A/N: I've been writing fanfic in general for longer than I would care to admit (just how long ago was 1999?) but this is my first Castle story (that I've been happy enough with to post that is). While I would normally hem and haw over posting it, I decided to pull a Sydney Bristow and jump off that 50 story building into a pool of unknown depth because courage is being the only one who knows you're scared.
I don't know if there are any notes that are needed here really, but I do like reviews and any questions a reader might have. Originally this was going to be a oneshot but I recently thought of better storyline, so this will be a sporadically updated mulit-chapter fic of undetermined length. Enjoy the ride.


Kate twirled her hair mindlessly around her finger, her eyes going from the book in her hands to the clock on the wall every few moments. Castle had only left ten minutes ago to drive all the way across town for the best Chinese food he could find, but she was hungry enough that it felt like it had been hours. She turned a page and her stomach rumbled as if possessed and she smiled to herself hoping he would get a double order of wontons.

There was a creaking noise from upstairs and she looked up from the book wondering if it was Martha or Alexis. They were both home but ensconced in their respective bedrooms for one reason or another. Martha had claimed she needed complete silence to meditate and prepare for her classes the next day, and Alexis was currently buried in all the homework she'd missed over the last few weeks, what with Paris and the aftermath. In the last two days she'd only come down for meals, and sometimes not even that. Castle was worried, insisting that she needed to take more breaks, but Kate understood that there was probably a lot going on up there other than homework. One could only keep a straight face for so long before things started to catch up to them.

After a moment nothing happened and no one came down the stairs so she turned back to the book, considering texting Castle to make sure he got all three kinds of eggrolls instead of just the pork ones. Her hand was halfway to the phone when she heard the noise again, louder this time. Glancing up she saw Alexis coming down the stairs, her eyes red, but her tears wiped away.

"Is dad here?"

"He went to get dinner."

"Oh."

"You alright?"

Alexis sighed heavily, wrapping her arms around herself, trying to hide the fact that she'd lost a few pounds. No one else had noticed so far, but Kate was very aware of all the symptoms that came with traumatic experiences. She'd been watching for this since the moment the young girl had walked back through the front door so many weeks ago.

"I just got off the phone with my mom," she explained, shuffling over to sit on the couch.

"When is she getting here?"

"She's not."

"What?" Kate asked, not shocked but still taken by some form of surprise. Meredith had been promising to come out and see her "baby girl" for weeks, to check up on her after everything that had happened, but every weekend there had been some reason why she couldn't come.

"She has a thing on Sunday night. Nothing specific enough to have made it onto her calendar three days ago, but important enough that she can't even make a quick trip to come see me."

"I'm so sorry, Alexis."

"I just don't get it," she whispered, breath hitching in her throat. "I'm never enough. Nothing I have ever done in my life has been important enough for her to show up. The only time she is ever here is when she's got some other motive, or if she has to be in town anyway. It's not like she can't afford it. She doesn't even miss me. Dad misses me after a day. She doesn't even miss me after a year."

Kate didn't really know what to say; she never did in these rare moments when Alexis opened up to her. It wasn't as if they were cold or unfriendly, on the contrary, the last few weeks had found them giggling over inside jokes and talking about nothing of consequence late into the night. But Alexis had never been forthcoming with her emotions, so this left Kate a little mute.

"It's not like I needed her really. I just wanted to mean something."

"You mean something, Alexis. You mean a lot."

"You know what Gina said to me once? She told me that it must be really hard on my mom to let me down all the time."

Kate's jaw drooped open and she couldn't help the fact that her eyes expanded about three times their original size.

"Okay, I am not one to speak ill of anyone, especially Gina," she started, earning a half grin from Alexis. "And I never try too hard to understand the insane but what on God's green earth was she thinking?"

"She probably wasn't."

Kate gave Alexis' hand another squeeze, wracking her brain for something to say that wasn't cliché and didn't sound like a line. She came up with nothing. There just wasn't anything legitimate and reassuring the worked in this situation.

"I could have been killed and I don't think she would have shown up to the funeral."

Her voice sounded like it had come from somewhere else and the tears that followed the statement were full of more anguish and fear than Kate had ever seen. She dropped the book, not caring that she'd probably broken the spine, and scooted across the couch, pulling Alexis into her arms and holding her tight.

"I could have been killed. I could be dead right now," Alexis was muttering through the tears as if the thought had just occurred to her. In all truth it probably just had. She'd been so focused on survival at the time, then on returning to normal that she hadn't really confronted how dangerous the situation had really been. It had been building up inside her for a month now and suddenly the rejection from her mother had become so great that all the other things were being pushed up to the surface as well. It was if there had been a spontaneous explosion within her and she was desperately trying to hold it all together.

"You're safe sweetie. It's all over now."

"What if-"

"No. No what ifs. None of them happened, none of them will happen."

Alexis was breathing hard and while Kate knew that she needed to confront all these emotions, she also knew that now wasn't the time. Now she needed to deal with the Meredith issue, get that squared away before she could start finally tiptoeing into what happened. She had to deal with them separately or she would never be able to think of one without the other.

"I have nightmares all night long. During the day all I can think is what-if."

"We don't live life on what-ifs or we never live for what is."

"But what is… Kate everything is falling apart," Alexis hiccupped, rubbing her eyes and feeling much like a forlorn little girl, but not really caring either.

"No it's not. I know it feels like it sweetheart but nothing is really falling apart. We're not going to let it. Your dad and gram and I always here for you, no matter what. Even if you feel like you're the one falling apart, we're here to hold you together and make you safe. You're going to be just fine."

"I'm so tired. I don't sleep much and when I do I dream about it and then when I get up I'm either thinking about that or about my mom or worrying about my dad and it's just too much for me to hold. Way too much."

"I think it's time for you to start letting go," Kate whispered, tucking Alexis a little closer.

"How do I do that?"

"There are ways, Alexis. There are a lot of ways and we can find one that works for you, okay?"

"We?"

"What, do you think I'd throw you in the deep end? I'll be here as much as you need me to and even when you think you don't. Okay?"

Alexis nodded quietly, picking at her cuticles.

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?"

"I haven't exactly been a pleasant person to be around these last few months."

"What do you mean?"

Alexis sighed; she'd been thinking that the confession would come with an "Oh, it's no big deal, I get it," kind of response. Apparently Kate was going to treat her like an adult and make her work for it a little.

"I've treated you like you're just another one of his relationships even though I know this is different. I've been cold to you and I haven't tried to fix that. I worry about his safety so much and I know that he would follow you anywhere, he would risk his life for you and that scares me a lot. I'm afraid I would lose him. I know that's not your fault but it's so much easier to blame you than it is to see that he has to be the one to change. I turned all that into not trusting you, which isn't fair at all. And I've been… I've just been like the evil step-daughter in the movies and I don't want to be like that. I'm not like that and I don't know why I acted so… so…"

"So normal?"

"Normal?"

"I didn't really think you were going to view this as rainbows and ponies or something."

"Why not?"

"Because it's not."

"Wait, what are you trying to say?" Alexis asked, sitting up and shaking her head a little.

"I'm not going to blow sunshine up your nose. Relationships are hard. They're frustrating and confusing and there are so many complicated things going on that sometimes you wonder why in the world you're doing this. And sometimes all that bubbles up and no matter how much you love the person, you do or say something totally wrong and uncalled for. There are fights and misunderstandings and moments when you want to give up. I know you know that, and I know you know that your dad and I are going to have those times. I think that's a lot of what worries you, because of how we've dealt with it in the past."

"I don't want to watch him nurse a broken heart again."

"I don't either. But all those bad things are worth it with him. I don't ever want out. I don't ever want to leave him or give up. I am definitely not the easiest person to love in the world but I am doing my best to keep him from running for the hills. I love him and I am not going anywhere."

"But you've hurt him," Alexis whispered, eyes falling to her hands in shame that she'd even brought it up.

"Yes I have. He's hurt me too. And that doesn't make it okay, it doesn't make us even or anything like that. I'll tell you the truth Alexis, we've both made mistakes that you probably don't even know about. But we haven't just jumped into this and forgotten all that as if it didn't happen. We've talked about all of it, over and over again, we've even fought about it, but has either of us walked away? Have I broken his heart again?"

"No. He's… he's happier than he's been in years. But it's still early, things could still unwind."

"I know. I don't expect you to trust me or trust that everything will always be okay, but I am promising you now just like I promised him, I won't walk away. I'm in this for good, okay?"

Alexis nodded, still refusing to look up. She hated admitting it more than anything and until this moment she hadn't let herself even form the thought completely, but part of her fear wasn't just Kate walking away from a relationship, leaving her father struggling. Part of it was the sharp pain in her chest when she thought of the door closing behind her as she left, closing on all three of them. It may not be what she'd always pictured as a happy family, and she wasn't sure she even thought of it as family anyway. But Kate was stability. She was calm and safety, despite the chaos and danger that had come into their lives four years ago. Alexis wasn't sure she was ready to live without that again.

"You are the most important thing in the world to your dad and I never want to get in the way of that. I would like to have some kind of relationship with you though, because we're going to be in each other's lives."

"What is that going to look like?"

"I don't know. Whatever we make it."

"If you and my dad weren't together… would you still care?"

"Yes. I've cared about you for a long time, Alexis. It's not just because of your dad."

"It's going to take some time. I've been mad at you for a while. I know lately it hasn't seemed like it because I've been trying, but the anger is still there."

"I know."

"I think a lot of it is misplaced but it's not easy to turn that off."

"No, it's not. I can be patient though. And I'll be here for you no matter what. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Do you believe me?"

"I don't think you would lie. But I don't know what's going to happen in the future."

"Fair enough."

They both fell silent for a moment, thinking their own thoughts on the matter and searching themselves for anything else that needed to be said.

"Could you not mention any of this to dad?"

"Of course."

"Gina always told my dad everything I told her. I was a lot younger then so it wasn't important things but it still made me feel insignificant."

"As far as I'm concerned, anything we talk about is just between us."

"Thank you."

"Darlings!" Martha greeted, breezing down the stairs and unintentionally ending their conversation. "I'm famished."

"Meditating works up an appetite huh?" Alexis teased.

"Oh you," Martha replied, waving a hand and rolling her eyes, as she was wont to do when teased.

"Food should be here soon," Kate supplied, leaning down to grab her book off the floor. "Unless he's sitting in the car eating all the potstickers."

"Again," Alexis chuckled. "The look on his face when you caught him was kind of the best thing in the world."

"He shouldn't have left the receipt in the bag," she shrugged, dog-earing a corner of the page and closing the book.

"He would argue that you shouldn't have been trying to pay him back for it."

"I suppose we're at an impasse," Kate shrugged with a grin, standing up from the couch. "Tea to go with Chinese food?"

She received two affirmative answers and went into the kitchen to start boiling the water while the front door swung open.

"Heard you talking about me," Castle said, as if he had stumbled upon a private conversation.

"No you didn't," Martha replied, pulling out a bottle of wine. "We all love you Richard but we're not your groupies."

"You wound me."

"Did you get potstickers?" Kate and Alexis asked in unison, advancing on him to peek into the bags.

He sighed and shook his head, resigning himself to his fate.

"I'm a goner."