ventured a gaze up at him and saw his expression was no longer light or jovial, but growing paler by the moment. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. This definitely was not good.
Clearing her throat, Kate quickly pulled the other two books into her arms so that the little girl couldn't see them—at least she could spare herself that embarrassment. As she stood, the man rose as well, though the color had not yet returned to his cheeks.
"Alexis," he began distantly, gesturing with the book in his hand towards the area just beyond the balloons. "Why don't you go look over there?"
She eyed him with a scrunched nose. "At the baby books?"
"Alexis." His tone was firm, but also warning and it resulted in the girl huffing out a, "Fine," before moving towards the so called "baby books," her feet pounding against the floor a bit harder than would have been necessary.
Without waiting for him to say anything else, she reached out and took the book from his limp hand and mumbled out a thank you. Just when she was about to slip past him on the blind hope that he had not made the connection, he stopped her by staying her name gently.
She grimaced and for thirty seconds refused to meet his eye, but ultimately looked up at him. He swallowed hard and asked in a tone just barely above a whisper, "Do we need to talk in private?"
A small squeak escaped her lips and she wished more than anything to disappear in that moment—to evaporate into thin air. Or, better yet, jump into a time machine, travel back five months and never leave her mother's side on the afternoon of January 9th. Then, none of this would have happened. Unfortunately, she could do none of those things, so instead she merely hugged her books close and admitted, "Um yeah. Probably."
Rick stepped back from her as though she had suddenly burst into flames. His expression jumped right from shock to horror and he raked his hands through the hair above his ears. "Jesus!"
"I'm sorry." Kate was not sure why her gut reaction was to apologize, but she knew the tears that immediately popped into her eyes were from a mixture of embarrassment and regret. As they began to flow down her cheeks she shook her head and apologized again adding, "I'm so sorry."
Presumably doing damage control so no passersby wondered why a man in his late twenties had made a teen girl cry in the middle of Barnes & Noble, he stepped forward and hushed her. "No, don't cry. It's okay."
"No it's not." She blubbered out. Just as she had feared on the morning of January 9th nothing in her life would ever be "okay" again.
With a loose arm around her shoulders he guided her away from the aisle and in between two large stacks of books. He then handed her a tissue from his pocket. "Look, um, Alexis goes to bed at eight so…so do you want to come over to my place around 8:30 and we can, um, talk?"
Kate didn't speak, but she did nod while pressing the tissue to her cheeks with trembling fingers.
"Okay, Kate; I'll see you then."
Then, with a hushed goodbye, he walked over to the children's section leaving Kate in the same position she'd been for four months: alone.
A/N: I hope I have intrigued you guys enough to stick around and see whats in store for this AU version of Caskett.
This is my 50th story and will be the story that pushes me over 1 million written words. I could not have done all of that without your reviews/follows/favorites etc so thank you so much for sticking with me, even now that the show is over :)