ECHO

His wife is very much pregnant.

Not that she wasn't before, he knows that. But it's entirely apparent now.

Her otherwise still slim figure curves sharply outward around the middle, and he loves it. Loves stepping up behind her in the bathroom as she's getting ready in the morning, sliding his arms beneath hers, his large hands stretching to span her swelling waistline.

She shakes her head at him every time, but when he meets her gaze in the mirror, her eyes are soft, adoring. She finishes her makeup or her hair or brushing her teeth and then leans back into his body, her hands moving to link with his, her head tilting to one side as he peppers kisses on the spot behind her ear, trailing down to her neck and her collar bone.

When he looks up again, her eyes are always open, always on him.

He wonders sometimes if his love for this oh-so-visible part of her pregnancy is some kind of male pride, proof to all of his virility, of how he landed this sexy, smart, beautiful, extraordinary woman.

Maybe it is.

But the peace in her expression when she meets his eyes in the mirror tells him it doesn't matter even if that is part of it. Her expression tells him that this the life growing inside her, the family they are already and the one they will be is good and right and everything they need.

And then she'll turn, press her lips to his cheek and slip out of his grasp. He follows her every time, trails along behind her as she scoops up her bag and shoes, watches with his heart brimming as she cuddles with Nathaniel for a few minutes, holds her jacket as she shimmies into it, leans toward her for a kiss.

Sometimes it's slow and sweet, her mouth soft beneath his, her arms twining around his neck as her fingers curl into his hair, her whole body warm and giving within his grasp.

Other times it's swift and hot, her nails just rasping his chest as she grips his shirt, her mouth urgent and needy, taking from him and yet giving back so much in return, leaving him breathless.

Those are the days when he wishes he could follow her out the door, ride in the elevator with her, let his hand wander over her thigh as she drives them to the precinct.

Instead, he stands there, mouth agape and eyes feeling foggy as she opens the door and tosses a wink over her shoulder as she strides out.

One morning after she kissed him like that, Nate ended up with orange juice in his cereal instead of milk thanks to his father's dazed state. The boy wasn't happy. Neither was Castle when he had to clean up the results of that particular mishap.

He tells her about it when she calls to check in with him later in the day.

She laughs, claiming it's pregnancy hormones and she really can't control *when* she'll find him unbelievably sexy.

He says he's not sure whether to believe her. Says he knows she loves to tease him. Her answering chuckle sounds a little too evil, but her voice is tender as she tells him she'll be home in a few hours.

It's only after they hang up that he realizes what she said and fires off a quick text: I'm hurt. I thought you found me unbelievably sexy *all* the time.

Her only reply is a winking smiley, a tiny symbol that somehow sets his heart pounding.

Hours later, as the clock turns from 11:59 to midnight, he rests on his side behind her, his arm curved protectively around her middle, their sweaty skin sticking in ways that are still delicious as they cool down together.

His lips feather across her shoulder as her finger tip traces a pattern on his open palm, over and over a horizontal line, a vertical line, a half circle.

He lifts his head when he realizes what she's doing, when he realizes what day tomorrow today now is.

Five years.

Five years since she showed up on his doorstep hours after he'd written her off for good.

Five years since she started making his dreams come true in ways he never dared to want.

Castle lifts his arm from her grasp, turns her carefully, shifting his body to accommodate hers.

He sees it all shining in her eyes love and contentment, hope and passion, a ferocious will to protect and nurture this life they've created together. He knows his own eyes must mirror hers.

Cradling her cheeks in his hands, he kisses his wife.

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