Saturday morning Kate pulled herself from bed far later than she normally would have were she going through her normal weekend routine, however as her sleep that night had been practically nonexistent, she didn't feel the need to rush. Her partner had been out of bed for at least half an hour, possibly longer; she hadn't looked at the time when she felt him leave the bed. As such, he already had coffee ready by the time she entered the kitchen.
"Did you sleep?"
"A little," she replied while pouring herself a mug and walking over to the eat-at counter to sit beside him.
He twisted in his seat so he could face her, his brow knitted in concern. "I'm sorry—that's probably my fault. This weekend was supposed to be fun."
She shook her head and set down her mug on the counter. Reaching out, she squeezed onto his forearm with both of her hands and promised, "No, Castle; it has been fun. I mean, it's a little sad but I wouldn't change it – I still want to be here with you, it just makes leaving tomorrow that much harder." That was the exact reason she had woken up shortly after midnight and been almost unable to go back to sleep since. From the moment she agreed to their weekend getaway she knew ending their affair would be difficult, but she didn't realize just how difficult until after they'd made love the first time; the experience had been beyond description.
After being celibate for the prior five years, Kate had been rendered speechless by the attentiveness and enthusiasm of her partner-turned-lover. The pleasure of climax she had anticipated, but the accompanying emotions she had not. Her previous lovers had been merely acquaintances or, at most, boyfriends she kept at arm's length. She had never been emotionally intimate with someone as much as she had with Castle, and thus didn't realize how different their physical intimacy could be. Being with someone she loved as a friend made everything feel deeper, more real. It was fantastic and freeing and made her so happy she wanted to do it again and again—and they had right up until the point at which she realized that in barely more than twenty-four hours she could never experience such elation again and all those emotions came crashing down on her. The truth of it was: she didn't want to give it up yet, sadly, she knew that she had to.
"But Kate." Castle moved his opposite hand so that it covered hers where they lay on his forearm. "It doesn't have to end. I've been doing research and I've found at least ten other countries we can go to—and I'll keep looking if you don't like any of those."
Sucking in a deep breath Kate pulled her hands away from his arm as though it had suddenly turned into a hot iron pulled from a fire. She slid off her seat and stood a foot behind him, her arms folded over her chest, hands cupping the opposite elbow. "Castle…I can't…you were serious about that?" As she had known him for years, she was well aware of her partner's crazy, off-the-cuff ideas and theories, but that didn't mean all of them were ones he intended to follow through on. Yet, from his comment, he clearly had done research which meant his comment from nearly two months prior had not been one just to appease her, but one he was entirely serious about.
Castle stood to face her, conviction etched across his face. "Of course I was. Completely, one hundred percent serious. I was serious before and now, after the past two nights, I'm not giving you up, Kate; we have to be together. All the counties on my list will let us get married—some will even let us have children naturally."
Feeling as though she'd taken a knife to the gut, Kate shook her head and took two steps back, teetering on the edge of being upset with him for bringing up a subject extremely sensitive to her. "You know I can't."
"I thought you still had one of your ovaries."
She turned away from him to hide the tears brimming at the edges of her eyes. He was correct and she supposed that did technically mean she could have a child from one of her remaining eggs and not one of the Ultra-Elite lab ones, but give then damage to her uterus the doctors had implied she would be unable to carry a child—not that it had mattered at the time, since she lived in a place where it was illegal for her to procreate anyway. "I don't…I don't think I can."
His hand landed gently on her shoulder. "So we'll use a surrogate—if you want, I mean. We don't have to."
His calm, confident tone did not make her feel better, but worse. Choking out a sob, she stepped away from him and whipped around, shaking her head. "Castle, my god this is…I don't even know. It's a lot—a lot. We…we can't even date. We have to jump from this right to fleeing the country together." As someone who had always shielded her heart and only tolerated romantic relationships that moved at a glacial pace, such a concept was almost unfathomable.
He quirked his lips into a smirk. "I have no problem being a fugitive with you."
Though there was many a time she appreciated her partner's lighthearted comments interjected into solemn moments that was not one of them. "I'm serious, Castle. I don't even know if I can fathom what that would be like, how different my life would be. I mean, what would I do for a job?"
He considered a moment before his brow lifted quickly when an idea hit. "Oh! If we move to Canada I bet you could become a Mountie. You'd look so cute on a horse."
"You would! Kate, you can do anything you want—money's no object, remember?"
He was being the kind, supportive man she imagined many dreamed about, but she simply could not make such a decision without very serious consideration. Still, she didn't want him to think her lack of snap decision meant she didn't care for him as the opposite was true. "I'm sorry, Castle there are just too many unanswered questions and scenarios to consider. You seem like you're ready to pack bags tomorrow, I'm not. I don't… I haven't done relationships for a long time so this is a lot for me. I need time to think all this over, to process."
He bobbed his head. "That's fair. I understand that."
She stepped closer to him and dusted a hand down the center of his chest. "I do love you, Castle, and I want us I just…"
He leaned down and brushed his lips over hers. "Don't worry about it; I get it. Believe me, I wish we could date and be 'normal' so to speak, but I also know that we can't."
She pressed her lips together, relived that he hadn't suggested some sort of elaborate dating-in-secret plan that would surely result in both their arrests. Still, she was concerned they were not on the same page insofar as how long she wanted to take to decide. "I need time, Castle, and not just a few days. Weeks, possibly."
He rubbed her shoulder. "I'm not in a rush."
"But the thing is…we can't be together back in the city—not like this. We'd get caught and go to jail before we even had the chance to make a decision."
He grumbled at her. "Thanks for the reality check, Beckett."
"I'm not telling you something you don't already know."
He huffed out a breath and skimmed his fingers over his chin. "Okay, okay—I see your point. May I present a counter-argument?"
She chuckled. "I would expect nothing less."
"For the past year you have regularly been coming to the loft one evening a week for dinner, right? So what if you came to the loft one evening a week for…something other than food–I mean I'll feed you too, if you want," he added quickly.
Kate twisted her lips to the side as she examined the smile spread across her partner's face. Somehow, she was not surprised at all that he would find a loophole that could allow them to be intimate while still limiting the exposure of their relationship. As much as she wanted to put her foot down and refuse intimacy in a place where they were much more likely to be caught, she also knew how much she would miss him while making her decision and felt his plan was reasonable enough to ensure success.
"I suppose that would be acceptable."
He cheered and then pulled her into a hug. "I know one night a week won't be enough, but while you're deciding…"
She nodded. "It'll be far better than nothing, but why don't we get started talking about this list of yours?"
He pulled back and looked down at her. "How about we talk about it over brunch?"
"Sounds good to me."
"I hear Italy's a really interesting place to live."
"See personally I'd go with Sweden—it just seems so nice there."
Her jaw hanging agape, Kate spun around from the coffee maker she stood in front of and came face to face with her partners Ryan and Esposito who both wore extremely suspicious expressions. Resisting the urge to immediately call up her unofficial boyfriend and yell at him for talking about the one thing she asked he not talk about, she grunted out, "He told you."
Ryan shrugged casually. "He told us about his friend 'Alexander' who was trying to convince you to run away with him. We put the pieces together."
Kate hummed and folded her arms over her chest. That was slightly better, though clearly the boys had seen through such an ill-conceived plan. Oddly, though, she was not afraid in that moment, only slightly embarrassed. She trusted her partners and though they were both Elites neither had ever shown any animosity towards her inferior birth status. She knew they wouldn't turn her or Castle in, but at the same time would not have chosen to tell them so they were not burdened with the knowledge of an illegal act. "I see."
Despite the fact that the three of them were alone in the break room, Ryan lowered his voice to a near whisper before saying, "You were with him last weekend, right? You could have told us, Beckett; we'd never turn you in."
She nodded and confessed, "I know it's just…I'm afraid to tell anyone. Our families don't even know. Not…not until I decide."
"You mean decide what country, right? Because the decision to go is already made. Beckett c'mon!" Esposito added when her only response was to press her lips together tightly.
Her heart constricted in her chest and she shook her head. He was right, though she struggled to admit it. Returning from the Hamptons had been difficult, but not as difficult as the next four days without Castle had been. She missed him so much that every inch of her ached and she knew she could not go her entire life without him even if that meant leaving behind everything she knew. "It's just a big change, Javi. And Ca—'Alexander,'" she corrected to keep up the ruse, "and I don't get a chance to just be a couple. We have to go right from this to marriage in order for the asylum to work in most of these places."
The detective scoffed. "You say that like you haven't been acting like a married couple for the past few years."
"He's right." Ryan chimed in. "Besides, think about how happy you've been since you guys got together two months ago. Yeah, that's right—wasn't hard to figure out." He added when her eyes flared wide. "It's not that we won't miss you, Beckett, but you deserve this."
Hearing the positive comments from her partners reaffirmed the decision that Kate's heart had made the first night she spent in bed beside Castle. She did deserve to be happy; she wanted to be happy and she knew the person in the world who could make her the happiest was Richard Castle. It was unfortunate that they would have to leave behind the city they both grew up in, their friends, coworkers, and families, but unfortunately the world was not affording them the opportunity of a choice.
Smiling at them both she said, "Thanks guys," and then quickly returned to her desk to pull out the cell phone she used to communicate with her boyfriend. She tapped out the message, let's both put together out top three choices of what countries we want to move to and try to make a final decision in the next few days. She sucked in a deep breath, held it for two seconds, and then pressed it out between her lips as she pressed the send button. Immediately, she felt a heavy weight lifted off her neck. It would be hard—very hard—but she would finally get the chance to live a real life and that made her very, very happy.
His reply was almost instant: Okay! I love you.
I love you too, she replied. Then, she held the phone close to her chest while imagining her future, her life, and her family—all things she could never have imagined possible were it not for Richard Castle stumbling his way into her life—and she could not have been more thankful.
Sitting in the nursery, cradling her son in her arms, Kate smiled down in pure amazement at the small being that had been in her life for barley more than a week. It was the middle of the night and she had finished feeding him nearly ten minutes earlier. He had fallen asleep nearly immediately after, but she couldn't put him down—not yet. She wanted to soak up every inch of him—just like she had been for days, but never feeling like it would be enough as his existence had never been a certainty.
Six years earlier, Kate and Castle had fled New York for Canada, specifically the suburbs of Toronto. They had been very close to choosing Italy as their new home, but ultimately Kate chose America's northern neighbors for fear that the stress of learning a new language would prove too much for them while they were both trying to adjust to relocating and a speedy marriage. Plus, Canada was far and above the most convention place for their friends and family to visit them as often as they could.
All things considered, their transition went smoothly. They married two days after entering Canada seeking asylum, barely more than three months after the official onset of their relationship—the day Kate's cruiser went into the river. Of course the first month was difficult for them, but once they were settled into their new home, complete with a yard, which neither of them had before, they found their rhythm.
Not quite a year into their marriage Castle finally wore Kate down and she agreed to go to a fertility specialist with him so they could, as he put it, "see their options." The doctor was kind and sympathetic to Kate's traumatic history and since Canada had no rules against natural procreation, she faced no bias from him. After a physical examination and an ultrasound he concluded it might be possible for her to carry a child, but their best option was probably a surrogate. Ever the optimist, Castle insisted on a second opinion at another fertility practice. Fortunately for him, that doctor was equally kind and even more optimistic.
Six months later, after two uncomfortable surgeries, Kate became pregnant through an IVF procedure, though her pregnancy was labeled high risk due to the damage previously done to her uterus. Despite all warnings and concerns, her pregnancy went smoothly until the thirtieth week when she went into premature labor. The doctors were able to halt her progress and she was put on strict bedrest for over a month before concern her health became too great and their daughter was delivered early.
Strong like her mother, Lily was thankfully a happy, healthy baby, but Kate was unable to carry another child to term. She loved her daughter so much that for several years she was one hundred percent happy with having just one child…but then Lily's preschool classmates began having younger siblings and when they received the bill for another years' storage of their two remaining embryos she broke down in tears and asked her husband his thoughts on another child. He was, of course, thrilled at the prospect and immediately began talking about his son, because they knew both of their remaining embryos to be male.
Their search to find a surrogate was difficult, but they ultimately found a woman with whom they were both comfortable who agreed to carry both embryos in hopes of having fraternal twins. Though both implanted well, one failed to thrive and there was concern for their second until their surrogate reached her final trimester and doctors assured them that James was no longer in danger. Still, it was an emotionally trying time for all of them, and Kate never truly breathed a sigh of relief until her baby was placed in her arms, pink, screaming, and perfect.
"Mm do you need help?"
Kate glanced up when she heard Castle's deep baritone. He hovered in the doorway of the nursery yawning and scratching his head, ever the dutiful husband and father. She shook her head and forced herself to stand out of the rocking chair. "No he's asleep again now; I just didn't want to put him down yet."
"You should be sleeping." He reminded her.
She nodded in agreement and reluctantly walked James over to his crib. Though navigating all the trials of a newborn was exponentially easier while not also trying to recover from a C-section, round-the-clock feedings were still tiring for everyone involved. "I know…It's silly." She said of her reluctance to let him go.
He walked over and pressed a kiss to her head. "Never silly, Kate; just being a mom." Reaching around her, he stroked his hand over his son's swaddled body and then rested it gently on his feet, smiling down at the boy.
Leaning against her husband's chest, Kate said, "Can I tell you a secret?"
He grinned down at her. "Always."
Kate's eyes drifted baby to their baby, and her heart thrummed in anticipation of her confession. "I was afraid I wouldn't feel the same about him as I did with Lily, because I didn't carry him…I was afraid that bond wouldn't be there."
His brow knitted. "You never said anything."
"Because I was afraid to even say it out loud since I was terrified it would be true. But it's not; I love him so much." When he was first born and the nurses handed him to her, the room felt so chaotic. James was crying, Castle was crying, and she was trying to thank the surrogate for doing the thing she never could, particularly after the rough pregnancy. Then James was taken from them to be checked over and it was not until twenty minutes later when he was returned and placed on her naked chest to encourage bonding that she felt it. His small hand closed around her thumb and he cuddled to her breast just like Lily had and she knew she loved her son as unconditionally as she loved her daughter.
"Me too. C'mon." He tugged at her shoulder, pulling her from the crib so they could return to bed and, though it pained her, she followed him. They walked side-by-side down the hall to the master suite where he allowed her to enter the room before him and approach the bed.
A she knelt down on the mattress, Kate felt a wave of love and appreciation for the man she'd known as her partner for nearly a decade. Yes their story was filled with many twists and turns, joys and heartaches, and more complication than seemed possible, but it was also filled with more happiness than she could have ever imagined and, in that moment, she had never been more thankful that she agreed to run away with him so they could have their life—and family—together.
"Castle," she said, snuggling up to him as she slid beneath the covers. He grunted in acknowledgement. "I love you."
He pressed a lazy kiss to her head and sighed, "Love you…too…," before drifting off to sleep.
A/N: Thank you all so much for all your reviews - they really mean a lot!
I do have several things in the works, but next i'm going to post "What Makes You Stronger" a twist on Castle's backstory.