Epilogue

As he ascended the stairs in his loft apartment, Richard Castle could feel the exhaustion coursing through ever cell in his body, making it feel as though each shoe sole was made of several pounds of cement. His back was sore from the pathetic excuse for a cot he'd spent the prior night on and his neck ached for the same reason. As he ascended to the top step, the small bundle in his arms felt like twenty-five pounds instead of seven pounds, three ounces, but yet despite all of this he could hardly remember a time in his life when he was happier.

Gazing down at his son, Castle was amazed for perhaps the millionth time in the prior thirty-six hours. He was here; really here! The prior nine months had been filled with an almost painful level of anticipation made even more excruciating by Kate's insistence that they not find out their child's gender. As such his room was painted a soft lemon yellow and decorated with a zoo-animal theme, which Kate made certain to be equally appropriate for a boy or a girl. At that point, Castle honestly would not have even cared if it was hot pink; he was just thrilled their son was there and healthy. That and the health of his wife was all that mattered to him.

"Okay, buddy, are you ready?" Castle spoke softly to the little boy who yawned and fluttered his eyelids over his big dark eyes. He'd fallen asleep in the car on the way home from the hospital, but the bump of the elevator car had stirred him awake. He didn't scream, though; merely grumbled a little bit and looked around. Kate said he looked just like his father when he was awoken abruptly from a nap; Castle could not argue with this point one bit.

Holding the baby in a more upright position, Castle entered the nursery and began his tour. "There's your dresser and your changing table and the chair where Mommy and Daddy will rock you to sleep. And—oh!—a few stuffed animals. Your sister gave you that one in the middle—the elephant. Do you remember her from yesterday?"

Castle's eldest could barely contain herself when she arrived to greet the baby a few hours after his birth. She was, of course, thrilled that she correctly guessed she would have a baby brother, but horrified that she would have to spend two additional nights with her grandmother. Despite her protests, Castle did not budge her opinion. She had just barely started high school two weeks prior and he didn't want her missing sleep when, inevitably, the little boy woke up multiple times during the night. He figured they'd take two days to themselves then it would be the weekend and Alexis would come home and hopefully they'd be reasonably settled by Sunday on the eve of Evan's one week milestone. Hopefully.

"And here's your crib where you'll fall to sleep every night—or so we hope." Castle chuckled and rubbed his hand over the boy's belly. Thanks to his wife setting him on the right path, Castle had almost completely recovered from his car accident the year before they met. Yes, some days he had shoulder discomfort (particularly, he begrudgingly admitted, when it was raining outside), and his left pinky never regained enough functionality to type on a keyboard without difficulty, but the fact that most days went by without him even thinking about his accident was a testament to just how far he'd come.

"What are you doing?"

Castle turned to see his wife hovering in the doorway and practically felt his breath evaporate from their chest. He loved her dearly, and had since the onset of their relationship nearly four years earlier, but he had never loved her more than the moment she brought their son into the world. She was extraordinary in every way—including now as a mother.

Smiling at her tired-yet-glowing expression, he walked towards her and explained, "I'm showing Evan his room."

"He's two days old."

"Well that explains why he's not taking notes."

She grazed her teeth over her bottom lip and shook her head at him. "You're crazy."

"Crazy happy…crazy in love…right?"

She stepped forward, stood on her toes, and pressed a quick kiss to his lips. Then, she scooped the baby out of his arms and brought him close to her chest. "Yes, but you're also just plain old crazy."

Castle hovered close by as Kate walked over to the changing table, placed Evan down on the pad, and then began sorting through the diapers and wipes they'd already laid out presumably checking to make sure everything was in order. Since the boy began to fuss, Castle reached out and grazed his hand soothingly against Evan's mostly-bald head. "He's so perfect, Kate; you did such an amazing job."

Kate hummed as she went through the motions of undoing Evan's onesie and changing his diaper, something she was quickly becoming a professional at. "You were right…all that stuff you said about instant love. It's incredible."

"It never changes either…not with the second, third, fourth…"

Kate spun around, her jaw gaping. "FOURTH!? How many kids are you planning on having Castle?"

Feeling his face flush at her dangerous expression, he quickly said, "Ah…as many as you'd like, my incredible, beautiful wife."

She let out a tired laugh. "Nice save."

"Thought so."

Kate finished putting Evan's onesie back on and then left the room to wash her hands while Castle scooped up his son once more. He was in the middle of counting all of Evan's fingers for the ninth time when Kate returned to the room and said, "Um, so, can I ask a dumb parenting question?"

He smiled at her. "Always."

"This may just be my exhaustion talking but—he's changed, he's not crying and hungry, but he's also not sleeping so…what do we do?"

Castle could not help but chuckle at how befuddled she sounded. "Well, that's why I was giving him the tour. Or we can sit down and talk to him until he's tired or hungry or needs changed again."

Kate bobbed her head. "Right. Sorry."

"Never apologize, Kate; that's what partners are for, right?"

She leaned into him, tucking her head against his shoulder and stroked her index finger down the bottom of the baby's foot. "Yeah; partners."


A/N: again, thank you so much for reading. I'm so glad everyone enjoyed this fic

Come Find Me will be up on Saturday!