Still Here – Chapter 39

As it turned out, they weren't really late at all. It appeared that other circumstances had delayed the ceremony. Kate gripped Castle's hand as he helped her up the stairs and past some of the confused guest idling outside the church. She shared a puzzled look with her husband, before he reached forward and opened the door for her. Placing her hands on her swollen belly, soothing the little ones inside, Kate crossed the threshold, Castle not far behind.

They found Ryan in the lobby of the church, nervously pacing back and forth. Esposito was standing off to the side, his eyes following his partner as he continued to wear a hole in the floor, looking very much uncomfortable and uncertain what to do. Kate handed her clutch to Castle, and stepped up to Ryan, placing a hand on his arm to stop him from pacing.

"Kevin? What's going on? Why aren't you in the chapel?"

Ryan jerked, letting out a panicked breath and raked his fingers through his once finely combed hair. "She's not coming," he exclaimed frantically. "She's changed her mind. I knew it was too good to be true. I'm such a fool!"

Before Kate could say anything in response, he was off pacing again, shaking his hands apprehensively. She flicked her gaze up to lock eyes with Esposito. He shrugged. Kate knitted her eyebrows together and turned back to Castle, who eyed her curiously.

"He thinks Jenny is going to stand him up," she informed him, voice low and doubting.

Castle shook his head in disbelief. "He can't really believe that, can he?" he asked, glancing over at the pacing Kevin Ryan with a dubious expression.

"Apparently so," Kate responded, frowning. She folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot as she thought, worrying her bottom lip. Castle stood by her side, watching her with his usual attentiveness. Suddenly an idea popped into her mind. She glanced up at Castle and snapped her fingers. "Here, give me my phone."

He obediently opened her clutch and dug inside for her cell phone. She snatched it out of his fingers and flicked through her contacts. Typing out a rapid text message, she pressed send and bit her lip, hoping for an immediate reply. A smile spread across her lips as she got one. Turning around, she waddled back over to Ryan, placing a hand on her swollen belly to calm the tumbling little ones inside—really, they just had to start doing somersaults now of all times.

"Ryan, Jenny's not having cold feet," she declared, thrusting her phone into his face so he could see the text message from Lanie. "They're just stuck in traffic. They should be here in twenty minutes."

"Really!?" Ryan's face lit up hopefully as his eyes scanned Lanie's text message. He let out a sigh and his shoulders relaxed in relief.

Esposito came over and gave his friend a pat on the back. "Come on, bro, let's get you a glass of water," he said, tugging his friend away, while adding under his breath, "Or maybe something a little stronger."

Kate released a breath and spun around to find Castle standing behind her, smiling proudly. She smiled back and pressed a quick kiss to the corner of his mouth. "Disaster averted," she declared cheerily.

Castle grinned at her and rewarded her with a lingering kiss on her lips. "Well done, Mrs. Castle," he said, giving her a wink. He slinked his arm around her waist, letting his hand rest on her hip, and gestured towards the large double doors that stood open. "Shall we take our seats?" he asked placing his other hand on her swollen belly. "And get you off your feet."

Kate bobbed her head. "Yes, that sounds nice," she rubbed her hand over her belly, smoothing out the wrinkles in her dress. "How do I look?" she asked, self-consciously, her heart pumping uncertainly in her chest. She'd been asking him that a lot lately. It was just that it was difficult for her when almost all her clothes just didn't seem to fit the way they should. Granted, she was mostly wearing maternity clothes now, but still… Kate Castle was a woman of style, and she liked to be fashionable.

"You're glowing," he crooned with sparkling eyes, gazing at her with undisguised love and desire.

She rolled her eyes at him and slipped her arm around his. "You sure about that?" she questioned, narrowing her eyes as she looked up at him.

"Of course I am," hooted Castle, grinning broadly. "I love you."

"Maybe love has blinded you," she asserted, averting her gaze bashfully. "I'm huge. When I first found out I was pregnant, I didn't expect to get this big… but then when Dr. Elam told us that we were having twins… I just didn't realize just how… huge I'd get."

"More of you for me to love," Castle murmured into her ear, brushing his lips down the slope of her neck as his hand dropped down to her ass, causing her to giggle and blush.

"Stop it, we're in a church," she reprimanded him, shaking her head at his antics, and returning his hand to the small of her back.

"Sorry," he batted his eyelashes, sheepishly. "I can't help it when you're so gorgeous."

Kate shook her head at him, biting her lower lip. "You don't have to patronize me, Castle," she assured him. "I'm a big girl—literally," she scowled glancing down at her enlarged belly. "I can take the truth. No need to sugarcoat things."

"I'm not," he asserted, his voice firm, holding no lie. She flirted her eyes up to his and saw the unrelenting conviction in the truth of his words. "You're beautiful, Kate. Always will be, even when you're old and gray, sagging in places that shouldn't sag."

She shuddered and gave him a little look while jabbing his side with her elbow, grinning victoriously when she heard him huff a startled 'oof'. "You're not exactly painting a pretty picture there, Castle," she retorted with a stern expression.

He shrugged. "It's the truth though," he said. "Gravity eventually takes a toll on all of us." He paused, weighing his next words before continuing. "Look at me, I'm no prized stallion anymore."

"Uh-huh," she agreed, reaching over to pat his little soft belly through his tuxedo vest. He narrowed his eyes and feigned a pout. Kate chuckled and bit her lower lip. "Just teasing, Rick. You're still a stud." He grinned happily as she pressed a quick kiss to his lips. "However," she added as she leaned away. "It wouldn't hurt to cut back on some of the junk food. You're going to need to get back into shape to help me chase after these little ones." She patted her stomach.

Castle inclined his head. "I was kind of hoping they'd be easy going like Alexis," he said. "She was just a good baby. Never too demanding. But, considering the parentage of the dynamic duo—part you, part me—I don't know about that. They'll probably be just as stubborn and strong-willed as their mother."

"Ha-ha," she laughed. "What about their father? He's pretty annoying sometimes."

Castle's eyebrows quirked up in mirth and delight. "I know, right!? And don't you just love him."

She pressed her lips together and smiled warmly, her eyes glistening with tender affection as she glanced up at her husband. She still got a little thrill when she was able to think of him as that. "Yes, I do," she confirmed in a serious voice, soft and loving. "Very much." Kate slanted into him and pressed a lazy kiss to his lips. "Now… how about you get me to a seat?"

"With pleasure, mademoiselle," Castle smiled widely, bobbing his head. He held her close and guided her through the double doors into the chapel, leading her down the aisle until they came to the third row of pews, just behind Ryan's parents, siblings, and extended family.

XXX

Once Jenny and the bridal party arrived, the ceremony went off without a hitch. When the pastor asked Ryan and Jenny to say their vows, Kate's eyes got all watery and she slipped her hand into Castle's and entwined their fingers together. He squeezed her hand in return and she glanced at him for a moment, sharing a happy look, remembering their own wedding. All too soon the pastor was announcing them husband and wife, introducing the large gathering to Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Patrick Ryan.

Kate stood up with everyone else, clutching her husband's arm for support. Recently, she had begun to have trouble getting up after long stretches of sitting down, but it was a discomfort she was willing to live with as it was more uncomfortable to stand for long periods of time.

"Oh gosh, he looks so happy!" Kate commented, digging her camera out of her clutch to snap a quick picture of the newlyweds as they faced their friends and families for the first time as husband and wife.

"Yes, he does," Castle replied, whispering into her ear. "They both do."

They applauded and cheered as Jenny looped her arm around Ryan's and the two stepped down from the altar and walked down the aisle, smiling and waving to everyone. Kate wrapped her arm around Castle's, mimicking Jenny. She eased into him and rested her head against his shoulder, watching as her friend and colleague took his first steps as a married man.

Castle tilted his head and pressed a brief kiss against her temple, dropping his mouth to her ear. "Now we just need to find a way to get Espo and Lanie down the aisle," he said as they watched the groomsmen and bridesmaids follow the newlyweds down the aisle.

Kate shook her head, casting an uncertain glance his way. That might be easier said than done. Kate knew that her best friend and her other partner were having problems. They almost didn't come to the wedding as each other's plus one. She hadn't shared this with Castle yet, hoping that the matter would resolve itself and her friends would soon work things out by themselves.

"Come," Castle grabbed her hand, tugging her out of the row to follow him down the aisle once it had been cleared by the bridal party.

"Castle?" she question, raising her eyebrows in confusion as to his haste.

"If we hurry, we'll be able to get out of the parking lot before everything becomes gridlocked," he explained swiftly. "Need I remind you that we're attending a wedding with two large Irish families."

Kate dropped her mouth and inclined her head in agreement. "Then don't waste time talking, get us out of here!"

XXX

After he deposited her at their table, Kate sent Castle to the bar to get her a ginger ale and some crackers. She heaved in a deep breath and leaned back against the chair, running her hands soothingly over her swollen belly, attempting to settle the twins. They just wouldn't stop moving around. It was like they could sense all the excitement and celebration around them. They were definitely little Castle babies… no question there.

"Kate! There you are!"

She looked up and smiled, receiving a quick hug from her best friend as Lanie Parish arrived at their assigned table. Esposito was still waiting outside with the rest of the bridal party. The DJ was already getting things started with some smooth tunes to keep people entertained as they waited for the newly married couple to arrive.

"Hey, Lanie," Kate replied, squeezing her friend's hands in return as Lanie sat down beside her.

"Where's Castle?"

"I sent him to get me some crackers and a ginger ale," Kate replied, patting her belly. "The twins are restless."

Lanie shook her head and beamed, tentatively extending her hand. "May I?"

"Sure."
Her friend smiled as she placed her palm over her stomach, feeling exactly what Kate had described. "It's almost like those two are wrestling or something," Lanie said. "Are you sure you can handle them?"

Kate chuckled and shook her head, glancing across the room to spot Castle collecting her order from the bar. "I've spent the last three years herding around a hyper man-child on a constant sugar rush," she declared with a twinkle in her eyes. "I think I can handle these two little rascals. Besides, I have Alexis to help me out with the three of them."

Lanie threw her head back and laughed heartedly, causing a few heads from other tables to look their way. Kate ducked her head, slightly embarrassed. She rolled her eyes and averted her gaze, spotting Castle making his way over to them. Turning back to Lanie, Kate sighed happily.

"I'm happy, Lanie," she announced. "I mean, really happy… for the first time in my life since…" her voice trailed off.

"Since your mom died," Lanie inclined her head in understanding, reaching out to clutch Kate's hand. "If anyone deserves to be happy, it is you, Kate."

"Thanks, Lanie," she smiled, rubbing a hand over her belly, again. "Oh, by the way… that Lamaze class you recommended has been going well. We've been attending for a month now." She chuckled. "Castle's the class clown, of course. But even with that, he's probably also the star pupil. He's very eager to learn."

"Wow," Lanie raised her eyebrows in surprise. "I would have thought he'd be bored or something, since he's gone through this already when Alexis was born."

"That's the thing," Kate said, leaning in closer. "Meredith didn't want to do any of those things. Hell, I don't even think she was fully aware of what she was going to have to do until her first contraction hit." She shook her head, still baffled at how the woman could have been so blasé about giving birth to such an amazing child as Alexis. "Apparently Meredith didn't let him participate as much as I am. He told me that once her whole attitude about it made him feel like he was just a sperm donor and nothing more."

Kate shook her head. "The woman must be crazy or something, because there is no way in hell I could have done this on my own," she smiled, glancing over at Castle as he maneuvered around the other guests. "He's so attentive and supportive, Lanie. I couldn't have asked for a better partner in this."

"Now aren't you glad I pushed you into fessing up, and telling him what happened all those months ago," Lanie asserted with a smug look, referring to their conversations after Kate found out she was pregnant.

She rolled her eyes, but inclined her head. "Yeah, I am. Thanks for giving me a proper kick in the butt."

"Don't mention it," Lanie replied with a smirk. "That's what friends are for."

"Speaking of which… what's up with you and Esposito?" Kate asked.

Lanie's mood soured and she frowned. "I don't want to talk about it," she tersely replied. "I barely agreed to be his date for the evening as it is."

"Lanie," Kate whined. It was kind of unfair how they'd gossip about her and Castle and then she'd clam up when the tables turned on her.

Her friend sighed, relenting. She cast her an irritated glare, before elaborately. "We went on a double date with Jenny and Ryan a couple of months back. Let's just say it sort of imploded at the end. Bless Jenny, she's a peach, but she just couldn't not ask when Javier was going to give me a ring and make an honest woman of me."

"No… she didn't?" Kate gasped, inwardly groaning.

"Yes, she did," Lanie said. "After that, the evening tanked and when we got back to my place, we got into a massive argument. We decided to take a break and cool off."

"So did you make him beg?" Kate asked, smirking at the image of tough-guy Javier Esposito on his knees begging Lanie to take him back.

Lanie hummed in the affirmative. "You bet," she said. "I don't know what we are right now. I'm just going to go with the flow, and see where the evening takes me."

"Well, good luck with that," Kate said.

"Girl, I never needed luck," Lanie laughed, with her trademark sass returning.

"Hey girls," chirped Castle, materializing on Kate's left side with her ginger ale and crackers. "What are you talking about?"

"Girl stuff, Castle, never you mind," Lanie asserted, giving him a mild form of her own patented glare.

He shrugged and bent down, kissing the top of Kate's head as he handed her the tall glass. She closed her eyes and eased into his touch, accepting the glass and taking a delicate sip.

"Thanks, Castle," she sighed, contentedly. "Just what I needed."

"You talking about the kiss or the ginger ale?" he asked.

She narrowed her eyes in thought. "Can I get back to you on that?"

Castle smirked and plopped down into the chair beside her, casually slipping his arm over her shoulder. She eyed him for a moment, and smiled, tilting her head just enough for him to see what she wanted. He grinned, and leaned forward, pressing his lips to hers in a quick chaste kiss. Kate hummed in approval as he leaned back into his chair.

"You two are adorably gross, you know that?" Lanie deadpanned, giving them a feigned glare of disgust.

"You're just green with envy," was Castle's rejoinder.

Lanie scoffed and crossed her arms over her chest. "If I wanted marriage and kids, I'd have them," she answered his challenge. "You two may be all freakishly cute, but that doesn't mean everyone else wants the same."

Castle laughed and canted into Kate's side conspiratorially. "Someone seems to be sexually constipated right now," he said, just loud enough for Lanie to hear.

Kate gritted her teeth and elbowed his ribs, causing him to cough and lean back, casting her a hurt expression as he rubbed his side. "If you want any later, then you keep your mouth shut!" she hissed out softly, waiting for his head to bob in understanding. She then turned to Lanie and rolled her eyes. "Ignore the man-child to my left," she said.

Just then, the DJ cut the music and announced the arrival of Kevin and Jenny Ryan. Castle helped Kate stand, and the whole room erupted into applause as the happy couple made their appearance with beaming smiles and hands clasped tightly. Castle chuckled and wrapped his arms around Kate's middle. She brought her hands up to rest over his and eased into his hold.

"I couldn't take my eyes off you at our wedding," he said, staring off at the newlyweds. "You looked so beautiful. Still do. I remember thinking that I was the luckiest guy in the world."

"Ryan's probably feeling the exact same at this moment," Kate replied. Tilting her head to press a kiss to the side of Castle's mouth. "I felt pretty lucky too. I never thought I'd be here."

"In some luxury ballroom celebrating a colleague's recent nuptials?" Castle questioned, pretending to misinterpret her words.

"No, silly man," she shook her head, but couldn't keep back the smile at his infectious grin. "Married… and expecting." She sighed. "Before you, Castle, I'd given up on the idea of settling down and having a family. You changed that for me. So thank you."

He stared at her with a tender smile and affectionate eyes. "No, thank you, Kate ," he asserted. And then added, with his trademark humor, "Not just for allowing me to knock you up, but for not shooting me after I did so."

Kate bit her lower lip and flicked her eyes up to his. "Funny," she said, her voice hitching up slightly in amusement. "That's not how I remember it."

Castle grinned, his eyes sparkling mischievously. "Yeah. True. I do kind of like it better how you lured me to your place with the offer of a drink, all the while intending to seduce me and have your wicked way with me," he feigned an outraged gasp. "Oh my god! That's it! You just wanted me for my body!"

She threw back her head and laughed, throatily. "Yeah, that's right," she agreed, the sarcasm dripping from her lips. "I wanted you for your Greek god-like physique."

"So you admit I'm god-like?" he questioned with a quick quirk of his lips. "You hear that, Lanie? Kate says I'm god-like."

Lanie let out an exasperated groan and shook her head at them. "You two are unbelievable," she grumbled under her breath and marched off to join Esposito as he entered the room.

"You know what? I think I scared her off," Castle pouted.

XXX

"Thank you so much for coming," Jenny said, easing into Kate's hug. Backing away, the bride gestured to her stomach and Kate inclined her head, granting Jenny permission to touch.

She was fine with her friends and family feeling her baby bump, but she'd gotten annoyed at all the women—married and otherwise—who'd come up to her wanting to cop a feel, so to speak. There had been quite a few of those this evening, but she'd managed to restrain herself from snapping at them when they asked to touch. Plus it helped that Castle had hardly left her side.

Kate had felt guilty about keeping them seated, but Castle dismissed her apologies with a wave of his hand, telling her that he was just saving up his energy for some evening activities back in the privacy of their own bed. Though, she could still tell by his bouncing knee that he would have liked to dance. Truth was, she felt the same. She loved dancing, especially with Castle. They'd always been in sync, and never had it been clearer to her than when they'd first danced together all those years ago at that charity auction. Of course, nowadays, they did a different kind of dance, one which was much more satisfying.

"Wow!" Jenny exclaimed, pulling her hand back in surprise when one of the twins kicked.

Kate grimaced, and rubbed the spot. "They've been active all evening," she told her. "I think they can sense all the excitement."

"When are you due?" Jenny asked, smiling excitedly. Kate narrowed her eyes, wondering if she should warn Ryan that Jenny had baby-fever.

"Um…," she frowned, amazed she didn't have that answer on the tip of her tongue. "Castle?"

"Huh?" he turned to look at her, eyebrows raised in question.

"Babies… due?"

"A month, more or less," he said with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, adding a slight shake of his hand in a 'so-so' gesture.

"Oh," she laughed, turning back to Jenny. "That kind of snuck up on me. Though, to be honest, I kind of feel ready to pop already." Kate wasn't lying. Especially with the twins moving about like some crazy gymnasts, she really was ready for them to just get out of her already. She was looking forward to getting back into her workout regimens. The yoga classes she'd been attending for pregnant women were all well and good, but she missed her normal routines.

Jenny joined her, laughing brightly. Kate heaved in a deep breath and calmed down, placing a hand on her chest and one on her belly.

"Well, thanks again for coming," the bride said, looking between Kate and Castle.

"Yeah," Ryan agreed with a smile as he appeared besides Jenny, ensnaring her with his arm and beaming up at his friends.

"Congratulations, Kev," Castle said, firmly shaking the younger man's hand and clapping him on the shoulder. "Welcome to the wonderful world of marriage. I liked it so much; I did it thrice! OUCH! What!? Too soon?" He glanced up at Kate with a feigned expression of hurt as he rubbed his arm. "Beware of pregnancy hormones…," he smirked, and then added sotto voce, "when the time comes."

Ryan gulped and Jenny beamed with delight. Kate bit her lower lip and shook her head, grabbing Castle's arm. "Congratulations, again," she said, dragging her insane husband away. "Have a safe and fun honeymoon."

"Don't have too much fun, you hear!" Castle quickly quipped with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows before Kate could pull him fully away from the newlyweds. He sighed, happily, and turned to her, slipping his arm around her waist. "Why did you do that? I was having fun."

"Too much fun," she interjected, giving him one of her patented glares. He stuck out his lower lip in a feigned pout, and she chuckled, thoroughly kissing the sulky expression off his face. "Don't fret, Rick. I'll make it up to you later…" and then she lowered her voice to a husky quality she knew drove him wild, "in bed."