Title: Prelude and Postlude

Disclaimer: I don't own Castle. I don't own anything but my own ideas and occasionally my imaginary boyfriend, but even that's up for debate (I think he's seeing Sofia, my neighbor's imaginary sister…and I'm not sure how I feel about it).

Summary: A series of snapshots of Kate's relationship with the Castle Clan that we didn't get to see this season (and could most likely be slipped in without altering the plot too much). There's Kalexis and Caskett moments and some Martha (because who doesn't love Martha?).

Author's note: I had the idea, I wrote it down, and now I'm sharing it with you. I may continue with this as a series of one-shots. I don't know.

Feedback is much appreciated.

Emma


"Detective Beckett?"

Kate turned and found herself staring at Little Castle, who was shifting uneasily from foot to foot.

"What's up, Alexis? Does your Dad know you're here?"

Alexis gave a nervous giggle. "Kind of. I said was going to meet a, ah, friend."

"Oh, okay. Is something wrong?" She looked so hesitant.

"Do you have a minute?"

Kate looked down at the last form of her paperwork and smiled. "If you can give me five, I can give you the rest of my night, if you need it."

Alexis' eyes bulged. "I don't think it'll take that long, but yeah, finish up. I'm not in a hurry."

"Why don't you have a seat? This won't take me long," Kate told her, gesturing to Castle's normal chair.

Alexis nodded shyly and sat down. Kate turned back to her work and went about filling out the last form. Castle had bailed after they'd booked the perp early this morning, stating that he desperately needed to do some writing, or Gina would kill him. Kate had laughed and sent him on his way, ignoring that slight creeping feeling she got whenever anyone mentioned Gina.

She finished the last line and glanced over at Alexis, stifling a laugh.

"What?" Alexis asked, looking up from her iphone.

"Nothing," Kate smiled, stacking the papers up and putting them in her bin. "You just had a very 'Castle' moment, being so engrossed in your phone."

"Yeah," Alexis laughed. "Dad's a bit obsessed with his toys."

"What were you playing?" Kate asked as they stood and she put on her coat.

"Angry birds."

"You are your father's daughter," Kate laughed. "Do you want to go grab a bite to eat so we can chat?"

"That would be great," Alexis smiled. "Thank you so much. I know how little time off you get, and I don't want to take that u…"

Kate raised a hand to cut her off. "Alexis, we've been out to eat before. You're not 'taking up my time,' and I'm starving. Having company to eat would be nice."

Alexis blushed and nodded, letting Kate lead her out of the Precinct and across the street to Remy's. They took Kate and Castle's usual booth and ordered a basket of curly fries, mozzarella sticks and chicken wings.

"This is about the least girly meal ever," Kate chuckled as the waiter walked away.

"But it's so good," Alexis grinned.

"True. Now, what's up?"

Alexis fidgeted. "Okay, I would have gone to Dad about this, but he's… he just doesn't like to talk about boys with me, and he tries, you know? But I know it makes him uncomfortable, and Grams…she's not around much because of school…but she's not always the most helpful. And don't get me started on Mom or Gin…"

"Alexis, you can come talk to me any time, you know that," Kate gently interrupted. "You don't have to justify it."

"Okay," Alexis took a deep breath. "Ashley. You know Ashley?"

"We've met a few times when I've been at your place," Kate nodded.

"Right. Well, he's great. I mean, he's really great. He's nice and smart and funny and kind and sweet…and I totally love him."

"Why do I feel like there's a but in there somewhere?"

Alexis met her eyes. "He's just…is there such a thing as too nice?"

"Sometimes," Kate replied. "It depends. What's the problem?"

"I just…if I get mad, or snap at him, he just takes it. And, mind you, I don't do it often, but he never says anything! Even when I can tell that something's bothering him, if it's not something I want to do, he won't mention it, no matter how much I ask. He just deals with stuff, and doesn't talk about it."

"Sounds like he's trying a little too hard to make you happy."

"He is. I'm a big girl, and I can deal with things. I don't have to be happy all the time, and I'm tired of feeling like he's building up all of this negative stuff without telling me."

"Does he act differently when something's bothering him?"

"He gets really quiet, and if we're together, he doesn't talk. And I hate it! I just want him to tell me what's bothering him."

Their food arrived and Kate pushed the fries toward Alexis, who took a few and jammed them into her ketchup with more aggression than Kate was used to seeing.

"Hey now, the fries haven't done anything to you."

Alexis laughed. "Sorry, I'm just so frustrated."

"You want my advice?" Kate asked, snagging a fry and dipping it into the marinara.

"Please."

"Confront him about it."

"Really?"

Kate nodded. "Just talk about it straight up. If you try to change your behavior, it can only make things worse. I don't think you're at fault here. He needs to tell you if you're doing something he doesn't like. Then, if you ignore it, it's about you. But right now, he's trying too hard, and it's not fair to either of you."

"Just talk about it."

"Heart to heart."

Alexis bit her lip. "It won't ruin things?"

"Does he love you?"

Alexis nodded and smiled a bit. "Yeah, he does."

"Does he tell you he'd do anything for you?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"Then just talk about it. He'll appreciate your willingness to understand."

"Okay."

They smiled and spent a few quiet minutes eating and exchanging happy sounds of delight at the food.

"Detective Beckett?"

"Kate."

"Sorry?"

"Please, call me Kate. I've asked you before. I get that you're trying to be respectful, but come on, Lex. We're talking boys here."

Alexis blushed at the nickname, but nodded. "Okay, Kate. I just wanted to say thank you."

Kate waved a hand. "It's no sweat. This may be a shock to you, but I like you, Alexis."

"Really?"

"Really. So stop feeling like you're a burden, or wasting my time every whenever we go out to eat."

"Okay," the girl said shyly.

"Okay." Kate looked up from her milkshake and found Alexis looking at her. "Do I have something on my face?"

"No," Alexis laughed. "I just, I like you too. You're cool and nice and I really appreciate that you're willing to talk to me and give me advice and stuff. I don't…I don't have anyone I can really go to for this kind of thing, and it's nice to have you to talk to."

Kate just smiled. "Anytime."

"Kate, you made it!" Alexis greeted her enthusiastically as she opened the door.

"I did," she smiled back. "Sorry it took so long. We had a few too many crazies tonight."

"Dad was telling me about last year," Alexis grinned, ushering her inside. "I'm glad you were still able to get here. Dad will be excited."

"Looks like everything's going well," Kate commented as she let Alexis take her coat and hang it up.

They stood at the edge of the loft together, watching the party in full swing in the living room. Half of the Precinct was there, apparently, plus about thirty of Castle's finest friends. And they were all going at it like there was no tomorrow. The furniture had been moved to create a dance floor in the living room and Kate could see Castle 'tending bar' in the kitchen, chatting up Lanie and Ryan, who were seated on the stools in front of him.

"Everyone's been having a blast. Did you know that Ryan and Esposito can do the entire Single Ladies dance?" she asked, leaning in conspiratorially.

"Oh no, did I miss that?" Kate gasped.

"Don't worry. I got it on tape," Alexis grinned, whipping her phone out from a pocket in her very cute, green cocktail dress.

Kate leaned in and they watched together. By the time they made it to Castle's entrance (and complete failure at the dance) they were clutching at each other to stay standing.

"What's so funny over here?" Castle asked as he approached them.

Alexis quickly shut her phone and they tried to school their features, with little success.

"Nothing, Dad," Alexis said innocently.

"I don't believe you," he said skeptically.

"Oh come off it, Castle," Kate grinned. "What could we possibly have to keep from you?"

"See, it's that!" he pointed at her. "You're corrupting my little girl."

"Oh Dad," Alexis patted his arm. "You have no idea." She sauntered away.

Both Kate and Rick watched her go. Kate was trying to keep herself from falling into hysterics again. Alexis had no idea that she'd said the very same to Castle over two years ago.

"So, you made it," he said after a pause.

Kate smiled. "Yeah. Sorry it took so long. Montgomery won't be able to get in, unfortunately. He wanted me to tell you he's sorry."

"I understand," Castle replied. "I'm glad you're here though. I wouldn't want you to miss the ball dropping."

Kate shook her head. "Pucker all you want, Castle. I'm not kissing you at midnight."

He put a hand to his chest and pretended to be scandalized. "Detective, you wound me with your lecherous insinuations."

"Oh please," Kate laughed.

"I just know that you don't actually get to see it drop all that often, and I've got the projector working now," Rick told her, gesturing toward the living room, where she could see a shower curtain spread over the far wall.

"Thanks," she smiled. "It'll be nice to see it."

"Is Josh coming?" he asked politely. "So you do have someone to kiss at midnight?"

Kate shook her head. "He's on shift," she offered. "Where's Gina. I don't see her running around.

"She had to go to a publishing party, but she didn't find out until I'd already set this up."

"That's too bad."

"Yeah," he shrugged. "I can go without the kiss this year."

Kate nodded just as Alexis came over. "You've got to see this," she said, grabbing Kate's hand and pulling her away from Castle, who watched them go with an affectionate smile on his face.

"What's up?" Kate asked, following the redhead as she wound them through the crowd.

"Lanie and Jenny are about to break into Thriller."

"Uh-oh. How much has Lanie had?"

Alexis grinned. "Waaay too much."

"Get your camera out," Kate told her, and they giggled together.

"Kate?"

"Oh, Martha. Hi," Kate whispered.

"Is everything alright?" the older woman asked, looking over the living room.

Kate and Castle had come back to the loft to eat some much-needed food. He was currently sprawled out on the couch, his head resting in her lap, snoring softly. She moved the hand she'd been unconsciously running through his hair and looked up at Martha.

"Yes. We got the guy that killed the Detective who worked my mom's case," Kate replied, grimacing at how awkward and unfulfilling that sounded.

"That's wonderful." Martha sat on the coffee table in front of her. "How are you doing?"

Kate smiled. "I've been better, but I'm well, all things considered," she shrugged.

"Oh dear, what happened to Richard's hand?"

Kate smiled down at Castle. "There may have been a bit of a hostage situation tonight, and Castle might have, ah, punched out my assassin, so that he didn't kill me?"

Martha looked between them for a long moment. "Sounds like the kind of ridiculously heroic thing he'd do."

"It was," Kate told her. "I'm alive tonight because of your son."

Martha leaned over and placed her hand on top of Kate's. "I'm thankful that he has you in his life, and vice versa."

"Me too," Kate smiled. "Would you like some wine?"

Martha shook her head. "No thank you. I'm going to head upstairs."

Kate nodded and watched as she stood and then looked at her. After a moment, she saw Martha come to a decision, and suddenly she was being enveloped in a gentle hug that stole her breath.

Martha pulled back after a minute and cupped her cheek. "Have a good night, Kiddo. Will I see you in the morning?"

Kate took a second to let her mind form words. "Maybe. Martha, I…"

"I know. Get a good night's sleep, either way."

And then Kate was alone. Well, she wasn't alone; she had Castle in her lap. And maybe she wasn't nearly as alone as she could be, she mused as she watched Martha climb the stairs.

"I knew you'd seen it before," Kate offered as they made their way up to his apartment, laden down with take-out bags from Remy's.

"What? You're crazy," Rick replied immediately.

Kate rolled her eyes. "If you're trying to be covert about it, next time don't mouth the words," she laughed.

"But you…you didn't say anything! I thought you'd have socked me," he replied.

"Eh. It's more fun to see that movie with someone. And, you know, Castle, you're not terrible to be around."

"Well, thank you for that glowing review," he grumbled as he turned the key and let them in. "Alexis?"

There were footsteps and Alexis' head popped out from the stairwell. "What's up? Oh, hi Kate!"

"Hi, Lex."

"What are you doing here? I mean…wait, that came out wrong," she babbled as she came down the stairs.

"No worries. We got take-out after seeing Forbidden Planet."

"He got you to go with him?" Alexis asked as she joined them at the table.

"He tricked me, actually," Kate relayed, grabbing bowls and plates while Castle rummaged around for drinks. "He told me he'd never seen it."

"Dad!" Alexis scolded.

He shrugged. "You wouldn't go with me."

"Oh, so that's what it was, huh? A pity date?" Alexis asked knowingly.

Both Kate and Castle stopped and looked at her. "Uh…"

"Exactly," Kate replied, smirking at Castle's wounded look. "I took pity on him."

"Hey! You had no idea that I hadn't seen that movie."

"Not true," she countered.

"So true. You didn't figure it out until halfway through the film."

"So you knew I knew!" she said triumphantly.

"Guys."

"No I didn't," he backtracked.

"Good try, Castle," Kate replied, dumping wings onto her plate.

"Guys."

"But admit it, you had fun," he grinned.

"I'll say nothing of the sort," Kate deflected.

"Guys!" Alexis said loudly. They turned to look at her. "Sheesh. It's like trying to break into a UN argument."

"Sorry. What's up?" Castle asked.

"I just wanted to ask you to pass the salt, Dad."

Kate smiled into her fries. Dinner with the Castles was nothing if not entertaining. And their pity date had been pretty wonderful as well. Wait. It wasn't a date. It totally wasn't a date.

"Totally was a date," Castle said from her left.

Kate stuffed a handful of fries into his mouth and turned to Alexis, who was grinning like mad.

"You wanna go to Remy's?" Castle asked.

Kate turned to look at him. He'd been sitting there watching her in complete silence for the last hour. It was flattering, especially after how jealous he'd been of Conrad…well, of how jealous she'd made sure he got. But, no matter how nice it was to know that he was as possessive about her position as she was about his (Natalie Rhodes could rot), it was still creepy when he watched her.

"I could go for a burger, yeah," Kate replied.

"I'm not, uh, stepping on any toes, am I?" he asked as they stood.

He looked a bit nervous. Oh, he meant Josh. "Nope. No toes," she replied.

Josh was on shift, and then he'd be at a conference in Boston, and then in Nicaragua for two weeks. There was barely anything to step on.

"Great," he beamed. He offered her his arm and Kate rolled her eyes, but put hers through his.

They took their normal table at Remy's and the waitress didn't even bother coming over. They'd been there so many times together in the past three years that the entire wait staff knew their order by heart.

"How's Alexis?" Kate asked as they settled in.

"She's doing well. She and Ashley are going strong."

"I'm glad," she smiled.

"She really likes you, you know," he added.

"It's mutual."

"I haven't thanked you for that in a while," he continued. "You've been really helpful to her, and a great friend as well, and I really appreciate it."

"It's no work for me, Castle. But you're welcome all the same."

Their shakes arrived with a plate of fries and they happily set about to eating. Kate leaned over and dipped a fry in his chocolate shake.

"Why do you insist on doing that?" he asked, grimacing.

"Because they don't taste good dipped in a strawberry shake."

"Then get a chocolate shake."

"I don't like chocolate shakes."

"But you just said…"

"I know what I said, Castle," she replied, dipping another in his shake.

"A walking contradiction," he muttered.

"Yeah, like you're any better."

"Excuse me?" He asked, pretending to be affronted.

"You're half child, half man, Castle, and don't try to pretend that it isn't true."

His eyes sparkled. "Of course not. If it was, I couldn't pull your pigtails; grownups don't do that."

"Well, we wouldn't want that, would we?" she asked.

"No we wouldn't," he beamed. "And you're a kid too, Katherine Beckett."

"Uh-huh. No."

"Oh come on! Pranks, betting, giggling over Clueless? Don't think I didn't hear you and Alexis the other week."

"Girl time is different, Castle," she replied seriously.

"I won't push it; we both know you're lying," he shrugged.

"Suit yourself."

"You like to tease me way too much to be a full adult, and you know it," he added.

"Just for that," she said, reaching over to dip six fries into his shake.

"Beckett!"

"Castle!"

They stared at each other for a while and then broke eye contact as the teasing gave way to…that. Kate wasn't quite ready to admit to whatever it was, but it was there. She could avoid it better if she didn't keep going out on pseudo-dates with him and spending so much time at the loft, 'playing house' with his family—according to Lanie.

But, as she watched him begin to build a palace out of the sugar packets, weaving a story about Princess Beckett that had her rolling her eyes so hard that it hurt, she realized that she didn't want to avoid it. She was walking a dangerous tightrope, but she was starting to believe that he just might catch her when she inevitably fell.