Disclaimer- I still don't own Castle, Andrew Marlowe does, and I don't want him to sue me for playing in his sandbox. I'm just having fun, I make no moneys.
I've always wondered why Beckett seemed so opposed to becoming a mother until the last season. I keep waiting on Beckett and Alexis to become more mother-daugther in their relationship, and sometimes, it seems like they're almost there and then Alexis doesn't appear for a few episodes. I always wondered if it had to do with Beckett losing her own mother at such a young age, and fearing she could never be as good a mom as Johanna was to her. I wondered about the special little mother-daughter things that they did together that were unique to their relationship and how that might be a secret insecurity of hers. So, I explored it, the curse of fanfiction writers everywhere.
As always, I don't have a beta, I'd love to find one, but I do not want to get involved in fandom BS that sometimes happens, so please excuse my typos, I always see them after I hit "send" or "publish." Shit.
All of our children were in the pool. All seven of the them. Castle was at the grill, sweating like a pig, I'm gathering towels off the poolside pavement to keep them from getting wet and juggling the SPF 40. Martha couldn't attend the Hamptons weekend, since she ass headlining the Broadway smash Hocus Pocus as Winnifred Sanderson. Jack, Lily and the triplets (wearing their water-wings) were chasing Alexis in the pool. They were screaming and laughing and Alexis was darting away just in time. Ben's threatened to do a cannonball, but I'm certain his string-bean body isn't capable of displacing much water, no matter what shape he contorts it into. It's one of the last summer weekends we had before the semester starts for Ben and Lily goes back to school.
Seven. How did we get seven children?
Well, to start with, Lily and Jack are our grandchildren. And Ben married into the family. And Alexis was from Castle's first marriage, but she's an adult, of course. I had multiples with Noel, Jace, and Jo-jo, all in one pregnancy that left me bedridden for three months and hospitalized in the last few weeks. I was so relieved when I had that C-section, even if it had taken me the better part of four months to heal. But we're all here and healthy and strong and life is good, even if the generation lines are a little blurred. Aunt and uncles playing with niece and nephew like cousins would. It was strange to become a grandma at thirty-four. But, luckily, I was the prettiest one on a grandparent's day at Lily's school- at least Castle teases me that I am.
"I think we're ready for lunch," Castle said. "Guys? You want to get out and start drying off?"
Lily was the first to climb up the steps in the shallow end. "When are the cupcakes coming?" Lily asked, getting out of the water. "Are we having it after dinner?"
"What?" I asked, wrapping her in a dry towel.
Lily's birthday wasn't until Wednesday this year. "I thought we were coming to the Hamptons to celebrate my birthday," she said, looking confused.
"Honey, we're having a birthday party when you get back to school so we can invite all your friends from class," Alexis said from the pool.
"I thought… thought," she began, looking disappointed, her lower lip trembling. She was usually very articulate. All the reading we did for her had given her an exceptional vocabulary, even at age seven. I saw the pain on Alexis's face that her daughter was expecting something, and she hadn't seen it through. I glanced at Alexis, who was getting out of the pool, too. I didn't want Lily embarrassed or crying or upset, either. "I just wanted some cupcakes. Not a party. Just with my family."
"Honey, we're going to have them," Alexis said, accepting a towel from me and she dabbed at her own skin to dry off. "But not now."
Lily looked really embarrassed, I was afraid she'd start crying. When kids start crying over something, it takes a lot to get them to stop, and then the younger ones would start crying, and it was like a chain reaction.
"It's only lunchtime," I said. "I'm pretty sure we've got the ingredients in the kitchen. We'll have them for you."
"Okay, we'll get some cupcakes for your birthday," Alexis said to Lily, slipping an arm around her, holding her close.
"Real ones?" Lily asked.
"What do you mean 'real ones'?" I kidded.
"Nanny, you're not going to buy them in the store are you?" Lily asked, wrinkling her freckled nose.
"No," I said. "We'll make them."
"You're not going to get them from the store? I don't like the ones from the store."
"Those aren't fake," I said.
"But they taste funny. Not right."
"My mom used to make the best cakes," I said. "She taught me. They were so good. I'll make those for you."
"You're welcome, Lily Bean. Come on, Alexis, we've got some baking to do!"
Alexis had taken a quick shower and was dressed, with her hair still wet and twisted up in butterfly clip. I had put out a few sticks of butter in the last half hour to soften, and was still in my cover-up. We had made sure the kids stayed out of the pool after eating. I don't know how true the urban legend was that you'd get a cramp if you went swimming less than forty-five minutes after eating, but we were careful and didn't let anybody in the pool for an hour. Castle and Ben were in the pool with the kids, watching them, we were in the kitchen.
"Thanks for helping me with this. Where's the cake mix?" Alexis asked, washing her hands in the sink.
"I never use cake mix. We're making my mom's recipe."
"You never told me you knew how to bake."
"I loved baking when I was a kid! Mom loved making pancakes and waffles for me every Sunday for brunch. And when I was five, we used to make banana bread and pumpkin bread and cookies together. And we'd make cakes a few times a year just because. And for birthdays. Dad's favorite was German Chocolate. We don't have the ingredients for that one, though."
"So you instead chose a life of crime-fighting instead of baking?" she joked.
I shook my head. "By the time I was twelve, I was too cool for baking. But I never forgot the vanilla cake recipe from my grandmother's recipe box. My Grandma was the one that was married to a magician. They did my birthday every year, and it was Grandma who helped my mother make my cake, and it was my Grandpa who did his magic act. Oh, I loved it." I started shaking out three cups of cake flour into a measuring cup as Alexis hefted the Kitchen Aide mixer from under the cabinet.
"That's really sweet," Alexis admitted, plugging it in. "And all this time I've been giving Lily expensive themed parties from Party City. This year, she wants One Direction. Ugh, I get so sick of their music."
"Can you take those two sticks of butter and cream them?" I asked. "And then put in a cup of sugar and blend them."
"So this is an old Houghton family recipe?" Alexis asked.
"Yes. And I'm passing it on to you."
"That's kind of nice," she admitted. "Thanks. Let me write it down."
"Okay. The next ingredient is baking powder."
"That's different from baking soda, right?"
"Yes, much, much different!" I got out the vanilla and almond extract bottles. "You don't bake much, do you?"
"Not much for all that sugar," Alexis admitted. "I'm trying to keep Lily and Jack away from sugar. Refined sugar, at least. Dad let me have too much of it when I was a kid."
I showed her the ingredients and repeated them from memory so she could write them down. When we got out the muffin tins, I showed her how to create the right shortening and flour concoction to grease the pan with so that the cupcakes would fall right out. I taught her how to make Mom's buttercream icing with the remaining sticks of butter and shortening and powdered sugar, with a dash of coffee creamer and almond extract. A bittersweet memory was nagging me though. "Once the cupcakes are baked, we need to put them in the freezer. It's easier to ice frozen cakes than it is ones that have just cooled off."
"You know a lot."
"I guess I do."
Once we put the little cakes into the freezer, Alexis and I went through marinating the pork roast and the vegetables for dinner. Dinner was our job now that Castle had gotten lunch taken care of. We made yeast rolls as well, putting the dough in the pantry, covered with a dish cloth, to rise.
"You seem kind of sad," Alexis noted, getting the frozen cupcakes out.
"I'm just remembering the last time my mother made this for me," I said. "But I love spending time with you. Even if we are making dinner, so stereotypically."
"Ben's making breakfast, don't forget!" she said. "Was it your nineteenth birthday?"
"The last time my mother baked a cake for me? Yeah. I was too cool for a family birthday," I said, picking up one of the cupcakes and a frosting-swathed spoon. "I wanted to go out and party with my friends. And I did." I sighed and carefully iced the cake. "You know, I lost my mother's recipe box when my apartment was bombed."
"Oh!" Alexis cried. "That's awful!"
I nodded. "She begged me to go to dinner with her my dad, she was going to make a cake for me. My boyfriend was invited, but there was a concert in the Village, and I wanted to go with him. The next day, I flew back to Stanford. See, I was home on Fall Break, and so were all my friends. My parents barely saw me. I made them put it off until the next break, and they made reservations at my favorite restaurant, and Mom made the cake. Dad was going to bring it and we were going to meet there. Mom was coming from work…"
"She never made it, did she?"
I shook my head. "No. That was the night she was killed. Dad forgot the cake Mom made, and he apologized profusely for it, promising we'd have it when we got home. And we waited. And waited. And she wasn't answering her Zack Morris brick phone I used to tease her about. So, we went home, and a cop was waiting there for us. And we got the news."
Alexis was quiet.
I sighed a few times, trying to contain the ache so I didn't cry. Lily asked for pink cupcakes, so we had food-color pink icing. The pain never went away, I realized, looking at the pink frosting. It was fresh again. I always told the victim's surviving families that; the pain never really goes away, you just learn to live with it and push it to the back of your mind so life can go on.
"Then what happened?" she asked. "Did you find the cake later and not want it all together?"
"No. Actually, neither Dad nor I had slept that night, but we went to the ME's office that night, and they wouldn't let me see her body, but Dad identified it. We went to the kitchen to make coffee and try to eat breakfast while relatives were flying in and we were supposed to make all these arrangements… But we were trying to make breakfast when I opened the fridge and there was my birthday cake. It was pretty. In pink, she was practically a professional cake decorator, but I guess law paid better. I slammed the door to the fridge because I didn't want to look at it. And Dad went back and opened it, and he got the cake out and cut it up so we could eat a slice for breakfast. We ate that cake over about a week's time. I cried with every bite."
"I'm sorry, Kate," Alexis said softly. I sniffed and wiped the tears accumulating in my eyes with the back of my hand. I hated crying in front of her; mothers were supposed to be strong for their daughters. Crying seemed so weak, but I knew that sometimes, she needed to see it.
"I can never get that cake recipe to taste the same as when Mom made it," I admitted. "And I followed it for years, from her recipe box. Dad gave it to me. Every year, I'd bake a cake on Mom's birthday. And eat most of it myself before it went hard and became unedible."
"You still do that?"
I shook my head. "I stopped doing it the year I met your father."
"Maybe we can do it again this year."
"Yeah. I'd like that."
"When was your mother's birthday?"
"Actually, in September. It's coming up."
"Count me in," Alexis said, slipping her arms around me from behind, hugging me.
"She would have liked you, Alexis," I admitted. "You and Jack and Lily and Ben."
"Yeah. She'd have loved him." I put the last cupcake onto the plate, they were ready.
"They look great."
"They do," I agreed. Maybe not professional, but I hoped Lily liked them, too. I put the plate up on the top of the fridge so that little toddler fingers couldn't dig into the icing before dinner.
Lily beamed when we brought in the birthday cupcakes with candles on them while everybody sang Happy Birthday to her. "This is exactly what I wanted!" she sang out. "Thank you, Nanny and Mommy!" Castle was busy taking pictures.
"Make a wish," Ben prompted.
Lily closed her eyes and wrinkled her nose. She had a few little freckles forming and it was adorable. She blew out the candles and the room was engulfed in darkness. We all clapped and Alexis flipped on the lights. Little hands were reaching over already, especially Lily's doppledanger and mini-me, Jo-jo and Jack.
"Lily first," I said, pushing the four sets of chubby little digits away.
Lily picked up a cupcake and took a bite, the frosting getting all over her nose. "Mmm!" she moaned, her eyes rolling up in the back of her head as she closed them. "It's so good!"
My heart melted, like it always did with her. "It's Nanny's Mom's recipe," Alexis prompted, handing out cupcakes to the kids.
The little kids were a sticky mess within a few minutes, and we had to get them in the bath and to bed. By the time Castle and I had them with the lights out, I was tired enough that all I did was take a shower myself and get to bed.
"You didn't have one of Lily's cupcake," Castle said, entering the room with one of the last cupcakes on a plate for me.
"It's alright, I didn't want one," I said, trying to write it off.
"Here, just try it. Everyone loved them, you did well."
I sighed and took the cupcake to my mouth. I hesitantly took a bite, knowing it wasn't going to be as good as Mom's, at least in my memory.
But as I chewed, it was like a gift. I had gotten it right this time, somehow.
"You've got icing on your nose," he said, wiping it off.
"Castle…" I muttered, feeling the tears gathering in my eyes.
"What's the matter? Would you like for me to just lick off your face instead?"
I smirked through my tears. "No. My mom made this cake for me the night she died. I've never gotten it exactly right since. Until tonight."
"What did you do differently?"
I shrugged. "I don't know."
"Maybe it was sharing the recipe with someone you love."
Had I cried into it? Was that the trick? Remembering her while we baked? "Yes. Maybe that's it."