A/N 1: Hi guys! It's been awhile, but I've been having a hard time with writer's block. I've been doing Fluffy Friday ficlets on Tumblr recently and they've helped get me back to writing. This Season 6 fic comes from a headcanon of mine where Kate goes with Jim to his cabin during Christmas that year. We didn't have a Christmas episode that season, and it just popped in my head. I've wanted to write it for some time, but it just seemed right to do it this year.
It's bittersweet rather than joyous, but I hope it works for you. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. :)
A Family Christmas
"I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too, Babe, but you know I need to do this."
Castle shook his head at his fiancée in reassurance. "No, I know," he said. "I'm not really trying to keep you here or make you feel guilty, I know this is important to both you and your dad."
"I can't tell you how huge this is, that he even agreed to let me come with him."
For the first time since her mother's death, Kate Beckett was spending Christmas with her father. Jim was reticent at first, but when Kate told him it would just be her and none of the Castle extravagance, he relented.
"You sure, Katie?" Jim asked. "I'm not exactly festive."
"Hey, last year was the first year I'd celebrated – really celebrated – in years, Dad," Kate replied. "Yes, I observed the holiday, but that was through working it. Keeping watch while others beat the drums – so to speak." She looked down at her feet. "I gotta admit, last year with Castle was a little overwhelming for me, and I know he toned things down."
She looked up with a determination Jim recognized. From both his daughter and his wife.
"But Rick made me realize that coming together is important. I don't want to crush you with cheer when you don't feel it, I just want you to feel a little of what I felt last year and a little of what we had 15 years ago."
"If I do that, I'll cry."
"That's okay, I'll cry with you."
"All right, Katie. Come to the cabin with me."
"What's this, Katie?"
"Well…" Kate hesitated. They were in the parking garage of Jim's apartment building.
"Castle rented a Jeep for us." She rushed on before Jim could interrupt. "We were talking about it and we just thought it might be more comfortable, I mean, I know your car isn't exactly a beater, but isn't the heat a little wonky at times?"
She was trying too hard and she knew it. But she wanted this trip to be easy for them both, and not having to bring blankets for the drive because the heater noped out would be a good start. But at the same time, her being here at all was a big change in her dad's tradition and if he balked at this, she'd give in.
Jim smiled. He could see what she was doing, how she was trying to make this special for the two of them and he wanted to try – for her.
"What about work?" he asked, voicing the question he'd had in his head since Kate made the suggestion to come with him.
"I talked with Captain Gates, and without going into too much detail, I explained our situation. I'll probably be working every holiday next year, but she gave me the week."
Jim nodded and smiled. "I put a snow shovel in my trunk last night when I saw the weather report on the news. It snowed up there, and I know I'd have to dig out the driveway in order to get the car up to the cabin. It wouldn't really be a problem, but I'm happy not to have to do it, if we can just drive over it. Let's take yours but bring the shovel along just in case."
Kate smiled with no small relief. She didn't want to have to shovel snow before even reaching their destination either. She would have done it, and will if needed, but the 4-wheel drive Castle insisted on when they decided to rent would probably preclude that unless the storm had been really bad.
"All right, is there anything else you want to bring?" She indicated his suitcase.
"No, this is all," Jim said, hefting it into the back of the Jeep, then moving to his car and opening the trunk. A weeks' worth of clothes, a couple of books. Any sundries I need I can pick up at the general store along with food."
Kate nodded and opened the driver side door as her dad tossed the shovel inside, shut the hatch and got in the passenger side.
"Then let's get this show on the road."
The drive was pleasant, Kate and Jim shared stories from their jobs, Kate steering clear of the more harrowing aspects, and Jim the more tedious. Kate also told her father about her relationship with Castle – the annoying things he did that somehow turned out to be endearing – and how he was filling the giant hole in her heart.
"I'll always feel Mom's loss, Dad," she said, finally addressing the elephant in the car. "That hole will never completely be filled."
She glanced at her dad, who was looking at her with tears in his eyes. At least he was looking at her, she had been afraid he would be looking out the window, not acknowledging what she was trying to say.
"It sounds stupid and cheesy, but Castle has without a doubt brought me back to life in a way," Kate moved over a lane to pass a semi. "And we're making a family together and I want you there as a part of that family too."
She was silent a moment, waiting for Jim to say something.
"Next you'll be telling me to call Theresa."
Kate cringed a little. Her father and his sister had never been close, and after his drinking had devolved into full on alcoholism after losing Johanna, that lack of closeness had turned to estrangement. Once Jim had gotten sober he'd reached out, but Theresa had told him straight out she didn't trust he wouldn't lapse, and he hadn't called again.
He had proved his sister wrong, but pride was in the way now, and Kate understood that. She'd deliberately dropped contact with her aunt as well after hearing about that comment. She knew how hard her father had worked and was beyond proud of him. Neither of them wanted or needed that negativity.
"Maybe it is time, Dad. For both of us."
Conversation tapered off after that, though the silence was companionable, not stifling. When they reached the small town around 10 miles from the cabin they stopped for groceries and supplies, picking up a quick sandwich to eat on the way. A few people waved and the cashier made small talk, but to Kate's surprise, for the most part people left them to their own devices. She asked him about it.
"They know this time of year is rough for me, Katie." Jim said, as he put the paper bags in the back of the Jeep, almost as if he felt guilty. "Sebastian Warwick will look in on me once or twice when I'm up here, but people usually just leave me alone. They understand."
Kate nodded and they pulled out of the parking lot.
Two days later, on Christmas Eve, Kate stepped out of the bathroom and moved to the small bureau to dress for dinner. She could hear her father puttering around in the kitchen and talking to someone. Although she couldn't hear the other voice – which probably meant he was on the phone – Kate rushed to get dressed so as not to be rude to a visitor – just in case, though they hadn't planned on guests for their meal.
She put on a pair of her softest jeans and a fuzzy sweater and went into the living room. She smiled when she noticed Jim had lit a fire. She also saw a box sitting on the couch. Curious, she went into the kitchen to see what her dad was up to, and found him on the phone.
"Yeah, Seb, I'm all right. Katie's up here with me this year." He looked up at his daughter and smiled. "Well, she is, I don't know if I am."
Kate pulled open the fridge and pulled out a bottle of sparkling water. She gestured to her dad and he nodded so she pulled another one.
"Yes, Katie's a good kid, Seb."
Kate looked askance at her father for that one. Jim just grinned.
"Right, Seb… I'm trying and Katie's helped more than she knows… Probably the 26th or 27th… Yes, well, both of us have to get back to work…" Jim chuckled at something Seb said. "Maybe it does, at that… Yes… You have a good holiday too. See you, Seb."
Jim clicked off the cell phone and set it on the counter, picking up the water and taking a swig.
"Sebastian?" Kate asked, as if it hadn't been obvious.
"Yes, just checking up on me."
"I need to thank him."
"For what?" Jim looked at his daughter quizzically.
"For keeping an eye on you," she smiled softly. "When I couldn't or you wouldn't let me."
Jim looked a little guilty and Kate was sorry she put it like that.
"I'm sorry Dad…" she began.
"Don't be sorry for an accurate statement, Katie," Jim put the water down and went back to the stove and stirring the pot of stew on the burner. "It's been a rough decade and a half for us both."
Kate put her arms around her dad's shoulders as he stirred.
"I'm glad we've made it to this point."
A timer dinged and Jim stopped stirring and grabbed two hot pads. He opened the oven and pulled out a pan of cornbread much to Kate's delight. It had been awhile since she had it and it was always a treat for her.
"Please tell me you have honey," she said as she began pulling plates and bowls from the cupboard.
"What kind of heathen do you take me for?" Jim teased right back, opening the pantry and wiggling the honey bottle at her.
Kate's ear to ear smile had nothing to do with the sweet stuff. She thought she'd never hear her dad joking around at Christmas again.
He was healing. After so long, finally.
"So what's in the box?" Kate asked Jim as they took their coffees into the living room to relax.
"You don't know?" Jim returned in surprise. "It was in the back seat of the Jeep, I brought it in after you'd taken your suitcase in."
"Huh," Kate said, picking up the box, it was surprisingly light. "I didn't notice. It must be from Castle, though he didn't mention it when we talked this morning."
"Why don't you open it, Katie?"
"You sure, Dad?"
"Katie this whole trip with you here has been my awakening, as it were. I'm so glad you came with me; I don't think I realized what I've been missing all this time. Did you feel that way, last Christmas when you went to be with Rick instead of working?"
Kate just nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
"Open the box, Katie."
Kate had to borrow her dad's pocketknife to get the box open, Castle had taped it to within an inch of its life.
Once she had it open she moved the flaps and carefully pulled out a small Christmas tree. It was fully decorated and wrapped with lights, the plug hanging down.
"Oh, Castle," Kate breathed as she lifted it so Jim could see.
Jim quickly emptied the end table next to the chair he was sitting in so Kate could place it there.
"There's a plug just behind there, Katie."
Once the tree was lit, Kate looked at her dad and noticed tears.
"Dad, are you all right? Do you want me to take it down?" She moved to unplug it.
"No, Katie," he put his hand on her arm to stop her. "It's just… It's just that it's the first Christmas tree I've had in 15 years. I haven't wanted one..."
"Dad, I meant what I said, I don't want to overwhelm you…" Kate began.
Jim snorted. "A little tree like this isn't overwhelming, Katie. It's nice… It's genuinely nice of Rick to give. Was there anything else in the box?"
Kate watched her father a moment. He was looking at the tree but his expression showed he was a million miles away – or maybe in the past. She looked back in the box.
"Ah, Castle put a letter in," she unfolded the letter and began to read. "Oh, it's addressed to you." She handed him the letter, but Jim shook his head.
"Go ahead, Katie."
Kate began to read.
I hope I haven't overstepped.
Jim, I'm sure Kate has told you by know how much I go overboard at Christmas. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and in the past it was hard for me to comprehend anyone not liking it.
But last year when Kate explained to me the traditions of her working and you going to your cabin I finally understood. I've understood on an intellectual level the loss the two of you have endured, but for some reason I got a glimmer of the emotional then.
I hope you can accept this small gift of a Christmas tree. If not, go ahead and trash it or set it on fire, whatever you need to do. It's yours to do with what you will.
I want you to know that Kate has become an integral member of my family; I can hardly imagine how I managed without her in my life for so long. I want you to be that as well, in fact, you already are. Christmas is about family, and making a family can be the greatest gift of all.
Enough of my blathering. I want to wish you a – well, if not a merry Christmas, at least a happier one. I hope to see you soon.
P.S. Kate doesn't know I'm putting this in the Jeep, so don't take it out on her, if you don't like it.
Tears were rolling down Kate's face as she folded the letter again and put it back in the envelope. She looked up at Jim and saw tears on his face as well.
"You've got a good man there, Katie," he cleared his throat gruffly. "We'll have to call in the morning to thank him."
"It's still early Dad, if you want to call him now," Kate said tentatively.
"No," Jim answered, standing. Kate rose beside him. "I'm going to turn in early."
"Dad, I'm sorry…"
"No, Kate, don't be. You didn't overstep, neither did Rick. I'm just kind of feeling it all of a sudden. Leave the tree. It's nice to have."
He left the room, leaving Kate standing with a frown. She hoped she and Rick hadn't pushed too hard.
The next morning Kate went to the kitchen to make coffee. To her surprise there was a pot already made.
She poured herself a cup and went to find her dad.
He was in the living room on the phone. What she heard made her feel better about last night and Rick's letter.
"Hello, Theresa? It's Jim… Yes… Merry Christmas."
The healing would never be complete, but at last it was beginning.
A/N 2: What did you think? I hope you enjoyed. Once again, Merry Christmas!