Chapter 11 – Their done
Things seemed to start moving forward quickly after he and Kate took that last step into a relationship. She had been practically living with them now, spending more nights over at the loft than at her home. Granted, every now and then they used her apartment as a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the Castle household.
Dumbledore's trial had also started and he had to testify and he was never more grateful for the support of his friends and family. They had kept Harry away from the trials. He tried to keep Alexis, but as she pointed out, she was eighteen. He had to testify and the defense attorney had tried to undermine his testimony with the fact that he was a writer, who specialized in fiction but the prosecutor guaranteed that he was grasping at straws. His whole defense consisted of the fact that Dumbledore was acting as a leader and shouldn't be subjected to everyday laws because a leader needs to think of the good of the whole not the individual. Those arguments had quickly been shut down by the fact the CIA and the British Secret Service had done in two weeks what Dumbledore and his methods hadn't done in eight years. In the end the jury didn't take long to convict him for life, but having to relive everything was both cathartic and harrowing.
The trial did give him a chance to talk to Sirius again without actively seeking him since the man had attended the entire trial. On the day the jury came out Sirius approached Rick and the others and asked to talk to him privately. Kate had rubbed his arm and encouraged him to go, not without a warning first.
"We all carry guns Mr. Black," she said pointing at herself, the boys and Peter and Sirius had nodded with a slight smirk as they tried to look for an empty room in the court house. As they found one Rick, didn't waste time and turned around asking.
"Did you blame him Sirius?"
"What, Ja- Rick I-"
"Did you blame Harry, Sirius?" Rick asked forcibly again. "Is that why you left him with Hagrid? Why you went after Pettigrew instead of taking care of your godson?"
"I don't blame him," Sirius said firmly, eyes moist. "I've had eight years with nothing to do but reflect on my life. Hindsight is 20/20 right? You were right. Dumbledore's rule of staying quiet if caught because he'd get us out was stupid and I should have defended myself to Scrimgeour and Bones. They would have been fair to me. Instead, I followed the orders waiting for Dumbledore to arrive and he never did. Instead I got carted to Azkaban."
"If you expect me to feel sorry for you-"
"No, I want to explain. I want to explain, because in Azkaban all I could do was think about everything I'd done wrong and why. And I don't, I don't blame him now…but when I arrived at the house. The house that was destroyed. Hagrid was holding him, saying all three of you were dead. I don't know if he was in on the charade."
"Hagrid can't lie to save his life. That's what Potter and Dumbledore were counting on when they sent him there. Apparently, they transfigured something or other to look like our bodies. Hagrid is no expert. He wouldn't be able to tell the difference and since Potter would control who would have access to the bodies – at least that's what Potter said."
Sirius nodded glad there wasn't yet another person he had looked up to in this mess. McGonagall, Charlus and Dumbledore were enough of a disappointment. Hagrid's role hadn't come up during the trial since they were focusing on Dumbledore's actions.
"When I saw him. The sole survivor. I told Hagrid to give him to me but I didn't fight him when he said he had orders from Dumbledore and after a lot of reflection I know why. Because I don't blame him now, or even before I found out you were alive. I've had time to realize that he is the biggest victim in all of this. But at that moment, when my world was crumbling. I did. I looked at him and thought that if he'd never been born Voldemort would have never targeted you. You were a pureblood, you were not active in the Order. Yes, you advocated Muggle rights but no one was paying attention. And I know I was wrong but I was also in pain James, and we do and think stupid things when we're in pain. By the time I realized what I'd done. That I should have embraced the fact that a part of my family survived instead of the pain of the loss of most of you, I was in Azkaban and the only one hearing my pleas of innocence were the Dementors."
"Remember the stories I used to write? For Robin and Alexis?" Sirius nodded not understanding this abrupt change of subject. Rick smiled. "They were adventures, of pirates and princes. They had fights and great escapades but they were light and happy. When I woke up with the only proper memory I had being of my son, dying surrounded by flames. That changed me Sirius. And I dealt with that on my books. But the fact is, I'm not James Potter anymore and not just because I had to rebuild myself, but because, despite the war going on, James Potter hadn't been touched by darkness. James Potter wouldn't be the Master of the Macabre. I'm Rick Castle now, for so many reasons. Because I can't just pretend I didn't have to rebuild myself from scratch and throw all that away, because I don't want to be a Potter, not after everything Charlus did in the name of the Potter House. I want to be of the not even a little bit Ancient nor Noble House of Castle. But mostly because, I just can't go back to being James Potter, he doesn't exist anymore."
"I understand you. I tried. I've been trying very hard to just go back to being the old Sirius, but I can't. The old Sirius didn't have the nightmares I have."
"Then maybe we shouldn't. Maybe we should stop trying to recover something and build anew. High, I'm Rick Castle, father, writer, police helper," Rick extended his hand.
"Sirius Black," Sirius grabbed it in a strong grip. "I don't know what I am yet. Trying to find myself."
"You'll get there," Rick smiled as he decided to let go. Because Kate was right. People screwed up and sometimes that screw up had awful consequences, but hammering on the mistake wouldn't help any of them.
Things at the precinct had also seemed to move fast with some very interesting cases. He had been on the other side for a moment when a Detective Inspector from Scotland Yard had assisted with a case and he seemed smitten with Kate, but just like he had with Sophia, Kate quickly squashed the problem by letting the DI know she was in a serious relationship. He had briefly made the acquaintance of a Detective from Gangs while Kate was busy with trial prep. She hadn't been happy.
"He's dangerous Rick!" she had exclaimed when he had come home extremely drunk because he honestly thought not drinking with Slaughter might be more prejudicial to his health than drinking with him. He had pulled her into his lap while sitting on the edge of his bed.
"I'll be as careful as I can. But I need something to shake up the new Nikki Heat book and with everything that has been going on lately I haven't had the inspiration to write what people expect of a Nikki Heat book," she had nodded holding him but he knew she was worried, not just about Slaughter but about his recent bout of writer's block. He tried to reassure her, because his block wasn't her fault. Quite the opposite, she was something good in his life that inspired him, but he also needed to deal with all the bad that had happened. He had written another book since Harry had entered their lives but the plot had been darker and not his usual happy ending, where justice is done. He was trying to work out the fact that while Dumbledore and Potter were paying for what they did, those who helped him weren't and never would, even if their society changed, since the Wizengamot had dismissed the charges against them.
But he needed some fresh material for Nikki, because Nikki had to be different. Nikki needed to end well.
He explained all this to Kate because he didn't want her to think there was something wrong with them. Quite the opposite, for as much as everything that had happened had hurt him and had been bad, in his personal life he couldn't be happier. Harry was quite adapted and his doctors were very pleased with his progress. They thought they'd be able to replace his bones during the summer and were sure he'd develop normally from now on. Alexis had gotten into all of the schools she wanted and he was hoping she'd choose one in New York. Kate had scolded him when she found out he was hiding the letters but kept his secret nonetheless. And the two of them were doing great and he had thought nothing could spoil that. Two weeks later he'd find out he was wrong as they were interrogating Evelyn Montgomery about a break-in in her house.
Kate had not wanted to talk to Evelyn even after Sherlock's tip and she had been extremely uncomfortable the whole time they were there with the boys, but as they were about to leave Rick took a chance.
"Evelyn, Kate and I need to identify someone Roy might have known. Do you know this man?" he asked showing her a picture he had in his phone that Kate had taken the day he met Smith in the garage.
"Oh, of course. That's Mike. He was Roy's best man. Thick as thieves those two."
"Do you happen to know where we could find him?" he had asked eagerly.
"Sure, I'll give you his address. Do you think he is connected to the break-in?"
"No," he lied quickly. Because he did. He thought someone might be after the files Smith had or Smith himself and they needed to get to him first. But they also needed to work this case, regardless of if this was or not connected to Beckett's mom's case.
When they got the DNA confirmation that the shooter was the same that had shot Kate, they had their first clash when Rick went to talk to her after receiving a call from Smith.
"We confront Smith now and we lead the shooter straight to him Castle."
"We confront him now and we may get the evidence we need against the shooter," he had argued back right in her living room having an awful déjà vu to just a year before.
"Espo has a lead. We find him, neutralize him and then we confront Smith and whatever evidence he has," she said firmly and he nodded.
"Then bring Gates into the loop. Get proper backup," he insisted.
"No," she shook her head violently. "This started with corrupt cops-"
"You think she's a mole?" he asked incredulously, because as much as he and Gates may have clashed, he had come to respect the woman immensely over the time they worked together. It didn't hurt that Gates liked Alexis and Harry. The few times Alexis had to bring files from the OCME's office or when she and Harry had surprised him picking him up a few times over the months, the woman had been nothing but nice to them, which he had to confess, he had been worried about given her attitude towards him. But mostly, the woman seemed genuine, she could have a much easier time buttering up to people, pretending she liked them when she didn't, but she didn't mince words and let everyone know what she thought of them. He had a hard time believing she'd be in someone's pocket.
"I would have never thought Roy was involved," Kate retorted.
"You're right," he nodded slowly. "We've been burned before. But you told me not to stop believing in people Kate. And you need help for this. You are in over your head. Whoever this guy is, he has training, he is a professional and you can't go at him alone in some suicide mission. That's not what anyone who loves you wants from you. And I can't watch you do this."
She looked at him shocked and hurt, "Are you asking me to choose between my mother's case and you?"
"No," he shook his head hating himself for putting her in this position, but he was left with no choice. "I'm asking you to be smart. Like we've been so far. You don't have to tell Gates about your mom or even Smith if you don't want to, but you do have to tell her about this lead Espo has found on your shooter. On the case we are currently working for her. That you are going after him."
"I can't do that," she said almost in tears. He came close to her and grabbed her hand desperately.
"You have to Kate. I can't lose you. Please," he begged cradling her face with his hand.
"And if I don't?"
"You're on your own because I can't stay here watching powerless. But I hope you realize you don't have to. That you have a team. You have a family. You have me," he kissed her gently caressing her hair softly hoping she understood he was doing this out of love. "I'm going to give you time to think and I'm going to wait for your call before I go talk to Smith personally. I hope you choose wisely."
"You can't be doing this," she tried to hold him by his arms.
"I'm doing this because I love you. Because I want forever with you Kate. I want you to help me finish raising my children. To raise our children together. But we can only have that if you are alive. And running at this guy full speed is not the way to stay alive. Is not what your mother would have wanted," he said as gently as he could disentangling himself from her. "Tomorrow is Alexis's graduation. She's expecting you to be there but I only want you to show up if you decide to live, to be a part of our family."
He gave her a final kiss before he left her to her thoughts. He needed her to make this choice alone. Up until now they'd had a pattern where she chose something that hurt them both and he forgave her. Understood her choices, why she left for the cabin, why she lied to him about hearing him. Now he needed her to choose them if they were ever to have a chance.
The next day he tried his best to look happy for the children. Alexis was a bundle of nerves about her speech, about beginning this new life of hers. He was glad she chose Columbia. But he had been a bundle of nerves too without a word from Kate or the precinct but he couldn't cave. Not if they were going to have the future he wanted. As they left for the graduation his heart dropped as Kate had yet to call or make an appearance.
When they arrived at the school, his spirits were completely crushed at the thought that she had made her choice. And he wasn't completely wrong, she had made her choice, as he found out when he, the children and his mother approached the large group gathered to see Alexis graduate. He was too despondent to realize who was there until El slapped him from Peter's side to get his attention.
"The woman asked you if you guys can talk alone Richard," she said firmly and he lifted his head to see that hidden in the back of the circle, in between Lanie and Espo and Jenny and Ryan, Kate had been standing all along. He hadn't seen her. Their friends had been forming a huge circle, with Robin and her crazy friends, all three Burkes and Longbottoms, Sherlock, Jim Beckett and surprisingly Sirius, and she had been hidden by the ones in front of her as she approached.
"Do you mind Alexis? We'll just be a minute," she had asked coming forward and taking his dazed hand.
"Nah, maybe this way he'll get off this funk and be able to enjoy my graduation."
"I'm afraid he'll be in a whole new funk then," Lanie snorted as Kate glared at her leading Rick away. He still didn't really understand what was going on as she led him away from the hustle and bustle.
"We've arrested him. He was going by the name Cole Maddox."
"Espo's lead panned out and," she faltered looking around a bit but they were far away from the others in a corner of the school. "Espo and I almost went at him alone but I listened to you Rick," she said caressing his cheek. "And we looped Gates in. Went after him with a SWAT team, got him. He's in protective custody right now and Gates has only people she trusts keeping guard on him. We want to go after Smith next, but we needed to be here, and I want you by my side when I find out who the dragon is. But mostly, Rick, I want you," she rested her forehead on his. "When Espo said we had his location, I leapt up and looked back expecting to see you there and that's when I realized, I don't want to take them down if you won't be there with me. I love you. I want us, I want the kids, I want forever."
"Are you proposing?" he asked with a goofy smile.
"First I need to ask permission of certain two very important individuals, and then I want us to go after Smith, after that, you might need to look surprised."
"You're stealing my thunder," he complained. "But you might need to look surprised when I say yes," he kissed her passionately.
After crying at his baby girl's graduation, they had indeed gone after Smith, who, after realizing he was ousted, had no choice but to tell them how to recover the files. They had been immensely surprised to find out that Senator William Bracken had been behind everything. Furthermore, the documents Montgomery had collected were very detailed. He understood now why Montgomery had been so afraid for his family. Bracken wasn't the only threat, and while he had enough to take down Bracken, his file alone wasn't enough to take down the rest. Luckily for them, they had some very convenient family connections in the CIA which Haley activated.
Bracken had a side drug business network with Vulcan Simmons that included a public defender named Caleb Brown and a CIA high-ranking officer named Mason Woods. And while Montgomery hadn't had enough to bring all of them down he had enough for them to add to an investigation that had been ongoing on Woods and being led by a woman named Rita, who Haley told him was their step-mother. Once they had the name of the head and connected both investigations, the whole network came crashing down and arrests were promptly made despite Maddox's insistent silence.
They had also seen a note Montgomery had left saying there was a tape that incriminated Bracken that had been in Johana Beckett's possession, which led Kate to find the tape inside the elephants she kept on her desk. Truth be told, with the evidence collected both by Montgomery and Rita, by then they didn't need the tape, but every bit of evidence helped and they had the pleasure to see all of them fall. Kate had the special pleasure of being the one to collar Bracken.
And she had kept her promise. After collaring Bracken they had gone home and rested. When Alexis had come back from her graduation festivities and had slept off her hangover he had sat both kids down on the living room couch and talked about how they felt if he married Kate. He wanted their honest opinion before Kate talked to them. They had been happy for him.
"I wasn't sure if she was good for you at first," Alexis had told him. "After she hurt you during the summer. But she's made you so happy at such a trying time that I think she's the one dad."
"I'm glad you agree Alexis," he heard a voice behind him and jumped a mile high. Wasn't she asleep? What was she doing up and all dressed up? "Because I wanted to ask if you two would give me the honor of being your step-mother and would entrust you father's heart to me."
"Didn't we just say yes?" Harry asked confused as Kate came to stand next to Rick.
"Yes," Alexis nodded exasperated.
"So, Richard Alexander Rodgers Castle, would you marry me?" Kate asked grabbing both his hands and he said:
"Wait a sec," and ran to his office leaving all three of them gaping at where he had been standing.
"Was that supposed to happen?" Harry asked.
"What's happening?" Martha asked coming down the stairs.
"Dad's gone mad," Alexis replied as Rick came back.
"Okay, now I'm good."
"Really?" Kate said with a raised eyebrow. "Now I can ask?"
"Yep," he said happily swinging with both his hands behind his back.
"Okay, Richard Alexander Rodgers Castle, would you marry me?"
"Of course I will," he said with the brightest smile bringing forward a beautiful diamond ring. "And you, Katherine Houghton Beckett, will you marry me?" he asked smiling.
"Oh my God. When did you get that?" she asked with her mouth hanging open.
"When you came back from the cabin and not the question," he smiled.
"Yes," she grabbed his face kissing him. "Yes, I'll marry you," she finished as he kissed her to the applause of his family.
They married during the summer in the Hamptons surrounded by their friends and family, which had included Sirius and Severus, after Harry had his bones replaced and later that year Kate had officially adopted both Harry and Alexis despite her being already an adult.
Like Severus had said, all the Hogwarts teachers had to come to take classes so they would know how to at least interact with non-magical technology and his mother had reconnected with Poppy Pomphrey and Pomona Sprout, all school friends. The adaptation process would be slow. They needed to educate a lot of adults and didn't have people to teach the regular curriculum, so in the beginning they had to recruit from the families of first-generations and bring people from abroad. McGonagall had resigned, not liking the changes one bit and to Rick's surprise, Sirius had taken over taking a real leadership role in the adaptation of the British Wizarding World.
Hogwarts had to be modernized, rebuilt in places to allow for electricity and the internet. They kept the boarding school tradition, not willing to change absolutely everything, but other schools had been built too, for adult education. For the younger years, they had used the American model of using already established non-magical schools with wards so the non-magical students wouldn't see the magical part. The purebloods hadn't been happy but they had also instituted that elementary schooling was mandatory so there was nothing they could do. He saw Sirius and Severus during the summers though, as they came regularly to keep the program going. He also exchanged emails and sometimes Skyped. They weren't as close as they had once been, but slowly they managed to build a new friendship.
The Longbottoms decided to stay in the US in the end, and they acted as liaisons between the Americans and the British as a secondary job. Neville started going to school with Neal, Mozzie and Harry and they had started to branch out, making other friends, which Rick had been glad about. Alice and Frank, as a primary job, joined Sherlock, Haley and Rick in opening a Private Investigations firm called Richard Castle Investigations – they weren't stupid and wanted to capitalize on the name – after they all got certified. Rick still mainly worked with the 12th as Kate's partner for years, up until she was promoted to captain of the 12th and left the field and he took a more active role at the PI firm. Richard Castle Investigations however still aided both the 12th precinct and the precinct Sherlock had worked with whenever they needed, but they took on all kinds of crazy cases.
His mother was booming in her career. Her acting studio was doing great, she had started great successes on Broadway and had even written a self-help book.
Robin was also doing great becoming the anchor for World Wide News.
To his utter despair, by her sophomore year, Alexis took an interest in the PI firm and joined them. Kate had tried to console him by telling him things could be worse.
"She could have been bringing home some tree hugging hippy that would drive you up the wall."
Yes, well, he hoped she never would. At some point he thought she and Charlie may start something, but they always remained just long-distant friends, as the boy was too entranced with his dragons.
He had seen his dad again eventually, through Rita, the step-mom who was leading the whole take down of Bracken's network, when she had come back to assure them everything was taken care of and there would be no blowbacks. He didn't know if he'd ever see the man again, but that was okay.
When Harry was twelve, Rick received the honor of getting a Poe's Pen award that was outshined by the third and fourth best gifts he ever got as they welcomed to the world a pair of twins, a boy and a girl, who even as babies seemed to have received the Castle mischievous gene, Kate complained happily. They had waited a bit to start trying, wanting to make sure Harry would be absolutely okay and was sure of his role in the family. He had taken to being a big brother very seriously as Alexis had taken to pampering the twins.
The year Harry started high school he was sure he was in for a great experience, with his best friends by his side and his enormous extended family backing him. And what Harry liked the most about his family was that they were all crazy and not normal at all.
A/N: Thank you all for the great ride. I hope you enjoyed this story!
Sorry if this felt rushed but once they had decided to take the leap in the full relationship I felt what was left was just tying the loose ends of season 4.
Castle and thinking up this universe has been very important to me this last year. What Frank told Rick about the Nikki Heat books holds true for Castle to me in a year that was very tough for me. So thank you for sharing this passion with me.