ECHO

He's so dead.

It's not enough that he lost track of time, his fingers working feverishly to keep up with his brain, to keep up with Nikki and Rook. It's not enough that he couldn't find his car keys when he finally did realize what time it was. It's not enough that he forgot to call Alexis or his mother or another babysitter so he now has a cranky, just-awoken boy struggling in his arms as he waits for a black town car to pull up in front of the loft.

As if all that weren't enough, traffic is at an absolute standstill.

He's so dead.

He could take the subway, it's true. It's only a block and a half to the Spring Street station, and with the traffic the way it is, it'd probably be faster.

But.

He can't. Won't. Not with his baby boy in his arms. Not after last time.

Castle sighs and shrugs his shoulders, tries to slough off some of the tension in his muscles, some of the anxiety that he knows his son must sense in him if the way the boy squirms is any indication.

He just...

He wanted to be there. Wants to be there, so badly. He doesn't want to miss a moment of it this time around.

And today's the day. The big day. Well, the biggest day until the The Big Day. He really didn't want to miss this one.

The writer juggles his son, gets an arm free so he can slip his hand into his pocket and slide out his phone. He presses the home button and holds, waits for the ding.

"Call Kate," he enunciates.

"Hey Castle," his wife answers cheerily after two rings. "Where are you?"

He shuts his eyes against his disappointment with himself. "Standing in front of the loft."

"Figured you'd have left by now," she replies, and if she's upset with him, her voice doesn't give it away.

He shakes his head, though she can't see him. "Meant to. Nikki and Rook-"

He doesn't even finish his thought before his wife is chuckling across the line. "Enough said."

"And then I couldn't find my keys, so I called a car, and traffic is just not moving at all, and..."

"And you don't want to take the subway," she murmurs, no trace of anger or pity in her voice, just understanding.

"It's not-" he starts, and then pauses, drops his forehead to rest against the temple of the boy who has finally stopped squirming. "No. I don't want to take the subway."

His wife is silent, but he can hear her breathing, so he knows the call hasn't dropped. She's...waiting. Waiting him out. Waiting for him to unburden himself on her. But there's no more to be said this time, nothing she doesn't already know.

"I'm here now," she finally says.

"I know," he groans. "I'm so sorry, Kate. I didn't want to miss-"

He stops, his throat thick with want and regret, with latent anger at the world.

"I know, baby," she says gently, the words wrapping around him, making him ache. "I don't want you to miss this either."

Sighing, he pulls his son closer to his chest, scans the streets for any sign of his town car. Nothing.

"There's no way I'll make it in time," he mutters.

He hears the shuffle of feet and the squeak of a chair, then an unmistakable sound the staccato of his wife's heels on linoleum.

"Hi, yes, Castle?" she says, but her voice sounds distant.

"Yeah?" he answers.

"Hold on," she replieds, her voice closer this time. "Not talking to you. Give me a minute."

He stands there obediently, waiting for her, listening. There's an unfamiliar voice speaking to her, a brief greeting he can't quite make out.

And then Kate again. "Yes, I have an appointment for 2:30 today. I need to reschedule."

"Kate, no," he protests. He knows how excited she's been for today.

"Hush," she whispers to him as the unfamiliar voice says something else, the only words he understands sounding something like "lucky" and "cancellation."

"Ten o'clock tomorrow morning is fine," his wife says. "We'll see you then."

He hears the clack of her heels again, and the swish of an automatic door.

"Kate, you didn't have to-" he begins, but she cuts him off.

"Not doing this without you, Castle," she tells him, her voice brooking no argument. "Not this time."

"Thank you," he breathes, his whole body relaxing.

"I took the afternoon off," she says softly. "I'll be home in a little while. Looking forward to seeing my guys"

He nods, his face breaking into a grin before he realizes she can't see him. "We'll be waiting."

"And Castle?" she murmurs.

"Mmm?"

"You better pay up tomorrow when we find out it's another boy."

He laughs, his heart thudding hard in his chest. "No way, my dear detective. It is definitely a girl."

She hums a little in his ear, and he can picture her smile, the love painted across her cheekbones and sparkling in her eyes. "We'll see."

He draws in a deep breath, shuts his eyes. "Yes, we will."

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