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Note: Written for fanfic Monday. The idea came from the Castle Fanfics Prompts blog.


"True love is not a hide and seek game: in true love, both lovers seek each other"

~Michael Bassey Johnson

She hears the wail before the elevator stops and the grilled chicken breast churning in her stomach turns to cement. The metal doors part but she stays rooted to the spot, her muscles a strange combination of liquid and heat. The need to run pounds through her veins with every heavy thump of her heart. Her index finger hovers over the button that will carry her back down, the tip of her nail scraping over the thick white plastic.

The red door of Castle's loft swings open and her hand falls away, landing with a hard smack against her thigh. The sobs get louder and she's moving, slipping through the crack with just enough space to spare. Her sneakers don't make a sound on the plush carpet as she speed walks down the hall. A whirl of color assaults her eyes and she slows, breath coming in spasms.

"Detective Beckett," Martha coos, her tinkling voice only just audible over the cries. "How lovely to see you, darling. Here -" Bony fingers wrap around Kate's wrist, pulling her arm up. Martha presses a small plastic box into her hand, the silver bangles on her forearm jangling. "You'll need these."

The sweet scent of vanilla fills Kate's nose and a papery cheek presses against hers. Martha makes a puckering noise against her ear before stepping away, coat flowing out behind her like a cape as she sweeps toward the elevator. Kate looks down at her hand, a nervous laugh bubbling up in her throat. Ear plugs.

Three deep breaths later, she knocks. The cries - pitiful and heart wrenching - grow louder and Kate rocks back on her heels, fighting against the resurgence of her flight response. She winces when the door opens and the wall of noise hits her full force.

"Beckett."

The weariness in his tone seems to come from the very depths of his soul. She can see it written all over him, from the slump of his shoulders to the disheveled clothes and messy mop of hair, so different from his usual perfect style.

But it's his eyes that make her chest clench.

The despair she sees there, the helplessness, has her reaching out for him, breaking her own personal rules of physical proximity. They move in perfect unison, him stepping back as she crosses the threshold and shuts the heavy wooden door. Her fingers hover at the bend of his elbow and she refuses to let herself think about the softness of the skin she finds there.

"What's wrong?"

Castle sighs, rocking from side to side. "I don't know." The muscles in his forearm ripple as he adjusts his grip, moving the screaming bundle from one side of his broad chest to the other. "He won't stop. I've tried everything I know, Beckett. I've fed him, changed him, gave him a bath, and sang every remotely baby-friendly song I can think of."

She picks up the rhythm of his movement, muscles loosening as the three of them sway in time. "I took him for a drive, which was always fool-proof with Alexis," Castle continues. "I ran the washing machine and the dishwasher. I've tried five different white noise machines. Nothing works." The sadness etched into the lines around his eyes breaks her already cracking heart. "I can't help him, Kate."

Her body shivers in an altogether inappropriate way at his use of her first name. She pushes it away, all too familiar with the routine of swallowing the feelings he stirs in her.

"What can I do?"

Never breaking the pendulum of his hips, Castle shifts the baby away from his body. He leans into her and Kate takes a step back, her body well trained to keep itself a safe distance from his. Especially since the alley.

His biceps flex as he lifts the baby toward her. "Take him."

The tip of her ponytail brushes against her shoulders as her head shakes.

"Beckett, please." Castle takes a half-step toward her, the baby held aloft between them. "I can't do anything else for him. This is all I can think of. You're the one who found him this morning. You saved him. Maybe he'll, I don't know, remember that or something and will feel safe with you again." They both wince as an ear piercing cry fills the loft. "Try. Please."

Shit.

Shit shit shit.

Before she can even process it, her body moves. Her arms lift, the backs of her hands running over the soft cotton of his t-shirt, and she takes the weight of the baby. Castle hovers as she adjusts her hold, the warmth of his body pressing against her right side and making her skin flush under the thin NYPD hoodie she slipped on when he called. Kate keeps her gaze down, focusing on the wailing infant in her arms rather than the anxious man standing far, far too close for her emotional comfort.

The baby wiggles, his tiny body strung tight with tension. Kate hums low in her throat as she rocks back and forth, a meandering string of notes with no pattern or purpose. The soft plastic of the baby's diaper becomes her rhythm section as her right hand pats against his rear end. Everything else fades into the background.

The cries slow to whimpers, but Kate doesn't stop the steady shift of her weight from one foot to the other. Inch by inch, the baby starts to relax, his tiny muscles going slack in groups. Legs, arms, back, until finally - after what seems like an eternity but really must only be about five minutes - his little neck releases. The baby's head nestles into the crook of her elbow and he blinks up at her, chocolate brown eyes wet and wide.

"Hey there," Kate smiles, her voice lilting and soft. "Feel better now?" The baby gurgles and she feels her chest loosen.

"Thank you."

The heat of his breath against her ear pulls goosebumps up along the back of her neck. Kate looks over at him and finds that her words have gone. The look on his face - awe and appreciation and something else she refuses to name - makes her heart stumble. She shakes her head to brush it off.

"Really, Beckett," Castle murmurs, his gaze slipping from her face to the baby's, "thank you. I don't know how much longer I could have -" He trails off, shrugging.

"You don't need to thank me."

Her voice sounds weird to her own ears and she clears her throat. The baby startles at the sound, one tiny hand jerking up to wave between them. Whatever spell had fallen over the room breaks and Castle takes a step back, hands stuffed into the pockets of his pajama pants. Kate tries to ignore the sudden lack of warmth.

"Do you want to sit with him?" Castle asks, nodding his head toward the couch.

"Sure."

Kate's eyes dart between the baby and the floor as she walks. Castle kicks a pile of discarded toys out of her path and she gives him a grin. They sit on the couch, Kate and the baby in one corner and Castle at least a cushion closer than he would normally be.

The baby smacks his lips then yawns, little pink tongue curling against his bare gums. Kate settles into the buttery soft upholstery, her right hand still tapping out a soft beat against the baby's back side. Long lashes brush against round cheeks in a slow, heavy blink.

"You're pretty good at that." Castle wags a finger in her direction, draws a mid-air circle around the exhausted baby. "Do a lot of babysitting growing up?"

Kate shakes her head. "Not really. And never infants. I think the youngest kid I ever sat for was about four or five."

Castle's eyes widen in surprise and Kate suppresses a smile as he tries to hide it. It always seems to shock him when she offers up details about her life. Sometimes she does it just to see the look of delight on his face, the way his eyes go wide and then soft, the gentle curl of his mouth as he files away whatever she's just told him.

No one has ever wanted to know her in the way he seems to. For a long time she convinced herself that it was just another facet of his book research but now, after three years, countless near death experiences, and one hell of a kiss - Now she knows.

She knows it's more than that.

And it scares her out of her mind.

Kate averts her gaze, half convinced that if she lets him look at her for too long, he'll figure it all out. Figure her out. Her thoughts and fears and how for the past two weeks she's gone to bed every night with the ghost of his arms around her and the taste of his tongue in her mouth.

The baby sighs, his eyelids fluttering closed. "I think he's asleep."

Castle shifts to get up. "Let me go get the -"

Kate waves him back onto the couch. "This is fine, Castle. He's barely asleep. Don't want to risk waking him up by moving."

Castle grins at her. "I think you just want to cuddle with Cosmo."

"I cannot believe you are still calling him that."

"I have to call him something, don't I?" Castle shifts to sit sideways on the couch, one leg tucked under the other in a direct mirror of her own position. "I knew all that gruff aloofness this morning was just an act. You've been dying all day for some baby snuggles. Come on, Beckett, you can admit it." He sweeps one arm out. "This is a safe place."

Kate snorts. "Sorry to burst your bubble, Castle -"

"No, you're not."

"- But no. It wasn't an act. I don't -" Kate glances down at the sleeping boy and lowers her voice - "I don't really like babies. Never have."

The sadness that flickers through his eyes feels like a knife to her chest. "Really? So, you don't want kids?"

"Having a baby isn't every woman's ambition in life, Castle."

He sighs. "You know that's not what I meant. It's just -" He looks out the window. "I've always thought you'd make a great mom. Someday."

It hits her like a freight train, what he's not saying, and the rush of blood inside her head deafens her. She looks down at the baby and she can see it. Them. His nose and eyes, her hair and chin. Heat blooms low in her abdomen and her palms go clammy. Before she can talk herself out of it, she speaks.

"I'm not saying never." The crack in her voice echoes in the still air of the loft. "Kids - Having kids would be good as long as it was with the right person."

She can feel his gaze boring into the side of her head. "Is Josh the right person?"

Kate lets the question hang between them for a few moments before answering, trying to decide exactly how honest she wants to be.

"No, I don't think he is."

"Why?"

The attempted nonchalance in his tone almost makes her laugh.

"He travels. A lot. And I don't really want to be a single parent." She fiddles with the edge of the baby blanket, rubbing the soft satin between her fingertips. "It can't be nearly as easy as you make it seem."

"Alexis is the one who makes it easy. But, yeah, there can be challenges."

Kate nods, her attention fixed on the rise and fall of the baby's chest, the way his eyes twitch behind paper thin lids.

"Is - Is that the only reason? Because he travels a lot for work?"

It's not the only reason. It's not even the most important reason. But she can't -

A whimper breaks the silence. The baby turns his head, open mouth rooting against the front of Kate's hoodie. Castle gets up just as the cries begin in earnest. Kate rubs her bent knuckle against the searching lips and the baby latches on, his bare gums gnashing against her skin.

On quiet feet, Castle pads back into the living room, warm bottle in hand. He makes gentle shushing noises as he sits back down. Hip pressed into her thigh, Castle leans over to brush the tip of the bottle against her finger. They make the trade, knuckle for nipple, in a smooth motion. Kate takes the bottle from him, her thin fingers slipping comfortably between his larger ones.

The baby slurps at the bottle, one little fist resting against the side. His eyelids droop after a few minutes and Castle gets up again. Kate watches him walk toward his office, pajama pants riding low on his hips. She has to look away when he comes back out carrying a portable crib, the flex of his biceps making her mouth go dry. He sets it up next to the coffee table, eyebrows lifted in a question as he holds his hands out for the baby.

Shaking her head, Kate stands. Slipping the bottle out of the once again sleeping baby's slack mouth, she bends over and places him in the middle of the mattress. One hand resting on his rounded belly, she watches him for a minute, making sure he doesn't stir.

Satisfied, Kate stands up, straightens. Castle stands on the other side of the crib, his face soft and open.

"Thank you," he murmurs.

The sincerity in his voice has Kate dipping her chin and wishing she had the curtain of her hair to hide behind.

"I think I've got it from here," he continues, "if you have - if you need to get home."

Kate looks up at him through her lashes and shakes her head. "I can stay."

"You don't have to."

"I know," she says, lifting her chin to look him in the eye. "I want to."

Decision made, Kate slips out of her shoes and drops back down on the couch. Castle stares at her and she can almost hear all the things he's not saying. Not asking. Finally, he hooks a thumb over his shoulder and takes a step back.

"I'll go get us some pillows and blankets."

"You don't need to stay out here with me, Castle. Go sleep in your bed. We'll be fine."

"Uh-uh. If you're sleeping on my couch to keep watch over a baby I brought home from a crime scene, I'm sleeping on the other end." He waves a hand through the space between them. "Partners, Beckett. No matter how ridiculous the circumstances."

The corners of his mouth curl up in response to her laugh. "Okay, Castle."

Turning on his heel, Castle strides toward his office toward what she can only assume in a linen closet. The shadows have almost swallowed him whole when she finally finds her courage.

"Rick?"

His body spasms to a stop as if she's just hit him with her taser. Without a word, he turns back toward her, only the right side of his face visible in the dim lighting.

"It's not the only reason."

His throat bobs and she can only imagine all the words he's swallowing down. She times her breathing with the clench and release of his fists against his thighs. After ten repetitions, he releases them on a soft sigh and nods.

"Good to know."

Castle turns away from her and disappears into the darkness. Kate pulls her legs up onto the cushions, looping her arms around her bent knees. She looks down into the crib, smiling at the sleeping infant.

"Sleep tight, Cosmo," she whispers, resting her head against the back of the couch and closing her tired eyes. "We'll be here when you wake up."


Thanks for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.

Much gratitude to Kate and Alex for the beta and the pom poms.