Rick's plan for the secret movement of Santa's gifts to the Hamptons went off without a hitch. Christmas Eve Eve the entire Beckett/Castle family is enjoying hot cocoa and watching Claymation Christmas. The Grandparents each have a little boy by their side and Lily in between them. Kate feels a moment of melancholy for the Grandmother that will never be in their Family Christmas pictures.
"Daddy! Will you back up the movie? I want to see the bells ringing themselves again. Please, please," Reece asks moments after Quasimodo ends the song with his peashooter.
"Of course, my man. Unless anyone else objects," Rick smiles at his son.
There are murmurs of assent all around, so Rick backs up the video to the beginning of the Carol of the Bells. He notices that Kate has that look, the look of longing for her Mother. He's seen it enough to know it with a glance. He slips from his chair, and he walks to a spot behind Kate's chair. He leans over the back of Kate's chair and places a kiss to the top of head. Kate looks up and smiles. She offers him her hand and gives his hand a little tug, when he embraces her hand. Rick walks around the chair, pulls Kate up and steals her seat. Before she can object, he has her in his lap and his lips on her cheek. The kids are enthralled with the bell-ringers, but Alexis and Martha both smile knowingly at the happy couple.
Christmas Eve is spent cooking, eating, playing games, and entertaining children. The day is cold, and there are flurries off and on. The forecast calls for maybe an inch of snow by day's end. The beach house has spectacular views of the water, the snow on the grass and the sand. The Christmas décor is not as extravagant as at the loft, but it is beautiful and fun. After their Christmas Eve dinner the family opens presents. In the morning, after Santa has left his presents, everyone will have more gifts in their stockings and the kids will have more toys to play with.
Jake and Reece bring cookies and carrots to a special table by the tree. Lily places a glass of milk next to the plate of cookies. Sleepy children are tucked away for the night, after Daddy has read The Night Before Christmas in his soothing baritone. The adults all kiss the children goodnight, and retreat to the fire and some quiet conversation. Martha entertains with anecdotes from her most recent play. After an hour of smiles and laughter, Rick asks if everyone can help bring in the Santa loot. With 5 adults to help, the tree is surrounded by Santa's gifts within moments. The stockings are filled with small wrapped presents, candy, fruit, and nuts. The tired family goes off to bed.
Lily rushes into Kate and Rick's bedroom early Christmas morning, "Daddy, Mommy. Santa remembered. There are presents under the tree."
Rick wipes the sleep from his eyes, stretches his body and snatches Lily into the bed with them. She squeals with surprise and delight. He kisses her cheek, "What are you doing up so early? You're supposed to wait until sunrise, sweetie."
"I needed to see if Santa remembered."
"Of course, he did. He's Santa."
Kate slides closer to Lily and Rick in the big bed. She combs her fingers through Lily's hair. "Did you go downstairs to the tree, or did you just look to see if Santa came?"
"I only went down the stairs just enough to see that there's presents there," Lily replies with a solemn face, like she's worried that she's in trouble. "I had to make sure Santa came. The boys are still asleep, and I just couldn't sleep anymore."
"You can stop worrying, Tiger Lily. Would you like me to tuck you back in bed?"
Rick offers Lily.
"Can I stay here?"
"I think Alexis has plans for this morning. Remember last year, she woke all three of you and brought you to our bedroom to wake us up, all four of you bouncing us out of bed? She woke me like that on Christmas morning, when she was a little girl. Don't you want to do that again this year?"
Lily's mouth widens with wonder, "Oh Daddy, I forgot. 'Lexis says it's tadition. I need to go back to my bed."
"I'll give you a ride back to bed. Hop on," Rick coaxes Lily to hop on his back. Lily scrambles on for her piggyback ride. "Wave to Mommy, and we'll get you back to bed."
Five minutes later, Rick is sliding into bed with Kate. "She was almost out as soon as I tucked her in."
"I would hope so. It's only 5 am." Kate grouses a little.
Rick draws Kate to his side. Kate lays her head on his shoulder after she kisses his neck below his ear. Rick responds with a kiss to her mouth, "Alexis promised me that she'd hold off the kids until 6:30. We have time for more sleep, Mrs. Castle."
"I hope she is able to do just that. I'd like some Christmas snuggles with my husband."
"As you wish." The snuggles are accompanied by kisses. Not trusting that the kids would not arrive early, the couple drifted back to sleep enfolded in each other's arms.
At 6:40 am the not-so-soft whispers of children outside their door wake Mr. and Mrs. Castle. They roll further apart, keeping clasped hands below the bedcovers. Feigning sleep, they await the onslaught.
Alexis instructs her siblings, "When I open the door, you run in yelling Merry Christmas. Then you hop on the bed and bounce around a little. Be careful not to bounce on Mommy or Daddy. Do you understand what to do?"
"Yes! Let's do this," Lily whispers too loudly.
Alexis opens the door. Her 3 younger siblings hoop, yell, and holler as they run to their parents' bed. Lily is the first to climb up the foot of the bed and bounce to the head between her parents. The boys are slower. Alexis gives each of their bottoms a boost to help them onto the bed. She stands guard, making sure they don't bounce off of the bed. After a few bounces and giggles, the boys crawl up to their parents. Lily is trapped in Rick's embrace already. The boys snuggle into the arms of their mother. Rick beckons Alexis to join them. She lies down next to him and joins the giggling, laughing mass of her family.
"Good Morning, my progeny. And a Merry Christmas to all," Rick greets his children. He kisses Alexis's cheek and Lily's head. He reaches to pat Jakes' back, and he waves at Reece, who is out of his reach.
"Dad, I think you and Kate need to get up. These impatient little Castles would like to find out what Santa brought last night," Alexis vocally nudges.
"Right. Time for presents." Kate exclaims. She sits up and places her sons on the floor.
Rick nudges Alexis to start her moving, and he stands Lily on the floor. "Give us a moment to visit the bathroom, and we will meet you all in the kitchen."
'Come, little Castles. We will make hot cocoa and coffee. Then it will be time for presents," Alexis coaxes her siblings out of the room.
Ten minutes later, Rick and Kate arrive in the kitchen. Coffee is brewing and Alexis is stirring the cocoa. The boys and Lily are sitting at the counter with their cups awaiting their cocoa. "Cocoa is almost ready. Coffee is ready. Are your cups ready?" Alexis asks the kids.
"No marshmallows, 'Lexis. I just wants whipped cream," Jake tells his sister.
"You got it, buddy," Alexis smiles at her little brother.
With coffee or cocoa in hand, the Castle family troops to the Living Room. The Christmas tree is surrounded with a fresh pile of presents. The children deposit their cups of cocoa on the coffee table, and they dash to the piles of presents. Alexis helps the boys find the presents with their names on them.
After an hour of present opening, squeals of joy, and playing with toys, the adults decide it is time for breakfast. Rick and Kate leave Alexis in charge, while they prepare a Christmas brunch extraordinaire. Jim is in the kitchen pouring a cup of coffee for himself. Kate sends him to the Living Room to help supervise the children.
Lily is sitting on the sofa with Alexis. She is showing Alexis the new book that Santa left for her. Lily snuggles into Alexis's side, leaning her head against Alexis's shoulder. "I'm glad Santa remembered to bring our gifts to the Beach House. Jakey and Reecey look so happy."
"Dad told me about your trip to Macy's to see Santa Clause. I'm proud of you for wanting to make sure your brothers had a great Christmas," Alexis praises her little sister.
"They're my brothers. I love them," Lily answers Alexis with a smile.
Jim overhears the conversation. He'll have to get that whole story from Rick later. First, Jake needs some help with some Legos.
A/N: Thank you to all who followed, favorite and reviewed this story. I wish my illness hadn't delayed this final chapter. It didn't turn out exactly like I wanted, but it'll do. Happy New Year, everyone.
A/N 2: Had a problem with FF .net with posting this chapter. Sorry I missed posting on Christmas Day.