They were halfway across the Queensboro Bridge when his phone rang, and she smiled at the grin on his face when he saw his daughter's picture on the screen. But now she can hear the girl's frantic voice from across the car, and she's starting to get worried.

"Pumpkin? What's wrong?"

The detective reaches over the console to touch his arm, the only small gesture of comfort she can manage at the moment in surprisingly heavy traffic.

"I can't find her, Dad. I've searched everywhere and I can't find her."

The young woman sounds like she's nearly in tears and Kate can see the anxiety appearing in lines around her partner's eyes and mouth.

"Who, Alexis? You can't find who?"

Kate listens as the girl takes a breath, a stutter of a breath. Martha? Is Martha missing?

"The kitten, Dad. I can't find Minnie anywhere."

She's hit by simultaneous waves of relief and panic. His mother is fine. Nothing wrong there. But her kitten?

Castle turns his eyes to hers, pulls the device away from his ear and hits the speakerphone without looking.

"Sweetheart, I'm in the car with Kate. What happened?"

There's a shuffling in the background, and the detective realizes the girl must still be looking, turning things over in her agitation, hunting for a small gray ball of fluff.

"I went into your bedroom to borrow your phone charger because mine stopped working for some reason even though it's almost brand new but I had it in my bag last week so maybe the wires got crushed or torn or something and I didn't realize-"

Kate cuts her off.

"Deep breath, Alexis. It'll be okay. Just tell us what happened."

The rambling stops and they listen to the sound of one long inhale, then two.

"I forgot to close the bedroom door behind me, and she must have gotten out."

Castle's hand lands on her knee and she turns her attention briefly away from the car in front of her to look at the man beside her. So much worry in those blue eyes.

"Why do I always lose people's pets?"

Alexis is talking again - lamenting, really - and the detective can tell if she doesn't step in, another long, breathless run-on sentence will soon begin.

"Out of the loft, Alexis? Or just out of the bedroom?"

There's a silent moment, and then the girl speaks.

"No," she says, and a little of the normal confidence sounds like it's coming back. "No, Gram is asleep, and I haven't opened the front door."

Castle nods at the detective, the hint of a proud smile on his lips, but whether it's because Alexis is calming down or because Kate is the cause of it, she's not sure.

"Okay, so she's gotta be there somewhere. Sit down and tell us where you've looked already."

They listen as the girl takes a few steps, and then there's a whoosh of air that sounds like his couch cushions compressing.

"When I realized I'd left the door open, I looked all over Dad's office, but she wasn't in there. I even checked in the desk drawers."

The writer's face flushes, and she wonders what he might keep in those drawers that has him so embarrassed. Hmm...a mystery for another time.

"Then I went back in the bedroom and checked there. She wasn't anywhere in your bedroom or bathroom, Dad."

He opens his mouth, closes it and then opens it again.

"Did you check the shower? Cats like to drink running water, so if there was a drip or anything, she might have gone in there."

Alexis sighs.

"Checked the shower, checked everywhere. Nothing."

Castle nods, glances over at Kate, who's back to watching the road, but still can see him out of the corner of her eye.

"Okay, pumpkin. You looked everywhere in the bedroom? I think my closet door was open."

The sound of shifting weight over the line echoes through the car, and then they hear rhythmic footsteps, as if the girl is pacing.

"First, you have way too many clothes for a guy. Second, yes, I checked, and she wasn't in there."

The writers chuckles.

"We can discuss my fashion sense later. You checked the bed? She crawled under the covers when it was being made and she was kind of curled up, so you may not have seen her."

It's a little awkward to think of the girl digging through his sheets and comforter, the sheets and comforter that both she and Castle slept under last night. Where they came very close this morning to doing more than sleeping.

"She was sleeping on the bed when I went in, and I stopped for a second to pet her, but she wasn't there when I looked for her a few minutes ago. I took off the pillows and everything. And she wasn't under the bed either."

Kate's starting to think they might have to detour back to Castle's loft, both to find the kitten and comfort the kid. But does she really want to have to call Ryan and Esposito and explain to them why she and Castle will be running late? Again? Yeah, not so much.

"Okay," her partner says calmly. "Checked the living room and the kitchen?"


"Checked the dining room and the hallways and the guest bathroom?"


He looks over at Kate again, and she pulls her gaze away from the stalling traffic in front of them to focus on him, on the worry in those blue eyes, the consternation.

"I checked everywhere downstairs," Alexis says when no one speaks for a moment.


"Did you check upstairs?" the detective asks suddenly.

"No," Alexis answers. "But could she even get up the stairs? I mean, she's tiny."

Castle's face mirrors the one she knows Alexis must be making, concerned disbelief.

"Alexis," Kate says. "She climbs the stair at my apartment. She can jump. Check upstairs."

But her stairs are wood and stone, and not terribly steep. Castle's stairs, the ones that lead to the other bedrooms, including the guest bedroom that she slept in when she stayed with him after her apartment exploded - those stairs are open. There are spaces in between them, and she has a sudden vision of Minnie jumping from one step to the next, furry paws slipping and sliding as the little kitten careens off the edge. Oh god. They need to go back to his loft now. She meets the writer's eyes and knows he's imagining the same scenario. His fingers tighten painfully on her knee.

She's a moment away from using the gumball to get there as quickly as possible when she hears a little yelp from Alexis and then distinct meow. A friendly, curious meow. Not the hurt one. Not even the hungry one.

Oh, oh, she's okay. Her baby is okay.

Alexis laughs, and Castle grins at her across the console, his fingers squeezing as he leans over to brush his lips across her cheek tenderly.

"She's fine," he whispers in her ear. "Minnie's fine. They're both fine."

The detective listens to a clatter, and a "hey, come here, you," from her partner's daughter, and then girl is chuckling again and there's the rich sound of purring transmitted through the speaker.

"Found her."

Kate turns a wry grin to her partner, and he just shakes his head.

"Where was she?" she asks.

The girl's voice is clear, strong when she answers.

"Hiding in the kitchen behind that big silver bowl on the bottom shelf. She jumped out at me when I walked by her."

The writer lets out a sigh of relief and then a chuckle.

"Good job, pumpkin. Why don't you take her back to the bedroom?"

There's silence on the other end for a moment, then a hesitant voice.

"Can I...play with her for a bit?"

Oh, she's going to love this girl. Liked her before, liked her maybe the first time they met. But Richard Castle isn't the only thing she gets out of this deal. She gets his family too.

"Of course, sweetie," she answers, the endearment coming out unintentionally. But from the way her partner's hand slides up her thigh, from the softness in his gaze when she looks at him, she thinks it's okay. More than okay. "Play with her as much as you like. Wear her out, in fact. That would be great. There are a couple of toys with her stuff in your dad's bathroom."

She can hear the smile in the girl's voice when she answers.

"Thanks, Kate. I'll make sure nothing happens to her."

She nods, even knowing Alexis can't see her. Then she pulls Castle's hand from where it's rubbing up and down her thigh, where it's starting to drive her crazy, and she wraps her fingers around his, holds him tight.

"I know you will, Alexis," she says quietly. "You Castles are good at that."

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