This kicked me in the face. Seriously. I was writing "Valor," listening to my iTunes playlist on shuffle, and then "Isn't She Lovely" came on. (By Stevie Wonder, all though, yes; in the name of full disclosure, mine is the Glee version.) XP And my Esposito-loving brain came up with this. Then held a gun to my head and forced me to write it or…okay, meh.

So yeah. This is a future-fic, obviously, inspired by that song. Like way in the future. And not connected or related to any of my other stories. I don't own Castle, nor do I own Glee or Stevie Wonder either, nor do I own a car. One problem at a time. XP




The first to procreate among his extended family had been Cousin Carla when he was thirteen years old. He remembered the first time she'd come to visit, and everyone insisted on having a turn holding the baby. Javier was the only one who'd stayed at the back, mute and awkward, until his mother had passed Isabel toward him anyway. Just like that, he'd found himself with a wriggling, spitting-up creature thrust into his hands, and he stood there with it at arm's length until Carla had made a face and claimed her kid back. He'd been teenaged and disaffected and way too cool for little kids.

His second encounter was more than twice as awkward, which said a lot. He'd been a uniform then, fresh from deployment and ready to re-immerse into the single life. Enter Sloane, the woman he'd been dating at the time who neglected to mention she was a single mother. To five children. All under eight years old, all of whom had purely hated him - no matter how many times he'd assured "It's okay, I'm a police officer" during the one meeting they'd had. As it'd turned out, a second 'playdate' was never necessary, especially after the four-month-old had thrown up on him. Sometimes he would remember Sloane and wonder if she'd gone completely grey yet. There were probably still dustclouds and footprints in the cement where he'd run like hell.

Needless to say, he'd enjoyed the 'bachelor' phase of his life as a very careful man. More than once, Ryan had thought that "Oh hey, Janet called with some bad news" was a good joke, name subject to change, of course. More than once, Ryan had found all his desk drawers glued shut. That was not funny. Children were cute, when you didn't have to take them home. The were downright adorable when they walked up to your patrol car to ask directions. And then left. That was the general limit of his contact with kids, and he was happy with that.

Up until the 54th phase of his life, that philosophy was steadfast. And then had come Timmy.

Tim was different. Tim was okay. He was cool, for a kid…he was imaginative, and Ike loved to spin tales. One day, when Ike had come to work with a dinner invitation, Javier had been shocked to learn he'd become a character in them.

"Carol's got range training, man," Ike had warned. "My worst idea yet. Just come; it's for ya health. Free food, right?"

So he'd gone to dinner. He'd met Carol and Tim, scored the recipe for Carol's garlic bread, ended up talking with Timmy for an hour about baseball. He found himself, surprisingly, actually enjoying time spent with a kid. And sure, so maybe Tim wasn't a baby…but it was close enough, right? Had to have been five at the time, six at most…and maybe things were a little different after that. Especially after Ike disappeared. Slowly, things started to change.

Every third Sunday of the month, instead of booking a date, he would disappear from the radar, and book a game or plan a walk to the Hall of Fame instead. He told himself it was just to give Carol some time to herself. She deserved it after all she'd been through, right? And Tim deserved the chance to be a kid. Gradually, it became every-other Sunday. Sometimes the walk would stretch to include a pizza or finding pigeons in the park. The first time Tim called him 'Uncle Javi,' it took Javier three hours to notice. It came that naturally.

The surprise was that he really didn't mind.

The changes seeped into his life. Single moms were no longer a dating taboo. The art wasn't perfect, but he'd become more open to options. It didn't put a stop to the 'gluing Ryan's drawers shut' phase, but maybe it put a few thoughts behind his vengeance now and then. It got easier to handle children of witnesses.

It got harder to look at one in autopsy.

But Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say, nor Manhattan infested overnight, and he still kept a border between himself and the Lollipop Guild. Tim was an exception to a rule, a chink in armor. He was a special kid. It didn't mean there were any clocks ticking or anything - clearly not, or his copious mocking of Ryan would've been hypocritical. In fact, with all the sap and honeymilk and general goopy love going around the precinct, he'd kind of gotten used to the idea that 'Uncle Javi' was all he was ever going to be to a runt. Even been okay with that, really. Life was good. He liked things the way they were.

And then. For the first time, he'd spent more than six months on a single relationship. That was new. So was the shelf of his things at her apartment; the drawer of her things at his. The number of times they called each other. The lack of urge to bolt. He was comfortable. That was new. Very new.

And then. She'd told him the news.

And he'd still spent nine months wondering exactly how the hell he was going to do this.

He didn't know the answer to that until encounter number four. Encounter number four was nothing like he could've imagined. It took place after all the initial gore and screaming and threats that he really didn't want to think about, including both times she'd almost kicked him out of the room. It was after all the noise and the commotion, after the crowding, crying families and a shift's worth of hospital staff had gone home. It was in the hallway just outside the room once the new mommy had fallen asleep, under panels of soft white fluorescent light. It had only been fifteen seconds, and encounter number four was already his favorite. He couldn't imagine anything more perfect in the world.

She had brown eyes, like both of them. Dark brown, almost black, and wide when she opened them…she had so many eyelashes already; was that normal? She was beautiful…her skin was a warm shade of mocha, and soft, with a few sparse feathers of black hair on top of her head, and the way she stared up at him…she was latched on, and she had him at that alone.

A mini fist squirmed out of her blanket, and she reached up. He didn't need prompting at all to meet her tiny hand with one finger, and she grabbed on tight. A lump rose in his throat, and he didn't even try to deny getting choked up. It was just the two of them around. Only they two existed.

"…Hey," he whispered to the bundle in his arms, his voice cracking just the once. "Hiya, baby girl. Yeah. Bienvenido." He couldn't tear his eyes away; good thing he didn't want to. For some reason, he couldn't stop talking to her, either. She looked like she even understood, somewhere in there. "It means 'welcome'…don't worry, I'll teach you. I'll teach you."

The little girl waved her fist around, but never released his finger. He had to laugh, just a quiet one; it was almost like she was shaking his hand. "Yeah, you got a good grip there, huh? I'm impressed. Now see, that's all me," he joked, still whispering. "Don't tell your mom." God, talk about a statement he'd never thought he'd be making. Which led right to another one… "I'm your dad," he told her, not aware at all that his eyes had a glisten going. There was no one around to threaten for witnessing it anyway. "That's me…you can call me Daddy if you want to. Or Papá, even; I used to call my dad that a lot…just ask one of the eighty-five people who hugged you half an hour ago. Y'know, when you start talking."

She moved her face - was that a smile? Oh, God, did she smile? Was it normal for that to happen yet? Why didn't I ever read any of those baby sites Ryan kept shoving in my face? Oh, yeah, 'cause he was annoying me. It made him want to keep talking, just to see if he could make it happen again. "Now…some of those people, you're actually related to. Some of 'em, you're not. But, that won't matter. Yeah, that's right. They're gonna care about you just the same as the other ones. You'll always be safe…I promise you that, right now. I promise. I'll always protect you…and you have to promise not to date or get married or look at boys until Daddy's really old. Preferably in a home, mija. Trust me, it's better after thirty."

He'd been mostly standing with her, walking around a little, but now her tiny face stretched into a yawn, and he made his way toward the row of plastic chairs against the wall. He sat carefully, making sure her little head stayed nestled in the crook of his arm. "You can take a rest, I won't mind," he whispered. "You've had a long day, haven't you…not easy, being born, huh. Yeah, I don't even remember it. I know, right?" It didn't matter whether she smiled for real or not. He did. Gently, he lifted her in his arms, pressing a soft kiss to her warm little forehead. She yawned again, and he rearranged her blankets. "Go on, niña. Go to sleep. I've got you. I'll be right here…I'll always be right here. Daddy's gotchu."

It only took four tries, but this night, alone in the hallway, it finally happened. Javier Esposito found himself hooked heart-and-soul on a child.



Well, there you have it. The most sappy-sweet thing I've written in a very long time. I feel like I need to go drink a black coffee or something. XD But it was in my head and I needed to get it out there, so I hope you enjoyed. I've always pictured Javi having a moment something like this the first time he became a dad…and yes, I figured on the mom being Lanie, sue me. XD She wasn't the point of this one.

Since I mention it on every new story of mine: if anyone is interested in checking out a free, writing-based, Castle-based RPG forum, go to my profile and give the bold paragraph a skim. It explains everything there.

So? Did I publish this for a reason? Did anyone like it? If so, why? Reviews mean a lot to me, even on quick little oneshots like this, so please consider leaving one. That'd be great. ^^

Okay, I'm going back to work on "Valor" now. XD Peace and love, everyone.