Disclaimer: All things "Castle" belong to the powers that be at ABC & Co.

Author's Note: Back with another Caskett story, starting in the summer just before the start of S2. Enjoy.

Then Came Love

Chapter 1

Kate was not having a good day. For that matter, she had not had a good week or even a good couple of months. Not since—she cut off the thought. She wasn't going to think about that.

She focused on writing up the case report for their latest case, a hard one, managing to keep her emotions locked behind a steel-padlocked door for the moment. The victim had been found stabbed in an alley behind a dumpster, the victim of a mugging gone wrong. Worse, the victim, Connie Hartle, had two kids, a daughter and a son, both older than Kate herself had been when her mom had died but not by that much, and their devastation at the news had been apparent and as hard to witness as always. Their father lived in Boston, not very far perhaps but not local either, so the victim's kids were, initially, alone for the news that their mother had been murdered. Kate had promised that the NYPD would do everything in its power to find the person responsible but she had to acknowledge, if only to herself, that the odds weren't very high because with muggings, the usual motives for a murder and the relationship between the victim and the killer weren't in play. She had been a cop for long enough to know the case might need to be set aside if any other murder came up, focusing their resources where it was more likely to bear fruit, but the thought had been like a thorn in her side.

So she'd gritted her teeth and thrown herself into the case all the more doggedly, going out herself to canvass the neighborhood around where Connie Hartle's body was discovered, rather than leaving it to the boys and the uniforms. She hadn't found anything but perhaps urged on by her presence, one of the uniforms had found a purse and another one, a wallet, about a block away from the purse, and both were identified as belonging to the victim. The purse was of a material that wouldn't hold fingerprints but the wallet was a different story and they'd managed to retrieve a partial print, not enough to ID anyone but could serve to match against any possible suspects.

She had spent a full day going through all the footage from every security camera around for the time of death window and eventually lucked out with a half-glimpsed profile that the beat cops who patrolled the neighborhood were able to ID as a thug who liked to haunt the area, suspected of vandalism and B&E's in local businesses but without enough concrete evidence to convict, and that had been that.

They'd tracked him down and got a confession yesterday and Captain Montgomery had given her an approving nod and a "Good work, Beckett," but any sense of achievement felt hollow. She felt hollow, defeated rather than triumphant. Because she had also had to go talk to the victim's kids and tell them their mother's killer had been caught and it was a mugging gone wrong, no personal motive against the victim at all. It was justice of a sort, yes, but she couldn't help but wonder how much that helped in something like this, an anonymous mugging that had ended up with the victim dead, a pointless death. The young man had not said much but the young woman, Abby, had clearly seen it too, managing between sobs, "So it was just bad luck?"

Kate could hardly agree to that, had only repeated lamely, "I'm very sorry for your loss," but the words seemed to echo in her mind, haunting her. Bad luck, because essentially it had been, a wrong place at the wrong time sort of thing and that made it so much worse. At least in the usual murder, there was some personal vendetta against the victim, some reason to explain why the victim had been targeted, but in this, there was none of that. Connie Hartle could have been anyone; the only real explanation, such as it was, for choosing her as the victim had been that she'd been a reasonably well-dressed woman, walking alone. And just for that, she was now dead and her children had lost their mother.

Kate tried but the thought of her own mom, never far from her thoughts while she was working, broke through the defenses she'd tried to put up around her emotions. Because Kate knew all too well how much it mattered to know why a loved one had been murdered, to know there had been some reason behind it. And at first glance, Connie Hartle's case had resembled that of her mom. Her mom, who had also been a well-dressed woman walking alone and found stabbed in an alley. Except her mom had not been killed in a mugging.

It's about your mother… My expert… targeted…

The words—the voice she heard again in her mind—tore at her. No no no! She was not going to think about this; she was done thinking about this! She'd told herself and told herself she could not go down the rabbit hole again and she wouldn't. She wouldn't. She was done, had put it aside, and she was most definitely done with all of it, her mom's case, everything—done with him. She wouldn't think his name, refused to think his name. That was all over now and she was—would be—fine.

She finished up writing up the case report for Connie Hartle and dove ferociously into the other paperwork she had to do. And she must have been giving off strong keep-away vibes because even Esposito and Ryan didn't venture too close to her desk for the rest of the day except when necessary because of a paperwork question and even those visits were brief and limited solely to work without any of the usual chat.

She got through the day and by now, she had her evening routine down too, making a point of leaving when her shift ended and making sure Captain Montgomery saw her doing so. What Captain Montgomery didn't know—or might know, knowing him, but could pretend not to know—was that she had brought home boxes of old case files, unsolved cold cases, and spent her evenings poring over those cold case files.

Since she could not and would not allow herself to go through the other unsolved case that haunted her life.

Earlier in the summer, she'd spent the time holed up in the records section of the precinct, coming in at dawn and leaving long after everyone else except the night shift had gone home, but then Montgomery had caught wind of it and crisply told her to stop putting in so much overtime. But then Montgomery was also the one person who remembered and had been around the first time she'd fallen down the rabbit hole of her mom's case; he was the one who had noticed she was drowning and ordered her to stop and sent her to a therapist associated with the force. He had been the one to save her then.

This time, she was not drowning, refused to drown. Looking through cold case files wasn't the same thing; it was just a way to keep busy, keep her distracted. She could even make a difference. On a number of the cold cases, she had come up with new angles or other potential leads to consider and in three of those cases, her suggestions had led to their closing the case. And on at least one of those cases, she might not have thought of the new angle if it hadn't been for—the thing she wasn't thinking about.

Really, she was fine. She was being productive, keeping busy. And if she was tired, felt run-down, well, there was nothing surprising in that because she hadn't been getting much sleep and what sleep she did get tended to be uneasy and often disturbed by dreams—dreams about her mom or what was almost worse, different, hotter dreams of a hard male body against hers—but she wasn't going to think about that either.

In the past couple months, she'd started to stop off at different coffee shops on her way into work, trying to find one where her preferred latte with two pumps of vanilla tasted right since she refused to use the new machine in the precinct break room. For the rest of the day, she survived on the sludge made by the old machine but at least in the mornings, she wanted a decent cup of coffee.

She'd noted a coffee shop she hadn't tried before, a little out of the way from her usual way into work but not excessively so, and determined she would try it today. Only to stop abruptly as if she'd run into an invisible wall.

Shit, no. It was stupid—she knew it was stupid—except that didn't make it any less real or her reaction any less strong.

She hadn't particularly noticed before but the coffee shop was right next to a bookstore. A bookstore where the window display seemed to assault her eyes with the familiar—too familiar—distinctive covers and bold font. The most popular Derrick Storm books—Storm Warning, Gathering Storm, Storm's Last Stand, Storm Fall―beside a large poster board touting the upcoming release of "The Latest Thrilling Mystery by New York Times bestselling author Richard Castle, Featuring an Extraordinary New Heroine."

She turned and fled. Cowardly, maybe, but necessary. She couldn't take it, not now, not today, the universe rubbing salt in a wound by reminding her of him when the Connie Hartle case had ripped the scab off the wound of her mom's case.

She needed to be at work, needed to have something to do to keep herself busy, keep her thoughts occupied. She went straight to the precinct and dove into paperwork, only to start a little more than an hour later when she sensed a presence close by.

"What?" she snapped.

"Thought you could use this," Esposito ventured with rather overblown casualness, placing a cup of coffee on her desk, and then almost immediately stepping back as if to get out of range.

Damn, she really had been taking her bad mood out on everyone. "Thanks," she forced herself to say.

Espo shrugged, giving her a look that in any other profession would have been accompanied by an expression of concern, but all he said was, "No sweat. I was making one for me anyway and Ryan's been bugging me so he doesn't get one."

They both knew that he was untruthfully maligning Ryan to make light of the gesture but it was part of the unspoken cop thing, the façade of indifference.

"Yeah, well, I can always use the caffeine."

"Right. You got any paperwork you want to hand off?"

Oh, now he was taking it a step too far. "What, you're volunteering to do more paperwork? Since when?"

"Since I got bored with my own stack of paperwork," he shot back.

She gave him a wry look. "Uh huh, sure. Well, I can manage." Plus, she wanted to keep busy.

Espo made a face. "Have fun."

She waved him off, hiding a tiny smile. "Yeah, yeah, now go away."

He left and she reached for the cup of coffee, lifting it up and taking a breath since the smell of the sludge was at least coffee-like, even if the taste wasn't. Only to stop as her stomach rolled over, bile rising up inside her, and she set the mug down with a sharp click, only just managing to avoid spilling the coffee. She shot out of her chair and speed-walked, not quite running, as fast as she could to the women's bathroom that had never seemed quite so far away before.

She locked herself into a stall and bent over the toilet, trying to will her stomach to stop roiling, but with limited success. Her stomach heaved and she was weakly thankful that she hadn't stopped to eat breakfast because it meant there was nothing much in her stomach to come up. She gagged and spat and then sank to the floor, resting her head on her hand, and fought the prick of completely stupid, inexplicable tears pricking at the back of her eyes.

God, this really was just the cherry on top of a terrible day, a bad week. For the smell of coffee of all things, even if it was the barely-drinkable stuff of the old coffee machine, to nauseate her… She supposed it was just a physical reaction to the emotional strain of the Connie Hartle case and then, to add insult to injury, seeing the display of his books, bringing the tidal wave of emotion associated with him—the betrayal and the anger and the hurt—flooding back. It had to just be that.

Except even as she thought it, insidious doubts crept into her mind.

No, oh no, it wasn't possible. It couldn't be. She wasn't—she couldn't be—pregnant. It was impossible—except… it wasn't.

Oh god. She tried to make her suddenly whirling thoughts focus, tried to remember… She hadn't thought, had been so focused on trying to keep herself busy and distracted for weeks now. She was late. Very late, actually.

And—oh shit. She suddenly remembered what she hadn't thought anything of at the time—admittedly she hadn't been in the best frame of mind for thinking clearly at the time but then she hadn't been thinking clearly for more than two months now. Her pills last month—she hadn't run out when she normally should have, had she?

Shit oh shit oh god, how could this be happening?

No, wait, no, she didn't actually know that she was—that anything was happening, she reminded herself sharply. She was guessing, speculating, fearing.

And really, she tried to reason, what were the chances? Small, very small even. It had just been the one time. (One time, and she'd been trying to forget it, pretend it had never happened ever since.) She could be freaking out over nothing.

Please, let this be nothing, just stress.

But first, she needed to know.

She focused on the concrete task, tried to shove her rioting worries aside, as she pushed herself to her feet. The mundane tasks of flushing and washing her hands helped somewhat to calm her and she left the bathroom, aware of a few curious and concerned glances but ignoring them, as she went straight to Montgomery's office.


"Yes, Beckett?" His eyes narrowed on her face.

"I'm not feeling too well. I was wondering if I could take the day off," she stated succinctly.

"Mm, you are looking a little green around the edges. You can. Feel better, Beckett."

She forced a small smile. "Thank you, sir."

At least, that was something. Not that she'd expected anything less from Montgomery but still. One minor thing going as she expected.

She shut down her computer and gathered her things, stopping by the boys' desks to answer their unspoken question by telling them briefly, "Taking a sick day. See you tomorrow."

Ryan blinked as if the entire concept of her taking a sick day was foreign to him. Okay, so he might have something of a point; it wasn't as if she took any time off on anything approaching a usual basis.

She stopped off at a Duane Reade on her way home from the precinct, tossing one and then a second pregnancy test into her shopping basket before throwing in random items as a mostly pointless way to somehow disguise or downplay the pregnancy tests, chocolate, toothpaste, tissues, a magazine. Not that the young kid manning the cash register appeared to care, having apparently cultivated the big city-dweller's general indifference to the rest of humanity to an art.

Once back home, she went straight to the bathroom to take the tests. She had to know before she continued freaking out and/or started to think and plan.

Not that many minutes later, Kate sat on her bathroom floor and stared. Shit, oh shit. She had taken both tests, just to be sure, and both were positive, the double lines seeming to sear her eyeballs.

Pregnant. She was pregnant.

Oh god, what was she going to do?

For someone who always tried to be in control, now she was well and truly out of her depth, up a creek without a paddle. This wasn't anything she had ever remotely thought of preparing for.

She was single—very single, a voice that sounded like Lanie's unhelpfully inserted. She hadn't even been in any kind of significant relationship in years, not since Will. She was a cop, hardly a kid-friendly profession. She'd never really been a baby person either. While she had envisioned having children a couple times before, it had always been in some nebulous vision of a far-off future, one where she was no longer alone but was in a lasting relationship, married, and just generally more prepared than she was now. It had never seemed like a realistic possibility. Even when she'd been with Will, she'd known she was nowhere close to ready and she didn't think Will was that interested in having kids to begin with so it hadn't been a consideration.

Now, she was still not ready but the decision appeared to have been taken out of her hands.

Think—she had to think. What were her options?

Her thoughts were still whirling, jumping all over the place in disorganized fashion.

She wanted to talk to her mom. Oh, how she missed her mom right then. It might have been silly—she was a grown woman, an independent adult, a cop at that—and she still wanted to talk to her mom, had the weird sense that her mom might be the only person who could calm her down and help her make sense of this, help her think about what to do.

God, what would her mom have said about this?

Out of nowhere, she abruptly found herself remembering something. Her mom, both her parents, had wanted more kids. It just hadn't happened for some reason. Her mom had even had a miscarriage once, back when Kate herself had been a toddler and much too young to know anything about what was going on. Kate vaguely remembered her mom being sick and going to the hospital, remembered feeling scared. She had only learned years later that the actual cause of that incident had been a miscarriage, when her mom had mentioned it in talking about how she'd hoped for more kids. Her mom had quickly followed the confession by adding that Kate herself had turned out to be enough, all she could have hoped for. Kate still remembered the surprise she'd felt (mingled in with discomfort at the whole idea of her parents having sex at all). She might have wondered a couple times when she was very young why she was an only child when most of her classmates had siblings but she'd always assumed her parents had wanted it that way and hadn't dwelled on it to any extent. Now, though, she remembered.

This would be her mom's first grandchild.

Oh god. The thought, absurd and obvious as it was, darted into her mind and made her heart stutter in her chest. Her hand dropped down to her flat stomach in a new, uncharacteristic and yet somehow natural gesture. So strange and surreal to think that even at that moment, there was an actual person forming, growing, inside her. She felt no different, looked no different—and yet, everything was different.

Her life was never going to be the same again.

God, was she actually thinking about this, going to go ahead with this? She didn't know exactly when or why but she realized that at some point, somehow, she'd made up her mind without even realizing it. Had it been the thought that this baby would also be related to her mom? She didn't know but somehow, her decision had been made.

She was going ahead with the pregnancy, keeping this baby. It was insane on so many levels, could be deemed a mistake for just about every practical, rational reason. And yet… her mind was made up.

And that meant… She had to talk to—him, no, she corrected herself, there was no point in avoiding the thought of his name now, not anymore. She had to talk to Castle. She needed to see Castle. Again. Oh shit.

~To be continued…~

A/N 2: Venturing out of my comfort zone with this story since I'm not generally a fan of unplanned-pregnancy stories and all I know about pregnancy comes from books and the Internet but the idea struck and when that happens, mine is not to question why. That said, I hope you'll excuse any inaccuracies/mistakes.