Disclaimer: All Castle characters are the property of Andrew Marlowe and ABC.

Half an hour later, the doorbell rang, startling the two of them out of their dozing. Kate groaned and began to unwrap herself from around him, but he just hooked an arm under her knees and slowly stood, carrying her into the living room and setting her gently on the sofa.

The first time he'd tried that, she'd nearly twisted his ear off, but by now, she grudgingly allowed him his "caveman-ness" as she had termed it. He'd politely pointed out that if he were really a caveman, he'd be dragging her by the hair, and she'd threatened to shoot him. Par for the course, he thought, and laughed as he made his way to the door, pulling out his wallet along the way.

He checked the peephole to confirm that it was, in fact, their food delivery, and then opened the door, paying the delivery boy and including a good tip.

"Where's Alexis?" Kate called from the other room, but before he had a chance to answer, the redhead in question came down the stairs, yawning.

"Right here," she said. "Doorbell woke me up. Ooh, Pepo's!"

She hugged her father as he dropped a kiss on the top of her head. He followed her into the kitchen, where she was pulling down napkins, plates and utensils. The food came with paper plates and plastic utensils, but they had discovered long ago that it was greasy and solid enough that real plates and real forks and knives were better.

"Dining or living room?" she asked, reappearing next to him where he was unpacking the bags onto the table.

"Living room, I think," he answered. "Got you the penne with ricotta and tomato basil sauce. That okay?"

"Perfect," she answered as she reached for one of the containers and emptied it onto a plate. "Is this Kate's?"

"Yup," he said. "Eggplant Parmigiana. And I've got the lasagna."

She doled out the breadsticks as he put a little salad on each plate. She grabbed a tray for him to set everything on and then headed back to the kitchen for drinks while he carried the food into the living room.

He found Kate exactly where he'd left her, sprawled out on the sofa, her eyes closed. But he could tell by her breathing that she wasn't asleep. Her nose twitched as he set the tray down on the coffee table in front of her, and a smile blossomed on her lips.

"Thanks, Rick," she said as she slowly opened her eyes. He just grinned at her.

He grabbed a couple cushions that she wasn't using and set them on the floor next to the coffee table.

"What are you doing?" she asked, lifting an eyebrow.

"You look comfy," he answered simply. "I don't want to make you move. The offspring and I can sit on the floor."

She smiled at his kind gesture, but waved it off.

"Nah, I'll get a stomachache if I eat lying down."

She sat up and patted the spot next to her.


He picked up the cushions and deposited them on the sofa again before plopping down on one side, leaving Kate's other side open for Alexis.

The girl came in then, carefully carrying three glasses of water. Though she was permitted the occasional cup of coffee or glass of wine, Kate's doctor had warned her that her intake of either should be moderate, so Castle and Alexis, in a show of solidarity, had been mostly abstaining as well, sticking to water or juice or milk.

Alexis set the glasses in from of the three plates and settled in next to the Detective.

"Talking or watching something?" she asked as she reached for her plate.

Rick glanced at Kate for her preference.

"We could finish watching 'To Catch a Thief.' I kinda fell asleep on your dad earlier."

"Sounds good to me," Alexis confirmed.

Rick reached behind him for the remote to get the movie going again while his girls chatted. Alexis told Kate about her day, hanging out with Ashley and then studying with Paige before coming home and sacking out for a couple hours.

"You're not normally one for an afternoon nap," the detective observed.

"Yeah, I was up late," Alexis answered. "I'm reading Crime and Punishment for my summer reading list."

"Got into it and couldn't put it down?" her father asked.

"No, got into and got creeped out," she said, giving a little shiver. "This is why I don't read your books before bed, Dad."

"Ahh, couldn't sleep."

Castle gave the girl a sympathetic nod and Kate wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"I remember the first time I read it. I took a Russian lit class and it was on our required reading list for the course. The first part freaked me out a bit too."

"And then she decided to become a detective," Castle inserted. Kate rolled her eyes at him.

"But it gets better," she said. "The book, I mean, not murder. Murder never gets easier to deal with."

Alexis leaned into Kate's arm.

"Thanks, Kate."

She squeezed the girl a little.

"Anytime," she said and grinned at Alexis. "Just don't ever read it in Russian. It's even creepier."

With that, the slight tension of his daughter's fear was broken, and he smiled at the detective over the top of the girl's head.

"Alright," he announced. "Now let's eat this delicious food I slaved over and enjoy the dashing John Robie's adventures on the French Riviera."

Both of his girls rolled their eyes at him this time, but they all tucked in and before long were engrossed in the movie.

A little while later, he saw that Kate had put her plate down on the table, and was nodding into the air. He wrapped an arm around her and eased her back onto his shoulder, smiling when Alexis looked over at the two of them. She stood silently, and put the plates and glasses back on the tray, and picking it up to take it all back to the kitchen. He gently stopped her with a hand to her hip before she walked away, and she turned back to him.

"Thank you, pumpkin," he whispered. "You have no idea how much I appreciate you."

She smiled, and leaned over to drop a kiss on his forehead while he reached up to caress her cheek.

"Love you, Dad."

"Love you too, sweetie."

He turned back to look down at Kate as his daughter left the room. He knew she would be transferring food into plastic containers that they could reheat the next day, and he was struck with gratitude for a teenager who was as kind and responsible as his. She had never begrudged him his time with Kate while she healed. Instead, she had joined them as often as she could, watching movies, playing board games, or just hanging out. She seemed to know instinctively when they needed to be alone and when they needed her there with them, her vivacious attitude and sweet spirit a balm to both their souls.

Kate shifted against him and mumbled something in her slumber. He was comfortable here, cuddled up with her, but he knew her muscles would cry out even more if they stayed this way for too long. So he once again scooped her into his arms, cradling her head against his chest.

She often slept in the guest room, and he respected her need for privacy. But on physical therapy days, she always seemed to want to stay with him. He made his way back through the office and into his dim bedroom, pulling back the covers and setting her gently on the bed. He stepped away then to take off his jeans and socks, leaving the boxers and vee neck shirt in place.

After tossing the dirty clothes into the hamper, he turned back to the bed to find her propped up on an elbow and watching him.

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