A is for Always
Alexis dropped her bags on the floor and sighed in relief. It was good to be home. After spending over a month with her mother, it became clear they were both getting on each other's nerves. When she had announced she would be returning to New York her mother's relief was noticeable. They loved each other, they really did. It was just that neither was cut out for spending months on end together. There was only so much shopping one person could do.
Looking over the dimly lit loft, Alexis frowned. The darkness was unusual; it was barely 7:00pm. Normally her home was lit up like Times Square. There was also the soft sound of music wafting through the room. Soft music, now that was just plain disturbing. Normally her grandmother was belting out a song or her dad was playing Guitar Hero at 1000 decibels. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Alexis needed wanted to find out what.
Walking around the lower level it wasn't long before Alexis noticed the lump lying on the couch. The person was hidden under a blanket and in the dim light Alexis couldn't see who it was. Hurrying over, Alexis was concerned. Was someone sick? The lump on the couch was too small to be hers father's, so Alexis was concerned it was her grandmother. She may be young in mind and heart but in reality Martha Rodgers was no spring chicken. It wasn't until she was standing over the person on the couch that Alexis took in the long brown hair and pale skin.
What was she doing here? The last she heard, Kate had gone off to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and hadn't been heard from since. Now she was here, sleeping on her couch and her father was nowhere to be seen. Had something happened to him? Was that why was Kate here? Waiting for her to get home? No, that couldn't be right. Dad didn't even know she was coming home, it was meant to be a surprise. So where was he? If Kate was here, he couldn't be too far away. She turned to look towards her father's study; from there he would have a perfect view of Kate on the couch. Nope not there, but Alexis decided to investigate further.
She entered his study and looked around. When her father was having trouble writing he would use any device necessary to get unstuck. Alexis had once found him lying on his back with his feet up on the couch. Apparently having his legs elevated got the writing juices flowing. He wasn't on the floor or even under his desk, another writer's block writing position. Alexis placed a hand on top of his closed laptop to see if it was warm. It was cold; he hadn't been writing recently. As she lifted her hand off the computer she noticed there was dust on her fingers. Dust! Alexis wiped her dirty hand on her pant leg. There was dust on her father's computer. He hadn't been writing and by the look of it, for quite some time.
Crossing the room she entered his bedroom and was met with the total opposite of what she had seen in his study. Where it looked like he hadn't been in his study for a month, it looked like he had spent the entire time in his room. There were clothes strewn all over the place along with empty bottles of alcohol and numerous food wrappers. His bed was a mess, with his sheets and pillows in disarray and obviously still the sheets from a month ago. Alexis scrunched her nose up as she noticed the putrid smell of the room. What had been going on while she was away? Walking up to the door that led to her father's bathroom, she noticed the light was on. Alexis hoped he was in there and had just showered. Knocking on the door, she listened for a response. Silence. Knocking again, she opened the door slightly.
"Dad, are you in there? It's Alexis."
Still hearing silence Alexis scrunched her eyes closed as she opened the door further and stuck her head though the opening.
Opening her eyes cautiously Alexis looked around the room. Still no Dad. Frowning, Alexis walked back to the sleeping Kate on the couch to get some answers. Kneeling on the ground Alexis placed a hand gently on Kate's shoulder. Kate was still recovering and since she had been shot in the chest Alexis wanted to be careful with her injuries.
Alexis tried again. "Kate, can you wake up please?"
This time the detective murmured something unintelligible but rolled her head and shoulders a few times before opening her eyes. A smile rose to her lips.
Kate's sleepy eyes suddenly shot open wide.
The detective immediately shot up from the couch, then suddenly grabbed at her side and doubled over.
"Kate, are you ok?" Alexis sat on the couch next to Kate. "I am sorry. I tried to wake you as gently as possible."
"Are you ok, Alexis?"
Alexis frowned. "Me? You're the one who is recovering from being shot."
Kate lifted her head and rubbed her hand over her chest a few times. "You were supposed to be with your mother. Is everything ok?"
Alexis's brows rose. Kate had been shot, yet here she was worried that something had happened because she had returned to her mother's early.
"I'm fine. I just had enough of LA. I decided to come home and see my dad. Where is he by the way?"
Kate frowned as she looked around the room and then looked at the watch on her wrist.
"Oh he is at an AA meeting with my dad. It's meant to finish at 7:00pm."
"I am sorry. I didn't know your dad had started drinking again."
Alexis was suddenly concerned Kate seemed to get nervous.
Kate bit her lip; she wasn't quite sure how to address this. Alexis however was almost an adult and often more mature than Castle. "He hasn't; yours has."
Alexis opened her mouth to comment then closed it as her shoulders sagged.
"I thought maybe he had, but I didn't realise it had gotten bad enough for him to go to AA."
Kate shrugged. "I don't know that it is."
"I don't understand. Why is he at AA then and why with your dad?" Alexis asked curiously.
Kate slowly ran a hand through her tangled hair.
"My father came here to talk to Rick."
Alexis's brows rose. Rick. Rick! Since when did Kate call her father Rick?
"Your father was drunk when he answered the door. Saw my father, yelled at him and then threw up."
Alexis's eyes opened wide. "Dad's normally not like that. He drinks occasionally but not to the point of throwing up. Your dad must have been mortified."
Kate shook her head. "According to Rick, Dad took it in his stride. Closed the door, cleaned up the vomit and then set about sobering your father up."
Alexis thought over the information she had been given. Her father had been drinking; his slightly slurred speech during the conversations had been a bit of a giveaway. He had assured her he was fine and Alexis had allowed him to get away with his lie. She knew Kate leaving had hurt him hard but he had always dwelt with pain sensibly. He wrote! And sometimes he wrote and drank. If she had known it had gotten this bad she would have returned sooner. Thankfully Jim Beckett had arrived for some unknown reason and seen that her father needed help. There was still one question that needed to be answered.
"If they are at an AA meeting, why are you here? The last I heard you were hiding out in the woods."
"I wasn't hiding," Kate snapped. Seeing the young woman recoil, Kate suddenly felt bad. "I mean, I was healing."'
Alexis frowned. "You couldn't heal here in New York."
Kate shook her head. "No, there is just too..."
Kate ran both hands through her hair and kept them there cupping her scalp. Her shoulders began to rise and fall and Alexis realised she was getting distressed.
"Ok, so you had to get away from the city. That's fine. But why cease all communication with your friends?"
Kate lowered her hands. "I figured if they knew I was ok, that would be enough. I didn't think they would care about my day-to-day struggles."
Alexis stood up; she had to distance herself from Kate.
"Not care. Not care! Your friends put their life on the line for you." Alexis turned her back on the woman. She couldn't handle to look at someone who was talking nonsense. "How could you think they don't care? Detectives Ryan and Esposito have backed you up with your mothers case when they didn't have to. Lanie kept giving you CPR when the paramedics wanted to take over for fear if she stopped you would die. And my dad. My dad tried to jump in front of a bullet for you Kate. He just doesn't care about you, he loves you."
Kate was surprised by the girl's outburst. Martha was over the top, Castle was outlandish; Alexis was the quiet one. To hear her rage emphasised to Kate how badly she had acted. Kate knew she needed to make amends and it would be starting with Castle's daughter.
"Alexis," she called out to the woman as she stood.
The young woman swung around with a shocked look on her face. "I.. Ummm," she stammered. "What I mean is that, Dad cares for you and loves you like, a.. Ummm..."
Kate smiled. She hadn't realised at the time but Alexis had said Castle loved her. Something Kate already knew, but obviously Alexis didn't know that. Taking a step towards Alexis, Kate held up her hand to halt the young woman's speech.
"It's ok Alexis. I know he loves me, and I love him."
Alexis face blanched. "You do?"
Kate nodded. "I have for a while. I have just been too stupid to realise it."
Alexis seemed to be mulling over this new information. "And Dad knows this?"
Alexis bit her lip. "So is that why you are here? You came to tell Dad how you feel?"
Kate lowered her head as she sighed. "No, I was still being stupid. Thankfully both our dads like to disobey orders."
Alexis frowned at that.
"I told my dad not to tell anyone where the cabin was," Kate explained. "Once he realised I wasn't contacting any of my friends he gave Rick directions to the cabin. I told Rick I needed space and I would contact him. For once I am glad he didn't listen to me."
Alexis smiled. "Well make sure he knows it was a one-time thing, otherwise he will be breaking rules all the time."
Kate laughed. "Oh, I know. I asked him to set my alarm on my phone so I would wake up at 6:30. I just wanted to take a short nap."
Alexis nodded at her and then there was an awkward silence.
"So you're in love with Dad but what does that mean, exactly? I realise you are here but are you together or..."
Alexis left the sentence open and Kate knew it was up to her to close it. Kate knew at some point she would have to face Rick's daughter but she figured he would be there with her. Yes, she could wait until he came home but maybe it was better if it was just the two of them.
"Why don't we sit?"
Kate walked back to the couch she had been sleeping on only minutes earlier and sat down.
"If you're going to tell me it's complicated Kate…."
"No." Kate quickly interrupted Alexis. "It's not complicated. The only thing complicated were all my excuses for not being with your father."
Alexis didn't respond but took a seat next to Kate.
"I needed to get away from the city," she told the young woman. "There were just too many bad memories here. Don't get me wrong there are a lot of happy ones, too, but the bad ones were fresh in my mind. I needed to get away before I started to hate this city. I just needed to get some space to clear my head. I needed to think about where my life was going, what I was doing to it. What I was doing to my friends. I put all their lives in danger because I was so focused on the past. Except once I got to the cabin, I didn't think. I didn't do anything. I just gave up on the world much like I did when my mother died. I discovered your father's novels not long after my mother died and I crept into that world of whimsy so I could escape my own. I did the same thing at the cabin. Except this time reading them wasn't enough."
Alexis placed her hand on Kate's knee. "We understood you needed to get away, Kate. No one is faulting that."
"But they should have. Getting away is one thing, hiding is another."
"But you're here," Alexis added hopefully.
Beckett nodded. "For now. It's not easy being back here but I am going to try, for your father. He needs me. "
"So you're doing this out of guilt. Because you think you owe him?"
Beckett sighed. "Yes. No," she shrugged. "Your father has always been there for me whether I wanted him to be or not. He often left his family, his life, in order to be with me, to help me. I want him to know how much that means to me. He needs to be here, for work, for his family. If this is where he needs to be then this is where I need to be."
Alexis seemed to be satisfied with her explanation as she was nodding at her.
"But I am also here for me, too," Beckett told the young woman who was much wiser than her age gave her credit for. "I had to return eventually and the longer I left it the harder it would be. I realised it doesn't have to be hard. I have friends and family and your father to help me through it. Rick has asked me to stay here for a few weeks and I have agreed. It's just until I get back on my feet, until I feel comfortable back in the city. It's also for Rick, too. I think he needs constant reassurance that I am ok. As long as that's ok with you?"
Alexis narrowed her eyes at her, then smiled. "You don't need my permission. It's Dad's house."
Beckett shrugged. "Still, I'd like for you to be ok with it. Suddenly there is a woman sleeping down the hall from you."
Alexis frowned. "Down the hall? You mean down stairs, right?"
Beckett bit her lip and lowered her head. "No. Rick insisted I have my own room."
Alexis laughed. "That's ridiculous. You two are a couple now; there is no reason why you shouldn't be sharing a bed. Although I've seen Dad's room. Maybe the two of you should be staying in the guest room."
High pitch music cut the conversation short. Beckett's phone on the coffee table had lit up and even from the angle she was sitting at Beckett could see it was Castle calling.
"Speak of the devil. It's your dad. Do you want to talk to him?"
Alexis reached for the phone but then handed it to Beckett.
"No, you talk to him first. I was hoping to surprise him when I got home. I guess on the phone will have to do."
Beckett bit her lip as she answered the phone. She hadn't been one for talking on the ride to the city. It didn't matter, though, because Castle was her own personal radio. She swore that man could talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles. However his talking had been nice. He talked of his mother and Alexis and the fun times they had shared. Including the time where Alexis had hid under his bed all night on Halloween. He would just drift off to sleep when he would feel something touch his leg, or hear footsteps or howling. It had been one of the many times the pair had tried to scare each other. Beckett didn't want to stop that tradition.
"Hey, Kate. I didn't wake you, did I?" The concern in his voice was obvious but Beckett couldn't help but toy with him.
"No, I was awake. My alarm woke me up half an hour ago."
"But I didn't set your alarm."
Kate smirked. "Really. Even after I told you to."
Beckett laughed. She got him there. "It's fine, Rick. How did the meeting go?"
She heard him sigh. "Yeah. It was good. I learned a lot. I might come to another in a month or so. It's not just drinking that's the problem. It's what it does to the families, physically, emotionally and financially. I want to do something to help with that. I know I can't save everybody but I can try."
Beckett felt as if her heart had just expanded two inches. When she thought she couldn't love this man any more, he went and said something that blew her mind away. He was struggling with his own issues and yet he wanted to help others.
"I'll help if I can," she told honestly.
"Thanks. You hungry?" he asked, changing the subject.
Beckett nodded. "Yeah, I could eat."
"Ok, I am about to stop and grab some Chinese for the three of us then. That sound ok?"
It had been ages since she had any Chinese. The thought had her mouth watering. She then looked up at Alexis sitting next to her. She pointed at the young woman and then rolled her wrist a few times near her mouth, silently asking if she wanted to eat. Alexis nodded and then opened her mouth but Kate silenced her with a raised hand.
"You know what, Rick? Chinese sounds great and I have changed my mind. I am starving. I feel like I could eat enough for two people."
Alexis gave her a curious smile.
"Good, you're getting your appetite back," Rick told her. "I always buy enough for six people, so don't worry there will be plenty."
"Ok, sounds great. See you soon."
Beckett saw Alexis's mouth open wide in protest as she hung up on Rick.
"No reason why you still can't surprise him."
The annoyance left the younger woman's face as she smiled. "Thank you, Kate."
Kate nodded as she stood. "Would it be ok if I went and re-familiarised myself with your kitchen again? Thought I might set the table for dinner. I don't want to be a burden while I am here. Rick really needs to work and I don't want him stopping so he can wait on me hand and foot."
Alexis nodded at her. "Sure. I'll just go and put my stuff away."
Beckett watched as Alexis walked off. She had never been in a relationship with someone who had a kid before. Not that Alexis was a kid anymore, she was practically an adult. It was still another person to consider in their relationship, though. Turning up to Castle's loft wearing a coat and nothing else wasn't really possible unless she knew for sure Alexis wasn't there. Or Martha. Although Kate had a feeling Martha would encourage that kind of behaviour.
As Kate made her way over to the kitchen she marvelled at how comfortable she felt within these walls. Returning to the cabin after being away for so many had felt strange. It was almost as if she were walking into a foreign place. Not here, though. From the first moment she had walked through the doorway all those years ago she felt welcomed. At first she had been in awe of the place. It certainly wasn't what she had been expecting from the playboy author. It was normal, at least on face value.
Beckett walked over to the large kitchen and took a deep breath in as she smiled. It was a great space. Large and spread out, a great place to cook in. When she stayed here after her apartment had blown up she had great joy in cooking breakfast for his family. It was a nice memory and maybe one she could recreate again.
Taking her time Beckett opened up cupboards and drawers. Beckett observed that the plates had been moved since the last time she was here but the glasses were still in the same place. A few more cooking gadgets had found their way into the 'gadget' cupboard as Castle had labeled it.
Pulling out the items she needed she took them over to the table. Normally when they ate Chinese they simply ate out of the boxes taking turns with all the different food. She didn't think her father would be all that enthused about sharing each other's germs; Alexis either. Looking at the four place settings sadness swept over her. When was the last time she had sat down to dinner like this? Meals at the precinct didn't count. Ryan had suggested they all come over to his and Jenny's place one night but so far that hadn't happened yet.
Meals with her mother and father were probably the last time she sat down and ate on a regular basis. It was so long ago now the memories were back in the deep depths of her mind. Her mother had worked long hours and often missed meals but when she was home and had time to cook, the meals were amazing. She had the best recipes and didn't mind sharing them with friends and family.
Beckett bit her lip as she looked back towards the gourmet kitchen. She had loved cooking in the kitchen with her mother and knew almost all her recipes by heart. Walking back over to the kitchen Beckett opened a drawer and pulled out a pad of paper and pen. She immediately started writing down ingredients she knew she needed. Opening the fridge she cringed at the lack of items inside but knew her own fridge at home would be the same if she hadn't been away. Thankfully Castle had stopped on the way back and grabbed a few items like milk, bread, cheese, eggs and soda. Apart from a few condiments, one which looked a bit on the bad side, the fridge was bare. Closing the fridge Beckett noted down a few more items before heading over to the pantry. A light turned on as she opened the door illuminating the contents. She had no doubt Castle had fun with that when he found that in his home. Or maybe he had gotten it installed himself. The pantry was a lot healthier looking then the fridge. The basics were there much like they had been in the cabin but seemed to be devoid of any baking necessities, apart from flour. Flipping over the note pad to another page Beckett added to her list. And added, and added. She only had a few weeks but she had a lot of recipes she wanted to try out.
"Well, that took a lot longer than I thought it would. Dad left a tree in my bed."
Beckett's eyes widened as she turned around to look at Alexis.
Alexis shrugged. "Well, it was more of a branch. I had to clean that up and then change my sheets," she said laughing.
Beckett nodded at her before returning to her note pad and adding the last few items on the list.
"What are you doing?"
Beckett looked up from her list. "Oh I figured I'd better earn my keep while I am here. There is nothing in the fridge so I decided to make a shopping list."
"You don't need to earn you keep," the younger woman told her. "And we can order in."
Beckett shrugged. "Oh I realise that. It's just my mom loved to cook and I had fun doing it with her. I was starting to go crazy at the cabin with nothing to do; I thought cooking might entertain me. It's been ages since I have had anyone to cook for apart from when I made your family breakfast that one time. My mom had all these amazing recipes and it's been so long since I have made any of them. The food was amazing and she always made enough so we could go back for seconds. I tried to halve her recipes but they never seemed to turn out right. It's also really hard to buy ingredients if you aren't making it for 4 or more people. I wouldn't need to use a whole jar of sauce but I'd have to buy one. I'd put it in the fridge thinking I'd use it for something else but I never did."
Beckett suddenly realised that Alexis was observing her curiously.
Beckett bit her lip. "That is, if it's ok that I take over your kitchen."
Alexis nodded and smiled. "You want to make your mother's meals for us?"
Kate smiled. Alexis hadn't said meal, she had said her mother's meals. Alexis obviously understood how important her mother was to her and sharing her recipes was a big thing.
"Yeah," she told Alexis.
"Thank you. Meal times around here are a bit all over the place. We don't normally have set meal time simply because we have never really had anyone here to cook. At least regularly. "
Beckett nodded. She understood her own hectic schedule and how Castle had been living that the last few years. She also imagined once he got writing he probably forgot about little things like eating.
"Well, I could always make the food and put it in the fridge or freezer for later."
"No," Alexis told her earnestly. "If we have to be home by a certain time to eat because there is someone here cooking for us, then we will be. It would be nice to sit around a dinner table and eat like a normal family."
Beckett heart clenched. Family. For so long she had felt lost because her family had been torn apart. Never did she think she could be the one to bring a family together. Yet doing something as simple as cooking would bring Castle family together for a meal. Once again she could create memories of sitting around a table eating dinner. The family dynamic would be different. She wouldn't be the child sitting down watching her mother and father interact. Yet there would be a child at the table, Alexis. A father would be there. Rick. Whenever Martha returned there would be a mother. Tonight her father would be there but maybe she could ask him to dinner another time, too. These people could be her strength, her solid ground. She could provide them with love by providing them with nourishment.
"I kid you not. Kate slipped on a banana peel while running after a suspect that had just climbed out of a dumpster."
Alexis and Kate exchanged shocked glances as Rick's muffled voice could be heard.
"Scary or happy surprise?" Beckett asked Alexis quickly.
Alexis frowned. "What?"
"Do you want to surprise your dad in a happy way or a scary way?"
"Scary" Alexis replied quickly as they heard the key in the door.
"Then hide," Beckett tried to shoo the young woman away.
"B…B…But..." Alexis stammered as she looked around the room.
"I'll figure it out," Beckett told her as Alexis dashed away into her father's study.
"Then there was the time..."
"I think you have shared enough stories, Castle," Kate told the man as he entered the loft, hands laden with bags of food.
Castle looked at her guiltily. "Hi, Kate."
"Hey," she greeted him as she walked over and placed a chaste kiss to his cheek. She marveled over the fact that she could do that now. So many times she had wanted to kiss him or hug him for doing something nice or sweet for her. Now she could, whenever she wanted to.
Castle gave her one of his smiles that could melt Antarctica. It was obvious he also liked the fact that she could kiss him whenever she wanted.
"I set the table," she informed him, pointing in the direction of the place where new memories were about to be created.
Ricked scolded her, "You were supposed to be resting."
Beckett shrugged. "We talked about this. I stay until I get back on my feet. I can't do that if I never get on my feet." It had been one of the few things they had discussed on the way home. She would stay here on the condition he let her breathe. Allowed her to do her own thing while she recovered, both physically and emotionally. Tomorrow they were going to go to her apartment to gather a few more items of clothes. The last few memories there weren't happy ones and she was hoping Castle would help her make new ones. It would definitely help once she returned there.
"Let Rick spoil you for once, Katie."
Beckett smiled at her father. "He already spoils me too much, Dad."
Beckett leaned in and gave her father a kiss on the cheek. He seemed surprised by this gesture. Although they had been close when she was younger her mother's death had caused them to drift apart. Remembering sharing their nightly meals together had caused her to want to recreate the relationship they once had. She wanted the father- daughter relationship that Castle had with Alexis.
Damn. She was hiding in Castles study and Beckett had to somehow get him in there. At the moment Castle had walked over to the table and was unloading the food. Thankfully he hadn't noticed she had set it for four.
"Rick. My dad is a bit cold. Could he borrow a jacket from you?"
Castle looked up her surprised. "Umm, yeah sure."
"Katie, I'm fine."
Beckett turned to look at her father and crossed her eyes.
"Dad, I don't want to catch a cold."
He narrowed his eyes at her for a few seconds before a smile appeared on his face.
Great. Now she had to get Castle to go and get it.
"Ok, I'll go get you one."
Rick held up his hand to stop her.
"No, I'll get it."
Becket smiled. Good old predictable Rick. Pulling her phone out of her pocket she quickly unlocked it and fired up the ap she needed. As quickly and as inconspicuously as she could Beckett followed behind Castle. She stopped when she got a good distance from where she hoped the action would be. Castle entered his study.
Beckett tried to hold her phone still with one hand but it was hard as she was trying to stop herself from laughing.
Castle had stumbled back against his book shelves that created a wall and was currently clutching at his chest.
Alexis's laugh could be heard before the redhead appeared in the doorway.
"Oh Dad, you should see your face."
"Alexis!" Castle gasped before engulfing his daughter in a hug. "What are you doing here?"
"Watching you pee your pants," she informed him as she squeezed him tight before squirming out of the hug. "You should have seen your face Dad, it was priceless."
Beckett tapped her phone before holding it up. "I wouldn't say priceless, exactly. But I think this could be worth quite a bit if we threatened to post it on the internet."
Alexis's eyes widened as the young woman walked over to Beckett. "You got it on video."
Beckett nodded as she pressed play. Together Alexis and Beckett huddled over the small screen as they watched Castle enter his study. When his girly scream filled the room Beckett and Alexis burst into giggles.
Beckett looked up at Alexis. She saw the look in the young woman's eyes. It was more than a thank you, it was one of acknowledgment. Alexis understood that Kate wouldn't be against her relationship with her father; she would support it.
"I can't believe the two of you ganged up on me," Castle said coming forward, still running a hand over his chest. "And you," Castle pointed at Jim. "You were in on it."
Jim shook his head as he came over to join them. "I didn't know what was going on. Katie just gave me one of our secret looks so I played along."
Castle's mouth dropped open. "You have a secret look." He then frowned and looked at Alexis. "How come we don't have a secret look?"
Alexis shook her head. "Because Gram and I have one. Except it's more just us raising our eyebrows at your latest hair-brained scheme."
Castle opened his mouth to protest then nodded. He had seen that look on more than one occasion. He looked at people before him. Father, daughter, father daughter. Kate's father was joining them for dinner with himself and his daughter. This would be interesting.
Authors Note. Sorry for the delay. Life, you know. So please leave a review and tell me what you thought. Also any ideas you may have feel free to voice them. Also if you haven't already, check out my recent one shot. Following Orders