She wakes early. So early, only the barest threads of daylight are sneaking over the horizon, casting the bedroom in shades of deep violet. She rolls gently to sneak a look at the man lying next to her and realizes that if she gets up right now, she can escape undetected. She makes up her mind quickly and slides noiselessly from the bed. He doesn't even stir.
She dresses within the quiet confines of the walk-in closet, happy for the privacy and insulation that it provides. She ties the laces on her shoes, itching to get out the front door soon. There's no time to lose. He could wake up at any second.
She turns off the overhead light before she exits the closet and slips back into the room, still dim but now bathed in the blue-gray of the predawn sky. She looks to the bed once more. He's out, dead to the world. She's glad. She won't wake him when she leaves.
As she passes to the door, she peeks into the bassinet by the side of the bed. He's out as well. She can't hold in the smile that spreads across her face at the sight.
And then she grabs her phone and makes a beeline for the door
She glides through the lobby, making a waving, "sit down!" kind of motion to Terrence, the doorman, so he'll stay put. She knows he has a space heater at his feet and there's no need for him to leave the cozy confines of his desk. She pushes through the door and comes to a stop on the pavement, looking to the left, then sweeping to the right as she's pulling on her hat and gloves. It's Saturday and the sidewalks are still shaking off their sleep. Only a few pedestrians can be seen in either direction.
The city is in the dying throes of autumn and has the temperatures to go with it. At present, it's hovering just above freezing. She takes a deep, bracing breath of the frigid air, letting it rasp against her throat.
Oh God, how she loves this time of year! The colors, the smells, the anticipation of the holidays. Pumpkin spice lattes and burning leaves and cozy cable knit sweaters. Nature is bracing itself for the hibernation of winter, yet she has never felt more alive. It's intoxicating.
She stills herself then and just breathes it in for a moment. But in the next moment, she moves. Time to get it in gear.
She starts off at a slow jog. She's really not interested in pushing her body too hard. After all, she gave birth only ten weeks ago. And before that she had to give up running during her third trimester. She had simply felt too big and unbalanced at that point. But she continued to walk regularly, and did yoga right up to the day she went into labor.
She's making a conscious effort to go easier on herself since Monty's birth. For the first month, she happily did nothing but take care of her new baby boy and herself. She let Castle, Alexis, Martha, and her dad baby her, while they all babied Monty. It had been a blissful bubble of newborn joy for all of them.
But as expected, she started to get fidgety, itching to get out, to be active again. She has always exercised regularly, not only for her own peace of mind, but also for a job that she requires strength and stamina to perform. Her body has always served her well, and she in turn takes care of her body. So when the urge struck, she knew it was time to start caring for it again.
Her body had changed with the pregnancy. Some of the changes are welcome, some not so much. When her bra size went up by two cups, Castle was overjoyed, as evidenced by the attention he lavished on her breasts. Then again, he had appreciated everything about her pregnant body. Her gravid figure had been quite the aphrodisiac to her adoring husband, and when her energy surged at the start of her second trimester, it enabled her to eagerly return his affections (and then some).
She isn't pleased with how thick her midriff is still. She had been mildly self-conscious about it at first, hiding herself under the comfortable post-partum uniform of baggy t-shirts and stretchy yoga pants. But after getting the go-ahead from her OB-GYN to resume sex two weeks ago, Castle has enthusiastically demonstrated to her several times just how sexy and desirable he finds the softness of her curves where before there were boney angles.
She knows that she just needs to be patient. Her body is returning, albeit slowly. Breastfeeding helps. Being active again helps. Knowing her husband is more in love with her than ever before helps. And she already knows she'll do it again in a heartbeat, if the end result is another baby as adorable and delightful as Monty.
Monty. Their baby boy. She is so head-over-heels for him already. She never really stood a chance, did she? With his dark curls and his blue, blue eyes and his gummy grin and his happy demeanor…yeah, she has it bad. They all do.
She begins to run faster, feeling loose and warm now. She can see storefronts and door stoops whizzing by from the corner of her eye, but she looks straight ahead, listening to her body and the thudding of her heart in her ears. She's only been back to jogging for a few weeks now, but she can already feel her body responding, falling into old patterns, reshaping itself. It feels good.
She cracks a grin when she thinks about how Monty got his name. "How about Monty for a boy?" Castle had said one night in bed, as he lay between her legs, kissing and talking to the curve of her then six-month pregnant belly.
"Monty. Like Monty Python? Nice." she chided.
"Ha! No, that wasn't what I was thinking. Although that is pretty cool! 'Life of Brian' is hilarious, and 'The Holy Grail' is a classic…"
She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of Montgomery. Monty for short. Maybe James for a middle name, after your Dad. You know…whatever you want," he finished quietly, a shy, crooked smile on his lips.
She blamed her crazy pregnancy hormones for the tears she shed that night, but in truth, she was deeply touched by his idea. She could think of no better tribute to the man who had everything to do with the life she was now leading; the amazing family she had acquired; the love that threatens to overflow from her heart at every turn.
The past that she finally let go of so she could live and love freely.
And so, Montgomery James Castle got his name that night.
She's jogging at a good clip now, maybe 6-ish miles per hour, she guesses. But no matter; this isn't about pushing her body beyond it's limits, and the only hurry she's in now is to get home to her family and enjoy the remaining weeks of her maternity leave.
Her job. Oh, she has such mixed feelings about returning, about leaving her precious baby for hours on end and putting herself in harm's way. She'll be on desk duty for a while after her return, but eventually, she'll be out there again, tracking down murderers who don't want to be caught and figure that if they're going to go down, by God they're going to try to take someone with them. That danger has always existed, but her concern over it now is more…acute.
Motherhood is redefining her outlook on her own wellbeing, especially now that there is another human being (okay, maybe a couple of human beings) who love her and need her to come home alive and in one piece. She hasn't been able to reconcile it yet, this urge to play it safe with the need to do the work that she does so very well. Talking to Castle about it helps. Maybe she'll make an appointment with Dr. Burke too, get his input on the matter. She makes a mental note to call his office on Monday and set up a session soon.
She turns back now, jogging in the direction of the loft. Home. Just the thought fills her with warmth. Between the fullness of her heart and the blood pumping through her veins, the almost-freezing temperatures can't touch her. The thought of the hot cup of coffee that awaits her upon her return only warms her further.
Her warm heart conjures images of her mother then, but they're a welcome diversion now. Since Bracken's indictment a year ago, she finds that thoughts of her mother no longer dwell on how her life ended, but rather how she lived. What an extraordinary woman she had been, not to mention a brilliant lawyer and a pretty phenomenal mom, too.
Of course she misses her. Every day. Especially now, now that she would love to share the beautiful life that she had a hand in creating. She wants her mom to show her the ropes of parenting and tease her mercilessly over her many neuroses. She could hear Johanna in her head, even now: "Caring for a baby is easy, Katie. Raising a decent human being? That's the hard part."
And she would have been right, of course. Monty couldn't be an easier baby if he tried. Jovial, chubby, and content, she couldn't have picked a better infant out of a lineup. And my goodness was he a handsome boy already! Nobody was immune to his charms. She had been thrilled when she first saw his blue eyes, and she fell in love instantly, not unlike how she fell in love with the other blue-eyed man in her life. Well, okay…maybe that love affair wasn't quite so instantaneous. But now? It is just as powerful, just as eternal as the love she has for her child.
She finds herself unconsciously picking up her pace at the thought of her husband, as though there is a powerful magnetic force between them that pulls her ever faster in his direction. Haven't we always been inexplicably drawn to each other? she muses. The presence of their son only makes the draw more intense.
It's at that moment that her phone buzzes in her pocket, alerting her to the arrival of a text and she pulls the phone from her pocket, knowing that there's really only one person it could be. She wonders if Castle was picking up on her musings about their mysterious connection. He would, of course, spin a ridiculous theory for her about clairvoyance and the two of them having a psychic link.
you out for a jog? your boys miss you.
Hmmm. Clairvoyance, indeed.
It takes her a second, typing out her response one-handed, but she finally presses send.
jogging home as we text. i miss my boys.
She smiles gently when she thinks of what they've become, and what they've overcome to get here. Their relationship isn't perfect; it comes easier to them now, but they still clash occasionally. She still has to fight the urge to withdraw and run; he still pushes too hard and too fast at times. She mires herself in denials while he puts his foot in his mouth regularly. But they're better at calling each other out on it now, and they're faster to forgive. They've struck an easy balance that makes most days feel effortless.
And when she really thinks about it, about what they have, it's just…beautiful. It's love and it's family and it's theirs and it's beautiful. And it's that thought speeds her steps until she is once again in front of her building.
She's still huffing and puffing from the near sprint she broke into at the end of her run, but she can't be bothered because she feels so damn amazing this morning. She feels alive and grateful and so, so happy. Happy for the blood singing joyously in her veins at her exertions. Happy for the two men upstairs awaiting her return. Happy for this life she fought so hard to win.
As her breathing slows, she takes a few moments to let her body cool down before she heads inside. Using a lamppost to steady herself, she grabs one ankle, drawing it up behind her to stretch her quads, then extends the leg back while she leans into the post, giving the same treatment to her hamstring. She then repeats the process with her other leg. She glances at her watch to see that it's just past 7am. Her boys are waiting for her.
She can feel the sweat trickling down her back as she strides into the lobby, smiling at Terrence while he holds the door for her this time. He greets her with a chipper "Good morning, Mrs. Castle. Cold enough for ya out there? How's the little one doing?"
"He's terrific, thanks. Was passed out cold when I left this morning," she answers as she pulls off her hat and gloves.
"Well, I won't keep you. No doubt you want to get back to him ASAP, huh?"
"Wild horses couldn't keep me away."
"Ha! I felt the same about my own kids. Now you get on upstairs and warm up."
"Thanks, Terrence. Hey! Will you be here around lunchtime? We'll be headed out to meet Alexis. You can see him then."
"Absolutely! Can't wait to see the little guy. You can tell Miss Castle I said hello, too."
"I'll do that. We'll see you later."
"Take care, Mrs. C."
She steps into the elevator, waiting out the short ride to their floor, practically running down the short stretch of hallway to slip her key inside the door. She wonders what she'll find on the other side.
The door swings open and Kate sees them almost immediately, standing in a pool of sunlight pouring in through one of the big great room windows. The light is just starting to peak over the skyscrapers of Manhattan, casting the world in a glorious glow.
Castle stands with their son cradled to his chest, rocking him gently, Monty's head nestled into his neck while one tiny fist thumps against his daddy's chest. He's murmuring something softly into the boy's curls, interspersing his words with kisses to the downy fuzz atop his head. When he hears the door open, he looks to his wife with a wide smile of welcome.
"Heeeey, there's mommy! I told you she went for a run and would be right back, and look! There she is." Monty's head bobs around for a moment, as though looking for his mother, before his head flops back down and he nuzzles his face into Castle's t-shirt.
She spans the room quickly, throwing the contents of her hands onto the couch, stepping to their side to bask in the warmth of the sunlight with them. She extends her arms, one wrapping around her husband's back, the other embracing her baby boy. Castle leans down to press a gentle kiss to her lips.
"Good morning, Kate." She loves how he says her name, sweet and reverently, softening the hard sound of the K as it leaves his mouth. How does he do that?
Good morning, my boys." She drops a kiss to Monty's head then, his hair still smelling of the lavender baby wash from his bath last night. She decides that it might just be the best smell ever.
"Your nose is like ice, by the way! It must be freezing out."
"I think it was about 34 degrees when I left."
"Woman, you are crazy."
Kate nuzzles her cold nose into his neck then, and he makes a squeal of protest but makes no move to get away.
"You love my brand of crazy."
"That I do."
She squeezes them tighter then, breathing in the mixed scent of her husband and child, the combination making her love-drunk and sappy. Nope, she's already changed her mind. This is the best smell ever.
Oh, how she adores them, with all of her heart.
She pulls back then, running her fingers through Monty's curls. "How long have you two been up?" she asks.
Castle glances to the wall clock. "I dunno, maybe a half-hour? He was pretty hungry when he woke up so instead of waiting I warmed up a bottle from the fridge. We were just having a burping contest when you walked in."
She chuckles at that. The joys of living with boys. Of course if she's being completely honest, she'll tell you that she wants Monty to grow up to be exactly like his dad. Perhaps with her attention span. Time will tell.
Castle looks to her then. "Why don't you do what you need to do now that you're home. Get some coffee, take a shower, have some grub. Whatever you want, in whatever the order."
"You've gotta stop spoiling me like this, Castle. I might become accustomed to it. Before you know it I'll be some screeching diva making unreasonable demands."
"And? You do recall that I lived with my mother for seven years, right? I'm used to screeching divas and unreasonable demands. She made my teenage daughter look like a saint."
She swats his arm then, knowing how he loves to tease his mother, but also knowing his deep and abiding love for the woman. She has become a good friend and confidant to Kate as well. In spite of Martha's flamboyance and flair for the dramatic, she's a wise woman with strong shoulders and some very sage advice. Kate knows she'll never have another mother, but Martha is a damn good stand-in.
As for Alexis, she couldn't ask for a better stepdaughter, big sister, or friend. Kate fondly remembers the turning point in their relationship, when Alexis had wandered home to the loft one dreary day in late February a few years ago. She was feeling lost and conflicted about her studies at Columbia, uncertain of the direction she wanted to go for her bachelor's degree.
Castle had been out doing some publicity work for his latest Heat book that day, but Kate had been home when Alexis arrived. While the gray skies dumped a few inches of snow on the city that afternoon, they had huddled under fleece blankets on the couch and over hot cocoas, they talked through every single one of Alexis's thoughts and concerns. By the time the sun was sinking into the horizon, Castle returned home to the two of them laughing hysterically in the kitchen, making spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.
Something shifted for them that day. Kate remembers when Alexis left that night to return to the dorms; she looked a million times lighter, and the stress that had been etched into her face when she arrived that afternoon had finally smoothed over. After hugging her dad, she pulled Kate into a tight embrace and whispered "Thank you, Kate, for everything." Kate could only blink back her tears and squeeze her tighter.
"Screeching and demands aside, I think I'll start with coffee, but first I need to do this." She pushes up on her toes to kiss her husband again, this time a little more lingering, a little more suggestive.
"Mmmmm. Nice. You can do that anytime you'd like."
"Even though our children might take exception to our public displays of affection?" she tosses over her shoulder while she walks into the kitchen to retrieve some coffee.
"Absolutely. Wait…did you say children? Plural? As in…more kids?" His eyes widen but his smile belies any conflict over the idea.
"Hmm, yeah. I guess I did. So?" Her shrug is innocent while her smile is anything but. She sips from the almost too-hot mug in her hand and returns to stand with her boys in the sunlight.
"Oh! No, it's nothing. Nothing at all. Just making sure I heard you correctly." He tries to sound casual, but it comes out a little too high-pitched to be anything but hopeful.
She smiles, open and wide, and there's no mistaking her glee at knocking him off balance a little. She sets down the hot mug and snuggles into Castle's side again, whispering, "Do you know what I want?"
"Well, we've obviously proven that our combined DNA is pretty spectacular." She takes her finger and runs it down Monty's silky cheek, the boy instantly rooting toward his mother's touch. "Someday…maybe in a year or two…I want to make another Castle baby with you."
She looks up at him then, his face suffused with joy at her suggestion. "You do realize, after how perfect Monty has been, the next one will probably be a holy terror. And oh my God...a girl! Oh man, we are so doomed!"
Kate shakes her head, feigning disgust. "Ugh, the horror!"
They laugh at each other then, leaning in to kiss, long, slow, and sweet. She rests her forehead against his, and whispers, "You know what? I'll happily take that chance with you."
A/N: This was in my head and needed to get out, so...there you go. A fluffy one shot, but not totally devoid of substance; my favorite variety of fluff. As always, feedback is never required, but always appreciated. My writing skills are coming along, but I know I have a long way to go. Any review (even if it's just to say "Hey, that was alright!") is something to build upon.
I confess that I have seen a handful of fics that have used the name Monty, and while I thought of it as a name for their child long before I had ever read fic for this fandom, it doesn't change the fact that any number of other authors have beaten me to the proverbial punch. In fact, I just read a fic this morning in which that was their son's name. However, let me assure you that no plagiarism is intended. Think of it this way: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
And for those of you following Nani Mokupuni, I will be updating that within the week. I blame my job.