Clouded blue eyes plead with her. "How much have I missed?"

Her throat suddenly clogged, she opens her mouth, can't get the words out.

"Thirteen months, Dad," a younger voice answers.

Castle's attention shifts to his daughter, and he turns his head to look at her. His voice comes out as barely a whisper. "Thirteen months?"

Alexis nods. "Thirteen months and nine days."

The detective watches the subtle play of emotions in his eyes. He's trying. Trying to keep them from seeing how devastated he is.

He looks back at Kate though, and she can see everything. He's never been able to hide from her, not really, and this moment is no different. Grief, regret, a desperate longing - it all swims in the stormy blue of his eyes, and all she wants is to go back.

To go back to that day and tell him not to go to his meeting, to wake him up with her lips on his chest and make him late enough that he'd have taken the car service instead of the subway. To give him - to give all of them - back the thirteen months that he should have spent with them.

But there's nothing she can do.

"At least," she says, forcing strength into her voice - strength and false lightness. "At least you missed all the times I was cursing your name while I was in labor."

She hadn't thought he could get any paler than he already was. She was wrong.

"God, Kate," he whispers, his fingers stretching toward her. "I-"

He shuts his mouth, and she can see the tears welling in his eyes. Lifting her son, she sets him on the bed next to his father, keeps a hand on the small back, leans forward until she can hook an arm around Castle's neck, until she can hold him close, until she can feel him - real and breathing, and conscious against her, the muscles of his throat working to hold back his grief.

"It's okay," she murmurs, her fingers curling to delve into the hair at the back of his head, a little longer now than he usually keeps it. "It's okay. We're here. We made it. It's okay."

Nothing's certain, she knows. He's awake now, but nothing's certain.

She just knows that she can't let him flounder.

His fingers twitch at her waist, clenching loosely in her shirt, hanging on to her. But there's a weakness in his grip that scares her, that twists her stomach.

She's never known him to be anything but strong.

Keeping her temple pressed to his, she turns her head just enough to catch her stepdaughter's eyes, to see the way the young woman watches them. Her expression is unreadable though. Or maybe not unreadable. Maybe just torn.

Kate understands that.

She knows, she knows that there's a terrible worry mixed with unspeakable joy. Gratitude that he's awake, yes, so much of that. But also a deep fear that he might never fully recover, or worse - that he might leave them again.

She'd imagined this day, of course she had. Even after the first month, when it seemed less and less likely that he'd ever wake up, she'd still imagined what it would be like to talk to him again. She'd imagined his reaction to meeting their son.

She hadn't imagined this.

He's going through something like shock, she thinks. As much of a shock as it had been to her to get the phone call from Dr. Bodie tonight, it must be even worse for Castle, waking up to find out he's been unconscious for more than a year.

Alexis leans over then, sets a hand on Nathaniel's back.


Castle takes a deep breath against her, and she cradles the back of his head in her palm, lifts up to press a quick kiss to his lips.

Revels in the fact that even though nothing is the way she thought it would be - her husband is kissing her back.

She brushes her nose against his and then straightens in the chair. Her fingertips tracing the shell of his ear, she watches as Alexis scoots onto the bed on his other side, her small hand coasting over his forearm until her she can rub her thumb across his knuckles, the contrast in their skin tones not nearly what it should be.

"You haven't missed everything," Alexis says softly. "He hasn't said his first word yet. He hasn't started walking."

Kate sees the flash of something like argument in his eyes, and she squeezes his ear, just hard enough to catch his attention. He clamps his lips closed, flips his hand to envelop his daughter's fingers in his grasp.

He opens his mouth again, his eyes darting between them and then down to the little boy who sleeps undisturbed against his father's side.

Kate answers his unspoken question before he has a chance to ask.

"Nathaniel," she says quietly. "His name is Nathaniel Atticus Castle. He'll be seven months old in three days."

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