12th Precinct Castle Valentine's Day FanFic Competition: Anticpation

Another story for our fanfic competition. Here you can find all the stories for the 12th Precinct Castle Halloween FanFic Competition. And here you can find the rules.
You can also find the stories at www.fanfiction.net for a possible easier read (blogspot doesn`t agree with word format most of the time).

Story: Anticipation 
Rating:  T
Words: 3442

Richard Castle knew the signs, but beyond the conventional evidence, he seemed to register a nearly palpable shift in the air. Kate was holding him at an introspective distance born from the truth that all would soon change.
Last time he had been terrified when a precious little life had been placed in his arms, being so young himself. He and Meredith had shared a fun relationship; they had been spontaneous and felt so invincible that they weren't exactly careful all the time.
Alexis had been both a surprise and a sobering reality that actions had consequences. Yet, through the panic the author in him had anticipated that Alexis' birth would be the inciting incident which would bring about a better version of himself. She had drawn on his affections from the moment she drew breath. His life was no longer his, but he would sacrifice it willingly for her.
His character had only improved again by such a measure with the influence of Kate Beckett and the anticipation welling within him foreshadowed another chapter of growth.
Well before he had wormed his way into her life, Kate had figuratively served a restraining order to all men, keeping them at a safe emotional distance. Detective Beckett had a zero tolerance policy yet from the first time he tried to pry into her back-story, Castle had disregarded her emotional boundaries as brazenly as he defied her first order to stay in the car.
He knew that as much as Kate had challenged him to evolve, that he had prodded her as well, stretching her to grow beyond the aloof constructs in which she comfortably had dwelt her whole adult life. Never before had she experienced that; in the right context, vulnerability could be a strength. Yet she had started to open herself to him, a flawed man, because he gave her the security of knowing that his devotion trumped the chinks in his character, and hers.
Castle knew he had the ability to inspire, but he could also be overwhelming. Years of crossing that line with Kate had taught him that some moments called for cautious restraint.

As he stared at the tiny NYPD onesie, he wondered if she felt insecure about her own ability to be a parent or fearful of what this would mean to her independent life. They hadn't discussed kids in earnest, so was she fretting about his reaction? He never wanted her to question his commitment to her or to their future family. This was a welcome blessing, not an inconvenient roadblock.
He was beyond excited. He was nervous in the best possible way, never having believed that he could have wanted this so badly so soon.
His only regret was that the romantic in him wanted to do this in a more conventional order this time; marriage, then after a few years, kids. He had rushed into a marriage with Meredith because of Alexis. He had been committed to his wife and would have made it work out of obligation and love for his daughter alone, but he couldn't abide unfaithfulness. He didn't even fault Meredith for long since their relationship had begun with such a tenuous foundation.
Kate was a different story. He had been ready to commit to her well before they were together. They spoke of always, but a proposal at this point had seemed like too big of a risk.
Now he wished he would have taken that chance because the last thing he wanted was for Kate to wonder if his request for her hand would be more about their child than her. He never wanted a doubt to flit through her mind on that score.
It was too late now.
Their timing had never been conventional, but maybe this was a hint from the universe to pick up the pace. Castle had always respected the universe. Maybe it was not ideal on paper, but when has that ever stopped them?
Kate needed to get used to the idea. Verbalizing all that she felt would be difficult. She had no script for it, no precedent. He saw the telltale signs of retreat. She wouldn't run altogether, of that he was sure. But he was equally sure that she needed to get her bearings because being vulnerable was one thing, an all-out anxious free fall of epic proportions was quite another.
As he brushed the navy fabric with the pads of his fingers he mentally ran through all the evidence.
For the past week she met his morning coffee offering with a smile, but he couldn't be sure she was drinking any of it. Then instead of chasing it with several more cups, she had been opting for water. Reduced caffeine intake should have been his first red flag but she said she had been having trouble sleeping and was temporarily cutting back. He foolishly had bought the lie.
She had been reluctant to stay over, parting with various apologies. She even had resorted to the headache cliché twice this week. He would have been worried except that her soft expressions had pleaded for patience, assuring him that it was not foreshadowing of an end, just a need for elbow room.
Since the first few months of their relationship he frankly had been surprised that she hadn't needed blocks of time away from him, but by the fifth night in a row of separation he had started to worry. She tended to get distracted this time of year, but never before had he seen her so pale and spent.
Castle had attributed her aloofness to tragedy induced seasonal depression, at least until he had started to do the math. He was observant enough to know when it was best to tread lightly, and if Kate were late, she would have known this week.
He realized that lately not only did she not want him to stay, but she had been deflecting his attentions. She had been keeping kisses light, hugs brief. She had been distracted, always offering an excuse to make an exit, and he combined that with her frequent trips to the ladies' room and did the math. His suspicions were confirmed with her urgent need to leave a crime scene, twice, punctuated by a glare to keep him from following her. Then there was the secret appointment, and well, it all pointed to one conclusion, well two actually.
Kate was pregnant.
She didn't know how to tell him.
He had spent the hours since this revelation desperately trying to think of how to let her know that he would meet the good news, and it was spectacular news, without any hesitation. He wanted to rub her feet at the end of the day, to draw her baths and let her sleep as much as she needed, hopefully in his arms, and he would even let her verbally abuse him through the caffeine withdrawal.
Despite his mastery of words, he hadn't known the best way to say all those things.
Instead he had bought a onesie.
He knew Kate had been excited enough about their first Valentine's Day date to go dress shopping with Lanie in January. So, when she had to cancel their date with the third headache of the week, Castle had decided that it was time to step in. If she couldn't tell him, he would give her an out.
Originally he had bought Kate earrings which were intricately designed but subtle enough that she would feel comfortable wearing them to work. He resisted getting her diamonds, knowing she would think them too pretentious for the precinct, and whatever he bought he wanted to see on her often. Earrings weren't an engagement ring, but the thought of seeing Kate in any jewelry he bought secretly filled him with territorial pride.
Before buying the onesie he had considered going back for a ring, but knew she wouldn't accept it under the circumstances. So, he found himself standing at her door with two small packages and a hopeful yet nervous expression.
Kate, dressed in one of his sweatshirts and leggings, opened the door after nearly a minute. Her hair was tousled and she looked worse than when they had parted ways at the precinct. He remembered Meredith feeling not just nauseous but exhausted, and Kate definitely looked the part. He stepped in, put his packages on the side table next to her keys and gloves, and pulled her in for an embrace, then remembering that she likely was sore, distanced himself enough to alleviate pressure. He kissed her forehead then pulled her head against his shoulder and nuzzled his nose in her hair.
"Are you okay?"
"Headache, Castle, remember?"
Caffeine withdrawal, of course.
"Yeah, it's just that you don't normally have headaches and this week you've had a few. Is everything alright?"
"Yeah, I just need to ride it out."
For the next eight months, Castle mentally added.
"Did I wake you? I should have called, but I wasn't sure you'd let me come over."
She kissed his cheek, "I was resting on the couch, and I would have told you not to bother because all you'd be doing is watching me sleep. Not that exciting."
"Well, then we have vastly different definitions of excitement." She looked at him tenderly, most likely in response to Castle's nearly palpable adoration. "Can I stay, just for a bit?"
She relented. "Yeah, alright, but I'm heading back to the couch."
"Fair enough."
She nearly plopped down as Castle dimmed the lights. He lifted her legs and started massaging her calves and feet. Kate hummed in appreciation. After a few minutes something seemed to register and she squinted at him.
"Did you bring me gifts?" She looked towards the packages.
"Yeah, it's Valentine's Day no matter where we are. You can open them whenever you're ready." She hummed again but her eyes stayed closed.
Castle's pulse started racing. He had thought it was the right move, but suddenly he wasn't so sure. Maybe he was being too rash. Still, his gaze wandered to her abdomen thinking of the secrets it held, about the little life there wondering if he or she would look like her or have the same blue eyes that he shared with Alexis. Kate hadn't been this unguarded with him in the past week so this was the first chance he had just to bask in this, in her, in the new life she was growing.
He should wait for her to break the news to him, but with her track record, she would be showing by the time she worked up the courage to tell him. He lifted her legs then walked over to grab the gifts. Kate roused, sat up and rubbed her eyes.
"I haven't had a chance to get you anything yet. I've been . . . tired, so if you want to wait until later . . . " She ended in a yawn.
"No!" Her eyebrows rose with his emphatic answer, "I mean, Kate, I don't want anything. You're present enough."
She looked down on her frazzled appearance and rolled her eyes.
"Seriously, you're going with that line right now?"
He sat down facing her and took her hand in his, "Kate, if you knew how terribly I wanted to see you wearing my clothes a year ago, you'd understand, but I think you know that this attraction goes well beyond your general hotness."
"Well, as long as you keep your hair, it goes both ways." Good, she was joking with him, something she hadn't done much lately.
"Noted. I have a preemptive membership to 'Hair Club for Men' so at the first signs of a bald patch I'm quite literally covered."
"Good to know." She ran her fingers through his thick hair slowly, resting them at his neck. She felt how quickly his pulse was beating, eyed the gifts again then pulled her hand back. Suddenly Castle understood that she was doing her own math.
He was nervous and there was a jewelry box.
No, Kate, not a proposal.
"It's not a ring!"
He must have looked slightly ridiculous because she almost laughed at his blustery response to her suspicions.
"Well, that's good because I'd hate to look like this when you do propose."
When you do propose, not 'if' but 'when.'
He couldn't hide the giddy grin as he replied; "I'll keep that in mind. Anything else I should consider?"
"Nothing too outlandish, or public. That about covers it."
"Okay, what should I open first?"
He placed both gifts down on the floor and took both her hands in his.
"Kate, it's Valentine's Day, I'm allowed to be sappy, so bear with me." She nodded and tried to suppress a smile as she humored him. "What we have is not conditional, there's nothing that would make me happier than to know that our futures aligned, that I will have you by my side for a lifetime, as my partner in everything. To face any changes together."
Kate interrupted, "Wait, this is not a proposal?" She said it with a forced lightness. He was making her nervous.
He pressed his lips together, and shook his head slightly. "Sorry. I guess I just never want you to doubt me, to doubt that I'm more than on board with this, us, everything. Kate, I'm all in, and I'll be by your side through everything, not because I should be but always because I want to be."
He lifted the gift bag with a tremor in his hand. Kate was biting her lower lip, anxious about what he had done. She accepted the bag with equally shaky fingers, pulled out the tissue paper and then lifted out the tiny navy onesie.
She seemed to hold her breath as tears gathered, but she hadn't allowed them to release. Castle rested his hand on her knee as the seconds passed, his world at a standstill.
"Castle, I . . . it's . . ." She couldn't form words, and he wondered if it was too much.
His instinct was to flood a situation with words, and since he couldn't formulate a better plan, he opened the floodgates.
"It's okay, Kate, I figured it out and you need to know that I am here because I love you, because you are my future and my family. I wanted that box to hold a ring, but I didn't want you to think that it was a knee-jerk reaction. I am going to propose, but not today. I want to celebrate one thing at a time, so today, it's this," He laid a hand over hers that pinned the onesie to her lap. "I am so excited and I can't wait to see that on our baby. I love you, Katherine Beckett, and I already love that baby."
It took everything in him not to place his hand on her stomach, not to gather her in his arms, but he needed to let her respond.
"Castle, . . . Rick . . . I don't know what to say." Her tears let loose. She looked nearly anguished as she worried her lip and smoothed the little onesie with the pad of one finger. Castle's hand still rested heavily on hers and his finger followed her lead. "This is beautiful and would be, will be perfect, someday, but not today. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry but . . . I'm not pregnant."
His mouth went slack and dry. His own eyes rapidly watered and he just blinked slowly while she waited for him to speak.
"But you were rushing to the bathroom, and Esposito said you had gone to an appointment, and the timing and . . . I just thought . . ." He removed his hand and his whole body canted away from her. "I'm such an idiot." He swiped at his eye, "Can we just rewind and forget that ever happened?"
Kate curled in his lap, holding the onesie. He couldn't look at her. "I am so sorry, Castle, I hadn't thought of how it looked. I should have explained." She lifted her free hand to gently stroke his cheek with her thumb. "I've been fighting some sort of stomach virus. It's not severe, just persistent and not exactly something I wanted to share with my partner, in any sense of the word. Once I had to leave the crime scene I made the appointment and got medications to help with the side effects, but I have to wait for it to run its course. I knew you'd want to hover over me, but call me vain, I'm just not willing to be that openly unattractive in front of my partner." Her fingers massaged the edge of his ear as she playfully admitted, "Castle, this is the one and only time I'm going to confess that I'm still trying to impress you."
With that his arms finally responded. He no longer had to worry about soreness, so he hugged her against him intensely and smoothed his hands up and down her back as she rested her head on his shoulder. He closed his eyes and affirmed, "You will always impress me, Kate. I'm more amazed by you every day."
She drew her arms around him, and he felt the onesie still in her grasp kissing the skin on his neck. She tentatively asked, "You're disappointed?"
She felt him shrug, "No, yeah . . . a little." He felt her fingers and the soft material kneading the nape of his neck. "I've had time to get more than used to the idea, but I know it's too soon. Anyway, I would like to give you a ring before we have need of that onesie and, Kate?"
"Next time I promise not to steal your thunder."
He felt a lighthearted puff of air hit his shirt in response.
After a few minutes of reassuring cuddling Kate broke the silence.
"Thank you, Castle."
He huffed at how far he had missed the mark, "For what? Jumping to conclusions?"
"No, for giving me the most adorable and least conventional Valentine's Day present ever and for being excited when most men would have bolted."
"Well then, most men would be idiots." He kissed her hair softly, and she could feel his emotions blanketing her.
"Rick, I know it will be on your mind, but I'm not ready yet. I'm so, so sorry. I feel like so much of our relationship has been you waiting for me."
It was true his timetable would have gone differently, but what they had would have been different as well, and he wouldn't trade this version of their relationship for anything.
"I have you. As long as I'll always have you, I'm fulfilled. I am not in a hurry, Kate, and I'm certainly not going anywhere."
She sat straighter and Castle loosened his hold on her, resting his hand on her thigh as they both took in the other's reddened eyes. He saw her tender concern for him morph into a full, glowing smile, something he hadn't seen for a while.
"I know, Rick, and I plan on keeping this until I have a reason to give it back to you."
His disappointment had not run its course, but he offered her a wan smile as he shifted her back to the couch and stood.
"I should let you get some rest. The other present can wait."
She ran the back of her finger along his arm and pleaded, "Stay."
"I thought you wanted to be alone."
"Not anymore."

A week later a miserable Castle had to excuse himself several times until Kate kicked him out of the precinct. That night she presented him with a container of soup and a gift bag.
"I finally have your Valentine's Day present."
He gave her a cautious look then removed the tissue paper and pulled out a navy onesie with white block letters that said, "WRITER." He knew she hadn't been late and with her being sick then him . . . well, there was no way she was pregnant, so he looked at her uncertainly.
She shrugged and said, "You left the crime scene to vomit, I wanted to cover all my bases."
He fingered the precious garment and his eyes glistened as he pulled her into his chest. She had given him his own little symbol of hope for their future.
As he nuzzled his cheek in her hair he replied, "I don't know how to tell you this, Kate . . . but I'm not pregnant."
Captain Founder, Administrator, Editor and Writer

The moment that I met you, my life became extraordinary. You taught me to be my best self, to look forward to tomorrow's adventures. And when I was vulnerable, you were strong. I love you, Richard Castle. And I want to live my life in the warmth of your smile and the strength of your embrace. I promise you I will love you. I will be your friend and your partner in crime and in life, always. - Kate Beckett The moment we met, my life became extraordinary. You taught me more about myself than I knew there was to learn. You are the joy in my heart. You're the last person I want to see every night when I close my eyes. I love you, Katherine Beckett. And the mystery of you is the one I want to spend the rest of my life exploring. I promise to love you, to be your friend, and your partner in crime and life, 'till death do us part, and for the time of our lives. - Richard Castle

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