A/N: Ask and ye shall receive... eventually... I am so sorry for the delay in updating this story but I do plan on finishing it and I have an idea for the next installment as well, so please bear with me. ;)
Disclaimer: Castle is back from hiatus tonight and so is Carnivale.
Kate watched her eyes glued to the woman as Rebecca lifted Emily out of the bassinet, hushing the tiny, pink baby as she squirmed. Emily's little face scrunched up as Rebecca removed the dirty diaper from her bottom. She should be the one doing that, not her. Emily was her baby. It was her responsibility to take care of her, to protect her. She was the one who woke up in the middle of the night panicked that something had happened to the child, sitting awake for hours, rocking in the chair, clutching the baby to her chest in confirmation that she was there, alive. They both were.
"Now, you have to make sure the water is warm or else she's going to fuss. Also, you must be sure to be here every two hours to feed her. No excuses."
Kate rolled her eyes from her place propped up in the bed as Rebecca continued to lecture her on the proper procedure for taking care of her baby. She reached out her arms expectantly. "Can I see her now?"
"Not now, it's nap time."
Kate let out a huff, the anxiety creeping up inside of her. She needed to hold her baby. "She can sleep here with me."
Rebecca let out a hearty laugh. "Everyone knows that children must learn to self soothe and be independent. That isn't going to happen if you coddle her."
Kate stared at the woman. Coddle? Emily was only three days old. She was supposed to coddle her. "She's my baby."
"Yes, dear, she is but I know how to take care of her."
Kate's jaw dropped as Rebecca turned back to the baby, shushing her as she swaddled her in a fresh blanket and placed her swiftly back into the bassinet, which had been moved away from the bed and now sat next to the rocking chair. Kate straightened slightly in the bed, adjusting her nightgown as she moved to protest again. It had been two straight days of this and she was tired of it. She could take care of her own baby, and she didn't need anyone's help to do it.
Carefully, she pushed herself out of the bed, gritting her teeth as she did, the tender ache of her still-healing body. She inched towards the bassinet in the corner, Rebecca looking up from her place in the rocker as she approached. "What are you doing?"
"I'm getting my baby."
"No, you are not. You are going back to bed," the older woman scolded, pushing herself out of the chair to usher Kate back.
Kate gritted her teeth, her fist clenched at her side. "No, I'm going to hold my child and you can leave."
Rebecca let out a huff of indignation as she took in the determined look on the sheriff's face. Her jaw clenched as she turned toward the door, striding out, the fire still burning in her eyes.
Kate sank down in the rocking chair, one fist clenched at her abdomen, the other pressed against her forehead. She knew she would be hearing about it soon enough, especially since Rebecca's 'help' had been at Martha's suggestion, with Castle's support but at least for now they were alone, together.
"Richard, she won't let anyone else near the girl. I'm surprised she even let's you in the same room with little Emily."
"It's not like that, Mother," Castle defended quietly as they walked arm in arm down Main Street. "She's her mother. She's just protective. She let's plenty of people see Emily."
Martha let out a laugh. "Like whom? She threw Rebecca out and she was only trying to help her be a better mother."
"Kate doesn't want help. She likes to do things on her own and with everything that happened while she was pregnant I don't blame her for being protective of her. She did… everything possible to keep Emily safe then."
"Yes, well, this is a baby and unless she wants to give up everything else in her life: resign as sheriff, stop hunting, quite riding out to the reservation to see her Indian friends, she is going to have to accept a little bit of help."
Castle shook his head as his shoulders slumped in acceptance of his mother's words. Kate wouldn't want to give up everything she loved; no matter how much she loved Emily. And even if she did, she would be miserable for it.
Maybe accepting help wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Kate definitely wasn't going to like that.
"I'll speak to her."
"Good, darling," Martha nodded her head in approval, the large deep blue plume extending from her hat bouncing as she did.
"Now," Martha continued, her fingers, sheathed in elbow high, blue gloves that matched her hat, tapping impatiently on his arm. "About this little ordeal with the two of you not being married. You know I am not one to be deterred by a scandal, but this is not New York, dear, as you are constantly reminding me in your stories. You cannot expect the people here to think the same way."
Castle let out a small sigh as he turned his eyes towards the heavens for guidance. "Yes mother, I know and I am going to talk to Meredith as soon as I can but with the baby and Alexis is going through some things right now, I just don't have the time right now."
Now it was Martha's turn to be startled, "Alexis? What's wrong with Alexis?"
Castle shook his head, his free hand coming up to rub his brow. "I don't know. She won't talk to me."
"It will be all right, dear," Martha consoled, patting her son soothingly on the hand. "Just give her time, she'll come around."
They walked in silence for a few moments before she spoke again. "Richard? What happened to Katherine while she was pregnant?"
Castle's head fell as he studied the fine layer of dust being kicked up as they strolled along. "Come on mother, let's go back to the hotel. This is something we try not to discuss in public."
Kate was sitting in the bed, making faces as Emily stared up at her in wonder when the wave of cool air hit her from the doorway, causing her to look up startled. She shook her head as she took in the sight of the red headed girl standing in the doorway. She had been distracted lately by the bundle currently residing in her lap, no longer as sharp as she used to be. In fact she had been distracted for the last few months, ever since…
No. She wasn't thinking about that now. She was getting better now. She would be back to normal by the time she returned to her post as sheriff.
"Hello, Alexis, how are you doing?"
The girl glanced around the small house. "Where's Rebecca?"
"I sent her home. I wanted some time alone with my daughter," Kate replied, smiling as her eyes drifting back down to the baby gurgling up at her, tiny fists waving in the air.
"Oh," Alexis looked down at her feet shuffling on the step, her hands clasped in front of her. "I'll leave you alone then."
Kate's eyes shot back up. "What? Oh, no, Alexis, I didn't mean you. Come in. You're my daughter too."
The girl's eyes shown, a brief flicker of hopeful light, as she took a hesitant step into the room making her way slowly toward the bed. "How is she today?"
"She's perfect," Kate grinned as Emily's nose scrunched, letting out a tiny sneeze. "How are you? Ready to talk about what's on your mind?"
"I…" Alexis sank down on top of the patchwork quilt, tucking her legs up under her so she could lean over Kate's shoulder and watch her newborn sister's innocence, letting the baby's innocence wash over her. "I saw something I shouldn't have and then I said some things I am not proud of."
Kate considered the vague yet telling words for a moment. "Would you like to tell me about it? Maybe I can help."
"I… I don't know if I should. I don't want anyone to get hurt but I don't know what to do."
Kate's head lifted at this and she pulled her attention away from the baby, focusing instead on the creased brow of the young woman seated at her side. Hurt? This was more serious than she had thought. She really hadn't been paying attention to anything else lately… Well it was time to make up for that. "Alexis, if someone is being threatened or someone is in danger you must tell me."
"No, no, it's not like that… it's just…" Alexis' head dropped again as she took in a deep breath, her gaze wandering to every other corner of the room. "I saw Laura and Olivia together and they were… acting like a man and a woman should together. It wasn't right, Kate! And I told her what she was doing was wrong and she looked so hurt but I didn't know what else to do."
Kate took in a deep breath as she looked back down at the tiny girl in her lap before picking her up in her arms and carefully pushing herself off of the bed, wandering over to place her in the bassinet before making her way back to the bed, perching on the side and turning to look at the girl she had watched grow into a young woman over the past two years.
"Alexis," She began, reaching out a hand to curl a lock of the Alexis' hair back behind her ear. "I've seen a lot of things living out here, things you wouldn't see back east. People come out here for a fresh start, they come out here because they are different and want the freedom to be themselves. Just because Laura and Olivia are different, that they love differently doesn't mean that they are any better or worse than you or I."
Alexis stayed silent, studying her hands clasped in her lap.
"Alexis, look at me," Kate urged, waiting until the girl's eyes met her own. "Is Laura any different than she used to be?"
"Well, yes, she wasn't like this in New York!" Alexis exclaimed.
Kate sighed. "Alexis, I would wager that Laura has always been like this, or at least she has been for a very long time."
Alexis fell back into silence, her head bobbing slightly as she considered the words. "But I said some awful things. How am I going to fix that?"
Kate reached out again, running her fingers through her elder daughter's hair. "Go talk to her. She'll forgive you, I promise."
Alexis nodded again. "You won't tell anyone, will you? I don't want them to get hurt. Most people wouldn't understand, even out here."
"I haven't told anyone yet, have I?"
The girl's head shot up. "You knew?"
"Yeah, I knew. Laura told me some months ago," Kate confirmed.
"Why didn't you say anything? She's my best friend and I had to find out this way!" Alexis exclaimed straightening her posture to give her another inch of height as she attempted to look indignant surrounded by a sea of dark blue fabric.
"Alexis, it wasn't my place to tell. Laura was going to tell you when she was ready, when she thought you were ready. You just happened to find out first."
Alexis deflated back into the pillows again, understanding filling her eyes. "Everything has been so jumbled lately. And now my mother is back and I want to get to know her but I also just want her to leave so everything can be normal again. Part of me wants everything to go back to how it was before…"
Her words trailed off as her eyes lifted to meet Kate's, blanching at the flicker of hurt she saw there. "I didn't mean…"
Kate forced a small smile. "I understand. I know that I'm not the easiest person to live with and your life was better before I came along but I want you to know, that everything that has happened— I wouldn't change it for the world because it has brought me you, your father and her."
Alexis dropped her head, chagrin, as she listened to the older woman's words.
"So," Kate cleared her throat after a moment, effectively breaking the silence that had filled the space between them. "That's a nice dress, where did you get it?"
"My grandmother brought it for me. Rebecca insisted I wear it today," Alexis responded, shifting uncomfortably. "They said I still needed to look like a lady even if I was living in the wild, especially if I am still striving for university."
She let out an unladylike roll of her eyes, an expression of exasperation that Kate couldn't help but laugh at; a reflection of herself in the girl. "Well you do look very nice."
Alexis huffed, fidgeting in her place for a moment, attempting to adjust her corset.
"I would rather be able to breathe. How did I wear these insufferable things for so long?"
Castle stood in the doorway watching as his wife… no, that wasn't correct. She wasn't his wife… his partner whispered to their baby, her brow furrowed in frustration. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing," Kate looked up, startled, shaking her head. "Nothing's wrong."
Using her free hand, she brushed a wayward lock of hair from her face, whispering again to the baby. Castle let out a sigh as he stepped into the room. "It looks like something is wrong."
"I'm fine. I have everything under control," Kate snapped. "I don't need help."
Rick let out a breath as he sunk down onto the mattress at her side.
"I never said you needed help," he placated. "I just asked what was wrong."
"I…" Kate deflated back into the mountain of pillows behind her. "She won't eat. She's hungry, I know she is, but she won't latch!"
Castle sighed, nodding in understanding as he scooted up to sit on the bed beside the pair. "Try this."
He ran his finger down the side of the baby's face gently, causing her tiny pink lips to part, searching for food.
"See, that wasn't so hard."
Kate let out a frustrated huff as Emily latched on to her breast, working her jaw hungrily. "I could have done it."
"I know you could have but you don't have to do it alone. Sometimes it's just easier with a little help…"
"I'm guessing Rebecca talked to you," Kate grumbled as she soothed a hand over the baby's head.
"My mother actually."
"Kate, I'm not suggesting that you need help taking care of Emily, I am simply stating that you don't have to do it alone. Maybe a little bit of help would be nice."
"But…" Kate's eyes drifted down to the tiny body snuggled against her body. "What if something happen and I'm not here to protect her."
"Nothing is going to happen. The town has been calm other than the circus being here and they will be leaving soon, hopefully taking everyone with them. Rebecca is here to help. Why don't you let her? We both know that if you stay cooped up here eventually you will come to resent it."
"Fine," Kate relented despite pulling Emily a fraction closer to her body, her mother bear nature showing in true form. "But at least let me have today. Tomorrow she can come help."
"Okay," Castle agreed as he leaned over to brush a kiss against her temple. "Tomorrow."
Alexis bit her lip, her hand hesitating before rapping on the door. She shifted uneasily from one foot to the other as she waited for an answer from the other side. Her hands itched to fidget with her dress in an attempt to make it more comfortable.
The door swung open after a moment and Alexis found herself face to face with Olivia.
"Hi, Olivia," Alexis greeted. "Is Laura here?"
"She is," Olivia responded, arms crossed over her chest.
"Can I see her?"
Olivia glanced back over her shoulder. "Laura doesn't want to see you."
"Oh… well, can you let her know I stopped by?" Alexis asked, discouraged.
"Olivia, let her in."
Both girls turned to see Laura step into view over Olivia's shoulder.
"Hi," Alexis gave a small wave as she stepped into the dim house. "I just wanted to apologize for what I said the other day. I didn't mean it…. Laura? What's wrong?"
Alexis' eyes scanned over her friend's tear stained face, puffy cheeks; the haunted look in her eyes. "Is this because of me because I am so, so sorry."
"No," Laura sniffed in reply pulling the redhead into a hug. "It's not. I forgive you."
"Why are you crying?"
"We went to check out the animals in the circus today, to see if they needed any care. They were so awful, Alexis. I've never seen a creature so malnourished or treated. We have to do something."
Alexis looked between the two other girls, her friends, a plan forming in her head and a smile crept over her lips. She had seen the cages, where the animals were kept at night. She had heard the carnis drunken laughter and tales from the tent. She knew how to sneak in.
"I know exactly what to do."