And Everything Nice
2. Hot Cocoa
Kate sighed, raking her fingers through her hair before scrubbing her hands down her face.
Why had she wanted to be captain?
It wasn't like she needed the money, being married to a millionaire like Richard Castle took care of any financial worries. She'd even insisted they had a prenup, wanting to make it clear she wasn't marrying him for the money. Kate had never wanted to be a kept woman. She liked the independence having her own source of income provided. And no. She wasn't planning on leaving the loft and striking out on her own.
No. No. Never again. Never.
She'd made the mistaken once before, and had no intentions of repeating it.
Kate had vowed to herself that she'd spend the rest of her life making up for all the pain, confusion, and hurt she put her beloved husband through with that awful mistake. If the universe chose to be kind to them, Kate had no plans on being parted from him for a very, very, very longtime. And in whatever came next, she wanted it to be with him. Wherever or whatever that was.
So, no. The salary increase had nothing to do with her taking the captaincy exam and seeking the promotion. Nope.
Though, that pay bump was a nice little bonus.
It had to do with family.
Most of her adult life had been spent in pursuit of getting justice for her murdered mother. It took her until her mid-thirties before that had been properly achieved. Along the way, Kate had encountered something she had never anticipated: The love of a lifetime. When Richard Castle had first popped up into her life, she saw him as an egotistical philandering jackass. He could still be an egotistical jackass at times, but he was her egotistical jackass.
His unexpected presence in her life was upsetting, at first, creating chaos and disruption. He challenged and frustrated her like no other. Yet, and she'd still deny it, even on that first day, she found him irresistible. Over time, she grew used to having him around, and then one day, without even realizing it, Kate found she couldn't imagine her life without him in it. Even while she dated other men, Castle was always on her mind.
It took them a while to sort things out, but once they did… Wow, was it amazing.
Richard Castle was the love of her life.
It had been a development she'd never anticipated.
As was the second revelation.
She wanted to build a family with him.
Which was why partly why she'd sought out the promotion to captain. It wasn't entirely the reason, her ambition and internal self-worth playing a large part, but it had been there, during her decision-making process. She wanted a family.
Kate had excelled at being a detective, and hunting down criminals. She missed it, a lot, being on the street, righting wrongs and bringing justice to those who had been left behind. But that job didn't provide a lot of time to pursue personal endeavors, such as having a family. Her colleague, Kevin Ryan, seemed to manage it quite well, but he was a different kind of detective. Yes, he was dedicated and determined, but for her the job had been her life. Nothing else had mattered but the job and getting justice for her mother.
It was an obsession.
That had changed. Castle had a lot to do with that, which he took great pleasure in taking credit for. She didn't mind. He made her happy. A concept she really hadn't thought possible before she found herself falling for him.
And now they were married, and had a sweet baby girl.
The weekend had been lovely. Heading out to the Christmas tree farm had been a brilliant idea. Lily, while still very, very young, clearly enjoyed herself. It had been invigorating, seeing that joy on her daughter's adorable face, hearing her squeals of delight and little giggles. Castle had really hammed it up for his Flower Girl, and Kate got a nice show in the process when her handsome husband got down on all fours to cut the tree down with the saw. He worked up quite a sweat doing so, and Kate had rewarded him with a kiss. And later, once they got Lily down for the night, Castle thanked her properly for suggesting the trip.
He was very good at showing his gratitude.
Sighing again, Kate found herself wishing she was back home at the loft, sitting before a roaring fire, snuggled with Lily on the sofa as they watched Castle string the lights up on the Christmas tree. Instead, she was sitting behind her desk at the Twelfth Precinct, with loads of paperwork requiring completion. End of year reviews were a killer. She had no idea how her predecessors, Roy Montgomery and Victoria Gates, managed it all, balancing work and a robust family life.
Glancing up, she almost felt guilty to be glad to see both Javier Esposito and Kevin Ryan still at their desks, suffering just as she was, having to fill out the paperwork for their latest case.
Misery loved company, she supposed.
She returned to her reports and reviews, determined to complete as many as possible, so that she didn't have much to work on tomorrow. It wasn't too bad. Most of it was just reading, a lot of reading, and then requiring a signature at the end. There was also a stack of requisition forms for January that needed her review. She would save those for last, once she'd finished the end of year evaluations.
Kate was halfway through patrol officer D. Peabody's performance review, when she was disturbed by a knock on her office door. Probably Esposito with his completed paperwork.
"Enter," Kate called out, head still bent over her paperwork.
Curling her fingers around the pen, she initialed the box and then signed her name, vaguely aware of hearing the door opening and footsteps approaching her desk. But then she heard a gurgled giggle.
She dropped her pen and snapped her eyes up to find her husband standing in front of her desk with Lily secured against his chest in that ridiculously expensive baby carrier.
"Castle!" she gasped. "What are you doing here?"
He held up two to-go cups. "We were out for a walk and figured why not surprise Mommy with a pick me up."
Kate stood up and quickly stepped around her desk, all eyes on Lily and her adorable gummy smile. "Hi, honey," she cooed, reaching out to caress the chubby cheek. Lily squealed happily and swung a hand up in an attempt to grab Kate's finger.
"What about me?" Castle feigned a pout. "Don't I get a proper 'hello'? I'm bearing gifts, after all."
She rolled her eyes and grinned, but tilted her head up to meet him with a lingering kiss.
"Hmm," he hummed in approval when she pulled away. "Now that's a proper greeting."
"Glad you approve," Kate said with a wink, taking the proffered to-go cup from him. She raised the cup to her lips and took a sip, and then frowned. "This isn't coffee."
"Sorry," he winced. "I should have said. Hot cocoa." Upon her questioning look, he went on. "It's Christmastime."
Seeing as that was as much explanation as she was going to get, Kate shrugged and took another sip of the delicious hot cocoa, before placing the to-go cup down on her desktop, and returning her attention to Lily. She dusted her fingertips through the fuzz of brown hair atop her perfect little head.
"How's she doing today?"
"Good," Castle beamed with pride. "But she missed Mommy."
Kate glanced up at him from beneath her eyelashes. "I think it was Daddy that was missing Mommy."
"The kid was supposed to cover for me," he groaned dramatically.
"Don't you go roping my daughter into your schemes, Castle," Kate warned.
"Your daughter," he scoffed with a feigned hint of annoyance. "Don't you mean our daughter."
"Hmm?" she replied distractedly, too focused on Lily swinging her head around as she took in the office, babbling excitedly. Little blue eyes were wide with curiosity, searching around the room before locking back on Kate. "Yeah, Lily, this is where Mommy works."
Kate worked at unfastening the belts and straps, before gently lifting her baby girl out of the carrier and cradling her against her chest. Lily smiled contentedly and nuzzled in. Kate felt her heart do a little summersault, and she sighed, momentarily overcome with emotion.
"She did miss me," she said in awe.
Castle nodded, his eyes beaming with admiration and love. "Of course she missed you, Kate, you're pretty amazing."
Shaking her head, she adjusted her hold on Lily and then reached out with one hand to touch his arm, squeezing gently. "I love you," she said as she brought her hand back to rub Lily's back. "Both of you. So much."
"And we love you," Castle replied with a warm smile.
Kate clutched Lily to her chest, and closed her eyes, gently swaying to some imaginary beat, just basking in the presence of those she loved. Opening her eyes, she looked at her devoted husband. "Thank you," she said, dropping her nose to the breath in the comforting scent of her daughter. "I needed this."
"And hot cocoa," Castle reminded her with his trademarked grin.
"Yes," she laughed. "And the hot cocoa."
She took another five minutes or about to hold her daughter, showing her around her office, explaining things. Lily was always so curious. A trait she probably picked up from both her inquisitive parents.
"Here," she said, turning back to Castle and regretfully handing Lily back. "It's time for her nap, you should get her home." Kate helped guide her chubby little legs back through the carrier and worked the straps and bindings until it was all properly secured. "Alexis help you?"
"Huh?" Castle did his best to pretend he didn't know what she was talking about.
Stifling the eye roll, she simply cocked her head to the side and gave him a look.
"Right," he let out a light chuckle. "With the carrier. Yeah. This thing has so many straps and clips, it gets confusing."
"Don't want anything happening to our little flower bug, now do we?" Kate declared, punctuating that statement by playfully tapping her daughter's nose. Lily squealed happily in response, swinging her little hands up and down in an attempt to grab Kate's finger. She allowed her daughter a victory and Lily immediately pulled her finger towards her mouth with surprising strength.
"Whoa there, Flower Girl," Castle caught the act before it met completion. "Mommy needs that hand to finish her paperwork."
With her finger freed from the powerful grip of her baby girl, Kate tenderly caressed the cute little ears and cheeks, before dropping a kiss on Lily's forehead. Lily mewled contentedly, making Kate's chest clench with yearning, wishing she could go home with them. Still caressing Lily, Kate glanced back up at Castle. "Again, thanks," she asserted. "I really needed this."
"Next time, I promise I'll bring coffee," he vowed with a waggle of his eyebrows.
"I'll hold you to that," she announced, tipping her chin up to meet his mouth with a quick kiss. Pulling back with a contented sigh and a small smile on her lips, she patted his side with one hand. "Now get Lily home and down for her nap, I don't want her sleep schedule thrown off by this little outing."
"Aye aye, Captain," Castle did a little salute.
Kate bent and wiggled her fingers at Lily. "She you later tonight, honey," she giggled when Lily gurgled and wiggled in the carrier, a tiny fist almost hitting Castle's chin.
Castle placed a large hand over the front the carrier and Lily turned her curious attention to his fingers, trying to pull his thumb towards her gummy little mouth. Her husband chuckled as he made his way out of her office, and she followed, standing in the doorway, watching as the two loves of her life boarded the elevator.
"Oh, she's going to be a heartbreaker," Esposito's voice snapped her out of her pleasant reverie.
Kate arched her neck to glance back at the grinning detective. "Don't you have some paperwork to finish?"
"Right on it, boss," Esposito ducked his head back down to his desk and continued on with his work. Ryan, who had been watching the scene with a familiar twinkle in his bright eyes, dutifully followed suit.
Looking back up at the rest of the bullpen, Kate spread her arms wide upon seeing almost everyone with simply enamored looks. Geez, it was like no one had ever seen a baby before.
"Back to work everyone!"
The bullpen was suddenly bustling with activity. Shaking her head, Kate sauntered back into her office and paused. Picking up the to-go cup, she tipped it back and took a long sip of the delicious hot cocoa, relishing the rich flavors that touch her tongue.
It wasn't as good as coffee, but in a pinch, it would do.