And Everything Nice

12. Fireplace

It was quiet now, just the three of them, their little family, in the loft, enjoying the day after Christmas together in the comfort of their home.

The previous day had been one of the most magical and special Christmases of her life. Kate gave almost all the credit of that to Castle. He had wanted to make it the perfect day for Lily's first Christmas, and he had succeeded. And he'd been right. She'd scolded him about the amount of presents, but most were just things they'd already bought, essential items that every family with a young infant needed.

She recalled tearing into a big present with gusto only to discover it was just a big package of diapers. Her Dad had roared with laughter. She'd never seem him laugh so loud or long. It made her befuddlement over why Castle had even wrapped it easier to bear. After all the heartache and struggle both of them had gone through after her mother's death, seeing

Jim Beckett happily basking in the role of grandpa to Lily had made everything worth it.

He'd stayed the whole day, playing with his granddaughter, and simply spending time with his new family. It did her heart good to see her Dad once more himself. It had been a long time. Too long.

Kate had watched with pleasant surprise and pleasure as her Dad was welcomed into the Castle clan. He and Martha traded playful teasing barbs. The greatest surprise, at least for her, was seeing Alexis treat her Dad as if he was her biological grandfather. The way he was included without hesitation, and shown the same affection as a blood relative, had deeply affected him, almost bringing him to tears.

It had brought Kate to tears, happy and sad tears mixed together. Sad because her mother could have been included in such a welcoming if she'd still been alive. But mostly, it was happy.

"What are you thinking about?" Castle's curious voice intruded into her ruminations.

Kate glanced up to see Castle with a plate of holiday cookies, and a bushel of candy canes sticking out of the breast pocket of his flannel shirt. She offered him a small smile, shifting aside as he eased down beside her on the array of pillows and cushions that they'd scattered out in front of the wall fireplace near the dining room table.

"My Mom," she admitted in a quiet voice, adjusting her hold on a dozing Lily. "She would have loved all this. The decorations, the festive spirit. The way you made it all magical and exciting for everyone, not just for our baby." She paused, eyes shimmering with emotions. "Castle. She would have loved you."

He pursed his lips as he swallowed, working through the raw emotion that statement had on him. His eyes brimmed with the joy of hearing such news. "I'm honored you think so, Kate," he finally answered. "I would have loved to have met her. But in some ways, I think I have. She lives in you."

Touched by his assertion, she stretched up to meet his mouth in a warm kiss.

"She did have a big impact on my life, yes," Kate said. "But so has this one," she glanced down at Lily. "And you."

"I know I've told you this before, countless times," Castle pontificated in that charming way of his that she once found annoying, but now found so very endearing. "I was lost before we met. Lost in my career, in my life. But then you came storming—pun intended," he winked, "into my life, all confident and assured, charging in, plowing through all obstacles that were put in your way. You were—are—extraordinary, Kate, and you changed my life." He looked at her, his eyes the deepest shade of blue, so full of love. "You're my inspiration, for all things."

"Oh, Castle, Kate sighed, tipping her head up to kiss him once again, lingering for more.

In her arms, Lily started to stir. Pulling back, Kate rested her head against Castle's as they both turned to look down at their beautiful baby girl. Lily's little eyelids fluttered open slowly, and she lay there, in her mother's embrace, staring up at her parents.

The fire made soft popping noises, and it drew Lily's attention away. Her large eyes, so blue, drifted over the crackling and snapping flames. Castle shifted and wrapped an arm around Kate. She closed her eyes briefly, relishing in his touch, and eased into his half-embrace, snuggling close with him.

"I know it's mesmerizing, Lily," Castle spoke softly in that rich voice of his, immediately entrancing his daughter. "It's fine like this, in a controlled environment, but fire can be dangerous. If you're not careful, sometimes you can get burned."

Kate let out a chuckle. "Yeah, babe, wouldn't want to roast your chestnuts."

Castle groaned.

"I know," she replied, grimacing. "That was an awful joke, but I couldn't resist."

"Nothing wrong with a bad joke," Castle assured.

"You would know, you tell more than your fair share," Kate grinned.

"Ouch, I walked right into that one," Castle chortled.

Lily let out a little giggle as if she'd been able to follow parents' playful banter.

"You think that's funny, Flower Girl?" Castle asked, bending down to rubbed his nose against hers. Too late did he remember what she liked to do, and soon he was grunting out an expletive as her powerful little fingers wrapped around his nose.

Kate laughed. "Serves you right for tempting fate."

Castle managed to get free, and leaned back, pouting as he rubbed his abused nose. Lily started to squirm in Kate's arms. Castle adjusted the pillows and blanket for her, and Kate then lowered Lily down onto the floor. The little girl wiggled a bit, kicking her feet and swinging her arms around, before letting out a loud squeal, and vaulting herself around onto her stomach.

"What are you doing, honey?" Kate asked, smoothing her hand down Lily's wiggling back.

An excited gurgled was her answer. Kate offered Castle a sideways glance, before turning back to watch Lily struggle for a moment. She wanted to reach down and pick Lily up, but Castle shook his head. He had the experience, so she trusted his judgement.

"She has to do it on her own," Castle whispered. "Because she wants to. She's part Beckett, so we know she has the determination and willpower."

"Not to mention the stubbornness," Kate added with a self-deprecating smile.

They watched with bated breath for what seemed like several minutes, as Lily gurgled, mewled, and then with one final grunt, managed to push herself up onto her hands and knees. The little girl let out a loud howling squeal of delight.

"That's right, baby girl," Kate encouraged, so proud. It was such a small thing, but for a baby it was quite a significant achievement.

Castle scooted across the floor, and folded his legs under him as he beckoned to his daughter. Lily's head bobbed around before she found him and she let out a cry, her mouth spreading into a little gummy smile. Her little brow furrowed in a look of determination that was very familiar to Kate.

"Look!" Castle enthused. "She wrinkles her nose just like you! So cute!"

Slowly, each movement jerky and tentative, Lily started to move and soon she was crawling towards her Daddy, but then her curious eyes landed on the plate of cookies and she started to divert toward it. Lily let out the cutest little snort of disapproval when Kate lifted the plate away, and stretched out to put it out of reach on top of the table behind them.

Kate could have sworn she'd just been treated to the same glare she'd used on numerous suspects, not to mention Castle as well. It was an odd sensation. Was this how Castle felt?

Fortunately, Lily's disappointment in the loss of the cookies was short lived, as she was soon working her way back towards her Daddy.

Lily let out a happy babble of giggles when she reached Castle, who swept her up and planted a series of kisses along her neck and cheek. Kate felt her heart clench with joy as she watched her daughter's achievement.

"Now, go to Mommy," Castle instructed, putting her back down on the floor.

Lily's little hands slapped on the floor as she pulled and pushed, her chubby little legs shifting and propelling her forward. Her little determined gaze was locked on Kate as she crawled across the blanket. A loud, piercing squeal of delight filled the loft when she reached Kate.

Hooking her hands under her, Kate lifted Lily into the air as the baby giggled and laughed, her smile infectious.

"You did it, Lily!" Kate cheered, rewarding her daughter with kisses, which only made the little girl squeal more.

Glancing across at Castle, Kate shared a moment of parental pride as their eyes locked. He grinned, and scooted back over to join her, wrapping his two girls up in his strong embrace. Kate hugged their Flower Girl, and Lily babbled contentedly. Arching her neck, Kate sought out Castle, and he dipped his head, meeting her for a wondrous kiss.

Kate retreated with a sigh, and leaned back into his embrace, finding comfort and love in his arms. She gazed at the fireplace, the soft melody of Christmas music from the radio in the kitchen washing over them. A bright smile touched her lips. And she ducked her head to press a kiss to Lily's crown. Her heart beat with a profound sense of peace and contentment. This was what it was supposed to feel like.

This was true happiness.

The End

*A/N: Many thanks to skygirl55 for suggesting and organizing this festive holiday Castle fanfic challenge of 12 Prompts of Christmas. It was fun participating in. I hope that in a year and time when some joy is so desperately needed that this little tale was able to bring a smile to your face. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Until next time.