Epilogue

Memorial Weekend 2016

Alexis handed Rick his beautiful granddaughter and he adjusted her hat and hitched her on his hip.

"Make sure you put sunscreen on her."

He kissed Alexis' cheek. "Seriously, Daughter, how many sunburns did you get growing up?"

"Three."

"Oh. Well, I promise to have made all my parenting mistakes on you. Molly will be slathered from head to toe, with SPF 100, not to worry. Go on, I've got this." He waved his daughter away to take a walk on the beach with her husband.

She looked at her nine-month old and cautioned, "You be good for Grandpa & Kate, and especially good when Gram and Grandpa Daniel get here." She looked at her dad "We really need to find a name for Kate."

"Well, considering she's in her thirties nothing grandmotherly seems to really stick. I'm sure Molly will come up with something eventually."

"Molly's been calling both you and Patrick her version of 'Dad,' so I wouldn't be surprised if the kids call both sets of parents 'Mom' and 'Dad.' It's not the most conventional of situations."

As if on cue Molly slapped Rick's chest proudly, '"DA!"

Rick smiled indulgently. "That's right, Cupcake!"

Alexis just shook her head. "Thanks for watching her, Dad."

"Sure, Pumpkin." Rick watched Alexis jog up to Patrick who first waved to Castle then held his hand out for Alexis to join him on the beach. Rick had to smirk at the irony of Alexis' husband's sunburned skin.

Patrick swung Alexis' hand between them and gave her an adoring smile. Alexis bounced on her toes to give her husband a peck on the lips, then a longer kiss that Rick felt he had no business watching. He straightened Molly's sun hat and tickled her. After a few moments he glanced back towards the beach and saw his daughter walking hand in hand with her husband, and away from him. He remembered when that image seemed so terrifying to him. Now it made him feel fulfilled. Especially since it meant that he had another little girl to spoil.

He turned to his granddaughter, "Trust me, Molly, I'm well trained and by the time I'm done with you you're milky white skin will be even paler." The little girl held onto his neck and leaned her head on his shoulder. Her sun hat fell off yet again and Rick scooped down to pick it up and decided to head for the shade of the covered patio rather than hide her shock of ginger hair.

Martha and Daniel had just appeared from around the side of the house.

"Hey Mother, Dad. Glad you guys could come." Rick kissed Martha and nodded a greeting at Daniel.

"There's our favorite girl!" Martha held out her arms and Molly lifted her head and smiled but kept a firm grip on of Rick's neck.

"Sorry, Mother." He pointed to himself and said, "Best. Grandpa. Ever!" He oozed smugness until Daniel reached his hands out.

"Hey there, Molly." She patted his cheeks then leaned into him. Rick loosened his grip and let her slide to her great-grandfather.

"You don't count, Dad, I'm pretty sure she thinks your my gray-haired clone."

"DA!" Molly seemed to think the term was fitting for all the important men in her life.

Daniel kissed her cheek and rubbed noses with her. "Keep telling yourself that, Richard."

Daniel's recovery after the shooting had been slow and while he had regained the use of his leg without assistance, Rick still noticed him limping slightly every once in a while. For now Daniel seemed to be faring well while carrying the little girl, but he did head straight for the swinging bench to sit down with her.

The lingering aches were a point of frustration for the former agent. While Sutton had been content to retire after the long recovery, his family respected that he didn't want to come across as weak. Having so many of the Castle clan involved in law enforcement assured that no one ever risked injuring Daniel's pride by drawing attention to a physical limitation, but it also guaranteed that they all noticed and tried to make things easier during his recovery without him being aware of it.

Kate came out of the house wearing a one-piece bathing suit and carrying her own bundle. James was four months old and while Kate had shed most of the baby weight she wasn't confident enough to show off the last stubborn pounds or any stretch marks. Rick assured her that he considered the lines to be tattoos that said, "Property of Richard Castle." In fact he had enthusiastically applauded every pound and every unappealing change that came with pregnancy. By the time she gave birth, she was convinced that if she ended up with a hormonal imbalance that made her grow a beard he'd spin it in a way to make it seem hot . . . and probably mean it.

Martha rushed to her and patted the baby's back. She hugged Kate in greeting then rubbed a finger over the baby's cheek. "At least there's hope for me with this one." She nodded towards Molly and added, "I haven't had such a tough crowd since Alexis was a baby. She was always such a Daddy's girl that I could hardly wrestle her away from Richard either. Must be genetic."

"Well, James is really into shiny things so he'll love your earrings." Kate kissed her son then slipped him into Martha's arms. She put the baby over her shoulder and swayed as she made her way towards her husband. James turned his head and tried to eat the dangling jewelry.

Just then Rick came up behind his wife and wrapped his arms around her stomach and rested his chin on her shoulder.

"Hi, Mrs. Castle."

"Hey, Rick." He pulled her hair back and kissed the skin from her ear down her neck. "Don't they look adorable?"

Once he kissed a path back up to her ear he asked, "Who? Our son and granddaughter or the parents?"

"Really, it's the combination of them." Just then Molly smiled then smacked the top of James' head affectionately yelling, "BA!" her name for the smaller baby. James stuck out his bottom lip, scrunched his eyes tight then started crying. Martha tried to sooth James by jingling her earrings and Daniel juggled Molly out of reach of her uncle.

Rick shot his wife a dreamy smile, "Yeah, I guess I'd have to agree." He nuzzled into her neck. "Your dad still coming?"

"Tomorrow. The others will come then as well."

Memorial Day weekend had become a tradition; a Thanksgiving of sorts to commemorate that they had all survived the May of 2013 and all that had led up to it. It seemed fitting since with the donning of swimsuits came the unveiling of tangible reminders of what they had survived. With each scar came a deep appreciation of how much they could have lost, and the impact had not decreased with the passage of time. Patrick's back had a spattering of white lines that contrasted with his ever-sunburned skin. Kate's bathing suits never quite covered the perfect circle tucked above her reconstructed heart. Rick sported two patches of mangled skin on his left side and a line from the surgery. Daniel's puckered skin on either side of his leg framed surgical scars and other marks that spoke of complications.

Each year Kate couldn't help but remember Rick's musings that scars were not imperfections but rather evidence of resilience and strength. Looking around her, she had to agree. On some future Memorial weekend the children would be old enough to take notice and ask questions. They would not just see the ones resulting from Thomas West's corruption, but all the badges of honor their extended family had amassed from years of service.

In many ways this weekend was hardest for Jim Beckett. He had the helpless feeling that each scar had been gained to give him closure and he felt the weight of all that could have been lost in the process. He wished he could have taken the bullets to spare them all, but he was left without blemish save a few stitches. Kate had talked him into going to see Dr. Burke for some joint sessions with her because she had fought against survivor's guilt as well after setting herself up as a target then watching those around her pay the price. Dr. Burke then agreed to see Jim on his own and as far as Kate knew he was still going every few weeks. She was so proud of him for not falling on old habits. Still, seeing the scars each summer was painful for Jim so he normally only came to The Hamptons for one afternoon. Kate understood. Everyone understood. Castle never had to ask his other guests to prepare for Jim's arrival. He suspected it was his mother who always made sure the alcohol was put away and replaced with soda and ice tea well before Jim arrived. After spending time both in The Hamptons and the safe house, the two had gained a solid bond from sharing the burden of uncertainty and worry over their only children.

Each year Captain Gates honored the occasion by making it clear that Team Beckett was off duty and they were not to be disturbed. They never even had to ask. Kate had taken an extended maternity leave and hadn't decided on when she was going to return. She would be going back without Rick, who would stay home with James and also help with Molly while Alexis worked part-time at the 12th. She served as a crisis counselor to victim's family members. She still had the pleasure of working closely with Lanie, still assisting her at times, but instead of just cataloging personal effects, she had the privilege of returning them to grieving families to help bring them closure.


Martha and Daniel were in charge of preparing dinner, which meant that Daniel grilled and Martha kept him company with a glass of wine. Rick cradled his son and Kate perched Molly on her hip and they took the babies into the ocean. Rick had swung James around and lifted him then dropped him abruptly until his toes touched. He was rewarded with smiles but after a while his son started fussing despite Rick's diversion tactics so he admitted defeat and switched with Kate. James settled immediately in her arms.

Rick pretended Molly was a motorboat by making sputtering noises and spinning her in circles along the surface. She squealed, revealing a dimple that was just like her mom's. Rick then took her a bit deeper, blew on her face and they both went under then popped back up. The baby looked surprised, but then laughed at him.

Kate's adrenalin spiked. "Rick, what are you doing!"

He settled Molly on his hip, "Teaching her to swim." He pointed to himself, "Lifeguard, remember? Babies learn to hold their breath if you blow on their face before they go under."

Kate couldn't meet his eyes so he realized that this was more than just an issue of her reining him in. The vein in her brow was clearly visible. She was upset. Ever since diving in to save him she hadn't had any issues with going under herself. Castle had been hyper observant and she had proven to him that she really was okay, until now. He waded over to her, kissed her temple and rubbed a hand on her back. "Kate, I would never do anything to hurt the kids, you know that."

She brought a shaky hand to her brow and tried to calm herself down. "I know, it's just what if it doesn't work and she inhales the water and then grows up to have issues?"

He didn't want to sound patronizing because her fears were understandable. "I taught baby and toddler swimming classes as a lifeguard. I have seen this work a hundred times, plus this is what I did with Alexis and she grew up loving the water."

Kate bit her lip, vein still visible. "I trust you, Rick, I do. It's just hard to watch given . . . everything."

He shifted Molly out of slapping range of her uncle, kissed the top of James' head then rubbed his cheek against Kate's. "I know, Sweetheart. How about Molly and I show you and James how it's done?"

She hesitated, but she did trust him so she relented. "Okay."

"Alright, let's show 'em Cupcake!"

Molly babbled something that no doubt meant "Awesome!"

Rick held her so she was facing him. "Okay! One . . . two . . . three!" He blew on her face, they both went underwater and Molly again popped up surprised then smiling. They repeated it another three times with the same result.

James had started patting the surface of the water, intent on figuring out his environment. He was much more serious than Alexis ever had been as a baby. Rick was convinced that their son was processing everything as evidence before deciding what he thought of the world. Rick could make him laugh, but he had to work for it. On the other hand, James responded to Kate with a big smile every time. James had Castle's blue eyes, but his slight build was all Kate so the guys referred to the baby as "Mini Beckett."

James looked at Rick and Molly and then the water then patted it again and smiled.

Rick noticed and asked carefully, "Kate, do you want to switch and I can teach James how to do it?" She considered it, and then shook her head.

"You said you taught a baby and toddler class, so does that mean you took turns doing this with the kids, or that you coached the parents on how to do it?" And there was Exhibit A of Momma Beckett gathering evidence before making a decision.

"I coached the parents, and believe me, there were some that were dead set against doing it. But, even as a pimply teenager my powers of persuasion were legendary and I never had a parent refuse in the end."

He flashed her a winning smile for emphasis.

She still looked worried, "You're sure he'll be okay?"

"Kate, you'll both be okay. I promise." She nodded and despite her insecurities she shifted James so he was facing her. Rick placed his hand securely on her back and when she nodded he counted for them.

"One . . ."

"Two . . ."

"Three . . ."

With a puff of air on James' face, Kate Castle closed her eyes, held her breath then taught her son to enjoy the feeling of being submerged.


El Fin

Coming Soon - Room To Breathe, companion piece linking Chapter 63 and the Epilogue.

A/N: And there you go, we started frantically underwater in the Hudson and ended peacefully underwater in The Hamptons. Thank you so much for sticking with this story and especially for your reviews.

If you feel that the months I spent providing you with hours of quality entertainment were well spent, please do me a kindness by taking just a minute in return to leave a review. That goes for all FF stories. Never underestimate the power of encouraging words! I love getting reviews even long past when a fic is marked complete, but I want to give a special shout out to the faithful reviewers who kept me inspired in the process of writing this. You were the 'I think I can!' that fueled my 'Little Fan Fic That Could.' To you I tip my hat as no words can convey your true worth. Special thanks to Deb838 who was not only my constant cheerleader but is my self-appointed promotional manager.

While I preached that I stuck to my outline, I did deviate on one major point. I had fully intended to finish the case with Sutton dying to save Castle, to make this chapter with Kate and James going under the final one, then to end with an epilogue of them watching Star Wars years later with Rick giving the speech about Luke and 'the value of a moment'. However, I kept getting reviews on how much people liked Sutton, and I started to get attached to him as well. Plus, some of you kind of scare me and I worried that I might be hunted down and lynched if I offed him. That in turn would have doomed my children to lives spent as messed up law enforcement officers with the sole focus of trying to avenge my death. They would arrest you then you would spend life in prison with limited access to fan fiction or Castle reruns and be forced to watch Swamp People marathons if there were true justice in the world. In the end, I decided to avoid the linchpin of killing Sutton and the ending is more conventional and less poignant than I had intended, but this way I don't have to keep looking over my shoulder, I can sleep at night, and my children can grow up to be something much more exciting, like forensic accountants, or maybe even actuaries.

One final thanks goes to my very forbearing husband who recently started watching Castle and is speeding through the seasons just to find out what in the world I've been doing. He not only encouraged me to write, but he let me walk through various money laundering scenarios while on dates. So, Sweetie, just know that you will always be a prince among men and I still can't believe I got to marry you. :)