The loft sits in pools of warm light, curtains closing out the city and the dark, the fire flickering and lending itself to the general glow of table lamps and wall brackets. The brighter area of light around the kitchen casts multiple shadows across floor and furniture as Alexis sits on one of the stools, books open before her, pen held between her fingers whilst she nibbles unconsciously on the capped end.
Castle has his back to her as he peels carrots, slices peppers and keeps a wary eye on the rice simmering away on the heat. He's been having a mental tug of war, wondering if he should mention Kate to his daughter or not. Ever since Gina and he signed the divorce papers he has never brought any of his affairs home, always going back to their places or heading for a hotel, ensuring page six and family were kept as far apart as possible.
Not that Kate is an 'affair' … he's not sure what she is exactly … ok, he knows what he would like her to be, but she seems reluctant to share with him and previously he'd have been quite happy to walk away and look for greener fields elsewhere. But there is something about her that has sunk claws into his gut, burns electricity along his skin and whispers into the empty parts of his soul.
"You ok Dad?"
He startles into awareness, turns his head to look at his daughter and realises he's still standing over a half-sliced pepper, knife held mid-air, the bubbling of the rice the only sound in the loft. He places the knife on the board, checks the rice is still ok and turns round, settling back against the worktop and crossing his arms as he looks at his daughter.
She's staring back at him, blue eyes slightly concerned, pen still clasped in her upraised hand, the capped tip an inch from her mouth. He gives her a smile, trying for the childish Dad he's used to playing. His daughter shakes her head slightly and he gives up, drops his arms and leans forward, resting both large hands on the counter between them.
"What do you think of Kate?" he asks, trying for casual.
Alexis caps the pen and places it on the granite top, closes her books and carefully stacks them before sliding them to one side. Crossing her arms on the worktop before her she gives her father an innocent look. "What should I be thinking of her?"
Castle knows his girl much too well to be taken in by the innocent approach. Oh shit! He's in for an adult talk by the looks of things. Part of him can't help grinning at the thought, but he's careful to keep it off his face.
"Well, as you know, she's helping me with background and information for the new book" here he pauses a bit, wondering how to broach the next bit and how much he can give away without upsetting Kate should she find out. "She also lost her mother some time ago, she was murdered …" and he sees the shock register on his daughter's face "… and I offered to help her try and find out more about it …"
"Why should you be helping her, Dad? Surely the police are the ones to deal with that?"
"They did, back in the day … only it was put down to random gang violence. Kate thinks there was more to it and I offered to help …"
"Dad! That could be dangerous!" she interrupts him.
"Its old information I'll be looking at Pumpkin, not a live case, I won't be going out to interview gang members or anything like that!"
"No Dad, I know you, you'll think you'll have found some lead and then you'll be off investigating … yes, you'll tell yourself you'll contact the police as soon as you have anything concrete, but that's just it, you won't know if you're in danger or not until it turns round and bites you!"
He has to silently agree with his daughter, he might pretend he's just going to investigate background information, but she knows him better than anyone and what she's saying is true. And of course, that is what makes it all the more appealing, the possible danger though he's the first to admit he'd run at the first sign of trouble. But the lure of a mystery is what gets his pulse racing … and if the lure involves Kate Beckett in some way …
"Alexis, I promise I won't go anywhere remotely dangerous, I'll only be looking into reports and files and maybe trying to come up with other ideas … and if anything does need investigating I'll have a word with Detectives Esposito and Ryan"
"Yeah Dad, like they're going to drop whatever case they're working on just to follow one of your hunches!"
He gives her a pained look, "I'd like to inform you, daughter mine, that when I was with them some of my insights were extremely helpful!"
"Yes, of course Dad, which was why Detective Ryan handcuffed you to the car and Detective Esposito threatened to shoot you …"
He has the decency to show some embarrassment at the memories but quickly recovers with "That was only the first week! After that I was very helpful!"
Alexis shakes her head but she knows there's no point in trying to reason with her Dad on these matters. She's also aware that the original question is still hanging out there waiting to be answered.
"Ok, so she's helping you with the book and you're helping her with her Mum's murder investigation … and what else?"
Castle rubs his chin, glad his mother isn't present, dealing with his daughter's cross-examination is bad enough, having Martha throwing in her two bits worth would be lethal.
"I don't know Pumpkin, there's something about her … I'd like to know more, but she's pretty skittish and I wouldn't want to put anyone in a difficult situation …" he was about to add if she thinks she's not welcome here but pauses, not wanting to force the issue or make it all about Kate even though she was the point of the conversation.
"It's ok Dad, I quite liked her … just … just be careful ok?"
He moves round the island, drops his arms round his daughter and gives her a hug as he drops a kiss on her head. "Thanks Pumpkin, I appreciate it"
"Uhm, not that I don't like your hugs Dad, but I think I can smell burning rice!"
The rice can't be rescued in time, it's a bit overcooked and stuck to the bottom of the pan, so he empties the pot, leaves it to soak, puts another pot on to boil and continues chopping veg whilst talking to Alexis about school and what she has lined up for Christmas, now less than two months away. Their conversation is interrupted by the ringing of Castle's phone and asking Alexis to keep an eye on things he makes for the coffee table where his phone's lying next to a book on New York's architecture.
Picking it up he sees the incoming call is from Kate, so waving to Alexis he indicates the study and makes his way through the doorway, round his desk and drops into his chair, finger swiping across the screen and a quiet "Hey" being directed at the microphone.