Title: The Life and Death of Johanna Beckett
Author: shipperfey
Summary: Johanna Beckett continues to change lives even decades after her death.
Category/Warnings: future!AU fic.
Pairing/Characters: Castle/Beckett, Alexis/OC
Rating: PG-13

Notes: The story starts several years into the future, before we get to see how the characters got there. This is a completely new format for me, and I am not really sure where this story came from but it has stuck with me for weeks and I decided to finally let it be written.

Also, this is a post-Wall, full fluff alternate universe; it's Castle/Beckett but mostly through the eyes of Alexis.

Chapter I

As her right pinky finger released the keyboard key, there was no sound. The cursor on the screen blinked at her, seemingly waiting; it didn't know the importance of this moment.

This was it. Her book was finally complete.

Not entirely complete, the rational part of her mind reminded her. She knew just what lay ahead of her; the publishing industry was more than familiar to her. This was only her first manuscript, and there would be months of revisions and pre-release tours and media blitzes. The world of non-fiction literature was less glamorous than its counterpart, but it was also more challenging. Late night talk shows, book fairs, the whole circus.

Emotions threatened to overwhelm her: closure, peace, fear, elation at finally coming to this point.

Headlights from a passing car shone through the large windows of the brownstone, briefly illuminating her darkened office and reflecting off the diamond on her finger. Her eyes fell on the engagement ring, the one that had begun this story for her. First it had been a memento on a chain, a loving reminder of a life lost too soon. But it had become so much more than that, a symbol of love and dedication for a lifelong quest for justice.

The engagement ring now sat atop a thin, conservative wedding band that told a much more different story; one about overcoming adversity, about finding someone with the same convictions as you, the same dreams.

"I don't hear any typing," he said from the door. "I remember how deafening that silence was when I finished my first book."

She nodded. "It's a little overwhelming," she admitted.

"I gave Jo her bath, and tucked her in," he informed her as she stood behind her chair and rested his chin on her hair. "I just came to give you goodnight kisses from her, and get her a glass of milk."

There was no accusation in his voice, as he pulled her face up and brushed his lips against both her eyelids, just like their daughter did every night, but she still fought a feeling of guilt and he saw it.

"Hey, stop that," he warned. "You are the most dedicated mother I have ever seen. In the morning, you two can go to the park after you make her those alien-shaped pancakes," he teased.

"They're zoo animals," she pointed out, falling into an old routine.

"Not very good ones," he continued, before changing stances just slightly. "Listen… one day, Jo will be incredibly proud of this book. She will get to know the woman she was named after. She will understand everything."

She sighed, but nodded, and felt herself smiling. "Thank you."

"You deserve it," he reassured her, before turning her chair completely around to face him, and pressing his lips against hers.

She felt all the emotions she'd been experiencing converge into something less defined but a lot more pleasant, anchoring her wandering mind. He pulled away before she could deepen the kiss.

"Sorry," he said with a breathless smile. "I still have a bedtime story to read, but we can continue this later," he promised. "Now enjoy what it feels like to be a true author," and with that he walked away, leaving her once again alone with the dark office and the blinking cursor that still waited.

She realized what it was waiting for, and scrolled back to the beginning of the document, adding a fresh page.

To my family, for always being there for me; and to Johanna Beckett, for inspiring me.

Alexis Guerrero.

Chapter II

Alexis carried the box into the room, carefully perching it on top of the other neatly stacked boxes.

It was her first Winter Break in college, and she had come home to enjoy it. To be completely honest, there was a part of her that was kicking herself for not staying on campus and taking some extra classes, but she missed her family.

So here she was, in their storage unit, carrying boxes and organizing everything methodically. It was boring, physical work, but she was elated because Kate was finally moving in. Well, officially. The NYPD Detective had been a near permanent resident of the Castle household for quite some time now, but the lease on her place was finally up, and it had prompted the official change in the status of living arrangements.

Alexis was attempting to make more room in the climate-controlled storage unit, next to her dad's old manuscripts, her grandma's old clothes, and her old toys. A flash of blue fur caught her eye from one of the plastic bins, and she opened it to retrieve the stuffed animal.

"Look, it's Mr. Shawn," her dad's voice announced excitedly as he carried a large box in. "Alexis cuddled with that thing every night for four years," he explained to Kate who was following him and carrying yet another box. "Meredith hired this interior designer, Klaus," Rick Castle said the name with a shudder, "to redo Alexis' room, and the little twerp suggested that the dark blue fur clashed with his 'vision' and tried to get us to replace it for something in pastel colors."

Kate smiled as she glanced at the furry creature. "And did you?" She asked in the same tone she used when she asked a suspect a question to which she already knew the answer.

He snorted. "Yeah, right - no, I fired him, and found a decorator who designed Alexis' entire room around Mr. Shawn."

Alexis hugged him as he put the box down, beaming into his shoulder. "Thanks, Dad."

He hugged her back tightly. "No problem, kiddo."

"Thank you for doing this," Kate added as she set her box on top of the others. "Not the best way to spend your Winter Break."

"Are you kidding? This is awesome, I am so happy," Alexis replied excitedly, letting go of her dad, and peeking into one of the old boxes, finding a photo album. "Plus I am not minding the trip down memory lane here. You guys know I like doing this stuff."

"Well, these are the last two boxes, I'm gonna head upstairs to the loft and get dinner going. If you find a body somewhere in here, please keep it on the down low, because we're really hoping for this weekend off with you," her dad said before kissing her forehead and walking away.

Alexis glanced at Kate, who was focused on one of the boxes they'd brought in. Approaching carefully, Alexis saw a frame. Johanna Beckett's law school diploma lay on top of the box, and Alexis wasn't sure how to proceed… she'd grown closer to Kate over the years, but this was still something she had no idea how to handle.

"Sorry," Kate apologized, wiping at her face even though Alexis saw no tears. "It's still hard to go through these."

"You don't have to go through any of them, really," Alexis pointed out. "There's plenty of room here, I can just make sure they're somewhere safe." She knew how personal and private this was for Kate. Alexis knew enough about the case, having served as a sounding board to both her father and Kate during the investigation, but this was different.

Kate gave a bittersweet smile as she pulled the diploma out. "No, I think it's time… you know, I realize now that so many people know about my mother's murder, but not many people know about her before that, you know? It's all here, the person she was. The Scholarship Foundation could probably use some of this stuff. Would you mind helping me sort through some of it?"

Alexis was speechless for a second, but she took a deep breath and nodded. As she sat on the floor of the unit and began sorting through personal effects, some older than her, she had no way of knowing this would change her life forever.

Chapter III

Alexis re-read the papers in front of her for the tenth time, unable to control her racing pulse. "Dad!" She shouted, shooting up from the living room floor, where she'd been practically swimming in papers. Realizing she didn't have all of the papers she needed, she began digging in the piles, looking for a few pages she'd just set down. "DAD!" She screamed louder, but heard no reply across the large house.

She growled as she raced up the stairs of the beach house until she reached his office. Hesitating despite her excitement, her closed fist hovered at the door for a few seconds before she gave up and knocked rapidly.

"Come in," came her father's distracted voice.

"Dad, sorry, I know you're working," she blurted out.

"Nonsense… I'm just replying to some e-mails from my publisher, and setting up a tour schedule with Gina," he replied, pushing away from the tabletop where his laptop lay open. "And thank you for not sounding sarcastic when you referred to it as 'work.'"

Alexis tilted her head. "Dad… we've been through this about a dozen times before. I know your process. And I know you say you don't mind my interrupting but I really needed to show you this…" the words were running out as she gasped for air, dropping the papers she'd been holding on his desk.

"I really don't mind, honey," he reiterated, glancing over the pile in front of him. "But what is all this?"

"The scholarship applications… remember they came in from the Foundation yesterday and I said I'd sort through them for you?"

"Right… the first candidates to the scholarship. I told Kate about it last night, she wants to look at it when she comes up on the weekend. But this," he said, shuffling through the papers, "it's not all of them, is it?"

She shook her head. "No, just one," she replied, biting her lip, suddenly nervous.

Alexis had always been smart, and privileged enough to attend some of the best schools in New York, but she'd never truly known what she wanted to be when she grew up. When she'd declared her minor, she'd gone with Humanities, which seemed like a pretty pointless degree unless she decided to follow in her father's footsteps. But it'd been enough to placate her academic counselor at the time, and it wasn't until she'd stumbled into some Johanna Beckett's files when Kate had moved into the loft that Alexis finally began feeling a sense of purpose.

When she'd finished reading the files Kate had had, Alexis had asked Kate about some of her mom's old dockets. She found out she could request several of them, and had spent the better part of her free time down at the city's Public Records office. It wasn't exactly the legal aspect that fascinated Alexis, but the constant search for justice. The civil rights lawyer had given a voice to people who had been silenced by the judicial process.

Alexis had gone back to her academic counselor, announcing she was planning a double major in Humanities and Forensic Law. Her course load would also be perfect for Pre-Law if she decided to continue with that route. She had no interest in practicing, to be honest, but she was intrigued by Civil Law, especially the appellate process.

"I read all of applications," she tried to explain. "And I am telling you, this is the one."

"Alexis…" her father started to say, his voice obviously unsure about this.

"I know, it's complicated, and obviously a major deal. Kate should have the final say, of course. But I think she's gonna agree with me on this."

Castle sighed. "Okay, convince me," he added with a smile.

"His name is Abram Guerrero. He was born in Texas; his father was a career criminal and was killed in prison when Abram was eight. His mom is on disability, and he lived with an aunt and uncle until he left for college. He went to Michigan State on a wrestling scholarship, which he lost it during his Freshman year after an injury. Guess how he put himself through school?"

"I am hoping by doing something legal."

Alexis rolled her eyes. "He wrote a book, Dad. Self-published and non-fiction, so the money was barely enough for his tuition, but he wrote a book. With a ton of research too," she said, pointing to a few of the papers on the desk. "He wrote a book about the death penalty in Texas; more specifically about the men who were exonerated of the crimes they were accused of after they'd been executed. And the reason for his research? His grandfather was one of those men. He wants to become a lawyer now… his LSAT scores were through the roof, and he got accepted to Columbia Law last Fall, and he was able to qualify for some financial aid, but not nearly enough. If he doesn't get this scholarship, he'll have to reapply next year and who knows if that'll ever happen."

Her father watched her with an interested gaze the entire time she spoke, his uncertainty about this seeming to dissipate and being replaced by something she didn't exactly recognize. He cleared his throat, gathering the papers on his desk and handing them back to her.

Alexis frowned in confusion that quickly turned to panic and disappointment. "Daddy…" she whispered softly, feeling the emotional high she'd been riding since she'd finished reading the application files suddenly crested.

"I trust you, Alexis," her father explained, standing up and encircling her with his arms. "I'm not giving these back to you because I am saying no; I am giving this to you so you can follow up on it… do some detective work, follow up on the references. If in three days you still trust your decision, I will back you up with Kate."

Tears gathered in her eyes as she realized this was more than trusting her as his daughter. He'd always trusted her that way. But he trusted her with so much more in this moment, with his relationship with Kate, and Kate's relationship with her mother, with her own future, and the first major decision of the Foundation. Her arms encircled his hips despite the papers in her hands, and she hugged him tightly until she felt her breathing start to return to normal.

"Thank you," she whispered against his shoulder.

"Don't thank me just yet," he said, pulling away and reaching for his desk. "Before you go play detective, I need you to give me your opinion on something."

He held out a jacket-less copy of his new book, Heat Fusion. She moved the papers she'd brought under her arms so she could reach for the book. "I can't believe you're done writing already. What is this? Two months ahead of schedule?"

"What can I say? This one was easier to write than I'd expected."

Usually she would've read several of his drafts by now, but he hadn't asked her this time; she'd been so busy with her new course load at school. She flipped to the end, which always irked him, but it was just what she liked to do with a finished book. "Uh…" she started to say, a little confused at the small pouch she found at the end of the last page. Curiosity got the best of her and she opened the pouch and gasped. "Dad!" she squealed as she pulled out a stunning ring out of it. "Is this what I think it is?"

He frowned. "I knew I should've gone with a more conventional engagement ring," he sighed, putting his head in his hands.

Alexis set the scholarship application papers down on the desk again, and nudged her father on the shoulder until he looked up at her. She balanced herself sideways on the edge of his knees, like she'd done a million times before, and held the book open, with the ring between her thumb and forefinger. "This is perfect," she reassured him, seeing how his face lit up.

The ring itself was gorgeous, though unconventional: platinum with inlaid diamonds all around, and a subtle setting at the very top. It didn't scream engagement ring, but more importantly, it could be safely worn even while backhanding criminals in the face, which Alexis had never personally seen Kate doing, but had heard enough stories to realize it would've been a concern her father would've taken into consideration picking a ring.

"I know she could wear it on a chain, or we could've done without rings altogether, but I just…" her father started to say, and this was a side of him Alexis didn't see very often; the almost teenage-like insecurity, even though she knew that the relationship between him and Kate was as secure as the inlaid diamonds in the ring she held.

"Relax," she breathed out with a smile. "She's going to say yes, Dad. How could she not?"

He tried to breathe, before giving up and grunting in exasperation. "… but proposing with a book?"

"It's not just a book. It's never been just books…" Alexis reminded him. "And it definitely beats a hot air balloon ride."

He finally seemed to relax and kissed her temple. "Thank you."

She placed the ring back into the pouch, and flipping to the next page to see the Acknowledgments. She glanced at her name and smiled, but what really caught her attention was a handwritten inscription KB, Keeping up with my side of 'always', will you keep yours? RC. Her eyes threatened to tear up and she closed the book, which was obviously a copy that was meant for just one person. "Are you going to do it this weekend?" she asked.

He nodded. "Not sure how yet, but that's the plan, at least. Aren't you going to read it? You know, other than the last page?"

"This time, I think she should be the first one to read it, don't you agree?" she handed the book back to him.

He took the book, pausing briefly to smell the scent of the newly printed pages. "You are too smart for your own good, missy."

"And you have gotten too mushy in your old age," she teased back, even as she wiped at her own eyes. "I'll tell you what, I'll stay for dinner on Friday evening, and we can discuss the scholarship… then I'll head into the city to visit my friends, and I'll return Sunday so you can tell me how you decided to give her the book. Without any gross details," she reminded him, scrunching her nose.

"You will get the G-rated version, I promise," he assured her, tickling her on her side until she stood up.

"I'm proud of you," she added with a smile, bending down and hugging him tightly. She pretended she didn't hear his unmanly sniffle into her hair.

"Ditto, kiddo. Ditto."

Chapter IV

Alexis had been at a café in the city, talking to Abram when the 911 text had come through.

As the cab they'd hailed during rush hour got stuck in a logjam, she wanted to call her father back, but she didn't want to worry him. Instead of focusing on that, or the traffic, she chose to think about the strange relationship she'd developed with the man who now held her hand tightly, and wrapped his other arm around her shoulder, knowing how anxious she was.

The scholarship recipient had become a close friend over the past couple of years, and she'd found herself taking the train into the city far more often than she cared to admit to anyone, even herself, sometimes just to have coffee with him.

It wasn't just the crush either, though she'd realized that part the moment she'd met him for the scholarship interview. It was a friendship like she'd never experienced before, kindred souls on a similar path.

He was a big help with a lot of her assignments for school since he'd taken a lot of the same classes; he insisted that talking to her helped him too. And she had absolutely hated the last summer when he'd gone to D.C. to intern at the Supreme Court after her father had pulled some strings, especially because she'd gone to California for six weeks to visit her mother.

Spending time with him had gone from an indulgence to almost a need for her, a sense of belonging that always settled inside her whenever they sat across a booth, working on their laptops and reminding each other when to take breaks.

He had made friends in NYC as well, so she knew it wasn't like he hung out with her because he had no one else. She'd met his circle of friends, all of them Law majors at Columbia too, and they always gave her an idea of what Law School would be like if she decided to go. And he'd made his way to her school too, had met her friends and gone to school plays and concerts with them. Everyone who met them together always assumed there was more than a friendship there, but the two of them hadn't taken any steps to turn their friendship into something more.

Before she could blush at the thought, the cab came to a screeching halt and Alexis would've crashed into the Plexiglas divider if Abram hadn't been holding her. She glanced outside to see they were finally there, and tossed a few bills out of her wallet at the cabbie, before jumping out.

The hospital staff was less than helpful as they ran from one station to another. Finally a compassionate nurse told her that Kate was in the OR, and led her to the waiting area.

Alexis flashed back to a similar visit to the hospital years before, when they'd almost lost Kate.

"The doctors had already mentioned this was a possibility, remember?" Abram reminded her. His arm wasn't around her shoulder anymore, but his hand was still grasping hers. "Because of her heart surgery."

She nodded. "Yeah. I'm sure everything will be fine. And… thank you," she added, squeezing his hand back, "for being here."

"No need to thank me," he reassured her, and his free hand reached up to put a loose strand of hairs behind her ear. His hand didn't move after it though, choosing to rest against her neck, and she found her eyes had begun drifting towards his lips…

… when the sound of the automatic door startled both of them, and Alexis almost jumped away just in time to see her father emerge, donned in scrubs, and holding a tiny bundle in his arms.

Rick Castle glanced up to meet his daughter's gaze, breaking into a heart-swelling smile. "He's okay. Kate is okay," he explained as Alexis ran towards him. "Emergency C-section, but she did great. The nurse came in and told me you were here, worried out of your mind, and they let me bring him out here to meet his big sister while they wheel Kate to recovery."

"Dad, he's…" Alexis choked up, staring at the most perfect face she'd ever seen in her life. The tiny hat on top of her little brother's head threatened to slip off, and she fixed it, running the back of her fingers over the softest cheek and nose. "… gorgeous," she finished.

"It's the Castle genes," he added, lowering his gaze back to the newborn in his hands. "Well, I'm guessing his mother's genes didn't hurt either. Not one bit."

Alexis laughed as she unwrapped the bundle until she could reach a tiny little hand.

Another flashback made its way through her psyche, back to when she was just a child on the verge of becoming a teenager. Gina and her father had been newlyweds, and Alexis had forgotten to close her bedroom door all the way, and the hushed voices from downstairs had woken her up. She'd snuck out to the hallway, curiosity getting the best of her; Gina had wanted to know why Rick wanted to wait a few years to even discuss having more kids. At the time, Alexis had been in that phase where she wanted a sibling, and she'd listened to the entire fight not really understanding it.

Now, as she looked at her baby brother and considered it, she understood it. She knew Gina had never wanted kids to start with; she'd always been more interested in winning Alexis over as an ally than being a parent to her. The woman had just been offended that she wasn't even being considered for motherhood. But more importantly, Alexis understood her father's stance; he had always put Alexis at the center of his life, for as long as she could remember; he hadn't wanted more kids at the time, because he'd wanted to give her his all as he raised her.

"Thank you, Dad," she added, feeling her heart tightening in her chest.

"You are very welcome," he replied, confused. "But for what?"

"You are the best father. I'm not just saying that… you really are. And you would've been the best father even if you'd had a dozen other kids after me. But I am thanking you for waiting until I was old enough to truly realize how wonderful growing up with you was. I should probably be jealous that I am not the baby anymore and all of that, but instead I'm just in awe of how lucky this little guy is to get to experience all of that," she explained as a tiny fist wrapped around her finger and squeezed tightly.

"Oh, Alexis," her father's voice broke a bit at her name, and she smiled up at him. "Honestly, if I do half as good a job with him as I did with you, I'm going to be the happiest father in the whole world."

"I think you already are," she replied, reaching up on her tiptoes to peck him on the cheek without disturbing the baby. "Have you guys decided on a name yet?"

"There is a list, but I should wait until Kate wakes up."

Alexis nodded. "That will probably be best. You should probably take him back, and go check on her. Abram and I will go grab some food from the cafeteria, and you can call me when Kate is awake so I can see her, 'k?"

Her father finally noticed the presence of Abram, who was a few feet behind them, giving the family some space. Inquisitive eyes met Alexis' again, and she blushed slightly before rolling her eyes.

"I was in the city and he was helping me with a Con-Law assignment, how do you think I got here so fast?"

Castle narrowed his eyes art her suspiciously, but shrugged. "Nice to see you, Abram," he said, nodding at the man in greeting since his hands were full.

"Congratulations, sir," Abram replied, even though he'd been told many times to drop the last bit when talking to Alexis' family members. But to the young man, they were still the generous people who'd given him a chance to live his dream, and he saw the formality as a way to relay his appreciation.

"Thank you," Castle replied, beaming with pride again.

"I'll call Grams and Kate's Dad if you haven't yet," Alexis said as she wrapped the blanket tight around the baby, making sure to secure his arms inside the bundle again.

He shook his head. "Everything happened so fast, I just called the Precinct but they're in the middle of a big case so they probably won't be in until later," he explained.

"Probably for the best, since she probably won't be able to see them right now," Alexis pointed out, and she saw her father relax a bit at her words. "Go on, I'll bring you back some pudding too."

"Hospital cafeteria food, my favorite," he joked, before kissing her forehead and heading back through the automatic doors towards the Labor & Delivery operating rooms. "Love you," he shouted back at Alexis before the doors closed behind him.

"Love you too," she shouted back.

Chapter V

Alexis loved family dinners. Most of her classmates dreaded those family events, but she loved every minute of it, especially watching her little brother eat.

"Alexander Xander, you're supposed to eat your mac 'n cheese, not wear it," she joked as she reached over to pluck a cheesy noodle off his chocolate brown hair. They'd played tag around the loft earlier as they'd waited for Kate to get home from work; she'd been putting in extra hours in hope of getting promoted to Captain before Xander reached kindergarten. But she'd still made it to dinner, and Alexis felt happy as the four of them sat around; she would've preferred if Grams were there as well, but Martha had gone to California for a role and would be gone the entire summer.

And Alexis had to admit she missed Abram as well; they'd been dating for just over a year, but he'd moved to Boston at the beginning of the year for a position in the DA's office there, and the long-distance was harder now that she was done with her undergrad classes. She didn't want to feel like a love-struck teenager again, and had only briefly considered applying to Boston-area schools for her Law degree; but NYU had been at the top of her list, and she'd gotten in.

Plus she was still heavily involved with the Foundation, which had now awarded scholarships to three students who were pursuing a career in Civil Law, and she wanted to remain in New York for that. And she knew Abram would be taking the Bar in New York and not Massachusetts, and would sooner or later return to the city.

Xander demanded her attention by grabbing a strand of her auburn hair with cheesy hands. "Full," he replied, holding out his bowl to her with his other hands. "Ice cweam?" he asked with hopeful eyes.

"Not tonight, buddy," Richard Castle replied, wiping his toddler son with a moist dish towel. "Remember, we're having Alexis' favorite because she got into Law School."

"Yay!" the toddler squeaked with happiness, not really understanding what they were celebrating, but in the same mood nonetheless. "Cake?"

"Cannolis," Kate reminded Xander. He accepted that with a toothy grin.

There was a knock on the door, and Alexis waited but none of the other adults moved from the table.

"Probably the cannolis, we special-ordered them," Kate explained, clearing out the table. "Would you mind getting it, Lex?"

"Sure," she replied, ruffling Xander' hair as she passed by his high-chair. Something felt off to her, but she couldn't explain what until she opened the door and was greeted by a very familiar face. "Abram!" she screamed as she jumped up and wrapped her arms around his neck, ignoring the box he was holding - and almost dropped - as her body collided into his. "I thought you were in Boston!"

"Got in this afternoon," he confessed, kissing her softly and all too quickly, pulling away with the pink pastry box, "I was going to join you guys for dinner, but I had to go pick these up," he explained, opening the box to show her the cannolis and making her mouth water.

"I forgive you for not calling then," she teased him as she reached into the box, only to have her hand slapped away by her dad, who'd made his way to the doorway.

"Are you going to invite your boyfriend in, or are you gonna stand here all night?" Castle asked as he reached for the pink box and held the door open wider.

Alexis smiled as Abram reached down to wrap her fingers with his, and she led him to the dining area, where Kate had released Xander from the high chair and decided to hold him on her lap instead. Kate smiled at the young couple as they joined her at the dinner table, but there was no surprise at the new guest, and Alexis realized everyone but her had known Abram was in town.

They laughed and joked while they ate dessert, and opened a bottle of champagne to add to the celebration. Alexis had just begun to feel warm from the alcohol when Xander, who had fallen asleep on Kate's lap, fell forward face-first into his half-eaten cannoli. The four adults laughed, Castle pulling out his phone to take a picture before reaching over to pick up his sleeping son. Kate followed him upstairs to tuck the toddler in, leaving Alexis and Abram alone.

"Come on," he said, reaching out his hand to her. She followed him to the living room, the two stopping at the expansive windows of the loft. "I miss New York so much," Abram confessed, wrapping his arm around her. "When I first got here, I wasn't sure I'd like it, to be honest. But now it's… home."

She burrowed into his side, nodding. Boston wasn't far, and they saw each other at least twice a month. "I could go stay with you for a couple of weeks before school starts again."

"Actually..." Abram started to say, before tensing up a bit.

Alexis frowned in confusion, not liking the sudden turn in conversation. She had no idea why he would turn her offer down, unless… her mind wandered to dark places and she had to remind herself to breathe.

"… I—relax, Lexis. I'm just not sure how to say this, even though I practiced it like a million times." The arm around her dropped as he reached into his pocket, digging around a bit.

She was completely unprepared for what came next. The ring wasn't in a box, or even inside a book pouch… instead, it was just there, out in the open.

"I don't know—I should get down on one knee, right?" he asked nervously.

She grabbed his shirt and pulled him down to her, crashing her lips into his, giving him a silent answer to his silent question. He returned the kiss passionately, and they stayed like that for several minutes, until the sound of her father clearing his throat from a few feet away broke the spell. Alexis blushed a dark shade of red and hid her face into Abram's shirt for a few seconds, while he chuckled softly at her reaction.

"I am guessing she said yes?" Kate asked, her voice filled with humor.

"Sort of, I didn't really get to ask," Abram pointed out.

"Definitely yes," Alexis assured them.

"I'm moving back to New York, probably within the next couple of weeks… I'm going to be clerking for Jenkins" Abram explained.

Alexis instantly glanced at her father and Kate; the Appellate justice was known for being extra selective about his staff.

"Don't look at us," her father reassured her. They'd always pulled whatever strings they could for Abram, long before they'd started considering him part of the family. There was pride in his voice as he added, "This time, it was all him."

Abram grinned down at her. "I was going to wait to propose, but when you got into Law School, I figured I might as well ask you now… we could get a place near campus, because it's close to the courthouse as well. I mean, it's not like we need to be engaged to live together, but—I just thought it would be nice," he explained, babbling more than usual, and she found it adorable.

"It's more than nice," Alexis assured him, holding out her hand to him.

He placed both their champagne glasses at one of the end tables and grasped her hand in his, sliding the ring onto her finger.

Alexis realized she hadn't really seen the ring earlier, but now she studied it carefully. It was—she gasped at the realization and recognition, head snapping to glance at Kate, who stood in from of Castle, his arms draped over her shoulders.

"Is this-?" Alexis started to say.

Kate nodded, and there were unshed tears in her eyes.

"I can't—I couldn't," words escaped her as she noticed the familiar chain was missing from Kate's neckline.

"You should have it," Kate reassured her, unlocking Castle's arms from around her shoulders so she could step closer to Alexis. "I even spoke to my father, and he agreed. All the work you're doing in her memory, she would've—she would've wanted you to have it. I want you to have it."

"But—you should save it for Xander, you know. For when he's older," Alexis pointed out, voice breaking as she added, "you should keep it in the family."

"I am keeping it in the family," Kate reached out to grasp her hand and examine the ring more closely. "If Xander wants to, he can have my engagement ring, but this one is all yours. You two are working hard to honor her memory, and she would be proud of you."

Alexis pulled Kate into an embrace, sniffling into the Detective's hair. "Thank you," she added with soft sobs.

"Family hug," her father announced, before wrapping his arms around both of them. "this means you too now, Abram."

Alexis laughed softly from within the tangle of arms around her, feeling the tears finally slowing to a stop, and realizing this was exactly why she loved family dinners so much.