Feeling an odd mixture of completely elated and unbelievably exhausted, Castle shuffled his way to the hospital waiting room where he saw a red-headed young woman pacing back and forth in an attempt to wear a hole in the tile floor. Smiling softly at the way she chewed at her bottom lip, he said her name softly. "Alexis."
She jumped and spun around, rushing over to her father with nervous excitement etched all over her face. "Oh! Oh! Is the baby here? Is it alright? What is it? Is Kate okay? Sorry…" The girl cringed presumably at the progressively wearier expression he wore the more words sprouted from her lips. "I know you must be tired…"
Tired didn't even begin to cover it, but considering how much more exhausting the thirty-one hour labor was for his wife, he was trying his best not to let it show. "Everyone is fine, very healthy. Would you like to come meet your sister?"
Alexis squealed. "Sister?"
Castle nodded and encouraged her to follow him back to their room. "C'mon."
When Kate had first suggested letting their child's gender be a surprise, Castle had been hesitant to agree. He was one who craved the answers and building his own ending. Waiting an extra twenty weeks to find out if they were having a daughter or a son? That seemed like pure torture! And, admittedly, he did not always handle it in the best or most mature of ways. He had tried at least a dozen times to coerce her into finding out the gender, but Kate remained steadfast and in the end he was glad. There was no comparison to that moment when the doctor placed their newborn on Kate's stomach and announced they had a daughter.
While Castle trudged, Alexis practically skipped behind him and hesitated only when they reached the door to the Beckett-Castle room, letting her father push the door open as she stepped in with tentativeness they hadn't seen from her in years. "Kate?"
"C'mon in, sweetie."
Castle could see over his eldest's head that Kate cradled their new little one to her chest as she sat in bed now dressed in a robe with her hair in a ponytail. Their daughter seemed to be still awake, gazing around with her big dark eyes, taking in the world. So far she hadn't cried much after she initially quieted down, but it had only been two hours.
"Ohh she's beautiful."
"Here, take her." Kate lifted up the baby to hold out to Alexis, but the red-headed girl stepped back with her hands raised up, palms facing out as she shook her head.
"Oh no—it's okay."
"Alexis, take her," Castle encouraged, nudging his hand against her spine.
Alexis glanced at him tentatively then stepped up beside Kate's bed and reached out her arms. She pulled the blanket-wrapped baby into her chest and proclaimed, "Oh—oh she's—she seems small, is she small?"
"Smaller than they thought—only about seven and a half pounds, not eight," Castle pointed out.
"Thank god," Kate added; they all chuckled.
Alexis gazed down at her little sister for a few moments before looking at Kate and asking, "Are you okay?"
She nodded. "I'm fine; tired but fine."
Alexis turned her eyes back to the baby and rocked her gently back and forth. "Are you guys still going to go with Johanna for her name?"
Castle stepped up to the bed and reached down to pat Kate's knee as they exchanged glances. "No we decided that should be a middle name; we're going to call her Margaret—Maggie for short."
Alexis smiled. "Maggie. That's nice; I like it."
As Castle watched his two daughters interact for the first time, he felt his throat thicken with emotion. Suddenly, he found himself reviewing Alexis's entire life in his mind: from the first moment he held her, through all her late night feedings, and the first time she'd gleefully called him "Dada." He was so proud of the woman that she was now that she was about to make her way through college and he imagined his pride in her would only continue to grow as she doted on her little sister.
Though he would not shy away from taking some—well, probably a good portion of—the credit for how Alexis turned out, he knew he shared it with Kate. Though she remained tentative during their first few meetings, Kate and Alexis's bond formed quickly and he was endlessly grateful for her existence in their lives as another adult figure for his daughter to depend on and learn from. Amazingly, that bond only grew after the onset of his romantic relationship with Kate. He had expected to spend nearly every free moment with his new girlfriend, but soon found her being split between himself and "girl time" with his daughter—not that he minded as their relationship was equally important.
The three years since the dinner at which they announced their relationship had passed quickly and had unquestionably been some of the favorite years of his life, but now, with Maggie, he knew his life was only about to become more amazing and he couldn't wait.
Castle's peaceful observation of his daughters was disrupted when the smallest let out a high-pitched wail. Alexis froze instantly, looking as though a bomb had detonated. For five seconds Maggie wailed and Alexis panicked until she looked at her father and asked frantically. "Oh! What do I do?!"
The second time dad shook his head and reached out his arms. "It's okay; I got her."
"Better get used to it Lex." Kate teased while Castle bounced their crying baby. "We're going to have you on diaper duty."
"Then I guess it's good I'm moving to the dorms in a few months—just kidding!" Alexis added with a grin towards the two elder adults. "I'll be back to visit all the time, obviously."
"You'd better." Castle added. As Maggie's cries grew louder, Castle passed her back to Kate, who cuddled her against her chest and soon Maggie was quiet once more.
Alexis gazed down at her lovingly for a moment before smiling at both Kate and her father. "I'm really happy for you guys; she's beautiful."
"That's kind of you to say, but we're all still a family, Alexis—the four of us." Kate pointed out.
"Exactly." Castle agreed. Their familial status had been official far longer than any of them realized, but just because he and Kate had a daughter of their own did not discount Alexis's inclusion and it never would.
Smiling at each of them, Alexis said, "I love you guys."
Kate smiled. "We love you too."
A/N: Thank you all so much for reading. I'm so glad everyone enjoyed this AU.
As promised Rescue Me will begin posting on Saturday