Let Your Heart Be Light - Chapter 2

The sun is just beginning to make its appearance behind the window shades when her eyes slide open. It's earlier than she'd hoped to wake, especially given how late they'd been up last night basking in the glow of the tree and the warmth of their home, watching half of her chosen movie before finally admitting to themselves that their attentions were more focused on each other, but she doesn't get the sense that anything is wrong.

The loft is quiet and still. There's none of the telltale thumping that would indicate that the boys are awake and playing in their room (or making their way down the stairs with half of their toy box in tow). There's no clattering of plastic cups that comes when Lily gets herself a cup of milk from the fridge. There's barely a peep coming from the man beside her; Rick's usual gentle snores are more like quiet snuffles into the pillow they're sharing.

Even the outside world seems to be at rest. No impatient horns, no reverse beeping, just the hum of engines, the sound of slush being pushed to the side of the street by spinning tires.

It's honestly kind of magical.

Finding Rick's hand on her belly with her own, she lifts his fingers to her mouth. She nuzzles his knuckles, allowing her breath to banish the chill from his skin.

The brush of her lips on his hand is enough to wake him, at least a little bit.

"Kate? S'wrong?" he rumbles into her hair. His fingers flex against her lips.

"Nothing," she says. It's the truth; everything is just right in their world, at least for the next little while.

She just wants to enjoy it with him instead of on her own.

"Go back to sleep, honey," Rick says, rubbing her foot with his. "Kids aren't up, we don't need to be either."

Dropping his hand, she twists beneath the covers, draping her arm around his chest and pressing her body to his. "I could go back to sleep," she says. Her lips skim his jaw, scraping against his stubble. "Or we could make the most of the peace and quiet another way."

"It won't be quiet anymore."

"So sure of yourself, Mr. Castle," she quips, feeling his hands slip down her back, moving beneath her sleep shorts to land firmly on her ass. "I'm looking forward to you proving that."

"In that case, let there be peace on earth," he hums, turning his head to catch her mouth before rolling them over.

There's a luxurious eggplant purple silk robe she doesn't remember owning waiting on the bathroom counter beside her clothes for the day when she emerges from the shower. Her fingers hover over the collar before reaching out to pull a folded piece of cardstock from beneath the robe's belt.

Rick's familiar scrawl greets her as soon as she opens the note.

Lily reminded me that we hadn't given this to you yet. It seemed fitting to wear for our lazy day at home, though, so slip it on once you finish your shower and meet us in the kitchen for some hot cocoa and (maybe) a carol sing-along.

She doesn't bother hiding her laughter. He would suggest singing carols on the day after Christmas. Still, she changes into her lounging clothes and slips the robe over her shoulders, practically sinking into the soft cotton lining before she pulls the towel out of her hair and runs a brush through it. One haphazard bun later, and she's out of the bathroom, padding through the office to find her husband holding court at the stove while the kids giggle and squeal from their seats at the bar.

"What is all this silliness?" she asks, moving to join them.

She drops kisses on Reece and Jake's messy hair before moving to touch her lips to Lily's cheek.

"Daddy's being crazy again," Lily informs her.

"He fwippin' pancakes!" Jake says behind his hand.

"Up high!" Reece adds, giggling as Rick demonstrates his pancake flipping prowess (or lack of, if the half-on, half-off catch is what he's been doing the whole time).

Kate snickers. "I see that. He certainly is going for style points, isn't he?"

The kids nod, alternating between cackling and reaching for their cups. She can see specks of batter dotting their chins and wonders if it's splatter from the flip or if they've been sampling the goods before Rick can ladle it out.

"I'll have you know, I've only dropped two of them so far," Castle boasts, righting the pancake and returning the skillet to the stove. "And I didn't even call the five-second rule on them. I just tossed them and started over."

She snorts. "How magnanimous of you."

"So sexy," he breathes. She rolls her eyes as he makes a show of looking her up and down. "And the robe just makes it even better."

Her lips lift and she makes a show of rubbing her cheek against the collar. "It's beautiful, Rick, thank you."

Lily squirms in her seat. "I picked the color, Mommy. D'you like it?"

Kate leans over, giving her daughter a squeeze and another kiss on the cheek. "I love it, Little Flower. I feel like a princess."

Lily giggles, leaning her head back. "You look like one, too! And your hair's your crown."

Kate snickers at the mental image. She'd always wanted to try a crown of braids when she was a kid, but maybe not like this. "My very messy, very wet crown. It's a new fashion staple."

Her little girl laughs harder, patting her silk-covered arm. "Want some coffee? You have coffee eyes."

Kate kisses her temple quickly, forcing away the urge to chuckle so Lily doesn't think she's upset by the blunt assessment of her pre-coffee face or laughing at her. "You know me so well. I'll grab it while Daddy's making our breakfast."

To his credit, Castle doesn't even jump when she makes a detour to him on her way to the coffee maker and presses her front to his back. He hums at the brush of her lips on the back of his neck.

"Pancakes, huh?" she murmurs. Her arms wind around his waist, hands splaying wide against his belly and holding onto him. She feels his knees bend a little, trusting her to keep him from tumbling to the ground as he relaxes into her embrace. "You saying thank you for something, babe?" she adds, careful to keep her voice low. The last thing she wants to have to do is explain that little anecdote to her children.

She feels his head turn toward the kids first, as if checking to see if they're watching (or trying to lean over and steal swipes of pancake batter), before he twists to face her. His eyes seek hers and she gives him an easy smile and a soft, quick kiss.

He grins. "This morning, last night… in the shower earlier… Not just for something, Kate. I'm saying thank you for so very much."

Thank you for all the love you guys gave the first chapter! I hope you enjoyed this one just as much and that your day after Christmas/Boxing Day (if you celebrate) was delightful as well.