Quiet; the first thing Kate is aware of that morning is the atypical quiet. The sounds of the streets below—the squeal of cars breaking, the thrum of engines accelerating down the street, and the occasional toot of a car horn—are still there, but after over four decades in the city those sounds have become nothing more than white noise. Beside her, Castle's rhythmic breathing is interrupted occasionally by a snuffle and she faintly hears the tick-tock of a clock in the office, but otherwise it's quiet.
A soft smile crosses her face when she rolls onto her back an curls her toes—two of them cracking on each foot. Ah, a quiet morning. Those have become so few and far between these days. Someone is always squealing, laughing or crying out for Mommy or Daddy. The twins, who practically from birth have had their own language, are becoming more curious every day—asking questions she never even thought of. God, she loves that. She loves seeing the world from their eyes; it's unquestionably one of her favorite parts of parenthood. Better yet, through the eyes of two mini-Castles. They both have their father's sense of mischief—Jake a little more than Reese. And Lily? Oh her sweet little girl amazes her every day. Every time she has to ask "Did I ever do this when I was her age?" her father is right there to confirm that absolutely, yes she did.
With her eyes shut and hands folded against her stomach, Kate enjoys her reflection until a sensation against her cheek causes her to start. She opens her eyes, sucks in breath, and feels it again: a tiny line drawn down her cheek and across her jaw only this time it's accompanied by, "Mama?"
It's Reece. She doesn't need to look at him to know that. The boys are fraternal, but alarmingly similar most days. Generally, if they're playing and chatting together it takes her a few moments to discern who is saying what. One on one is much easier because of their different voice inflection and Jake's slight lisp.
Rolling her head to her right she sees the bright blue eyes and chestnut mop of hair just barely peeking above the top edge of the mattress. She knows he must be standing on his tip-toes from the way his tiny hands grip the edge of the bed; he's just not quite tall enough to see over the edge of the pillow-top otherwise. When their eyes meet his brighten; he's smiling big and wide at her like he does every morning and for the twelve-hundredth time her heart melts.
"Good morning sweetheart."
Though she whispers, Reece doesn't feel the same way about quiet morning voices—or about not waking his sleeping father. "Mama!" he chirps and beside her Castle grumbles.
Reece is jumping now, trying to make it up onto the bed, but his mother is just out of reach, so Kate reaches down and loops an arm around his waist to hoist him up. He squirms around, kicking his feet beneath the sheets until he's snuggled up beside her—his head in the crook of her neck, his tiny hand curled around the edge of the t-shirt she wears.
Kate presses her lips to his forehead and feathers her fingertips through his hair. From the moment he arrived in the world—the last of her children to be born—Reese has been his mother's little boy. Lily and Jake have both gone through phases when they preferred one parent to the other for cuddling and comfort, but Reese? His favoritism never wavered. He loves playing and paling around with his father—that much is clear from the expression on their faces—but when it comes to comfort only his mother's arms will suffice.
Just as her eyes drift shut again, Reese throws his body harder against hers, trying to snuggle a bit tighter. Caught off guard, Kate rolls onto her back causing her shoulder to brush against her husband's. He grumbles and moves his legs but does not become fully alert. She rearranges herself so they're all laying side-by-side; thank goodness for king-sized beds. Though, the bigger the kids get, all five of them snuggling together makes for pretty tight quarters, but she wouldn't trade their summer Disney movie nights in the Hamptons for anything.
"Mama? You wake Mama?"
"Mm yes baby." She hums through a half yawn. Evidently she'd half fallen back asleep. If Reese had, she wasn't sure, but he certainly isn't sleeping anymore. He gazes up at her bright-eyed and grinning.
"We going to see dinosa's today Mama?" he asks, slightly mispronouncing the name of his favorite creature.
She combs some hair back from his face and nods with a big smile. "You bet! Daddy and Pop-Pop are taking you, Jake, and Lily to see the dinosaurs."
The innocence in his voice shoots straight to her heart when she's forced to shake her head. The trips back and forth to D.C. have been hard on all of them, but especially Jake and Reese who are a bit too young to understand why Mommy isn't always there to tuck them in at night. Even when she's home at the loft she still travels local. On that Thursday morning she has a meeting back in her old stomping grounds at 1PP.
Every time she hugs them goodbye her heart breaks, but she believes in what she's doing and—god love him—so does her husband. She knows without any question that it's his support that's helped her through everything. The campaign, the election, her first days and weeks in DC. He's been her partner through all of it—just like he has been for the prior fifteen years and for that she could not be more grateful.
"No, I'm sorry but I have a meeting so I won't be able to see dinosaurs with you today." His eyes fall, but she taps her fingertip against his nose. "But I'll tell you what? We're all going to have breakfast together and then when you get home from the museum you can tell me all about it okay?"
He smiles again. "Okay!"
Kate dips her fingertips into his armpits to tickle him and he begins to squirm and giggle riotously. "I want to hear all about the dinosaurs that almost ate you! Rar!" She growls and bites onto his shoulder, which only causes him to laugh harder.
"Is there a little triceratops in our bed?" Castle asks as he props himself up on one elbow, his voice still thick with sleep.
"Nooo!" Reece insists. "T-rex!"
"T-rex?" Castle replies, his face crinkling with shock. "But then you'd have tiny arms."
"I do!" To demonstrate, Reece tucks his elbows back like chicken wings and wiggles the fingers on his new shorter arms. He then leaps over his mother, stepping on her hip in the process, and clambers into his father's lap, growling like the t-rex he's pretending to be.
Still laughing, Kate slides from bed and reaches out for her robe. Catching her husband's eye she says, "You start the eggs; I'll round up the troops?"
He winks at her. "You got it."
Twenty minutes later the breakfast plan has been re-routed to muffins and fruit due to an insufficient amount of eggs. Since muffins take longer to bake than eggs take to cook in a pan, Kate corals the kids into the office-turned-play area and the boys make their plastic dinosaurs growl and snarl while Lily draws a few feet away.
"Oh no its godzilla-a-saurus! Save the cave men!" Castle shouts as he tramps into the room like the biggest dinosaur of them all. Biggest kid, more like it, but nothing in the world makes Kate happier than watching him interact with their children. The smiles on their faces, the light in their eyes; she falls in love with him a little more every time.
Laughter and squealing quickly turn to charging the breakfast table as it does most mornings. Lily leads the pack followed quickly by Reece and Jake. In his haste, Jake stumbles on the edge of the area rug, but his mother is right behind him to scoop him up and—oh. Well. She's not as young as she used to be and simply pulling Jake up into her arms causes the scar in her belly to pull a little.
It's been seven years and not a day goes by when she doesn't thank god for being so damn lucky—even the doctors told her so. The bullet missing everything critical was practically a miracle, but Kate knows it wasn't. The bullet was luck. Living every day with her husband and children is the real miracle.
Jake's laughter as she pulls him up and sets him on his feet takes away all her pain. She never complains—neither of them do. Well, Castle has been known to tell harrowing tales about the knot left on the skin of his mid-chest but they're not complaints per-say. Even if her pain was more than just occasional, Kate still wouldn't complain because this life—her life—her daughter, her sons, her husband and all the love they have for each other is worth it a million times over.
This scene was just sweet and perfect - and such a relief! - on its own that I didn't want to do too much, but I still thought it needed a little narrative.
Thanks for reading.