He wakes to a quiet chuckle. He's on his stomach, one arm flung over the edge of the couch, the back of his hand resting on the floor. His feet are cold, so he must have kicked off the blanket at some point.

He smacks his lips. His mouth is dry. And there's a slight warm weight between his shoulder blades.

When he opens his eyes against the sunlight streaming into the room, he can make out the long, lithe silhouette of his partner standing a few feet away. She's cradling a cup of coffee in both hands. And smiling.

He blinks a few times and she steps closer. He thinks she must have been watching him. She sets the mug down on the coffee table and drops to sit on the chaise section of the couch.

His eyes drift shut of their own accord, but he knows this chance doesn't come along often, so he needs to record it in his memory. He lifts his lids again, struggling to bring her face into focus.


That gentleness is back. The look on her face last night when she returned from her bedroom with the cat toy.

"Hey Castle, how'd you sleep?"

He hums, sleepy and relaxed and so very happy.

"Mm, pretty well. You?"

She lifts her hand, and he wonders lazily if she's going to brush the hair out of his eyes, the way he's wanted to do once or twice when he's found her asleep on the breakroom couch. He's never dared, of course. Never completed that simple act of intimacy. Well, that's not true. He did it last night, before he kissed her forehead. Somehow that wasn't the same though.

"Me too, slept pretty well."

But instead of to his hair, she reaches toward his back, and he realizes that the weight there must be Minerva. Sure enough, the heel of her hand rests on his shoulder blade and he can feel the movement of the muscles in her wrist as she strokes the kitten.

"Hi, little girl," she says softly, and something in his gut twists at the tone. "Did you find a warm place to curl up?"

The cat stands, and tiny paws pad up across his back. Then there's a tickle against his skin and Minnie is snuggling into the crook of his neck, nosing against his ear, and letting out a little sigh before she settles down.

Kate's watching the whole thing, one corner of her mouth turned up.

"I'm gonna go make breakfast," she whispers.

His eyebrows rise.

"I can help," he says, and turns his hand against the floor to push himself up.

But she stops him with a quick touch to his shoulder, shaking her head.

"It's okay, I can handle it."

She smirks.

"Besides, I think my cat has you on pillow duty for the moment."

As she stands up, he manages to move his arm enough to curl his fingers around her ankle and catch her attention again.

"Kate," he says, his thumb rubbing along the fine bones at the top of her foot. "Thanks for letting me stay over."

She smiles that close-lipped smile that he loves and her eyes fill with what looks a lot like tenderness.

"Anytime, Castle."

And then she really is brushing the hair off his forehead, fingers lingering for a moment before they slide around to give a light tug on his ear.

"Like I said, you show up, and I'll let you in."

He closes his eyes and listens as she moves to the kitchen, opening the fridge and the cabinets, making them breakfast. He allows himself to just bask in the warmth of this moment. This is how it should be. Waking up to her smile.

He lets himself daydream a little, his always active imagination painting scene after scene.

He's roused by her voice calling his name in ever-increasing volume. She's standing next to her bed with a cup of coffee, telling him there's a fresh body waiting for them and if he's not ready to go in ten minutes, she will go without him. She leaves the coffee on the nightstand.

He brings her out of slumber with the press of his lips to her bare shoulder. She sits up and scoots over so he can slide into his bed next to her, settling the breakfast tray over her thighs. They do the crossword together, he steals her bacon, and she slaps his hand away with her fork.

Their bed dipping under her weight makes him stir, but it's not just her weight. A sleepy toddler blinks hazel eyes up at him and he reaches out for the boy, cuddling him close as she tells him his son had a nightmare and wanted to see his daddy.

Her breath on his ear tickles and he tries to brush her off, but she's insistent, whispering in that low, beguiling voice that she wants another, a girl this time. That gets his attention, and he rolls over, more than happy to help her in her quest to make a daughter for them.


His neck is cold, and when he opens his eyes, he realizes Minerva has forsaken him for a breakfast of her own. Kate calls his name again, and he sits up. She's watching him.

"You want toast?"

He nods, at the moment not trusting his voice to keep the peace. She turns to pop some bread in the toaster, and he stands from the couch, stretching his arms over his head and leaning side to side.

"Jam?" she asks as she looks back at him.

Her eyes drop and linger on the bit of his stomach that his raised sweater has revealed.

When she meets his eyes, he knows she realizes that he caught her looking.

"Jam's good."

She nods sharply and turns around to open the fridge, pulling out butter and a jar of blackberry jam.

That's interesting. He's never made a secret of finding her attractive, but it's not often that she gives him a frank appraisal of her own. Not that he's noticed, anyway.

He folds the blanket and sets it on the back of the couch.

"Anything I can do to help?"

She smiles as he enters the kitchen, and points to the mugs in the nook behind the sink.

"Pour the coffee?"

He's so used to her telling him what to do. Go here, stay behind me, do this. They'd argued about it when they were cuffed. And then he realized that he didn't really mind following her lead. But still, it's nice to hear the question in her voice, as if she's not taking for granted that he'll do what she says.

Now that he thinks about it, she has let him take the lead a few times lately. Sure, she's still first through the door (she is the one with the gun and the training), but she has listened to his ideas more often. And she did as he said and got behind him when faced with a tiger a few weeks ago.

He makes their coffees just the way they like and carries the two mugs to the dining table. She follows a moment after with a pair of filled plates while he goes back for the jam and butter.

When he returns, she looks up and catches him off guard.

Her hair is a little tousled still. The long-sleeve sweatshirt she wears over her tank top hangs off one shoulder. And there are circles under her eyes that she hasn't yet covered with makeup.

She's gorgeous.

"Thanks," she says with that shy smile. "Sit down, and let's eat."

He sets his offerings on the table and sits, covering her hand with his and giving it a quick squeeze. His eyes never leave her face when he speaks.

"Everything looks delicious."

She tilts her head a little.

"Hope it meets your standards."

He has a feeling they're not talking about bacon and eggs anymore. Were they ever? Probably not.

"I have no doubt that it will."

She bumps his hand with hers and nods down at their food.

"We'd better eat before it gets cold."

He turns his attention to his plate for a moment before reaching for the butter. Apparently she had the same idea.

"Oh, sorry. Go ahead."

There she goes again, letting him be first.

"Nope, ladies first," he returns.

He expects a quip, something along the lines of how he definitely has to go first in that case. But it doesn't come. She just butters her toast, and then pushes the dish and the knife toward him.

He fixes up his own food and starts eating.

"You are a really good cook, you know?"

Her eyes meet his, pleasure and amusement shining in equal measure.

"It's just breakfast, Castle. It's not like it's a nine course meal."

He shakes his head and lets out a chuckle.

"You'd be amazed how easy it is to screw up bacon and eggs. Until I was eleven, I didn't know eggs weren't supposed to have the texture of rubber."

She puts a hand to her mouth to keep her laugh from expelling her food and he goes on, enjoying her reaction.

"Of course, I also didn't know that a Bloody Mary didn't always go to the left of the orange juice."

She shakes her head, and he's never been so grateful for his less than traditional upbringing.

"Well, I like cooking," she says. "So I'm glad you're enjoying it. It's more fun when I'm not just cooking for myself."

He grins.

"I am definitely enjoying it. Feel free to cook for me anytime."

She's got a wicked glint in her eye, and he mentally rewinds to figure out if he's said something to spark it or if it's just her own surprisingly dirty mind. He's not sure.

"Is that how you think it should be, Castle? Me, barefoot in the kitchen, making you breakfast?"

A pressure descends on his foot, and then he feels her bare toes wiggling against his own socked ones. He has to take a sip of his coffee to recover.

"Mm, you forgot pregnant."

A swift kick to the shin has him yelping and nearly sloshing his coffee all over his plate. But she's holding back a laugh, lip tucked under her teeth, and her eyes are sparkling, so he knows her offense is not real.

"I don't know, Castle. Somehow I don't think Nikki Heat would sell nearly as many books if she waddled after suspects."

He shrugs. They weren't talking about Nikki Heat, but he's not going to point that out now. It's Kate Beckett who made him breakfast this morning, and he doesn't want to jeopardize any chance he might have of this occurrence repeating itself someday. Many days. Forever.

"She'd still be pretty kick-ass, I imagine," he says, and winks roguishly at her. "Plus, with that whole mama bear fierceness added in? Hot. And scary. But mostly hot."

She's rolling her eyes at him, but not refuting anything he says, so he decides to take a small chance.

"I bet you'll be a great mom someday."

He can tell he surprised her. Her fork is poised midway to her mouth, and it hangs there for a moment before she sets it back on the plate. He can't read her face though, and that worries him.

"Do you really think so?"

There's trepidation on her face now, confusion as well, but there, in the slight curve of her mouth, he sees hope and a little bit of longing.

"I do."


He considers her for a moment.

"Remember the kidnapping case, the little girl?"

She nods.

"That night, when I came back, you were asleep in that chair in her room."

Her shrug is enough for him to know that she doesn't get what he means.

"It was my job. The whole team was there."

He shakes his head.

"The rest were camped out on couches in the living room. What made you pick her room?"

Her gaze is far away for a moment before she answers.

"I'm not sure. I guess I just felt like maybe by being near her stuff, I'd think of some way to find her. But you're the one who figured out the thing with the rabbit."

He nods.

"That's true. But you had that instinct. And then when we did find her, I saw how she reacted to you. She trusted you."

The detective shrugs again. She's not convinced yet, and something in him wants her, needs her to realize this about herself.

"You care about Alexis. She's come to you for advice and goodness knows you've let me consult you about her often enough. And she told me how you reassured her when Mother and I were trapped in the bank. You told her what she needed to hear."

The surprise is written across her face, along with a shudder of memory of that day. He was terrified, and he knows his mother and daughter were too. What was that day like for her, knowing he was inside? He remembers the warmth of her hand, the look on her face when she left with Brandt. He had never been so happy and and so gut-wrenchingly despondent to see her go.

"She told you about that?"

He nods again.

"She did."

She shakes her head.

"I was so worried, Castle. I don't even remember what I said to her."

He gestures toward her with an open palm, like he's offering her a gift. And maybe he is.

"That proves my point. You have that instinct, that sense of what needs to be said or done. And you give of yourself. You would run yourself ragged to help other people. But that's what it means to be a parent. Your kids? They'll be so lucky."

He wants her to see herself through his eyes. She's extraordinary, and he tries to remind her of that when he gets the chance. But she's silent now and looking down at her plate, escaped tendrils of hair hanging down and obscuring his view of her face.

When she looks up, her eyes are shiny. Oh no. But then she smiles.

"Thank you, Castle," she says, her voice a little rough. "No one's ever said anything like that to me."

He gives her a soft quirk of his lips, standing and picking up their plates.

"I mean it, Kate," he says quietly as he carries everything back into the kitchen. "The guy you marry, your kids? They'll be so very, very lucky."

He turns to look at her, but instead of sitting at the table still, she's right behind him, bringing the last of the dishes to the sink. She shakes her head.

"I'll be the lucky one."

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