He found her down by the shore, lounging on a beach chair under an umbrella. When he got closer he could see her reading what appeared to be a textbook. He shook his head.
Ever since she was a little girl she demanded to be taken to be taken to the teaching supply store on the second day of summer. She would pick out a workbook or textbook that interested her and work through it all summer. She was his little freak of nature, always wanting to learn.
He didn't even know what book she had chosen this summer. In the last couple of years she had gone by herself to the store and he would find out what it was when she fell asleep with it on her chest or learned something so interesting she just had to share it.
"Soaking up the sun, Pumpkin?" He asked as he came to sit next to her in the sand.
"Hmmm" was the only reply she made. Either she was avoiding conversation or she was way too interested in, what appeared to be, her Russian lesson of the day.
"Hey, Alexis, can I talk to you for a second?" She sighed heavily, but closed the book and turned so that she could see his face. He took that as an invitation to continue. "I'm just worried about you. You haven't been your usual self lately. And I know you're growing up but this seems… I don't know, heavier than that. You've been much quieter lately and everytime I turn around your up and out the door.
"I know you need to spend time with your friends but I can't help but feel as though you are trying to avoid me. I know we've been through a lot these past couple of months, but I just want you to know you can come talk to me, about anything. I miss you and I just want you to be happy." He spoke his piece and then remained quiet, waiting for her to come to him. He was struck with how similar she was to Kate in this respect. Both needed space and time to collect themselves before speaking and neither responded well to being pushed or questioned. He figured the best way to get answers was to leave most of the talking up to her and let her speak all of her mind.
For her part, Alexis was torn. On the one hand, she wanted to stomp her foot and scream and cry and act like a complete two-year-old. She knew that it was a completely irrational way for her to act, but it was partly how she was feeling. On the other hand, she wanted to just keep stewing and stay mad at her father and his partner for the foreseeable future. Then there was the part of her that wanted to sit here and confess all of what she was feeling to her dad, get it all out, and be comforted, hopefully, by her dad. The fact of the matter was: she had missed him too.
"I'm just so confused right now, dad. I'm confused and hurt and sad and I don't know how to feel or what to do, and there are so many emotions and they're all over the place." She took a deep breath and tried to sort out all of her emotions.
Castle couldn't help but assist in her process, "Why don't you just start with one emotion and work your way out from there?"
She nodded her head and looked out to the waves as she decided where to start. "Well, I'm overwhelmingly confused. I'm confused about who I am and who I am supposed to be. I have college applications to fill out and majors to consider and I have my whole life right here in front of me and I don't even know where to begin. I want to go to Stanford, I've always wanted to go to Stanford, but I have no idea what I want to study or who I want to be. I mean, how can I? I'm barely a senior in high school and they want me to choose all of this right now.
"And on top of that, my dad was almost shot at a funeral right in front of me. I mean it's one thing to see Detective Beckett, or anyone really, get shot, but, Dad, I thought you'd been shot. I saw you fall on top of her, I saw you jump in front of her, and, God dad, if you'd been the one dying in the grass… I have no idea what I would've done."
She was out of her chair, pacing by this point. Her voice was raised and he was infinitely glad that this was a private beach. "Did you even think about me before you jumped in front of a bullet? Did you even think about what would happen to me if you had died that day? Well I have because I dream about it almost every night. You're not a cop, Dad. You shouldn't be in the line of fire. You didn't sign up for this, you didn't take an oath, and you don't wear a badge. You're a writer and you're all I have, Dad. You are all I've ever had, you and Gram." She took a deep breath to school her emotions. He almost interrupted to reassure her, but even if he could've found the words he could tell she was far from done.
"And I might have been able to come to terms with that if I didn't have to watch your heart be broken by her every day. At first it was just because of her diagnosis, but it just spiraled from there. She shut you out and she refused to see you and I watched as you retreated farther and farther away because of it. You were so distant and you were not the man I know, or knew. You were so depressed and you didn't write or read or play Xbox. Nothing. It was like you were hollow.
"But you never stopped. You never stopped calling about her or going to see her and I had no idea what to think. I mean, I know you care about her, but something had to give. Every day you came back a little more deflated, a little more detached. I was slowly losing you, dad. It was like you both were shot that day. You were both shattered.
"I was so mad at her. So freaking mad! I watched you try to take a bullet for you. I watched you selfishly and stupidly jump in front of her, and yet she was still ignoring you. How messed up is that? You would have died for her and she wouldn't even talk to you. I know you were trying to shield me from it, but I heard you and Gram talk about it and face it Dad she can't exactly keep her mouth shut." The poor attempt at humor did little to lighten the mood. Alexis turned and walked back to her chair.
"I just can't fathom how you do this. You uprooted your whole life, you let her come stay here with us, and you have done everything for her. I just don't understand. I am hurt that you would bring her here and I am sad because I feel like you've changed. Not just this summer, but over the past three years. You're different now. You smile a little less and you're more serious. You're not the Dad that ate ice cream for breakfast and tried to convince me that my second grade art teacher was an evil genius." Finally, for the first time since she had begun, she looked at her father. "I'm just so lost here."
Her voice was so small that it broke his heart. He realized that he had made a big mistake. Not by jumping in front of a bullet or for loving his partner, but in running under the assumption that his little girl was still little. She was right, he had tried to shield her from everything that was happening. Especially after the day he let her hear the diagnosis. He had seen the horror on her face and he had promised to keep her out of it as much as he could. He thought that maybe he could keep his lives separate. Of course, not forever. And he wanted nothing more than to see Kate and Alexis together and happy. But he thought that at least in the very beginning he could keep his little girl safe and happy at home while he worked with Beckett. He thought this summer he could just put them together again.
He always forgot how mature and intuitive Alexis was. She wasn't his little girl anymore and she deserved to know what was going on. It broke his heart that she hadn't come to him earlier and she had chosen to keep everything inside. Maybe she was a little more like Kate than he thought.
"Alexis, I know what you're going through right now and I know that you don't know exactly who you are right now. It's okay to not know exactly what you want to do. I think you still have plenty of time to decide. I will be here for you to help you in whatever way I can, but this is important for you to do on your own. I can help you get some ideas, but the choice will have to be yours. We have a whole summer to work out your options.
"And You know what, I have changed with my time at the precinct, but I think it's for the better. I've grown up and become a better man. Kate has made me want to become a better man and a better father for you. But come on, it's me we're talking about. And for the record I ate ice cream for breakfast just last week! You have nothing to worry about. Just because I grow up a little doesn't mean that I won't be the same old, embarrassing dad you're used to." He took a deep breath and then started in with the heavy stuff.
"I am not going to apologize for choosing to try and save Kate. I know that's hard to understand and I know that it was a little bit reckless of me, but I just can't bring myself to apologize. I am so sorry for scaring you and for not talking to you about what happened after. I had no idea that you were having so much trouble with this and I would have definitely done more to help you through, and I will starting right now.
"I was still treating you like a little girl and trying to protect you from all that was happening and so I decided it was best to just keep you out of it. I know now that you needed answers and you needed to be kept in the loop. I'm sorry and it won't happen again." He wrestled with himself for a split second on what to say to her, how much to tell her and what would be too much. But then he heard, in a very Beckett-like voice, 'vincit omnia veritas, truth conquers all'. He knew that Kate would want him to be completely honest. "But maybe it would be easier if I told you the whole story…"
They spent the rest of the afternoon sitting under the sun as Castle told his daughter everything. He told her about Kate's mother's murder, she knew the basics, but he went a little more in depth. He told her about Captain Montgomery, about how he brought the case up again, about how much she had been hurt. He left out some of the more graphic and political things out, but by the end she knew the gist of what happened.
Telling the story he realized just how many times Kate had been let down. Her father, Royce, Will, Montgomery, everyone she had trusted had did her wrong. It was a wonder she was still functioning at all. He then realized that he was the only one she had let completely in. He had broken down her walls and she had chosen to trust him with her whole heart. He promised himself to never let her down intentionally again. He would not allow his name to join the list of failures in her life.
He told her about all the times they had broken each other's hearts. He told her everything from before and after the bullet. Maybe it was a little bit much for one sitting, but to be honest it felt good to tell her everything. He wanted her to know the whole truth and knew deep down that she wouldn't settle for anything less. He swore her to secrecy and told her that it was never to be discussed outside the family. It felt good to include her in the little family they had made at the precinct.
Finally, he told her that they were dating. He thought she needed to know and it was only a matter of time before she found out anyway, they were living in the same house after all. She took it well, just nodded her head like she had to everything else. He was glad she wasn't completely opposed, and hoped she would see in time that it was a good thing.
When he was through, they both sat silently for a while. Alexis knew that she had judged Detective Beckett a little too quickly. She didn't know how much the woman had been through. She knew that her mother had been murdered and that the killer had never been caught, but she couldn't believe everything that had been done and said. She was sure that her father had given her the PG version, but she could read between the lines. She even found herself admiring the detective the way she had all those years ago.
She was a little bit ashamed of her actions, but she was glad to have the whole story and it felt good to get everything off of her chest. She knew that it would take a while to get used to the idea of sharing her father and one afternoon didn't solve everything. She actually had a lot more questions for him and for Detective Beckett, honestly, but they were both pretty worn out and she wanted to digest everything she had learned.
After a few minutes, Alexis threw herself into her father's arms. He was a little bit surprised at first, but he soon pulled her into one of his famous bear hugs. It felt good to be comforted by her father and she had no idea what took her so long to come to him.
"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling some Star Wars coming on." He said as he released her.
"YES!" She replied enthusiastically.
"Well then let's go. We need to at least have some dinner before we stuff ourselves with popcorn."
She laughed, the first genuine laugh he had heard from her in a while. "Maybe this new you isn't so bad after all!"And with that they raced back to the house with smiles on their faces.