Everything That Glitters 2

Castle lets go of Dash and hooks his arm around Kate instead. The kid is holding his card in both hands and staring down at it, and Castle knows from experience that he'll only dig in and set his jaw if Castle tries to push him.

Like his mother.

Shannon seems to have learned that same lesson because she doesn't say anything other than his name, and she goes to his side even as their whole family crowds around, encircling Dashiell like a protective shield.

Nick and Ellery at one side, he and Kate at Dash's other, Alexis and Rafe, Sophie and Dani, little Mia on her feet but with her head leaning against her father's knee. Everyone is here; it's the only way for Dash. He has always wanted his people around him.

His eyes lift to Castle's, and he must get some kind of confidence or nudge from whatever he sees there - could just be Castle's exasperation - and then Dashiell rips open the match card.

His hands don't even tremble. He's totally steady as he stares down at his fate.

Yeah, Castle's getting a little dramatic, but it's his kid's life - where he'll be for the next four years of his residency. And then after that, he'll specialize, which means another year to three years there, or maybe even somewhere else entirely. All up in the air, all comes down to this moment.

Castle's just gotten his daughter back in New York, he got Allie back here as well, and since Shannon is going with Dash, Castle doesn't even have that to bring him back. He doesn't want to lose his son to whatever life New Mexico might hold for him.

And Dashiell is still just staring down at his fate.

Shannon grabs his wrist and draws the card over so she can read it, her cheeks flushing bright pink, her mouth twisting in something that Castle can't even read.

"Dash, come on," Ellery complains.

"Leaving us in suspense, my man," Castle says, lifting his eyebrows.

"Yeah, let's have it. Where are you going? New Mexico?" Rafe is leaning in over Shannon's shoulder trying to read the card and then Mia stumbles around his feet and he has to stoop down to pick her up.

"Dash," Kate says then.

Their son grins even wider and flips the card around, holds it against his chest. "I'm staying in New York. Langone Medical."

Kate lets out a little gasp. Castle laughs and grabs for his son, hugging him hard, clapping his back. "Awesome. That is awesome."

Kate takes Dashiell from him, her arms sliding between him and their son, and she kisses his cheek, leans back to smudge the gloss from his skin. "Which path does that set you on?"

"Neuro. It's the surgery internship," he grins. "I'm gonna be a neurosurgeon right here at home."

The Old Haunt hasn't changed in ten years, not since they remodeled the second floor into a family friendly dining area. That's where the Castles go to celebrate Dashiell's Match Day, taking over the space and spreading out across four tables.

Tio and Lanie arrive soon after the caterers set up the buffet, and then Ryan, Jenny and the boys are clattering up the stairs right after them. Kate finds a corner with Mia and Collin's three year old, helping to settle them down with crayons and blank sheets of paper. She watches little David dig his red into the page, scribbling fiercely, but he's still young enough to think coloring is cool, and Jenny wanders over to spell Kate.

"Thanks," she murmurs, sinking down into the seat across from them.

"You guys have him all week?"

"Just until Collin's back from the rig," Jenny says, a touch defensively, but Kate understands. At least Collin has a job now, even if he's on an oil rig in the Gulf for months at a time; after his girlfriend died in the car accident, he's been hit or miss on holding a steady job.

Kate leans in and kisses Mia's bowed head, runs her fingers through David's hair and winks at him. He looks just like Collin did at that age.

"Mama," Mia whines for a second, holding up a purple crayon.

"You color, sweetheart. David needs a friend to show him how to draw his family. You make such beautiful pictures."

Mia, always looking for a chance to be as bossy as her sisters, dives into that task with gusto, nudging David's elbow and loudly proclaiming her superior drawing skills.

Kate leaves them to it, squeezing Jenny's shoulder, and she goes to find her son in the middle of the family melee. He's holding court with Sophie, the two of them trading off as ever, but now there's Ellery in it too, making snarky comments whenever they open their mouths, the whole place laughing.

Kate stands on the fringe, watching her kids bicker with each other, and then she feels an arm around her waist in a brief hug, turns to find Rafe.

"Oh, hey," she laughs, patting his forearm. "Not who I was expecting. How's it going?"

"Good. I'm a little bummed you didn't ask me to cater." He lets her go and crosses his arms over his chest.

She shakes her head at him, nudging his shoulder. "You're too much. No way am I giving you more work. Allie would kill me."

Rafe has a comical wince at that. "Ah, yeah. You heard?"

"Two restaurants now? You and Maddie going in together."

"And Russell Martin. It's sports themed, this one, so it's more of a bar than a restaurant."

"Like this place," Kate smirks. She's always had to pry information out of Rafe, but once he starts in one something he loves, he gives freely.

"Yeah, actually. Ever since Rick gave The OH over to me, I've - I don't know. I love it. The combination of pub and family place. The new one will be a dance floor at night - but not some crappy club. Just - classy stuff. A place you take your date, not where you pick up a slut."

Kate smiles at that, but it sounds like Rafe knows exactly what he's doing. "Madison's lucky she has you for a chef."

"We're equal partners in this one," he says then, holding back a pleased smirk. But Kate can see it.

"I'm proud of you," she says softly, reaching out to embrace him for it. "I know you'll make it something special."

He chuckles in her ear, a little sigh accompanying it. "Thanks. Mom."

She laughs and sinks back down on her feet, just in time to feel Castle hook his arm around her neck and give a pathetic little growl. "Rafe. I swear, man. You only get one of the Castle women."

"I've been working my wiles on Ellery. Should I go back to that?"

"Please do," Castle says eagerly. "We'll see what Nick's made of."

Kate bursts into laughter, a faint blush rising in her cheeks anyway, and she turns in Castle's embrace, throwing it off as she goes, to grip him by the ear. "Rick Castle."

"What?" he whines. "Just protecting my claim."

Her eyebrow lifts so high she can practically feel it arching off her forehead, and behind her, Rafe chuckles and makes a comment about getting back to it, leaving them alone.

"You know it's true," Castle whispers, knocking his forehead into hers and dislodging her grip. "I staked you out long, long ago, Detective Beckett."

The blush returns with a vengeance, a deep warmth that skitters down to her toes this time, more arousal than embarrassment. It's been like this lately - a random moment will flip her heart for him, her stomach flutter. Like never before. She was never this stupid for him, over him.

Was she?

"What's that for?" he grins, nudging into her to kiss her cheek. Too chaste for her, too quick.

"You keep bull-dozing right through my walls, Writer Boy," she murmurs back. She presses her mouth to his, lets herself linger over the satin of his lips before she pushes deeper. He hums and it rumbles in his chest, lovely shivers traveling up and down her spine.

"I think by now you could at least give me the title of Writer Man," he sighs. "Since old age has claimed me."

She grins against his mouth, nips at him again. "Never."

His hands skate down her back and squeeze, make her laugh a little and arch into him.

"Never?" he murmurs, for her ears only.

"Old age can't have you. I claimed you first."

"Ahh," he murmurs. "I was wrong then. I didn't stake out you. You staked out me."

She wraps both arms around his neck and watches that deep gray swirl in the blue of his eyes. He's grinning too. "Oh, Rick. You have no idea."

A/N: Thank you so much for following me into the future of the Dash Universe!