My apologies to everyone who's waiting for more Mornings. If it helps, this was originally part of that series, but it just never fit. Seeing what's coming, I wanted to post it as a standalone before canon negates it completely.
The title is a reference to a line from a John Lennon song: life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. As it turned out, he couldn't have been more prescient.
Later, she'll wonder if she knew all along, somewhere deep inside, that something terrible had happened that night. Long before they reached the apartment and found the police outside, before the detective gestured to her father asking if he was James Beckett, if the two young people with him were his children. She'll wonder if she knew even while she was playing footsie under the dinner table with Peter, sneaking kisses with their eyes.
She still has the crackerjack box ring he called downpayment on a real one. He wouldn't stay, but he wouldn't take it back after that night.
She wonders now if she knew then because she's seen it since, in the eyes of the people she has to tell. That last moment of peace, held so tightly, never to be surrendered. The shake of the head, begging her not to say what has to come next. The complete stillness, the hope that without movement, her words will never find their target.
She had been stillness, and then she was following her father beneath the tape the detective held up for them, her heart and her life, all her dreams and plans, left behind with a glance over her shoulder at Peter. He was still behind the barrier the police had erected. He was not family yet.
Her father was doing what she's seen many do since, crying out, reaching to gather her mother into his arms, but the police would not let him near the bloodied body on the ground. They only wanted her name, confirmation of who she was.
'Johanna Beckett,' Kate said to the detective still standing by her side. He was watching her father with something she would later understand as professional compassion, but which had seemed oddly personal at the time. 'She teaches criminal law at NYU. She's forty-nine years old.'
The detective had stopped her with a hand on her shoulder as she was beginning to recite their address. She'd thought it was because of course, they already knew. The alley where they were standing ran beside their building, all the way from 5th to 6th Streets. Once upon a time, when her parents were young and had first moved to the East Village, there had been a troupe of unemployed actors who would set up a stage at the 5th Street end and put on plays in the summer. Her mother was lying in what might have been the front row.
'What's your name?' the detective asked, trying to turn her so that she would stop staring at her mother on the ground and her father sobbing in a nervous-looking black policeman's arms.
'Katie.' And then, because that had not sounded right anymore, she'd stopped resisting and found herself staring at a nondescript brown tie under a beige collar and an adam's apple that disappeared as the detective swallowed. It reminded her of her father when she was very small, rubbing her ears and nose as she curled up in his arms and pretended to purr. Of her mother brushing the day's tangles out of her hair, singing the Katie-cat song. For one last moment she had held those pictures close, then she had carefully tucked them away, somewhere deep inside where they could never be stained by what was about to come.
'Kate,' she corrected. 'She was my mother.'
'I know.' The detective put a hand on each of her shoulders and shook her gently, something she had not liked then and would not do to a family member now. Maybe it was because she had still been only a girl to him, if not to herself anymore. But it did make her look him in the eyes so he could ask if she would take her father upstairs, and she had, so busy holding the weight of him against her shoulder that she had walked right by Peter as if she had no idea who he was. And maybe - or at least years later this is how she thinks about it - maybe in that very moment, he had indeed simply ceased to exist, like everything else that had gone before.