AN: My abject apologies. I had absolutely no intention of reposting this. I was only trying to make a few corrections to Chapter 1 last night and didn't realize something went astray. I've discovered that I somehow managed to delete Chapter 1 but had reposted everything from Chapter 2 to the end. I've replaced chapters with corrected ones often and they've never reposted. No clue what happened this time. After looking for ways to correct this, it looks like the only thing I can do is delete it from the site completely, which I also didn't intend to do. If anyone has advice on how to correct the error, please let me know. Until then, I'm going to try adding Chapter 1 back to the story. (Fingers crossed.) It's enough to think a new story was posted and find it isn't new, worse yet to see that the first chapter is missing.

Coming Home

The night Alexis showed up at the loft and asked if she could move back home, Castle sat and talked to her; and between them, they arranged a plan to help her take care of the lease obligations and move back into her room at the loft. He suspected that Kate had a hand in Alexis's being more open to the idea of coming home; but neither Kate nor Alexis had mentioned it, so he let it go in favor of being relieved that his daughter seemed to have returned to being his sensible child. As their plan took shape, Alexis let it slip that Kate had encouraged her to come home, so they ran their plan past her and asked if she had anything to add. Castle pointed out that they would officially be a family within a few months and they should all be part of the planning; so Kate asked a couple of questions and made a suggestion after both of them talked to her, and then Alexis went back to her apartment.

"I keep thinking I can't love you any more than I do, but you keep finding ways to prove me wrong," Castle said when he closed the door behind his daughter, and he draped an arm around his fiancé's shoulders as they walked toward the sofa. "Thank you, Kate."

"For what?"

"For getting Alexis to see that she doesn't have to punish herself long-term for making a mistake…for being the last link in getting her to come home and regroup where there are people who love her."

"I didn't do that much."

"Most of the women I've known wouldn't have done anything at all, but you did. It's part of your extraordinariness," he answered, squeezing her shoulder gently.

She looked up and grinned at him. "Is that even a word, Mr. Writer?"

"It was coined just for you. You should feel honored," he answered playfully.

"I do," she said more seriously, "every day we're together. So, thank you." She turned and moved closer to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. "I still can't understand why you were willing to wait for me."

"My new word explains it," he said with an answering smile, closing his arms around her waist and dropping a little kiss on her lips. "I could see it from the beginning, and I didn't want to lose that."

She planted an appreciative kiss on his lips in return before getting back to the subject at hand. "Sounds like you and Alexis have her move all worked out. You look relieved. You look happy."

"I am happy." He gave her one of his lopsided smiles. "You actually went and encouraged my little girl to come home."

"She isn't a little girl anymore, Rick. You're going to have to learn to deal with that."

"I know," he sighed. "I just hate having to admit it. The point is that my family will be intact for a little longer. We're an eclectic crowd, but we're a good family…my mother, my daughter…my wife…almost wife."

"And the man of the house," she added.

He pulled her into a close embrace and rested his head on hers. "Can we try to have a little Castle boy baby when the time is right? I love this family; but I'm outnumbered three to one, and given last year's surprise party, I know you're all capable of conspiring against me. I need back-up."

Kate laughed and pulled away to look at him. "You know you loved it…the party, and the fact that we all conspired."

"Yeah. It was pretty awesome."

"And Alexis is coming back on your birthday. Way better than a murder mystery party."

"Same awesomeness, different genre," he assured her.

Kate slid her hands down his arms and took his hands in hers. "I'm not worried about your mom, but your daughter…do you think she's really okay with my being here when she comes home? I thought Alexis and I were okay when you and I first got together; but since you proposed, it feels different."

"Mother has adopted you as the daughter she never knew she wanted. That's never happened before. And Alexis doesn't seem to have a problem with you. She was angry with me, and you were caught in the middle…and I'm sorry that happened. Now that she's thinking more like herself again, I think she understands the circumstances. And none of us can deny that she didn't decide to come home until after you talked to her. I think that bodes well."

"I hope so."

"Mother and I know so."

"Well, for whatever reason, she's coming back home. Can I interest you in some celebratory ice cream?"

"You still have to ask?"

Taking his hand, she led him to the breakfast bar in the kitchen. "Sit down, and I'll get it. You want Rocky Road?"

"Why don't we try that new Ben and Jerry's? That looked good. Just open it and grab a couple of spoons."

They sat side by side at the breakfast bar with the open carton between them, eating their ice cream and talking between bites.

"So she's going to call and let you know how much you need to put in her account to take care of the lease?"

"She said she'll talk to the landlord after her morning classes and text me. Ordinarily I'd have my attorney take care of it, but she said the landlord is a good guy – grew up in the neighborhood and lives in the building himself, takes good care of his tenants; so I won't give the guy a hard time. She seems to think he'll be fair. If it doesn't seem fair to me, I'll talk to him."

He ran his hand through his hair and took in a deep breath, releasing it sharply. "I don't know what got into her. It was like she was intent on pushing every button she knew would set me off…like she had forgotten every rule of courtesy I ever taught her. I'm so glad she's coming home, but I'm not sure how to handle it. I don't want to greet her at the door with a rule book, but I can't let her walk all over us like that again. She's apologized for being so angry with me, but she has yet to even mention the kind of hell she put us through with Pi."

"I doubt you'll have to remind her again about general courtesy…and you can look for an opening to talk to her about it if you need to…or lay down the law if you see it happening again. She was trying to establish her independence and made some bad choices. I think we'll just have to play it by ear."

"It feels good to hear you say 'we'."

"We're partners, right?"

"Right. For a long time to come."

He leaned and kissed her cheek with his cold mouth, and she pulled away with a little squeal. "Ice cream lips," she protested, which only encouraged more cold kisses and squealing.

That was when Martha got home. She stopped just inside the doorway, smiling, to watch the show while there was still enough noise and movement that they didn't realize she was home. When Castle had sufficiently warmed his lips all over Kate's face and the foolishness had resolved itself into laughter, Martha let her presence be known and walked toward them, leaving her purse on the sofa.

"Richard, will you ever grow up? Katherine, you have my sympathy…as well as my deepest gratitude for putting up with him."

Kate grinned at her future mother-in-law. "Get yourself a spoon, Martha. We're trying a new flavor, and it's great."

"The two of you are in a good mood," she answered, opening the drawer to find a spoon. "Any particular reason, or is it simply love in the air?" When she mentioned love in the air, there was a typical Martha flourish with the hand holding the spoon.

"A little of both, Mother."

"Then what, pray tell, is the occasion?" she asked, digging the spoon into the ice cream and humming briefly in pleasure at her first taste.

"Alexis is moving back home soon. My amazing fiancé convinced her."

"Well done, darling," she said, looking at Kate in surprise. "I don't know how you managed that, but thank you."

"She'll probably want to move back to the dorm or into another apartment in the fall," Castle answered, but I'll feel better that she'll be here for a while. I just need to see that she's really okay before she leaves again. I…" His voice trailed off as he absent-mindedly poked his spoon in the ice cream.

"You're a good dad, Richard Castle," Kate told him. "Don't you ever doubt that."

"And I couldn't ask for a better son," Martha added, snagging another spoon of ice cream.

"And you're the best fiancé I could have found," Kate added with a little peck on his cheek.

"The two of you are actually building my ego?" Castle asked in feigned shock.

"See? Sometimes it isn't so bad when we gang up on you," Kate answered. "Apparently ice cream helps set the mood."

He innocently took another bite of the Ben and Jerry's and leaned over to kiss her cheek with very cold lips again, landing several before she could pull away.

"Aaaaand there goes the moment," Kate laughed.

Martha smiled and put her spoon in the dishwasher, turning and walking to pick her purse up from the sofa. I'm going to bed, children. Try to keep the noise level down while you're playing." Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, she turned back with a smirk and said, "Well that could be interpreted a couple of ways. Keep that noise down, too."

"Mother…" Castle groaned.

Not turning around again, she waved him off as she climbed the stairs.

Kate leaned her head on his shoulder, and he turned to kiss it. "Sorry about that," he apologized.

"It's Martha," she grinned. "I was waiting for it."

"You were taking care of my self-esteem…stroking my ego," he said with a pleased, smirky little smile.

"Wanna go see what else I can find to stroke?" she whispered mischievously.

Without a word, Castle grabbed their spoons and dropped them in the sink, put the lid on the ice cream container and put it away, then picked up his fiancé, threw her over his shoulder fireman style, and carried her off to their room, growling and making caveman noises as she laughed.