Back Home Again

Disclaimers: No, I don't own Castle.

Summary: Post-Hunt. What happens in the day's right after Rick and Alexis return home from Paris. Will contain spoilers from episode. Possible two-shot. Rated M for safety.

A/N #1: I will return to 'Trials and Tribulations.' I just wanted to start on this one while it's still rattling around in my head. I have so many ideas and not enough time to work on all of them. Thanks to my followers on Twitter who told me that I should write this.

A/N #2: It was hard to do a timeline for this episode. I'm going on the assumption that Alexis was gone for four days.

Chapter 1: The Long Journey Home

Rick Castle stared at the sleeping face of his daughter as she rested in the first-class seat beside him. It had been an impossibly long four days, but he had her back now. He had her back and she was safe. At the moment they were on an Air France flight bound from Paris back to New York.

Rick was exhausted but he didn't dare close his eyes. He felt this insane need to watch over his precious Alexis, make sure that he was there if she awoke and needed him. He'd called his mother and Kate from the American Embassy earlier that night, after they'd literally escaped a fire fight with Russian mobsters. His instructions had been to rescue Alexis and run, and not to stop running until they reached the safety of the embassy.

The conversations with Martha and Kate had been joyous. He smiled as he remembered talking to both of them. He'd called his mother first. It was early afternoon in New York when he placed the call.

"Richard?" Martha guessed after answering on the first ring. "Please tell me it's you."

"Yeah, it's me," he confirmed. "I've got Alexis, and she's safe. We'll be home in the morning New York time."

"Oh, thank God," the older woman breathed. "Is she there? Can I talk to her?"

"Gram?" Alexis' familiar voice came over the line.

"Oh Alexis, kiddo, are you all right?"

"I'm fine, gram. We can't stay on the phone long. Daddy and I have to get to the airport."

"Oh, of course. I can't wait to see you."

"I can't wait to see you either, gram. I love you."

"Oh, I love you, too. I'll see you soon."

His conversation with Kate had been just as brief, but more intimate.

"Are you sure that you're okay?" She'd asked him anxiously.

"I can't really talk about it. I love you," he'd whispered into the phone.

"I love you, too. You had me so scared. I can't believe that you just took off like that."

"Kate, I'm sorry. I'll make everything up to you when I get home. I have to go. We have a plane to catch."

He found himself starting to doze off until he heard a small whimper from Alexis. "Alexis, its okay," he put his hand over hers and squeezed it. "I'm right here."

"Daddy?" She opened wide blue eyes and looking at him. "Are we almost there? Are we almost home?"

"Another couple of hours or so. Do you need anything? Something to eat or drink?"

"No, I'm okay. Have you been awake this whole time?"

"I have to make sure my little girl's okay," he smiled, but she could still see the worry in his eyes.

"I'm fine. They didn't hurt me," she emphasized. "Yes, they scared me, but they didn't do anything physical to me. Go to sleep, okay?"

***CCC***

Kate arrived at the loft shortly after six in the morning. She'd called the airport and had learned that the Air France flight that Castle and Alexis were booked on was scheduled to arrive on time, shortly after eight. "Did you talk to Richard?" Martha asked as she embraced Kate.

"Yes, for a few minutes before they had to leave for the airport," she smiled when she saw the huge 'Welcome Back, Alexis' banner strung by the back wall. "When did you have this made?"

"I called one of those printing places right after I talked to Richard and Alexis yesterday afternoon. I thought it would be nice for her to see when she comes home. Katherine, I know that she's all right physically, but what about emotionally?"

Kate understood what the older woman was asking her. She was asking for her opinion as someone who'd walked that emotional tightrope after a traumatic situation. In Kate's case, it had been a bullet to the chest. "At first, she's going to seem okay. But as it sinks in, she might have some issues. If she's willing, I'll gladly talk to her. But, as someone who knows what it's like, I'm not going to force myself in if she's not ready. The most important thing for you and Rick right now regarding Alexis is to give her space. Listen to her if she wants to talk, but leave her alone if she doesn't."

"Okay. That sounds like good advice to me. I was going to make a huge feast for them because I'm sure they're going to be starving. Would you like to help me? After all, you're a much better cook than I am."

"I'd love to help," Kate grinned, removing her coat and hanging it before coming into the kitchen to help Martha.

***CCC***

Seeing that radiant smile on his face when they walked into the loft comforted Kate almost as much as feeling his arms around her as she walked into them. "Don't ever do something like that without me again," she whispered to him.

"I won't," he assured her with a huge smile as she cupped his face and kissed him.

Martha was hugging Alexis like she was never going to let her go, but the teenager was hugging her grandmother just as hard. "Oh, my darling girl! I'm so glad that you're home and you're safe."

After everybody had hugged everybody, they sat down to the huge breakfast that Martha and Kate had prepared. As she watched them eat, Kate could see both her boyfriend and his daughter visibly slowing down like a clock that needed to be wound up. Jet lag was rapidly catching up, but they weren't in a hurry to leave the group. "You two should get some rest," Kate told them. "Sleep for a couple of hours."

"I'm fine," Castle protested.

"Castle, how much sleep have you gotten in the last three and a half days?" Kate asked him pointedly.

"Not much," he admitted, "but I'm okay."

"No, you're not," she argued back. "Go tuck your daughter in and then I'm going to tuck you in. Non-negotiable, Castle," she smiled at him.

"Come on, pumpkin," he stood up and held his hand out to Alexis. "We're not going to win this one."

After going upstairs and changing her clothes in her bathroom, Alexis came out and got into her bed. "Oh, I missed my bed," she sighed as she hugged her pillow closer to her. "I love you, daddy. Thank you for finding me."

"Hey, that's what daddy's do," he kissed her forehead as he sat on the edge of her bed.

When he didn't come back down after more than an hour, Kate went upstairs to Alexis' room and stood in the doorway, watching him sitting on the edge of her bed, just stroking her hair off of her as she slept. She quietly walked over and put her hand on his shoulder. "Castle, she's sleeping. Come on, you need to get some sleep yourself. Come on," she urged as she took his hand and tugged him to his feet.

When they entered his bedroom, she pulled out his favorite pair of lounge pants and a worn gray t-shirt before she directed him toward the bathroom and the shower. "Join me," he looked at her with tired blue eyes.

"Right now, you need to shower and sleep. I'll be right here when you get out. Go," she kissed him before patting his behind.

Not that the thought of joining him in the shower wasn't a very tempting one, she knew that right now he needed sleep more than he needed sex. They could reconnect in that way after he'd had some sleep.

He came out about 10 minutes later, his hair damp and rumpled, making her laugh. "Did you forget where the blow dryer was?" She teased, taking his hand and leading him back to the bathroom. "See? You need sleep, Castle, because you're starting to turn into a zombie. Did you sleep on the plane last night?"

"No, not really. Alexis did, but I stayed awake watching over her," he stopped in front of the mirror, watching Kate take the blow dryer and plug it in before she began waving it over his hair.

"She's safe now, Castle," she turned off the dryer and wrapped her arms around him from behind. "Come on, let's go to bed."

"You're staying?"

"You seem surprised," she turned down his bed and helped him into it before going to the other side and crawling in, cuddling up next to him. "Close your eyes."

"I can't," he lay on his back, staring at the ceiling.

"Castle – Rick, Alexis is upstairs and she's safe. Nothing can hurt her. You did the bravest thing that any father could do. You rescued her. You brought her back home to the people who love her. You need to close your eyes and sleep."

She rested her head on his chest as she ran light circles on his stomach, listening as his breathing gradually became deeper as he allowed sleep to overcome him. At some point he rolled onto his side and pulled Kate tighter into him. It was only when she was convinced that he was soundly asleep that she slowly got up.

Martha was cleaning up the breakfast mess when Kate came out of the bedroom a short time later. "Is he asleep?" She asked as Kate came in to help her.

"Yeah, but I think he's having a rougher time than she is," Kate took the dishes from Martha and placed them in the dishwasher.

"That's because he's sort of been through this before. Did he ever tell you about the time when Meredith took Alexis to lunch when she was four? The thing was, his darling ex neglected to tell him that they were having lunch in Paris."

"He did mention that," Kate remembered when he'd first started shadowing her when Meredith had shown up. That was when she'd first heard him refer to her as a 'Deep-Fried Twinkie.' After meeting the attractive redhead, Kate was inclined to agree with his description.

"After that, he made sure that he had Alexis' passport locked up in a safe place. He also had it put in their visitation agreement that Meredith was not allowed to remove Alexis from New York City unless she had Richard's permission in writing."

"I like Meredith," Kate admitted, "but she doesn't seem to have a clue." She whispered the last part in case Alexis happened to hear. She didn't want the girl hearing her disparaging her mother.

"Kiddo, there's no need to whisper. Alexis knows what her mother is. She's known for a long time. That's why Richard didn't encourage her to come when we learned that she had been taken."

"Has he called and at least let her know that Alexis is okay?"

"I don't know. You can probably call and let her know. I know that her number is on Richard's phone."

"Where is Rick's phone?" Kate wondered out loud. "He usually puts it on the night stand by his bed, but I don't remember seeing him take it from his pocket."

"Maybe he forgot to take it from his pants pocket. He's done that before. In fact, he lost two phones like that, both victims of the washing machine."

"I'd better go check. He was so tired," she walked to the bedroom where Rick was tossing and turning, his face covered in a film of sweat. She walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. "Castle? Hey, it's okay."

"Kate?" He opened his eyes.

"Yeah," she smiled. "Hey, where's your phone? I wanted to call Meredith and let her know that Alexis is okay."

"Shot," he mumbled as his eyes closed.

"What? Castle, you're not making any sense. Are you saying that your phone got shot?"

"Talking to you . . . shotgun . . . shot."

Kate remembered when she had called him to tell him that Alexis was the target. They'd been talking when the connection had suddenly been broken. "Who shot it?"

"Can't talk about it. Why'd you get up?" He whined as he grabbed her wrist.

"Relax, I'll get back in bed," she walked over to her side of the bed and got back in beside him. It was only when he felt her next to him that he went back to sleep. She wondered if she'd ever get the whole story of what had happened in Paris.

When she got up a few hours later, Alexis was sitting at the counter eating a bowl of ice cream. "Is my dad still asleep?" She asked as Kate went to the freezer and took out the carton of chocolate chip ice cream.

"Yeah. He probably won't stay asleep once he knows that I'm up," Kate filled a bowl with ice cream and joined Alexis at the counter. "Did he say anything about what happened to his cell phone?"

"Just that he lost it. I didn't question it. He's lost like three or four cell phones over the years."

"He said something about it being shot."

"Did you ask him when he was half-asleep? He says some crazy stuff when he's not fully awake."

"Yeah, I know. Alexis, do you know if he had help getting you out?"

Alexis looked at Kate, her face pale. Her father had stressed to her that they could never say anything about how he rescued her in Paris. Not to her grandmother, her mother, not even to Kate. "He hasn't told me anything," she took her bowl to the sink.

"Are you okay? I'm here if you need to talk."

"No, I'm still just tired. Kate, is Sara okay?" Alexis was referring to Sara el-Masri, the girl who'd originally been kidnapped with her. The girl they'd thought was the target due to her uber rich father.

"Yeah, she came back to New York about 18 hours before you did. She's been worried about you. You might want to give her a call and let her know that you're safe."

"Can I ask you one more question?" The young girl stared down at her hands.

"Alexis, you can ask me as many questions as you want to."

"How long does it take to stop being afraid?"

"Oh sweetie," Kate got up and went into the kitchen where she embraced Alexis. "I wish that I could answer that question for you. Do you want to talk about what you're so afraid of?"

"What if it happens again? What if someone takes me off of the street again?"

"Alexis, if you live your life thinking about what could happen, you'll never have a life. You're safe now and that man in that bedroom," she pointed toward Castle's bedroom, "will give his life to keep you that way."

"Thanks, Kate," Alexis hugged her. "I think I needed to hear that."

"I'm going to go and check on your dad."

When she walked into the bedroom, the bed was empty but the bathroom door was closed. Moments later, the door opened and Castle came out, rubbing his eyes. "How long have you been up?" He walked over and kissed Kate lightly.

"Not long. How do you feel?"

"Like I've been run over by a truck. But, I'm starving. I was thinking about ordering a pizza. Is it too early for pizza?"

"No, it's a little after three. We'll just call it an early dinner. Alexis was just eating ice cream, so I don't know if she'll have room for pizza."

"Okay, you call it in while I get dressed," he kissed her again.

After they ate pizza, Alexis excused herself to go upstairs to catch up with friends while Kate and Castle curled up on the sofa while Martha was teaching a class at her acting school. "Can you tell me anything about what happened in Paris?"

"I wish that I could, but I really can't. Besides, even if I did, I'm not sure if you'd believe me or not. It all comes out sounding crazy."

"Who was the package from? The one that was waiting for you."

"A copy of a book that I'd gotten as a kid. I met a man . . . who claimed to be my father," he turned so that he was facing Kate on the sofa.

"You believe him?"

"He told me that when I was 10 years old, I was in a bookstore with my mother and he gave me a copy of 'Casino Royale.' I've never told anybody that story."

"What is his name?" Kate asked, clearly fascinated.

"Well, he goes by Jackson Hunt, but I don't think that's his real name."

"What're you saying, Castle? That he's a spy or something?"

"I don't know. All I do know is I really can't tell you any more than that. So, have you talked to Alexis? Does she seem okay?"

"I think she will be. She's still trying to get past the fear of what happened. She was asking me if I thought it could happen again. Maybe you should talk to her," she suggested.

Alexis was sitting in the middle of her bed listening to music when her dad tapped on her door. "Hi, dad," she smiled.

"So, are your friends all happy that you're back home?" Castle sat on the edge of her bed.

"Yeah, but they all want to know what happened and it's hard explaining over and over that I can't talk about it. What am I supposed to tell them?"

"You just have to tell them as much as you can without divulging any details about how you actually got out."

"So, I have to leave out the part about the Russian mobsters, the explosions, the guys chasing us, the Russian guy talking to the guy on the walkie talkie and referring to you as the guy's son. That doesn't leave much story to tell, does it, dad?"

"No, I guess that it doesn't. Alexis, what happened to you was because of history. Not yours or mine, but something that happened a long time ago. It's all over and you have nothing to be scared of. Okay?"

"Okay," Alexis smiled as she hugged her father. "I'm so glad that you were there."

"Me too, pumpkin. Me, too."

Everybody went to sleep early that night, but Kate woke up in the middle of the night to an empty bed. She got out of bed and made her way upstairs, where she once again found Castle sitting at Alexis' bedside, much as he had the previous morning. He was just sitting there, watching his only child as she slept. "Castle," she walked over and put her hand on his shoulder. "She's fine. Come back to bed."

"I just feel like if I stay here, nothing bad will happen to her."

"Rick, you can't keep her in a plastic bubble. You rescued her. She's safe now. Please come back to bed. Come on," she took his hand and smiled at him.

As she led him back downstairs to bed, Kate couldn't help thinking that Castle's fear was far more palpable than Alexis' was. She had to figure a way to help him with that fear.

A/N #3: There will be one more chapter where Rick discusses his fears with Kate, not just regarding what happened to Alexis, but going further back. Please read and review.

I can be found on Twitter Caskett1960.