Alexis found him in the study working on last minute changes to the publicity schedule. He had two more bookstore signings next week before he was officially off-duty, but Gina had managed to squeeze in another meet and greet thing. He was dreading the formal wear when Alexis poked her head around the door.
She didn't look much better than last night, but he stood up and smiled at her, wide and warm, reached out to hug her slim, fragile-feeling shoulders.
"So, uh, how is the precinct?" she asked, sitting on the arm of the chair in front of his desk. Had she come in to idly chat? It felt more like she was checking up on him.
Castle took the other one and tried to gauge her attitude. "Gates doesn't like me much. Only a matter of time. Kate is -" He wasn't sure how to reassure his daughter and yet also tell her the truth. "Kate's still going to therapy. Which is good. She's back, and doing good."
Alexis nodded, swallowed hard. "Dad, I still - I have dreams about it still. About the blood. And Kate. And - and Josh yelling at you. And - and the way your face looked-"
Castle sighed, slumped back in his chair. "Yeah. I do too, Alexis."
"I want to do something about it."
He lifted his head and squinted at her. She had the the family therapist every Monday at three. He'd sat in on two sessions at her request. "I don't think there's-"
"For Kate. I want to do something to show her. . ." Alexis trailed off, nervously playing with the edge of her tshirt. "Dad, I have to do something. Getting rejected by Stanford-"
"Dad." She stilled him with a glance, her eyes the hard white-blue of polar ice. "Not getting into Stanford has made me look at. . .at this, the way I do things. What I've focused on. Even when Kate nearly died, I was just so angry with her for doing that to you, and then angry with you for doing it to yourself."
Castle didn't try to answer her; they'd been over this before, through it and back again, and he knew Alexis well enough to recognize her long, nervous set-up for something else.
"Maybe Stanford saw something about my life that I've been pretending isn't true."
"Alexis," he interrupted, leaning forward to grab her hands. "You are an amazing-"
She squeezed back. "Let me say this. I just - I should've been focusing on real life. Not on AP tests and GPAs and padding my transcript. Looking at all the things I've done, all those clubs and events and trips that I put down on my college application. . .it's just hollow, Dad."
"Sometimes, Alexis, things that are important to us can look twisted, wrong, when traumatic events happen. Please don't sell yourself short, pumpkin. Just because of Stanford."
"It's not just because of Stanford. It's because of Kate."
His heart clenched at the desolation in his daughter's voice, knowing full well he'd put it there, he'd introduced her to it. Front row seats. Popcorn. All of it. He'd come from the 12th sharing murder details with her, bouncing ideas off her at times. How could he?
"Her whole life. . .she's a detective because she had this one moment in her life when everything that used to be important just. . .fell flat. And I think that happened to me when I saw - when I saw you tackle her, and heard the gunshot, and saw the blood." Her voice was a whisper now, her eyes on her hands in her lap. "It's not the same because she didn't die, but she. . .and you almost. . .and I-"
"It was scary," he said, sharing that moment with his daughter, trying not to minimize her feelings. Trying to keep her from dwelling on it though.
"And at first, what I focused on was you, Dad. Because you're what's most important to me. I don't want you to die."
Rick pressed his hands over his eyes and swallowed hard, lifted his face to look at his daughter, beseeching and broken. Still. "Alexis."
"That's not. . .not the point right now."
"I'm not going to Stanford. But I have to go somewhere, I guess. Only it's been hard for me to care where else that might be. I have. . .a whole semester here now. No school. And I know what I need to do."
Oh. "What's that?"
"I want to show them-" Show Stanford? "Show. . .show Kate. . .that she's not alone. None of them. That we care. Not just you and me, Dad, but this whole city. When a police officer is shot, when they're trying to do their jobs to keep us safe-"
"Hey, that's a good thought, Alexis." He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, tugging her close to him.
"More than a thought," she muttered, breaking free of his hug. "I want to do a blood drive. For the 12th. In. . .in Captain Montgomery's memory, but also as a way to show them that we want them all to come home every night, safe. Not just you, Dad, because you're important to me, but Kate too. And the other detectives, the police officers."
His throat had closed up at his daughter's earnest sincerity, her grief-fueled attempts to make things right.
"Do you think Detective Beckett would mind?"
"I want to have the blood drive at the 12th. Invite everyone in my school, and the police officers too. And whoever in the neighborhood can do it-"
"It's a great idea. Have you found any information on-"
"I already called the Red Cross. They do a mobile unit thing; they'll park outside the 12th all day long and people can just go when they get a chance. They said they can also set it up inside an empty conference room if we have a good initial sign-up-"
"I think that would be amazing. Wow. Alexis. I - I don't know what to say."
"Just. Talk to Kate about it? Maybe break the ice. And then I'll call her and talk to her?" Alexis played with the hem of her shirt. "Maybe. Maybe she'd talk to me? Like coffee or something?"
"Sure. Yeah. Of course. I'm sure she would."
Alexis gave him a tired but happier smile, relief etched into her features. "I know I didn't make much sense. But this is what I need to be doing, Dad. Something good. Something that means something. More than Stanford."
He hugged her again, let her go when she leaned back. "This is great, Alexis."
She stood up, squeezed his shoulder as she went past him. "Let me know when I should call her."
She left him in his study, alone. Castle leaned back in the chair and stared at the ceiling, guilt and worry swirling in his head for what he'd done.
His girl. His little girl.
But no. Not his little girl.
Kate had coffee for him when he arrived; she held it out to him with a little smirk. "I thought you might be rushed this morning."
"You just get here?" he asked, noticing her full cup as well. Gratefully taking what she offered. "Thanks."
"Only fifteen minutes ago. Alexis all set up?"
He nodded back, worried, anxious for his daughter. "Think it will go well?"
"Yes." Kate gave him an intense look. "Around here? This kind of thing, Castle. . .you should know by now. You guys will be in for life."
He grinned at her, the tightness in his chest easing. "I don't care about being in, so much as my daughter not failing at this."
"You're in, Castle. And now? So is she."
He watched her for a moment, sipping at his coffee to give him an excuse for saying nothing. He wondered if her statement was. . .was two-fold? A way to say something to him without saying what she couldn't say.
"She should have them lined up on the sidewalk," Kate continued.
"Actually. . ." He grinned at her, pride lifting the edges of his mouth. "There *was* a line on the sidewalk. When we showed up. Some of the guys on third shift-"
She grinned back. "Told ya."
"She really needs this," he said quietly, the intensity of his fatherhood washing back over him again. "She needs it to go well."
"It will," she assured him, hooking her arm through his and dragging him down the hall towards her desk.
He let her lead, then dropped to his chair beside her desk. He sipped at the hot coffee again, thought about the way his daughter's face had lit up seeing the guys in their off-duty clothes, people from the surrounding neighborhood lined up to wait for the Blood Mobile before it had even arrived.
He glanced to her, eyebrow raised. "Yeah?"
"You know. . .this is a really *good* thing she's doing."
He smiled around his coffee, not sure why he appreciated that so much. Felt like he needed it though. "Yeah. Her idea. I just - she wanted to make a difference. You know, she said she wanted to be like you." He wriggled his eyebrows at her, smiling, but she didn't seem to take it well.
"Well. It just. . .it affected her, Kate. How could it not?"
She must've understood him, because something heavy fell over her face, shuttering her eyes. "Right."
"It affected everyone. You the most, obviously. But. . .she wanted to make it right. To fix it."
But Kate was nodding at him, that introspective nod that meant she was listening to something inside her, that still small voice. "Yeah. To fix it."
"She's not much like me, Kate," he offered, his chest squeezing at the thought. "I think that's not been easy for her. I can't - can't always relate, even though-"
"No. You do. You have - that ability, Castle. To empathize. We all see it. I know she does too."
He took a deep breath, smelling rich coffee, and it settled his panicked-bird of a heart. "Yeah. Good. I - I hope so. Being a writer, it's easier to get inside people's heads - or so I like to think. But sometimes, I don't know with her. And she's female." He quirked his lips at Kate and she smiled back. "What I mean is, I just really appreciate you taking this on with her. Helping her out. Because she knows that you understand."
Kate made her hands busy with the paperwork on her desk; he watched them rifle pages, straighten edges, flutter.
"Yes," she said finally. "I do understand. When you see it in front of you. And it affects you. And you're different. I just don't want Alexis to be me, Castle. To be like me."
Castle shook his head, reached out to still one of those hands, his trapping hers to the desktop. Her whole body stilled as well.
"If she were like you, Kate, that would be - wonderful. I'd love for her to be so strong, so complex a woman, so independent and graceful and powerful-"
He stumbled off, realizing how much he'd confessed. How little. How not enough.
Kate didn't take her eyes from his, as if she were assessing his statement. "Thank you." She lowered her gaze, darted her eyes back to the computer that was just now loading her profile.
He nodded, released her hand.
"Thank you, Kate. For being the one." He waited until her eyes raised back to his. "To help her."
Kate was startled at noon when Alexis came up to the bullpen, full of bright sunshine and excitement. She had brought lunch up with her, apparently on a texted request from Castle. Kate stopped peering at the murder board, flipped it over to the clean side, and pushed the Castles towards the conference room.
"Let's eat," she agreed.
Over fat deli sandwiches from the little place on the bottom floor, they discussed the blood drive and Alexis's success. Kate swiped at her mouth with a napkin, soaking up Italian dressing, and noticed Castle watching her. She licked the corner of her mouth for good measure and saw him shift in his chair.
She ignored the answering thrill in her stupid, raw heart.
"So how many pints total?" Kate asked, trying to ruthlessly shove down all those feelings. Feelings she had no good use for.
"I don't know yet. But over two hundred people have been registered as donors in the last three hours. And before that, about a hundred. So I think it's a lot. A lot of blood."
"Hey," Castle said suddenly. "I haven't given blood yet! I should go stand in line after lunch."
"I wish I could," Kate added, a little thoughtlessly, not paying complete attention, watching the light from the window shadow Castle's face, the line of his jaw as he chewed.
Alexis's intake of breath reminded her; she turned to the girl, tried to ease the comment with a smile.
"You can't - can't because you've received a transfusion recently," Alexis said, her voice numb, apparently just now relating one thing to the other.
Damn. "Yeah. Sorry. I think you're doing something amazing here. I wish I could be more a part of it." Was that a good enough distraction?
Alexis shook her head, dropped her sandwich to the wrapper. "Oh no. No. You have done so much, Kate. Really. I can't thank you enough."
Castle intervened, thank goodness, and put the conversation back on its tracks. "Do you give blood yet, Alexis?"
"Oh yeah, I got to go first," Alexis replied, grinning cutely. She seemed okay again. "They do this whole work-up. I answered all these questions about medications, shots, how recently have you traveled outside the country." She laughed, taking another bite of her sandwich, then chewing quickly to swallow it. "And then when you're done, they take a little sample from a finger prick, and they tell you what blood type you are."
If Kate weren't already watching Castle, she might have missed the strange look that floated behind his eyes. But she had been watching, almost staring, grateful for the way he'd handled her slip-up, her casual remark about an event that had clearly not been casual to anyone, and so she noticed.
She didn't know what it meant, but she noticed.
"Did you know I was AB, Dad? I didn't know that. That's kinda cool. The nurse said AB is a universal recipient. Because I have no antibodies against the others. I don't remember learning that in biology class."
Grateful for that distraction of a conversation, Kate jumped in. "No, that's true," Kate said, but something was nudging at her even as she spoke. Something important. "And O is the universal donor, like-"
Oh. Like her father.
Castle was O blood type. O negative. He'd had to fill out his health history on the forms the lawyer made him sign; after the case with the knock-off hand bags where they'd been shot at, Kate herself had gone over those forms, memorized his health information, for just in case. Mostly as a talisman against needing the information in the back of an ambulance or in an ER.
He'd given blood at the hospital after she was shot. She remembered Josh telling her that; Josh, bitter and a little heartbroken already, knowing where they were going (nowhere), had told her he wished that his giving blood would help her. But he was B. Kate was O positive.
Castle had given blood, because he was O negative. Universal donor.
Alexis. Alexis couldn't be AB.
She cut her eyes to Castle; he was staring back at her. Pleading.
Kate read it there, all of it, and shut her mouth.