The sky's a beautiful mix of blues as he makes his way towards the precinct, fluffy white clouds painting patterns and a group of birds travelling overhead. The last remnants of winter are slowly fading and the ground is devoid of any snow, the sun's peeking its head around the horizon now, and it's no longer too cold to venture out without a jacket.

It's the perfect weather for a surprise visit to his fiancee.

He's been on a book tour for the past two weeks, traveling across the country to do signings and readings, and he's technically supposed to be returning tomorrow night. She's expecting him tomorrow, but he booked an earlier flight as soon as Paula told him that his itinerary was free from here on out.

Greeting the officer at the front desk with a wide smile, he waltzes past, making his way up to Vice.

The elevator dings and he steps out, striding into the bullpen with eyes darting around in search of one person. He finds her a couple seconds later, her back towards him, hair falling into loose, unruly waves over her shoulders which he can only assume means she's done for the day.

She squeaks when he slides up behind her, wraps his arms around her waist, and her head whips around. The second she realizes who it is they go wide, and she twists out of his arms to turn around, throwing her arms around his neck.

"Castle?" Her face splits into a bright smile, eyes on his. "What are you doing here?"

He grins, tightening his hold around her back. "Got an earlier flight, wanted to surprise you," he explains. "You surprised?"

She nods against his neck. "Definitely surprised. How was the tour?"

Before he can answer, she leads them into the break room, away from the prying eyes of the other officers.

"Nice hotels, Paula driving me insane, lines of fans all waiting to feast their eyes upon the ruggedly handsome author of their favorite book," he drawls. "You know, the usual."

"Oh so modest," she teases. "How many chests did you sign this time, huh?"

He laughs. "Only one, and she was probably eighty so I didn't think you'd think of her as competition."

Humming, she tilts to the side, swaying in his arms. "Don't see anyone as competition," she tells him, locking her fingers behind his neck. "I know I'm yours."

His eyes light up, and he smears a soft kiss to her mouth. "Good."

"I'm so glad you're back," she breathes, then dislodges from his grasp and smacks him with her open palms, pushes at his chest.

"What was that for?" he squawks.

"Don't sneak up on me like that," she breathes, doing her best to hide her grin. "I could've hurt you!"

He rubs at the offended area. "Please, I could take it."

Her eyes narrow and she takes a step towards him, a brow arched. "Oh really, Castle?"

"Is that a threat, officer?" he returns, stumbling back when she takes another step. "Okay, okay, you can hurt me."

She lets out a loud laugh. "That's what I thought."

"No, you can hurt me," he repeats lowly, waggling his eyebrows.

Her eyes roll and she shoves his shoulder, striding past him and over to the counter. "Alexis know you're back yet?"

He shakes his head. "Planned on surprising her when she got home later," he says, grabbing a mug from the counter and pouring himself some coffee. His face scrunches up the second the liquid hits his tongue, a look of pure disgust etched into his features. "This is revolting, Kate. Tastes like a monkey peed in battery acid."

"What a charming comparison," she deadpans.

"Seriously, how do you drink this stuff? After you've had my wonderful coffee this is just torture."

She huffs. "I don't drink it."

His brows raise. "You? Not drinking coffee? Impossible."

"I'm not an addict, Castle, I can go a few hours without it."

"That day you turned into an actual zombie because you only had two cups of coffee contradicts that very statement."

"That's an exaggeration."

"You said to me, and I quote, 'don't look at me until I've had another cup of coffee or I might shoot'," he muses.

She rolls her eyes. "Come on, Castle," she says, tossing his coffee into the sink and tugging at his arm to lead him out of the bullpen. "Let's get out of here."

"You in the mood for lunch? An early dinner? Muffins?"

"How about we just go back to the loft? We can order in."

He wraps an arm around her shoulder as they get in the elevator, pressing a kiss to the top of her head once the doors close around them.

"Even better."

They both toe off their shoes after making their way into the loft, and Castle immediately heads into the kitchen to find the takeout menus.

"Do we want Chinese, Thai, or Italian?"

She hums, slumping down onto the couch. "Italian sounds good," she decides, propping her feet on the coffee table. Pepper, the full grown ball of fur that she's become, finds her way to Kate within seconds, jumping on the couch and nudging against her hip. "Hey, you. Miss me? Huh?"

Pepper purrs when Kate pets at her head, and she climbs into her lap, kneading on her stomach before settling down.

Castle smiles when he looks on. "Pepperoni?"

"Of course," she nods. "Half plain too, if you want it."

"I'm good with a whole pepperoni. I'll get two, Alexis'll probably want some when she gets home too."

He makes the call and orders delivery, jotting down the total for later. Kate's head rests against the back of the couch, fingers still stroking along the cat's back, and he watches her eyes close. She's probably been running herself ragged trying to do the best she can for Vice, and he knows she could use the down time.

Poking around in the cabinet, he grabs two wine glasses and the bottle of the red she likes, and makes his way into the living room.

"You alright?"

Her eyes peel open and she gives him a soft smile. "Yeah," she nods. "Just tired."

"Understandable. You work twice as hard as everyone there, Kate."

She sits up straighter. "I have to," she sighs. "I still feel like I'm proving myself sometimes. But it's all paying off."

"I know it will," he agrees, sitting down on the cushion next to her. Gripping her legs, he pulls them from the coffee table to rest on his lap, disturbing Pepper who then jumps off of the couch. He grabs the wine bottle, pulling off the wrapping at the top. "Wine?"

She shakes her head. "Oh, no thank you," she declines, watches as he pours one for himself then. "Castle."


"I have something to tell you."

He hears the smile and nerves evident in her voice and looks up, finds her eyes. "Is this the same something you've been wanting to tell me all week?"

"It is," she confirms. "I wanted to tell you in person, not over the phone."

He shifts in his seat, puts the glass down, and turns to her. "I'm all ears," he says, but then he pauses. His eyes travel from her to the wine, then back to her.

No wine, tired, no coffee at the precinct. Wanting to tell him in person. The excitement and hesitation in her voice.

Oh god.

"Kate," he breathes, his mouth open, eyes wide. "Are you—"

Her brows scrunch together. "You okay, Castle?"

"Am I okay? Are you okay?" he all but squeaks, eyes trailing from her face down to her stomach. "Kate, are you—"

It takes a few seconds but realization sparks in her eyes and they widen slightly, her own gaze falling down to her stomach, a hand instinctively coming up to press against the fabric of her shirt.

His mouth opens, but she holds up the same hand, cutting him off. There's a question on the tip of his tongue, but she just smiles.

"I'm not pregnant, Castle."

He lets out a breath. "You're not?"

She shakes her head. "I'm not."

"But the coffee and the wine," he hedges.

An unexpected pang of sadness hits him, washes him in a layer of disappointment, and there's a clench in his chest when she denies the pregnancy. The thought of a small child, a perfect mixture of the two of them, with his hair and her sparkling eyes, his sense of wonder and her tenacity, makes his heart jump.

But he knows she's not ready for a baby yet and when the time comes, they both will be.

"You tasted that coffee," she laughs, wiggling her feet in his lap. "I do have standards you know. And I'd love some wine, but I'm still on call."

"Oh," he exhales. "Sorry, I just put it all together and thought—"

She chuckles. "No need, Castle. Honest mistake."

He smiles. "So what's this surprise you couldn't tell me over the phone, then?"

Her face splits into a wide grin, and she takes a breath. "Well," she starts, dragging it out until he's practically shaking it out of her. "I made detective."

His face lights up, his mouth dropping open in an excited o. "What? Seriously? Kate, that's amazing!" She's nodding and he hauls her up into his lap, pulls her into a tight hug. "I'm so proud of you, congratulations!"

"Thank you," she exhales, biting her bottom lip. "I can't believe it."

"I can," he says immediately. "I had no doubt you'd make it. I knew." He grins at her, unable to keep it off his face. "When did they tell you?"

"Last Thursday. I wanted to tell you the second I heard, but it wasn't something I wanted to do over the phone."

He slants his mouth over hers. "I'm so proud of you," he breathes. "So proud. So this is your last week in Vice?"

She nods. "I start with homicide next week."

"Homicide," he repeats, smiling. "That's the department you wanted."

"I know," she says, the excited twist of her lips faltering, her gaze falling. "I'm happy. I'm just... nervous. These are people's lives, Castle. Their families, their loved ones that are gone. What if I don't do them justice? What if I'm awful in homicide and I let them all down?"

He cups her face in his hands. "Hey, no," he says, fingers brushing along her jaw. "You're going to be a wonderful detective."

"You don't know that."

"I do," he tells her. "Want to know why? Because you care, Kate. The fact that you care enough to worry that you'll let these people down tells me just how well you'll do. Because I know you'll do whatever you can to get justice for the ones they've lost. And you will."

She lets out a breath. "Thank you," she whispers.

"Always," he promises. "It'll be hard sometimes, but on those days? I'll be here. Alexis will be here. My mother will no doubt still be here." She laughs at that. "You've got us, and we'll be here to make you ice cream and watch movies until it's okay."

Her tongue peeks between her teeth as she smiles, eyes glittering. "Sounds like the perfect plan," she nods, pausing before she looks at him. "I'm a detective."

He grins. "You're a detective."

The pizza sits half-eaten on the coffee table a few hours later, surrounded by piles of napkins and paper plates. Kate's lounging against Castle's side, humming as he runs his fingers through her hair. What was supposed to be resting their eyes turned into a two hour nap, but they still haven't moved, dislodged themselves from the all too comfortable position they're in.

"We have to get up," she murmurs.

He makes a noise of disagreement, tightens his arms around her. "Or we could just stay here."

She chuckles at his groan when she shimmies her way out of his grasp and moves to stand up. "As tempting as that is—and it is very tempting," she says, emphasizing her point by leaning down into a kiss. "We shouldn't leave the pizza out. And Pepper needs food."

"It'll be fine," he whines. "And Pepper has food."

"Yeah, if you want your daughter to eat rock hard pizza," she counters, grabbing the box. "It's going in the kitchen."

Castle stands then, letting out an exaggerated moan as he does, and follows her out of the room. "Look at you, you make detective and suddenly you're the responsible one in the relationship."

She snorts. "Suddenly? I hate to break it to you, but that ship's sailed."

"Cruel," he mumbles. "You're a cruel, cruel woman and I don't know why I put up with you."

She hums, stepping into him. "Because you love me, I'm sure."

He pushes a piece of hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. "That I do," he agrees, dusting his lips to the crown of her head. "Let's put this away before Alexis charges me with child neglect."

"Good plan." Her eyes fall to the floor and she lets out an amused huff, looks to him. "There is no food in there," she says, pointing down to the cat's bowl. "You're willing to let your daughter eat cold, hard pizza, willing to let the cat go without food at all. Jeez, Castle."

Laughing, he grabs the bowl. "She's a fast eater, okay," he muses, taking out the food. The second he opens the can, there's a jingling in the distance and Pepper appears, weaving between his legs, eyes up on him as he walks over with her food in hand. "I know, I know, here you go."

The door opens as they're cleaning up, a flash of red bouncing through the entryway.

"Kate," Alexis calls, a grin on her face as she drops her bag. "You'll never believe—dad?" Her face lights up when she sees him and she takes off, runs into the kitchen to knock him over with a hug. "You're home!"

"I'm home," he laughs, wrapping his arms around his daughter. "Got in this morning."

"Did you know he was coming back?" the girl asks Kate, who shakes her head.

"Nope. He surprised me at the precinct, almost got an elbow to the ribs," she says pointedly, laughing at Castle's expression.

He nods. "No one got hurt and that's all that matters."

Alexis grins, poking her head around his chest to look at the counter. "Pizza?"

"Pepperoni," Kate says, opening the box. "Want one now?"

"Yes, please." She nods as she pulls away from her father. "I need to put my stuff away. Dad, will you make me a milkshake please?" she calls over her shoulder as she leaves the kitchen.

Castle scoffs. "You're thirteen now, kid, you should be making me a milkshake."

"Thanks, dad!"

Kate laughs, patting his back before he turns to her. "The teenage years are upon us."

"Aw, don't worry, Castle. I'm sure she'll be fine."

He looks at her hopefully. "Yeah, right? Not all of them go through wild phases. How were you as a teenager?"

She bites her tongue, giving him a sympathetic look. "My answer is not one that will reassure you."

"Oh god," he moans, his face falling. "You were one of the out of control ones, weren't you? The ones every parent is scared their kid's gonna turn out like."

"Hey now," she cuts in. "I wasn't awful. Wild child phase, absolutely. Probably gave my parents one... or thirty gray hairs a day. But I knew worse."

"That's oh so comforting, Kate," he deadpans.

She brushes her fingers against his cheek. "I'm sorry," she laughs. "Alexis is a great kid, I'm sure there's nothing to worry about."

He mumbles something she doesn't quite catch but she just laughs, turns back to the counter and puts a piece of pizza on a plate for Alexis.

Pilfering through the cabinet, he grabs three glasses. "Milkshake?"

She nods with a smile. "Definitely."

"Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry," he starts listing, "or a mix?"

"Chocolate, please," she decides, grabbing the whipped cream from the fridge and some sprinkles from the other cabinet. "Don't forget these."

He playfully swats his forehead. "How could I ever," he says. "Do we have chocolate syrup?"

Kate hums, searching through the shelves until she finds it hiding in a back corner. "We do," she confirms, placing it by the rest of the ingredients. "Hot fudge sundaes?"

He grins. "You read my mind."

Alexis runs down the stairs just in time for milkshakes, gratefully taking her vanilla one from Castle. Kate grabs hers, and Castle makes his a mix of all three, causing the girls to shake their heads. It's no surprise, but it's no less hilarious each time.

"Hey, what were you saying before when you came in?" Kate asks the girl around the rim of her milkshake.

Her eyes light up. "Oh! You know what I told you the other day?"

She nods, and Castle's eyes squint. "I don't know," he says, looking between the two of them. "What did you say the other day?"

"Girl stuff, dad," Alexis tells him, turning back to Kate. "He said yes!"

Kate squeals, pulling the girl into a hug. "Aw, he said yes! I'm happy for you, Alexis. You'll have so much fun."

"Will you do my hair?"

She nods enthusiastically. "Of course. Curls or something different?"

"Curls, like yours," Alexis decides with a smile. "Definitely like yours."

"We can do that."

"He?" Castle chimes in, his voice breaking. "Who said yes? This is about a boy?"

Alexis sighs. "Dad."

"But—a boy?"

"I'm going in the living room with my pizza now," she says, giving her father a pointed look.

"A boy?" he repeats, turning to Kate now.

She laughs. "Castle, it's okay."

"But she's my baby, Kate! She's too young to be dating, far too young. No dating until she's at least thirty."

"That's a bit extreme," she says, biting the inside of her cheek. His face looks so panicked. "And she's not dating anyone, so you can relax."

He blinks. "She's not?"

"No," she confirms. "It's a school dance. A backwards dance, so the girls had to ask the guys. She asked this kid in her class and he said yes. Nothing to worry about."

"Oh," he breathes. "That's not too bad. Just a dance."

"Just a dance."

"I'm not ready for her to date, Kate," he says, eyes on her.

She laughs. "I know," she soothes, wrapping an arm around his back. "But don't think about that right now, okay? Let's go watch a movie and drink our milkshakes with your daughter."


"And no interrogating," she adds, a brow arched.

He pauses, and then gives her a small grin. "Fine, no interrogations right now." His grin turns into a dirty smirk as he dips down to her level. "Will you interrogate me later, detective?"

"If you behave right now, we'll see."

"Score," he murmurs, pumping a fist into the air.

They join Alexis on the couch and settle in, very pointedly not talking about the dance that's coming up, as promised. Not yet, anyway. Castle's hand finds the small of Kate's back and rubs small circles, working to comfort her still aching bones.

Kate twists her body until she's snuggled more into Castle's side, and Alexis curls into the corner of the couch, facing them as she recounts the fascinating happenings of the eighth grade. It's a perfect ending to an exhausting, though otherwise great day, and she couldn't be happier.

She's finally a detective, she's got the man of her dreams, and a kid who lights up even the darkest of days. Her eyes follow the sound of the tiny pitter pattering of paws against the hardwood, laughing when Pepper jumps up, tries to steal the pizza right off of Alexis's plate.

It's just the beginning of their future, she knows, but she's exactly where she's meant to be.

A/N: It's been almost a year since I published this story, and I can't believe it's already come to an end. This was my first fanfic, and I've grown so much by writing this and everything I've written since, and I have all of your support and encouragement to thank for that. I cannot thank you guys enough for sticking with this little story and showing your enthusiasm, it's honestly meant the world.

So to everyone who's read, favorited, followed, reviewed: thank you.

I don't think I've posted this before, but if anyone has questions or just wants to stop by to say hi,

tumblr: acoldcomfort (it's easier to reply on there, I think)

And to those who've asked whether or not there will be a sequel: as of right now, I have no plans for one, but who knows, I could very well decide to add some little things here and there in the future :)

Again, thank you so much to all of you, I appreciate you all so much, and I hope you have a wonderful New Years. Until next time!