Castle drifts awake, slowly, warm and heavy in bed. He swallows past his dry mouth and opens an eye to look at the clock.

It's seven in the morning. They went to bed around eleven. Kate has to go back to work today.

He sighs and listens, letting his eyes drift closed again. But he doesn't hear the shower, doesn't hear her in the kitchen either.

Castle rolls over and finds himself face to face with Kate. Still sleeping Kate. Beautiful, amazing Kate.

She has a hand curled up under her chin, her lips parted just like Dashiell's when he's fast asleep. Castle struggles to remember what time she said she wanted to get to work this morning.

It's seven. In the morning.

"Hey, Kate," he whispers, grunts as his voice cracks with sleep. He lifts a heavy hand and brushes her cheek. "Kate. Kate, it's seven."

Her lashes part slowly. She blinks and meets his eyes, turns her face back into the pillow with a sigh.

Castle chuckles under his breath and props his chin up on his fist, then pushes on her shoulder. "Kate. It's seven o'clock already."

She lifts her head, apparently more awake now, then draws her arms up under the pillow, pushes against the bed. Kate turns her head back to him, about as sleep-drugged as he's ever seen her.

"Kate?"

"Seven?"

"Yeah, babe, it's seven in the morning."

She grunts at 'babe' and moves over him to look at the clock, her warm body against his. "Seven."

"Kate. Seven. Work today."

"Ah, crap. It's seven." She pushes off of him, launching herself from the bed. "I'm late."

He sits up, watches her shed clothes as she heads for the bathroom, stumbling a little. She disappears around the corner; he hears the water come on.

Kate pokes her head back around. "Why didn't you wake me sooner?"

He raises an eyebrow. "I just woke up."

She steps out of the bathroom in only her underwear, sleepy confusion on her face. "What about Dash?"

He shakes his head. "Monitor's on."

"But. I mean, all night?"

"What? All night, what?"

She shoves a hand through her hair. "I never got him. Did you ever go get him?"

Castle shakes his head and drags his legs over the side of the bed. "I never heard him."

"I didn't hear him either."

"Did he sleep through the night?" Castle asks, getting to his feet. "Wait. Did *you* sleep through the night?"

She blinks, backs up as steam rolls out from the open door, heading back for her shower. "I guess so."

"Wow."

"Yeah. Who knew your novel was so. . .soporific?" She flashes him a grin.

"Oh, that's so not cool," he mutters, stalking towards her. "That was a good word. A two dollar word. Sexy *and* insulting."

"O Captain," she murmurs, lifting an eyebrow at him even as she heads further into the bathroom.

He's awake now. "I know you're late. But maybe-"

She's already stripping off her underwear. "Get in, Castle. It'll have to be quick."

He can do quick. See? Shirt's off. Boxers gone. Ready.

Kate quirks her lips at him and pushes him towards the shower door.


He gets out first, pulls on clean clothes while she washes her hair. Castle heads for the kitchen with the baby monitor in hand, but Dash is still asleep.

He *was* sick yesterday.

Castle pauses in the living room, debating the merit of looking in on his son. He's pretty sure that opening the door will wake the boy up. He nudges the volume louder on the monitor and listens carefully to the white noise. The hum of the air conditioner, the rustle of breath and sheets, the sudden sighs: the night time sounds of a baby's room.

Well, the kid is breathing. And his temperature was hovering around normal last night by the time they put him to bed in his own room.

Castle retreats to the kitchen and checks the coffee. Kate set the timer for it last night, so it's already filled the coffee pot to the brim, with the rich smell of caffeine heavy in the air. Castle pulls bread out of the fridge and loads his double-wide trailer-toaster with four slices, sets it to brown.

He lets out a jaw-cracking yawn and opens the fridge again, standing in the cold to stare dumbly at the contents. What does he want for breakfast? Eggs. Mmm, bacon. He'll probably end up getting two of those slices of toast. Oh, or Dash will. And Dash loves eggs too.

Castle pulls out a carton eggs, the package of bacon, sets about getting breakfast made.

Kate walks into the kitchen dressed for work in black pants, a white dress shirt, her hair straightened. She smells good, brushes away the redolent odor of coffee with the fresh scent of her shampoo, her lotion. It's not the vanilla stuff anymore either.

"Cherry," he says, startled by it.

She glances up at him, eyebrows knitting together. "What?"

"Cherry again?"

She breaks into a smile. "Yeah. Right. Cherry. I had some in the back and pulled it out yesterday."

He grins and leans in to kiss her neck, taking a deep breath of that scent. "I thought it made you sick."

She pats his cheek. "Just when I was pregnant. And then I liked the vanilla stuff. So I just. . ." She shrugs and nods to the pan. "What're you making?"

"Scrambled eggs. I, uh, didn't think you'd want any. I put toast in for you."

"I don't want eggs, no. But thanks." She heads for the toast, manages to get there right as they pop up. He can still smell her over the coffee, over the eggs he's scrambling. Cherry scent. Like the beginning.

He smiles at her, watches her cram the toast into her mouth to free her hands for the coffee. Castle glances back to check the eggs, turns them down a little, and then watches Kate pour coffee into a travel mug.

Travel mug. Yeah, she *is* technically late. He glances at the clock. Eh. She might make it if she takes the car.

"The keys to the Audi are in the bowl," he says, studying the eggs and flipping them over.

"What?"

"The keys-"

"I'm not taking your-" She pauses; Castle risks a glance over at her. She's looking at the clock. "Right. Yes. I'll take. . .our car."

He nods. "It might need gas by the end of the day."

"I'll use the motor-pool car if I have to chase down anything."

"Park it in the garage then, will ya?" He gives her an apologetic look. He hates to have the Audi out on the street all day, but Kate often parks the Crown Vic out there. Of course, she uses the Crown Vic all day long, and it doesn't wind up sitting there like the Audi would.

"Yeah, no problem." She leans in and kisses the corner of his mouth. "Mind if I get Dash up before I go?"

"Sure, fine."

He scrapes eggs off the side of the pan, but Kate hasn't moved away yet. He glances at her in surprise; she lowers her piece of toast to the counter, places her coffee mug next to it.

"Kate-?"

She slides between him and the stovetop, wraps her arms around his neck, presses herself against him. "I love you."

He uses his free hand to cradle the back of her head, presses his lips to her forehead. "Love you too." He squeezes the back of her neck. "Go get your son."


"Momma. No wok."

Kate sighs and straightens Dashiell's shirt down over his belly. "Yeah, baby, work."

"Momma. No wok."

"I'll see you when I get home, sweetheart." She tugs the jeans up over his clean diaper, snaps them shut, then stands him up on the changing table. "You'll have fun with Daddy."

Dashiell whines and leans into her, rubbing his face in her neck. She tries to avoid his getting her shirt, adjusts his jeans as he stands. "Tote."

Kate grins. "Yeah, Daddy made us both some toast."

She gathers him up and heads out of his room, meeting Alexis in the hallway. She gets a surprise hug from the girl.

"Hey, Mom."

It puts a strange fluttering in her chest, still, to hear Alexis say that. "Hey. Morning."

"Going back today?"

Kate makes a face. "Yeah."

"I've got a class in a few, but I'll be back here tonight. That's. . .okay, right?"

"Of course. How was your talk with Ashley?" Dashiell squirms against her chest, whining. "Hush baby. Hold on."

"Um. I don't know exactly. We talked for hours. All night. And it was nice, just like it was. He's coming over tonight." Alexis looks hesitant.

"Hey, that's a step forward. Right?" Kate lets Dashiell slide down her leg to the floor, but he doesn't run off. He clings to her pants and steps on her foot, butting her thigh with his head. "Dash, stop."

"It is. I guess. I don't know exactly what I want here."

"Well, you wanted to talk to him, because he's your best friend. Right? So just start there, Alexis."

The girl throws her arms around Kate again and squeezes tightly. "Thank you."

Dashiell squirms between them, lifting his arms. "Carry you."

Kate lets go of Alexis, shakes her head at Dash. "Don't you want to walk down the stairs?"

"Carry you," he insists.

Kate picks him up, kisses his cheek. "All right. I'll baby you until I have to go."

Alexis blows Dash a kiss as she heads for the bathroom. "Have a good day at work."


At the door, Kate hesitates. It's not that she doesn't want to go, but it's difficult to leave her family in the middle like this. Alexis is teasing her father, Dashiell is banging his wooden spoon against the highchair tray. The room is filled with morning light; they've made plans to attend the Yankees game on Thursday night, if Kate's free by then. She watches for a moment, takes a deep breath.

Castle catches sight of her at the door and breaks away from Alexis to hurry across the living room. He wraps Kate in a hug before she has a chance to say anything.

"Trying to sneak out?"

"Yeah," she admits, laughing. "I think it's the only way I'm gonna get out of here."

"I already miss you," he whispers, his lips against her ear.

She gives in to the urge and kisses him deep, her tongue insistent against his, cradling his jaw, breathless. When they break apart, she leans her forehead against his, tries to ignore the voice in her head telling her how *late* it is. How she needs to go. Right now.

"Meet me for lunch?"

"Oh?"

"If you bring it with you, I could get away for thirty minutes. Meet you in that park-"

"Yeah. Sounds perfect."

"I hate this," she groans, making a fist in his shirt. "Hate this."

"What's that?"

"Leaving you. I hate leaving you."

He rumbles with laughter against her, cups the back of her head to kiss her again. "It's not my first day of school, Kate. I'll be fine."

"Yeah, but will *I* be fine?"

He pushes her back a little, nudging her towards the door. "How about Leia?"

"Leia?" She's distracted by the happy noises of her son just over Castle's shoulder.

"We can call her Princess."

Kate does a doubletake and groans. "We are not calling her Princess Leia. Stars Wars is banned."

He pouts a little, pushing her closer to the open front door. "You said I get to pick."

"You do. But I get to veto. *And* Castle, our girl's not even here yet. She doesn't even exist."

"We can work on that tonight-"

"Won't do any good," she says back. "You haven't seen Dr. Glazer yet."

"Practice makes perfect, Kate."

She laughs, the heat spilling in her cheeks, her chest, rising up through her. "I can see the wisdom in that."

"Smart girl."

"Girl?"

"Woman," he says hastily. "Definitely all woman." His lips along her ear make her fist clench in his shirt.

"I gotta go," she whispers.

"You do." He nudges again, bumping her body with his own until she realizes they are outside the loft now.

She sighs and breaks away from him. "Lunch."

"We'll be there."

She takes a last look at Castle, that warm and wide smile on his face because he knows she wants to come back inside and practice right now, then she takes another step back, keys in her hand, badge on her hip, gun in its holster at her back.

Castle reaches out and tugs on the lapels of her jacket to bring her in for one last kiss, warm and tasting of breakfast. He hands her the travel mug, which she must have left on the entry table, then he kisses her again, deeper, and she can't do anything but take it, her hands too full to even touch him like she wants too.

"Cherries," he sighs.

She grins, then finds the strength to walk away.

But she'll be back. Sooner rather than later, no matter what's going on at the 12th.