She snaps out of her sudden shock; he's said her name twice already.

"Castle," she whispers, leaning over him, her hand rising automatically to touch his cheek, his forehead, his lips, his ear. "Oh god, Castle."

She presses her mouth to his, swift and ruthless, no place for tenderness in her frantically thrumming heart.

He meets the kiss, strong, his mouth under hers so warm, so rich, so very good. It's new life - his kiss - and even though he's been the one asleep, she feels like she's just awakening for the first time in a year.

Distantly she hears the rising beep of his heart monitor, but she feels the pounding in his chest under her hand before the sound registers as being too fast.

Their lips part with a pop as she lifts her head, a little embarrassed, but he's smiling, he's smiling, he's smiling and she thought she'd never see those crinkles around his eyes again.

"Kate," he murmurs, his voice awed, as she lifts the fingers on his chest to card through his hair gently, the other hand firmly on Nathaniel's back as the boy wriggles against his father's stomach.

And then Alexis is there, fingers pressed over her mouth, tears streaming silently down her cheeks. His wrist flexes and his fingers catch hers, tugging his daughter toward him.

But it's- there's something that's not right. He should have an arm around her now, should have pulled her all the way into his embrace. Kate has found herself the unwitting victim of the way Richard Castle forgets his own strength - his overgrown puppy-like enthusiasm landing them in a tangled mess of limbs - on more than one happy occasion. And this is his daughter, his pride and joy.

Alexis doesn't seem to notice though, just leans forward, her movements a little jerky as she bends to press her cheek to her father's, soft words passing between them that Kate can't quite make out.

Leaning back, the detective gives them a moment, a little room. She scoops up Nathaniel once more, shushes him into silence, reaching into the diaper bag that lays forgotten at the foot of the bed until she finds a pacifier.

He settles then, dark head drooping against her chest and she listens to the rhythmic sucking noise he makes, the noise that layers over the soft whispers of father and daughter reunited.

"He's not out of the woods."

The voice to her left startles her for a moment, but it's just Dr. Bodie. She turns, finds him watching the scene before him with compassionate professionalism.

"What do you mean?" she asks, keeping her voice low. "He's awake. He knows us."

The doctor nods, brown eyes shifting to focus on her. "And that's good. But he still could-"

"He could slip back under?"

"He could," the doctor confirms. "He may not, but it's a possibility."

"And if he doesn't?" she wonders.

"If he doesn't, then he has a very long road to recovery ahead of him."

"Even though," the detective begins. "Even though we've had someone here exercising his muscles and everything?"

Dr. Bodie nods. "Even so. We don't know yet exactly how his mind and body have been affected. He may be perfectly fine, he may require extensive physical therapy, he may have memory or other problems."

Her heart sinks even as she watches her husband's fingers curl around a lock of his daughter's red hair, giving it a brief, affectionate tug.

"You just need to be prepared," the doctor says quietly. "He may not be the same person he was before."

She sighs. "None of us are."

Alexis straightens then, giving her a clear view of Castle's face - his pale, drawn, grinning face. She can't hold back her own smile, hope and joy beating back the fear churning in her stomach.

And then his gaze drops from her face, drops to the dark head lolling against her chest. His eyes widen in surprise, and then she sees it - a flash of pain, a shade of devastation darkening the blue.

"Kate," he rasps out, and she watches the way he swallows hard, the way his adam's apple bobs in his throat. "Is that..."

She takes a slow step toward him, her legs suddenly shaky. Glancing toward Alexis, she meets the young woman's red-rimmed eyes. The girl nods.

The detective is grateful for the chair next to the bed, sinks into it gracelessly. Lifting a hand to brush the dark curls away from his forehead, she shifts their son in her arms, leans forward until her husband's fingers reach out to trace the tiny nose, the marshmallow cheeks, the rosebud lips.

"How," he starts, and her heart clenches at the grief in his voice. "How long have I been in a coma?"

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