Nineteen months ago:

He felt so...helpless.

Nothing he tried worked.

He tried a damp, lukewarm washcloth.

That had gotten rid of the fever, but not much else.

So he talked.

He sang.

He read from Heat Rises not *those* parts.

He paced the room, keeping his steps slow and smooth.

He checked the diaper. Nothing.

He warmed a bottle. Nate wouldn't eat.

He laid the boy in his crib, set his large palm over the little one's stomach, hoping the heat or the pressure or both would calm him. It didn't work.

Nothing worked.

"Please, little man," he murmured, cradling his son's body close to his chest, letting his worn tee shirt absorb the tears and muffle at least some of the wailing. "I don't know what else to do."

He'd been at it for more than an hour, already awake as he often was these days when Nathaniel began crying. Honestly, he was surprised Kate hadn't woken up yet. Of course, he had turned off the baby monitor when he first entered the room, wanting to let his wife sleep if possible.

Now though, now he wondered if he might have to wake her anyway. If it might be a good idea to take their son to the hospital.

He'd done everything he could think of, and the fever was gone, but the little one continued to cry.


He turned sharply at the sound of Kate's voice, eliciting a particularly loud wail from the baby in his arms.

"What's wrong?" she asked as she crossed the threshold of the room, her hair tousled, her slim body clad only in one of his large shirts.

She reached for the baby when she was near enough, but he felt himself tighten his grip on the boy, some part of him unwilling to have his son taken away from him, even by Kate.

A question flashed in her eyes, accompanied by a hint of hurt, but she set her palm on his forearm instead, stared up at him, her eyes glinting in the dark.

"He had a fever," the writer said, his voice low. "I gave him a sponge bath, and that cooled him down, but he won't stop crying."

"Did you check his diaper?" she asked, her thumb, smoothing across his cool skin.

Castle nodded.

"Give him a bottle?"

"Tried that too," he said. "He wouldn't take it."

"Walk with him?" she asked. "He likes-"

"Yes, did that," he cut her off.

"Did you-"

"I've done this before, Kate," he exploded, quietly. "I know what I'm doing, and I've tried everything that normally works and a few things that never have, just for good measure."

Her hand dropping from his arm, she took a step back, the hurt now clear in her eyes as she reached up to brush a stray lock of dark hair from her forehead, tucking it behind one ear.

"I'm sorry," she murmured, and his heart dropped like a stone in his chest. "I just...I did this alone for months, and..."

"You think that's news to me?" he hissed, his pent-up frustration seeping into his words. "I know that, Beckett. It's not like-"

Her eyes flashed at the use of her last name, the name he only used at the precinct now, but he couldn't stop himself.

"It's not like I didn't want to be here," he ranted on, his words somehow both quiet compared to Nate's crying and yet jarringly loud in comparison to the rest of the loft. "It's not like I meant to end up in a coma for thirteen goddamn months, missing half your pregnancy and my son's birth and-"

He met her eyes again, found them shiny and broken, one hand covering her mouth, her breathing uneven.


God, he'd fucked up.

Loosening his grip on his wailing son, he shut his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and then extended his arms, one hand cradling the back of Nathaniel's head, the other on his rump.

"Here," he whispered. "You take him, Kate. I'm sorry."

She reached out, her fingers brushing against his as she took their son, her arms pulling him back toward her chest.

The boy quieted immediately.

Castle turned and walked out of the room.


She found him in his office, her voice drawing his weary eyes from the laptop where hundreds of pictures flashed across the screen: Kate, Martha and Lanie at her baby shower; Kate and Alexis at the hospital, his wife looking drawn, but happy as she held their son; Alexis sitting in the rocking chair, one of Nate's tiny fists curled around her red hair.

They'd documented everything. He had hundreds, maybe thousands of pictures from the months he'd missed. But he didn't have the memories. And apparently didn't have the ability to give his son what he needed.

"Hey," he said gruffly, his earlier anger dissipated, leaving him with a hollowed-out feeling in the pit of his stomach.

She pushed off from the bookshelf she was leaning against, and walked toward him, her bare feet silent on the rug.

"I'm-" he began, but she shook her head, settled on the edge of his desk, one hand pushing the laptop shut.

"I know," she said. "And it's okay."

"It's not okay," he argued. "I shouldn't-"

"No, you shouldn't," she said quietly. "But it's understandable."

He leaned forward, resting his face in his hands. "I just...I'm his father. I knew exactly what to do when Alexis was sick, but with Nathaniel..."

Her hand landed on the back of his neck, fingers lightly squeezing the tense muscles. "You are his father, and you're a good one."

"But I missed so much," he groaned, his throat tight.

"When Alexis was a baby, you were probably the one who usually took care of her, right? Fed her, changed her, rocked her to sleep all of that?"

He nodded, raising his head. "Meredith wasn't exactly..."

Her lips quirking into a half smile, Kate nodded. "I figured."

"What does that have-"

"Even if you'd been here this time, I would've been the one doing a lot of that," she pointed out. "At the very least the vast majority of the feeding."

She carded her fingers through his hair, short nails scratching lightly across his scalp. "It's just instinct, Castle. I fed him, I'm the primary source of comfort."

Palm curving around the side of his head, she tweaked his ear. "Plus, you know, the nine months of being a personal habitat for the kid."

He leaned toward her, pressing his forehead into her stomach, her knees bracketing his chest.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry, Kate."

Her hands rested on the top of his head for a moment, then dropped to his shoulders, pushing him back. Meeting her gaze, he watched as she curled forward, catching his chin between her thumb and forefinger to draw him up to her.

Soft, giving lips met his, and she kissed him, melted away his worries and his sorrows with the touch of her mouth.

"You'll see," she murmured when they parted, her thumb smoothing across his bottom lip. "You'll be here for everything with the next one, and sometimes they'll still need mama to stop the crying."

She slipped off the desk and started toward their bedroom, but he caught her fingertips, made her turn back to him with a raised eyebrow.

He stared at her for a moment, his lips parted, his heart racing. "The next one?"

She laughed and came for him, her palm sliding warm up his chest to curl around the back of his neck. "Not yet, stud. But someday."

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