HOME SWEET HOME
Rick Castle had always enjoyed book tours. He loved seeing the country, the world, meeting his fans. But he wasn't a single dad in his twenties and early thirties anymore, flirting with every attractive female he met. He was married to the love of his life, with whom he'd had three beautiful children. Not to mention an adult daughter who was thriving in Boston. And the novelty of being gone for days or weeks at a time had lost its appeal.
He and Kate had discussed turning his trips into family vacations, at least when possible, but it hadn't been feasible with his rescheduled tour. So, for the meantime, his favorite part of a book tour was returning home to his family.
Especially when he was greeted with scenes like the one he arrived home to that night.
He'd been on the west coast for two weeks, a tour that had been postponed due to sick twin toddlers. Kate had insisted that they'd be fine with his original date, but he'd seen the exhaustion after just a few hours of them both being home. Gina had been less than pleased at the last minute cancellation, and to make up to the bookstores, he'd agreed to reschedule it for a few weeks later.
Most of the stores and fans had been understanding, but some had been particularly nasty on Twitter, and after dealing with it for a few weeks, he wanted nothing more than to kiss his children and his wife and collapse in bed.
He'd insisted on taking a late flight home, not wanting to be away even a few extra hours. By the time he'd landed, retrieved his luggage, and taken the car back, it was nearing two in the morning. He forced his eyes to stay open in the elevator, and when he finally opened the door to the loft, he was about to collapse. He settled for tucking his suitcase under the sofa table, out of the way in case of emergency, and dropping his keys and coat on the kitchen table.
A sniff of his shirt had him wrinkling his nose; he should shower, but it was so late and he was so tired that he didn't have it in him. Just like he didn't have it in him to wake his wife, like she'd asked him to.
As soon as he stepped into their bedroom, his mind was made up for him.
The lights were off, but there was enough moonlight coming through the window that he could make out the shapes on the bed. Kate was lying on her back, fast asleep, all three kids passed out around - and on - her. Lily was curled against her side, and the twins had claimed her other side. Kate had her arm around who he assumed was Jake, the consummate snuggler, and Reece was sprawled with his body half on top of Kate's stomach.
The sight of his family, his beautiful, sleeping family, made his heart swell with love. Kate had asked him to wake her when he got home, but instead he brushed his teeth, changed into a clean t-shirt and shorts, and threw some water on his face.
Nobody had moved a muscle when he came back out of the bathroom. He took a few moments just to watch them, the steady rise and fall of Kate's chest causing Reece to move with her. Sometimes he had to remind himself that it was real, that he was married to a woman who loved him as fiercely as he loved her. That the strong, savvy detective who'd confessed to him once that she wasn't a baby person had taken so well to motherhood. Hell, sometimes he had to pinch himself just to know he was alive.
The last thing he wanted to do was wake any members of his family, but he craved to be in bed with them. So he tiptoed to the side the twins had claimed; Jake was a light sleeper, but he was safely tucked into Kate's side, so there was little risk of him waking. And Reece slept like a rock. Rick grabbed a throw blanket and draped it over all of them, slid under it as well. He snuggled next to the twins, brushed a kiss to his wife's forehead, and drifted off to sleep.
"Mommy? Is he awake?"
Rick heard what was supposed to be a whisper, but his almost-seven-year-old had not quite mastered the art of quiet volume. He refused to open his eyes, instead opting to guess which twin was passed out on his back.
"I don't know, baby," his wife responded just as not-quietly, and Rick could hear the smile in her voice even from across the room. How she always knew he was awake, he'd never know. "Why don't you tickle him and find out?"
Lily's voice was closer when she spoke. "But Jake will wake up too."
Ah, so it was the youngest's drool he felt through his shirt.
"That's okay. He and Daddy will want to see the special breakfast we made."
Rick heard the footsteps of his daughter, and for a moment he was taken back to when Alexis was Lily's age. When Alexis had been seven, she'd wanted to give him a special Father's Day. So, with his mother's help, she'd attempted to make him breakfast, but the ladies had ended up burning everything. He'd eaten it though, to wipe the sad look off his eldest's face. Lily was the same way: a perfectionist just like her older sister, and like her mom.
Kate, at least, could cook. And if the smell from the kitchen was any indication, he was in for a full stomach.
He refused to open his eyes until Lily was right next to him, and when he thought she was close, he lifted one eyelid. "Just what do you think you're doing?"
Lily giggled and threw her arms around his neck, and he managed to haul her into bed with him. "Daddy!"
"Hi, Lily." He squeezed her with one arm, then let go so he could try and get Jake off his back. After an unsuccessful try to push onto his knees - his two-year-old was out - he threw a look back at Kate. "A little help?" he asked with a grin.
Kate chuckled and set Reece down, where he promptly climbed onto the mattress and started pushing his brother. "Nope, if you put your mind to it you can do it," she teased. She bent down to give him a kiss, then picked up Jake.
Rick sat up and stretched, groaning when his back popped. The long flight, followed by a 32-pound child on his back, probably wasn't the best thing for him. But he'd convince Kate to give him a massage when the kids went down for their naps and play time. If he played his cards right, it might even turn into more.
He grabbed Kate's arm when she tried to step away from him, and tugged her close. "Hey you," he said quietly, lifting to kiss her again. He ignored the gagging noises coming from their daughter in favor of swiping his tongue against hers, but kept it quick.
Later. They'd have time later.
"I thought I told you to wake me," Kate said, flicking his ear with her free hand.
Rick kissed her again, just a peck. "I didn't have the heart," he admitted. "You were passed out. None of you even moved."
Kate hummed, a blush creeping onto her features. "They insisted on staying up, and I couldn't say no."
"Mommy!" Lily interrupted, tugging on her hand. "Breakfast!"
Rick grabbed Reece's arms, which had found their way around his neck, and he stood with the child hanging from his back like a monkey. "Come on, little man."
"I love you, Daddy," Reece whispered into his ear.
Rick grinned and twisted so he could smudge a sloppy kiss to his son's cheek. "I love you too, Reece's pieces. I missed you." He accepted the coffee his wife handed to him with a grateful smile, and ruffled sleepy Jake's hair when Kate put him in his chair. "Oh, Kate…" he breathed when he took in the food.
"It was all Lily," Kate admitted. "She wanted to welcome you home with a feast."
"Mommy did the hot stuff," Lily piped up from her place at Kate's side.
Rick set Reece in his chair, and waggled his eyebrows towards his wife. "The hot stuff, huh?"
Kate flushed, and palmed his ass when she passed behind him. "Shush," she scolded. "Little ears. Now, sit. Let me feed you."
It was hours before they were alone; all three kids were energized after breakfast, so they took turns showering and supervising. Normally it was fine, Castle was an adult who could keep his hands to himself, but it had been two weeks since he'd been with his wife, and he missed her. He missed her desperately.
So as soon as the boys were down for an afternoon nap and Lily was in her room with a book - something that could occupy her for hours - Castle dragged Kate into their bedroom and shut the door.
"Never again," he panted an hour later, after Kate had collapsed at his side.
Kate reached out and ran her fingers through his hair. "Never again, what?"
Castle grabbed her hand and smudged a kiss to her palm, then tugged until she was resting on his chest. "Never again are we spending that long apart."
She propped her chin on his sternum. "What do you mean?"
"I mean…" He sighed and brushed a lock of damp hair off her forehead. "I'm done touring without you. I don't want to be gone for days or weeks at a time anymore."
"What if the boys had gotten sick when I was gone? I would have had to cancel anyway, or you would have been here alone-"
Kate pressed her fingers against his mouth to stop him. "Rick. I would have been fine. Your mom stayed for a few days, Alexis came down last weekend. And we have a lot of friends that have offered themselves as reinforcements." She propped herself on her elbows so she was hovering over him. "I don't ever want to take you away from your fans. You love meeting them."
"I do," Castle admitted with a nod. He tangled his fingers through her hair and brought her down to brush a kiss against her mouth. "But I love my family even more."
They kissed for a few long moments, until Kate pulled back with a start. "Rick, you...are you serious? About not traveling as much?"
"Yeah." He tangled his fingers through her hair and she hummed, leaned into his hand. "I haven't said anything to Gina, I wanted to talk to you first, but I'm done touring alone. I'll do press, I'll do local. But if you and the kids can't come with me, then I don't want to travel."
Kate grabbed his hand from her hair, and laced their fingers together. "I love you, Rick."
He grinned. "I love you too. Now...I think we should continue my homecoming," he teased, his hand drifting down to her hip and squeezing.
"Hmm, I think that can be arranged." She craned her neck and kissed him, but the moment her tongue swept against his she pulled away.
"Shush. I heard a child."
Rick listened for a few moments but heard only the sound of his blood rushing through his ears. "I don't."
Kate scrambled off the bed and threw his pants onto his lap. "Put your clothes on, babe. We have conscious toddlers."
Rick groaned, but sat up anyway. "Maybe we can put the kids down early?"
"Hey." He grabbed her hand when she passed him, and pulled her onto his lap. "Hey. I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was thinking about it."
Kate bracketed his thighs and sifted her fingers through his hair before cupping his cheeks. "No apology necessary." She pressed a soft kiss to his mouth and dropped her forehead against his. "Welcome home, Castle."
I hope you enjoyed! As always, thanks to Callie for the beta, and also for letting me run with what was ultimately her idea. Feedback welcome!