This was posted originally on my tumblr, and was written for the amazing whatifellinlovewith's birthday at the end of May. <3

(Photo found on the castlefanficprompts blog and can be seen in the artwork for this story)

Come Morning Light
A post-ish 8x22 fic

Dawn is fast approaching when she nudges the weight of her husband's arm away from her belly and slips from their bed. She's stiff, no doubt a byproduct of the time spent in the car getting here and then reacquainting themselves with their home away from home, but she pushes through the aches, grateful that she's here to pay for overdoing it.

She's grateful that they all are.

A different trajectory, a few more minutes for help to arrive, and everything would be different. The possibilities always settle heavy on her chest, even though the outcome has already been determined. There will be no mourning. No picking up the pieces of a life half-lived and attempting to move forward, to put one foot in front of the other each day.

No, they're both here – all three of them are – and they're going to embrace the opportunity. Eat, drink (in Castle's case, anyway), and be merry.

Tomorrow may not be guaranteed, but they are going to fight like hell to get there.

But first, she has to pee. She always has to pee.

Her hand slips over her belly, tracing its curve, contemplating which of her daughter's limbs is to blame for waking her this time. One well-placed nudge to the bladder is all it takes to pull her from sleep these days.

She would not change a moment of it, though. After waking from surgery and having less than five minutes to process the news before being inundated with information about the possible complications, after weeks of her heart leaping into her throat at every tug of pain and hint of spotting, after months of holding herself together through sheer stubbornness, every stretch and push from her baby is celebrated.

There are still risks - her age alone would have her classified that way, and recovering from two bullet wounds only has only made this pregnancy more complicated - but her doctors are pleased with her progress, and her heart beats a little easier most days because of that. Castle's, too, she knows.

When she returns from the bathroom, she isn't surprised to find her husband sprawled on his back, covers pooled at his waist, one of his hands flung over his head, the other flat in the space she had vacated. His face is slack, worry and laugh lines alike smoothed away as he slumbers, and though her fingers twitch at her sides, craving the scrape of his stubble on her skin, she steps away from the bed and lets him be. He has the same nightmares she does; it's best to let him rest when he manages to find peace.

Instead, she pads from the room, slipping into the hallway and making her way to the door closest to theirs. The room has been cleared of the queen sized bed and its matching dresser and nightstands, but she and Castle haven't yet decided on a nursery set, so the room remains empty save for the soft gray elephant and a plush white blanket on the window seat.

Her feet propel her across the room to settle on the bench, her back against the wall. Her tailbone will ache if she sits this way for too long, but she is fine for now. The blanket gives her some padding.

Also on the list is a cushion.

Beyond the window, she sees the ocean emerging in shades of emerald through the haze of sunrise. In deep water, the water is peaceful and easy, but tiny whitecaps break the stillness closer to shore. It's going to be a windy day, she can already tell, but the whip of the air will be a nice change from the heat they've been dealing with all summer.

"You're going to love this room, baby," she whispers, pressing gentle fingers to the side of her belly. "We'll watch the boats and look for dolphins. Daddy will try to convince us he sees mermaids, but we'll know."

Kate licks her lips, imagining the stories of sea creatures and pirate adventures Castle will tell their daughter. She'll be riveted, desperate for more each time her father's voice slows, and knowing Castle, he'll give into their little one's pleas every time.

"We'll know they live in deeper water to keep from being discovered," she continues, clearing her throat. "That they won't come this close to shore, not usually, because people can be cruel to them."

"But you know what I think?" she adds, flattening her palm across her navel. "I think they'll come for you. I think they'll come to watch you swim and play, and they'll see how good humans can be."

"So I guess that means Daddy will be right. He will see mermaids, but it'll be because of you."

"Mmm, could you say that again? I'll be what?"

Of course he had heard that part.

Tilting her head, she finds her sleep-rumpled husband leaning in the doorway. His lips quirk under her gaze.

"I think it rhymes with 'white,' maybe?" he says, pushing away from the door to saunter to her.

She doesn't roll her eyes, doesn't argue or tell him to shush. Instead, her fingers stretch for his, drawing him closer.

"Morning," she whispers, lifting her face for the kiss he's already bending to give her.

"Barely," Castle husks, palming her cheek. "What woke you?"

Squeezing his hand, she takes another slow taste of his mouth. "The usual. A knee this time, I think."

"Kickboxing like her mom." Castle's hand slips from hers to splay over her tank top. "Now, let's go back to that part about me being right."

Her lips curve. "Maybe I take it back."

Castle tuts, nudging his knee onto the window seat beside hers. "Nah uh, Beckett. No take backs. You can say it again; I will be right. I am right."

He crowds into her space, hands falling to either side of her hips to catch his weight as he steals another nipping, playful kiss from her.

Her laughter bounces across the bare walls, but Castle's easy rumble is what truly makes the room come alive. It burns away the cool contemplation of early morning, awakening the house to the warm joy of the day.

"You think you're so funny," she teases, cupping the back of his neck, dragging her lips over the stubble lining his jaw.

"Oh no. I'm just right."

He is, of course. He's just right for her, for their daughter, for this life they're living. He is so very, very right.

"Go make me breakfast, Goldilocks," she murmurs around the lump in her throat. "I'm having a moment with my baby."

"Kay," he agrees, feathering kisses over her eyelids. "Don't find any mermaids without me."

Kate breathes a laugh. "Never without you, Castle. Never without you."

He lumbers off the window seat a moment later, giving her hair – her low pigtail – a gentle tug before leaving her to turn her gaze to the window once more. The sun has broken through the clouds, casting its cheerful light across the beach, and the wind has calmed a bit. The water shines, sparkling in invitation, and her stomach flips in anticipation.

They need to take inventory of their food supply and shop for the rest once the stores open, but with the bright, tranquil morning stretching ahead of them and the phantom lap of surf at her ankles, she thinks maybe that can wait until closer to lunch.

If the nudge to her palm is anything to go by, her daughter agrees.