A/N: I KNOW. I'm starting another story. But I had this idea and I really wanted to write a fluffier, more family-friendly affair! So, the good news is, I'm pretty much done writing Tryst so it won't be me forsaking one story for another. BUT, the bad news is, I have assignments and exams coming up so I probably won't be able to update this story until late next week, if that (after exams though... HOLIDAYS and all the writing I want!)
Still, I thought I would post the first chapter and see if there was even any interest/any point in me continuing this little love-fest. So, let me know, 'k?
Oh, let's say this story can take place anywhere from third season onward (obviously, in an alternate universe where I own Castle).
Onwards, brave readers!
The phone was ringing.
It was seven a.m. and the phone was ringing.
It was seven a.m. and the phone was ringing and Kate had just gotten home to finally get some rest after being at the station for the past two and a half days solving a case.
"This had better be good," Kate muttered as she reached towards her side table, searching blindly for her cellphone. She was stubbornly refusing to turn on the lights until absolutely necessary. She squinted at the number. It wasn't the station and it wasn't Castle. "Hello?" she answered.
"May I speak to Katherine Beckett?" came the female voice on the other end of the line.
"My name is Anna Lee. I'm with Children and Family Services. Are you familiar with a woman by the name of Madison Queller?"
Kate sat up. "Yes."
"Are you aware that Ms. Queller had a child?"
Kate doesn't miss the use of the past tense. Her voice is strained when she asks, "Has something happened to them?"
"I'm extremely sorry to have to be the one to give you this news over the phone, Ms. Beckett but Ms. Queller was involved in a motor-vehicle accident two weeks ago. Her injuries were too severe and she passed away while the doctors were attempting to get her to surgery."
Kate gasped, "What about Zoey?"
"Her daughter was in the back seat and thankfully, only suffered minor injuries. This is the main reason I am calling you, Ms. Beckett. Ms. Queller didn't have a living will at the time of her death and we are unable to locate any family members."
"Yes." Kate's voice was starting to shake. "Madison's mother passed away when we were teenagers and her father also, a couple of years ago, although they weren't close. I think she has a distant uncle in Norway but I'm not really sure. Maddie didn't talk much about her family."
"Yes, well, it's taken us quite a bit of time to track you down, Ms. Beckett. Ms Queller's friends in the restaurant industry were of a professional capacity and most were unaware she had a 15-month-old daughter. Currently, Zoey has been placed in the foster care system and Ms. Queller's affairs are being managed by the state. It was only several days ago that we discovered a note among her belongings that indicated Zoey's guardianship be awarded to you should she pass away. Unfortunately, the document isn't legally binding but the courts have since agreed to honour Ms. Queller's wishes if you are willing to undertake the responsibility. Of course, a series of background and security checks would have to be done as well."
Kate's brain was spinning with the sheer amount of information she had just been given. "But," she started, "I've only met Zoey a couple of times."
"I know all of this comes as a bit of a shock, Ms. Beckett and it is perfectly acceptable if you decline guardianship. I just wanted to make sure we've exhausted all avenues available in order to provide Zoey with the best care due to her."
Kate was trying to think and breathe at the same time. Overwhelmed didn't begin to describe her emotions at the moment. "Ms. Lee?" she finally responded, "Do you think I could give you a call back? I just need some time to think about my options and the situation."
"Of course, Ms. Beckett." The social worker provided Kate with her phone number before hanging up, indicating that she would be in her office until 4 p.m.
Kate hung up the phone and leaned back on her headboard. She was definitely wide-awake now. "Oh, Maddie," Kate sighed. She briefly wondered why she hadn't been informed that her friend had passed away before she realised that she and Madison didn't really have any mutual friends anymore. They'd only reconnected two years ago during that case she had been working on. After that, they had gone out for coffee several times and Kate wasn't surprised to find out that Madison had been ready to have a child with or without a guy in the picture – Madison was always very goal-oriented. Two months later and Madison had chosen the "perfect man" via sperm bank biographies and was expecting a baby.
Kate immediately realised what an idiot she had been for even hesitating at claiming guardianship for her friend's daughter. It said a lot that Madison would trust her to take care of the most important thing in her life even after all of these years; she knew that Madison wouldn't even humour the possibility of not doing the same for Kate if the situation were reversed.
Kate picked up the phone and dialled. Not five minutes had passed since she had hung up with the social worker. "Hi, Ms. Lee," she said when the phone was finally picked up. "This is Kate Beckett."
The house was nice, if a little on the dilapidated side.
Kate entered the house with Anna to meet the Millers, the foster parents who had been taking care of Zoey. The house was loud with many kids running around, unable to play outside now that the weather was getting colder.
"She had curly blonde hair the last time I saw her," Kate said as she peered into the living room where Zoey was playing with a stuffed animal.
"Yeah, that happens," said Melissa Miller with a smile. "I had blonde hair when I was a baby and now –" she gestured to her light brown hair.
"Do you want to say hello?" Anna asked.
Kate nodded. She was nervous even though she knew Zoey couldn't possibly remember her and would have no expectations whatsoever. She sat down cross-legged on the carpet and Zoey looked up at her curiously. "Hi Zoey," she said with a smile. "My name is Kate."
Zoey had clothes and toys from before that Kate packed into the trunk of her car. Anna had warned her that Zoey would probably be upset at having to leave the Millers (she had cried for a couple of days after arriving there as well) and to help with the transition, she had Anna and Melissa accompany her back into the city. Only when Zoey was settled in Kate's apartment did Anna and Melissa leave.
And then Kate was left terrifyingly alone in her apartment with a one-year-old.
She had taken a week off of work in order to help herself and Zoey set up a routine but Kate realised on the Sunday before she was due to return that a week wasn't nearly enough time to adjust to a life with a toddler. For one thing, there was a lot more laundry to do now.
Kate hadn't told anyone but Lanie and the Captain about her new situation and when Castle kept pestering her about why she was taking a week off of work, she shut him up by saying it was a family emergency. (Only that kind of backfired because he started getting that concerned quality in his voice and kept asking her if he could help in any way.) She had purposely been screening her calls for the week, only picking up if it was Lanie, the Captain, or her father. By her count, she probably had 20 new voicemail messages from Castle by now.
And Kate hadn't really been planning on letting anybody else know that she had managed to acquire herself a child in the week of her absence except that when she tried to leave Zoey with the nanny that morning, she had screamed bloody murder and refused to leave Kate's side. Needless to say, when she stepped off the elevator that morning, she was met with more stares than she had gotten since Castle had released the newest cover art for the latest Nikki Heat instalment.
"Uh, Beckett?" Esposito said as she passed him and Ryan at their desks. "Something you want to tell us?"
Kate sighed as she dropped her purse next to the knapsack she had packed for Zoey (for some reason, it had surprised Kate how many things a child needed). "Yes boys, this is a child."
"Is it your child?" Ryan asked.
And Kate thought that she might as well tell them the story now that there was absolutely no way she couldn't. They reacted the way she knew they would: confused, then shocked, then sympathetic and then with adamant declarations that she could count on them to help out in any way they could.
"Good morning, detectives," came a cheery voice behind her just as she was finished thanking Ryan and Esposito for their support.
During this entire time, Zoey had maintained a vice-like grip on her shirt with one hand while sucking her thumb with the other. Her head was on Kate's shoulder but her grey eyes were wide open, curious but too shy to acknowledge the new faces around her. As Kate turned around, Zoey's head shifted slightly to see who had just spoken. "Castle. You're here surprisingly early," Kate replied, glancing down at her watch.
"Well, it's your first day back." Castle sounded completely normal and Kate was surprised that Castle wasn't surprised. "I thought you could use the coffee," he continued, "Oh, and I brought apple juice for the tiny human. I found Alexis' old sippy cup. Isn't it awesome?"
They had made their way back to Kate's desk where Castle placed her usual cup of coffee on the table beside a sippy cup that had the words "juice junkie" scrolled across it.
"Castle, how did you—"
"I finagled it out of the Captain and then got it confirmed from Lanie." Castle grinned. "Those two cannot keep a secret."
Kate rolled her eyes. "You probably just annoyed them until they gave in so that they wouldn't murder you instead."
"Whatever works," he responded. He tilted his head to peer at Zoey whose eyes widened at the sudden appearance of a face entering her field of vision. "Hi…"
"Zoey," Kate supplied.
"Hello, Zoey! My name is Rick but feel free to call me whatever you wish in your babble language. I won't be offended." Castle looked back up at Kate. "She kind of looks like you with the brown hair," a beat and then he added with a small smile, "And beautiful eyes."
It always happened when Castle sounded so damn sincere instead of cheeky and flirty – it just threw Kate off completely. She chose to skirt around it. "Yes, well, she refuses to leave my side. I tried with the nanny this morning and she wouldn't have any of it." Kate's tone sobered. "I think she's tired of people going away and not returning."
Castle nodded. "What are you going to do with her all day?"
Kate sat down in her chair, turning Zoey so she was sitting facing Castle on her lap. "Well, I brought all of those toys for her." Kate gestured to the knapsack. "I'm hoping she'll play while I catch up on all of this paperwork."
Castle laughed. "You clearly haven't spent any time with a toddler before, have you?"
"Well, I've spent plenty of time with you, Castle," Kate retorted.
Castle pulled his chair up against Kate's so that their knees were touching. He bent down so that he was eye-level with Zoey. "Hey Zoey, do you want some juice?" he asked, offering her the cup.
Zoey glanced up at Kate to gauge her reaction. "Go ahead, Zo," Kate said with a smile.
Castle pulled out a sparkly tiara made out of ribbons from the plastic bag Kate hadn't noticed that he had beside him. Her eyebrows shot up. "Still playing dress-up, Castle?"
"It was Alexis'."
The novelty of a shiny object seemed to work, though, and Zoey immediately reached for it, almost dropping her cup in the process.
Castle made a grab for the juice, placing it on the table before handing Zoey her new toy. And to Kate's surprise, Castle plopped down on the tile floor and started pulling out some of the games from the knapsack. Zoey immediately looked intrigued at this giant of a new friend and slid out of Kate's lap to join Castle on the floor. Kate shook her head and let out a chuckle.
Of course Castle would get along with a one-year-old.
A/N: Continue? Or just get my ass off of the computer and concentrate on my midterms? Sound off in reviews!