TITLE: The Return
AUTHOR: Lord of Kavaka
CHARACTERS: Castle/Beckett
RATING: T (M later)
TIMELINE: Post-Season 5 AU; Sequel to SOLID GROUND.
STORY TYPE: Romance/Drama
SPOILERS: Anything from Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
DISCLAIMER: I do not own them, and I make no profit.
SUMMARY: They'd been stranded on an island for almost 5 months, and now it's time to go home... where everything has changed.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I would suggest reading SOLID GROUND before this one, if you haven't already. Beckett's "condition" will feature, but it won't be the central focus in this story, which will be Castle and Beckett readjusting to life back in New York after spending close to 5 months stranded on a tropical island in the South Pacific.

The Return – Chapter 1

"Life isn't about finding yourself.
Life is about creating yourself."
- George Bernard Shaw

The waves gently crashed against the shore in a steady rhythm that was oddly soothing. Closing her eyes, Kate Beckett inhaled deeply the scent of the ocean breeze, finding comfort in it. There had been a time, not too long ago, when such a thing could never bring her as much comfort as it did now. She supposed she must have grown accustomed to it over the last four and a half months on that island in the South Pacific.

It was all so surreal. And strange.

She had spent so much time stranded on one tropical island, and now here she was, finally sitting at a beach side restaurant on another one. Though there weren't going to be any mojitos in her immediate future. Kate settled back in her chair, and looked out across the open terrace at the beach. The sun was shining high in the sky, its warmth soothing. She took a moment to just bask in the stillness of the midday. Things moved at a different pace here. There was none of that hustle and bustle that there was in New York City.

She fingered her engagement ring, and pursed her lips, furrowing her brow, as she thought about the reunion that was about to occur. Castle had already reunited with their families while she'd been kept overnight in the hospital after the USS Hamilton had rescued them from the island and safely delivered them to Hawaii. The doctors had been concerned about her, because of her condition, and had wanted to run some tests on her to make sure that she and her baby were okay. Kate hadn't wanted them to visit her in the hospital, since such a visit simply brought back too many unwelcomed memories for her.

And she was worried about revealing her condition. It was going to be a lot to take in. She'd left home one way, but was going to return another. She could only imagine what Lanie's reaction was going to be when they finally made it all the way back home.

Kate reached out for the glass of water she had asked for when the waitress had come by to check on her. Bringing it up to her lips, she took a delicate sip. She hadn't been particularly hungry that morning, much to Castle's dismay. He'd wanted to order her a full egg breakfast, but she had talked him down to just waffles and a bowl of fruit, which she nibbled at while he took a quick shower and got dressed.

She had been uncharacteristically lazy that morning, wanting to just stay in bed all day. It hadn't helped that Castle had thoroughly sated her with some amazing lovemaking, but in truth, Kate was worrying about seeing their families. She knew she was probably overthinking things, but she was worried about their reactions to her condition. When she'd finally got up, showered, and got dressed, she'd made sure to pull on a loose blouse that hid her growing middle.

Now she was sitting here in the sun, sipping water as she waited for Castle. He'd left the hotel suite before she had gotten into the shower, claiming he had an errand to run before their lunch date with their families. Kate had had no idea what sort of 'errand' he could possibly need to do, but he'd been holding her close and nuzzling his nose against that one spot under her ear that left her breathless to even really question him on it. So she let him go, and got ready by herself, going downstairs to the beachside restaurant attached to their hotel.

Taking one last sip of the water, she set the glass back down on the table and glanced around at the other hotel guests sitting down to enjoy lunch out on the terrace overlooking the ocean. The droning buzz of everyone talking was a little overwhelming. Kate wasn't used to being surrounded by so many people. Their group of survivors had been relatively small, and once they'd settled in Haven, the little village they constructed in the jungle on the island, they had all built their hut separate from each other. Castle and her hut had been up the hill away from the main conglomeration of huts, namely so they'd have some privacy.

Kate was beginning to think this had been a bad idea. Surely they could just reunite with their families up in the hotel suite. With Castle's prestige and money they'd gotten a room in the hotel that was more like a small apartment. She was just about to get up, when someone appeared behind her. Kate sucked in a breath, settling back down in her chair, immediately recognizing his scent.

"Hey, gorgeous," Castle bent down to press a lingering kiss against her neck and cheek, nuzzling his nose into her hair.

Kate couldn't help but giggle and smile brightly, happy and in love. He ran a hand affectionately along her shoulder and arm as he moved around her to take a seat beside her at the table. His hand found hers and their fingers were soon interlocked as his thumb rubbed small patterns on the top of her hand.

"Where have you been?" she asked, giving him one of her patented glares, though the smile on her lips belied the stern quality to her voice. She couldn't help it. Castle looked ridiculously adorable in his hibiscus blue Aloha Hawaiian shirt, which brought out that child-like twinkle in his eyes. "If I didn't know better, I'd have thought you were going to leave me at the mercy of my Dad, Martha, and Alexis."

"Never," he asserted, clutching her hand tighter and pulling it up to his lips to press a kiss against her knuckles, the waggle of his eyebrows almost ruining the chivalrous mannerism.

Kate bit her lower lip and smiled up at him. "So, where were you?"

"Around about," Castle answered enigmatically with a sly grin.

She cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. "Before you left me thoroughly sated in bed, you told me you had an errand to run. We've just got back to civilization, Castle. What errand was so important it couldn't wait until later?"

He pressed his lips together in a boyish grin. Untangling their fingers, he slipped his hand into the pocket of his white khakis—leave it to Rick Castle to dress the part when in Hawaii. "Surprise!" Castle declared, grinning broadly at her as he produced a small box wrapped in cheerful floral wrapping paper that nearly matched his shirt in design and pattern.

"Rick?" she furrowed her brow in confusion, taking the present from him to hold it in her hands. She narrowed her eyes and examined it. It was only slightly larger than a ring box. Frowning, she tried to guess what it was. He didn't need to give her a ring. He'd already done that, and she was quite happy with that ring. After examining the festive wrapping for another second or two, Kate flicked her eyes back up to Castle, giving him a quizzical expression. "What's this?"

"Open it and find out," he encouraged with a slight smirk, his eyes twinkling in that mischievous way of his that had her a little worried that whatever might be inside could possibly be inappropriate for a beachside restaurant.

"Don't worry," he piped in, seeming to sense her hesitation. "It's nothing embarrassing." He scooted closer. "Stop stalling, and open it."

Kate swallowed, and pulled her bottom lip under her teeth, carefully tearing at the wrapping paper until she uncovered the black box underneath. She knitted her eyebrows together, and put aside the used wrapping paper, tugging the lid of the box open. She gasped when she saw what laid inside. "Wow… Castle, it's beautiful," she declared, staring at the charm bracelet inside.

She gently pulled it out and examined each little charm attached to the silver bracelet. A smile spread across her face as she recognized the story being told… their story. She looked up at him, happy tears welling up in her eyes. Reaching out, she grabbed his face and pulled him in for a deep kiss. "Thank you, Castle," she beamed. "So this is what you were up to?"

He bobbed his head. "I went to a local shop while the doctors were running all those test on you yesterday and wouldn't let me in with you," he explained. "I got a message from the hotel's front desk from the shop owner saying that it was ready for pick up."

"Ready… wait… Castle? Are these little charms all…?"

"Custom made? Yes," he pursed his lips nervously. "Are you angry?"

She knitted her eyebrows together. "No, no, of course not, just surprised," she reassured him, smoothing her hand down the side of his clean-shaven face. He'd shaved his island beard off earlier that morning, much to her pleasure. "I guess... I almost forgot how rich you were."

Castle chuckled. "And the apartment-sized hotel suite didn't remind you?"

Kate grinned. "Hard to notice the size of the hotel suite when we've spent most of the time there in the bed," she winked and gave him another quick kiss. "Thank you, again. I love it. What's this for?"

He gave her a questionable look. "Don't you know what day it is?" Castle asked, his brow creasing.

"No. Should I?"

"It's November 17th," he supplied, gazing adoringly at her. "It's your birthday, Kate."

"My… my birthday?" her eyes flirted back down to the charm bracelet in her hand. "This… is my birthday present?"

"Yep," chirped Castle with a playful smirk, leaning closer. "Happy Birthday, Katherine Houghton Beckett." He then leaned in the rest of the way, cupping her jaw with his palm and kissing the stunned expression off her face.

Kate sighed, easing into his hold and melting into his kiss. She had wondered why he'd been so attentive to her needs that morning. He'd definitely made love to her quite thoroughly in the wee hours of the morning. At the time she'd thought it was just him reveling in the fact they finally had a bed to do such things in again, but now… now she knew better. Castle had been starting her birthday out with a bang.

"I don't know what I ever did to deserve you," she declared as they pulled back for air, resting her forehead against his as he continued to stroke his fingers through her hair.

"Whatever it was, I'm glad you did it," Castle said, gazing at her with undisguised love and adoration. "Because I can't imagine my life without you. I love you, Kate."

"I love you, too, Rick," she surged forward, kissing him again for all she was worth, not at all carrying about the audience they had in this beachside restaurant. This was Hawaii, after all. It probably wasn't the first time a couple started sucking face like this in the middle of the restaurant. Oh yes, Kate thought, this was going to be a birthday she'd likely never forget. And that was not even mentioning the impending reunion with her father, and his mother and daughter.


"You nervous?" he asked, reassuringly rubbing his thumb across the top of her hand.

She squeezed her fingers around his, and suppressed the need to roll her eyes at the under statement of the century, inclining her head in the affirmative. "It's a lot to take in, Castle," she asserted. "You sure you didn't… I mean… that first night, when I was in the hospital and you met them in the cafeteria, you… you didn't drop some hints, did you?"

"Why? Had you wanted me to?" Castle hooted, his eyebrows shooting up in concern, suddenly worried he'd made a mistake of omitting the main reason the doctors had wanted to keep her overnight. He hadn't exactly lied to them, but he hadn't told them everything, leaving out the fact Kate was three and a half months pregnant.

"No, no," she shook her head, squeezing his hand in reassurance. "I was just wondering. Don't worry, Castle." She reached up and held the side of his face, caressing his smoothed cheek with her thumb. "I just wanted to know how much they knew."

"Oh," he relaxed with a sigh, flashing her a quick smile. "Mother wasn't even surprised they were keeping you overnight."

"What? Why?"

He gave her a pointed look. "You are naturally thin, Kate," he said. "And you do have a habit of not eating when you're stressed."

"So… so they thought I was malnourished?" she hooted in alarm.

"Better than the alternative," he said under his breath.

Kate frowned and then caught the look in his eye. "Yeah," she replied with a nod, knowing he was referring to all the times she'd gotten injured on the line of duty. He was right. Having their families think she just needed to get her strength back after being stranded on an island was better than them thinking she'd been severely injured during the crash and the subsequent extended stay before rescue. "Did you tell them anything else?"

"If you're referring to John, then no," Castle sighed. "I figured it best to leave out the fact that there was a hitman out to kill you… us."

"Yeah, probably for the best," she agreed, squeezing his hand.

Castle's eyes flicked up and over her shoulder. He looked back at her and smiled reassuringly. "They're here. You ready?"

Kate inhaled deeply and stifled down all the worrying butterflies in her stomach, forcing a smile on her face. "About as ready as I can be," she replied. Castle gave a nod, and kissed her quickly, before standing up to greet their families.