A/N: Hi and welcome back! This is a sequel to Lost Dreams and won't make much sense if you haven't read that story first. It'll be a little different this time but I still hope you enjoy. Comments, advice and constructive criticism are always welcome.
The March wind was brisk and Richard Castle pushed his icy fingers into the depth of his coat pockets, blowing out a deep breath that curled in the air.
He'd been standing in front of this brick building for the past fifteen minutes and it had been at least ten minutes since the bell rang, announcing the end of another school day.
Louis had dropped his backpack at his feet and gone back inside the school yard to play ball with some friends while they waited for Alexis and her friends to join them. The girls always took their sweet time.
A prestage of teenage rebelling - Castle was sure of it.
At last, Alexis and her three friends traipsed out of the brick building. The redhead spotted her father, but continued walking, barely darting a glance at him.
Castle waved Louis over. The boy said goodbye to his friends, grabbed his backpack and sighed as he saw Alexis about three hundred yards ahead of them.
They started trotting after the girls, heads bowed against the wind.
This is how far it had come. At the end of the last semester, Alexis had decided being twelve and all she was now too old to be picked up from school by her parents. She would turn a blind eye if Kate picked her up, but her own father had to hide behind bushes or next to a car and only received a scowl if he dared to make eye contact.
Going home by herself had even been one of her top three wishes for Christmas, but after the horror stories Kate had told him, there was no way his baby girl would ever walk the streets of New York on her own.
The walk from the school to their loft was short and he refused to send Alexis a car twice a day or let her take the school bus; he wanted her to get some exercise and fresh air, especially after sitting in a stuffy class room for hours on end.
So he had talked to a few of Alexis' near-by living classmates and their parents, and now the adults took turns patrolling after the almost-teenagers every morning and afternoon.
Louis and another girl's little sister had been banned from walking with the big girls and had to stay back with the adults. It wasn't ideal and Louis liked to sneak up behind the girls and walk with them for everyone to see, how embarrassing, but this way, Alexis got to spread her wings a little and Castle himself was slowly getting used to his little girl floundering for more independence.
"Hey, how'd your math quiz go?" Castle asked, suddenly remembering that Louis had spent all of last week studying.
Louis shrugged and squinted up at him. "Three digit decimals are really hard."
"That doesn't sound too optimistic," Castle noted, pulling a hand out of his pocket to give Louis an encouraging pat on the back.
"They are hard," Louis insisted. "But I think I did okay. I just didn't have time to double check all the answers."
"I'm sure you did fine."
Castle was never worried about grades. With his daughter he needn't be, and Louis did alright. He loved science and engineering, and did well in math and history and gym class, and with his help, he also got decent grades in English.
"Just don't tell mom anything, okay? I don't want her to get all frustrated until there is an actual reason." Louis was batting his eyes and Castle let out a small laugh, showing him his palms in surrender. "I won't tell her," he promised.
Louis had originally received a partial scholarship to attend Marlowe Prep, but now that Kate was his wife, they had to pay the fees. It wasn't a problem for them, not at all, Castle would invest anything in their children's education, but Kate's eyes had almost bulged out of her head when she'd seen just how much the tuition and books and uniforms cost. And now she was taking every opportunity to remind Louis of that and encouraged him to study harder.
There was nothing wrong with that, but in Castle's opinion, school shouldn't only be about studying and doing homework - it should be fun too.
The first of the girls arrived at her house and Castle watched until she was within the safety of four cement walls and a locked door before he and Louis hurried to catch up with the other girls.
"One day I'll be tall enough to watch out for the girls," Louis told him with a sweet smile. "Then you won't have to go anymore."
He'd rather his kids stayed small and in need of their parents.
"Hey babe," Kate rushed out, planting a fleeting kiss on his lips before greeting both children.
"Case solved?" Castle asked, chopping mushrooms on the kitchen island.
Kate shook her head. "And I have to go back in after dinner. I'm catching up on paperwork for Ryan."
"Oh. Really?" He tried hard to hide his disappointment, but judging by the kiss Kate pressed to his cheek, he failed.
"Come on," she cajoled. "He has a four month old baby at home. And he and Espo covered for me all the time last year so I could sneak home for half an hour during the day." Her pelvis bumped into his hip and a sly smile played across his lips.
Castle set the knife aside and turned to wrap his arms around her waist."They used to have sympathy with us poor newlyweds."
Kate, still in her heels, bumped her nose against his. "And I have sympathy with you." Her hands splayed across his chest, thumbs rubbing circles over his pecs. "I really have been working a lot, so maybe, I could hurry with Ryan's paperwork and rush home to you for some one-on-one time?"
She bit her lip as he nodded eagerly, and when he pulled her even closer, a smile broke free. "You'd like that?" she asked, teasing him now, because how was that even a question?
"Very much," he admitted, bending his head to accept her kiss.
"Eww," came Louis' disgusted voice from the couch, but there was a laugh in there somewhere.
"Hey, that was barely a peck," Castle defended them. "If that grosses you out already, then you should just see-"
A dishtowel swatted at his biceps, and Kate hissed, "Castle!"
"Sorry," he said, pulling up his shoulders and ducking.
"TMI, you guys." Alexis' voice floated down the stairs, followed by the redhead herself, and she plopped down on a barstool in front of them.
"Are we the uncool parents now?" Castle asked, his focus returning to the mushrooms while Kate stirred the rice in the pot.
Alexis tilted her head to the side, plopped a grape from the fruit bowl into her mouth and chewed while pretending to think hard. "Nah," she grinned at last. "You guys are still pretty cool. I'm lucky."
"I'll remind you of that in a year," Castle smirked. Though he wasn't truly worried; Alexis was responsible, had good grades and he liked her friends. She had been rolling her eyes a little more often now than in the past and she liked to pretend she was more grown up than she actually was. He was the one that was lucky.
"Hey dad," Alexis said casually, leaning against the doorframe to his office where he was currently trying to meet his next deadline. "Where's Kate?"
"Didn't you hear?" he asked, not looking up from his screen. Just two more paragraphs-
Judging by her tone, it wasn't her first time trying to catch his attention, and he finally tore his eyes from the screen. "What?"
"I need to talk to Kate. Do you know where she is?"
"She had to go back to the precinct. She did say goodnight to you kids though; you must have had your nose stuck in your phone again." He leaned back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest, giving her a look.
"We were discussing a school project," Alexis defended herself, though her cheeks pinked a little in shame. They've talked about this plenty of times, and while he and Kate had been tolerant-it was her first phone after all-Alexis not hearing things or excluding herself from family nights had become a sore point for all of them.
"School talk is fine, just-"
"I know," Alexis replied, looking apologetic. "It won't happen again."
Castle smiled at her and Alexis lifted a hand in a little goodbye wave. "I'll just go upstairs and read till bedtime. I'll come and say goodnight later."
She was already backing away from the door, when Castle called out, "Wait, Alexis. What did you want to talk about?"
Alexis reappeared in the doorframe, suddenly shy. "It's- it's something I want to talk about with Kate."
Her eyes offered an apology, and it wasn't the things she said that hurt most, it was the things she left unsaid. There was something she couldn't talk to him about. Something she only could or only wanted to share with Kate.
"You know you can tell me anything," he started carefully, pushing out of his chair and rounding his desk to rid himself of that barrier between them.
"I know," Alexis hedged, shifting her weight from one foot to another. "But I really want to talk to Kate about it."
His daughter looked so uncomfortable in the dim lights of his office, ready to bolt at any second and he clasped his hands together in front of him and tried to put on what he hoped to be an easy smile. "Okay," he said. "I'll let her know that you wanted to talk to her when she gets home."
"Great," Alexis smiled. "Thanks, dad."
When she left to go upstairs, he remained slumped against his desk, all his fervor to meet his deadline suddenly gone. Betrayal left a bitter taste in his mouth; he had always been her go-to guy, when had that changed?
Twitter & Tumblr: kbymyside