"One year ago today, Senator Benjamin Dobson was arrested for the murders of all the people whose names are blazoned on the monument behind me," said Kevin Ryan. He was standing in front of what had once been the 12th precinct. He neglected to mention that Benjamin Dobson had then died in prison, stabbed by Damian Westlake, thought Alexis as she elbowed her way past a gangly man with floppy hair in order to pull herself and Ashley into the front row of the crowd listening intently to Ryan's speech. "You see, almost twenty years ago there was a conspiracy to kidnap mobsters for money. Dobson found out, but instead of stopping it, he just asked for the money."

Ryan gulped and Jenny glanced worriedly at him from where she stood beside the podium. She'd seen him rehearsing this speech for a couple of weeks without a hitch, but she was sure that standing in front of what had once been the precinct would have some effect on him. "Dobson spent most of his career orchestrating the termination of anyone who had anything to do with the case against him, including Johanna Beckett and her daughter Kate Beckett- who was practically family to me."

He proceeded to read off the names of all fifty-seven casualties of what could only be described as Dobson's reign of terror. Alexis wanted to drown out the names, she wanted to cloud her mind and let them run together. She didn't want to hear the name of her father, her grandmother, thrown at her like more icy shards to poke at her heart. Not now, not today.

And yet, she knew that she owed all these people listening as their names were read. All those people who'd had families and lives, lives that (unfortunately for them) intersected somehow with Kate Beckett's, all they were now was dust and a name engraved in the marble behind Detective Ryan. The least she could do was give their names her full attention.

"Richard Castle, Martha Rodgers, Javier Esposito…" Alexis barely heard the wavering in Ryan's voice, she was trying to keep her tears from running down her cheeks. Ashley, noticing this, wrapped an arm around her and pulled her into his chest.

"You're so strong," he murmured into her now-red hair. It wasn't the "it's okay" or "I love you" she'd been expecting from him, something to calm her down. It was simply the truth, at least the way he perceived it. You're so strong.

She was strong, strong enough to be able to live with Ashley in her father's loft and let the place honor his memory rather than remind her of his death. Alexis pulled her broccoli and cheese casserole out of the oven and set it on the stovetop, turning around to see the friends with whom she'd battled Dobson sitting around her living room.

"Ash, will you get out the champagne?" she said.

"Yeah." Ashley hopped off the couch and walked into the kitchen, away from Ryan and Booth's conversation about proper gun cleaning. He met Alexis in the kitchen and pulled her in for a quick kiss. "You okay?" he whispered against her ear. It was a warranted question- the day had been full of remembrance of painful things, the deaths she'd had eight years to dull had been sharpened again, thrown at her. A day full of stress, and she was just happy to finally be home, in her fiancé's arms.

She smiled. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm okay."

Maybe it was a lie, but not for long. She would be okay. She would marry Ashley and go back to college and live life the way she had always intended. After seven years of turmoil, her world was finally returning to normal. As Alexis joined Ashley, Ryan, Jenny, and Booth in the family room, she thought to herself that she could get used to normal.


A/N: Thoughts? Complaints? Aren't you glad I didn't kill off Ryan? :D Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed this story, you keep me (mostly) sane. If you haven't voted for my story Princess Cop in the Castle Fan Awards yet, please do, it would mean a lot to me.

http : / / castlefans . org / fanfic - best – humour / 270 (without spaces)

Also, check out my newest story, coming soon: The Whole Sort of General Mish Mash. And Castle and Beckett are alive in this one!