Little hands tug at his sleeve, a small foot pushing against his calf, and the writer draws his eyes from his computer to find a sleepy-eyed boy trying to scramble into his lap.

"Hey there, monkey," he says with a laugh, reaching down to scoop up his son. "You don't have to climb me, you know. You could just ask."

Nathaniel doesn't respond, just pushes his face against his father's chest, his tiny fingers curling around the fabric of Castle's shirt as he nestles down.

Something must have woken him up then, if he's still like this, groggy and clingy. Normally the boy is bright-eyed, ready to go as soon as he's awake.

Castle leans back in his office chair to re-situate his son, pulling him into a position that will be more comfortable for both of them. Half-lidded blue eyes blink up at him when he looks at the little boy's face, a hint of a drowsy smile playing at the pink lips.

Smoothing his large hands across a warm forehead, the writer brushes Nate's hair out of his eyes, letting his fingertips trace patterns along the edge of his son's ear.

"Good nap?" he asks softly, and the little one nods.

"Where's momma?" he wonders, pressing his index finger to his son's nose gently and smiling as the boy's eyes focus on it and begin to cross.

"Sleepin'," comes the slow answer.

Ah. That explains it then.

Martha and Alexis had met them at the loft after their appointment, eager to find out what they'd learned at the doctor's office. There had been hugs and laughter and joy all around, Nathaniel grinning widely and darting from person to person, his energy palpable, though Castle doubted he fully understood what was happening. But he was happy when everyone else was happy.

After, once it was just the three of them, he wasn't surprised to see Nate blinking more and more frequently, his movements becoming sluggish as he struggled to stay awake as the sat on the couch, watching a movie.

He'd gotten careful hands under the boy, lifting his son into his arms and walking slowly toward the bedroom to let him nap in his own bed.

Kate had been asleep when he'd returned to the living room, a one-eyed green ball with arms and legs arguing with a giant turquoise and purple-furred thing on the screen in front of her.

He'd thought about picking her up as well, carrying her to their bedroom and snuggling in for a lazy afternoon of sleep and cuddling.

But she looked so peaceful there, and they'd been up late the night before. So he left her on the couch, turned down the volume on the television, and retreated to his office.

He had intended to write, but instead he found himself perusing lists of baby names, looking for something perfect.

He just doesn't know what.

Glancing at the clock, he sees that it's past five already. No wonder Nathaniel is awake. He's surprise Kate's still sleeping.

"Hey, little man," he murmurs, tugging his son up until they sit nose to nose. "Wanna help me make dinner?"

The sleepy boy brightens at that, his eyes widening. "Yeah."

The word is spoken with such wonder, and Castle wonders what he's done to deserve this, to merit this happy boy who idolizes him, who wants to help him cook, who comes crawling into his lap to snuggle.

"Quiet, okay?" he whispers. "Don't wanna wake momma."

Nate gives him a silent nod, his blue eyes solemn in the golden light that filters through the office windows.

Pressing his lips to dark hair, Castle stands, keeps his arms around his boy, not ready to let go of him quite yet.

They pad through the living room, and sure enough, Kate is still asleep on the couch, though she's shifted to the point that she's stretched lengthwise, half on her side, one hand tucked under her chin while the other rests protectively over her slightly protruding belly.

He pauses for a moment to watch her, to take in the way her eyelashes flutter periodically, the deep sigh of her breath, how her chest rises and falls so steadily.

And then Nate begins to squirm in his arms, and he knows he'd better get moving lest the boy decide he needs to cuddle up with his mother right this very second.


Castle glances down as they cross into the kitchen, feels little fingers curling into the hair at the back of his neck as his son stares up at him.

"Yeah?" he replies, tapping the boy's nose with his free hand.

Nate's whole face wrinkles up at the gesture, and he shakes his head before looking up at Castle again. "Pancakes, Daddy?"

The writers laughs and nods. Pancakes are relatively easy, and hopefully Kate won't mind.

"With chocolate chips, right?" he asks his son with a wink, grinning at the boy's enthusiastic flurry of nods.

Help is a loose term for what happens when Nate is in the kitchen with him, but he doesn't mind, even if the whole process takes a little longer. Shifting his son to a more comfortable position in one arm, Castle begins pulling out the ingredients for pancakes, then a large bowl and a whisk.

Nathaniel watches the process intently, especially when the writer starts mixing things together.

"I try?"

Castle looks down. "You wanna try?"

Nate nods, and Castle sets him down on the counter next to the bowl.

"Gentle, okay, buddy?" he says quietly, and the wraps his son's small fingers around the handle of the whisk, his own hand at the ready in case things start getting too messy.

Nate is slow at first, but when he discovers he can use both hands, the whisk swings rapidly around the bowl. A little too rapidly, Castle realizes, as the glass begins to skitter across the countertop.

One hand catching the bowl before it topples and the other hand landing on top of his son's, he slows the process, speaking softly to the boy who stares up at him with such bright, happy eyes. "Whoa there. I think that's probably good."

A few lumps remain in the batter, and he's just stirring those smooth and contemplating the logistics of turning on a hot burner with a two and a half year old within easy reach when a pair of arms snakes around his waist, a cheek pressing into his shoulder blade.

Startled, he nearly drops the bowl, hears Kate laughing behind him as she lifts up on tiptoes to rest her chin on his shoulder.

"Are my boys making me dinner?" she asks, her voice so soft and breath so warm against his ear. "A girl could get used to this."

Castle turns his head to brush his lips over hers, relishing the little sigh she lets out when they part. And then she's releasing her hold on him, stepping around him to hold out her arms for their son who practically leaps into her embrace, gives her a loud smacking kiss on the cheek.

"Pancakes!" the boy crows. "With chocolate chips!"

Kate catches his eye even as she snuggles Nathaniel into her chest, raises an eyebrow as if to say Breakfast for dinner? Really?

Castle shrugs, and reaches toward her, snagging her belt loop and tugging them both into his body. "What can I say? He's my son. I'd worry if he didn't want pancakes at every available opportunity."

She huffs at him as his lips feather across her tousled hair.

"Hey," he says as he pulls back to see her face, to see the amused, tolerant, only superficially annoyed glint in her eyes. "At least I haven't introduced him to the s'morelet yet."

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