Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.

She usually wakens gradually, stretches her legs out beneath the covers, wiggles her toes, opens her eyes halfway, or opens one and leaves the other closed. Not this morning. Just before 5:00 she comes to with a start, gasping, as if someone has simultaneously cracked a whip an inch from her ear and pressed a cattle prod against her instep. A glance to her left shows Castle breathing evenly, everything about him relaxed, Biscuit and Cookie contentedly curled next to his right shin. She slips out of bed and closes the door quietly behind her.

What were you thinking? her brain demands before she's even halfway down the hall.

Shut up.

Good morning to you, too. What were you thinking, telling Castle it would be all right with you if you're pregnant. Are you crazy?

Well, since you're the brain, I've always assumed that you're the one responsible for thoughts, so my saying that is your doing, not mine.

No. No, no, no. You're a take-charge person, so don't blame me. If you choose to ignore the filters that I offer you before you open your mouth, what am I supposed to do?

Couldn't you have told me to shut the fuck up?

That's your line, not mine.

Damn it.

I think we both need some coffee. How about it?

"You're right," she mutters. "I could use some coffee."

We. We could use some coffee.

Fine, we could use some coffee. And could you leave me alone for a minute, please? I need to think.

You just said that I was the one responsible for thoughts. You can't have it both ways.

I repeat, shut the fuck up.

"Maybe I'll have tea instead," she says. "Just to stick it to my brain. Besides, I need to calm down, and mint tea might help. Very soothing." She opens the door to a kitchen cabinet and begins to poke around. No mint tea? How can this be? What self-respecting household has no mint tea in stock?

You told me to STFU, but I'd like to point out that you have no mint tea in your apartment, either. Or any other kind of tea. Wait, I take that back. I think there's a tea bag left over from one of your innumerable Chinese takeout dinners. It's in that drawer with about fifty pairs of chopsticks and a bunch of plastic forks and spoons. But no mint tea.

"Aha," she announces loudly, in hopes of drowning out her deeply irritating brain. "Here's some chamomile tea. That'll do."

That's what Mrs. Rabbit gave to Peter when he had a stomach ache. I expect you'll be reading that book to this baby of yours.

"Okay, that does it," she shouts, and slams the cabinet door shut. Just as she turns the kettle on she hears barking and the sound of a variety of running feet.

"What's wrong?" Castle asks, as he, Biscuit, and Cookie half slide, half tumble across the floor. "What happened?"

"Nothing. Nothing. Everything's fine. I'm sorry I woke you up."

"I don't mind. Bed's no fun without you in it."

Her stomach drops. Good thing it's about to get a dose of chamomile. Fun in bed. It sure as hell had been fun in bed yesterday. Fun and a whole lot more. "Uh, Castle, why don't you sit down."

"I'll just start the coffee."

She nods her head towards the kettle. "Don't make a big pot. I'm having tea."

"Tea?" He looks as though she'd said she was moving to Mars or planning to go back to college to study Sanskrit. "You never drink tea."

"I know. But it's chamomile." She tries to focus on the stripes in the dishtowel that's hanging on the oven door handle. "Relaxing. It's relaxing. It, uh, relieves anxiety."

His face falls. "Are you worried about going back to work? Did going to the city yesterday bring things back, because the shooter is–"

"No, nothing like that. This is on me." The kettle clicks off; thank God. Something for her to do. She pours water into her mug and breathes in the herbal sweetness. "Would you like some?"

"I don't know. If you need something to relieve anxiety, do I? Because I'm guessing that I do."

"Don't worry, please. Why don't I make your coffee and you can take the dogs out long enough for them to pee?"

He agrees, and she's glad to have a few minutes to figure out how to say what she wants to say. While the coffee is brewing she puts kibble in two bowls and sets them on the floor. She's filling his mug when he and the puppies come back.

Tear the Band-Aid off, she tells herself. "It's about last night."

"What? What about it?"

"About what you said and I said."

"I–"

She slides her hand across the little table and puts it on top of hers. "I'm not the champion talker that you are, but I'm going to try to say what I'm feeling quickly, okay?"

"Okay." She can tell that he's miserable, despite his attempt to disguise it.

"First of all, I should have thought about protection yesterday before we had sex, but I was so excited about finally being able to get my hands on you that I didn't. That's my fault. This morning I wondered why Kovacks hadn't brought up birth control until I remembered that my charts say I'm on the pill. Because I still was when I was in the hospital."

"Doesn't matter. I should have thought of it."

"Why? You didn't know what I had in mind, so why should you have been prepared? It's not like you're sixteen and carry a condom in your wallet. Then last night before we went to sleep, you suddenly realized it. You said what if I'd gotten pregnant and I essentially said that didn't matter, bad timing but we'd raise a baby. I said it as casually as if it were nothing, but it's not nothing. It's the opposite of nothing, but my mouth was running ahead of my brain because the idea of having a child with you was–is–so exciting."

She gives herself a moment to register, and be pleased, that he's beginning to look slightly less remorseful.

"But this morning I woke up in total panic. What if I am pregnant? I'm barely strong enough for sex, so how could I be strong enough right now to have a baby? Could my heart take it this soon? Why didn't I ask Kovacks that? Because it didn't occur to me, that's why. Babies weren't why I was there and he's not an OB/GYN. We talked about a lot of things, not just sex."

"But what if you are? What happens if–?"

She raises her other hand like a traffic cop. "Don't go there. Just don't. I meant it when I said it's highly unlikely that I'm pregnant. I'm ninety-nine percent sure, and we'll know soon enough. So let's not worry about it. Don't think about it. Promise me. C'mon, Castle, promise."

"I'll try."

Maybe it's because she got everything off her chest, and maybe the chamomile tea helped her as much as it helped Peter Rabbit, but she's calm, almost serene. She's looking at him, assessing him, counting off all the ways she'd been wrong about him, adding up the things she loved about him. The old Castle–both the old Castle and what she mistakenly thought he was–would have started talking, but here's the quiet version. She loves it. She loves his insanely chatty side, too, but the quiet one is still so new to her. The more she looks at him, though, the more he's a serious distraction. He's not wearing a shirt, and his bare chest is sending her thoughts south. His chest is massive and muscular but astonishingly satiny. His skin is like a baby's. She almost laughs then, since she'd been doing everything she could to direct her thoughts away from anything baby-related. And then she does laugh.

"What's so funny?" He asks it happily, which is a relief.

"I was just thinking that under other circumstances if you knocked me up the first time you got me in bed–"

"Hey, you got me in bed."

"Fine. True. Anyway, as I was saying, if the circumstances were different and you knocked me up the first time we had sex, there'd be no living with you. You'd be strutting around, so ridiculously proud of yourself."

She picks up her phone from the middle of the table and Googles something. With a smile of great satisfaction she says, "It's five forty-five."

"Is that important?"

"It is to me. Should be to you, too."

"I'll bite."

"I should hope so, but maybe a little later in the day."

He looks a question at her.

"In exactly two hours and fifteen minutes the pharmacy in Altamont opens."

"And?"

"Geez, Castle, catch up. Pharmacies sell condoms. It's all I can do right now not to jump over this table and drag you to the nearest comfortable surface, but I have to wait until our shopping trip."

His entire face is beaming. "May I borrow your phone, please?"

"Sure," she says as she pushes it across the table to him.

He's apparently also Googling something. "Good. Excellent."

"What's excellent?"

"I noticed a diner in town when I went to the supermarket the other day. And now I see that it opens at seven and has some tables on a little patio. So, by the time we make the bed and brush our teeth and get dressed, it'll be time for us to go eat breakfast there. Since there's outdoor seating, the pups can come with us. And then I can be first in line at the pharmacy."

"First in line? I don't think there's usually a horde beating down the front door."

"There will be today. A horde of one. Me."

They're first in the nonexistent line at the diner, so they have their choice of tables. They pick the third of three, which is farthest from the building. The waitress, who has braces on her teeth, freckles on her face, and is almost certainly the daughter of the owners, ooohs and aaahs over the dogs, and brings them a bowl of water along with the menus. The kid has no way of knowing that her tip just doubled.

"This is so nice," she says later, spearing the last triangular bite of blueberry pancake and dragging it through the syrup. "It's the first time I've eaten out in two months."

"I'm sorry it wasn't Jean-Georges, for such a big occasion."

"I'm not. I don't need a Michelin three-star breakfast. Besides, I doubt that Jean-Georges allows pooches or gets the berries for its muffins from the backyard."

"Jean-Georges's back yard is Central Park, so you have a point."

"See? And this is yummy, isn't it?"

He leans across the table and whispers, "Almost as yummy as you, as I recall–and I recall very, very, very well."

At five to eight he gets up to go to the pharmacy, and she stays put to finish her coffee and watch the dogs. "Hey! Castle!" she calls when he's about twenty feet away, and waves him over.

He trots back. "Yes?"

"Buy at least three boxes," she says seriously. "We're going to be up here for a while."

Fifteen minutes later he still hasn't returned, and she's getting a little antsy. "Where's Dad?" she asks the dogs, who are under the table hunting trace elements of pancake and bacon. When she looks up again she sees Castle coming their way, carrying a large shopping bag.

"Either you have more stamina than any man on Earth," she says when he arrives, "or you bought something else, too."

"Had to. The cashier was at least seventy and I didn't want her to think I was a perv."

"What did you get?"

"Two b-a-l-l-s for you know who, a package of disposable razors–"

"You hate disposable razors."

"The cashier doesn't know that. Let me see. Two thirty-six ounce bags of peanut m and ms. The bags are resealable, and the second was fifty percent off, so I felt morally obliged to buy them, you know? Some double-A batteries, because who doesn't need those? Oh, and the new Sports Illustrated, for you, because it has their own All-Star team."

"Is Jeter on it? Because if he isn't, you should get your money back."

He fishes the magazine from the bag and offers it to her. "Why don't you check and see?"

She flips the issue open and finds the article, scans it, and puts the magazine back in the bag. "Okay. It's a keeper."

On the way back to the cabin, she's looking out the window when she feels his large, soft, hand cup her knee and then travel up and under the hem of her shorts. "Good thing you're driving," she gasps, "or this car would be wrapped around the nearest tree."

Some time later–she has temporarily and happily lost all concept of time–she's draped over him in bed. They're both naked and dreamy. He's running a finger tip up and down her spine, and warm as she is, she shivers.

"Remember what you said a while ago?" he asks.

"Can you be more specific? I remember saying, 'harder,' was that it?"

"No. Before that. Early this morning, when you were having your tea. You said under different circumstances if I knocked you up the first time we had sex that there'd be no living with me."

"Oh, yeah. I remember." She kisses him in the hollow between his collarbones.

"Well, what do you think?"

"About what?"

"About living with me. I want you to move in with me."

TBC

A/N We're heading into summer tomorrow. Thank you for continuing to read this story, and special thanks to those who take the time to review. Have a good weekend.