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

When he awoke again, it was to Kate's soft fingertips tracing patterns on his shoulder blade. He had ended up on his stomach, and when he opened his eyes, she was there, propped up on a pillow, haloed in the mid-morning light, sheet pulled up under her arms, and softly smiling at him.

"Hey beautiful," he scratched out, his lips parting in a wide grin.

"Hey yourself," she answered him, halting her drawing on his shoulder to brush the hair out of his eyes.

He reached up to catch her hand before she withdrew it, brushing his lips against her knuckles.

"How are you feeling?" he asked quietly.

She smiled at him again and squeezed his hand.

"Good," she said. "Tired, a little sore, but really good."

"Sore how?" he questioned with concern.

She rolled her eyes at him.

"Not that kind of sore," she said with a laugh. "Just the usual after-therapy kind of sore. Don't worry, you didn't break me."

He relaxed then and pulled her to him for a tender kiss followed by a strong hug.

"I love you," he whispered into her ear, and her arms tightened around him.

"Love you too," she returned. "So much, Rick."

He pulled back, stroking her unruly curls, and just looked at her for a few seconds. She was perfect, he thought, her tired eyes sparkling, face a little flushed under his intense gaze, but smiling.

Finally, she leaned over him, dropping the sheet as she did, and he groaned at the way she pressed against his chest.

"Good grief, woman, do you know what you do to me?"

A chuckle vibrated against him and he savored the feeling.

"I've got a pretty good idea," she said drolly, patting his belly as she drew back, t-shirt in hand. She lifted it up and over her head, laughing at his little sound of protest.

"Hey, I was enjoying the view!" he exclaimed, lifting up on an elbow to glare at her.

"I'm sure you were," she smirked at him. "But I'm hungry, and I'm not about to go out to the kitchen like that. Especially with Alexis and possibly your mother around."

He conceded defeat, but gently swatted her bare rear as she sat on the edge of the bed searching for the rest of her clothes. She turned back and stuck her tongue out at him. He read the back of her shirt-well, one of his that she'd stolen-and laughed.

"I think you accomplished your goal," he said, giving her an impish grin.

"What do you mean?" she asked, narrowing her eyes at him.

He pointed out the words on the shirt, and she pulled up the back and craned her neck to see them, blushing when she'd finished reading.

"Oh, I'd forgotten what the back of this one said."

"Well, I always knew you had a good aim," he intoned, grabbing her hand to drag her back for a heated kiss.

"So do you," she responded, turning a deeper shade of red when she realized exactly what she'd said. She pushed gently on his chest. "No more misbehaving this morning though. I'm hungry. Make me some pancakes."

"Yes, officer," he teased and grabbed his own shirt before rolling out of bed and sauntering off to the bathroom. "Be there in just a minute."

He turned back just as he reached the door to give her a sweet smile that she returned before she went back to getting dressed.

When he exited the bathroom, she was gone, but his bedroom door was still open, and he could hear the chatter of his daughter coming from the kitchen.

There they were, the two most important women in his life, talking and laughing as they pulled out the ingredients for breakfast. He stood in the office doorway watched for a moment as Kate began chopping some strawberries while Alexis mixed up the batter. His daughter must have said something funny, because Kate's laughter rang out, pure and clear, making his heart swell with affection.

Finally, he couldn't stand any longer to not be part of the action.

"Good morning, Daughter," he called out before snagging her into a hug.

"Good morning, Father," she replied, her arms still around him as she lifted up on her tiptoes to place a warm kiss on his cheek.

"So, pancakes?" he asked. "Plain or chocolate chip?"

"Just plain, I think," Alexis said, turning to Kate for a nod of confirmation. "But can you do shapes?"

The detective looked at him in surprise.

"You do shapes?" she asked, arching her eyebrows. "Like what? Mickey Mouse?"

Before he could answer, his daughter jumped in.

"Much more elaborate than that. He's really good. He can do all kinds of stuff."

"Why haven't I seen these before?" Kate prodded, stepping beside him to poke him in the ribs. "Usually you're all about sharing your hidden talents."

He gave her an obscenely devilish look that made her blush and earned him a smack on the arm.

Alexis glanced between them before grimacing.

"Eww, I don't want to know," she said, and Rick felt his face heating up. He decided he'd better get back to the original topic.

"I just haven't made them in awhile, that's all. They take longer. But if you want, I'll be happy to do shapes. Hopefully I'm not out of practice."

"Elephant for me," Alexis said happily. "And maybe a spider."

"And for you, Kate?" the writer asked.

"I think I'll watch you do hers first."

"Okay," he answered and turned to the griddle they'd already heated up for him.

Carefully, he formed the body of an elephant and its trunk on one side of the griddle and then a leggy spider on the other side. He looked up from his work to see Alexis grinning and Kate watching him closely.

"That's amazing, Rick. Where did you learn to do that?"

He laughed, reaching out to tap his daughter on the nose.

"This one would only eat pancakes for breakfast when she was little. Not cereal, not eggs, not french toast, not even waffles. Thankfully she grew out of it, even if it took a couple years. But while she was in that phase, we ate a lot of pancakes. And I got bored with the norm. So I started making smiley-face pancakes, and the rest followed."

Kate just shook her head.

"The things you do for love," he said softly. "So, my dear detective, what'll it be?"

She looked thoughtful for a moment, a brief flash of something that looked a lot like nostalgia appearing in her eyes.

"Can you-can you do a cat?"

He smiled at her tenderly and nodded as he flipped his daughter's pancakes.

"Sure," he said, and then pointed the spatula at her. "But I sense there's a story behind that request. Care to share?"

She turned a little red and he rethought his poking into her emotions, but before he could retract his question, she started to speak.

"When I was little, my dad and I used to make breakfast for my mom sometimes. You know, Mother's Day, her birthday, after she'd won a big case, stuff like that."

She paused, and he watched as her eyes glazed slightly in remembrance.

"He'd let me help him make whatever, and then he'd send me in to wake her up while he brought in the food. By the time he got there, I'd always be curled up on her lap with her running her fingers through my hair."

Her eyes cleared a little and she looked up at him, vulnerable. He could tell this was a happy memory, but tinged with sadness, like so many of the others. He said nothing, allowing her the space to continue if she chose.

"He called me his 'Katie-Cat' because of the way she would pet me," she said quietly, with a soft smile. "He said they'd thought about getting a cat, but decided to have me instead, because at least I could take care of them in their old age, even if they did have to put me through college."

The last part was said with a gentle laugh, echoed by the writer and his daughter. He scooped Alexis' finished pancakes onto a plate and handed them to her before looking back at his detective.

"A cat it is, then," he said, and leaned over to gently kiss her lips. "Thank you for sharing that with me."

She smiled, and nudged him to get back to his breakfast making duties.

He tried for perfection on this one, pouring thin lines for whiskers and then a larger circle for a head and finally rounded triangle ears. On the other side of the griddle, he poured two empty circles connected with a line between them. When he looked up, she quirked an eyebrow at him.

"You can't have just one," he said matter-of-factly. "Thus the handcuffs."

She laughed at him, and he felt his heart leap at the sound.

Soon enough, her pancakes were done, and she joined Alexis at the bar, watching him as he worked on his own creations, a feather ("a quill pen," he explained) and a four-leaf clover ("Just realizing how lucky I am," was his justification for that one).

Then he sat with them and they ate, light conversation and laughter warming his heart.

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