Let Your Heart Be Light

A Post-Series Fic

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Our troubles will be out of sight

Soft fingers comb through her hair, gentle in their mission to ease her out of the quiet doze she's fallen into with three warm, snuggly little bodies draped over her legs, chest, and stomach. The kids had crashed hard almost as soon as the door closed behind Alexis and Martha, snuggling up and trapping Kate under their weight.

She's glad for it, though. The boys are entirely too independent at the ripe old age of three, and Lily has long since let them know that she's wise beyond her (almost) six years. So, any chance she gets to have her babies cuddle her without reservation, she'll take.

"Hey," Castle murmurs once she focuses on him. "They're out. Want me to carry them up?"

Her arms tense around the kids, keeping their bodies tucked into her side. She sucks in a breath when Reece grunts against her sweater, releasing it slowly when he doesn't wake. Lily and Jake remain oblivious to it all, thankfully.

"I don't want to let them go," she admits after a moment, feeling a sheepish smile cross her lips. "I feel like I barely saw them all day."

Her husband chuckles, dipping his head to touch his mouth to her forehead. "They were kind of a blur of insanity, weren't they?"

Kate slips her fingers into Lily's hair, lightly working the tangles of the day's activities out and smoothing the strands down. She's careful not to pull, but her daughter is a heavy sleeper, so she doesn't even stir at the gesture.

"I remember getting hugs when they opened their presents, and then I don't think I even saw them for more than a few minutes at a time after that."

"Yes, well, Alexis and Gram holding court were far more interesting than dear old mom and dad," Rick hums, pecking at Kate's lips. "But the good news is they're all ours tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And the-"

"Okay, okay," she exhales, waving him off. "I get your point. I'll stop moping."

He grins, waiting until her arms loosen around the boys to swoop in and scoop Jake off her chest. The boy sighs into his father's shoulder, fingers curling to grip the open collar of his shirt.

"Say night night to Mommy, Jelly."

Kate smiles at his sleep mumble, pressing a kiss to her fingertips and touching them to Jake's pajama-covered leg.

"Sleep well, baby."

Rick offers her a tender look, hefting Jake and reaching for the boy's new stuffed Lightning McQueen.

"Can't forget that."

His lips lift. Jake has been glued to the stuffed car all day long, there's no way he'll stay asleep if he doesn't have the thing now.

"I'll be back for Monsters 1 and 2," he murmurs.

She hums, pressing her palm to Reece's head to keep him close for just a little longer. Her chin dips to allow her lips to skim Lily's hair as well, breathing in the lingering sweetness of the girl's shampoo.

She must doze off again, because the next thing she knows, Rick's fingers are slipping against her ribs as he tries to lift Lily from her side.

"Just me, Beckett," he soothes when she tenses. "PB and J are in their beds, and I'm taking Sprout up now."

Blinking brings his jawline into focus, and she manages to dust a sleepy kiss to his skin before he moves away and takes Lily with him.

"Kay," she exhales. Without her three miniature furnaces to keep her toasty, she shivers.

"We can go to bed, too, if you want?" Castle offers from the base of the stairs. "We were up practically at dawn."

Shaking her head, Kate heaves herself upright. She doesn't want to sleep just yet not really. There's still an entire night ahead, and with the kids down for the count, she has the chance to spend it with her husband.

"I'm awake."

"Uh huh. You gonna still be awake when I get back?" he teases, winking when she sticks her tongue out at him.

"For that, I'm picking the first movie," she huffs, hauling herself to her feet. (She's only a little wobbly on her feet, and thankfully, Rick's already too far up the stairs to see and comment on it.) "And I'm only making my popcorn."

His rumbling laughter carries from the top floor, blanketing her with the kind of contentment that still takes her breath away at times. God, she loves him.

Him, their angelic little hellions, all of it. She loves it all.

This time, he joins her at the kitchen counter when he returns from upstairs, his warm hands landing against her hips and drawing her to rest against his chest.

"Good Christmas?" he asks against her ear, nuzzling her with his nose.

Kate exhales, reaching back to cup his neck, keeping him where he is (not that she expects him to be going anywhere). "Great Christmas, babe."

His lips lift. "Good," he says. "And I know it's… I know you wanted your dad here, but then he got snowed in at the cabin."

She nods. She'd done her best to hide it from the kids, and she certainly hadn't wanted to make her mother-in-law or Alexis feel like their presence hadn't been enough, but it does still sting a bit not to have her father with them this year. It's far too reminiscent of darker, more difficult years, even if it hadn't been his intention to stay away this year.

Castle squeezes her hips, bringing her back to him again. "And I know it feels like there was so much build up and insanity and anticipation, only to have it all drop off, but trust me, Kate, I've still got a few things up my sleeve."

Oh, of that she has no doubt.

She squeezes his neck in gratitude, hearing the rest of what he's saying: he's not letting the magic fade, not letting the melancholy that always threatens as December rolls over to January take her away from them.

He kisses her cheek in promise. There's Christmas music still playing from the speakers by the fireplace, turned down low in deference to their sleeping children earlier, but still loud enough to hear and dance to in the middle of the kitchen, and he pulls her closer and guides their bodies into an upbeat rhythm.

"I love you," she breathes when one song ends and another, slower carol begins. Rick wraps her up even tighter, slowing them down to a gentle sway.

"Do you love me enough to make my popcorn, too?" he asks, grinning at her easy laughter.

Kate turns in his arms, pulling his head down to hers and taking a kiss from his mouth. He hums against her lips, sinking into her embrace in a way that makes her think they're not going to be eating their movie snacks at all (or seeing much of the movie, either), regardless of whose popcorn they make.

"You're in luck, Rick," she husks when they part. "I really, really do."

So I'm getting this in just under the wire on the East Coast, but I wanted to be able to post something for the holiday this year. I can't guarantee a daily post for this story to commemorate the 12 Days of Christmas, leading up to Epiphany, but I'll certainly be doing my best.

Thank you for reading. I hope you've all had a day filled with peace and joy, and that you're somewhere warm and safe this season.