Disclaimer: I don't own Castle.

Spoilers: None.

Setting: One to two years pre-canon.

Warning: I may be fairly blunt about puberty-related things in here, so if that might squick you, please avoid :P there's nothing in here that's novel or unusual, but all the same, I don't want to anyone to be made uncomfortable by the fic's forwardness.

-Soph


Teething

"Mother, she's teething," Rick hisses.

"What?" a perplexed Martha responds over the static on the phone line. Rick does not blame her for the confused lilt to her voice; considering that Alexis had turned thirteen just two months ago, the last thing Martha would expect should be this sentence.

"She's teething," he explains, slightly panicked. "You know, announcing her way into the teenaged world. Marking herself as a woman."

"Richard…" He can hear the narrowing of his mother's eyes. "Do you mean she's menstruating?"

"Yes!" he exclaims in desperation. "You gotta get over here and help me."

His mother pauses. "Help you do what?"

"I don't know." He waves an indicative hand around, despite the fact that he knows he is on the phone. "Woman things."

"Woman things?" Martha says incredulously. "Richard, you are more than equipped to handle—"

"Don't say it!"

"—menstruation," his mother continues regardless. "Don't be silly. Didn't they teach you Sex Ed in school?"

He splutters. "I—yes, of course they did, but that was fifteen years ago—"

"A woman's cycle has not changed since then."

"—and this is—this is-…. Mother, I need help!"

Martha emits a world-weary sigh. "Richard, you have this under control."

"No, I don't."

"And why not?" she challenges. "You were the one who taught her to braid her hair. You were the one who taught her how to take care of her own hygiene. You were the one, in fact, who bought her her first brassiere."

"Yes, I know, but that was different."

"So you say, but I still fail to see the difference."

"It's—it's real, now." He huffs and drops his shoulders, grumbling. "I raised a little girl, but now, things are changing. I can't be her go-to guy for everything. She's turning into a young woman. She needs a woman's perspective. She needs you. I need you."

His mother is silent for long, drawn-out moment. "You asked me once about getting aroused in your sleep," she finally tells him. Rick almost drops the phone. Oh god. Oh god. "Do you remember that?"

"N-no." He cringes, rubbing a sweaty palm self-consciously on his pants. "I don't."

"You were … twelve, perhaps. And, well, let's just say that you'd gotten a little excited in your sleep. You came to me and asked me—with much embarrassment, I might add—whether you had to be worried about the wet spots that kept appearing on your underwear. It was clear that you did not want to ask me, but you didn't know who else to ask."

Rick stays silent. His face has to be flaming red by now. He should never have said anything at all.

"I was a single mother, Richard. You didn't have any steady male presence in your life at the time. I—I didn't know what to do, but I did know that if I found it awkward, then you had to even more. The thing is, I could have passed you off to one of my male colleagues or even left it to a teacher at your school, but that wouldn't have been as decent as if I had told you what I knew myself. So, I sat you down, and I told you what I could.

"Richard, you're her father," Martha continues, her voice softer now. "If she comes to me, I will tell her what I know; but right now, she has gone to you because that's what little girls do when they have nightmares—they run to their parents. This is her first period. She's scared. Maybe she has had some exposure to this topic beforehand, but that is nothing compared to experiencing it. So, she's run to her daddy, hoping for some reassurance that things are still able to go on as they are."

Rick inhales deeply.

"That's all she needs," Martha concludes firmly. "Anything else, you can find out together. Google, if you must. But all she needs to know is that her father can still help her."

"Okay…" he murmurs, swallowing. "Okay."

That clinches it, probably. He would never let Alexis feel as if she could not still rely on him.

"Good," Martha answers gently. "Now, if there is a factual issue that you need help with, give me a ring. Otherwise, I will be in rehearsal."

Rick chuckles. "'Right. I know better than to disturb you in rehearsal."

"I did raise a good boy," his mother praises chirpily. "Goodbye, Richard. And good luck!"

And then she clicks off, and he is left with dead air. Shaking his head, he brings the phone down from his ear; locks it with one finger and calls out to his daughter at the same time. Alexis approaches gingerly, her walking stilted as if she is attempting to traverse a land mine. (A moment later, he inwardly apologizes for his inappropriate mental analogy.)

"Yeah, Dad?" the girl asks carefully.

"I'm running to the store for a bit; getting some things you need." He presses a kiss to the part in her carrot hair. "You gonna be okay here for a while?"

Alexis shrugs. "I guess so."

"Why don't you run a bath while I'm gone? It'll make you feel better."

She shrugs again. His daughter has been rather subdued since that morning, he has noticed; she had come down for breakfast and stood awkwardly to push food around her plate for five minutes before blurting out her secret. He sobers at the memory. She must feel as uncertain and mortified as he had as a prepubescent teenaged boy.

"Listen," he starts again, "I know I didn't exactly … react properly when you told me, and I know I'm not … Mom, but I will help you figure this out, okay? It's not a big deal."

The hint of a smile glimmers on her lips. "Okay."

"There you go." The smile widens when he gives her an encouraging nudge. "So, go upstairs and take a relaxing bath. I'll be back before you know it."

He grabs the house and car keys from the desk behind him and steps past her; her voice arrests him just as he reaches the doorway of his study.

"Daddy?"

He turns. "Yeah, pumpkin?"

Alexis smiles. "Thank you."

And he nods, giving her his own beam of acknowledgement. "Anytime."