Her morning ritual started off like that of most mornings. Shower, change, make-up. She opened the box with her mother's ring and tied it around her neck beneath her dress uniform, her father's watch sliding on her wrist with the ease of practice. She hesitated as she brushed her fingers over the other things in the box. Two folded letters lay beneath the watch, so different in tone and style. Royce's words were blunt. Castle's were... She didn't yet have words for it. Naked.
Beckett and her father were early at the funeral. It smelled like spring and growing things amidst the rows of stone. Her heart ached for Evelyn, for the tear-stained face of one daughter and the bravely stoic features of the other.
When the Castle town car pulled up, Alexis got to Beckett before he did. It meant something to him, the way she wrapped her arms so unstintingly, lovingly, around his daughter. Kate smoothed a lock of Alexis' hair back as she accepted condolences. "Thank you, Alexis."
His mother was next in line to embrace Kate in the moments before the funeral started. "Oh, darling...I'm so sorry."
When his own time came to greet her, he looked her over in her dress uniform. Not quite crass enough to voice the thought in his head, he settled for a lift of his brows that she knew him too well to misinterpret. The ghost of a smile and eye roll was worth it.
She moved to cue people to their seats, to wait for the arrival of the hearse. They surrendered to the flow of the day, the sound of drums in the air, the cadenced steps to carry Montgomery to his last resting place. Little details would stand out in his mind for years – the buzz of a fly, the way the morning sun beat down, the precision of the hands folding the flag.
After they lay the casket down, they moved to their respective places. He stood near her, which felt right to him, and a little to her right so he could see her face. He stood ready to follow her heartfelt, carefully considered eulogy with the poem Evelyn Montgomery requested.
He had his few words memorized, John Donne's immortal lines from "No Man is an Island." The words echoed in his mind. Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind...
He was proud of her, of the steadiness in her voice (though he expected no less). He listened to her, to her every inflection...and swallowed hard when she said, "And if you're lucky, you find someone to stand with you." She turned her head, seeking him out not far from her side.
Their eyes met, a silent acknowledgment passing. It became another detail he would never forget of that day, the intensity of the look in her eyes.
And in that exchange, he learned the devastation of real hope.
The way of love is not a subtle argument.
The door there is devastation.
Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling, they're given wings.
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