Disclaimer- I still don't own Castle, Andrew Marlowe does, and I don't want him to sue me for playing in his sandbox. I'm just having fun, I make no moneys.
I swore I'd respond to everybody who reviewed Alexis, Unexpected. I think I got to everybody except AlexBeckett. Sorry babe, you have messaging disabled, I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your reviews, though, so you're getting some love here! Sorry it took me so long, everybody!
As always, I don't have a beta, I'd love to find one, but I do not want to get involved in fandom BS that sometimes happens, so please excuse my typos, I always see them after I hit "send" or "publish." Shit.
I had no idea that Lily would grow so fast. Dad wasn't kidding when he told me that. In the blink of an eye, she turned a year old, and I was almost done with my bachelor's degree. I had changed my major from pre-law to social work; I wanted to be like Chandra and Erin, and help others navigate life. I was planning on going to get my LCSW degree after I got my bachelor's. When I quit being perfect, I discovered the room for passions and the things that made me feel fulfilled.
Lilly was growing and calling me Mama, and a few weeks later, "ganPA!" and "nannEEE!" and "gans!" Her smiled melted our hearts. Dad loved her fiercely; and made sure she had a host of t-shirts and onesies in her wardrobe that said something to that effect. He spoiled her rotten. Lily took her first unsteady steps and walked across the living room floor and into my arms after countless falls on her diapered butt by the end of the summer and Dad caught it on his cell phone's camera. I missed holding her in my arms like a baby. My heart broke when she was able to walk; she didn't want me, or anyone else, to carry her anymore and threw a fit anytime I tried to pick her up.
My heart broke for Kate too; she and Dad returned from their honeymoon, and she was not pregnant, yet. She told me that they were still trying. The months went by and every month, I watched her light die just a little bit when it came out that she wasn't pregant, yet. After Lily's first birthday party, while she was destroying a smash cake gleefully and adorably, Kate told me that she and Dad were going to go to a fertility specialist. Then, Kate's worst fears about her own body came true in the next few months; they told her that she was the one with reproductive problems, not Dad. She had a slight flare of endometriosis, and that was making her uterus an "unfriendly" environment. She had probably lost every conception she had had so far. They decided to try In Vitro Fertilization, then they'd move onto to something else, but warned her that it might still happen naturally and spontaneously. The night of Lily's second birthday after I gave her a bath and put her to bed, I found Kate out on the roof of our building, smoking a stale cigarette.
"I haven't smoked in years," she admitted. "I just can't take it. I'm going to be on hormones and they're going to harvest my eggs and…" She exhaled a lung full of smoke. "God, I just can't believe we're going to be going so far and into something so unnatural to have a baby. I keep asking myself if we can just be happy together with Lily as our granddaughter and you coming by, but… a part of me still wonders. Richard could go either way, but the more I think about having a baby, the more I want one."
"Don't stress," I said softly, stroking her arm. I sat down beside her and rested my head on her shoulder. "What was you guys were always telling me when I got pregnant? 'These things just happen?'"
She took another drag off her cigarette. "I know. I'm just so… I'm scared." She sounded shaky. "I spent all these years trying to not get pregnant, and now that I'm ready to get pregnant, I can't. It just seems so unfair. I want this. And we'd be amazing parents, too, you know? So many poor people can't stop having babies, and they struggle, but love them and are good parents to them. We have all the money in the world and we'd be there and be great parents, too, but we can't conceive. Because I jinxed it!" She stabbed out the cigarette and flipped the butt across the roof.
"It's just not meant to be just yet," I said, squeezing her hand. "Look, what if Lily and I got our own place and gave you and Dad some room?"
"You can't possibly mean-"
"Yes, I can. I'm starting the master's program at NYU next fall and we're taking up all your spare room in the loft. I'm sure that's not adding to your ability to conceive. Lily doesn't understand privacy, yet anyway. So, we'll make plans to move out."
Kate looked crestfallen. "But I love having Lily around so much!"
"I'll make sure I bring her over for you to baby sit at least two nights a week while I'm in school. Oh, I'll be generous and let you do it three times a week, sounds fair?"
Kate finally cracked a smile. "It does," she said.
Dad agreed to buy an apartment for Lily and I to live in. We set out a budget and called the real estate to start shopping. Buying an apartment was much more difficult than I thought; finding a two bedroom we could afford was not easy. New York real estate was expensive, and the budget didn't fit much, mostly apartments in Queens and Brooklyn. I didn't want to be so far away from my family, but I wanted a place of my own.
By the time I started at NYU on my master's in social work in August of the next year after Lily turned two, I had all but given up on ever living in Manhattan. It looked like Brooklyn was going to be our home. Something just didn't fit, though.
Lily and I went to visit Grams in her apartment building in the West Villiage. Lily loved seeing Grams, and I felt guilty about how I hadn't found a place and Kate still hadn't had her baby, yet.
"If we live in Brooklyn, I'll have to bring Lily across the river every day for day care with Dad," I said. "That just seems like such a waste of subway credits. And I can't afford to send her to a day care in Brooklyn."
"You know your father would see to that," Grams said. "He wouldn't let Lily suffer."
"He wouldn't," I agreed. "But I love that she has so much special time with her grandfather. Just the two of them."
"I know you do," Grams said. "I had this same conundrum with Richard. He was a latchkey kid for a while as a tween, between babysitters."
Lily entertained herself with some of the toys Grams kept for her at her house.
"Well, I promised Dad I'd be home in time for dinner," I said. "Come on, Lily Bean, we need to get going. Grams, you're coming, right?"
"Of course, let me just put on some lipstick and I'll meet you downstairs."
Lily dawdled a little bit as I put her shoes back on her, but we took the elevator down. In the lobby, a man and woman were standing together, talking as I checked my text messages. Lily was great friends with the doorman Tony, and she told him all about her day so far.
"...It was so small, does that even count as a second bedroom? There weren't even appliances in there," the woman said.
"No, I don't think that really counted as a second bedroom because it didn't have a closet, that practically was a closet!" the man said.
"How would we ever have company overnight?" the woman said.
"Excuse me," I said, sitting up. "Is there an apartment for sale in this building? A two-bedroom?"
"Oh, actually, there is," the woman said, her upper lip curling. "It's on the eighth floor. It was a foreclosure, that's why all the appliances were missing. Awful."
"Thank you!" I cried, picking up Lily. "Lily Bean, tell Tony we're going to check out the apartment on the eighth floor! Tell my Grams!"
"Bye, Ton-eeee!" Lily said.
"Bye, Lily!" Tony shouted.
I pressed the elevator and it opened with Grams in it. "There's an apartment for sale. It's on the eighth floor and I want to see it," I said.
"There's an empty one in this building?"
"Yeah! Come on!"
We didn't have to search up and down the halls, there were signs pointing to it and there was a real estate agent closing it up.
"Hi!" I cried. "Hi, my name's Alexis Castle and I'd like to see this apartment, please? If you have a moment."
"Of course! I'm so glad you're interested! I was about to lock up."
"This is my grandmother, Martha Rogers, and this is my daughter, Lily. We just want a look."
She opened the door and flipped the lights on.
The apartment had obviously been professionally cleaned, but the kitchen sported no appliances except the kitchen sink. We walked through, and it felt a little drafty, but there was a fireplace in the living room with a gas log fireplace for the heating element. The main bedroom was big for Manhattan standards, but the little second bedroom could have passed for a large closet.
"This i'my room!" Lily cried, as we walked into the tiny closet of a room.
"Yeah, I think this room is Lily-sized," I agreed.
The bathroom was on the other side of the second bedroom and had a door that went into the kitchen. The kitchen and the bathroom were lined in white tiles with 1930's inspired oyster-style tiles on the floor in white. It probably was that old, this was a pre-war building. The bathtub was a large, porcelain claw-foot tub that had been taken care of and a matching, old-fashioned toilet, and stand-alone sink. I guessed the old owners never got around to selling those things off for the mortgage. It didn't have any bathroom lighting fixtures, just a bare lightbulb hanging from a cord, but I didn't care; that was a quick fix, Dad probably had an old light fixture in storage we could use.
"Oh, would you look at this?" Grams asked. "How do you even get a tub this large in Manhattan without paying a million dollars for an apartment?"
"How much is the asking price?" I asked.
"Well, if I told you… you wouldn't believe it," she said.
"How much?" I asked, hoping it met the budget Dad had set aside for our own place.
She wrote something down on a piece of paper and showed it to me.
It was within $5000 of the budget.
"There's no negotiation," she said. "You're dealing with the bank on this one, and they just want to recoup their losses from the foreclosure. That's the price they're going to accept for it, take it or leave it."
"Can I have your card?" I asked. "I'm going to bring my parents by sometime and see what they think of it. Are there any offers on it?"
"No, actually, not at the moment," she got out her card for me.
"Thank you!" I cried. "Thank you for taking the time to show us! We've got to get going!"
Grams, Lily, and I were ecstatic about the apartment when we burst into the loft. Lily was screaming, and once I got her stop, I explained, excitedly. "If it's just us, it's perfect!" I cried. "It's within our price range, Lily and I wouldn't have to share a room, and it's just big enough for us to grow into in the next few years!"
"We'll get a boudoir for your clothes and I think Lily's bed would fit in the second bedroom, but it is!" Grams agreed. "And it's in Manhattan, what luck!"
"It's perfect for Lily and me!" I said. "It really is!"
"I want to see it," Dad said. "But no promises."
"You'll love it!" I said.
Two days later, the real estate agent met us and as Dad walked around the apartment, I waited for his response to it. "I think Lily will out-grow that room by the time she's ten," he said.
"But we could rent it out and I'd get my own place by then," I begged. "I'll be a LCSW in a few years! I'll be out and on my own, I might even get a job outside of New York."
"There's no appliances, we'd have to buy them all. But it's in Manhattan!"
"Yeah!" I cried. "And I'm only like two subway stops away from your apartment! And only like five from NYU!"
"I love the idea of Alexis and Lily living so close by," Kate added. "All the other apartments we could get were in Brooklyn. She can just drop Lily off on her way to school! She'd have to put Lily in day care if she moved to Brooklyn."
"Please, Dad?" I begged.
"Peeeeaaase Ganpa?" Lily begged, too. I picked her up.
"Peeeeasse?" we chorused together.
"You can't say no to either of these faces," I reminded him.
"Alright, we can interview with the tennant's association," he said.
By October, we were raking through Dad's things in storage, picking out furniture, area rugs, glasses and plates, and moving things into my own apartment. He had some lighting fixtures installed in the kitchen and bathrooms and the walls painted, and it was looking livable.
"This is the way it should have been done," I admitted as we put post-it notes on the things we wanted the movers to take out. "Back my sophomore year of college."
"I would have bought you an apartment if you asked me," Dad said. "For you to live in alone, without… Pi." Dad still snarled his name, unintentionally. He was still pretty pissed off at Pi. He and Kate even stopped using his name to describe pies and the mathematical term. "Why couldn't you have moved in with a friend?"
"What is it you always say? Perfect hindsight is always 20/20?" I asked.
"You got me there," he admitted.
Our apartment was set up and the appliances arrived later that day. Lily and I were ready to live on our own.
"What do we do first?" I asked Lily when Grams, Tara, Ellen, Kate, and Dad left and the place was set up. "Let's do something Grandpa and Nanny wouldn't let us do! This is OUR place!"
"Jump on 'da bed!" Lily cried.
"Yeah!" I cried, although I didn't want her jumping by herself. I took her hands and bounced her on the bed. It was good to have our own place.
The day before Halloween, my office had a trick-or-treating event for the Boys and Girl's Club and for the people who had kids and wanted to bring them around. I wore a white dress with angel wings and gave out candy to the kids that came by. I heard Lily's voice over the commotion.
"...and I tell him, this is the place we play," she was saying.
"Lily, is that you?" I called, getting up from my desk. "Lily, did you come to see me at work?"
Dad was escorting Lily into my office, and she was in a bumblebee costume for Halloween. Dad was wearing a tweed suit and a bow tie and red fez.
"Yeah, I thought I'd show her off," he said.
"You look so good!, Lily!" I said. "Really busy like a bumblebee should!"
"I am!" Lily said, holding up her plastic jack-o'lantern. "I get candy!"
"What are you supposed to be, Dad?" I asked.
Dad looked insulted. "The Eleventh Doctor. Matt Smith?"
"Is Kate going to be Amy or Clara?"
"Neither. She's going as Holly Golightly."
We took Lily around and introduced her. She racked up, but I caught Dad stealing a few pieces out of her bag. In the English Department, more than a few of the professors recognized Dad. He introduced me and explained I wrote a blog that had a large following. "You know, it's internet blogs that have the best opportunity for exposure these days," the professor told me. "I've seen your blog. Quite well-done, but I only read a few blogs. Is it just about being a mother?"
"It's more about how I had a child on my own while going to Columbia. I just graduated from there a few weeks ago."
"And you're here, now?"
"Yes, I didn't want to leave my family," I admitted.
We talked for a few more minutes and I realized Lily wasn't in sight.
"Lily?" I asked. "Excuse me, my daughter's missing. Lily!"
"Mommy!" her little soprano rang out across the maze of cubicles.
"I got her!" a man's voice said. He stood up and he held Lily up and she was grinning. I dashed to the cube to retrieve her.
"Lily, you scared me!" I cried, picking her up. "What were you doing?"
"Toys!" she said gleefully, holding one up.
"Yeah," the man said, giving a half-smile. I had to admit he was cute, though, his scruff of a beard against his mop of unruly black hair. Oh wait. He kind of looked like Pi. "I didn't have any more candy, sorry. A scary vampire cleaned me out." He had a Southern accent and friendly, warm blue eyes. "She came around saying, 'trick or treat' and I couldn't let her go without something."
I noticed a few military plaquards and pictures around his cubicle. He had an American Flag folded in a triangle on a shelf over his desktop. "Ben Haversham."
"It's nice to meet you, but Lily, haven't we talked about going off without Mommy or Grandpa or Nanny?" I asked her.
Lily bowed her head, but smirked. Stinker.
"We introduced ourselves," he said.
She still had a little plastic action figure in her hand, which I wrung out, but she started to cry. "Here," I said. "I didn't mean for her to bother you."
"Nah, it's alright," he said. "She can keep it."
"You know, she looks just like you."
"I get that a lot. I think it's just the red hair. Again, sorry to bother you!"
"You didn't, Alexis."
I had turned to leave, but I stopped in my tracks. "How do you know my name?"
"Your blog," he said quickly. "You're kind of famous around this department for it."
I realized I was being rude, but Lily was wriggling in my arms. She wanted to be put down, so I did, but held onto her right hand with my left one so she didn't run off. "Hi, it's nice to meet you," I said, sticking my hand out. "I didn't catch your name, I'm sorry."
He stook my hand. "Ben Haversham. I'm a MFA student."
"Oh," I said, nodding. "I'll see you around the office, I'm sure."
"You and Lily have a good Halloween, alright?"
"We will." I guided Lily back to where Dad was waiting.
A/N- I don't know if you've ever lost a child, but it's a heart-pounding moment. Trust me, Alexis will experience this again in this story, at least once!