The next few months flew by. Kate got stronger and stronger with each therapy session, Alexis got more lighthearted and comfortable around the new couple every day, and Rick got happier and happier that his girls were happy.
Martha had returned to the city only a few weeks after their arrival to pursue a new role. She was now on tour with a traveling Shakespeare company, which left the other three occupants of the Hampton's house effectively without their comic relief.
At first, they all tiptoed on eggshells around each other. Rick and Kate not wanting to do something that might jeopardize their relationship. Alexis trying to find out where she fit in the new dynamic. Kate was trying to be strong while at the same time win Alexis over. And Rick just wanted everyone to be happy.
After about a week of that, everything changed. The eggshells were discarded and the group started actually functioning as a pretty dysfunctional family.
It was their third Star Wars movie night and the threesome had managed to create a pillow fort of impressive size. While this was a normal thing for the Castle clan, Kate had not had the pleasure of building a fort since she was 12.
Kate had fallen asleep on the couch after her afternoon therapy session and had woken up in a completely constructed fort. They ate a light dinner consisting of sandwiches and potato chips. After they were finished, Castle collected everyone's dishes and clean up, promising to return with dessert to start the movie.
Alexis pulled out her book of Russian and began reading to spare them of an awkward conversation. She was happy for her father and she had seen how happy he had been lately. She wanted him to be happy, but she was still unsure of his partner.
Part of her was scared to say the wrong thing and risk offending the Detective. Another large part of her was incredibly shy around the woman whom she had been so negative towards, even if Kate didn't really know that. And there was that little tiny voice inside her that said that she was only there for her father and that Kate didn't really want anything to do with her. She was a strong and successful woman, what could she possibly want to do with her boyfriend's teenage daughter.
Of course, the rational part of her knew that her thinking was very flawed. She knew that Detective Beckett was much different than any of her father's other girlfriends. But to some degree she was still that little girl that watched her mother walk away and never look back. She was still the little girl who was crushed by the constant disappointment of her mother and who had never been accepted by anyone else in her dad's life.
"What?" Alexis' head whipped up when she heard the older woman speak.
"Хотите помочь? Want some help?" the Detective smiled and gestured toward the book in her hands. "I can help you learn the language if you want." Alexis was still pretty shocked. Not only that the older woman had just spoken in perfect Russian, but that she had offered to help. "I mean not that you need help, but I only ever learned so much from a book and sometimes it helps if you have someone to talk to…" She trailed off and looked down at the pillow in her lap.
"You speak Russian?" she replied, still a little bit thrown off. "Fluently?" She smiled as Kate looked up at her again.
"Yeah, I spent a semester in Kiev during college. I went between junior and senior year. I learned the basics from a book like what you have, but it wasn't until I actually started speaking and conversing that it became fluent."
"Wow, you really are as extraordinary as Dad says." Alexis breathed out, more to herself than the other woman. Kate blushed at the compliment and went back to looking anywhere but at the young girl, but the weight of a book against her shoulder had her spinning around.
"I could really use some help." They smiled shyly at one another as Kate looked down to the page in front of her. "It's just so confusing. The letters are completely different and the pronunciation is just…ugh…."
When Castle came back with his hands full of popcorn and ice cream he found them sitting much closer together than he had ever seen them. They were both leaned over the book in Beckett's hands as they repeated words to each other through their laughter. Kate's clear and practiced words followed by Alexis' attempt and a fit of laughter had him pausing to watch the scene unravel.
Kate was the first to notice him, always the detective, she looked up at him discretely and shot him the widest smile he had seen on her in a while, before returning her eyes to the book. He watched for a few more seconds before he made his presence known.
"Who's ready for some Star Wars?" Both girls’ heads shot up and smiled at him as Alexis closed the book and scooted back to where her sleeping bag was. Castle came in, distributed the food, and went to configure the DVD player.
"Thank you, Kate." He heard Alexis murmur quietly.
"Anytime, Alexis." Came the reply.
Over the next few months Kate and Alexis had become friends. It started out as just the Russian language, but soon it progressed to lounging by the pool, wardrobe opinions, and book recommendations. It was still pretty tentative from both sides, but the foundation was there and it just became stronger every day.
That's what lead to the seating arrangements today. They were heading back to the city so that Alexis could return to school and they could begin to get their lives back to some sort of normal. He had helped Kate to the car and opened the front door only to be met with protest.
She insisted on riding in the back with Alexis so they could converse in Russian on the way back. Apparently it was 'imperative that they fully immerse themselves in the language' for Alexis to really pick up on the vocabulary. He feigned hurt for being left out of their plans for the ride, but secretly loved that they were so involved in something together. Every time he say them together his heart slammed in his chest.
This was what he was looking for. He had wanted a family for Alexis ever since Meredith had walked out. It was part of the reason he had married Gina, that and the publicity wasn't bad either. He wanted some stability and a more female influence on her life. His mother was great with Alexis, but he knew that a part of the girl needed someone on the other side of forty. He only wished that he had met Kate Beckett sooner so that maybe she could have helped them through the tween crises and first heartbreaks.
He knew the pair would probably never have a true mother/daughter bond, and he didn't expect them to. They did have a friendship that he hoped would continue.
He knew that Kate Beckett was it for him and he was it for her. Having Alexis fully on board just made it easier to commit.
After they watched their movie, deconstructed their fort, and seen Alexis off to bed, the couple decided to spend some time in Beckett's garden. The little porch that attached to her room had become their favorite spot when the stars were bright above them.
They were all cuddled up in the oversized, plush lounge chair just enjoying each other's company when Castle decided to start a conversation that had been weighing on his mind for a while.
Their relationship was still very new, only about a week and two days to be exact, but he still felt like they should talk about where they saw their lives going. Not just together, but separately as well. They had a few brief conversations about what they meant to each other and they both loved each other, but other than that it had mostly been light conversations and talking about their pasts before they met one another.
"Hey, Kate?" He starts before he is really sure how to start this conversation.
"Yeah." She replies, looking up at him from where she lays beside him, fingers intertwined. He wishes that they could full on cuddle more often, she has already admitted to being a cuddler, but her back is still pretty banged up and therapy only makes it worse. Eventually it will cease to be an issue, but for now they try to not aggravate it any more than they need to. Of course, sometimes they get a few minutes to hold each other tightly if she is upset and he can no longer take it or if a pain pill does an abnormally good job on her.
"I have been thinking…"
"Always a dangerous pastime for you." She quips. He chuckles, glad that she is in a particularly good mood for this.
"Haha, yes. Well, in any case, I've been thinking and I think we need to have a serious discussion about our future. I know we've said that we are both in this for the long term, but as you've pointed out it's not quite that simple anymore." She reached out her hand for him, her signal for wanting to sit up. She wanted to be able to fully look at him for this. He sat up and helped her sit up as well. Pulling the lever on the side of the chair so that the back would come up to support her. When they were both situated he took her hands and began again.
"You don't have to decide on anything tonight, it's just somethings that we need to eventually decide." She squeezed his hands to show that she understood and he continued. "For example, where are we going to live?" She didn't miss the use of 'we'. "I know you love your apartment, but is it really conducive to the situation? You don't have to get rid of it or you can lease it out to someone, or you can sell it, or you can live in it. But the fact is that you can't live alone for the foreseeable future, and the truth is I don't want to live without you anymore. I want to be able to take care of you and watch over you.
"We don't have to live in the loft either, we can find somewhere else that we both like or we can wait a year, until Alexis is done with school, and we can move out here. I want to do whatever makes you comfortable. Again you don't have to decide tonight."
"I have been thinking about that too. I mean, how could I not? I don't really have an answer for you right now, but I don't really want to live without you there either, Castle. I thought that I would be tired of you after a few weeks of constant contact, and I'm not saying that the day I get annoyed isn't coming, but I'm not tired of you and I only want you around more now." She was almost whispering when she got to the end and her eyes were cast downward. She was making a real effort to be open and honest, but she was still very much out of her element here.
He put his fingers under her chin and pulled it up so that she was looking into his eye. He smiled and pulled her in for a short, loving kiss.
"That's all I needed to hear, Kate, and for the record, I don't think I could ever get tired of you." She smiled at him and he continued. "And there is the matter of your job. I know that you will never be out on the streets again, but do you have any interest going back to the precinct. You could be a profiler or a part-time consultant, you could work at the academy, or you could use this to go back and do something else. You could go back to college and get a law degree, or anything else you want really.
"Or if you don't want to do any of that, you can stay home. You don't have to work anymore. One of the reasons I love what I do is because I can afford to provide for my family and you're my family, Kate. I can take care of you for the rest of your life and you can take up cooking or gardening or whatever else has fallen to the wayside because of your job."
This particular subject was harder for Kate to come to terms with. This was something she had been trying to avoid thinking about. She really did love her job, and even if she did go back now, she would never be able to do it like she used to. Everything would be completely different and there was no way to change that.
"I don't know, Castle." This time it wasn't shyness. She looked like a little girl, so vulnerable and broken. He knew it was a hard subject for her, but they couldn't ignore it forever. "I really just don't know."
"Hey. It's okay, Kate. I didn't mean to upset you. You don't have to decide right now, you have all the time in the world, okay. It's just something we need to keep in mind." She nodded her head and he wrapped his arms around her to pull her close for a few moments. She relaxed into him and let her head rest on his shoulder.
"It's okay, Castle. I'm okay. I'm just not ready to tackle that particular subject yet." He pulled back and made sure she was comfortably resting on the chair before he spoke again.
"I just want to make sure that we know where the end goal is. I want to make sure that you get the life you deserve. You deserve the world, Kate, and I want to give it to you."
Her breath caught at his omission and her heart thumped in her chest. This sweet, sweet man. He had done so much for her and he was always so intent on making the people he cared about happy.
"I was always so sure of what I wanted, Castle. Before you came into my life I wanted to become Captain and find my mother's murderer more than anything else. I barely took any time off and I was intent on eventually moving up the ladder. After I met you, I realized how much I loved my job. I was having a little more fun and I decided that I was content where I was for a little while longer, but Captain was still my end goal. You showed me how to have fun, smile, and you showed me that bringing justice was enough for now.
"Then, recently, I had other plans for my life. The end goal wasn't Captain anymore." She took a deep breath and lost a little bit of her confidence before spilling her heart to him. "I saw a white dress and a little girl and you know, life."
He knew the effort it took for her to open up to him and he was so happy in that moment.
"And now, I'm not sure that will ever happen for us." He was so happy with her confession that he almost missed what she said next. He lifted her face to see tears pooling in her eyes. He could tell she was trying to hold back, but the sadness and frustration was there.
He sat back beside her and then moved her so that she was sitting on his thighs, facing him, and pulled her down to him. They sat pressed against each other chest to chest as she broke down.
He knew how hard this was for her. Her whole life had been shattered and there was no way to pick up all of the tiny pieces. He let her cry for as long as she needed. She had been holding back a lot of emotions and he knew there was a lot of things she was hiding behind a mask of bravery and courage. This was just a little part of it.
"And the craziest part is, I didn't even really know that's what I wanted until they told me it would never happen." She sighed as the tears dried up and her breathing regulated.
"I know, Kate. I know. We will get married, though. Hell, I would marry you tomorrow if I thought you were ready. I would scoop you up and drive you to City Hall so fast." She smiled a little at that.
"No, when we do this. Not if, but when we do this. We are going to do it right. Diamond ring, white dress, family and friends, it's going to be so magical. Nothing is going to take that away from us. And this is 2015. There is more than one way to have a family. There's surrogacy and adoption and we can foster a house full of children if that's what you want.
"I don't want you thinking so hopelessly, Kate. You're going to get stronger and we're going to be together, the rest is just details. And the details always have a way of sorting themselves out, alright?"
She nodded her head and then snuggled up close to him, resting her head in the crook of his neck. They were still sitting face to face and he wrapped his arms tighter around her. Her back was relatively straight and she was completely relaxed, so she wasn't in any pain. He was glad for that fact because he really just wanted to hold her all night long.
He had held her all night that night. It was one of the best nights he could remember. They hadn't spoken about weddings or babies since then. They both decided that it was way too early to be talking about it anyway and just put it off for the future, when things all settled down again.
The housing situation had been decided, after a lot of deliberation and borderline dispute. They decided that the loft was good enough for now and that they would move the necessities over from her apartment and slowly move the rest over throughout the fall.
There were some concerns about the loft, the stairs being the main one. And they both knew in the back of their minds that eventually moving would be inevitable, but it was silently agreed upon to cross that bridge when it became necessary. No one wanted to uproot Alexis or Martha, and familiar surroundings sounded comforting for now.
The job options were still a hot topic and nothing had been decided, though it felt like there were a hundred options. Everything from teaching to spy had been put on the table, and while some were mentioned in jest there was still a lot to consider.For now they were all excited to be on the road to New York City and back to whatever their new normal would become.