Restless Hours – Epilogue

7. At noon he saw his family.

When awareness came to him, it came slow and surely, dragging him out of his dreamless slumber and back into the world. He was warm and so very comfortable that he didn't want to move. Yet, nonetheless, he was waking. Blinking his eyes, Castle stretched out languidly across the bed. He rolled over onto his side, reaching out for her, but she was gone. He knitted his eyebrows together, for a moment confused. The last thing he remembered was spooning with Kate, her backside wiggling into him as she settled into the mattress.

He let out a sigh. He wasn't really disappointed. It would have been nice to wake still snuggled close to her, but he didn't really expect her to still be there when he woke up. Not really. Unlike him, she had actually managed to get some sleep in-between the times she comforted and reassured him throughout his sleepless night.

Sitting up on the edge of the bed, Castle scrubbed his face with his hands and ran his fingers through his messy hair. Stretching his arms over his head, he worked out any kinks in his back before pushing off the mattress and standing up.

He quickly made his way to the bathroom, because when nature called, he listened.

After splashing his face with water, Castle shuffled out of the bathroom and glanced around the room, smiling wistfully as he took in the rumpled sheets and pile of clothes on the floor. Last night was a contradiction in emotions. He'd been so consumed with fear and anxiety, and yet, at the same time, he'd never felt more loved and complete.

Castle had difficulty comprehending everything, but he believed that after last night he and Kate were even closer than they had been before. They had both opened up, given themselves to the other in a way they hadn't since that first night together. It was a big step. One that he was happy about.

Grabbing his robe, he shrugged it over his shoulders and padded over to the door. He yawned, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes as he made his way through his office and towards the kitchen. But when he reached the door he stopped in his tracks, his eyes going wide at what he was seeing.

She was standing behind the island counter, her hair pulled up into a messy bun, some stray strands fluttering across her brow, dressed in a pair of black leggings and an oversized purple shirt. The image was so very reminiscent of the first time she'd stayed at the loft. Castle swallowed past the sudden lump in his throat, remembering.

He was so happy that things had worked out between them. It might have taken a little longer than he had hoped, but she was here now, in his home, being all adorably domestic in the kitchen. His eyes flicked back up to Kate, watching as she rested her hands on the countertop, leaning forward slightly as she listened to an animated Alexis gabbled away a mile a minute. Martha was sitting on the barstool besides Alexis, still wearing a shell-shocked expression. So she still hadn't recovered from his news of meeting his father.

Kate's hearty laugh pulled his attention back to her. He smiled, watching as she turned her attention to the stove to mix some eggs and grill—he sniffed the aroma—bacon. He began to salivate. Breakfast for lunch, one of his favorite things. If his mother and daughter weren't present, he'd have snuck up behind Kate, snaked his arms around her waist and plant a wet kiss on her neck. Then, while she was distracted, he'd snatch one or two strips of bacon and chew on them triumphantly while she graced him with one of her patented glares.

With a shake of his head, Castle turned his gaze to his daughter, and let out a soft sigh of relief, seeing her sitting there, talking and smiling, none the worse for wear. Kate picked up the pan and he watched as she dished out scrambled eggs onto three plates. She arched her back and reached behind her snatching up some toast to add to the meal.

And as she started draining the bacon, her eyes flirted up and she caught sight of him staring.

A small smile spread across her face as she turned her head just enough for their eyes to lock. Castle grinned, bouncing on the balls of his feet, and mouthed 'I love you' while allowing his eyes to fill with all the emotions he was feeling at that very moment. Kate's smile brightened and she beamed at him, all her love shining out. Her eyes were large and expressive, and he could tell that she loved him too. She didn't have to really say it. It was written all over her face.

And then the moment was broken, her attention returning to Alexis, laughing at some joke his daughter had told. As she continued to talk to his daughter, he noticed Kate opening one of the cabinets behind her, and soon she was preparing a fourth plate. Her eyes skipped up to him again, and she graced him with a quick smile before focusing back on Alexis.

Castle leaned back against the doorframe and smiled, feeling content. For the first time that he could remember, he felt like his life was complete. He finally had the family he'd always wanted. It may not be perfect—nothing ever was. But it was his family. His. And he wouldn't change anything about it.

With one final fleeting thought on the troubles they'd been through during the past week, Castle let out a slow exhale, expelling all his worries, and allowing himself to bask in the happiness he felt at this moment. He pushed away from the door and walked up behind Kate, smiling as he slinked an arm around her waist and leaned in to press a kiss against her cheek.

"Something smells good," he said, glancing down at the plates Kate was preparing.

"Thought you'd appreciate breakfast for lunch," she replied, tilting her head to give him a knowing smile.

"Dad loves breakfast for lunch," Alexis chimed in, laughing lightly.

"That I do, yes," Castle concurred with a bob of his head.

Martha perked up a little and a tiny smirk tugged on her lips. "Kate was kind enough to offer to make me a mimosa, but I declined. Figured it would be more prudent to skip the alcohol… at least for one day."

"Wise decision, Mother," Castle flashed her an quick smile of approval.

His mother's smirk brighten as she gave a dramatic wave of her hand. "Mind you, I only said one day, darling."

Castle laughed, buoyed to see his mother's mood improve. He knew he still owed his mother a longer talk, but that could wait. Kate turned to him with a smile, and surprised him with a quick kiss. He leaned into her and kissed her back before slipping away and moving around the island countertop to wrap his little girl up in a big bear hug. "How you doing, Pumpkin?" he asked.

"I'm better," she whispered back, giving him an extra squeeze. "Especially now that I'm back home with my family."

It didn't escape his notice how when Alexis said 'family' she had glanced over at Kate. He smiled, pleased that his daughter was including Kate in that category. Hugging his daughter tightly, he dropped a kiss on the top of her head and looked up towards Kate, catching her wiping a happy tear from her cheek. She looked up at him with watery eyes, the love pouring out as she gave him a warm smile. Castle's smiled widened, as he basked in the feeling of them being all together.

He was truly home.