Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop
Kate Beckett was tired of being the responsible one. She was exhausted, frankly.
She had pulled herself together as quickly as possible. Pieces were shoved into place instead of being worked in slowly like they needed to be. Some of those bits were still lying on the ground, waiting for her to pick them up and fit them into her being again.
All because of that one night seven years ago. The night that still had her putting herself back together like Humpty Dumpty while simultaneously looking out for her father, making sure he didn't fall not off a wall but back into the bottle. Add to that the stress of trying to fit in at work and Kate was sure she was going to break down any day now.
Kate just wished that moment didn't feel so imminent when the anniversary of her mother's death this coming weekend. Working a double shift Tuesday into Wednesday just so she could get the days off in order to babysit her father was not exactly how most twenty-six year olds spent their weekends.
Plus, the full moon was tonight and that meant the crazies would be out in force. More paperwork for her. Another bonus to being the low woman on the totem pole.
"Hey, Beckett! You done?"
She jerked her head up from the report she had been filling out on the two women caught in a cat fight over some drunk man. They had all three been rolling around on the grass in Battery Park, yelling insults at one another. It was like a live version of Jerry Springer, according to the arresting detective who had dropped the trio off in the holding cell on the bullpen floor and headed back out into the fray, claiming he was going to grab some popcorn if that was tonight's entertainment.
"Yeah. What do you need?" she asked, signing her name on the report without looking, flipping the manila folder shut.
The Latino detective, a week newer than she, was smiling across the two desks separating them. "You call it a night. I'll pick up the last of the loony bin."
Kate wasn't going to complain. Sleep would be lovely, the only real chance she got to let herself fall into oblivion safely. She was on her feet, her heavy jacket swinging onto her shoulders before flipping her hair out from under the collar. "Thanks, dude."
"Anytime!" he called back as she jogged down the stairs.
It was freezing outside. She had been cocooned in the warmth of the precinct since six that morning when she had come in. The heat had only increased at night when the stream of people claiming to be possessed by the moon's mystical powers had started rolling into the bullpen. The temperature change was a shock to her body, but Kate huddled deeper into her coat, clenched her teeth in the cold, and headed toward where she had parked the car.
The drive at ten thirty was a little less crowded than the one at five. Kate practically had the streets to herself, minus the occasional taxi trolling for fares from people looking for sanctuary from the weather. She had some Top 40 station playing in the background as she navigated one-way streets and three lane avenues from the precinct to her building. She had to park a block away since she refused to pay for a reserved spot in the garage and all of the slots were full. Back out into the cold for the walk around the corner to her front door.
She passed the bar next to her building, conversation pouring from the place mixing with the news anchor telling New Yorkers about the deep freeze that was due tonight and tomorrow morning from the various televisions in the room. Kate hesitated, her hands in the pockets of her jacket. Oh, what the hell, she thought as she opened the door to the bar and ducked inside.
The noise was like a drumming, something Kate could feel to her bones as she weaved through the bodies to the bar. The bartender was a gruff older man who nodded when she asked for a beer, placing the bottle at her elbow with another bob of his head.
Kate really hadn't had alcohol since watching her father spiral down into self-destruction with that particular evil. But it had been seven years and Dad had been sober for three of them, on and off. She could let herself have a single beer, especially with home right next door.
Twenty minutes later, she had made a friend in a handsome man who had sidled up next to her at the bar, ordering her a vodka with a smile and the phrase "Or are you a whiskey girl?" when she glanced over at him. They had exchanged everything but names, phone numbers, and addresses over one too many rounds of drinks that had made Kate progressively more light-headed. Somewhere in her fogged-over mind, Kate knew that was a bad sign. A really bad sign. But the man, all brown hair and piercing blue eyes, had her laughing like she hadn't laughed since that night seven years ago.
So when he asked if he could walk her home, Kate's voice was slurred as she told him she lived right next door. They had stumbled from the bar after her mystery man paid for the drinks, giggling as she fumbled with the key ring to get the security door open, making sure it was closed before unlocking the vestibule door. The elevator was the better choice; Kate wasn't entirely sure she could handle walking up the three flights of stairs to the apartment and the way the man pressed her against the wall of the elevator had her curling her toes in her boots.
She woke up with a headache. Not just a slight pressure behind her eyes, but a full-blown, marching band rehearsal going on in her temple. Kate groaned, rolling over and pulling the comforter over her head to block out the sun peeking through the blinds. It was a damn good thing she didn't have to work today because she didn't see herself going much further than the bathroom.
A mirrored sigh had her freezing in place. Kate wrote it off as way too much alcohol playing with her brain until a heavy arm flopped out over her waist. Her naked waist. Where were her pajamas?
The breath fanned out over her shoulder and Kate shivered before turning over. "No, no, no," she muttered, even that sounding far too loud. She gave the arm a shove, backing up so she was against the headboard.
Next to her was her handsome stranger, his face half-buried in her pillows as he watched her through narrowed eyes. His hair was standing up and the bit of his body she could see before it met the sheets was bare. Not a good sign at all.
"What's wrong?" he asked, rubbing his face with one hand.
"You…" Kate winced. "You are not supposed to be here."
The man shifted, running a hand down his chest. Kate had to look away from the bite mark making itself known where his neck met his shoulder, letting her head fall into her hands. He reached out to trace his fingertips over the hint of her thigh. "You said I could stay last night. It was an eventful evening."
"Which is over." She jerked away from his touch, wrapping the sheets closer around her body. "Get out. Now." The attempt to infuse some of her 'detective voice' into the situation fell flat. Kate was pretty sure she wouldn't have listened to herself.
But the body next to her did. He scooted to the edge of the bed, searching on the ground for his clothing. When he stood up, bending over to scoop up his jeans, Kate got an eyeful of a nice ass and strong legs. Both of which she had the fuzziest memories of from last night that she wished she could erase.
He dressed in silence, the only sound as he left being the click of the front door as it shut.
"Shit," she said, crawling back under the comforter to hide in the dark. The child in her hoped that if she closed her eyes, then restarted the morning, the man wouldn't be in her bed. The adult that had grown up too quickly told herself that was silly. Time to face the consequences, Katherine, that small voice whispered.
Later. She'd see what the damage was later. For now, Kate wanted to hide from the world under her blankets and sleep off the rest of this hangover.
This time, when she emerged from the darkness created around her, Kate saw that it was a little past two in the afternoon. Her head still throbbed, but not to the extent it had that morning. She placed her feet on the cold, hardwood floor and made sure she was steady before walking to the bathroom. Kate avoided the mirror, knowing the reflection would not be one she needed to remember. She ran the water in the shower hot, sticking a hand past the curtain to test the temperature before stepping into the spray.
She felt the sting of scratches and bite marks on her shoulders and back, pushed the pain back along with the guilt as she washed her hair. The soap circled down the drain. Her humiliation lingered. Not bothering to blow dry the long brown locks, she slipped into the terrycloth robe that hung on the back of the bathroom door and went to the kitchen, starting a pot of coffee. Just the smell of the liquid had her stomach settling. Kate searched out a package of Ritz crackers in her cupboard, sitting on the couch to wait for the coffee to brew.
Never again, she promised herself. Last night's events could never, ever happen again. Not with her father just getting back on his feet with Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or with her own issues that she was still working out with the department psychiatrist.
Kate Beckett did not need a messy relationship, one night stand or otherwise, right now.
March was still chilly on St. Patrick's Day. Kate wasn't sure why so many people braved the biting wind to stand on the side of the road and watch old men in green walk by, but they did. And like every other cop in the city, she found herself bundled up outside with them, keeping an eye on a few of the rabble-rousers as they waved pints of green beer in the air. Just down the street, Ryan was bonding with some of the drunks over the little shamrock pin the detective had stuck on his lapel that morning in the precinct before heading out, claiming it as an homage to his own Celtic background.
Kate was leaning against the brick façade of the building she had picked to stand near. She wasn't feeling one hundred percent after spending most of the morning on the floor of her bathroom. It had gotten to the point where even the cool tile wasn't soothing as she rested her head on the ground, curled into a ball in her pajamas. She had dragged herself out of the room to get dressed, still sticking to comfort over style with jeans and a cream fisherman's sweater, wrapping a deep green scarf around her neck as a nod to the holiday.
Even now, her stomach rolled a little with the smell of bangers and mash floating in the air. Kate pressed the back of her gloved hand against her mouth in an attempt to block the scent from entering her nose. It didn't help much but she mentally shook it off, needing to focus on the crowd and not her rebelling body.
"Happy St. Patty's Day, Officer!" shouted a man as he stumbled over to her, looping his arm over her shoulders and tugged her against his side. "Erin goooo…" was as far as he got before Kate ducked from under his arm and gave him a shove up against the wall she had been leaning against.
"Come on, Officer! Cut me some slack. It's St. Patty's Day."
Kate shook her head as she pulled the cuffs from the leather case on her belt, snugging them around the man's wrists. "Sorry, bud. Picked the wrong detective to snuggle with today." She pushed him toward where Ryan was standing, her stomach protesting every step until she was able to hand the man off to her co-worker to bring to a bus.
She found a relatively clean bathroom in one of the restaurants lining the street and let her stomach reject her breakfast of toast and water. Only two months in and she was already tired of this ordeal.
She had been late. Her cycle never really regulated itself, probably due to an ever-changing sleep schedule, iffy nutrition, and too much physical exertion. But two weeks late had been new. Kate had one of her friends in the medical examiner's office, a sassy woman who had lightly hazed Kate back when she was a rookie, run a blood test under the radar. She was surprised she hadn't fainted when Lanie Parish had called her a few days later to let her know she was pregnant.
Just her luck. One night stand leads to a baby.
Kate had sworn Lanie to secrecy over the phone and then in person when she had run to the morgue before work the day after. Her friend had kept that promise and Kate loved her even more for it. They hadn't known each other well before this, but Kate was fairly certain she had gained a loyal companion in the petite medical examiner.
Which is why Kate texted Lanie from the bathroom, asking Lanie to cover for Kate at the precinct with a phone call. Kate didn't see herself being overly thrilled to go back to work if she couldn't handcuff some drunk without losing her breakfast.
She poked the side of her still-flat stomach gently. "Hey, baby. Enough of this," she whispered as she got to her feet again.
The rest of the day that served as an excuse to go out and get shit-faced was spent with her father. Part of it was because she wanted to make sure he didn't give in to temptation and join in the citywide party. The other was the need to be close to him, cuddled against his side as they watched the Food Network together. Father-daughter time that had been increasing steadily as Kate found herself relying on him to guide her through this with knowledge from her mother's pregnancy.
So they watched Iron Chef America and Cupcake Wars turned up loud enough to drown out the city noises until Kate fell asleep on her father's arm like she had when she had been six years old.
"She's beautiful, Katie."
He turned as he reached the end of the room, keeping his arms steady as he started the walk back toward the bed. Jim Beckett held the lavender bundle expertly, the crook of his elbow supporting the head while his hands played with her feet.
Kate's eyes were closed as she rested her head on the raised back of the bed. Not asleep, but bordering on it. The sun was rising outside the window of the hospital room, silhouetting the skyline in golden red. She caught herself as her lids shut, snapping them back open and searching for her father. Her father and her daughter.
Strange. The little human nestled in the man's arms was her daughter. Hers.
Jim settled in the chair next to Kate's bed, crossing his legs at the knee as he let the baby grab his pointer finger. "What's her name?"
"Alexandra." Kate smiled, reaching a hand out to brush her fingertips over the soft blanket. "It means 'protector of men.'"
"No middle name?"
Jim glanced over at his daughter. "'Dad' is a weird middle name for this beauty." He turned back to his granddaughter, stroking a finger over her cheek. "Your mother is torturing you already."
Kate laughed. She had to. She was exhausted, mentally and physically, and so in love with the little girl just a foot away from her. The laughter just bubbled out of her. "You know none of us Beckett women have middle names. Tradition." If she stretched just a little further, Kate could feel the downy patch of brown hair on the baby's skull. "Dad, can you watch her for a while? I just need to take a quick nap and I'll be back to one hundred percent."
"And she's got me babysitting already as well!" Jim whispered to the sleeping girl. He freed his hand, rubbing his fingers over the back of Kate's hand. "Of course I'll watch her, Katie. Get some sleep."
He wasn't sure she heard the last part. The instant he said he would, her eyes shut with a sigh.
Jim got up, keeping Alexandra close to his chest as he walked to the window. "Hey Jo. We have a granddaughter. She gives Katie a run for her money in the looks department. Remember how pretty our Katherine was when she was born? Little Allie here might just beat her out."
In his arms, Alexandra Beckett gave a huge yawn, her tiny fist grabbing hold of Jim's shirt. Kate may have not done the baby-thing in the traditional way, but Jim made a silent vow to make sure his girls were never alone in this.
Kate closed the door to her apartment with her foot. Her hands were full of bags and a single baby carrier with a pale pink blanket draped over the top to keep the light dim. As quietly as she could, she set the carrier on the floor near the couch as she ran to put away the other things.
Still dressed in the loose yoga pants and huge NYPD t-shirt her father had brought to the hospital for her to change into, her hair in a messy knot at her neck, Kate shifted the blanket over the carrier and lifted the drowsy baby out of the cushions, settling her against her chest.
"Hey, Al," Kate whispered, sitting back against the couch. "We're home. It's not much. In fact, it's certainly not the place I dreamed I would be bringing my child home to. But it's ours." The baby sighed, turning her hand into Kate's body and the woman had to choke back tears. "It's you and me, baby." She lowered her nose to rub the tip over her daughter's soft forehead. "I love you so much, Al. I will always love you."