A/N: This is the third installment in the "A Helping Hand" universe. You don't have to necessarily have read the other two stories in order to read this one, but if you do, you won't feel so lost as to how they got to this point. This will be a two-shot, most likely, if I can get these characters under control. You all know how chapters sometimes just run entirely too long.
Hope you guys will enjoy it. It seems I just can't let go of this universe, no matter how hard I try.
Disclaimer: Castle is not mine.
Breath of Life
Kate woke up with a gasp, her heart pounding in her chest. It took her a couple of minutes to remember where she was and that the horrible scene she had just witnessed in her dream was not true. Still breathless, she shielded her eyes from the harsh light from her cell phone, blinking against it until she could make out the numbers indicating the time. It was a little past 4 in the morning and the loft was completely silent, except for Rick's steady breathing next to her. She turned on her side, trying to get comfortable with her swollen belly, but something felt off. Letting out a sigh, she turned on her back again and closed her eyes, hoping sleep would claim her.
Something still felt off, though. It was hot. She could feel the sheets wet under her body, but when she brushed a hand over it, she frowned in confusion when she found it was soaked through.
That was odd.
Then suddenly, a searing pain in her lower back and abdomen took her by surprise, taking her breath away. She tried to breathe through it, fisting her hands in the sheets and biting down hard on her lip until it finally subsided. Gasping for breath, she tried to sit up, moving slowly, before reaching out to touch Rick's shoulder.
"Rick." She said quietly, the residue pain still making her breathless. He mumbled a reply, but didn't wake. "Rick, wake up." She called a little bit stronger and this time he stirred, blinking groggily at her.
"What is it?" He asked sleepily, his eyes barely open enough to focus on her. "What's wrong?"
"I think my water just broke." She whispered, trying to stay calm and not scare him, but he bolted upright anyway.
"What?" In a second he was sitting up and touching her belly gently. "The baby is coming? Now?" He fired question after question at her nervously and she nodded. "Okay, any contractions?" He asked, running a hand through his hair agitatedly before he jumped out of bed, looking around for his jeans.
"Yeah, I had one about four minutes ago? I think. I'm not sure." She told him, swinging her legs slowly out of bed, but he stopped her.
"No, stay there. I'll get everything, don't worry." He stopped in front of her, pulling a shirt on, and leaned down to kiss her lips softly. "We're having a baby, Kate." He beamed at her through his nervousness and she smiled, running a hand through his messy hair.
"We're having a baby." She murmured and pressed her lips to his again for a moment. "The bag is in her room. Can you go get it?"
"On it. Will you be okay for a couple of minutes?" He brushed her hair back gently, caressing her cheek with his thumb. She leaned into his touch and nodded. "Stay in bed. I'll help you change in a minute."
"I'm fine, go." She shooed him away and leaned back against the head of the bed, breathing in and out slowly. A couple of minutes passed before that searing pain stole her breath again, making her grit her teeth to ride through it. God, she knew it would hurt, but she never thought it would be this bad.
"Kate?" She heard his voice through the haze of pain and felt him touch her cheek, his other hand finding hers, gently loosening her fingers from their grip on the sheets. "Hey, breathe, love. In and out, slowly."
"God, it hurts, Rick." She gasped, finally opening her eyes to find his concerned gaze on her.
"I know, love. I know. Let's get you to the hospital, okay?" He said soothingly, brushing his lips to her forehead. "Come on, can you stand?" He asked and she nodded, a bit unsure. "Alright, come on."
"The time. Check the time." She grabbed his arm suddenly and he unlocked his phone, the light illuminating his face.
"Okay, seven minutes." She took a deep breath and looked around the room, looking for the clothes she had been wearing before bed. "I have to change." Her eyes fell on the discarded yoga pants and pointed it out to him. He made sure she was fine standing by herself and quickly grabbed the pair, bringing it back to her, helping her discard the soiled shorts and pull on the yoga pants. She nodded, letting him know she was ready, and pulled her hair up in a messy bun.
"Let's go meet our little girl." He beamed at her and put a steadying arm around her waist, leading her to the door.
"I just called your dad. He's on his way." Rick told her as he entered the room.
Kate had been immediately sent to the maternity ward as soon as they had gotten to the hospital. Her doctor had checked in on her a few minutes before, clearing her for the epidural shot to help her with the pain. Now, as the anesthetic kicked in, she finally felt like she could breathe again. She honestly didn't know how some women thought the natural, drug free way, was the way to go. During those first contractions, it had felt like she was about to be split in half and the pain had only intensified as the contractions got closer together. When her doctor had finally authorized the shot, they had only been four minutes apart.
"Thanks." She smiled at him and reached a hand out to him invitingly. He took it and placed a gentle kiss on the back of it. "Did you get a hold of Alexis?" She asked, letting out a sigh, and he nodded, pulling a stool close to her bed to sit on.
"She's driving back to the city at first light. Texted Ryan and Esposito as well." He informed, threading his fingers through hers, and she squeezed his hand when the pressure of another contraction hit her. At least it wasn't painful anymore, just uncomfortable. "Hanging in there?"
"I'm in love with the epidural man." She said with a teasing smile and he chuckled.
"Good to know you're tossing me to the side just like that." He teased back and rested his elbow on the bed, keeping her hand close to his cheek. "I love you." He said after a couple of minutes in silence, kissing her hand and letting her squeeze the hell out of his when another contraction hit. "They're getting closer together, huh?"
"Dr. Harris said I'm at seven centimeters already. Just a little more to go." She said and brought their joined hands to her chest. "I'm scared, Rick." She confessed in a small voice, a tear finally escaping her eyes. "What if I suck at this? What if I just don't know how to be a mother?"
"Kate, love, we're doing this together. And you're going to be a great mom, I know it." He brushed his free hand through her hair lovingly and leaned down to kiss her lips. "Just look at how good you are with Julia and the twins. And with Alexis. And Ian." He kept counting the names on his fingers and she laughed through her tears. "You're going to be great. We're going to be parents." He smiled at her so big that she couldn't help but pull him back down for another kiss.
They were having a baby. Together. That was all that mattered.
"Go get the doctor, Rick." Kate told him anxiously. The pressure had been building slowly, but now it was starting to be to too much for her. She needed to push.
"She was just here, Kate."
"I don't care. Go get her." She said through gritted teeth. She couldn't take it, she had to push. Now. Right now.
"But she said it would still take a while. Just try to relax, love." He kissed her forehead and noticed the sweat already forming there.
"Castle, I need to push. I can't take it anymore. Go get the doctor." she nearly growled at him and his eyes widened. He nodded and immediately rushed out of the room.
Kate tried to breathe in and out slowly, tried to clear her head, think of something, anything that wasn't the unbearable pressure in her pelvis. Her thoughts strayed to her mom and how she used to tell the story of how she was born; how she had been in labor for almost twenty-four hours before little Katherine Beckett came into this world. Suddenly, her throat closed up, a knot taking residence there and she felt an overwhelming need to cry. She needed her mom with her. She needed her mom to hold her and tell her everything would be alright. It broke her heart that she would never get to know her granddaughter and that her baby girl would grow up with only one grandmother.
"Kate, Rick says you need to push already." Dr. Harris said, entering the room.
"Yeah, it got really strong, really fast." She explained, gritting her teeth in an attempt to keep from pushing the baby out immediately.
"Okay, I'm going to have to check you again." The doctor pulled a pair of gloves on and called a nurse in, before performing an exam. "Alright, you're at ten centimeters. Let's get this show on the road." She said cheerfully. Kate tried her best not to glare at her.
"You have nothing to worry about, Ms. Beckett. You're in very good hands with Dr. Harris." Ashley, the young nurse assisting the doctor, smiled at her, trying to comfort her. Kate nodded and closed her eyes, trying to keep her breathing calm and regular. "This is so exciting. It's the first time I'm delivering a baby." She said happily, helping Kate position herself on the gurney.
"Oh, really?" Kate said breathlessly. "Oh, God, I need to push so bad."
"Just try to breathe, love. Remember all those classes we went to? Now it's time to put them all to practice." Rick said, holding her hand and Kate glared at him. "What, I'm just trying to help."
"You need to put this on, Rick. That is, if you want to stay." Dr. Harris entered the room again, wearing a sterilized gown and handed him one.
"Only if she wants me to stay." He sounded unsure and looked at Kate for directions.
"Are you kidding me, Rick? Of course you're staying!" Kate exclaimed, tears already pooling in her eyes. "I can't do this without you." She said quietly, her voice shaking. Now that it was really happening, she was terrified. "Please."
He nodded and took her hand, sitting back down on the stool next to her bed.
"Okay, Rick, your job is basically stay out of our way and hold Kate's hand." Dr. Harris explained with a gentle smile and he nodded, kissing the back of his fiancée's hand.
"I love you." He whispered in her ear and she smiled nervously at him. "You can do this."
"Alright, Kate, whenever you're ready now…" Dr. Harris called from her position at the foot of the bed.
The pressure was almost too much for a human being to handle, Kate thought as she pushed as hard as she could. This baby had to come out fast; she couldn't take it anymore. It was too much. She needed this to be over.
"I'm going to count to ten and you push through that, okay?" Ashley told her and Kate nodded, sweat rolling down her forehead.
She counted in her mind as the young nurse chanted the numbers. When she finally got to ten, Kate let out a breath. She had barely caught enough oxygen in her lungs again when the doctor started counting once more. She pushed again with every last thread of strength she had in her. In her mind, she had counted to ten three times before Dr. Harris finished counting.
"Rick, you might want to see this." Dr. Harris announced and Rick immediately stood up and walked over to where she was. What he saw knocked the air right out of his lungs.
"Oh, God, I see the head. That's the head, right?" he turned to the doctor for confirmation and she nodded, smiling at his reaction. "Kate, that's our little girl's head." he announced excitedly and Kate laughed breathlessly.
"That's good." she said and fell back against the pillows.
"She has a head and it's full of dark hair." He said and she could hear the tears in his voice. "It's really happening, love."
"Alright, dad, you can go back to holding her hand. Shoo!" Dr. Harris chuckled and Rick resumed his position next to Kate, pulling her hand close to his cheek. "Kate, another big push and the head will be out."
She took a deep breath and pushed again, as hard as she possibly could, and heard Ashley slowly count to ten. When she heard her say seven, she couldn't take it anymore. She could barely breathe.
"Count faster, damn it!" She cried out, her complaint ending with a frustrated groan.
"Okay, you can rest for a minute now." Dr. Harris told her and she collapsed against the pillows, her breath coming out in gasps.
"We're almost there, Kate. Just breathe." Rick said soothingly, brushing her hair away from her face, pressing a kiss to her cheek.
"Okay, Kate, let's go." The doctor called after an incredibly shot break and Kate groaned.
"Yes, the baby wants to come out and meet you. Come on."
So she pushed again. She could feel her strength leaving her body and wondered how she would have any left after this. Rick kept whispering in her ear to breathe, trying to soothe her, but it was starting to piss her off. What the hell did he know about labor?
"I'm breathing, Castle, and it's not really helping!" she snapped and he looked at her, surprised at the use of his last name.
"I'm just trying to help you, love."
"Just shut up, Rick. Just so you know, you're nevertouching me again."
"Rick, don't argue with her." Dr. Harris chimed in. "Just let her say whatever she wants." He nodded mutely and just took Kate's hand again, pressing a loving kiss to her palm.
"I said no touching!"
"Kate, just one more big push and you'll meet your baby."
It felt like she pushed for an eternity, but all the pain and exhaustion were gone the second she heard the baby cry. The world stopped for her and all she could hear was her baby crying. She looked at Rick and he had tears in his eyes, his gaze fixed on the tiny baby in the doctor's hands.
"Want to cut the cord, dad?" Dr. Harris asked with a smile, holding the infant gently.
Rick took the scissors and did exactly what he was told. His mind felt fuzzy. He had helped make that little miracle, he thought as the doctor placed the baby in his arms. A tear finally escaped his eyes and he suddenly felt like he couldn't really breathe.
She was so tiny. His baby girl.
"Look what we did, Kate." A half laugh, half sob escaped his lips. "We have a little girl."
Kate couldn't contain her tears when he carefully placed the baby in her arms and the smile couldn't leave her lips as she held her baby girl for the first time. She was still crying and moving her little body around in protest of having been so rudely separated from her mother.
"Hi, Amelia." She said, trying to contain the sob that wanted to escape. "Welcome to the world, baby girl."