All I ever wanted
Was a single dream come true
And darling that's you
No One But You, Daniela Andrade
December 1 - 2016
"I think it's time to go home."
Kate is watching him struggling at the window. For ten minutes now, he's been trying to get the lights to stay artfully draped around the frame. At the loft, there are little brackets that he leaves up all year round so that he can simply slot everything into place and be good to go. There's no such luxury here, and the inconvenience is making him grizzly. She offered to help and he muttered something about wanting to do it himself, sent her away.
He hears her, of course, and his shoulders come up around his ears in defence. So much of both of them is defensive these days. Rick lost a lot of weight over the summer and she can see the shadow of his ribcage through his shirt.
The floor is cold even through her thick socks. She goes to him, slowly and palms out so that he doesn't get spooked. When she reaches him, Kate slides both of her hands around his middle and lays her cheek to his spine. He's always been so warm, and she finds herself navigating to him over and over again as if he's a furnace in their frigid sublet.
They could afford something nicer than this. Even with the medical bills, and the remodelling of the loft, and the steadily mounting pile of things she refuses to even look at yet, they're not exactly broke. Rick isn't so rich that it doesn't make a dent, especially all at once like this, but they're still comfortably within their means. When they were looking at places on the laptop, she found something wrong with each of them. She didn't want them to make a home, didn't want to get settled in a new place. They chose this one because it was in a good location, and because she knew it wouldn't be somewhere that would make them want to stick around.
She was fleeing, tail between her legs. Rick was beside her just as raw, but he was beside her. For much of the summer, she drew her strength from his solid presence even as she had to watch him waste away. Both of them got worse before they got better.
Kate wanted to hide away at the cabin, and Rick at the Hamptons. He won, because the Hamptons is nearer and big enough that their loved ones could come and visit. When it came time to come back to the city, neither of them could stomach living in the loft. They tried, but Rick found her one morning bent over the counter and sobbing because she discovered a fleck of blood at the bottom of the cabinet that the cleaners hadn't caught. They were professionals, crime scene cleanup specialists, and even they hadn't managed to totally erase the evidence of what happened to them there. How they died.
"We need to think about it. Let's not rush in."
He turns in the circle of her arms, but he still doesn't look at her. His eyes are on their feet, her slender toes hidden away in the fluffy socks she stole from him. She nudges her way between his a little further and steps in close. Her face at his neck, she feels the thump of his pulse against her cheek.
"I don't think we're rushing," she tells him. She doesn't want to force him into this, but one of them needs to take action. She's so tired of homeostasis, and it's not like they're going to be able to cling to it for much longer anyway. "Don't you want to go home, Rick?"
"Of course I do," he grunts. A clumsy hand scrapes over his face, and he lifts his eyes to hers. "I want us to go back to normal, but we're hurting, Beckett. We're both going to be hurting. Maybe for the rest of our lives. Doesn't the loft just make it worse?"
"Not for me," she says immediately, automatically. Only afterwards realising how true it is. "I feel like I can't get warm here. Or comfortable. This was a placeholder, and it was fine to finish recovering here, but isn't it time to start living again?"
He blinks slowly, and his head bows until his forehead touches hers. "I think we already started living."
HIs wide, warm palm spreads slowly over her stomach. The baby rolls over in her belly, a little foot kicking out to meet her daddy's touch. Rick's face washes clean with awe, as it has done every time since he was first able to feel their daughter moving. She's twenty two weeks pregnant, and their little bug is as squirmy and animated as Kate always expected a Castle baby to be.
"I want to bring our baby girl home to the loft. I want her to grow up there."
It's been weighing on her for a while now. Watching her husband come back from the storage unit with the Christmas boxes and then stand frozen with indecision in the middle of their living room was the last straw. The decorations all have their places at the loft. It's been thought out years and years before, and everything comes together so beautifully. Her silly, wounded heart can't take Christmas in this apartment.
"They are finished with the renovations. We can move back in whenever, technically."
"So let's do it, then. Before I get too big to be useful."
That earns her a laugh from him, and pride melts slowly in her chest. Since they were shot, Kate has found herself constantly seeking to make him smile. He's been solemn, but the baby has helped. It's given them both something to work towards, something to focus on that's about hope, rather than just getting back to where they were before.
"How is she today?"
"Had hiccups earlier." Kate smiles wide. She gave up shying away from her emotions weeks ago. Carrying their child, feeling the baby moving inside of her, is the purest joy she has ever known. Her husband's smile grows in echo, and he leans in to touch the happy curve of his mouth to hers. "She's great. We both are. Ready to get back to where we were."
Kate takes the lights from his free hand and puts them back in the box. For good measure, she folds the lid closed. He's growing more eager with every moment now, as if he's coming alive with possibility. All summer, the two of them have gaggled together like wounded geese, left behind when the rest of the flock left for someplace warmer. Now Rick stretches his long neck, flaps his healed wings.
She busies herself tidying away the few things he unpacked from the boxes. He helps, and as they work the eager, goofy man she fell in love with slowly comes back to her. He sheds the skin of their awful summer and emerges pink and shiny. Neither of them is exactly healthy yet, but the end is in sight now. Her body still aches, and she knows his does too, but they both have a firm goal. To be able to rock their daughter when she's born in April.
Once she's done, he wraps his arms around her and tucks her in close against his chest. He's done this a lot lately, as if he's trying to shield her the way he couldn't at the start of the summer.
"Kate," he breathes into her hair. "Next Christmas, we'll have a daughter."
"I always did feel like Christmas can fall a bit flat without kids," she admits. When he pulls back to look at her his eyes are wet. The curve of her belly arcs gracefully between them, and their little girl rolls over inside her. "And I. . .I can't wait to watch you make it magical for her. Alexis has told me stories."
He huffs a laugh and shakes his head at himself. "I've been known to get a bit carried away. It's just so fun, Kate. Their little faces all lit up. Just- amazing."
"Hey." She captures his face in her palms. His cheeks are just starting to plump again, and she smoothes her thumbs over them. "I'm so in love with you."
His mouth opens, closes again. After a beat of silence, he leans in and kisses her. It's more fierce and more desperate than either of them has allowed themselves to be since the start of the summer. She's so tired of being tentative, so tired of tiptoeing around so as not to spook her body.
When he drops to the couch like a stone and tugs her into his lap, she goes easily.
"Are you alright?" She's really trying not to laugh at him. His shirt is still off and they're both on the floor, Kate in his lap. He's balancing his takeout container on her thigh.
"Yes. Yeah. You wore me out, woman. Aren't you supposed to be the exhausted one?"
"Second trimester. I feel great. Baby girl is being kind to Mommy."
Rick bows his head until his forehead meets her shoulder. She's wearing a tank top, hasn't bothered to put her sweater back on, and even this innocent meeting of skins has the blood pounding at the base of her throat.
"God. It kills me when you call yourself that. I can't believe I get to watch you become a mom."
Kate lifts her arm to wind awkwardly around his head. It's her left side, her good side, but her whole body still contracts sharply in protest. She hisses and drops her arm again, hunkers in close instead.
"It's because of you. All of it. I never thought I'd have this. Didn't even think I would want to have it."
His hands are clumsy where they sift through her hair. He really is tired, and it makes him boyish. Makes her want to mother him. Kate slides off his lap and up onto the couch instead, tugging on him until he joins her.
"I'm not even scared. When I first saw that plus sign, I figured I would be terrified, but I'm not. I'm so excited. So happy."
He's half asleep beneath her. They should move, crawl exhausted into a bed that has never been quite big enough for the two of them. Only, now that moving back home is a concrete plan, this whole apartment is suddenly unbearable.
"When do you want to go home?"
"Soon," she murmurs. His arm is around her, solid and firm as an oak branch. "Because we need to start thinking about her nursery."
That makes him come awake a little more. He blinks slowly at her. His head is bent at an awkward angle to see her, and Kate traces her fingertip along the creases of his neck.
"We could use the guest bedroom. Have Mother's old room as the new guest room?"
"You know I'm so excited to meet her, but I'm also really looking forward to Christmas with just the two of us this year."
Alexis and Martha both have various other plans, so they'll be popping in and out on the day itself. She's glad for it, so grateful that she and Rick will be able to have a last, quiet year before the chaos of the rest of their lives.
"Me too." Kate kisses whatever of him she can reach. Her lips land at the inside of his bicep and he shivers. "What do you think it'll be like? When she's here."
"I'll fall more and more in love with you every day." He says it so immediately that it must have already been on his mind. Must be something he's thinking about all the time. Her cheeks flood with warmth, but he continues on.
"It won't be easy. We'll be exhausted, and grumpy, and we'll probably fight. But God, Kate, just holding her. Getting to watch her grow. It's the most amazing thing in the world."
So often this summer, they've existed in silence together. At the Hamptons, there were long stretches where neither of them spoke, content to sit in their separate chairs with their fingers tangled together in the chasm between. After what happened, they were both shocked into muteness, and Kate found that so much of what she wanted to say could be told in the brush of her fingers through his hair, or in giving in and admitting that she was hurting.
"Do you know what I'm most looking forward to?" His questioning hum vibrates through her chest. "It never being quiet again."