Disclaimer- I still don't own Castle, Andrew Marlowe does, and I don't want him to sue me for playing in his sandbox. The last line is from Ian Flemming's Casino Royale, which I did not write, either. I hope you enjoyed this! Sequel has to be written instead of continuing this storyline, it just didn't fit.
Haikus and review responses are a'coming. Promise!
The months went by and things changed; Lily, when set on her stomach, started lifting her head. Every moment was precious. It got to the point where I was sleep-deprieved, but could change a diaper in less than a minute. And Dad was right: I didn't want to miss a moment. When Halloween came, Dad got her a burrito costume and filled up his Twitter and Instagram feeds with even more pictures of her. She's a little bean. And burritos are beans. She fills up a lot of diapers, too.
He also hilariously critiqued people who were criticizing us for my choice to have Lily by editing their letters like any good editor at a Publishing House would do. He was even called upon by some famous feminist and parenting sites to interview and give his take on my pregnancy and Lily coming into our family. He was interviewed on several radio and television magazine shows like Pier Morgan. CBS Sunday Morning even came to film an interview with him one cold October weekend at our Hamptons house.
"How are you taking this new image in the public that's so different from who you've been? Now you're a caring and doting father and grandfather," the journalist asked.
"There's nothing new about who I am as a father. I've always been a caring and doting father over Alexis, the media wasn't concerned with showing that side of me," Dad said, shrugging it off. "Of course, I didn't want the media digging in her life, either. The media liked the playboy and womanizing image and insisted on portraying me that way. I've always been very involved in Alexis's life. She was always my first concern, I never had a nanny for her, I raised her myself, and I've had full custody of her since she was six when her mother and I divorced. I've always tried to protect her, but the way the world is progressing, there's not much privacy to be had these days, especially now that she's an adult. People pay attention to what they want. They ignored that I had a child and just wanted to focus on only a few areas of my life; my love life and my professional life. That's only a portion of who I am. I'm a family man, a gadget geek, a supporter of the arts and literacy, and an enthusiastic nerd, too. I have a lot of interests, actually. I'm not afraid to get excited about something or show my excitement over it. I've been a family-oriented person since Alexis came into my life, even when it was just the two of us. The media was aware I had a child, but chose not to portray me as a parent. Now that a big life event happened for me that a lot of people feel the need to weigh in on and want to make controversial, they're surprised that I have a passionate response on the subject. I've always been passionate about my family. That's never changed. I may be the product of a single parent home, my daughter is too, but I've always been a family man. It's who I am."
In the wake of Dad's publicity, I wrote a few blogs, but they didn't get a lot of views until Dad tweeted about how proud he was of me for writing about my experiences as a new mom. His image as a millionaire playboy was transforming to a proud and feminist father and grandparent. The media always cited back to his blog announcing my pregnancy.
Thanksgiving was pretty low-key; Kate and Dad did all the cooking, I made a dessert of apple crumble, and Grams and Jim Beckett came over. Once we finished dinner, we began to decorate the Christmas tree while Jim wanted to watch the football games. Jim Beckett held Lily, distracted by her, and once she investigated him for long enough, she gave him a grin that made me laugh and melted his heart. Lily's personality was developing: she was a little bit of a clown and flirt. "Can you believe this baby?" he asked, like a proud grandfather. The football game was of no concern for him anymore; Lily had his full attention.
"She's one of us, of course she's charming," Grams wrote it off.
"What else can you do, Lily Bean?" he asked her.
"She can't roll over, yet," I admitted. "She'll get onto her side, but hasn't followed through."
"I remember when Katie was this little," Jim said. "She was this cute. Maybe cuter."
"Maybe," Kate said. "I still think Lily's the cutest!"
We were in the home stretch before Dad and Kate's wedding. Kate confessed something to me after we had the last dress fitting at Allison Conway.
"I want to get pregnant on the honeymoon," she said.
"You really think you will?" I asked.
"Wanna know something?" she asked. "Your father and I have already been trying. I don't mind the idea of being pregnant at my own wedding, but nothing yet. I think it's just a matter of time, though."
"You really want a baby that badly?"
She nodded. "I didn't even think about how many tries we were going to have try. But I hope this month, I'm ready."
"You really want that?" I asked. "It's so soon!"
"I've never been superstitious, but I'm beginning to wonder if there's something to this getting pregnant thing."
"There wasn't for me."
"Definitely not!" she agreed.
After a Christmas in East Hampton, Dad and Kate's wedding preparations started despite the snow. The workers came to our Hamptons house and erected a huge number of connected tents in the backyard all they way around the pool to overseeing the ocean. It was like a circus, even though there were less than 125 guests invited. A lot of Kate's family came in, and she had this one male cousin from Cincinnati that was incredibly obnoxious and got drunk at the rehearsal dinner. He came over to me as I was sitting in the corner, nursing Lily under a blanket, the ice cubes in his glass clinking. "You know your kid is bastard, right?" he slurred.
"Hey!" Detective Esposito cried, hearing him before I could respond. Esposito stabbed a finger in his direction. "You need to back off. Not cool."
"Just stating the obvious, bro."
"I'm not your bro, alright?"
"Alright!" he said, holding his hands up in the air while backing off. "Stay cool! Stay cool!"
"Dick," I muttered. Lily was not interested in feeding tonight. I'd have to do it in the bathroom or when we got back to the hotel we were setting up the bridal dressing room in later.
"I'm sorry, Alexis," Detective Esposito said.
"Kate warned me about him," I said. "People are going to judge."
"They always do."
"No biggie. Lily's a little too distracted tonight," I admitted, removing her from under the blanket. I needed to get my breast back into my top under the blanket. Esposito turned around and blocked the view of me to the other party guests, thankfully.
"You know, you're going to be an NYPD kid tomorrow night," he said. "That means I'm morally obligated to stick up for you when people act like an ass around you."
"You don't have to," I said, resituating my swollen breast back into my nursing bra. "I'm a grown woman who can fight her own battles."
"No, you're not. You're family, now."
"Nice to hear. Thanks." He helped me up and escorted Lily and me back into the party.
Lily had finally started rolling over and giggling and laughing at the funny noises, like raspberries, she made herself. We thought it was hysterical. So far, she was a healthy, happy baby with her red hair sticking out in wispy twists who charmed everyone. Much to my relief, she was sleeping through the night. I was thankful for this, seeing as she didn't wake Lainey or Kate up. Finally! A night of uninterrupted sleep for me!
I woke up to Lainey and Kate entertaining Lily. I felt so rested, I was tired again.
"Good morning," Kate said, the excitement in her voice. "I'm just going to brush my teeth and we can get some coffee. Ann is on her way!"
"I slept too much," I said. "I'm tired again. When did Lily wake up?"
"About an hour ago. She's had a bottle and her diaper's been changed, haven't you, Lily Bean?" Kate cooed, kissing her. Lilly was sitting up beside Kate, still in her pajamas.
"What do you want her to wear for the bridesmaid luncheon?" Lainey asked.
"It's a green velvet dress," I said. "It's in the closet. The tights go with it."
"Okay," Lainey said. "I'll dress her."
"You like babies, Lainey?" I asked.
"She does," Kate answered for her.
"So what if I do?" Lainey muttered, picking up the dress and taking Lily over to the bed to lay her down. "Babies are cute!"
"Do you want one? She's really tiresome. And she poops a lot."
"You're going to have to work on your sales skills."
"Fine, fine. I'm going to get in the shower," I said, throwing the covers back.
"We'll bring some coffee back for you," Kate said.
I took a long, hot shower, not worrying about my baby being in the play pen or vibrating chair, waiting on me. When I got out, I took a long time to dry my hair and put on some lotion, sometimes I didn't have the time for much lately. After dressing, I sat down and read the newspaper, texting Kate to take her time, no rush. She texted back saying that Paul and Ann had arrived from the city and were checking in. I brushed my teeth and put on my shoes to go downstairs to the coffee shop to meet them.
Ann had Lily in her lap, grinning and Paul was making faces at Lily to entertain her. Lily was was laughing so hard, everyone else in the coffee shop was watching and smiling, too.
"There's Mommy!" Ann cried, slipping her hands under Lilly's arms and lifting her up to me. She grinned at me and squealed.
"Hi!" I cried, picking her up. "Having fun?"
"She was," Paul said.
"Where's Kate?" I asked. "And Lainey?"
"Getting your coffee!" Kate called, carrying a small coffee over to me. "I hope you enjoyed your morning without baby."
"I did," I said.
"We're going to get going to the bridesmaids brunch," Kate said.
"You've got Lily's baby bag?" I asked.
"Alright, let's go," Kate said. Lainey drove us to the restaurant and we sat down. I ordered another coffee and brunch was served.
"So what are your plans when you go back to school, Alexis?" Ann asked.
"That depends on when Kate and Dad have their baby," I said.
Ann and Lainey exchanged a glance and then looked at Kate.
"No, I'm not pregnant," Kate said. "But I really hope I get pregnant on my honeymoon in Fiji."
"In three weeks, you better get pregnant!" Lainey cried.
"I think we've just been under so much pressure with this wedding, we haven't had any luck yet."
"You're already trying?" Lainey asked. "Why didn't I get to know this?"
"I've been keeping it a secret," Kate said. "But there's no rush to get Alexis and Lily out. I love having them around."
"There's not going to be room for us and a new baby when it comes," I said. "We'll move out soon. I'm considering family housing and getting my own place."
"No, you're not!" Kate cried, offended.
"The agreement was I would move in with you until I had my baby and then, when I was ready, we'd reconsider the arrangement."
"Can I just say I love you so much and I want you around, Alexis? Lily too? Our house is going to be so empty if you leave!"
"We'll talk about it after the honeymoon's over," I offered. "Don't worry about. I haven't signed and contracts, nothing's set in stone, yet."
"Yet... yet," Kate muttered. "I would be so upset if I came home from my honeymoon and you and Lily were gone!"
"You'd die a little inside?" I joked.
"Yes. A little."
After the brunch/luncheon, we went back to Dad's house and got the beauty treatment for the wedding with the professionals. I dressed Lily, and then we played pass-the-baby until I was dressed. We waited and when Kate came out in her dress, we all gasped.
"You look amazing," I admitted.
"No cold feet, right?" Lainey asked.
"None," Kate said. "Most women have these moments right before they get married, don't they?"
We all shrugged. "No idea," Ann admitted. "It's never scared me to think about forever with Paul."
"What's wrong with me, right?" Kate asked, sounding concerned. "I should be scared. Nervous! The only thing I'm scared about is that Castle's not going to meet me at the end the aisle."
I would like that. To be so sure and confident. I knew I'd have had cold feet with Pi had I had married him. I realized all my fears of being unmarried and single mom didn't make sense anymore. I'd prefer to be unmarried and pregnant than committing my whole life to a man I had doubts over. I was so happy I wasn't going to be the wife of someone I felt meh about. When the excitement had worn off from the novelty of sex with Pi, that's how I felt about him. He was a meh person to begin with. On the plus side, I had gotten Lily out of that.
At the same time, I felt a lump in my throat. Kate was going to be Dad's forever wife. Deep down, I knew it. He wouldn't have pursued her for so long if that wasn't the case. She would be my forever stepmother. And she'd forever be Lily's step-grandmother. Maybe there wasn't supposed to be half and step, just whole. And I was so happy, I wanted to cry.
I didn't want her to see me crying on her wedding day. I pushed Lily into Ann's arms and I stood up, avoiding looking at her. "I'm going to go call and check on Dad."
"Alright," Kate said, holding her arms out for me. "Alexis?" That was it; I could only hope I didn't cry my professional make-up off. She couldn't move, so I went over to her and hugged her. "I'm so excited about being family with you," she whispered in my ear.
"Me too." She hugged me for a long time. "I love you."
"I love you too."
I went to the bedroom and called Dad. He was at the house.
"How are you feeling, Dad?" I asked.
"Nervous. Jumpy. Sick to my stomach."
"Don't feel that way. Kate's ready. She's beautiful. She's ready to get married."
I came down the aisle and saw my father at the end; he looked terrified. I winked at him. His brow relaxed and he finally smiled at me. It was all going to be okay.
Pachabel's Cannon in D started and the doors opened; the doors opened from the sunroom leading out into the tents, and Kate was standing there with her father. I looked back at Dad, and I saw everything, his posture, his expression, everything, turn to relief. She was beaming on Jim's arm, and I knew everything was going to be okay.
Lily squealed in excitement in Gram's arms and I couldn't help but smile at her.
For once, I hoped this marriage was Dad's forever marriage. I loved Kate, and she had been the best mother I had ever had. I hated saying that about my own mother, but Kate had been a best friend and my rock this year. I wanted her in my family.
Finally, after the pastor gave the speech about marriage, he turned to Dad and handed each of them a ring. "Richard Edgar Alexander Castle, do you take Katherine to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, as long as you both shall live?"
"Always," Dad said, slipping the ring on her finger.
"Katherine Houghton Beckett, do you take Richard to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, as long as you both shall live?"
"Always," Kate said, putting the ring on Dad's finger.
"I now pronounce you Man and Wife. You may kiss the bride. Ladies and gentleman, may introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. Richard Castle."
We watched as Dad and Kate had their first dance to Frank Sinatra's Always, and Lily squirmed in my arms. For a moment in time, we were so happy. Life was so perfect, especially after this year. I looked at my phone as I opened it to take a picture; and I saw the date.
On this date last year, I was taking a pregnancy test, I was avoiding Dad, lying to him, avoiding the hard truths in my life by smoking entirely too much weed, and my relationship with Pi started falling apart. Funny how many things could change in a year. I was so happy, not just for Lily and me, but for my parents. They waited so long to get married, and now it had happened. I didn't want to miss a moment of this wedding, I wanted to remember everything.
The first dance was over, and I expected Jim to take Kate's hand and lead her in the father-daughter dance, but familiar strains of an orchestra came through the loudspeakers. Dad came up to me and held out a hand. "Alexis?"
Lainey came over. "Let me the baby," she said softly, taking Lily out of my arms.
"Dad?" I asked, feeling tears filling my eyes. Steven Tyler's voice filtered through the speakers as the familiar lyrics of I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing started. "Dad, you didn't tell me about this!"
"Will you dance with me?" he asked.
I saw Jim taking Kate's hand to lead her out onto the dance floor and she gestured to me to join them. I saw a look of pain and love on Jim's face as he looked at Kate through the blur of my tears, and then I looked at Dad. "You didn't tell me you had this planned."
"It's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is permission, you know that, you're a Castle."
I chuckled and wiped my tears. "Will you do this for Lily when she gets married?" I asked.
"You don't want me to do it for you?" he asked. "When you get married?"
I almost said something self-depricating about never being marriage material again, but I shut my mouth. "Yeah, I do," I said.
The reception was a blast, and we partied the night away.
The good thing about a one-shoulder dress was that breast-feeding was easy access before the wedding party was presented.
Lily fell asleep halfway through the toasts, and I left her in her carrier behind the main table so I could dance and enjoy myself. I checked back on her every other song, though. Lily slept through most of the dancing and partying, and then the dreaded bouquet toss happened.
"Could this be any embarrassing?" Ann joked. She was engaged, but Kate's crazy aunt (also from Cincinnati) forced her to get into the group. "Yeah, let's just line up the single ladies."
"You better catch that bouquet, Alexis!" that drunk cousin yelled. I wanted to punch him (or flip him off), but Kate said he was a douchebag since birth, practically, not to pay him any mind.
"Ha ha ha," I said, glowering at him.
"I wanna slap that bastard," Lainey said in my ear. "Oof!" Lainey got smacked in the face with the bouquet, and it practically landed in her hands.
"Lainey, you caught it!" I cried, registering what just happened.
"No, I didn't-"
"That was only a practice toss, I didn't mean to let go!" Kate cried.
"But it counts!" I cried. "It counts! Lainey's getting married, next!"
"Oh hell no," Lainey muttered, glaring at the flowers.
As the evening was ending, I picked up my sleeping child and held her close. I took her upstairs once Kate told me she was getting dressed to leave the reception and was going to need a little help with the dress. Dad and Kate were going to a secret hotel location and in the morning, they were flying out to Fiji. The wedding guests were lining up with sparklers in the cold driveway in front of the house. I carefully put Lily down in the crib and turned on the white noise machine and the space heater and then the baby monitor. I took the other end of the baby monitor next door in the master bedroom, where Kate staring at herself in her wedding dress in the full-length mirror, fidgeting with her wedding band. The traveling dress, a grey halter-neck cocktail dress with ruffles down the neckline and a matching belt with a rose hung on the closet door.
"Hi," she said, seeing me.
"You look so pretty," I said.
"Oh, thanks," she said, looking down at her dress and shrugging. "I'm the bride, I'm supposed to be pretty, right?"
She sighed and fidgeted with it. A few drinks and hors d'oeuvres had been sloshed on it in the night, and the stains were lining the edges and back of the skirt, but the effect wasn't lost. "I'm going to miss you and Lily for the next three weeks."
"I'll miss you, too," I admitted. "But you'll find fun stuff to do in Fiji."
She smirked. "I sure will."
"Ew! That's my dad!"
"Sorry," she said. "This has been the best night of life. I don't want to take this wedding dress off."
"I don't blame you."
She wrapped her arms around me again. "It turned out better than I ever thought," she admitted. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too. You've been a better mother to me than my own mom."
I nodded, still in her arms. "Yeah, you have. I'm so happy you're my father's wife."
"I wouldn't mind being your mother. If you want me to be."
"I do. I really do, Kate."
"I can't take Meredith's place-"
"She's got a place all her own," I admitted.
We laughed and held each other and cried for a few minutes. It felt good. I hadn't had a mom growing up, but here she was. What kind of mistakes would I have not made if she had been? All the mistakes and time that it took to become dad's wife had been part of the journey. On all of our parts.
"I've got to get changed," she finally said. "Can you get the buttons in the back?"
"Sure," I said, letting her go. I carefully undid each of the delicate buttons running down her back until it came down past her hips and she was able to step out of it. "You looked so beautiful in your wedding dress. It was the right choice."
"It was. I felt really beautiful in it. Look, you can call us in Fiji, we'll have cell service," she said, changing out of her strapless bra into a halter one and taking off her white opaque panty hose to put on some more flattering black sheer ones. "We've left cash on the office desk for you to get anything you need, and you've got your emergency credit card, especially when it comes to the first day of school."
"The babysitter's all lined up," I said. "I'll make it to the first day of school, we'll be fine."
"And if anything goes wrong, we'll hop the first flight back. We'll probably get island fever and leave early." I helped her dress in into the travel dress and she changed shoes and put on a cardigan. "I'm so proud of you and Lily, Alexis. I really am. The two of you really changed my life and… I can't wait for forever with you two and your Dad."
"We need to get you downstairs," I said, helping up with hanging up her wedding dress to get cleaned and preserved. "It's almost midnight. Dad's waiting on you."
"You don't mind supervising the clean up?" Kate asked, putting on her coat. "The wedding planner can do it for you."
"Nah, I know this house better than she does. I'm waiting to see if Lily will wake up sometime in the night anyway. Might as well."
"You're really the best," she said, stepping into a black pair of Louboutons. "I always told Castle he was so lucky to have a daughter like you. Come on, you've got to come downstairs to see us off," she took my hand and we went downstairs where Dad and Jim were waiting in the kitchen.
"Hi," I said.
"The space heaters are on out there," Jim said. "You want to say good-bye to your dad and Katie alone?"
"No," I said. "That's okay-"
The wedding planner bustled through. "We've got to get the two of you out to the car! Come on, let's go!" Jim took my arm and we ran out to the front drive where the wedding guests were lining up with sparklers to send them off. We didn't get to grab sparklers and before we knew it, Dad and Kate were coming down the aisle to the waiting limo.
"Dad!" I shouted as they passed. "Bye!" They looked so perfect in the light. I wanted to remember them like this forever. He grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the line. At the end, there was a limo.
"I love you," he said, pulling me into a hug. Kate gave me one more hug before she climbed into the lmo. "Give Lily our love. We'll be home in three weeks, okay?"
"Okay, Daddy. I love you, too."
"Call Grams if you get lonely," he said. "We'll have cell service at the resort, so call us. But not too often."
"There's money in my office and your emergency credit card-"
"And take tons of pictures of Lily. I don't want to miss anything about her!"
"I will! Promise!"
"Bye, Dad. 'Bye, Kate! I love you both!"
He ducked into the car and the door shut. Detective Esposito came up behind me and put his jacket on my shoulders, which I graciously accepted. "I'll get this back to you!" I promised.
"Keep it as long as you'd like," he said, going back into the house with Lainey.
I stood in the driveway as the wedding guests dispersed and went back to the tent to get their purses and jackets and the valets began to get the cars lined up. The taillights of the limo disappeared around the trees, and I pulled Javi's tux jacket tighter around myself.
And then, I saw him at the treeline. A solitary older man with a beard, he was watching the house. He lit a sparkler and held it up in the night.
Was he a wedding guest? What was he doing so far out near the trees? For a moment, a thought filled my heart, and I ran out into the snow in my open-toe pumps towards him.
By the time I reached him, his sparkler extinguished and a cloud had covered the moon temporarily and he was hidden in the shadows for only a moment. The cloud over the moon disappeared, and I saw that he was gone, but a pair of footsteps were fresh in the snow along with something else.
I knelt down to see it was a card, a poker card. I picked it up and flipped it over.
The Queen of Hearts. The third Queen in the deck.
I held it to my chest for a moment, shivering in the cold. I had to get this jacket back to Javier, and to get out of this dress and into some comfy clothes, to direct the clean-up crew.
Grams greeted me at the house. We huddled by one of the outdoor spaceheaters in the driveway, and warmed up. I didn't dare tell her about the card.
"Why don't you go to the guest house and go to sleep? It's late."
"My greydar spotted a few handsome, single, eligible men in my age range, I'm going to an after party in town to have a few drinks."
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," I joked. "Of course, I can't say that anymore."
Gram laughed. "Oh kid, you've got a lot you probably haven't done yet. That comes with time."
"I'm in no rush to get married," I admitted, thinking of seeing Kate, so confident and sure she was doing the right thing earlier today before walking down the aisle. "Unless I'm sure. And that I won't get cold feet."
Grams chuckled. "Here's to hoping."
"In the mean time, I'll have lots and lots of sex unapologetically. In my dreams."
"Well, kid, you can always find someone who wants to take your clothes off, but finding someone who will put them back on in the morning? That's the key. Goodnight, my darling. Sleep tight."
Around four in the morning, I was finished with directing the clean-up crew, and I finally got to bed. Out of compulsion, I went to the library and picked out a book to read, and took it upstairs to my room.
"The scent of smoke and sweat are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling- a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension- becomes unbearable and the sense awake and revolt from it…"
TO BE CONTINUED IN LITTLE LION MAN