Disclaimer- I don't own Castle, Andrew Marlowe does. Please don't sue me for writing this story! Just having fun playing in the Castle Sandbox! Errors corrected, but I do not have a beta reader, so there's probably typos and dropped words (my apologies). I am not getting into the fandom and making friends for a reason; all my experiences with fandom in the past have brought me friends and some great charity work, but at the same time, incredibly gross and unappealing drama (like having my account hacked. Nice job, right?). I actually had my life threatened by someone once (are you kidding me? It's only fanfiction!). I am never going to fall into that trap again. It's not worth it at all. But the nice people who've reviewed the prequel to this story, I do appreciate you! Thank you!
"You know, I went to Woodstock in 97," Mom said as we separated my summer wardrobe for the laundry. I had left it behind when I moved in with Ben in Williamsburg in that beautiful pre-war apartment. It was heaven at first; all the privacy we wanted, we could come home completely drunk together, and we could spend our days off all day in bed. At the same time, I was close to my parents. It had been a little over a year since I had decided I wasn't going to medical school. I had learned to live frugally and it paid off: I hadn't touched my emergency credit card or my trust fund, yet.
Ben and I had just gotten tickets to Bonnaroo in Tennessee and then we were going to visit his family and bore them to death with our stories about working as literary agents. Ben had been upgraded to adjunct professor at NYU and worked weekends as a bartender, I was a barista at a Greek coffee shop, and we were both worked evenings over our manuscripts with a shared blunt. Of course, Mom and Dad didn't have any idea how much we smoked, we kept our weed in the oregano tin in the kitchen. I was so incredibly happy; I didn't know life could be this good. I had worked so hard for a year on a two-times-a-week basis at my therapist's office and realized an incredible sense of self-love that I had never known before. Now, I was only going twice a month to her. I was able to make my own choices, my own path, and most of all, I loved myself really truly and deeply. I loved my red hair, my pale skin, and my flaws. I thought my flaws were cute, now, and I didn't mind them anymore. It didn't bother me that I wasn't rail-thin, but I was beautiful. It had taken everything I had, but I believed it. I knew I was capable of anything I wanted and that I was able to achievie my dream of being a writer, now. I might not be published yet, but I was satisfied. So very satisfied with how my life was going, making new goals, and enjoying everything. I even had a semi-colon tattoo now on the inside of my right wrist to remind myself that I made the choice to continue and a compass on the left one to remind me to never lose my direction again, I knew the right way. "You went to Woodstock?" I asked.
Even my parents had changed; Mom had given up her career to be a homicide consultant for the NYPD. She only went into work 3 days a week. She was pretty famous and good PR for the City. There had even been reality TV show offers that would have followed her and Dad around on cases. They declined; they didn't want our family exposed to that. Dad was dabbling in Children's Literature, and was having a blast with it, and was also finishing up the Nikki Heat series. "Not the original icon one," she said. "I was hoping it would be. It wasn't."
"Well, Ben says Bonaroo is fantastic and I'm going to love it." I held up a pink and blue Madras print halter top from Forever 21; it would show off my new cleavage. Ben liked my boobs; mostly because I liked them a lot, too. I had realized that it was true that you couldn't love anybody or be a woman worth loving unless you fell in love with yourself, first. I was pretty certain Ben would love this top on me again.
"Honey," Mom said cautiously. "Um... don't feel bad if these clothes don't fit any more."
"I'm not expecting all of them to," I said. "I think I can make some of them work. I'm going to go try this one on."
I went to Mom and Dad's bathroom and took off my shirt and bra. I tried to slip the halter top on over my head, but it turned into something binding my arms. I didn't remember this. I struggled and strained and finally got it on me.
"Holy crap," I muttered, staring at myself in the mirror. Yes, I had gained weight, and I didn't mind the boobs. I finally had a set. I realized I had rolls on my stomach and I had squeezed into the top. I felt like crying. Had I really gained this much weight? Mom and Dad had a scale in their bathroom, and stepped onto it to see how fat I had gotten.
The scale stopped on 143.
"Shit!" I screamed. I struggled out of this top (ripping the side seam) and looked at the tag. I swore this top was a two, but when I saw the tag, I saw it was a size six. The old feelings of self-hate came bubbling back up, unwelcome against my new self-confidence. I had to stop and remind myself that I had been miserable and suicidal at 83 pounds (Mom had told me it was lower than that at the hospital) and my weight didn't determine my happiness. Life was so much better when I wasn't wallowing in self-hate. I had to remind myself that I wouldn't be dissatisfied with life if I was fat. But still... all these cute clothes... I couldn't wear them!
"Mom?" I moaned, walking out of the bathroom in the t-shirt I had arrived in.
"Alexis, are you okay?" Mom asked, alarmed.
"Mom, when did I get this fat?" I moaned. "Look what I did! I'm up to a hundred and forty-three pounds! Why didn't you tell me I was getting this big?"
"It's going to be okay," she promised, sounding a little panicked. "This is just your restored weight, you'll... even out. Eventually."
"Ben's never said anything about how fat I've gotten!" I whined.
"That's not his job. You've got boobs now, he's blind-sided."
I realized what she had said and we both burst out laughing. "That's what counts, right?"
"It's not a big deal. We're just happy that you're strong and healthy again."
"Healthy? That's code word for 'fat.'"
"A hundred and forty-three pounds at five-five is not fat," she said pointedly.
"I'm not even running anymore."
"Do you want to start again?"
"Maybe I should," I admitted. "It would be good for me. It couldn't hurt." The truth was, I hadn't exercised much at all in the last two years. It wasn't going to help my muscles or my cardiovascular system to be this inactive.
"I need something to do now that I've quit the force full-time. Why don't we run together? Maybe we could get your dad back into it."
"Do you think I could lose twenty-three pounds before June?"
"Not in a healthy way. You've gotta lift, too."
"No, no thanks. I don't want to get bulky."
"You only get bulky when you eat too many carbs and not for your BMR. Come on, healthy weight loss is not rocket science."
"I'm going to need a new summer wardrobe," I muttered.
"Time to get out that credit card."
"No way!" I cried. "I'm going to shop at Goodwill."
"No you're not!"
"I've done it for the past year! Watch me, I'm going to find all kinds of cute things for cheap. Sadie does!"
"Is Sadie going to Bonnaroo, too?"
"Yeah, we're going to go down with her and Gilbert. We're renting a Winnebago."
"Didn't they get engaged?"
"No, you're thinking of Ben's friends from NYU," I said. "And don't say that word around Dad, you know how twitchy he gets."
Johanna came downstairs, wiping the sleep from her eyes. She had been put down for a nap earlier, but she lit up when she realized I was there. "Lexa!" she shrieked, and ran into my arms. She was a toddler, now, and I had never realized how differently boys and girls matured until I realized how much bigger her vocabulary was than my brother's my comparison. She had just turned two, and was a 'firecracker' according to Ben. I baby-sat my younger siblings two to three times a week so Mom and Dad could have date nights, which basically consisted of going to a restaurant with books to read over dinner. Mom had rented a hotel room on occasion just to catch up on sleep while Dad caught a deadline, too. I liked the thought of having a relationship like that with Ben; eating dinner while reading with him, just enjoying the company without having to say a word.
"Can tell your big sister about your boyfriend at school?" Mom prompted.
"I love Martin," she said. "I kissed him."
"You're kissing boys?" I repeated, trying to sound shocked. I found it hilarious; she had already kissed all the boys in her pre-school. She was the biggest flirt in her class.
"Mmm-hmm," she nodded, brushing her fire-red locks out of her dark eyes. She has sleep in her eyes.
"What are we going to do with you?" I asked.
I saw Mom try to conceal her laughter. "I think we need to send you to a convent," she said.
Jo-jo looked at her quizzically.
"Do you want a snack?" Mom asked.
The front door burst open and Jace and Noel came running in, flanked by Dad; they were going to Marlow Day School, now. They ran up to me for a hug.
"Alexis! Did I tell you they had Little League sign-ups today?" Noel cried, hugging me. "I'm going to play for the team!"
"That's great!" I cried. "What position do you want to play?"
Noel's face went blank. "I don't know," he said.
"I want to play just for the uniforms!" Jace said. There was no denying that this kid was going to grow up to become gay, now. Mom and Dad were taking it in stride and were perfectly accepting when he talked about his male crushes. He thought Johnny Depp was the coolest guy on earth because he was a Pirate and a Native American action hero. He had seen all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the Lone Ranger a thousand times already. Johnny was Jace's crush, just like Mom's. Being gay wasn't weird or something to be corrected in their household. I was pretty convinced he was going to grow up the most well-adjusted gay man ever. "They're grey and they have pinstripes!"
"Hey, what am I, chopped liver?" Mom joked. "Do I get a hug?"
"Hi, Mommy," Jace said, hugging her. Noel hugged her too.
"You guys are just in time for the afternoon snack. Jo-jo just woke up."
"What are we having?" Dad asked, hanging the backpacks and their school windbreakers up in the coat closet.
"Graham crackers and apples," Mom said. "Boys, go get changed out of your uniforms, okay?"
They raced upstairs. The loft was full, but not crowded now that I had moved out. Dad had bought the one-bedroom apartment across the hall and beside the elevator, and had moved Grams in there. Unfortunately, the banker in the two-bedroom loft beside Dad's was not selling yet.
"Don't you have a deadline to meet?" Mom asked Dad. Her memory capacity was impressive; she had everyone's schedules memorized. I had a hard time remembering my own shifts at the coffee shop, let alone Ben's schedule. He and Mom kissed quickly. "I'll bring something in for you in a moment."
"Thanks," Dad said.
"Daddy!" Jo-jo cried, kicking in my arms. She wanted a hug and kiss from Dad, too. Dad took her from my arms. "I wanna listen to Giants." My younger siblings loved They Might be Giants, we usually blasted it during the day when our banker neighbor wasn't home.
"Alright, we'll play that," Dad said, taking her to the office.
Mom and I made the graham crackers and peanut butter with apple slices as the boys came down. The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas came blasting out the office and I could see Jo-jo shaking her butt, dancing, bouncing along. Dad was dancing with her, and still doing the same three damn dance moves he always did. It was cute, I admit.
"You know," I said softly. "I work a lot, but I think my life's turned out pretty great."
"You're happy?" Mom asked.
I nodded. "Very happy."
If only I had known how fleeting happiness could be.
I queried my first novel under a pen name, Harper Rogers, not wanting to expose my identity as Richard Castle's daughter. I wanted to succeed by my own merits and self-publishing was not an option. I knew that even if I did get published, people would tell me that I couldn't have done it without my father's influence.
When I told Dad that I was querying under a nomme de plume over Sunday Brunch in the loft, he was furious. "Do you know how many editors and agents I've been telling that you're trying to get published?"
"I don't need your favors," I said. "I'm doing this on my own, and you're not getting my pen name."
"I'll tell them your address you're sending the query letters from!"
"Too bad I'm using a PO Box for snail mail."
"Then I'll tell them your email."
"I'm using one you don't know about."
"Why do you have to make things so hard on yourself?" Dad asked.
"Because I'm doing this on my own."
Dad groaned and went on to make subtle jabs at Ben. The rivalry between Dad and Ben was there, but for the most part, the average on-looker swore they got along. Ben had more street creds than Jamison Rook, and that got under Dad's skin so badly. Mom said that when it was just the two of them, he'd bitch and complain about how much he wished Ben would have the balls to make me an honest woman. The idea of marriage at my age terrified me. I wanted to enjoy my twenties and party. I hadn't gotten to do that in college; I had been sick and living at home while everyone else had been getting drunk and having sex. I like to think I was making up for lost time. Dad insisted that my twenties could be fun even if I was married, I didn't have to have kids. The idea of a life-long commitment when I was so young scared me. Like Mom, I was a one-and-done kind of girl. I didn't have the energy to be third-time's-the-charm like Dad.
"We'll start a family when we're ready," Ben said that night, his head in my lap on the fire escape. We were completely stoned and staring up at the stars, he was playing the banjo. "We'll have all ginger little girls with blue eyes like yours."
"No, we'll have kids with black hair like yours."
He laughed. "Isn't that stupid? Trying to plan out our kid's hair color?"
"Yeah," I giggled. Being stoned kept me from thinking of all the damage I did to my reproductive system. I wasn't sure I even wanted kids. "At least we know there's no way we can have kids with brown eyes. Think of it; red-headed bastards. My dad would shit a brick if I told him I was pregnant and not married."
We dissolved into giggles. "No, we'll be married," he said as I stroked his black hair out of his eyes. He needed another haircut about now. "I wouldn't do that to you."
"Are you proposing?" I asked, a little alarmed.
"Naw," he said. "Not yet. When I can support you on my own, then I'll propose."
"Hey now, I want a career, too!"
"Tell ya what; how about we both get a book published with the Big 5 and then I'll get you a ring?"
"I'd like that."
"I promise, too."
We stayed out on the fire escape completely stoned that night until we both fell asleep. I woke up, stiff and my back hurting from falling asleep sitting up, and we went inside for the night.
Still, there was a side to Ben that I just couldn't get to. I needed to be emotionally vulnerable with him, but it just wasn't there. He had his weird little idiosyncracies and things he didn't want in our apartment. He didn't want wire hangers and he didn't want bluebox mac and cheese in any form. I tried to accommodate him, despite that we were on a stealing-toilet-paper-from-public-restrooms kind of budget to keep this apartment.
I'll never forget the night I woke up to a sound in the living room. Due to the brown-outs, we had the A/C off, the windows open, and we were sleeping under the thinnest sheet with a oscillating fan on us. Ben, despite only being able to hear out of one ear, had heard it, too; he sat up in bed and grabbed something from under the pillow. Without a word, he crept out of the bed like a soldier in his shorts, and went into the living room. The gun went off and I screamed.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, waking me up in the middle of the goddamn night!" Ben bellowed. Oh God, that was his gun? I clutched the sheet to my breasts (all I was wearing to bed in these high temperatures was a pair of panties), and wrapped myself up, running to the bathroom. Ben was ranting obscenities. A moment later, Ben kicked the bathroom door open. "Get dressed! The cops are here!" he barked. There was a wild look in his eye that scared me. I saw this side of Ben occasionally, but not often. It was scary.
"Ben?" I cried, my voice trembling.
He backed out of the room and I grabbed my clothes to get dressed. In the living room, there was a giant hole in the window screen and a pair of uniformed cops were sitting on the couch.
"You're Beckett and Castle's daughter, aren't you?" the cop asked. Shit, I could never out-run the legend of Caskett in the NYPD, everybody knew me.
Ben was gulping down a bottle of beer.
"Yeah, I'm Alexis Castle," I said, shakily. Ben slammed the glass bottle down on the coffee table, sloshing beer everywhere, his eyes still blazing. "Can I make some coffee for you guys?"
"You look a little shaken, sweetheart," the other cop said. "Don't worry about it. We heard a gun shot and saw Mr. Haversham on the fire escape and somebody running off."
"Fucker had a death wish," Ben growled, picking up the beer again. It was moments like this that I didn't recognize him; he looked so different.
"Mr. Haversham, you know it's illegal to discharge a firearm within the city unless you're defending your home or your property," the first cop said.
"I was!" Ben shouted. "My girlfriend was naked in bed when I heard him trying to get in! He cut the screen, he was trying to break in, what was he going to do to her if I hadn't?"
"Ben!" I cried. "Calm down!"
Ben took a few deep breaths.
"He's a former Marine," I explained. "He's seen combat."
The beat cops exchanged a glance. Ben looked enraged that I had told them that.
"Ben, I'm not your property," I added. Mom had insisted I take a self-defense class after I was mugged in Central Park. If someone was attacking me, I wasn't shy about grabbing his balls and twisting now.
Ben threw the empty glass bottle against the coffee table, and it shattered, causing the cops to react.
"He'll be fine," I promised, although I wasn't sure. He was scaring me.
They made a report before they left, and Ben calmed down a bit while I cleaned up the shattered glass.
The next morning I went across the river to train with Mom. While we were running, she stopped me. "What's this I'm hearing about Ben last night?" she asked, sounding alarmed. "Somebody was trying to rob you?"
"I- nothing," I said. "I can't hide anything, can I?"
"I have friends in Brooklyn," she said, shrugging. "NYPD, we're connected."
I told her an abbreviated version of what had happened, and it didn't calm her down at all.
"The beat cops that came up to check on you said that Ben was really agitated and aggressive," she said. "He's not hitting you, is he? I will have his balls if he is!" Her eyes narrowed in anger at the thought.
"No!" I cried. "He'd never hit me!"
"He's seen combat," she said. "I always get the feeling he's got PTSD."
"Not everyone gets it."
She sighed. "Maybe not. But if he ever does hit you, you know you can call me at any time of the day or night and come to my house, okay?"
"I know," I said, tucking my loose strands of hair behind my ears. I was still shaken.
The next weekend, Ben and I got in a fight because he found a wire hanger from a dry cleaner's in my side of the closet one night. Mom had given me a dress from her closet she had but never liked. The dress was on a dry cleaner's hanger. I brought it home without thinking, and put it up in our closet. "It's just a fucking hanger!" I shouted. "I can put it in the trash chute!"
"It doesn't matter!" he shouted, brandishing the hanger at me. "I told you never to bring this kind of shit into my house and you did!"
"It's our place, you asshole! Not yours alone!"
I saw that look in his eyes that scared me; the one that wasn't Ben. And his anger was directed towards me. He never hit me that night, but we shouted and argued for a few more minutes before he stormed out. I spent the night alone in our apartment, upset, texting him all night.
I dreaded coming home that afternoon, but Ben was waiting for me with a giant grin on his face. "Hi, baby," he said. He picked me up in a hug.
"Ben!" I cried. "Wait a second! You were pissed off at me last night for bringing home a dress on a wirehanger!"
"Look, Alexis, I'm sorry about flipping out last night," he said. "And I'm sorry I said our place was my place."
I felt some sympathy for him for a second. "So what's going on?"
"This," he said, taking an envelope out of his pocket. He showed me a letter from a American Horror Story literary magazine and a $400 check written out to him. "I love you," he said.
I read the letter. He was getting a short dystopian story published. "Ben!" I cried, astonished. "I'm so proud of you! This beats the hell out of my MythCon paper! It's twice the amount I got!" Excited, I threw my arms around him and kissed him.
"It doesn't matter how much I got, this is publishing credit! We're on our way, baby! Let's go out and celebrate! This four-hundred bucks is burning a hole in my pocket!"
We passed on Natural Light beer we had in our fridge at home and spent the cash on a bottle of Apothic wine and gourmet cupcakes with Gilbert and Sadie. We smoked a joint at their apartment with them a few floors up, and then sat out on our fire escape, enjoying the night air. In the early morning light, still a little high, I gently shoved him back onto the bed seduced him.
Afterwards, he held me, stroking my hair.
"So what's the big deal about wire hangers?" I asked. His hand stopped for a moment.
"It was my step-father my first one," he said quietly. "He used to hit me with them."
"Ben?" I asked, lifting my head.
"I know. I don't tell you these things," he said, "because I don't want to be weak."
"You... you had a step-father that used to hit you?"
He shrugged. "It was a long time ago."
"It couldn't have been," I said, sitting up to look at him. "It still bothers you."
"It didn't go on for too long. It's nothing."
"It's not 'nothing.'" I stroked his cheek. "We'll never do that to our kids."
"Yeah, we won't."
It was the first time I felt like he was really opening up, not just trying to be the superhero boyfriend. I fell asleep that night holding him.
The next morning, he was up and out of the bed with the coffee brewing. He was reading the comics section of the morning paper, like usual. "We're going to your dad's house for brunch, right?"
"Yeah. Of course," I said, feeling a little hung over. That moment last night hadn't changed a thing.