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

The first thing he noticed when he woke was that Alexis was no longer tucked tightly into his chest. She had turned over to face the other way, unbending his arm to use it as a cushion.

The hand that had been in her hair was now surrounded by warm fingers. His daughter's?—he wondered, giving the hand an experimental squeeze. No, Kate's, he realized when she squeezed in return and pressed a soft kiss to his knuckles.

He rolled onto his side to face them, the detective meeting his sleepy gaze over the redhead between them. He gave her a smile and then ran his free hand down the teenager's arm.

"What time is it?" he yawned.

"Almost four," his daughter answered, tilting her head in his direction.

He yawned again and reached up to rub the sleep out of his eyes.

"Your dad still coming over for dinner?" he directed at the detective.

Kate nodded.

"As far as I know."

When she had been released from the hospital, it had been concluded that the Castles' loft was better suited to her recovery than her own apartment or her father's place. But Rick had been sure to let the older man know that he was welcome to visit at any time.

At first, Jim Beckett had been by nearly every day, then a couple times a week. Now, though he called to check on her often, his visits had tapered down to weekly dinners, usually on Saturday nights.

"What do you want to do for dinner? I don't think we have time to go grocery shopping."

"Yeah, I know," Kate answered. "I checked earlier, though, and it looks like we have all the makings for tacos. How does that sound?"

"Sounds perfect," he said, giving her a bright smile. "You'll be here, pumpkin?"

"Yep, no plans tonight, so I'll be around," she confirmed. "As long as that's okay, I mean."

He was about to speak, but Kate grinned at the girl and beat him to it.

"You know my father loves you, right?"

"Really?" Alexis asked with a tone of surprised pleasure.

"Really. I think he asks how you are almost as often as he asks me how I'm doing."

"But I've only met him a few times," she protested.

"Well, you must have impressed him somehow," Kate said, lifting a finger to flick the girl's nose. "Seriously, he's asked me why I wasn't more like you when I was your age."

Castle laughed as his daughter spluttered and the detective's eyes just twinkled.

"But you must have been perfect!"

"Yeah, not so much," Kate admitted a little bashfully. "I was a bit of a rebel for awhile. Did a few things I'm not proud of, dated a few guys who weren't worth it. You've got a much better head on your shoulders."

Alexis said nothing for a moment, and he watched as Kate watched her.

"Thank you," his daughter finally answered, and he could hear the shy smile in her voice.

"Well," he said, catching Kate's eyes with a twinkle of his own. "Despite your rebellion you didn't turn out too bad."

He had almost forgotten that she had hold of his hand, but she quickly reminded him with a sharp, nearly painful pressure on the meat of his thumb, just as Alexis elbowed him in the ribs.

"Man," he whined. "I'm gonna have to report the two of you for abuse!"

Kate rolled her eyes.

"A jury would never convict us, Castle."

"She's right, Dad," Alexis chimed in.

"Oh ho, she's right is she?" he said with a chortle, snatching his hand away from Kate and enfolding his daughter in his grasp. "You're supposed to be on my side, my dear."

She thrashed in his arms as he began tickling her, but her agony only lasted a moment before the detective joined in the battle.

He should have predicted, of course, that they'd gang up on him. Before long, the two women had him curled up in a ball, gasping desperately for air, tears cascading down his cherry red cheeks.

"Apples! Apples! Apples!" he finally wheezed out, and they relented.

They shared a look of triumph and a quick high-five as they knelt over his still quaking body.

"C'mon, Castle," Kate said haughtily. "You should know better."

Alexis shook her head and gave him a pitying look.

"You'd think he'd have learned by now."

"You'd think," the detective said with a nod. "But he's not so bright, this one."

He opened his mouth to retort, but Kate reached down to gently tug on his shirt.

"Come on, Dopey, time to get up."

He frowned at her further insult to his intelligence.

"I'm about to be Grumpy."

His girls laughed and he couldn't hold onto the grimace, a begrudging smile appearing in its place as his acknowledgment of how they'd bested him.

"And back to Happy," Alexis observed, joining Kate in pulling him upright.

They stood, and he wrapped an arm around each one, squeezing them tightly and enjoying the crush of their shoulders against either side of his chest.

He released them both then, and Alexis preceded the adults out of her room, heading for the stairs. He made to follow her, but Kate caught his hand in hers, holding him back for a moment.

He turned to face her, a question in his eyes. But she just shook her head with a smile, leaning in to place a kiss on his bicep. He gave her a tender smile and threaded their fingers together, dropping his head to press his mouth to the spot just below her ear.

She shivered a little, and he smiled against her, nudging her soft lobe with his nose. Her hand came up to weave into his hair, but rather than the sensuous kiss he knew she was expecting, he blew rapidly on her neck, a loud raspberry thundering over her skin.

She jolted in surprise, and he jumped away, laughing loudly. He looked out the door at Alexis, who had paused at the top of the stairs, staring at him in confusion before finally shaking her head and going down.

His distraction with his daughter cost him, though, and he pitched forward as Kate walloped him on the back of the head.

Regaining his balance, he turned to glare at her, but she was already floating out of the room in a cloud of euphoric laughter.

His heart fluttered, and he trailed after the detective. He wasn't sure what the future would bring, but if it was anything like the past three years, he knew he'd follow her anywhere.

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