ECHO

A girl.

They're having a little girl.

He hears a ringing laugh and the snick of a door closing, but neither draws his eyes away from the pulsing black and white of the screen in front of him. He's mesmerized.

And then soft fingers cradle his cheeks, a warm body slides into his lap, and his hands fall automatically to a slim but thickening waist.

"Looks like you were right," Kate murmurs, her thumb smoothing across his cheekbone as she bends toward him.

He meets her mouth without thought, lets his lips mold to hers, lets her work him over for a moment, her kiss gentle.

"We're having a girl," he breathes when they part, tilting his forehead into hers, needing to keep her close, utterly unable to not be touching her skin with some part of him.

She hums, a sweet sound that fills his chest until he wonders if it might burst. At least they're in a doctor's office if it does.

"We're having a girl," he repeats, knows he must sound like an idiot, but he doesn't care, doesn't care one bit, because he can see her dimpled smile that speaks of secrets, bright eyes that are far too knowing, dark curls that will fall into her face while she tries to keep up with her brother. Oh, he can see it all.

Kate leans back in his lap, lacing her fingers around his neck to hold herself up, and he meets her sparkling eyes, sees a whole world unfolding within them.

"We never did settle on what I'd owe you if you were right," she says, one thumb stroking the skin just below his hairline, making him shiver.

His laugh catches him off guard, bubbling out of him unrestrained, and he tugs her close again, kisses her swiftly and deeply.

"Nothing," he growls when she pulls back, panting.

She frowns. "Nothing?"

"Everything I need," he says, his hands stroking down her sides and around to the slight curve of her belly. "Everything I want, I have right here."

She raises an eyebrow.

"Aside from Nate and Alexis," he clarifies. "Need them too."

"Still," she argues, leaning in to nuzzle against his ear. "A bet's a bet."

Her breath is warm and moist and altogether too distracting, but he marshals his wits, tries to think of something, anything. What does he want?

Oh.

"Name," he whispers, his heart aching with a sudden longing he didn't know he'd had. "I want to name her. I didn't get to-"

He doesn't finish his sentence, his mouth unexpectedly occupied with hers, something dark and desperate in the way she kisses him, and he wonders what it was like, picking a name for their son alone with his daughter's input, to be sure, but without him.

"Yes," she agrees. "Yes, you can name her. You can name our daughter."

His arms tighten around her, and she holds him, warmth and strength and need and pure devotion radiating from her body into his, her heart beating strong against his chest.

"Just don't..." she says haltingly, and he brings his hands back to the curve of her waist, pushes her back until he can see her face.

"Just don't what?" he says, his lips curling at the hesitation on her face. "Tell me, Kate."

She huffs at him, some mix of what he thinks is laughter and frustration with herself for putting limits on his prize. "I'd just rather not have our daughter be named Apple or Bluebell or Dixie Pearl."

He chuckles at that and shakes his head. "I wouldn't do that."

Her skepticism is evident in her eyes, but he squeezes her, tries to assuage her fears. "You have veto power."

The detective leans back, her weight shifting over his thighs, and pulls her right hand from the back of his neck, holds it out to him.

"Deal," she declares when he takes the hint and clasps her hand.

He nods, grinning. "Deal."

A quiet knock on the door startles him, and he realizes for the first time that her doctor is nowhere in the room, must have slipped away to give them a moment to themselves.

"Come on, Castle," Kate says as she unfolds her long legs and stands, holding out a hand to him. "Let's go home and tell our family."

He follows suit, releasing her hand to wrap an arm around her thin shoulders instead, his lips brushing against the crown of her head as she hooks a finger into one of his belt loops.

They make their way out together, chat briefly with her doctor in the hall before they stop to schedule their next appointment with the receptionist at the front desk.

The pair of them share a look when the woman offers them congratulations and well wishes in the months ("and years," Castle murmurs) to come.

They've both done this before. They both know it won't be easy.

But neither of them will have to do it alone this time.

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