Title: Anything and Always
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I don't even own a car, let alone a television series.
Summary: "Always," means always, no matter what. Kate learns that Richard Castle is willing to be in her life, however she'll have him, and eventually, she realizes just how much of her everything he has become.
Author's Note: This is very different from anything else I've ever written. It's also my longest one-shot ever. And by long, I mean epically long. And I wrote it in one sitting…which is just madness…or Sparta. I also set up my Twitter for public use tonight: ERAlban, if you're interested.
Our premise: We are post-Countdown, but that's basically as far as Canon goes here. Kate and Rick have developed an extremely strong friendship, but Kate's relationship with Josh has also progressed. The story follows the development of those two relationships, and how one eventually wins. This is a Kate-marries-Josh story, BUT, stick with it. In the end, you'll be satisfied.
I worked really hard on this, and I hope you like it. Please let me know what you think.
"Three months," she repeated.
"I know, it's a long time. But they really want me out there to consult," he said uneasily. "And I know that it would mean that I couldn't be here…but it's a really great…"
"It sounds like a fantastic opportunity, Castle."
He smiled. "Yeah, it would be."
"I think you should do it," Kate told him, turning in her chair so that he had her full attention, not that he hadn't had it before.
She nodded. "I do. I know how worried you were about the script and production when Natalie was here, and I think you could add some really good insight, since you do actually do this every day."
"I have gotten some good experience here," he grinned.
"And it's just three months. You won't be there forever," Kate continued.
He nodded vigorously. "As much as I love LA, I'm not ready to move there. And this really only works because Alexis is doing a summer program at Stanford, to see if she likes it."
"She still thinking about following Ashley?"
"She is. I think she wants to wait a full year, but she's considering it."
"Then this sounds like it's absolutely what you should do for the summer," she told him. "Go. We'll all be here when you get back."
He smiled. "Thank you, Kate."
"It's nothing," she waved him off. "Maybe we'll actually get something done around here."
He slapped a hand to his chest. "Ouch, Detective. That stings." She smirked. "But really, thank you. Your approval means a lot, you know?"
She smiled. "I know. And likewise." She wiggled her left hand, where the engagement ring sat.
"What can I say, Josh is a good guy," Castle smiled.
"Yeah," she glanced down at the ring. "He is."
"I hope you weren't planning a summer wedding," Castle said suddenly. "Oh, crap."
"No, no," she laughed. "October."
"You picked a date?"
She nodded. "October 15th. He'll get back from Nicaragua in the middle of September, and we didn't want to wait too long. It'll be really pretty—everything in full fall colors."
"Sounds perfect," he smiled.
"I hope so. I have the whole summer to plan," she replied.
"Do you still want the number of that wedding planner?"
"Oh, right! I was going to ask. Yes, please."
"I'll send it to you tonight," he nodded. "She's amazing. I think you guys will get along."
They sat quietly for a minute. "Castle?"
He cocked his head. "What for?"
"For being so supportive."
He grinned. "It's nothing at all, Detective."
"No, it is," she said, scooting closer. It was late, and few people were around, but she didn't like to air out her dirty laundry. "I was so ready to just give up, and you helped me through it."
His face softened. "I want to see you happy. He'll make you happy?"
"I think he will," Kate replied.
"That's all I need to approve of it, Kate. October 15th?"
"You'll be there?"
"With bells on."
"You'll bring Alexis?"
He laughed. "She would kill me if I didn't. You're still coming over for our movie night, right?"
Kate smiled. "Of course. I wouldn't miss it."
"Great." He glanced at his watch. "Oh, crap, I need to go. Alexis needs me to help her pack up."
"When do you leave?"
"End of the week."
"So movie night is the last one for the summer?" she asked.
He nodded. "But you can bet that we'll have one hell of a marathon when we get back in August."
She smiled. "I'll hold you to that. Now get out of here."
"Yes Ma'am," he grinned.
They stood. She still had more paperwork and needed caffeine if she had any hope of getting it done. They stared at each other for a moment. She'd miss him. But this was an amazing opportunity for him. How many authors got to consult on the movies made of their books? He definitely had to go do it. Work wouldn't be as much fun without him, but he was her Partner, and if it was good for him, it was good for her. But she would miss him.
"We'll talk the whole time," he said quietly.
She smiled. "Are you planning on calling so that you can still get information on our cases?"
He grinned like a little kid. "Of course! And, I have to keep abreast of all of the gossip. You have to promise me that you'll tell me if Esposito and Lanie get engaged. I've got July in the pool."
"We're splitting July," she interjected. "Remember, that scene you painted for Ryan? That was my theory."
"Oh, right. Well, then you definitely have to keep me updated. Think how angry everyone will be if we win together."
She laughed. "I promise."
"Alright. Well, I'll see you Thursday, then?" he asked, his smile falling. This was goodbye, at least at the Precinct.
"Yeah, see you Thursday."
They were silent for a moment. "Just three months."
"I know," she replied.
"Lots of phone calls."
"Get out of here, Castle. I'll see you Thursday," she said gently. The more they talked about it, the worse they would feel.
"Okay. Until Thursday, Detective."
He turned and walked away. She watched him go. Three months was a long time to be without your best friend.
"A cheese grater?"
"I know," Kate sighed, flopping back into her couch.
"That's just…that's so…so…"
"No!" he exclaimed. "That's so disgustingly, gruesomely perfect!"
"Only you, Castle," she laughed, feeling the tension begin to ease out of her body as she settled into the couch, the phone held to her cheek and a bowl of popcorn cradled to her chest. "But we caught him."
"What made him break?"
"Your theory about the daughter, actually," Kate smiled.
"Would you like to gloat now, or later?"
He laughed. "You sound tired."
"It was a long case," she replied, feeling herself sinking further into the soft pillows. "How was the set?"
"It's amazing, Kate," he replied excitedly. "Really. It's everything I imagined…well, no, because I mean, I sort of see the 12th when I write."
"Yeah. I don't describe it that way, but that's what I see."
"Funny," she smiled.
"But it's good?"
She could hear him smiling. "It's perfect. Oh, Kate, you need to meet the guys that play Esposito and Ryan…you know what I mean." She could practically see him gesticulating. "They're perfect. And Natalie's doing you and Nikki serious justice."
"Is she still as creepy as she was when she was here?"
"If by that you, you mean has she tried to seduce me again? Only the once, and then she stopped."
"Still too meta for you, Castle?"
"Did you actually look up, meta, Detective?"
She laughed. "I might have."
"The answer is yes. But she is doing a great job with the acting."
"That's good. Have you seen Alexis?"
"She came down last weekend. She's loving it."
Kate could hear the simultaneous pride and disappointment. "And how are you doing with that?"
"She wants to graduate early."
"It's her choice, and I think…I mean, I don't want her to."
"Of course you don't."
"But she absolutely loves it, and I can't say no, can I?"
Kate sighed. "You could, but you won't."
"You know me too well," he laughed sadly.
"Don't worry. We'll keep you busy when she's gone."
They were quiet for a minute while she munched on her popcorn. "How's Josh?" he asked.
"He's good. He really appreciated the props you sent from the General Hospital set," she told him.
He laughed. "I figured he'd like them."
"He's looking forward to playing poker with you again."
"He did tell you that he lost a considerable amount of money the last time, right?"
She laughed. "Yes, but he had fun doing it. His colleagues aren't really that invested in making friends, especially since he's been in and out of the hospital so much."
"Is he on shift tonight?"
"Yeah, but he's trying to get a more tied down schedule."
"Good. I'm glad."
"Me too," Kate smiled, and then yawned.
"Sounds like it's time for bed, Detective."
"Come on, Kate. I know you haven't slept well in a week."
She rolled her eyes and bit back a smile. He took good care of her. "Alright. Goodnight."
"Do you want me to come back?"
Kate bit her lip and looked up at the ceiling. "You're loving it out there."
"I can be at the Precinct in seven hours."
"I…" she stuttered. They'd caught a break on her mother's case again.
"Is Josh there?"
"He left early this morning."
"I know. But I hadn't gotten the call yet, and…" she took a deep breath. "I haven't really…he didn't…"
"Please tell me he at least knows about your Mom," he implored. She thought she could hear something slightly desperate in his tone.
"He does," she nodded. "I told him she was murdered and about the two breaks we've had since you started working with me."
"Did you tell him about everything else?"
She sucked in a breath. This was the one place, the one thing, that threw a wrench in everything. "He didn't ask."
"I will. I promise."
She heard him release an unsteady breath. "Alright. Give me twenty minutes and I'll be one a plane home. Do you want me to meet you at the apartment, or at the station?"
"You don't have t…"
"Kate. I said always, and I meant it. I'm coming back. Alexis isn't supposed to come down again. And you know there's nowhere I would rather be than with you in New York, solving this."
"Thank you," she whispered.
"Anything, Kate. Anything and always. Now, you have to let me go so I can charm a few flight attendants."
She gave a watery giggle. "Okay."
"See you in a few hours, Kate. Try to sleep."
"Thank you, Rick."
"We got him," he was saying into her ear. "We got him, Kate."
She couldn't think. She couldn't speak. They'd caught the man who ordered the hit on her mother. They'd caught him, and she didn't even have to interrogate him. Instant sentence: Life. They'd already filed everything before they went in.
Rick had pulled her out of the way of yet another bullet, and then she'd taken her shot. And she took the slime bag down. And now he'd go to jail, or death row, or whatever. And Rick was hugging her where she'd collapsed at the side of the grimy building, the fight just trampled out of her.
"We got him. It's over," he said into her hair.
She nodded against his chest. He hugged her close. "Rick," she mumbled after a few minutes. She didn't care that there were other cops coming out of the building. They were hidden by the alley. They wouldn't be able to see her breaking down.
"Hey," he whispered, running a hand over her cheek and pressing his forehead to hers. "You did it."
"Me? We, Rick. Partners."
"Partners." They were silent for a minute. "Okay. Come on. Let's get you back to the Precinct, so you can sign the papers, and then let's get you home."
She nodded and then followed blindly as he pulled her up and over to her car. For the first time, he drove them to the Precinct. She managed to pull it together for long enough to thank the boys and talk to Montgomery and get the hell out of there. He flagged a cab and it felt like she blinked and they were standing in the foyer of her apartment, which smelled like the Chinese they'd eaten there three days ago—the last time she'd been here.
"Hey," he said softly, laying a hand on her arm. "You with me?"
She met his eyes. "Thirteen years, Rick. And now it's…it's over. It's done, and I feel so…" She fell forward and buried her face into his neck just as he reached for her. She sobbed and his arms wound tighter.
"I'm so sorry, Kate," he whispered. "So sorry. But you caught him. It's over. She's at peace. You know now. You can move on, now."
She nodded into his shoulder and let him guide them over to the couch. He pulled her down and into his lap. It was minutes, or maybe hours, later when she felt the tears stop and she could take a steady breath again. She lifted her head and met his eyes.
"Thank you," she whispered.
He smiled and reached up to wipe her tears away. "Always, Kate."
"I'm sorry," she said brokenly.
"Kate, being in your life, in whatever role you want me, is enough. Always means always, and whether that's as your friend, your Partner, your lover, your pal, your annoying side-kick? That doesn't matter."
"Promise?" She was rarely so vulnerable, and they talked about this even less.
"With all my heart, Kate."
"Thank you," she replied. "Thank you. You're…Rick, you're everything." He smiled and pressed a kiss to her cheek. "And…and I want…I wish…"
"Kate," he interrupted, placing his thumb over her lips to stop her. "Josh is wonderful, and you love him." She nodded sadly. "I'm gonna be here."
"It's not fai…" she started.
"It's my choice."
"Promise me that you'll find…"
"Someday, I will," he smiled. "But tonight," he shifted her and then plucked a pillow from the pile to his right and laid it in his lap. "You need sleep. Come on, Katie," he said, patting the pillow.
She smiled and lay down, resting her head in his lap and looking up at him. "Rick…"
"Shh," he whispered, carding a hand through her hair. "Just sleep, Kate."
"Can I ask you something, Katiebear?"
"Sure, Dad," she smiled as she adjusted her veil in the little atrium off the side of the aisle.
"Are you positive about him?"
Kate turned to look at her father. Rick had gotten him the best hotel in the city, so he'd been with her for a week, helping her with everything that her mother couldn't. "I am, Daddy."
"I just…I know the timing isn't perfect, but I've seen…"
"Rick and I are just friends. He's dating someone great right now."
"You like her?"
"Amy and I are slowly becoming attached at the hip," Kate grinned. They were. Amy was fantastic and fun and funny. She couldn't hope for more for Rick.
"Is she here?"
Her father nodded. "I'm not going to pretend to understand the relationship you have with that man…"
"Good," she laughed. "You might kill yourself trying."
"I just…Kate, you're sure about Josh?"
"He's a good man?"
"Dad, you've met Josh. In fact, you told me just the other day that you thought he was wonderful!"
"I know," he smiled. "I just wanted to be sure that you think the same."
"I do, Daddy."
"Then let's get you to that alter."
Kate smiled as he hugged her close. She loved Josh. She did. And he was wonderful.
"You look so beautiful," Josh whispered into her ear before he planted a kiss against it. "So beautiful."
She smiled and met him for a kiss when he pulled away. They twirled around as they broke apart and she heard the flash of their photographer.
"You look very handsome yourself," she said as he tugged her closer and they moved through the other people on the dance floor.
"I'm so happy," he replied.
"I love you."
"I love you too," she beamed.
They were quiet for the rest of the song, just smiling at each other. Then the music changed to a moderate salsa.
"May I cut in?" someone asked, tapping Josh on the shoulder. "I'll even trade you, beautiful guest for your glowing bride?"
Josh let got of one of Kate's hands and clapped Rick on the back. "As long as you promise to give her back," he joked.
Rick grinned. "I make no promises, but I did bring someone as collateral."
They exchanged girls while Kate and Amy laughed. "They're ridiculous," Amy muttered as they passed each other, handing off large hands to the other woman.
"You look gorgeous," she told Kate.
"Thank you," Kate smiled. "You look wonderful."
Amy grinned and then Rick was pulling Kate away and into his arms.
"You," he beamed. "Look absolutely…so beyond stunning. Radiant, but even that can't quite describe it."
Kate swatted his shoulder but couldn't stop the grin that spread across her face at his words. "You're being hyperbolic."
"Oh, Kate, for once, I'm just not. Ask your husband. I'm sure he'd agree with me."
She blushed at the word husband. "I'm married."
He smiled. "You are. How's it feel?" He spun her out and back into his arms and she laughed.
"It feels good."
"I'm glad. Dipping you."
She giggled and let him dip her. He pulled her back up and they twirled around. He was a fantastic dancer, but she'd known that since the benefit they'd attended undercover all those years ago. And he certainly didn't disappoint on this, her wedding day.
"Are you excited for your honeymoon?" he asked as they moved together.
"A whole two weeks off."
"I know. I'm not sure I can handle it," she deadpanned.
"I'll keep the boys in line for you," he grinned.
"Good luck with that!" she laughed.
"I hope you have a wonderful time."
"Thank you for getting us the house," she said seriously. "It's completely over the top, Rick."
"It's perfect," he replied. "And you guys deserve it. You both work so hard."
"Thank you," she smiled, laying her head on his shoulder. "Thank you for everything."
He squeezed her hand. "Always."
"Where's Josh?" Rick asked as he opened the door for her.
"He drew the short straw, and of course, he got called in," she replied, forcing a smile.
"I'm sorry." He stepped aside and let her in, taking the bags from her while she hung up her coat.
"It's…it is what it is. But! We're not here to talk about my husband's work schedule. We're here to make Thanksgiving dinner."
He grinned and gestured for her to precede him into the kitchen, where Alexis was already cutting up vegetables.
"Kate!" she exclaimed, dropping the knife to the counter and bolting around the island to slam into her in a bear hug.
"Hey, Lex," Kate laughed, hugging her back. "How are you?"
"I'm good," Alexis beamed. "I haven't seen you in forever!"
"I know. It's been super busy at the Precinct. But, you know, you've been a bit hard to reach too," she smiled while Alexis blushed. "How's everything coming?"
"I'm gonna do it," she grinned.
"She's been studying like crazy, but she's still going to graduate first in her class, even with being earlier than everyone else," Rick added as he unpacked Kate's bags, pulling out the ingredients.
"I'm proud of you," Kate told the teen who was still attached to her at the hip.
"Thanks, Kate," Alexis said quietly.
Kate gave her a squeeze and then they disengaged to start prepping everything.
"Where's Martha?" Kate asked about an hour later.
"She offered to go meet your Dad at the station."
Kate looked up, surprised. "He told me he didn't want me to pick him up."
"Oh, well, that's probably because he and my mother are plotting something. I'm still not sure what it is," Rick supplied distractedly as he tried to build a tent for the enormous turkey.
"Should I be worried?" she asked as she jostled him out of the way and did it herself.
"I wouldn't be," Alexis laughed. "You guys do know that they meet up a few times a month, right?"
Kate and Rick turned to her, surprised. "Seriously?" Kate asked.
Alexis just shook her head at them. "And you call yourselves a Detective and Partner."
"She's been sassy all day," Rick mumbled. Kate laughed.
"Where's Amy?" she asked a few minutes later. "I thought she was joining us."
"Her mother's been at her to go with them to see her brother in Virginia for weeks, and she caved yesterday," Rick smiled. "But she'll be back in a week. You'll still get to tell her all those stories I know you've been saving up."
"I've gotten some new ones," Kate grinned. "You tripping over that clown was pretty good."
He whacked her with the spatula.
Martha and Jim arrived an hour before dinner, bringing with them a large basket of all sorts of chocolates and pastries.
"Katie," her father greeted, wrapping her in a hug. "So good to see you."
"It's good to see you too, Dad," Kate smiled as he guided her into the living room so they could talk for a minute.
"Where's my son-in-law?"
"He took a shift," she said quietly, keeping her eyes on the little family in the kitchen while she and her father sat down on the couch.
"Was he on call?"
She sighed and looked back to meet her father's eyes. "No. But his friend Alan just got married and Josh wanted to give him the opportunity to spend the holiday with his family."
Jim studied her. "You just got married."
"I know, Dad."
"Who wants a drink?" Martha asked the room.
"Nothing for me, thanks," Jim smiled at her.
Rick met Kate's eyes apologetically and she just shook her head. "Nothing for me, Martha."
The older woman just shrugged and moved toward the liquor cabinet while Alexis and Rick continued to check on the meal.
"I don't like this, Kate," her father said, turning back to her.
Kate nodded. "I know. I don't much like it either, but he's…" she rubbed at her neck. "He's a very good man, and just wants to help people."
"He's your husband."
"Don't worry about us, Dad. We'll be okay."
Jim considered her for a long moment. "I hope you know what you're doing, Katie."
"Thought you might like some sparkling grape juice," Rick interrupted, handing them two flutes. His hands fell to Kate's shoulders over the back of the couch and she looked up at him. "Your presence has been requested to help with the Turkey."
"You made the tent collapse, didn't you?"
He smiled sheepishly. "I may have."
"How you doin?" she asked.
He smiled and handed her a coffee before he dropped into his chair. "My daughter is in California, at college."
Kate nodded and covered his hand with hers. "Did you sleep last night after you let me know you'd touched down?"
"Not much. But I did try."
He looked over at her with a guilty grin. "It's quiet at the loft."
"I miss her. She's been there all of two days and I miss her. It's stupid."
She squeezed his hand. "It's human."
He nodded. They sat quietly for a few minutes while the Precinct bustled around them. "Do we at least have a murder to lift my spirits?"
"Only you would ask that question, Castle," she laughed.
"You wouldn't have me any other way, Detective," he grinned.
"I suppose not. And, no, unfortunately, no one has been killed this morning."
"If I answer that with anything other than 'good,' I'm a terrible person, aren't I?"
Kate smiled. "Yes, but just this once, I won't fault you for it."
He laughed. "Did you have fun last night?" he asked a few minutes later.
She sighed. "Honestly? It was dull. I would much rather have been able to come with you."
"Josh didn't entertain you? He told me those galas were a hoot last week."
Kate shook her head. "It was a lot of, 'Oh, this is my wife, Kate. Yes, that Detective Beckett.' He wasn't…he wasn't pleased with how many people knew about me from Heat Wave."
"Sorry," Rick winced.
She shook her head. "It's not your fault. It's one of those things that we'll never quite see eye to eye on."
"Still. I don't mean to, inadvertently or not, throw a chink in there."
"Yes, well, if your sex scenes weren't quite so descriptive, we wouldn't have this problem."
He grinned. "You have to give people what they want."
She just rolled her eyes and turned back to her paperwork, releasing the hand she hadn't realized she was still holding.
"I am sorry that you didn't have fun," he said, breaking the silence that had fallen.
"You look…Kate, you look terrible," Rick said by way of greeting as she opened the door for him.
"Gee, thanks, Rick," she laughed weakly while he came in.
"Are you sick? We can watch the second Holmes another night."
"No," she shook her head. "I think a movie night is just what I need right now."
He nodded concernedly and let her drag him over to the couch, where she'd set out an impressive array of food. She sat down and he popped the movie into the player before coming to sit next to her. They were silent for a moment. He didn't touch the remote.
She sighed and let herself fall back against the couch. "Josh is going to Haiti for ten months."
There was silence for a long time. "Oh, Kate."
"It was ugly," she mumbled. "And then, of course, he had taken another shift for someone, and he had to go to that, so we couldn't even duke it out."
She opened her eyes and looked over at him. "Me too."
"What's going to happen?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. He's my husband."
"And he's leaving for a year."
"He asked me to go with him," she whispered. Rick's eyes widened. "He said, 'You've solved your Mom's case. You've gotten that closure. Come on, Kate! Let's go have an adventure.' "
Rick just stared at her, seemingly at a loss for words.
"That's how I looked when he said it too," she said quietly. "And then he just kept telling me that it could be our thing. We could go save lives. I could learn to do some basic procedures, or work with the people—teach them to sanitize water and stuff like that."
"Do you…would you…"
"I bet that didn't go over well."
She shook her head. "It didn't."
"I can't believe he'd suggest…"
"Right?" she asked, staring up at the ceiling. "Like solving my Mom's case meant that I was ready to give up my life here."
"I'm glad we closed it."
"Me too," she said, looking back at him, a smile on her lips. "I'm glad I don't carry that around anymore. But it doesn't mean that I don't want to keep doing what I do."
"And you do it so well," he smiled.
"How could I give that up? I love my job, as weird as that is. And yeah, I got closure, but I still…the job still…"
"Yeah. It does. And, I mean, on top of that, I have friends here, I have a life here."
"When does he leave?"
"You can't convince him to stay?"
Kate blew out a breath. "He 'stayed here for me last time. Isn't it my turn to do something for him?' "
Rick just stared at her. "May I, may I punch him?"
Kate laughed and felt some of the tension she'd been holding, while she paced the apartment for the past three hours, flow out of her. "No, but thank you for the offer."
"I wanted to." She met his eyes. "This isn't how the first year of marriage is suppose to work, is it?"
Rick gave her a sad smile. "Sometimes it is."
She nodded and bit her lip. "I don't like it."
"I don't like it either."
She gave him a sad smile and then took a deep breath. "Okay. Let's watch the movie."
"A night with my best friend is exactly what I need right now, Rick."
He grinned. "Then that's what you shall have."
She groaned and wretched into the toilet again. When she'd gotten it all out—or at least she hoped so—she glanced back at him. He was holding her hair and rubbing her back.
"What…what are you doing in the women's room, Rick?"
He gave her a sad smile. "I could be asking you the same thing."
She glared at him. "Obviously, I'm…" she petered off as she bent back over the bowl.
She slumped against the side of the stall when she was done, too exhausted to even thank him for brushing the hair out of her face and handing her a wadded up piece of toilet paper.
"I think I'm pregnant," she whispered.
"I took the early test this morning."
"When you went into the bathroom with your purse like you were some sort of secret agent?" he asked.
She laughed feebly, feeling her strength starting to come back. "Yeah. I'm sure I did it just like that."
He grinned and then sobered. "Results?"
"Little blue plus sign," she sighed.
"You don't look happy," he observed.
"My husband is moving to Haiti for ten months, tomorrow. This is not the opportune time to get pregnant."
"Have you told him?"
Kate just looked at him. "I've been here all day," she replied. "And he's been in surgery. He'll get back around nine tonight."
Rick's face grew serious. "You are going to tell him before he leaves, right?"
"Rick, this is ridiculous, and a little insulting, actually."
"Kate, I know you. You'd want to wait to get an official test before telling him—not to be mean, but just to be sure. But you don't have that luxury of time. He needs to know."
She nodded slowly. He was right, about all of it. But she was planning on telling Josh. She'd been planning to do all of the checking before telling Rick. But, he was the one with her on the grimy floor of the Precinct bathroom.
"I'll tell him."
"And you'll go home now?"
"What, no! I don't need to leave."
"Kate, it's 5pm. We don't have a case. Go home, take a nap, plan out what you're going to say. Eat some crackers."
"Castle," she growled. She only called him Castle when she was angry now, or in front of the boys. He'd become Rick so long ago.
"Yes, I realize that you don't like me much at the moment, but you'll like me less if I get Montgomery to order you home."
"You wouldn't," she narrowed her eyes.
"And you've known me for how long, now?"
She glared at him but then gave a nod and allowed him to help her to her feet. She swayed for a moment and then got her footing.
"I'll see you tomorrow?" she asked as they left the bathroom together. Ryan and Esposito turned back to their desks, pretending that they hadn't been waiting for them to come out.
"Of course," he smiled. "Gimme a call if you need anything."
"Thanks, Rick," she said quietly.
"You're welcome. Now, get out of here," he said kindly.
She smiled and left, feeling the comfort he provided slip away as she headed for her apartment and a conversation that might end her marriage.
"He left," she whispered.
"Oh, Kate," he stepped inside and closed the door before reaching for her.
She fell tiredly against his shoulder. "He said that he'd shorten the trip and get back before I delivered. That'd he'd be gone, 'the perfect amount of time,' and he'd come home to 'meet our baby,' " she mumbled into his shoulder as the tears fell.
His hands tightened around her and she could feel him trying not to exclaim with obscenities. "May I punch him now?"
She laughed and pulled back so they could look at each other. "I asked him to stay."
"Of course you did."
"Again, may I punch him?"
Kate shook her head. "What do I do, Rick?"
"I don't know," he replied sadly.
"I asked about the sonograms, and the morning sickness, and didn't he want to be with me while I went through this? Didn't he want to experience it with me?"
"What did he say?"
She felt a tear slip down her cheek. "He said that they needed him there. That the kids in Haiti needed him. And that there were so many of them, and I was so strong. He knew I'd do 'great.' He knew I'd be okay."
"What did you say?"
"I told him I needed him. I told him that our child should matter more. And yes, it's unfair that there are children who can't have what we could give this baby, but it's our baby. And he should want to be here to experience all of it. He should want to be with me. He should want to support me!" she recounted angrily. "And he just said he was sorry, but he had to go. Then he kissed my forehead and he left! He fucking left."
Rick hauled her back to him and crushed her in a hug. "He's an idiot. He's a fool. He's…he's the man who will know my fist when he comes back."
"You can't punch him," she said into his neck. "Well, you could, but I might have castrated him first, and that might be too much."
She felt him chuckling and she pulled away to look at his face. They stood separated by a foot, their hands clasped together. "What the hell do I do?"
He took a deep breath. "Do you want the baby?"
She nodded and closed her eyes for a moment. "I do. No matter what, this is my child, and I want to meet her."
"It's a girl. I feel it."
"Then for the sake of argument, I'm saying it's a boy."
"Oh no you're not," she laughed.
"Because, if I'm somehow wrong, you'll be insufferable."
"Afraid I'll be right, then, are you?"
She laughed. "In your dreams." They looked at each other for a long moment. "I don't know what I should do."
"What do you want to do?"
She took a deep breath. "I want a divorce."
"It's not just this," she said, dropping his hands to pace around the room. "It's everything. It's the shifts and the not giving a rat's ass about our plans. He took a shift on Thanksgiving, Rick. He took a shift on New Years! And then he leaves for ten months, without even really consulting me. And now, on top of all of that, he's leaving me alone for my pregnancy, with our child. I can't…I just…this is not a marriage!"
She turned back to look at him. "I'm so sorry," he said quietly.
"Me too," she replied.
"I know what this is like, and it sucks. Well, actually, no. I don't know what this is like. This is worse. This is so much worse, and I'm so sorry, Katie."
She nodded as a tear slipped down her cheek. "Me too."
"It's a girl."
"Ha! Hand it over," Kate grinned. Rick produced a five-dollar bill and grudgingly handed it over.
"You bet on the sex of your baby?" the orderly asked.
"Ah, I see," the young woman waved them off. "Regardless. You bet on the sex of the baby?"
"He was totally convinced that it was a boy," Kate smirked.
"What would you have won if she'd been wrong?" the orderly asked Rick.
"Pride, and the control of her coffee intake."
"Which isn't fair, since he does that already," Kate interjected.
"I see," the woman smiled. "Anyway, I'll make prints. Do you need multiples for the…father?"
Kate's smile fell. "Yeah, I guess I should."
Rick squeezed the hand he was still holding and the young woman left them alone to stare at the screen.
"That's my baby," she whispered.
"Yeah," he replied, equally in awe. "She's adorable."
"She's the size of a peach Rick."
"I'm gonna tell her you said that."
She rolled her eyes and then turned to look at him. "Thanks for coming with me."
"There's nowhere I'd rather be," he smiled.
She bit her lip. "Does Amy mind that you're here? I haven't heard from her in a while, since before I found out about the, uh, peach."
"That's probably because she's in California, settling in."
He sighed. "Yep. Job offer was too good. She's heading up the law firm branch out there."
"That's…great for her?"
Kate looked at him. "And the two of you?"
"Will exchange nice Christmas cards next year."
"Oh, Rick. When?"
"Two days ago."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
He shrugged. "We were in the middle of the case, and you were vomiting every two hours. It's okay. We're okay. We're okay," he gestured between them. "I'm happy for her."
She gave him a sad smile. "Would you like membership in the lonely-hearts club? I'm thinking of making buttons."
"Did you serve the papers?"
"I'm sending them later today," she replied sadly. "He hasn't responded to my emails since that first one."
"And you can't call?"
"He won't go on Skype to talk to me," she whispered as she turned back to the screen. "I hope he'll open the package with the pictures."
"Write, 'sonogram photos,' on the envelope, so he knows," Rick suggested.
Kate nodded as the orderly came back in with the prints. "I took the liberty of making three sets, I hope you don't mind."
Kate shook her head with a smile and passed a set to Rick, who took them, grinning. "You should name her Peach, that would be fun," he said by way of thanks.
She whacked him with the envelope of photos.
"What are the candidates?" Alexis asked.
Kate held the notebook in front of her face where her head rested on a pillow on the bed in the guestroom. Rick had demanded that she stay with them for the last month of her pregnancy so that she had someone to drive her to the hospital if she went into early labor. And, since Alexis was home from school, and Kate was on maternity leave, they were currently holed up in the bedroom, brainstorming names while Rick went out for ice cream.
"Why is 'Peach' on here?" Alexis asked.
"Ask your father," Kate laughed. "He keeps writing it on all of my lists, no matter where I hide them."
Alexis grinned. "He is determined once he's set his mind to something. Speaking of—was that crib here yesterday?"
Kate shook her head. "You dad hasn't told you?"
"Told me what?"
"He finally badgered me into staying here for a few months once Jo's born."
"He did? You said yes?" Alexis asked excitedly. Kate nodded. "That's so cool! I'll get to spend time with her before I go back!"
Kate smiled and ran her fingers through the girl's hair. "I'm glad you're excited. And thank you, for all of this. For letting me stay here. For being so understanding…"
"Kate," Alexis sighed. "I love you. Of course I like having you here."
Kate felt her eyes water—must be the hormones, of course. She smiled. "I love you too, Sweetie."
They lay there in a happy silence for a long moment. "Kate, can I ask you something?"
Alexis took a deep breath. "Do you love my dad?"
Kate smiled. "Of course I do."
"No, Kate," Alexis rolled her eyes. "Love him, love him."
Kate gave her a sad smile. "It's very complicated, Lex."
"I know, but…you're here, and the two of you have been inseparable for years, even when you were married…" she said with a grimace. The divorce had been finalized about a month earlier. "And you obviously care about each other so much."
"He's my best friend, Lex," Kate said quietly. "And I love him so much, just like I love you."
"Could you…could you love him the way you loved Josh?"
Kate shook her head. "No."
"Because I love you father more than I ever loved my ex-husband."
Alexis looked up at her. "Really?"
Kate considered the young woman beside her—the girl who was as much a daughter to her as Jo would be to Rick, no matter what. "I made a mistake a year ago, Alexis. I picked 'safe' over 'risk.' And I married him. But your dad and I, we're something else entirely. And as the year's passed, I've realized that I was a complete idiot."
Alexis herself had tears streaming down her cheeks. "Kate…"
"So yes, Alexis. I love your father. I love him very, very much."
There was a creaking outside the door and Alexis looked at her. "I think you may want to tell him that. I'm gonna go out." She knelt and kissed Kate on the cheek before she engulfed her in a fierce hug. "We're not done picking a middle name."
"I know," Kate said tearily. "Love you, Lex."
"Love you too, Kate," she said as she hopped off the bed and opened the door. "Oh, look. It's Dad. What a surprise." Then she was gone.
"That daughter of yours has the subtly of an elephant, Rick," Kate said after a silent moment had passed, in which they just stared at each other.
"I take it you were eavesdropping again?"
He lifted the tray in his arms and she noticed three bowls of ice cream with whipped cream and cherries. "I was…ah, coming to deliver desert. But…you guys were having a talk, and I didn't…I…" he stumbled over his words as he set the tray down and came slowly toward her. "Kate…do you?" he was standing beside her now.
"Because I told you once, and I meant it, that I'll be whatever you want me to be. Anything and always. But, Kate…if you want…if you feel like you could want everything, I'd…hell, I'd do anything to make that happen for you, for us."
She watched as he sat down beside her so that they were face to face where she was propped up by the pillows, her swollen stomach sitting between them. "Rick, I do, I want…I want everything. You are everything. You have been for so long. But…" she gestured to her stomach.
"But what?" he asked, placing his hand gently on her stomach. The baby kicked. "My DNA or not. Your lover, your boyfriend, your husband, your sex-slave…" she laughed, "or not, I'm going to love this baby. I already love this baby. You're my best friend too, Kate."
She placed her hand on top of his and just smiled at him. "And you'll love her even if you are all of those things?"
"Even the sex-slave part? Because I know I'd enjoy that particular one quite a bit." She let the tip of her nail dig into his skin just slightly and he yelped and then grinned. "Yes. Yes, I will love her especially if I am all of those things for you too."
"Then I do, Rick. So much. So very much. Always. Eternally. Everything."
He leaned in and his hands moved to her cheeks, pulling her gently to meet his mouth. She smiled against his lips and then gave a happy sigh as their lips parted and they sank into each other. Then Jo decided that she was excited and started kicking like crazy. Kate startled and jerked away.
"She's manic," she whispered, bringing one of his hands to sit on her stomach. "I think she likes you."
"That's good," he smiled, his eyes never leaving hers. "Because I'm pretty sure that I love her more than life itself."
"Come on Kate, you can do it!" he said against her ear where he was sitting behind her, pressed to her back, supporting her.
"Shut up! Shut the hell up, Castle!" she screamed as pain ripped through her body.
"You're doing so well, Kate. Just one more push and you'll have your daughter," Dr. Marsh told her.
"One more, Honey, and we can meet her," Rick told her, pressing a kiss to her sweating cheek. "One more."
"I'd like to see you give. One. More," she panted as the contraction hit and she started pushing, her cries echoing around the room until a new wail pierced through. She stopped screaming and watched in awe as her daughter squirmed in the Doctor's arms.
"Do you want to cut the cord, Dad?" she asked.
Rick beamed next to her and Kate leant forward to he could cut the umbilical cord without getting out from behind her.
"Congratulations, you two. You have a happy, healthy, loud, little girl," Dr. Marsh told them. "We'll clean her up and get her straight back to you while you do the afterbirth, okay?" She handed the wriggling, crying baby off and then turned back to Kate. "One more set. I promise this won't hurt as much."
Rick wrapped his arms around Kate's middle. "I'm so proud of you. So proud," he whispered into her ear as she gave her final pushes and then collapsed against him, hardly caring about the young woman cleaning between her legs.
"We," she gasped as Rick ran a cloth over her forehead. "We have a daughter."
"I love you," he whispered to her as a nurse walked over to them, cradling a pink bundle in her arms.
"Here you go, Mom," she said quietly, gently handing the baby to Kate.
"Hi, baby," Kate cooed as she took her daughter and held her for the first time. "Hi, beautiful. Oh, Rick. Look at her hand," she gasped as tiny fingers closed around her pointer finger.
"I know," he murmured, running a hand over the soft little head. "She's amazing."
"She's perfect," Kate said in awe. "Hi, Johanna. I'm your Mommy, and this," she turned her head to kiss his cheek. "This is Daddy."
"Hi, baby," he said as he wrapped his arms around the both of them. "I'm so glad to meet you."
They sat there, just staring down at the beautiful little girl with the wispy chestnut hair and tiny little nose, while the room bustled around them. Eventually, an orderly came over.
"I have to take her so we can weigh her and get her all set, and then we'll give her back once you're in recovery, Ms. Beckett. Can we have a first name?"
"Johanna," they said together.
Kate sighed and gently handed the little bundle over, watching as the orderly took her out of the room. Her eyes remained trained on the door, waiting for her to come back, even though she knew that she wouldn't.
"We'll get her back in a little while," Rick murmured against her ear.
She turned her head and he shifted behind her so that they could look at each other. "I love you," she told him as their lips met.
"I love you more," he whispered, playing their game.
"Lies," he said. "But, I'm going to go tell everyone who is waiting, so very not patiently, that we have a daughter, and that they can come see you in a little while," he said as he slipped out from behind her and helped her scoot back to hit the pillows at the head of the bed. "Then I'll be right back to never leave you alone as long as you're here…and maybe afterward too."
She smiled, too tired to roll her eyes. "Okay. My dad, your mom and Alexis, first?"
"Of course," he said, leaning in to give her one last kiss. "You're extraordinary, Kate. I love you so much." She watched him go and felt her eyes close as she leaned back and waited to be wheeled to recovery.
She had a daughter.
"Kate?" Kate looked up, expecting to see Rick and found herself face to face with Josh. Johanna squirmed in her arms.
"Josh, hi," she finally managed after an awkward minute of staring.
"This is Johanna Alexandra B…Beckett-Castle," she replied quietly.
His face fell, but he stepped forward all the same. "Castle?" She nodded. "She's gorgeous, Kate."
"Yeah, she is," Kate smiled, looking down at her daughter to find the baby looking up at her. "Hi, Jo. Look who's finally awake!" The orderly had brought her in asleep and Kate had been anxiously waiting to look into those little hazel eyes.
"Woke up for Daddy, I guess," Josh said, reaching out to stroke the baby's cheek. "Johanna, for your mother?" Kate nodded again. "And Alexandra?"
Kate bit her lip. "Three reasons. One, for Alexis, Rick's daughter." Josh bobbed his head. "Two, Rick's middle name." His jaw tightened. "And…three, three is a bit of an inside joke."
"You gave our daughter a name based on an inside joke?" he asked, incredulous.
"I gave our daughter a name for two people I love very much, and a joke that's not so much a joke as a prediction that came surprisingly true."
"Oh," he said quietly. "She's perfect."
"I know," Kate smiled, looking back down at the baby. "You are completely perfect, aren't you?"
"Kate," he said, breaking her focus on the pretty baby.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I was an ass, and then you sent the papers and I just…I couldn't bring myself to write back, so I had…I had my lawyer do it. But, I've had her pictures, the sonograms, hanging over my bunk all year."
"She's hard to get away from once you've seen her," Kate nodded. This was obviously just as difficult for him as it was for her, even if she hadn't done anything wrong, and they both knew it.
"And, obviously, from the murderous looks I got from everyone in the waiting room, I'm not getting a second chance with you." She shook her head. "Right. But, Kate. I want to be a part of Johanna's life."
"Of course," she replied. "How long are you staying for?"
He hung his head. "You know I'm leaving?"
"They need you, Josh."
"What about her?"
Kate considered him. "You weren't willing to stay when you couldn't see her."
"You actually really know me, don't you?" he asked sadly. "You were probably the best thing—no. I know you were the best thing I've ever had, and I gave you up."
"You did." She wouldn't let him off the hook. He'd been horrible to her, and left her. Father of her child or not, she wouldn't sugar coat it for him.
"I'm so sorry."
"I know you are."
"I want to know her," he continued. "You'll…you'll let me, won't you?"
"I would never keep her from you," she said immediately. "No matter what happened between us, Josh, she's your daughter, and I know you'll do well by her."
"I really loved you, Kate. I still do."
"I loved you too."
He looked at her. "Not as much as you love Rick though, was it?"
"Rick was my best friend, Josh. Now he's my best friend and my everything, so, no. I loved him differently than I loved you, no more, no less."
"He'll give you everything."
"He'll be here to watch her grow up."
She nodded. "He will."
"She'll love him more than me."
Kate shook her head. "She'll love him differently."
"I don't know that that's much better," he said quietly.
"Here," she held Johanna out for him to take. "Hold your daughter, Josh."
"Is that my granddaughter?" Kate looked up and found her father standing in the doorway with Rick behind him.
"It is," Kate smiled, beckoning him over. "Dad, this is Johanna Alexandra Beckett-Castle."
He beamed and she watched a tear slip down his cheek. "You named her for…"
"For Mom," Kate said softly, feeling a tear slip from her own eye. "She would have loved her."
"Your mother would have been so proud of you, Katie," Jim said as he took Johanna from her with trembling hands. "She's gorgeous."
"Isn't she?" Rick asked happily as he walked around Jim to sit beside Kate, wrapping an arm around her. "You okay?" he whispered as they watched Jim, who was completely oblivious to everything but the beautiful girl in his arms.
"Yeah," she replied, leaning up to kiss him. "I'm okay. He's okay. He'll be around for about a month to see her, and then it's another ten months in the field."
"That's a lot of life to miss," Rick said quietly, looking over at their daughter.
"He knows," she murmured. "But he knows you're here for her."
"And he's okay with that?"
Kate gave him a sad smile. "He knows what he gave up, and who he gave it to."
Rick nodded just as two red heads popped into the room. "Is he done hogging her yet?" Alexis asked without preamble.
"Hogging her?" Jim exclaimed, turning to look at the girls as they came in, Alexis bouncing happily into the room, and Martha moving with measured, emotional steps. "She happens to be my granddaughter."
"Yeah, well she's my sister, so hand her over," Alexis countered.
Kate and Rick watched as Jim and Alexis glared at each other and then laughed. Jim handed Johanna to her sister and Alexis cradled her in her arms with tender care, looking down at the girl, completely besotted. "I love you already, kid. So very much," she whispered to the baby.
"She's absolutely stunning," Martha said as she looked at the baby over Alexis' shoulder. "She looks just like you, Kate."
"She looks like my Mom," Kate replied.
"You look like your Mom," Jim added.
"She looks like Alexis," Rick said after a minute of heavy, tear-filled silence.
"Ooh, can I die her hair red and tell everyone she's mine then?" Alexis asked, glancing up at her father, who had gone stiff behind Kate.
"Over his dead body," Kate laughed. "Now let your grandmother hold her so I can have her back."
Martha laughed and took the baby from Alexis, smiling down at her as she walked slowly toward the bed. Alexis leaned into Jim's side and he wrapped an arm around her. "We're gonna go hit the cafeteria," he told them. "We were headed there when Rick came out. We'll see you in a little bit, Honey."
"Love you guys," Kate and Rick said together.
"Do they do that a lot?" they heard Jim ask as he steered Alexis out into the hallway.
Martha handed the baby to Kate and then stepped back to look at them. "You look perfect, you know," she said quietly.
"We aren't," they replied together, again.
"Yes, that proves your point," Martha laughed. "But I do mean that. I think you found it."
"Me too," Rick replied as his eyes fell back to his daughter, cradled in Kate's arms.
"Thank you, Martha," Kate said softly. "Thank you for everything."
"Oh, Kate," she said, coming over to cup her cheek. "I couldn't ask for a better daughter." Kate did cry then as Martha wrapped her in a hug, careful of the baby in her arms. "I am so proud to have you as part of my family, even though you've been one of us for far longer than either of you realized."
"Thank you," Kate whispered.
Martha ran a hand over her head and then leaned over to peck her son on the cheek. "Alright, well, I'm going to go find your father and your daughter, and make sure they're not getting into trouble." Then there was just the three of them.
"Rick," Kate whispered as she stared out the door.
"You're a part of our family, Kate. You are our family. You, me, your dad, my mom, Alexis and Jo—we're a family."
Kate nodded and kissed him, trying to pour everything she felt into the feeling of his lips over hers. Until, of course, the lovely baby in her arms began to squirm.
"Oh, hey, baby girl," she said as they broke apart and looked down at her. "Are you hungry, huh?"
"Did the nurse already?"
"Yeah, while you were out with everyone," Kate replied as she lifted her shirt a positioned Jo to feed. They watched her in silence, Rick's hands running softly over Kate's arms and Jo's head.
"I love you so much," he whispered in her ear. "Thank you for letting me have this, have you, have her."
"Always," Kate replied, tearing her eyes away from the baby to look up at him. "Always and everything I have, Rick."
"Mommy!" Kate heard as she came out of the bedroom, dressed and ready. Little footie-pajamaed feet skidded across the floor and then there were arms wrapping around her knees and a messy sprawl of wet curls hitting her stomach.
"Well hello, Jo," she laughed, reaching down to pick her daughter up. "Are you all ready to go see Daddy?"
Jo nodded and Kate smiled and set her down on the counter so she could tie the little girl's hair back. "Mommy?"
"Why do I have two daddies?"
Kate looked at her daughter, full of complete innocence. "Because you're special, Jo."
"Da real answer," she prompted. Kate wanted to sigh. Her daughter was so smart, and sometimes it was such a pain!
"Okay," Kate nodded while she finished tying Jo's hair back. "You have the Daddy that lives here." Jo nodded. "And you have the Daddy that comes to see you every few months, like tonight."
"The first Daddy, Mommy's husband, is Rick. The second Daddy, is Josh, your biological father."
Kate giggled. "Do you remember when we told you that it takes a Mommy and a Daddy to make a baby?"
"Uh-huh. Like the baby in your tummy?"
"Right," Kate smiled as Johanna reached out and placed a hand on the small bump Kate was developing. "Well, your Daddy, Josh, is the Daddy that helped me make you."
"So Daddy-Daddy didn't make me?" she asked sadly.
"No," Kate replied honestly. "But he loves you so very, very, very much."
"That he does!" Rick exclaimed as he came down the stairs in a wet tee shirt, rubbing a towel through his hair. "He loves you more than the moon and the stars and the sun and the earth all put together," he told the little girl, picking her up and swinging her around while Kate took the towel from him and placed it in the hamper under the sink.
"Josh isn't going to appreciate that you've riled her up before bedtime," Kate observed as Rick set Jo down and started to chase her.
He glanced over as he caught her. "I bathed her. That should earn me points in his book."
Kate smiled just as there was a knock on the door. She opened it and met Josh's smiling face. "I hear the sounds of a girl being excited before bed, don't I?"
Kate laughed. "He argues that he bathed her, so this is payback," she said as she opened the door and let him in.
"I suppose I can't fault that logic, can I?" he asked as Jo spotted him.
"Daddy!" she exclaimed, skidding over to him. "I've missed you."
"I missed you too, Munchkin," he replied. Jo glared and both Rick and Kate bit their lips.
"I'm not a munchkin!" Jo told him, stomping her little foot. "I'm a big girl. I'm almost this many." She held up four fingers.
"That you are, Jo," Josh replied quickly. "I'm sorry."
"Thank you," Jo said, smiling as Kate nodded to her.
"Jo just learned how we accept apologies earlier this week."
Josh looked at them and Rick shrugged. "I may have been party to a similar example of nearly-four-year-old anger."
"Ah," Josh laughed. "Alright, well, miss big girl, it looks like it's time for us to go and let your parents go out on their date. Nice dress," he said, looking at Kate.
"Thanks," Kate smiled. "Can I have a hug?" she asked, kneeling down and smiling as Johanna barreled into her. "I'll see you in just three days, okay?"
"Okay, Mommy," Jo whispered. "Will you promise to call?"
"Of course I will. Just like always."
"I promise I will too. Just like always," Rick said, crouching down with them. "Now, gimme a hug so your other Daddy can take you home."
"Okay." Jo squeezed them both one last time and then Josh picked her up.
"I'll have her back on Sunday night?"
"Perfect," they said together.
"Happy Anniversary, you two."
Then it was just the two of them.
"You do look stunning," Rick said as they stood and he pulled her into his arms. "Absolutely gorgeous." His lips descended on her neck.
"Thank you," she said, and then gasped as he found her pulse point. "Hey, hey," she said breathily, pushing him away a bit. "If we want to make that reservation, you've got to change, Mr."
"What if I told you I didn't care about the reservation anymore?" he asked, reaching for her with a leer.
"Then we'll starve," she laughed. "Go change. I promise I'll make it worth your while."
He smiled and then pulled her in for another kiss. When they broke apart, he rested his forehead against hers. "It's already worth my while."
"He may have left with Jo, but I have you, and the two of you, all the time. And that, my dear, is all the while one can ever need."
She smiled. "You and your words, Rick."
"I mean them, always."
"I know," she whispered, placing one last kiss against his lips. "And I love you too. Now go change."
"Yes, Captain!" he saluted and then took off at a jog while she tried to swat his butt. He'd been making those jokes ever since she'd been promoted. And while, in the beginning, it was cute, now, it was just annoying.
She sat down on the couch and looked at the door where Josh had left with Johanna. Rick was right. Josh had their daughter, their collective daughter, for a few days, but Rick had them. And yes, she still loved Josh. She'd always love him, because he gave her Johanna. But Rick, Rick was her everything. And there wasn't any other man in the world that she could love more. Her stomach jolted. The baby had just kicked for the first time.
"Oh, little one," she smiled and placed her hand on her stomach, hoping to catch it again so she could show Rick. "You're going to be so lucky."