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

They had spent little time together, just the two of them, for the past few months. Alexis had placed no demands on him, but he knew he missed having time alone with her, and he hoped she felt the same way about him.

So after their discussion about discretion and the brief pillow versus tickle fight, they just stayed there, sprawled out on her bed, Castle combing his fingers through her soft hair and his daughter twisting her fingers in the collar of his t-shirt.

She hadn't done that in a long time, he mused. When she had been much younger, she would occasionally attend parties or meetings with him, and he usually ended up sitting with her in his lap before the events were done. She would be tired, and her tried and true method of staying awake had been to amuse herself with the collar or buttons of her father's shirt. He loved having her with him and had never minded the missing buttons or stretched collars that resulted.

"You sleepy?" he asked quietly, lifting his head to see her face.

She didn't speak, but nodded slowly, her eyes already half-closed. She looked so much younger than her seventeen years.

"Want me to go away and let you take a nap?" he inquired, starting to remove his arm from where it cradled her.


The word came out so softly that he barely heard it, but he felt her hand fist in his shirt, so he settled back in, reaching over to grab the discarded pillow and stuffing it behind his head.

"Warm enough?"

She nodded against him once more, and he went back to his previous activity, elbow bent to allow his hand to stroke her hair, fingers occasionally delving down to rasp gently against her scalp. For years, that had worked to soothe her, sending her to sleep within minutes. From the way her breathing had evened out, he guessed it still did the trick.

Cocooned in the peace of a lazy day and the knowledge that at least for now, all was right in his world, he allowed his eyes to slide shut.

He drifted in and out of consciousness, his daughter's warmth and gentle breathing and occasional soft snort lending him a sense of security that he'd rarely felt since the danger of Kate's mother's case had made itself known.

After a little while, he got the uncanny sense that he was being watched. He surreptitiously opened one eye to find his favorite detective leaning against the doorjamb, freshly clothed in gray leggings and a deep red button-up. One of his, he observed. Her hair was pulled into a messy bun, damp tendrils escaping to frame her beautiful face. She didn't seem to have noticed that he was awake. Her expression was tender and unguarded, but her eyes were a little unfocused and he wondered what she was thinking.

"Hey," he called quietly, lifting his head a little and trying not to wake Alexis.

Her eyes snapped to his and she gave him a soft smile.

"Decided to take a bath instead. Sorry it took so long."


She inclined her head toward Alexis.

"All good?"

He smiled.

"All good. I apologized, told her we'd try to be a little more discrete in the future."

She reddened a little, but nodded.


She stood there in silence for a minute or so and he just watched her, taking in her posture, the play of emotions on her face, the way her arms were wrapped protectively around her middle.

"You okay?" he asked, furrowing his eyebrows.

Her answer was a quiet "mmhmm" of assurance, but she still looked pensive, a little vulnerable.

"Can I-I mean, is it okay if I..." she trailed off with a glance at Alexis, and his heart melted at her insecurity.

He lifted his free hand and beckoned to her.

"I don't think she'll mind," he said in a low voice, giving her what he hoped was an encouraging smile.

She hesitated for a moment more, but then came to stand next to the bed, reaching down to squeeze his bare foot where it hung off the edge. She slid her thumb across the sole before brushing it over his ankle bone. She was sexy as hell, he thought, and played the part of a teasing temptress well when it suited her, but it was these little touches, these small, affectionate, not remotely sexual caresses that made his heart pound the hardest.

She looked up at him, and he poured all of his love for her into his gaze. She smiled shyly and released his foot with a final squeeze, leaning over to snag another pillow from the stack at the head of the bed.

And then she surprised him. He expected her to shimmy up next to him in the space between his body and the headboard, to nestle herself into the crook of his free arm.

Instead, she went to the other side, to the foot of the bed, carefully crawling onto the mattress behind the young redhead, arranging the pillow, settling on her side with her right arm hooked under the pillow. He turned his head so he could see her face. A lock fell into her eyes, and he watched as she tried to blow sideways out of her mouth to remove it. It didn't work. She brought her left hand up to tuck it behind her ear.

He didn't know what made his daughter stir, the movement or the sound of Kate's puff of air, but he watched as she shifted a little, her eyes fluttering open briefly and closing again, coming back to semi-awareness for a moment. She smiled sleepily into his chest.

"Hey Kate," she murmured.

"Hey Lex," the detective returned quietly. "Go back to sleep."

"Mmmkay," the girl hummed, lifting her left arm from her father's chest.

She reached behind her to grasp the older woman's wrist and drew it over her, pulling it down so she could slide the detective's fingers into her right hand where it rested, warm against Castle's side.

The writer watched the moment unfold in wonderment, glancing up to see Kate looking at him with glistening eyes.

He knew she was not accustomed to such easy affection. He could tell from pictures and stories that the Beckett household had been warm and loving as she grew up. It was something she'd lost, he thought, with her mother's burial and her father's descent into the bottle. But she had become much more touchy-feely in the past couple months, not only with him, but also with his family and their friends.

She and Lanie had exchanged many hugs during her recovery, and he had re-entered her hospital room more than once to find the two of them squished into the small space of the narrow bed, reading through get well cards or watching an episode of Temptation Lane.

Even with "her" boys, she'd opened up, leaning into Javier's brotherly embrace when he came to tell her they'd run out of leads on the sniper, and squeezing Kevin's arm when he brought her a milkshake from Remy's and a batch of double chocolate cookies that Jenny had baked.

Still, Rick was careful much of the time to let Kate initiate the affection between them, giving her the space and control she so desperately craved. He made sure she knew that her touch was always welcome to him, but beyond greeting hugs and holding her hand, he generally waited for her to come to him, or at least to give him the green light to close the distance between them.

He watched as a small, surprised smile played on her lips, and he lifted his eyes to thank God, the universe or whomever for his wonderful daughter who had, in one half-conscious moment, erased some of the fears Kate had expressed to him over the past three months.

She was afraid, she told him, that Alexis would feel left out, abandoned because of how much time he spent helping her heal. He had tried to assure her that wasn't the case, that his daughter knew how much he cherished his relationship with her, the effortless love they'd had for each other since the day she was born. But the detective was still uneasy, not wanting the girl to resent their new houseguest. And after this morning's incident, he suspected her fears had been doubled.

But now, now she was gazing at him serenely through dark lashes, and he could see one less layer of worry in her eyes.

He blinked at her slowly, working to keep his eyes open until hers closed. He couldn't reach her without disturbing Alexis, but he formed his lips into a kiss, watching her eyes drop to his mouth at the movement.

She smiled at him one last time, pursed her own lips in reply, and he watched the tension leave her completely as gave herself over to the urge to rest. He followed soon after, more content than he'd been in a very long time.

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