CAT'S IN THE CRADLE

"Shhh."

He shuts his mouth, question dying on his lips.

Crooking a slim finger, she beckons him forward, into the empty space her small body leaves for him in the open doorway. He joins her silently, sliding his hand around her waist to tuck her snugly into his side.

She doesn't speak, but nods her head toward the dim room, late afternoon sunlight making the buttery striped walls glow.

Words shimmer at the edge of his vision, a rich chocolate brown script across the one cream wall, the wall Kate requested.

But a different spot draws his eyes now. His gaze settles on the little body, the arms and legs stretched out in front, the mouth slightly open, a tiny sigh escaping now and then. She's perfect.

The bed's other inhabitant is draped at her back, providing warmth and comfort and a relaxing white noise. Their heads rest close together, nearly cheek to cheek. One gray paw slung over the baby's chest, Minnie sleeps too.

"Is that-" he whispers, but his wife presses a finger to his lips.

"They're fine," she murmurs. "Just wanted you to see."

He tilts his head, feathers his lips across her temple. "They are adorable together."

She glances up and meets his eyes, moves her hand from his mouth to cover his ear, fingertips grazing the back of his neck, making him shiver.

Shifting further into his arms, she hums - the little sound of acknowledgment that he loves so much - and leans back into his chest. Her free hand rises to cradle his at her stomach, fingers smoothing the fine hair on his forearm.

Castle dips his head, lets his lips brush the column of her throat. "Come on."

She lingers a moment more, standing still even as he pulls away, tugs on her waist. But then she catches the doorknob with one hand, drawing it not quite closed. She turns to face him, his hand still resting on her hip.

"What do you want, Castle?" she asks softly, her eyes glittering in the dim hall, teeth catching on her bottom lip. "Something on your mind?"

He slides his hand up from her hip, broad palm smoothing over her curves until he reaches her shoulder. "You."

"Me?" she asks in that teasing tone, the pink tip of her tongue darting out to run lazily across her lips. The things she does to him. "I'm on your mind?"

He nods. "Always on my mind."

Laughing, she plucks his hand from her shoulder, pulls it down, twines their fingers. "Gonna start singing? Elvis or Willie Nelson?"

He purposefully quirks one side of his upper lip, and a flash of recognition crosses her face. He and the boys looked ridiculous that night, but he still remembers the way she'd looked at them, affection shining in her eyes. She grins at him. "The King, then?"

He lifts one eyebrow. "Love me tender?"

She shakes her head, but tightens her grip on him, and he lets her lead him down the hallway, down the stairs, across the loft, until she pauses in front of his bookshelves. "Office, or..."

He tugs on her hand, guides her through the doorway and past his desk into the room beyond. "Bedroom."

She lifts her arms when they reach the bed, allowing him to drag the thin shirt over her head once he's removed his own. He does like to unwrap her, and she doesn't seem to mind.

"Not up for any desk chair acrobatics today?" she asks, the words muffled as the fabric slides over her mouth. "Feeling a little old?"

He laughs, pressing his lips to her smirk as soon as he's freed her from the cotton shirt, one hand cupping her neck even as the other drops to thumb open the button on her jeans. "Never too old for this, Kate. You know that."

She hums in response, turning her head and letting him nibble his way across her jaw and down to her neck.

His fingers delve beneath the worn denim, glide over her hips as he draws the pants down her legs until she stands before him in only her underwear. "I just figured the bed would be more comfortable."

She nuzzles his cheek and pushes back on his shoulders, forcing him to sit on the edge of the mattress as she leans down to unbutton his own jeans. "You know I won't break, right?"

Her eyes meet his and he nods, still in awe of the love - the adoration - he finds in her gaze. "I know."

"And sometimes, the desk chair is better actually, because it means I can-"

He cuts her off, lunging down to hook his arms under hers, dragging her up to meet his mouth, hot and wet and right.

"I know," he repeats, when he finally breaks away, leaning back against the mattress and pulling her with him. "But I'm tired, you're tired, and as much fun as the chair might be, it's not *that* comfortable, and I'd rather not wake up with a crick in my neck if we fall asleep in there."

She purses her lips, shrugs, and scrambles over his body to stretch out against the rich fabric and fluffy pillows, blinking at him slowly, a smile curving her lips. "Bed's good too."


She wakes to the soft touch of his fingertips swirling patterns on her shoulder blades, the warmth of his side against her bare chest, the sound of peaceful breathing filtering through the baby monitor on the nightstand.

"We should let Minnie babysit more often," he murmurs, somehow knowing, as he always does, the exact moment she's conscious.

She hums, mouth at his bicep, and curls herself around him, knee hiking over his thighs, hand gliding across his chest.

"Cold?" he asks quietly, and when she nods, she sees his leg move, twisting and rising to jerk the covers up and into his reach though he's apparently unwilling to speed things up by moving away from her.

She snuggles closer toward him, pressing her lips to his collarbone and resting her head on his chest, ear over his heart, listening to the steady thump-thump.

There's so little time these days. He still comes with her on occasion, still perches himself at her side in front of the whiteboard, builds theory on the days when her father takes the baby.

But she misses him. Misses having him at her back when she faces the unknown. Misses his thoughtful questions when she interviews witnesses. Misses his presence in the chair beside her desk, driving her crazy with useless facts and innuendo that has somehow only worsened since she married him.

She misses him. So having him here, feeling the pound of his heart beneath her cheek, inhaling the sweet, musky scent of leftover cologne and his own skin, hearing his quiet breathing as he rests with her - she cherishes all of it.

His short nails graze her upper back, fingers rising to delve beneath her loose curls, to massage her scalp as she relaxes against him.

"Feels good," she whispers, tilting her head to look at him.

He smiles that soft smile she's only ever seen directed at her, his head pillowed on his other arm.

The lines around his mouth and eyes may have deepened since she invaded his book party six years ago, and he may not be quite as fit as he was then, but there's something about him now, something that sets her heart fluttering, something that leaves her smiling foolishly back at him.

"What is it, Kate?" he asks, his eyes bright.

She shakes her head, turns in his grasp to prop her chin on her hand, to watch him the way he always watches her. "It's nothing."

"Just happy?" he inquires, removing his hand from behind his head to brush his fingers across her cheek.

She nods, taking in the ripple of his biceps and triceps beneath his skin, the way he seems to glow these days almost as much as she does. "Just happy."

Her stomach growls then, and he laughs. "Hungry too?"

She nods, feeling her face redden, and buries her nose in the curve of his neck. He shrugs his shoulder, and she feels his head turn, feels his lips skim her temple.

"I'll fix some dinner," he whispers. "What sounds good?"

"You."

He laughs and his chest vibrates against hers and she realizes what she's said. But it's true, isn't it? And he's her husband. She's allowed to say things like that.

"Me?" he asks. She can hear the smile in his voice.

"You," she answers, shifting to graze her teeth against his clavicle. He shudders beneath her, his muscles tightening in response.

His breath comes shallow, his voice strained when he groans her name. The hand at the back of her head tightens, his arm lifting to raise her above him.

"Mrow?"

Minnie's inquisitive vocalization through the monitor prompts a giggle and the sound of smacking lips, followed by their daughter's soft coos.

The detective huffs lightly, drops her face back to Castle's neck for a moment, pressing a lingering kiss to his skin before she turns and rolls out of his grasp, leaning over the edge of the bed to pluck her underwear from the floor.

"You want to get her and I'll get dinner?" the writer asks when he sits beside her, bending down to retrieve his own boxers.

She nods. "Hot dogs? And macaroni?"

"Whatever you want," he says with a smile, inclining his head toward her to kiss her once more before he stands and saunters off. As he leans over to pick up the shirt he'd tossed away, he glances back at her.

"Enjoying the view?" he teases when she doesn't bother to hide her appreciation of his finer assets.

The detective gets to her feet, heads for the door, brushing against him despite the huge space that is their bedroom. He yelps when she pinches a cheek on her way, dropping his hand to soothe the offended spot.

She grins. "I'd enjoy it more if it came with food."


The tiny human stirs against her, little legs twitching, little mouth sighing away the last vestiges of sleep.

She likes this one. It naps more often - much like she herself does. It gurgles at her when she approaches, a toothless smile of greeting stretching the small cheeks.

And it likes to snuggle, likes to stay close.

So she finds herself curling around the chubby form, providing warmth and comfort.

This one isn't like the other one that visits sometimes, the bigger one with the hands that tug and the mouth that yells and the feet that stumble after her.

The tall ones are quick though, sometimes lifting her out of the way, protecting her from sticky fingers and crushing arms. Other times they pick up the tormentor, diverting its attention with squishy toys that squeak.

Her food comes from the one with the long hair who speaks in quiet tones, whose hands are always careful, who plucked her up one day and brought her home.

The broad one plays with her, teasing her with that fake bird on a string. She flattens her body, stalks the toy, leaps at it, indulging the one who rubs her belly and strokes the spot above her nose just the way she likes.

The thin one, not quite so tall, is here less often these days, stopping by to eat from time to time, occasionally with another with short hair who reminds her of the broad one. Both of these two play with her, sometimes bringing treats.

There's another, loud but kind, who stirs things up when she appears, bustling around the space. But that one, too, usually pauses for a moment, offering a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears.

She rubs against their ankles when they come, all of them. Even the ones who don't live here nonetheless belong to her. And she wants them to know it.

Still, this one - the small, young one who turns to her with sleepy eyes, who makes those quiet, friendly noises - this one is Minnie's favorite, at least for now.

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