The soft melody of her humming filters through the air, coaxing him into consciousness with a gentle hand. She has a beautiful singing voice, but she rarely allows him to hear it, reserving it for times when she thinks he's sleeping or out of earshot. It's the tune of Dream A Little Dream of Me, one of her favorites, and he smiles to himself at the sweet melody of her voice, but when he reaches for her, she isn't there.
Castle opens his eyes and frowns at the empty space beside him, sweeping his hand over the warm sheets where Kate should be. He doesn't have to guess to know where she is, already hearing her voice floating from the next room and through the baby monitor on the nearby nightstand.
"You were hungry weren't you, sweetie?" he listens to her coo as he sits up in the bed and slips his boxers on since Kate's inherited the habit of stealing his robe over the last few months, always grabbing it in her haste to cover up and rush to the baby's room only a few steps down the hall.
"Look who's awake," Kate whispers to their daughter, smiling up at him as he shuffles into the room. He stops at the doorway, slumping against the frame to watch her for a handful of seconds as she rocks their daughter in the chair. The bottle is on the floor beside them, nearly empty, but sometimes Kate stays, content to hold their daughter and bathe in the moonlight for a while longer before she drifts off.
It's so different from his first experience in raising a child. Usually he was the one tending to his daughter for late night feedings – hell, for all the feedings. He had always been the one changing diapers and giving baths. He had practically raised Alexis on his own, never having anyone to share the pride and joy with, but with Kate, it couldn't be more different.
Every time their daughter does something exciting, which is every other hour these days, he looks up and sees her there, meeting his bright eyes with her own, relishing in the amazement of their child with him.
When they found out she was pregnant, he knew right away that they would be going into this as a team, husband and wife, partners, and the second even a sliver of doubt crept into his mind, she eradicated it. Banished his insecurities as she always has, one of the many qualities on an endless list of things he loves about her.
"Staring's starting to get creepy, babe," she teases softly, dividing her gaze between him and their dozing daughter.
"Can't help it," he sighs, pushing off the wall and padding across the hardwood floor to stand beside her, leaning against the arm of the plush rocking chair to see his wife and his daughter snuggled together.
"Did I wake you?" she murmurs, but he shakes his head as he bends to brush his lips to her temple.
"I always wake up when you're not in the bed."
"Except for that first week," she reminds him with a gentle smirk. "We didn't wake up for anyone but her back then."
"Thank god six month olds sleep longer than newborns," he murmurs and she nods her agreement while she reaches for him.
"Sit with us for a bit?"
Kate only has to shift for him to slide in beneath her on the rocker, situating herself and their daughter in his lap, and then he's cradling Kate against his chest as the baby falls into a deeper sleep against hers.
"I want a boy next," she sighs, nuzzling his neck. "Not for two or three, maybe even four years, but I hope we have a boy."
"Me too," he concedes, stroking Kate's hair with one hand, sweeping his fingers over the baby's with the other. His girls. "Can't handle anymore women in my life."
She huffs a quiet laugh, nips at his adam's apple. He feels the cool touch of her wedding band against his skin as she covers the top of his hand with her own, tracing lazy fingers over his arm.
Castle sets the chair into a slow rocking with his foot, feeling Kate's lashes flutter against his jaw as they fall to a close and her body melts a little deeper into his. She's been exhausted the last couple of days, working hard to close a case so she can come home to them on time. She doesn't allow herself endless hours at the precinct any longer, cutting back ever so slowly since they got married and even more so after Lucy was born. He knows she loves her job, but she loves them more.
"Mm, better put her in her crib," Kate yawns, shifting her shoulder against him and he lets her, because they've fallen asleep like this before and it did a number on both of their backs.
He keeps a hand steady at her waist as she eases from his lap, stands at her back and watches over her shoulder as she slips Lucy into her crib, placing the plush elephant he bought her the day she was born - Kate had rolled her eyes when he had walked into their hospital room with it, but elephants do hold a lot of significance in their life after solving her mother's case together a couple of years ago - in the crook of her arm, and they both smile at the reflexive curl of their daughter's arm around the stuffed animal.
Kate drags him out of their daughter's bedroom, back down the hall of their home, and into their own room.
It's a beautiful place really, a perfect blend of the two of them and the growing impressions of their daughter littered in every room, but their bedroom alone is his favorite. Kate had been relieved by the existence of real walls, always criticizing the lack of them in the loft – who chooses bookshelves for walls in the bedroom of all places, Castle? - but he knew she fell in love with the space the first time she was able to walk inside. And since their move from the loft four years ago, they had turned the place into something quite spectacular. Not in the sense of extravagancy, but in intimacy. His bedroom was always his own, no collaborating ever taking place, but he had compromised with every aspect from bedding to the wall color here. The entire house had been an interesting journey in compromise he had never experienced before.
The loft had always been his, but the brownstone is theirs.
"Alexis has a free night this Friday," she murmurs, crawling onto the king sized mattress and snagging the midnight blue sheets from the foot of the bed. "Said she would babysit for us if you still want to go to dinner."
"I'd love that." He grins as he settles in beside her. It's silly, they've been together for years, but he still feels the familiar buzz of excitement in his blood at the mention of a date with her. Anything with her. "Hey, Kate?"
She glances up at him, tousled and sleepy and lovely. "Hmm?"
"Thank you." She arches an eyebrow in question, but he just shrugs. "For our daughter, for making me happy, just - everything."
Her lips quirk into one of those soft smiles she reserves only for him and she holds out an arm, beckons him closer.
"I love you," she whispers, wrapping her arm around his neck, raking her fingers through his hair. "And I can't thank you enough for all of those same things, Castle. Meeting you… it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me."
The sincerity burns bright in her eyes and he smiles as he kisses her, slipping his hand inside the robe still concealing her skin, splaying a palm at her spine, over the healed scar in the middle of her back.
"Why'd you choose to get sappy at 3 a.m.?" she huffs, shedding the robe and tugging him closer, tangling her legs around his waist.
He chuckles, settling above her and stroking the errant strands of hair from her face. "You inspire me at all hours, Beckett."
She rolls her eyes and rises up to meet him, capturing him with the sweet solitude of her lips and luring him into the warm cradle of her body.
An hour later, Castle's sleeping peacefully beside her, the quiet rhythm of his breathing a soothing lullaby and his hand a warm weight over her stomach. He started the habit while she was pregnant, splaying his palm over her belly to help them both sleep, and he never seemed to shake it. She doesn't mind, toying with his fingers while she stares at the ceiling. She knows she should take the opportunity to sleep while she can, the chance doesn't come often these days, but she's wide awake.
Kate sighs quietly and releases his hand, reaches for the book tucked away in the nightstand instead. It's worn, the paperback's cover wilting with age and use, and she trails her fingers over the front before she opens it - the rich shade of black, the splashes of crimson surrounding the feminine, weapon wielding silhouette she could have killed him over.
Heat Wave. He had given her the very first copy, presented it to her in a wrapped gift box with a delicate little bow tied around it the night before it hit bookstores. Alexis had just moved out of the loft, into her dorm at Columbia, and it was one of the first of many nights they had to themselves, but instead of sharing space on the couch they had moved from the loft into their new living room so many years ago, he had taken her to the park, to their swings.
"I even signed it for you, added a personal touch and everything," he'd told her, swaying eagerly on his swing as she lifted the lid of the box and slipped the novel free of its confines.
She had been so excited to read it, so happy for him and all the success his new character had brought him. He's working on the fifth book now, Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook still going strong and conquering the world together.
She smiles at the memories, gingerly flips the book open, bites her lip at the dedication. It's simple, a subtle message meant only for her, and she traces her fingers over the letters.
May we continue to be extraordinary.
And the inscription he'd scribbled underneath.
Ready to marry me yet?
She had placed the book back in the box in her lap, tugged him close by the chain of his swing, and smiled.
A/N: To everyone who followed, favorited, and took the time to leave a review - I can't express how much I appreciate your support. The response to this story has continuously left me speechless and I hope that it was as enjoyable to read as it was for me to write.
And a special thank you to Alex, who inspired this fic in the first place and made me smile with every single word of kindness she's been gracious enough to put towards this story.