A/N: I had a request to write something that goes along with the current season and I actually have something that's been rumbling around in my head and has a few snippets on a paper somewhere that I misplaced. Let me know if you'd be interested!
I've been taken over by NaNoWriMo so that's why the lack of update but I decided to go ahead and just get this done today.
And without further ado, here is our final chapter! Thanks to all who have been reading along and for all the reviews I've gotten in support. It's kind of what I live for. Thanks for coming along on the ride!
Wrapping paper littered the entire floor, boxes were strewn about the couches, bows seemed to be stuck on everything and the family lay half-exhausted, half-lazy on the floor among the mess. Alexis had her nose buried in the book that Castle got her, Martha was quietly reminiscing as she looked through the scrapbook of all her old Playbills that Kate had managed to put together, and Castle was already draining the battery on his new hand held video game.
Kate sat quietly, knitting needles and yarn in hand but still as she observed these people, chuckling internally as she thought about how much she loved them and how ridiculous it was that it had taken her so long to see that. It bound up her heart to think that she was so close to not having this, so close to missing out on all the love and laughter and safety. How could she have been so stubborn? She'd seen the way they were years ago, back before she could even recognize such warmth, but there it was all along. Why hadn't she allowed herself to feel it?
"Hey," Alexis said quietly, moving across the floor to sit next to her. "Do you think dad was trying to tell me something by getting me this book?"
"Hmm?" Kate asked, tipping the cover so she could see it. "I thought you liked Tolstoy."
"I do," Alexis said, tracing over the title of Family Happiness. "But this book is about a girl who gets married too young."
"I don't know if he's trying to say anything but I wouldn't be surprised either way. I'd take it with a grain of salt. Besides, you're not thinking of getting married too early, are you?"
"Not even in the slightest."
"Then I think he saw that it was one you didn't have so he got it for you."
Alexis nodded and leaned her head on Kate's shoulder, yawning a little from the early morning wake-up, compliments of her child like father who liked to blast "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" as loud as it would go until she rolled out of bed.
"Do you even know how to knit?" she asked finally.
"Yes! I might be rusty but it won't be long before I'm churning out lopsided scarves like nobody's business."
Alexis smiled and reached for the teal colored needle.
"Well if that doesn't work they'd look okay in your hair."
"You doubt me."
"No, I just can't picture it. You shouldn't knit, you're not 80."
"Thank you. I think."
"You sound like you feel better."
"Pretty sure the entire box of Kleenex I was using last night caught most of the infection."
Kate smiled and slid her arm around Alexis' shoulders, still surprised that she was allowed to be here like this.
"So I think that next year, we should go at this unwrapping thing a little slower," Alexis suggesting, taking in the mess. "Enjoy the moment, all that stuff."
"I think it's going to take you the entire year to convince your dad to try that and when next Christmas comes he's going to frantically unwrap anyway."
"I thought you might be able to help me."
"My version of enjoying the moment might take all day."
"My parents always tried to make Christmas stretch out for a few hours. Empty the stocking and then have breakfast, unwrap a few presents, clean up the house. Unwrap a few more, change clothes for family dinner. And then once we actually got to my grandparents house, things came to a screeching halt."
"Because my grandparents insisted on writing thank you cards after every present they opened. Even if the person that gave them the present was sitting right there."
"No harm in being grateful."
"There is harm when it takes four hours to get through the presents and the kids have to go last. Do you know how many living room wrestling matches us cousins got up to while we waited?"
"Your family sounds… colorful."
"Maybe you'll meet them sometime."
"Probably," Alexis agreed. She'd been wondering all morning where that ring box was and why her dad didn't seem to be anxious about it. She herself had known for a month now and besides almost slipping up and mentioning it twice, she'd been hoarding bridal magazines, dog-earing pages of things she thought Kate would like. Her father was the most impatient man in the world, how was he keeping so calm about this?
"I'm getting hungry," Kate said after a while. "Are we allowed to get up yet?"
"Well we can at least make coffee."
They struggled off the floor and padded into the kitchen, Kate starting the coffee while Alexis found the things that Castle had set aside for breakfast the night before. He was going to be ambitious with French toast, sausage, eggs, bacon, fruit salad, and biscuits with gravy.
"I think we're going to have to get out the jumbo sized plates," Alexis noted, taking stock of everything. "And possibly the jumbo sized pants."
"Oh food, wonderful!" Martha said, coming to sit at the bar. "I'm famished. Richard, aren't you supposed to be cooking?"
"Katherine, why did you get him that thing?"
"He wanted it. I figured it would keep him occupied when I'm doing paperwork."
"That is the sound of your plan backfiring, my dear."
"It's my cross to bear but maybe the charging cord will mysteriously disappear."
"Back up plans are always essential. Now, what can I help with?"
The three of them set to work preparing breakfast and singing along with the Christmas music that had been playing all morning, and Castle eventually came around, just in time to set the table.
They sat down together and chattered happily, passing dishes and sharing food, all of them happy and unable to imagine a more wonderful day.
"Gram, do you want to see the dress Max bought for me?" Alexis asked, grabbing Martha's hand and pulling her towards the stairs. It was late in the afternoon and she'd realized that the only reason Castle hadn't proposed yet is because he didn't want an audience. Shooting him a pointed look, she ushered her grandmother upstairs and into her bedroom, closing the door behind them, then turning to press her ear to it.
"Where's the dress? Alexis, what are you doing?"
"Shh! Dad's proposing but he didn't want us sitting there watching so I have to listen from up here."
"Shh! I can't hear anything."
"Yes, but I can't listen in if you don't shush."
Martha clucked her tongue and walked over to the door, cupping her hands around her ear to try and make out what was being said. Neither one of them could hear a word.
"This isn't fair."
"Alexis, let them have their moment."
"Okay. Want to see the dress?"
Alexis pulled the long green dress from the closet while Martha let out a low whistle.
"Kiddo, where is he planning on taking you in this?"
"I don't know. He's constantly a surprise."
"Did you try it on?"
"Yeah. Perfect fit. I'm afraid to take it out of the bag again though."
"It looks expensive."
"I hope it wasn't. He doesn't have the money for something like that."
Martha nodded, keeping her comments to herself. It worried her that a college kid would buy something this extravagant, but his finances were none of her business and she didn't want Alexis to start questioning something that was just meant as a gesture of love.
"Okay ladies, you can come down now!" Castle called from downstairs, knowing exactly what Alexis had planned with the dress diversion. Alexis grabbed a stack of magazines from her bedside table and went downstairs, Martha on her heels.
"Did you say yes?"
"Of course I did!"
Alexis squealed happily and hugged Kate, then dropped the stack of magazines down on the table.
"I didn't exactly start planning your wedding, but I did kind of muddle through a lot of things that I knew you wouldn't like."
"I've known forever and I couldn't say a word. I had to do something!"
Kate laughed and joined her on the couch, happily overwhelmed with the last ten minutes. She and Castle had discussed this quite a lot in the last few months, but she had been utterly surprised that he'd popped the question today.
"I know it's completely up to you," Alexis was saying, her words coming out at rapid fire speed because she was so excited. "But please just promise me that you won't get a mermaid dress."
"What's a mermaid dress?"
"Those horrible form fitting ones that puff out around your calves like you're trying to hide clown shoes."
"Well after that description, I don't think I'll be interested."
"Do you want a small wedding or a big one?"
"I don't know," Kate laughed. "I haven't had time to think about it."
"Well dad, what do you want?" Alexis asked as Castle brought mugs of coffee over for all of them.
"There are only two things I want. First, I would like to be in charge of the cake."
"The cake?" Kate giggled. "Okay, the cake is yours."
"Second, Alexis I would like you to be my best man. Er, best lady."
"Really? Excellent! Can I wear a suit, look like Bugsy Malone?"
"Exactly what I was thinking."
"This is going to be so much fun. I can't wait until the Jordan almonds arrive. Oh, where do you want to have it? Maybe somewhere outside, right? But you don't want the press showing up so it will have to be kept quiet. Which means you can't tell Gina, you'll just have to incur her wrath when she finds out later. But what about Gates, she can't possibly let you work together now, unless dad starts following Esposito around or something but that would definitely bring a weird dynamic to the books. Maybe we should go somewhere else for the wedding. Like Canada, no one will think to stake out some random place in Toronto. Wait, what about Italy?"
"Alexis," Kate laughed, shaking her head. "The ring isn't even warm yet."
"I know but there's so much to think about! Don't you want it to be perfect?"
"Of course," she assured. "But even if everything went wrong, it would still be perfect, don't you think?"
"That's true. Whatever happens, happens, right?"
"Right. And I'm sure we'll be swamped in planning and dreaming and I'll have some bride-zilla moments."
"But nothing. It doesn't matter how we get there, just that we do."
Alexis grinned and reached over, hugging Kate tightly.
"I know none of this has to be legal for it to matter, but thank you for saying yes anyway. Thank you for always being there."
"I wouldn't be anywhere else, Alexis. I love you. All of you."
"We love you too. Welcome to the family, Kate."