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Family Found

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Family Found

A post-series fic set in the Virtual Castle Season 9 universe, though it absolutely can stand on its own as well.

Prompt at the end.

Rick Castle was sure he was one of the few people on the planet to breathe a sigh of relief when he stepped off the elevator to the 12th Precinct Homicide Division, but he'd never been much of a fan of following the crowd. Of course, it was also a plus not to be in handcuffs and under guard, and to have an adorable little girl - although she was a grumpy adorable girl for the moment - whose existence he kind of owed to the station in his arms, but still. Even his bias didn't change the fact that walking into the precinct felt a lot like coming home.

"Okay, peanut," he cooed, rubbing a hand over his daughter's belly. "Time to turn that frown upside down. We're going to see what Mommy's up to. Maybe we'll even convince her to play hooky with us for the rest of the day."

He wasn't sure what the likelihood of success for that last bit would be, not because Kate was particularly chained to her desk these days, but because she might be busy with something she couldn't put off until tomorrow. That said, he wasn't above using Lily to increase his chances of getting his wife out of the precinct early. They could hit the park and grab some food on their way home, maybe even enjoy a nap - of either kind - of their own while Lily was down for the count.

"Castle, Baby Castle, hey!"

Rick grinned, bouncing Lily as he turned to face their eager greeter. The officer waved, moving closer, her eyes locked on the baby with unmistakable glee.

"Harrison, hey. Long time, no see. How's it going?"

Her smile deepened the closer he got, and she extended a hand to Lily, who took it from her spot in the carrier on Rick's chest. "Pretty well, Castle. God, she's so much bigger than she was the last time I saw her. I keep missing you guys when you bring her in."

Castle laughed, conceding that. He tried to bring Lily to Kate's work frequently, wanting her to feel the same connection to the precinct that he did and see her mom when Kate was working hard, but with shifts being what they were, some of the 12th's crew rarely saw her. "Tell me about it. I'd forgotten how quickly they grow. Before we know it, she'll be going off to college and graduating from law school."

Lily giggled in his arms, kicking her legs in what he thought had to be a show of agility. It was either that, or she was reminding him that she was missing out on valuable bouncer time while he chit chatted. Either way, Harrison grinned, eating up the baby's activity.

"Oh my god, you're so cute, Lily."

Rick caught one of his daughter's feet, allowing her to push against his palm with her baby sneaker.

"She knows it, too," he quipped, dusting his lips over his daughter's head. Already she seemed to be in a better mood. He couldn't help but wonder if the precinct was comforting to her in its own way, the way the spot by the windows in the office at the loft was for Kate, or the way the porch at the Hamptons house was for him. "Gets it and her charm from me, of course. You should see her work her magic on Esposito."

Harrison glanced over her shoulder. "Well, he is here, and I don't have to leave for patrol for another ten… we could put it to the test."

He chuckled. "Well, in that case… come on, Lily, let's go find your uncle and see if we can make him silly."

Lily squawked what sounded enough like an agreement that he grinned. Espo put on a good act, tried to be gruff and disinterested when it came to small children, but they all knew how to get him. Sarah Grace had him wrapped around her little finger. Nicholas did too (after all, even Esposito understood that when a toddler handed you a phone, you answered it). There was also Richie, Marisa Aragon's son. Though the boy was the oldest of their rapidly growing precinct family and things had started off strangely with him, Espo was finding his footing there too. And then there was Lily, who inspired the fiercest of their friend's protective instincts.

His friend took one look at them and reached for the baby, murmuring to her with upturned lips. Castle couldn't help but grin, replying on his daughter's behalf as he freed Lil from the carrier and passed her over.

"Hush, Castle. I've seen your mug enough to last me a while; I'm talking to my niece here. Aren't I, Lily? Yes I am."

Lily brightened, babbling nonsense in response, making Esposito laugh. Sharing a glance with Harrison, Rick's lips lifted. The officer grinned back.

"I see what you mean, Castle."

Their knuckles bumped in triumph, drawing Esposito's attention back to them.

"Mean about what?"

There was something decidedly non-threatening about the man when he was holding a baby, especially one as cute as Lily. Castle just smirked, shaking his head.

"Don't worry about it," he spoke just as Harrison said something similar. "Working on anything good?"

Esposito snorted, bouncing Lily lightly. "Nothing I'm telling you about."

"Afraid I might be too helpful? Make you look bad?" he drawled, giving the bullpen a long look. It appeared to be a slow day at the 12th, nobody being dragged in half-naked and covered in blood, shouting obscenities or about doomsday. Just a bunch of cops milling around with files in their hands, stopping to make conversation with one another on occasion.

"Beckett's in her office," Espo said, ignoring the barb. "Go annoy her."

Castle grinned, holding out his hands to take his daughter from his friend. Esposito scoffed, turning away.

"You'll get her back in a few."

"Yeah, after she poops," Castle retorted.

"Mmm, probably." With that, Esposito walked back to his desk, plopping Lily down on top of a stack of case files, and steadying her with a hand on her waist. The baby grinned, giving her hands a gleeful clap.

Stunned, Castle stood there with his arms at his sides and the empty carrier on his chest, until the pull of Kate Beckett (and the possibility of being able to greet his wife without their daughter babbling between them) grew too strong. He shook his head, moving through the bullpen to the doorway to Kate's office.

He held back, watching his wife absently brush her hair behind her ear as she read. God, she was beautiful, breathtaking. He was so damn lucky.

"I can feel you staring, Castle," she said without looking up.

His grin widened. "Well hi to you too. What're you working on?"

Kate's lips lifted higher, drawing him deeper into her office as the smile reached her eyes. He watched her take note of the empty accessory on his chest, saw the question spring to her lips, and gestured over his shoulder.

"'Sito has her."

"Ahh, getting her time with Uncle 'I Don't Want to Hold That Baby' instead of those of us who were up with her at three this morning."

He grinned at Kate's impression of Esposito, at the reminder of the cop's words from so many years ago, moving to the edge of her desk and taking his customary spot at her side. "Isn't that always how it goes?"

"Mmm, pretty much. But the up side is she won't catch me in the chin when you kiss me."

"You make an excellent point, Captain Beckett," he murmured, meeting her in the space between their chairs and cupping her jaw with gentle fingers. "One I cannot refute."

Her eyes sparkled with mischief and a hint of rebellion at breaking her staunch professionalism to accept the kiss he pressed to her mouth. Castle grinned, savoring the moment, the softness of her lips, the lingering sweetness of M&Ms from her stash. Kate hummed against his mouth, skimming a hand over his cheek when they parted.

"Busy day?" he asked, looking over her desk. Kate nudged him back into the chair, rolling her eyes affectionately.

"We've had our moments. It's quiet now, but it'll probably pick up again in a couple of hours. Right when I have a conference call, no doubt."

He nodded in understanding. Well, there went the hope that he could convince Kate to leave early, but maybe she could be persuaded to take a longer lunch break instead. After all, she was only a phone call away if a crisis arose at lunch.

"So, you have something scheduled for later?" he asked, deciding to feel her out anyway.

"Mmm, yeah. To discuss the new program we're probably going to be piloting: using therapy dogs to help victims and their families when they're here giving statements. It's what I've been reading up on this morning," she added with a gesture to the files in front of her.

"That would be good, wouldn't it?" he asked, cocking his head. "Another way to help people when they're here?"

Joy flitted across her face. It never failed to make her smile when they were on the same wavelength. "That's the argument I'm going to make, yeah. There are logistics we would need to consider, but I think it would be worth the effort."

Rick nodded. "I suppose that's a fair reason for you to stay at work instead of playing hooky with me and the sprout."

Her brow furrowed and the beginning of a pout slid across her lips. "Oh, that's just mean. You know I-"

"I know," he interrupted, catching her hand and kissing her knuckles. "What time is your call?"

Her thumb brushed his lips. "Two. But it could last a while."


She sighed, stroking his lower lip again. "I know. But hey, maybe I can meet you guys afterward, though? We could grab an early dinner and let Lil play a little bit before bedtime."

"That is a fantastic idea," he agreed without missing a beat. Although they tried to stick to a schedule for the sake of not battling an overtired baby each night, there was more than a little room to wiggle for the sake of giving Kate more time with their daughter during her waking hours.

Kate lifted a shoulder, looking pleased. "I have those sometimes. Maybe later I could show you a few more of them…"

Lily's familiar angry squawk halted the enthusiastic agreement that sprang to his lips.

"And there's the true boss of the house," he said, casting an affectionate look over his shoulder. Esposito seemed composed enough as Lily squirmed in his arms and grunted her displeasure, but Rick knew enough to recognize the beginning of panic in their friend's eyes, too.

Kate was already on her feet, holding out her arms to their daughter, lifting her from Espo's grip before she could go tumbling.

"Hi, sweetheart," she cooed, brushing soft lips over Lily's hair. "What's all the fuss about? Did you get tired of looking at Uncle Javi's mug?"

Esposito scoffed, taking the opportunity to regain some of his bravado. "Please, get tired of this handsome face? She loves me."

Beckett rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Thanks for bringing her in, Espo," she added after a beat, lifting one of Lily's hands to her lips.

Their friend nodded, brushing a hand down Lily's back in farewell. "I'll get moving on that financial report."

Kate thanked him, waiting until Esposito had left the office to turn her full attention to Lily.

"Just wanted Mommy, huh?" she asked, swaying with the girl. Her hand moved in slow circles along Lily's back, soothing the last of their daughter's indignant noises into soft sighs. "Nothing wrong with that," she added, dusting a kiss over Lily's hair. "I wanted to see you, too."

Castle watched them with soft eyes. Some days were better than others, days when he could see his wife struggle with self-doubt and finding balance between their life at home and her job, but the hard days weren't winning. They were both flourishing. All three of them were.

"I'm glad you came," she continued, drawing Rick's attention once again. "I wish I could sneak out of here with you, but I have to talk to Gates in a little bit. And as cute as you are, I don't think she'll let me use you as an excuse."

"And here I thought she'd finally warmed up to me," he mused, earning an affectionate eye roll from his wife.

"Daddy thinks he's so funny," she murmured against Lily's temple. He saw the grin flirting at the edges of her lips, though, saw the appreciation for his humor.

Lily's cheek landed on Kate's shoulder, the rest of her body scrunching closer in the process. Kate rubbed gentle circles over her back, swaying. "I have to go back to work in a couple minutes, baby. But you and Daddy are going to go play some more and have lots of fun, and I'll come when I can, okay?"

Lily's babbled response brought a smile to his wife's lips. "You're right," Kate murmured, moving to sit at her desk, keeping the baby close. Close enough that he knew he might have a hard time prying her away when it was time to leave. "You're absolutely right. We'll have a great time when I get there, too."

Rick tilted his head, considering another plan.

"Why don't we stay?" he suggested, getting his wife's attention. "She has enough diapers and a bottle for later. We can just hang out here until you're done and then you can come with us. Same plan, sort of, but we don't have to leave the precinct to keep ourselves amused."

Beckett hesitated. "Rick, that's sweet, but… we're talking hours, not forty-five minutes and then a quick getaway."

"We'll play it by ear," he said, waving a hand. "You just look like you're not going to be able to say goodbye easily. Both of you do."

Her lips lifted, touching their daughter's hair. "I'm not going to be able to change your mind, am I?"

He shook his head, grinning. "Nope. This is the new plan. Right, Lil?"

His daughter babbled something he took as a hearty agreement, patting Kate's chest as she spoke.

Kate hummed in assent, dusting another kiss to Lily's hair. "Guess I can't argue with that."

Two weeks later he stood in the elevator at the 12th Precinct once again, bouncing his daughter in the sling on his chest.

"Mommy said she has a surprise for us, peanut," he cooed, wiggling her arm. "What do you think it's going to be?"

Lily giggled, twisting just enough to see his face.

"Da!" she squeaked, like he was a happy surprise to find.

"Yeah, that's me," he confirmed with a grin. They weren't quite in agreement as to whether it counted as her first word, but he took the win regardless. "It's not a pony for you - she told me that's my job when you're older. Daddy thinks it'll be a weekend in the Hamptons, Mommy's surprise, I mean."

Lily babbled in return, kicking her legs. He pressed a kiss to her head, grinning into her soft hair. He'd tried to get a bow on her before leaving the loft, but his attempt had been all for nothing; truthfully, he didn't mind his failure so much. "That's right, we'll see in just a second."

He squeezed her hand as the elevator slowed and bumped to a stop at the fourth floor. "Ready to see Mommy?"

She squeaked with a joy he definitely understood, a delight that spread through his chest as well. Kate had been eager when she'd called and told him to come to the precinct and bring the baby; he couldn't wait to share in her excitement, even if he had no idea what might have caused it.

His wife's sweet, soft smile greeted them as soon as the elevator doors slid open on the fourth floor.

"Hey," she said as soon as they stepped off, reaching out a hand to brush Lily's cheek as she lifted her chin and pressed a kiss to his mouth. "Thanks for coming. I know you guys probably had something else going on today."

Rick waved her off. "Nothing big. Trying to figure out what trouble we could make. Maybe a nap. The usual."

She grinned, dipping her head to kiss Lily's cheek, dodging their excited daughter's grabbing hands.

"Hi, sweetheart," she cooed, deftly unstrapping the baby and lifting her away from Castle's chest. "I'm happy to see you too. Are you having a good day with Daddy?"

Lily wiggled in Kate's arms, reaching back to point at Rick. They both nodded. "That's right," Kate praised. "Were you guys playing at home?"

The baby laughed, kicking her feet as Beckett settled her on her hip.

"We may have spent a little while crawling around the house," he admitted, moving out of the way so a couple of uniformed officers could get onto the elevator to leave. The young guys offered Lily a smile and gave him a nod but didn't stop to chat beyond addressing Beckett by her title.

Once they were alone again - as alone as they could be in a police precinct anyway - she glanced at Castle, then Lily, her lips lifting higher. "Crawling around the house, huh? Were you racing Daddy?"

"She was," he confirmed, offering Kate a wry grin. "She won. And afterward Daddy bought some knee pads on Amazon - got you a pair too, in case you need them."

She laughed, but he saw concern flickering in her eyes. Reaching out, she ran her hand down his arm, squeezing his forearm through his jacket. "You okay?"

"Yeah," he assured. He didn't want her to worry about the knee he'd broken on their one and only skiing trip together. "Yeah, I'm fine. They'll just come in handy so she doesn't have any unfair advantages."

"Oh, if that's why," she drawled, smacking a kiss on Lily's cheek and winking at him. "Well, I'm glad you're here. There's someone I want you to meet, are you ready?"

Castle lifted a hand. "I am. And I have to say, I'm intrigued; I was expecting a last-minute trip to the Hamptons to be the surprise. Not a person."

Beckett grinned, turning to lead the way deeper into the bullpen. "Who said it's a person?" she added, looking over her shoulder, daring him to catch up and join her.

He only waited a beat before jogging to keep up with them.

"If it's not a person, what is it?"

Kate grinned, whispering something into Lily's ear. The girl giggled but gave him no other clue as to what they were there to see. Even more intriguing was the fact that they bypassed both Kate's office and the conference room, moving toward the break room instead.

"Do you remember the other day when I told you about the therapy dog pilot program?" Beckett asked once they'd made it through the bullpen.

He nodded. He'd been in her office while she had her conference call about it, but she hadn't said a word about it since then, leaving him to figure the whole thing was still tied up in bureaucratic hell at 1PP.

"Have you heard more about it?" he asked, reaching over her shoulder and taking the break room door, holding it open for her and Lily.

She nodded. "Yeah. Gates called me this morning when I was getting ready for work." Her smile widened as they stepped inside and he let the door close behind him. "We still have some kinks to work out, but today is our trial run. Rick, Lily, meet Lola on the left and Bailey on the right and Shelley, Bailey's foster mom."

Castle followed her gesturing hand, his eyes landing on the pair of dogs lying on plush beds in the far corner of the room. The one on the right - Lola - looked to be a Lab, and the other - Bailey - maybe a Collie mix, though he wasn't entirely sure. Both perked up at the sound of Kate's voice, standing as she neared. Shelley smiled, patting Bailey's back, murmuring for him to sit. She followed suit with Lola.

"Shelley, this is my husband, Rick, and our daughter, Lily."

He gave Shelley a smile. "Nice to meet you, Shelley."

"You, too," Shelley replied, holding out a hand when they approached. "I heard all about you both this morning. Especially you, Lily," she added tickling the baby's cheek. Lily squeaked in delight, turning her face into Kate's neck.

"Shelley'll be here with these guys whenever they come in," Kate explained, her words getting lost in a soft laugh as Lola stood again and butted between them, nudging her head against his knees. Bailey did the same a moment later. Rick chuckled, lowering his hands to pet them both at once. "They're really well-behaved, but she's cared for them long enough to recognize their cues and know if they've had enough for a while."

Rick nodded, watching his daughter peek at Bailey from her spot against Kate's shoulder. "Do you see Bailey, Lily?" he asked, taking in the awe that flooded her face. Oh, she was in love already, he could tell. "Want to say hi?"

"Hi!" she squeaked, pushing herself up, her gaze darting between dogs. Kate grinned at the enthusiasm, holding out a hand to Bailey. With the invitation extended, he wiggled past Rick, bumping his head into Beckett's palm.

Kate brushed his fur. "This is Lily," she said, bending her knees so Lily could get closer - not too close, Rick noticed, but close enough for Bailey to sniff their daughter.

Lily's eyes widened at the change in position, the new proximity to the dog, and Rick watched her thrust a hand toward him. Bailey leaned in, his nose bumping Lily's fingers, moving up her arm and down her leg. The baby giggled, her hand landing on the dog's head with a little too much force.

"Gentle," Kate hummed, pressing her lips to Lily's temple. "We don't want to scare him or hurt him, do we? No, we don't want that."

Lily babbled a reply, her eyes locked on Bailey. Her touch gentled, though, mimicking Kate's movements along the dog's neck.

"Good job, peanut," Castle praised, earning a sloppy slurp on the hand from Lola. "Yes, I see you too."

Shelley laughed. "She's a determined thing."

"Lily or Lola?" he asked, grinning in the baby's direction. His daughter looked up at her name, giving him a cheeky smile and bouncing in Beckett's arms, her hands moving over Bailey's head. Both Shelley and Beckett laughed, conceding that point to him. "Kate said you're fostering Bailey?"

Shelley nodded, motioning toward the chairs she'd vacated. Rick nodded in return, leading Lola to an empty seat while Kate and Lily took the chair closest to the dog beds with Bailey. "He's been with me for about seven months. Lola started out as a foster, too, but after the first adoption event I took her to, I knew I wasn't going to be able to let someone else have her."

He chuckled, rubbing Lola's side with a quick hand. She leaned into his legs, letting him take her weight. "I can see why. You're just a love sponge, aren't you?"

"Bailey is too, he's just a little quieter about it. He's a little harder to adopt out because people are expecting jumping and boundless energy out of a Collie, but he's got enough Sheltie in him that he's a tad more reserved with strangers…" Shelley trailed off, watching Lily babble happily at Bailey from Kate's knee. Bailey pressed closer, sniffing his way along Lily's leg and up her torso. His tail moved faster with every giggle that spilled from Lily's mouth. "But maybe that's a good thing."

His lips lifted at the subtext of her words just as Kate glanced his way. She bit her lip, looking between the baby and the dog, the question plain to see. He nodded, seeing the moment the spark of delight ignited in his wife's eyes. "I think you're right, Shelley. I think you are absolutely right."

Three heads turned as the door to the break room opened. "I'm sorry, Captain," the officer started, looking apologetic, "but I think Lola and Bailey are up; we've got a mom and her daughters coming in to give a statement and they're pretty shook up."

Beckett's nod of acknowledgement came as no surprise. "Thanks, Stevens." She turned to Lily and Bailey, scratching the dog's ears once as Shelley got to her feet and worked to get Lola situated. "Okay, Lily. Bailey needs to go for a little bit. Can you say bye bye?"

Lily's hand stilled against Bailey's fur and she turned betrayed eyes to Kate. "No."

"I know, I know, it's very hard saying goodbye," Beckett placated, rubbing Lily's back with a gentle hand. "But you'll see Bailey again. So, let's pet him one more time and then let him go to work."

Hearing his name, Bailey rested his head on Lily's leg, awaiting the affection. Lily's pout deepened, but she did as suggested (with a little help from Beckett), stroking the dog's neck.

"Good girl," Kate praised, taking Lily's hand back after a moment and pressing a quick kiss to her palm as she whined. "Bye bye, Bailey," she said as he trotted over to Shelley's side.

Lily waited all of two seconds after the dogs disappeared through the doorway before her face crumpled and her whimper became a sob.

Rick slid from his chair and dragged it over to his wife, pressing a hand to Lily's back as Kate bounced her gently.

Kate shifted the baby, cuddling Lily against her chest. "I know, I know. Mommy's so mean for taking Bailey away from you."

"Hey now," he chided, pressing a kiss to Lily's head. "No more tears. Mommy's right; you'll see Bailey again soon."

Lily turned wet eyes on him, gripping Kate's blouse. Rick tapped her nose. His silly face was met with a stony glare – she was her mother's daughter, through and through. "Well at least we know she likes him, right? Isn't that step one?"

His wife snorted. "Is it? I thought step one was deciding to get a dog."

"We didn't do that already?" he asked, lifting his eyebrows. Kate's eyes narrowed in return, but he just grinned. "I saw you, Kate. You called us down here, after all. You wouldn't have done that if you hadn't been thinking it, or at least somewhere along those lines."

"I-" she stumbled, hefting Lily higher. "Do you want to? Should we?"

"Well," he started, searching her face. Warm and fuzzy feelings while the dog was with them aside, they probably should talk it through the rest of the way. "He is in foster. Shelley said he's a little harder to adopt out because he's not an overly energetic dog at events, which is good for us and our living situation." Rick brushed his hand down Lily's back. "He's sweet, good with kids – as we saw."

"It might be hard to share him with the precinct," Kate offered, but it sounded more like an excuse than anything else. She'd felt the same thing he had; he knew she'd felt it. "She didn't even want to let him go five minutes after meeting him."

"So we work out a schedule for days he comes to work and days he stays home, and we get used to it. Just like we will with me – once Lily's older, of course." Kate laughed giving her head an affectionate shake. He knew she wasn't arguing with it, though; they both missed him spending his time at the precinct, even if he had a wonderful reason to stay home. "And besides," Castle continued, sticking to the conversation at hand, "eventually the program will take off and there will be more dogs to rotate through, so it won't fall all on Lola and Bailey anyway, right?"

"That's the goal. Now, how long that takes is a different story."

"I'm sure Shelley's rescue group – or other rescue groups – will be happy to help once they see how well it works."

She nodded, rubbing her hand down Lily's back. Their girl sighed, sinking deeper into Kate's embrace. "Yeah, that's part of the process. In a couple of weeks, the brass at 1PP will evaluate everything I submit to them and let me know if the program will continue here, and if it'll be expanded to other precincts, too."

"It may take a little while, but it'll happen," he offered, confident. "But if it doesn't, that would be one concern off the list, too, right?"

"I, well I guess, yeah." Her brow furrowed. "When you put it that way…"

"He's a beautiful dog, well-behaved," he listed, ticking each item on his fingers. "We'd have the flexibility to bring him to the precinct on a schedule or bring him in as needed. Lily loves him, we've talked about getting a dog before–"

"Have we now?" Beckett drawled, tilting to the side to check Lily's face. Rick suppressed a chuckle; their daughter was asleep, her cheeks still damp with her tears, her mouth partially open against Kate's blouse.

"Royal?" he offered. "We weren't even married then."

"We weren't even dating then, Castle," she said. She shifted Lily a bit, moving her higher onto her shoulder so if she drooled, she wouldn't leave a spot in an unfortunate area.

"Semantics. My point, Beckett, is that we have talked about it, even if it was in passing."

Her head cocked to the side. "You really want him, huh?"

"I do. And you do, too. You're just trying to talk yourself out of how badly you do." He scooted closer, nudging her knee with his.

Kate opened her mouth and shut it a few times before sighing. "Shut up."

His lips lifted. "So, we'll talk to Shelley when she comes back? Or I will, if you have to go back to work before she's done?"

Beckett nodded, dusting her lips to Lily's hair. He watched the smile blossom across her face as the decision sunk in; they were really going to do it. "We'll talk to Shelley when she comes back."

A few days later, their adoption application was officially approved by Shelley's rescue group, pending a house visit and final vet visits and paperwork. Although Castle would have loved to have jumped the line and fast tracked everything, he could see the wisdom in doing things at the rescue's pace. As it was, the extra time allowed him and Lily to spend a few more days at the precinct, getting to know Bailey a little more when the dog wasn't providing comfort to someone who needed it.

Finally, just over ten days after their first meeting, it was time to bring Bailey home to the loft. That morning, Shelley met them at the precinct as she had each day, making the exchange of Bailey's things (which would join the absurdly large number of toys and accoutrements that they'd already amassed at home) with a soft, pleased smile. Bailey seemed oblivious to the action around him, engrossed as he was by having Lily and Beckett's complete attention.

"As soon as I met Kate, I knew it would be you," Shelley said, glancing over her shoulder as Lily's giggles grew louder. "And I'm glad I was right."

Rick grinned. He followed her gaze, taking in the scene in front of him; Lily's wide-eyed glee, Kate's more understated joy, even Bailey's contented deep breaths. "I am, too."

Later that evening, when they left the precinct at the end of Kate's shift, it was with a new member of the family in tow. An eager - oh, so very eager with his bouncing step, his gentle nudges, his quiet yips when they paused - four-legged, new member of the family.

Prompt: The 12th gets a service puppy and he and Lily become best friends

As I mentioned at the top of this story, this fic is set in the universe we established in Virtual Castle Season 9. It was originally meant to be a prompt fill for the follow-up project we worked on, Moments of Always, but I wasn't able to get it finished in time for it to be posted with the other Moments of Always stories. That said, I hope you enjoyed this, whether you are familiar with the Virtual Season 9 stories or not. Virtual Season 9 and Moments of Always stories can be read on where they're posted under the name CastleSeason9. Thanks!

Thank you for reading!