"Hey, Lanie, what've you got for me?" she asks, stepping up to the empty stainless steel table with her notebook against her hip. She brushes a hand through her hair and sees her friend's climbing eyebrow.
"Uh-huh, we'll get to that," Lanie says slowly. "What's up with you?"
"I got a murder to solve. That's what's up."
"No, honey, I'm talking about this. . .look you got going." Lanie waves her hand at Kate, up and down like she's encompassing the whole outfit. And then the ME's eyes narrow, and she melodramatically glances around. "Where's Castle? I've been seeing you without Writer Boy a lot lately."
"He's out on assignment," Kate says, rolling her eyes. "He's convinced it's a poltergeist and Ryan's out with him. Let Shaggy take care of Scooby for a while."
"Huh," Lanie mutters, hands on her hips. "Well."
"No," Kate says, shaking her head. "Do not tell me you think it's ghosts too. Come on-"
"No, I'm still wondering what the hell is going on with you. You and Castle didn't have a fight?"
Kate closes her mouth.
"You did have a fight?"
"No. We - sort of. It's - we're working on it."
"Then why you look like that?"
"Thanks, Lanie. So encouraging. This is how I always look-"
"Don't start with me. First of all, I don't know why you think you can play me. Was I, or was I not, the first one to notice you two were having sex?"
"And now this - whatever this is - you look like you been run over. Flattened. And not in a good way."
"Is there a good way?" she muses, lifting an eyebrow back at her friend.
"Don't even try to change the subject. What's going on with you?"
Kate shifts to hold her notebook up against her chest, tries to find the words. She will; she'll get there. It needs to be said. And to someone other than Castle. Make it real, make it really happening.
"Oh my God, Kate Beckett."
She winces and holds her hand up to her eyes, rubs them as she tries to get a deep breath in.
"It's Castle's," Lanie says, and even the ME knows that isn't in question.
"So you're keeping it."
She opens her eyes. "Was that a question?"
"Does it need to be a question?"
Kate swallows hard and paces, arms crossed over her chest on top of her notebook. "No. No, it's not a question."
"So you and Castle-"
"I don't know."
"Of course you do. Don't fool yourself. You know. We all know."
Kate pivots and comes back, biting her lip. "He's a good father."
Lanie's face softens. "He is a good father. Honey, you couldn't have done better, if that's what you're worried about."
She shakes her head. "No. Not him. Me."
"Hey," Lanie says, reaching out, snagging her hands. Kate glances at them, surprised by the contact. "You've got help. All of us got your back, Kate. Castle most of all. All you gotta do is look at that man to know he's crazy about you."
Kate nods, her fingers curling up around her friend's.
"You happy about this, Kate?"
She shrugs. "It's - it's terrible timing, Lanie."
"With your life, I don't know when it'd be good timing."
Kate huffs a soft laugh, gives her friend that one. "I don't even - Castle and I aren't - but now we are, I guess."
"You guess. You know you don't have to be. You have his kid, okay, sure. But that doesn't mean you have to be anything."
Her shoulders ease just a fraction, her flight or fight response settling down at the words. But something in her chest thrashes madly, discontent with that.
"Are you happy about this, Kate? Because it's not really fair to either of them to be half-hearted."
Either of them. Castle. Or the baby.
"Lanie." She shrugs again, has to avert her eyes to get control of herself. "Working on it. I'm working on it."
"Telling me is a step in the right direction. Kate. You're gonna have a baby."
Kate presses a hand to her mouth, slides it up to cover her eyes, breathing hard. She has to be fair to them - has to be in this if she's in this.
"Makes it real, doesn't it?" Lanie says gently. "Telling someone."
Kate nods, can't believe she's really cracking apart at work. Not now, not now.
"I was gonna tell you - ME's office is backed up, bodies are coming out my ears. It'll take me a while to get to yours. So. You should take the day. Talk to your dad."
"Your dad will be happy for you, Kate." Lanie squeezes her hand. "Even if you can't be."
Castle stands just inside his loft, not sure what he's supposed to do now.
She called and told him to go home; she was taking a half day. He immediately had to stifle his natural inclinations and let it go. He didn't ask; she didn't offer.
Will she come home with him one of these days? Will she step into the loft behind him carrying their baby, look at him like-
like she used to?
She doesn't look at him like that anymore. Now there's just - horror, and guilt, and fear. There's need, and a healthy amount of lust. But the love that used to paint her face like sunlight - he hasn't seen that in weeks.
Since he confessed that he thought she might be-
Castle pushes off against the door, locking it with a flip of his wrist, and tugs his jacket off, leaving it over the back of the chair. He heads for his study, and a glass of Scotch, determined not to think about it.
He's got to get himself together. This morning held promise, the coffee and her smiles and the tentative truce they've seemed to reach. He can do this; he can wait for her. He'll wait all nine months if that's what it takes.
But she will come home with him.
He pours his drink and takes a thin swallow, lets it burn down his throat slowly. He takes a healthier sip and breathes through it, moves towards his bedroom with the glass held by two fingers.
When crosses the threshold, he sees the wide, rumpled bed and it washes over him in a great wave.
Kate in his bed, the line of her body in the sunlight, the fall of her hair - only now there's a little one next to her, her arm curled around the round head, her lips brushing the soft spot. That bud of a mouth, open as the baby sleeps, the tiny fists, Kate's adoring eyes on the amazing thing they've created.
He drops to his knees, staring at nothing, staring at a vision, a dream, the only thing in the world he wants at all, has to have, can't - he can't not have that. Them. Her and their child.
She's having a baby - his baby - she's having his baby but still - still he's afraid that they are not having a baby at all. Only Kate.
Alone in this, like she's always insistently alone in everything.
He rocks back to the wall, a hand over his eyes, feels the wetness leaking out around his fingers and can't stop it, can't push it back.
He's so in love with her. He's so helplessly in love with her. And where that love used to make him feel so strong, so determined, so much better for the loving, now it only makes him a wreck.
"Richard? Richard, what's wrong?"
He glances up to see his mother coming through the doorway, her hands held out to him, kneeling beside him on the floor.
"Mother," he starts, shakes his head at her. She's trying to get him to sit up, but he clutches at her wrist to hold her off, taking deep breaths. "Alexis - she with you?"
"No. No she hasn't - what's going on?" His mother lays her other hand against his shoulder, her eyes worried and roving over his face. "Tell me. Tell me right now."
He laughs, hollow and wrong, and shakes his head again. "Kate's pregnant."
Martha rocks back; he grips her hard to keep her from falling, and she struggles for balance, finally meets his eyes.
"She's not keeping it?"
He blinks and takes in a shuddering breath. "She is. She's keeping it." And it's true; he knows that much. There is - at least - that. And his mother is right. He should be grateful for that.
"What's going on, Richard? Why-"
"What if she won't come home to me? She's so separate, Mother. What if she never wants - wants us to be a family? I don't know if I can do that. I don't know how to do that - let her raise our child on her own without being a part of it - sitting on the sidelines while she isolates herself, makes me less than nothing-"
He stops when he sees the look on his mother's face, the abject misery that cracks behind her eyes.
And then he realizes how it must sound to her - the woman who raised him alone, no father involved-
"Not you," he roughs, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and bringing her against him for a kiss on her temple. "Not you. There was no one there to tell, Mother, no one to be a father. This isn't the same. He doesn't even know. But I do. I know what - I know what I'm losing."
She sits in silence beside him for a long time, his mother, his strong and clever and humorous mother who made a production out of everything in their life, everything, but never once made him think he was at all unwanted.
And he must have been unwanted. At some point, even if it was just a half-second's thought about all she'd have to do and be and strive against - even if it was only a moment, he must have been unwanted. The same things Kate is going through now - she went through then.
"Thank you," he says tightly.
She keeps hold of his hand and squeezes it hard.
"Kate will see," she says finally. "Don't give up on her. It's not easy for her - it's not what she expected. But that doesn't mean it can't be what she wants. In time. You've just got to give her time. You haven't lost anything yet."
He nods, his eyes on his unmade bed - the bed she's shared with him and will - she will - share with him again. No matter how long it takes.
"I'll wait," he says softly. "I'll learn to wait."
Kate finds him out back, his form dark against the setting sun. He must be fishing, so she keeps her steps quiet as she heads down the little dock towards him.
He half turns to look at her, gives her one of his slow, firm smiles, then pats the wood next to him.
Kate sits down, slides off her shoes, rolls up her jeans. Her father watches as she dips her toes into the lake and slowly relaxes.
"Didn't expect to see you out here this week," he starts, going first.
"Didn't think I'd make it either. But I gotta drive back tonight."
She shoots him a look, and he's grinning at her. "Ah. How long have you known?"
"Kinda obvious, sweetheart. You two aren't quiet about it."
She sighs and shakes her head. "Well. Gonna get a whole lot louder from here on out."
He's reeling in the line as she says this, and his hands pause as he turns his head to look at her again. "What does that mean? You guys getting married? He should've come talked to me first."
She lifts an eyebrow and he shrugs, goes back to the fishing pole, carefully bringing it in.
"We're not getting married," she says firmly. No way. Not - that would be compounding the issue. Two wrongs don't make a right. Actually, her father always told her that.
"So what's that cryptic remark all about, huh, Katie? Things getting louder."
"Dad. . ."
When he winds up the line, has it secure again, her father puts the pole on the wood behind them, then turns back to her, shading his eyes from the glare of the sun. "Spit it out, Katie."
He laughs, delight spreading across his features, his smile turning into that wide and careless thing that she remembers from a hundred childhood memories - before her mother was murdered - back when it was spontaneous and easy.
She hasn't seen him so. . .happy in ages.
"Rick knocked you up." He shakes his head and reaches out to take her hand. "Well. I guess that's one way of doing things. Congratulations, sweetheart."
She stares at him until he tilts his head in silent question.
"You - I - okay," she stumbles out. "You're. . .really happy about this."
"Of course. I'm going to be a grandpa. Oh, well, you don't look so thrilled, but I know you. If anyone's up to the challenge, it's you. Actually, you look a lot like your mother did when she first found out she was pregnant with you. You've got that same pinched look to your mouth."
Kate lets out a startled huff of breath.
"Oh, you knew that, Katie. Your mother told you that you were our little surprise."
"Surprise, yes. Unwanted, no."
"You were never unwanted," he says quietly, his grip tighter now. "There's a difference."
Kate hears the unasked question in that too. "There's a difference," she says quickly, a hand coming up to her ribs as if in protection. She gives her father a look, pressing her lips together.
"Of course there is," he says back, mollifying. "You want him. So you do the best you can-"
"Him?" Castle is-
Him or her. Oh jeez. "Oh God. I'm going to be a terrible mother," she moans, turning into her father and burying her face against his shoulder. "I don't know how to do this. I can't do this."
"You're gonna be just fine, Katie. And you'll have help figuring it out." Her father's hand is warm against her back, soothing. "I'm taking a wild guess that Rick's not really the abandoning type, if his daughter is anything to go by."
She's silent at that, but the panic in her chest eases its fist.
"And, sweetheart, if you don't - if you feel you can't depend on Rick, if it's not going well or you don't - I don't know. But I'm still here. You won't have to be alone this time."
And she knows he means like before - after her mother died and she lost her father to his alcoholism. "Dad-"
"I wasn't there for you when you needed me. But I'm here now. I'll make it up to you, sweetheart. No judgment, no questions asked. You feel like getting away, you feel overwhelmed, you have a fight with Rick - whatever it is. You come to me."
Kate lets out a long breath and finally sits up, her feet stirring in the water as she moves. "Thanks, Dad."
The water is cool, making her chilled, and she pulls her knees up to let the sun dry her skin. Her father is putting his tackle box back together, his fingers sure and certain on the lures, the lines, the odds and ends of his craft.
She puts out her hand and stills him. "Go back to fishing."
"I thought you-"
"I just want to sit here with you for a while," she says quietly. "Then I'll go back."
He has the pole in his hands, and he regards her for a long moment before he smiles at her.
"When it comes time," he starts, his smile growing wider, even sly as he nods at her. "I want to be called Papa."