"Oh, ew." Castle pulled the bag of Romaine hearts from the crisper and threw it in the garbage can beside him. "Kate," he yelled out into the general vicinity of their room, "I think we need to go grocery shopping." He scrunched up his nose when he extracted the baby carrots next, dangling the little baggie between his thumb and index finger before discarding it as well.
"It was your job to clean out the fridge before we left," Kate called back. She walked into the kitchen with an armful of dirty vacation clothes and saw that he was inspecting a container of leftovers, as if actually considering that it would be safe to consume. "Throw that out, Castle," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Really? But, it was—"
He huffed, but did as she said. "So, what do you want to eat for dinner?" He asked, shutting the refrigerator door and trailing after Kate, picking up a dropped sock along the way. "Chinese? Italian?"
"Just order a pizza, I guess," she answered. "I'm too tired to be hungry."
"Really? Didn't you fall asleep on the plane," he said.
"Yeah, for maybe an hour or two."
They had left Maui yesterday night at 10:15 and arrived at JFK a couple of hours ago at four. It would have been an ideal flight for minimizing jetlag – getting on the plane and sleeping, just to wake up in time to arrive in the afternoon – but there had been a lot of turbulence and Kate and Castle had spent much of the flight consoling Zoey and telling Alexis not to worry.
"Besides," Kate continued, "It's not like we did a whole lot of sleeping during the last few days. Especially after you got us that ridiculous honeymoon suite."
He waggled his eyebrows. "Well, we did spend a lot of time in bed," he replied, "You could have slept if you wanted to."
"Oh really?" she turned to face him with a smirk. "I seem to recall being woken up on multiple occasions."
He stepped into her space, bracing his hands against the washing machine on either side of her body. "Are you complaining?" he asked suggestively.
She tilted her head up, eyes sparkling. "Did you hear me complaining?"
"No." He shook his head slowly, leaning down to kiss the side of her mouth, "But I do remember hearing many other sounds slipping through those gorgeous lips." When he kissed her this time, it was with lips parted.
She let his tongue stroke hers for a few seconds before pulling away. "Mmm… maybe I'll let you hear some of them tonight," she said, purposefully making herself sound a little breathy.
It had the desired effect: his eyes widened just a bit and his lower body moved infinitesimally closer. "Promise?"
She gave him a saucy look and turned back around in his arms, resuming her previous task of sorting through the clothes while trying desperately to ignore his close proximity.
He seemed to be equally distracted as he stepped away from her, picking up a piece of clothing at random. Just as he was about to toss one of Kate's white tanktops into the washer, she stopped him. "Colours, Castle," she said, grinning and plucking the shirt out of his hands, "We're doing colours."
Zoey jumped up from the magic carpet, eager to play after sitting still for storytime. "Let's find the puppets again, Gabriel," she said, tugging her friend's hand.
"Okay," he replied agreeably, "But I want the doggie this time."
"Wait!" Suzy stepped in front of them just as they were about to walk past the play kitchen. "Do you want to play house with me?"
"Um…" Zoey looked to Gabriel. Suzy was really bossy and Zoey knew that Gabriel didn't like that at all.
"Please?" Suzy said, "Nobody else wants to play."
When Gabriel shrugged, Suzy took that as a 'yes' and pulled Zoey into the kitchen set, already deciding who should play what role. "Zoey can be the mommy," Suzy said, "And Gabriel, you can be the baby brother."
"Why do I have to be the baby?" Gabriel asked with arms crossed.
"Because you're a boy," Suzy answered, as if it were obvious.
"Why can't you be the baby?"
"Because," Suzy said, exasperated, "I'm a big sister."
"So, I'm a real big sister and you're not," Suzy shot back, "Trust me, I know what big sisters are supposed to do."
Gabriel shook his head. "I don't care. I don't want to be your little brother. You're just gonna boss me around."
Zoey stepped between them. "How about I be the baby?" she said, "Then, Suzy, you can still be the big sister."
Suzy pondered for a second before sighing loudly. "Fine." She gave Gabriel a look and then said, "I guess you're the daddy then, Gabriel."
For the next few minutes, there was no more fighting between Gabriel and Suzy. But they also weren't talking. Finally, Zoey got tired of the silence and spoke up.
"So, is this what you do with your baby brother, Suzy?" she asked. Suzy was pretending to push her around in a chair.
"You're not supposed to talk Zoey," Suzy replied immediately, "You're a baby."
"Well, let's pretend that I'm a baby who can talk," Zoey replied.
Suzy shook her head. "That's not allowed."
"Why not?" Gabriel asked, "It's our game."
Suzy threw up her hands. "We can't play if you guys aren't going to follow the rules."
"Zoey," Gabriel said, getting fed up, "I'm going to play over there with Evan." He took off the hat that Suzy had made him wear and pointed to a group of tables that had crayons and paper spread all over.
Zoey looked back and forth between Gabriel and Suzy. She didn't want to hurt the other girl's feelings.
"It's okay," Gabriel said, knowing what Zoey was thinking, "You can keep playing here, if you want." He gave her a smile to make doubly sure that his best friend knew he was totally okay with it.
Once Gabriel left, Suzy and Zoey decided to play kitchen instead. "So, what do you do with your little brother?" Zoey asked again.
"Well, he's kinda boring right now," Suzy answered, handing Zoey one of the plastic pots, "He sleeps a lot and cries but sometimes my mommy lets me hold him and I make funny faces at him."
"Do you like having a brother?" Zoey asked, pretending to stir.
"I like it because it means I don't have to be the littlest anymore," Suzy said.
Zoey nodded wistfully, "I wish I had a baby sister or baby brother."
"Well," Suzy said, tilting her head, "Has your mommy asked you if you want a little brother or sister yet?"
Zoey stopped playing with the pans and utensils. "No," she said, facing Suzy with interest.
"My mommy asked me."
"Uh huh." Suzy pointed a spoon at Zoey, "Maybe you should ask your mommy! She probably forgot or something."
"Yeah. But, you know, I told her I wanted a little sister and I got a little brother instead so I don't think big sisters are allowed to decide."
"I think a baby brother would be okay," Zoey commented.
Suzy made a face. "Boys are gross. Do you know how much my brother poops?"
"Are we going to go see mommy today?" Zoey asked when Castle picked her up from school.
"We could," he said, helping her put on her mittens, "Do you want to?"
Zoey nodded. "I have a very important question to ask her."
Castle grinned, taking hold of her hand as they walked down the steps of the school. "A question you can only ask mommy?"
"I don't…know…" Zoey scrunched her nose in thought.
"Well, what's the question?" Castle asked.
Zoey shook her head. "I think I'll wait to ask mommy. Just in case."
"Alright then," he said, boosting her up into the car. "And it can't wait until mommy gets home tonight?"
Zoey climbed into her carseat. "I want to ask her now, daddy."
"Okay, okay," Castle said, chuckling, "Is it more important than lunch, though? Because I'm sure mommy would love it if you brought her some."
"No," Zoey replied, patting her own stomach, "Let's get lunch first. I'm hungry."
It was one thirty by the time Castle and Zoey made it to the precinct, a takeout box full of a burger and fries in hand.
Zoey skipped across the bullpen and, spotting Ryan, greeted him loudly.
"Hey kiddo," Ryan said, lifting Zoey onto his lap, "Are you here to visit your Uncle Kevin?"
"No," Zoey answered, honest about her intentions, "I'm here to see my mommy."
"Oh," Ryan said, feigning regret, "I guess that means I don't need to give you any of the chocolate that I bought just for you."
Zoey's eyes widened. "You don't?"
"I'm just kidding, Zo," Ryan said, laughing, opening up the last drawer of his desk where he kept his stash of junk food. As Zoey busied herself with the chocolate, Ryan directed his attention at Castle who was – as usual – sitting at Kate's desk and messing with her stationary. "You bring enough for the rest of us?" he asked, referring to the lunch Castle had set down.
"What're you talking about?" Esposito said, his voice coming from the elevator along with the tell-tale sounds of Kate's heels. "You don't need Castle to bring you food; you pack yourself a lunch every day. Like you're still in the fourth grade."
"Hey!" Ryan looked slightly embarrassed.
"Own it," Castle said to Ryan, getting up to offer Kate her seat back.
"Following up a lead," Kate said as she sat down, answering Castle's question before he even asked it.
He grinned. "You know me so well."
Zoey, who had been having a brief wrestle in Esposito's arms, now flew to Kate's side and looked up at her adorably. "We brought you lunch, mommy."
Kate picked Zoey up and onto her lap, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks Zozo."
"Do you want me to make you some coffee, too?" Castle asked.
Kate shook her head, picking up her water bottle, "I've had too much already."
"For you to admit that—" Castle started, trailing off at Kate's glare.
"I know when I've had enough," Kate defended.
"Sure," Castle said, the rest of his sentence getting cut short when Kate's attention drifted back to their daughter.
Zoey was pulling at Kate's sleeve. "Mommy, mommy."
"Yeah, what is it Zo?" Kate said.
Zoey twisted her body slightly so that she could better face her mom. "I have a very important question."
"Oh yeah," Castle cut in, "Zo had ulterior motives for visiting you."
"Ssh, daddy," Zoey scolded.
"Okay, Zo, what is it?" Kate said, taking a sip of water to try and hide the twinkle in her eye at how effective their daughter was at getting Castle to be quiet.
After a beat, Zoey blurted out. "I want a baby sister. Can you give me one?"
Alarm skittered across Zoey's face when her mom started to choke.
"Mommy?" she asked, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Kate replied, in between coughs, "Mommy probably shouldn't have been drinking that water, is all." Castle handed her a napkin, amusement in his eyes. There was a fair amount of bewilderment there also, which was how Kate figured that Zoey's question had most likely been a surprise for him as well.
It was a couple of minutes before Kate could compose herself enough to peer down at Zoey and say, "Why are you asking about a baby sister, Zo?"
Zoey sighed. "Well, because I'm always the littlest! And I don't want to be the littlest anymore. And Suzy Carmichael said that before she got her little brother, her mommy asked her if she wanted one except Suzy wanted a baby sister but—" she looked up at Kate "—I don't care if it's a baby brother or sister, but since you didn't ask me if I wanted one, Suzy told me to ask you first 'cause maybe you forgot."
"Oh, that Suzy Carmichael," Castle said, shaking his head a little in mirth.
Kate, on the other hand, was at a loss for any words at all.
"So?" Zoey finally prompted. "Can I have a baby sister?"
"Um…" Kate looked at Castle. They hadn't really discussed the possibility of having another child but it would be a lie to say that Kate hadn't thought about it on her own. Still, Castle already had a grown daughter and with Zoey having been the pleasant surprise that she was, Kate had just assumed that Castle was done with kids.
Though, Castle's thoughtful gaze on hers at the moment suggested that maybe she had been wrong in her presumption.
"Zoey…" Kate started, stalling until Castle gave her an encouraging little nod, followed by a shrug. He knew that she would never give Zoey a flat 'yes' or 'no' and he was essentially telling her that any answer she gave would be okay by him. She met her daughter's eyes once again. "Zoey, I don't know yet if you can have a baby brother or sister. I can't give you an easy answer right now because it's something your daddy and I have to talk about."
"You and daddy?" Zoey asked, "I thought it was just supposed to be the mommy."
"Nope," Kate answered, shooting Castle a tiny smile, "The decision to have another baby is both mommy and daddy's decision."
"Oh," Zoey said.
"So, can you give your daddy and I some time?"
Zoey nodded slowly. "Yeah… but—" her gaze flicked back and forth between Kate and Castle "—please, please... I really want a little sister to play with."
A/N: It's a safe bet to say that I'll be updating this story on Thursdays (or late Wednesday nights since I keep vampire hours). Please review! I love reviews! 3