A/N: I wrote this in the space of about 4 hours tonight. I had this image in my head that wouldn't come out and this came out of it. Not entirely sure what it is. Set in season four, after Cops and Robbers, but before 47 Seconds. I think it could go pretty much anywhere in there.
"Alexis is gone."
His voice was frantic on the other end of the phone as he stuttered out an explanation of what had transpired in the last few hours.
"I don't know what happened. Everything was fine at dinner, she got a phone call and then ran out of the loft. She won't answer her phone, she doesn't have a coat and it's getting dark. I have no idea where she went. We've been looking for an hour."
"Okay, calm down. I'll have Ryan put a trace on her phone-"
"I already tried, she has it off."
She's wasn't surprised that he'd tried that already, but she motioned Ryan to come over to her desk anyway.
"Okay, Castle do you have any idea who she was talking to?"
"No. She just answered with a "hey" and was quiet until the end of the conversation. She just exploded into an "I hate you, don't ever talk to me again," ended the call and stormed out."
"Do you think it was Ashley?"
"I don't know, I thought they were broken up."
"That doesn't mean he didn't call her."
"Kate, where did she go?"
"Castle, we will find her. Where have you already looked?"
"I've been to all her friends houses, I've been by her school, mother has looked in all her favorite stores, we've been to all the libraries."
"Alright. I want you to call Ashley, see if he was the one who called her. Are you at home?"
"Okay, I'm going to come over there, and I'll have the boys keep trying to find her phone and I'll put out an alert.'"
"I don't want them to approach her as a runaway. I know she just needed some space or something."
"I know that too, but it is getting late, it's getting dark and if she's emotional, she's not going to be as cautious as she normally is. You make that call and I'll be right there."
She hung up the phone, grabbing her coat and nodding at Ryan and Esposito, who had heard her end of the conversation and were already springing into action. Her heart thrummed in her chest as she hit the button for the elevator, tapping her toe and willing it to move faster.
The panic came not from the fact that Alexis had left; she'd done the same thing a time or two at that age and Alexis was much more apt to come home in a timely manner. It wasn't really that she was out after dark either. The girl was smart and if she kept her wits about her, she would be fine. What worried Beckett the most was the fact that something had been said in a phone conversation, something so upsetting that Alexis had not only left home but raised her voice. This was a girl who was so even keeled, even when upset her words were biting not loud. What had disturbed her so deeply?
She tumbled the questions over and over in her mind and soon she was at the loft, opening the door without knocking. Martha was pacing across the living room, phone pressed to her ear, trying to get through to Alexis. Castle could be heard shouting in his office and Beckett moved quickly in that direction, hoping to calm him down.
"Why would you say that to her Meredith? Do you have any clue what that does to her? Every time you break a promise, every time you don't put her first, that's abuse! Do you realize that or do you think it doesn't matter?"
"Castle," Beckett started softly, her voice being dwarfed by his.
"Don't give me that Meredith! You are an adult, you are her mother and you can decideto make different choices in the way you are! You are never seeing her again Meredith. Ever!"
His phone flew across the room, bouncing off the bookcase and falling onto the floor.
"Stop? My kid is out there, and I have no clue where she is. Her sorry excuse for a mother called and said she's not coming to her graduation because she's going on vacation with her boyfriend. Do you know what she said? She told Alexis it wasn't a big deal, that she'd be there for the next one. I could kill her, Beckett. I really could."
"I get that and I respect it but right now Meredith doesn't matter. We need to go find Alexis and bring her home and make sure she's okay."
"Where am I supposed to start?"
"You need to take a breath okay? The boys are still trying with her phone, and I am not giving up until she's home. Alright? So, where does she usually go when she's upset?"
"Here. She comes home. She holes up in her room. She talks to me."
"Alright. Where does she go when she goes for a run?"
"Okay, let's go."
She grabbed his wrist and tugged him out of the room, grabbing his coat off the hook.
"Martha, call us if you get a hold of her."
They hurried out the door and into the elevator, where Castle paced as well as he could in the small place.
"I hate Meredith. She always does this to her."
"She's done it her whole life. Alexis has never been enough for her, she's never been around and then she acts like she can just come in and be mom whenever she wants. She hasn't had to see the look in our daughters eyes every time she doesn't come through. She wasn't there to see how heartbroken Alexis was when she moved out without saying goodbye. She was never there for any of it and she doesn't think there's anything wrong with that."
"I'm sorry, Castle."
He shook his head, his fist coming up to rest against the wall.
"I can't fix it."
"No you can't, but you can be there for her and you can keep proving to her that none of this is her fault and it has nothing to do with her worth as a person."
"I shouldn't have to protect her from her mother."
She nodded and leaned a little closer to him, squeezing her hand around his arm.
"Let's do this one step at a time okay? We need to find her, that's the most important part now."
He leaned down and hugged her, the ferocity in his grip telling her exactly how upset he was.
"Anytime, Castle. Of course, not that I ever want this to happen again."
He smirked a little as the elevator dinged, depositing them in the lobby.
"Okay, to the park?"
"To the park."
They'd searched every park within walking distance and found hide nor hair of Alexis. She still hadn't called home and when Castle had called all of her friends again, none of them had heard from her and she wouldn't take their calls either. Panic was setting in for the writer and he pushed his hands through his hair, starting to get angry at his daughter for putting him through this, then feeling guilty for being upset with her.
"Hey Ryan, you guys find anything?"
"She swiped her card for the subway two hours ago. We don't know which station or if she got off the train."
"Thanks Ryan, we'll head over there now."
She hung up the phone and let Castle know, and asked which train Alexis was likely to take.
"There's only two she ever rides. She knows the routes, they're short. She takes a cab if she's going anywhere either train doesn't go."
"Okay. You take one, I'll take the other, we'll ask around, see if anyone remembers seeing her."
They split in opposite directions, headed for the stations Alexis would have been most likely to use. Beckett stopped for a moment, watching Castle go and wondering if they should have just done this together. Was he going to keep his emotions in control?
Knowing that she couldn't worry about that now, she headed for the station, taking the stairs carefully and flashing her badge at the attendant before starting her questions. He wasn't sure he'd seen the redhead and admitted he didn't pay much attention to the people that went through the automated stalls. He let her pass through to catch the train so she could talk to the conductor and she stood in wait, biting her lip knowing that the conductor would have less of a chance to notice who was on a train than the attendant.
The train slowed to a stop and she got on shooting her glance to the back of the car out of habit.
Relief washed over her and she walked slowly to the back corner, observing how the girl sat curled up in the corner, arms tightly about herself, head leaning against the window. Beckett took a moment to text Castle, hoping it would go through before she lost service, then carefully sat down opposite Alexis, mirroring her position.
She startled and looked up, her neutral position slipping almost into a scowl before it went back to middle ground.
"Did my dad call you?"
"Gonna haul me back home?"
"No, but I'm not going to leave you here this late at night alone. The way I see it you need some fresh air and space and that's okay but it's a little scary out here."
"I know. I didn't mean for everyone to worry."
"You want to talk about it?"
"Better to sit there and brood?"
Alexis bit back a rude comment, realizing that even before it came out of her mouth it wasn't going to make her feel better.
"I can't talk to you about it."
"I wouldn't expect you to, Alexis. But if you change your mind… well I'll be right here riding along with you until you're ready to go home."
They fell into silence and Beckett settled into the plastic seat, her jacket squeaking against the metal hand rails. She could remember so clearly how it felt to argue with her parents or to feel alone and out of control for whatever reason, and how desperately she needed to be alone and clear her mind. Sometimes it felt like suffocation really, the desire to get out was almost survival instincts. She wondered briefly what Burke would say about that, her need to run from everything.
"I didn't really mean like… I don't want you to think that I can't talk to you because you're you or something. It's just… it's about my mom. And I can't really tell you how much I hate my mother when you don't even have yours."
"I feel awful just saying that to you."
"The funny thing about feelings and opinions is that everyone is allowed their own. I don't know your mom but I've heard a thing or two from your dad and I don't blame you for feeling this way."
"She's put you through a lot, Alexis. It doesn't matter who she is, that still hurt you."
"It did," the young girl admitted, her voice soft.
"It's not your fault, you know. How she acts. None of the things she does are a reaction to you, they're a reaction to the things she doesn't like about herself."
"How do you mean?"
"I think that the older you get the more she distances herself, right?"
"Remember that what I'm about to say comes from bits and pieces that your dad has said over the years so it might have about zero accuracy."
"Your mom does love you. I think she has no idea how to show it so she just doesn't try. And I think every year that passes she sees it as another year she's failed you, and another year that she hasn't figured out how to fix it."
"So she just ignores it?"
"It's easier that way."
"That doesn't make it better."
"It makes it not your fault, Alexis. It doesn't make what she does okay."
It was a small smile but a smile nonetheless, one that Kate returned before leaning against the window again.
"Dad's pretty worried huh?"
"Oh you know your dad. He always stays level-headed about everything."
"I didn't mean to worry him, I just had to get out."
"It'll be fine. He'll be so happy you're okay that he'll make you eat your weight in those pancakes you like," Beckett said, nudging Alexis' foot with her own.
"Can you take me home?"
Sure enough, when they arrived back at the loft, Castle already had a stack of pancakes waiting, with a dollop of whipped cream on the top. The worry was darkening his eyes, but he made sure Alexis didn't notice as he crossed the room and pulled her into a hug. Beckett couldn't hear a word that passed between them and she stood awkwardly by the door until they'd both said what they needed to.
"Want to stay for pancakes?" Alexis asked finally, her face wiped free of tears. "They're really good and it's not that late."
"I don't know-"
"Darling you had better just agree," Martha said sagely, still with her arms tightly about her granddaughter. "You don't know how hard their begging is to resist."
"Okay, are you making eggs too?"
"Wow, so demanding."
"I brought your kid back, Castle."
"Eggs it is madam."
They shared a smile as the women settled down at the bar, ignoring all that had happened tonight in favor of small laughs over Castle's kitchen mishaps and Martha's theater stories. The food was eaten slowly and the clock was striking one when Beckett finally was able to make her excuses to leave for the night. She watched as the redheads made their way upstairs together and she smiled, glad that everyone was back where they belonged.
"I think I'm going to spend some time with her for a few days."
"That's a good idea."
"You think she's okay?"
"Castle, she may act pretty grown-up, but she's not a grown-up. Part of her is still a little girl who isn't sure why mommy isn't around."
"She's okay, but she deserves better than okay."
"I think she just needs you, Castle. Spend some time with her, reassure her a little. She has a lot of changes coming up, she needs to know that you're still her constant."
"How'd you get so smart?"
"By never watching Dr. Phil or Oprah."
"Ah, that's it. Thanks for everything tonight Beckett."
"You're welcome. See you in a week?"
"Call me if there's anything interesting."
"Okay," she smiled, knowing she wasn't going to call him for anything. "Goodnight Castle."
The door clicked between them and she let out a short sigh. Maybe somewhere down the line she would be closed in on the other side with them.