"Castle?" she calls from her spot in the doorway. "You in there?"

There's a rustling. Then a shuffling. Then a grunt, and a head pops out, a few feet from the bar in the kitchen. "Hey, you're home."

He sounds surprised, but pleased. And not in the least chagrined, as she might have expected. "Yeah. Got a confession and wrapped up the paperwork early."

"Ah, that's fantastic, Kate."

"Sooo," she drawls, smirking. "What have you been up to all day?"

His eyebrows quirk and he grins. "Isn't it obvious?"

She laughs. It is. "Mm, you're right. Perhaps the better question is this: why have you converted our home into what seems to be a massive and all-encompassing blanket fort?"

He shrugs. Or, well, she thinks he does. She can't actually see his shoulders. Just his head. But the blankets on either side of his head move, so she assumes.

"It was on my bucket list," he answers. "And it was raining."

"Ah," she says. "Well then."

She stands in the doorway a moment more, surveying the usually neat apartment, now covered as far as her eyes can see in blankets, sheets, pillows, and couch cushions.

"Are you coming in or not?" he calls, his voice drawing her attention back to the grinning disembodied head in the kitchen.


He chuckles. "Look down."

She yelps, startled, as she drops her eyes to the floor, and then she begins to laugh. Bright blue eyes twinkle up at her from the half shadow of a quilt and a little hand rises to tug on her fingers.

"It's a maze, Momma," a clear treble tells her confidently. "But I know the way."

The detective kneels, brushing the hair out of her daughter's eyes and reaching down to tickle under her arms, making the little girl giggle. "Are you sure, sweetheart? We wouldn't want to get lost. We might end up in the bathtub."

A button nose wrinkles in contempt as the little girl squirms away. "We won't end up in the bathtub. I know where I'm going. I helped Daddy build it."

She glances up to meet Castle's eyes over the swaths of fabric between them, finds him watching her already, his expression open and adoring. Oh. That look still melts her heart, even after all this time.

"Castle, I need to put my-" she begins but he nods toward the table in the entryway.

She gives him a grateful smile and runs her thumb along her daughter's cheekbone. "Give me just a second, baby, and then you can lead the way."

The little girl's head bobs eagerly, and Kate rises from her knees, unclipping her badge and setting it, along with her gun and holster, in the drawer of the table. She'd rather secure the items in the safe, or at least her dresser, but Castle's right - the table drawer is child-proofed and it's unlikely their daughter would be exploring there anyway.

Kate kicks off her heels and shuts the front door carefully behind her before crouching down once more.

Thin arms twine around her neck unexpectedly, but she returns the embrace, snuggling the little girl close to her chest and inhaling the sweet smell of her daughter's soft hair. "What's this for, Lil?"

The grasp tightens for a moment and then the little girl pulls back, tilting forward to rest her forehead against Kate's and rubbing their noses together in an Eskimo kiss. "I'm just so happy you're home."

She turns on her side - careful not to jostle their sleeping daughter - and sets her head on her husband's bicep once more.

He blinks at her in the dim light. Looks like he might be drifting off too. "Hey."

"Hey yourself," she murmurs back, lifting her hand to run her fingers through the dark mess of curls on his chest. "He'll need to get a haircut before too much longer."

Castle hums in agreement. "First one."

"They're growing up," she says softly, tracing the edge of the tiny ear.

The writer gives her a smile - tender, but a little forlorn too. "They both are. Sure you don't want another?"

She laughs softly, turns her face to press her lips to his arm. "Can't say I haven't thought about it, stud."

His sigh echoes in the enclosed space. "Me too. But I'll already be sixty-two by the time Jamie graduates from high school. My hair will be completely gray by then."

Kate shifts her hand from her son's head to feather her touch along her husband's temple, catches the small flash of silver beneath her fingers even in the low light. "Mm, you'll look so distinguished."

He groans. "Yes. If distinguished is another word for old, I'll look very distinguished."

"Hey," she growls playfully. "If you're old, what does that make me?"

"Still younger than me," he points out, his voice tender. "And still beautiful, still sexy, still the only woman I'll ever want."

Oh. His words.

She curls her fingers around his ear, pushes up on her other elbow to arch over their daughter's small body, to get to him. He opens his mouth under hers, hot and delicious, the essence of him mixed with spicy pizza sauce and sweet pineapple.

He breathes into her, and she takes - takes and gives back at the same time.

His hand rises to brace her body over his, his palm warm at her side.

And then another hand pushes against her, small fingers clenching in the fabric of her shirt. She breaks from Castle's mouth - oh, that mouth - to look down at the little boy still half asleep on his father's chest.

"Momma?" he calls, halfway through a yawn that nearly splits his face in two.

She meets her husband's lips once more - chastely this time - and turns her focus to her son. "Yeah, baby?"


She glances up at Castle. He chuckles. "Guess that means we get to watch the third one."

Kate nods, and drops a kiss on the little boy's forehead before she settles back into her previous position on Lilian's other side while her husband hits the button to switch the discs and the image projected on the ceiling switches from the menu of Toy Story 2 to the opening sequence of the third in the trilogy.

"Castle," she whispers, tilting her head to look at him, smiling when he meets her gaze. "I love you."

His eyes crinkle, cheeks stretching wide with the force of his smile. "Love you too, Kate. To infinity and beyond."

She wakes with a heavy weight on her chest and dark brown curls tickling her nose. James tends to migrate, and tonight is apparently no different.

But that's not usually enough to wake her. No, that would be her husband's low murmurs and her daughter's less than quiet whispers.

They both go silent the moment she moves, and she wonders exactly what the two of them might have been plotting. Lilian takes after her father in that respect - she has a streak of mischief a mile wide.

Kate lifts her head and opens her eyes slowly. Two pairs of wide blue eyes regard her with innocent expressions.

"What are you two planning?" she asks.

"Nothing, Momma," her daughter answers, too quickly.

Castle purses his lips, obviously holding in his laughter. The detective narrows her eyes at him, but he gives nothing away.

She settles her head back against the pillows, one arm around the little boy on her chest and the other stretched out toward the rest of her family.

And then she looks up.

Stars greet her, the night sky on display.


Castle's fingers wrap around hers and he squeezes. "That's what we were planning - a campout."

She glances over at the two of them, finds Lilian nodding her head enthusiastically. "It's just like being outside, Momma!"

And somehow, it is.

It's really quite ingenious the way Castle set this up.

When she arrived home, she'd followed her daughter into the maze of pillows and blankets, found her two guys in a little nest with an open space above them, looking directly up at the first Toy Story movie as it played on the ceiling.

Castle had tucked her into his side, grinning over at her as their kids dogpiled on top of them to watch the movie.

Her husband had crawled out at one point to meet a delivery man at the door and had returned on his hands and knees, pushing a pizza box and two sippy cups of juice, plus a bottle of wine and a pair of glasses.

And now, it seems, this was his plan all along.

Stars shine above them. The gentle sound of crickets replaces the neverending clamor of New York City. And Castle lifts her fingers to his lips, pressing soft kisses against her skin as he scoots closer, their daughter clambering on top of him and curling up on his chest, a mirror image of her younger brother.

She snuggles into her husband's side, gravitating toward his warmth, his solid presence.

A quiet purr joins the sound of crickets and then velveted paws knead her thigh, completing the picture. Minnie - mysteriously absent for most of the evening - drapes herself across Kate's knees with a deep and contented kitty sigh.

"Thank you, Rick," the detective murmurs in the darkness.

Castle's lips feather across her temple. "For what?"

She turns to meet his eyes. "For giving me all this. For always giving me something to come home to every day."

Lifting his head just slightly, he presses his mouth to hers, strokes his tongue along the seam of her lips, and she lets him in, lets him fill her with his joy, his peace, his love.

"Thank you," he husks into her ear when they part. "For always coming home."

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