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First Year of College

"You have no idea how nice it was to have real home-cooked food and not more pizza," Alexis bemoaned as Kate handed her a refill of her soda and settled herself on the couch next to her. "After the first couple of months in the dorms I couldn't even stand the smell of pepperoni."

"Well, for some the alternative is just applying that greasy cheese directly to the thighs since that's where it ends up," Kate joked.

They both laughed and a few seconds of silence fell over them as Kate sipped her wine.

"I love college," Alexis said thoughtfully. "It's all of the knowledge seeking I hoped it would be when I was in high school with far less of the childish boy-girl game playing."

"But..." Kate prompted.

"But I get homesick," Alexis admitted. "I miss my dad, my gram, my friends..." She waved her hand at Kate's windows. "I miss New York even."

"You said in your email that your mom visits a lot."

"More than I wish she did!" Alexis huffed, smiling. "It's like she misses me more now that I'm away at college than she ever did when I was in high school. It's weird."

"Her baby girl is growing up," Kate said knowingly. "She's probably panicking that you'll be an adult and she will have missed all your teen years."

"My dad's not like that though." Alexis stared into her soda for a moment. "I mean he visits, but only when I ask him to and assure him it's okay. I know he can afford to come visit as much as he wants since he doesn't have a full time job keeping him in New York..."

"Not one we pay him for anyway," Kate teased. "But he keeps showing up anyway." The both of them shared a friendly laugh, but then Kate's expression grew serious. "It's because he loves you. Your father wants to give you the kind of space you need to figure out who you want to become."

Alexis nodded. "I can see that."

"He's deathly afraid you'll become an accountant or something similarly boring," Kate tossed out, grinning. "But I know he'll support you with whatever you decide."

"Actually..." Alexis' face lit up. "I'm thinking about going into law."

-

Second Year of College

"That was fun!" Alexis declared, plopping herself down on Kate's couch with a mock exhalation of exhaustion.

"Well, stir fry usually goes better with two people in the kitchen," Kate agreed, sitting down next to her. She gave Alexis a friendly nudge and raised her eyebrow at her. "So how goes school? You haven't said anything since you came over."

Alexis let her body sink into the couch. "Pre-law is tough, I mean really tough. And competitive. I had no idea how vicious women could be! I mean forget the guys, the girls are the ones who smile at you and offer to help, but they're really just trying to figure out what you're working on so they can one up you!"

"Ah, welcome to the cutthroat world of adult politics," Kate said with a sigh. "And I was so hoping to save that until your junior year." She gestured with her glass towards Alexis. "The next step is trying to find out what you're working on so they can sabotage it. If you find all the books you need at the library are mysteriously already checked out? It's likely someone figured out your topic and is trying to keep you from researching it."

Alexis let out a little chortle. "That must be why my dad said that if I couldn't get a book I needed at the library to just order it on his credit card."

"He tries to take care of you," Kate smirked a little, "in his own special Castle kind of way."

"Yeah, he does." Alexis' expression grew wistful. "You know he sends me care packages during finals? They're filled with all sorts of great junk food when I open them up, but down on the bottom there's always stuff that's good for me too, like dried fruit and trail mix. He sent huge ones when I lived in the dorms, but now that I have an off campus apartment, he sends smaller ones for me and my roommates."

"That sounds like him," Kate mused. "He's all about the instant gratification, but deep down, he's still a dad who only wants the best for his daughter."

"I know. And I love that he's cool about me wanting to spend at least one of my nights visiting hanging out with you."

"I bet he'd love to be a fly on the wall for our visits," Kate pointed out.

"Oh, he'd love to be right next to us, painting our toenails and dishing dirt!" Alexis laughed out loud, a clear sound that was starting to lose its girlish edge and sound a bit more mature.

"If he thinks we're wasting our time painting our toenails he doesn't deserve to come." Kate clinked glasses with Alexis.

"But as far as the dishing dirt goes..." Alexis got a sneaky little grin on her face. "You can't ever tell my dad this." She lowered her voice to a near whisper. "But a couple of weeks ago? I kissed a girl!"

-

Third Year of College

"So you don't think that's a valid precedent?"

Kate waved Alexis over to the couch as they brought their drinks from the dining room table to the living room. "I do, but the issue is will a judge and I've never heard of one accepting it as a precedent in a case like that."

"Crud," Alexis complained. "I really need to show up this guy in my criminal law class. He's not only really good, he's really cocky. I just don't know what it's going to take to show I'm better than him."

"Have you talked to your dad about it?" Kate asked.

Alexis rolled her eyes. "Talking about the law bores him. He only likes juicy cases, you know that."

"I meant more about being a cocky guy who's full of himself. If anyone would know how to take him down a peg it would be your dad - if you can get him to admit anyone has taken him down a peg."

Alexis brightened. "I should ask my gram! She'd totally have any dirt on when that would have happened to my dad."

"And armed with that knowledge, you can bribe him to spill the details." Kate gave her a look. "You know you'll need incentives. Men like Castle do not just up and expose their wounded egos without some sort of reward."

"I'm sure I can come up with something," Alexis pondered. "So how about you? Any new love in your love life?"

"You know the phrase 'all work and no play'?" Kate let out a long breath. "You can't ever tell your father this, but some weeks the only fun I have is having him around. If he wasn't there it would be just work, work, work and I'd probably go postal and bite someone's head off."

Alexis gave her a nudge. "Why don't you come skiing with us? A bunch of us girls are taking a long weekend to go skiing and snowboarding. You could come - as my guest - and stay in my cabin. Come on... You could use a getaway. Especially if my dad's the only fun in your life."

Kate swirled the wine in her glass. "It has been a while since I've hit the slopes."

"Done!" Alexis said triumphantly. "You're coming. Kevin and Javier will have to hold the criminal element at bay for four days while you get some well deserved R and R."

"With those two in charge? God help New York," Kate joshed.

"It could be worse," Alexis teased. "You could leave my dad in charge!"

-

Fourth Year of College

"Champagne?" Alexis looked up in surprise as Kate handed her a flute. "But I'm still not technically twenty-one yet."

"I think this cop can look the other way for once and give you the benefit of a few months. Besides, making it into Harvard Law School is something worth celebrating."

"That's what my dad said, but I still think he might have cried a little writing the check for my tuition," she chuckled.

"He can afford it," Kate said dismissively. "I mean the first Nikki Heat movie grossed enough to cover your entire college career. He just hates parting with the money."

"I think he hates knowing I'll be gone for three more years getting my J.D.," Alexis said, taking a sip. "I'm afraid to tell him I'm interested in the S.J.D. program."

"What's that?"

"It's the Doctor of Juridical Science program. It's designed for people who want to teach law."

"Oh, that would be nice. I could see you teaching law at like Columbia or Fordham..."

"Your not so subtle way of telling me you want me back in New York as well?" Alexis taunted.

"What can I say?" Kate shrugged. "I enjoy our little visits and would love to see more of you. That and I don't think I can put up with your father whining about not seeing his only daughter, the love of his life, his sole offspring..." Kate's voice grew melodramatic and she mocked him with the back of her hand to her forehead, overacting on purpose.

Alexis just laughed. "Not to worry. New York is my home. I can't imagine living anywhere else. I mean, Cambridge is cool and my semester abroad in London was amazing, but this..." She paused a moment to gaze out the window. "This is home."

"I know what you mean," Kate echoed. "I've traveled, did the semester abroad thing in college, but no matter how many times it breaks my heart, I keep coming back to New York."

"I've been thinking..." Alexis began tentatively. "I mean, I don't have to tell you how much of an inspiration you've been to me - and my dad."

"Well, thank you," Kate said, bowing her head.

"Watching you and him over the years? Solving crimes, keeping the streets safe, putting the bad guys away..." Her face brightened. "I want to be a part of that too." She edged closer. "I told my advisor I want to be a prosecutor."

"Wow... That's a tough life." Kate took a deep breath. "But from the lawyers I know who do it? It's damned rewarding. It's low pay, long hours, little appreciation, but getting criminals put away for long sentences? Yeah, I can see why they do it."

"You catch them," Alexis said, her face intent. "But that's only half the job. Someone else has to make sure the case is solid, the trial goes through and the sentence is fair for the crime. I want to do that. My dad might have gotten into law enforcement for his books, but now that I've been exposed to that world?" She nodded her head, her decision firm. "I want in."

-

Graduation of Law School

"Kate!"

Kate found Alexis in the crowd of graduates by the color of her hair, but just barely.

"You cut your hair off!" she exclaimed, hugging her.

"I figured it's time I look more professional," Alexis explained. "My dad hates it, which is to say he says he likes it while he's doing that little wrinkling of the nose thing that means he's not happy."

"I know that nose thing! I've caught him doing it!" Kate laughed. "Where is he?"

"He was here a minute ago..." Alexis turned around and around. "I think he lost my gram in the crowds so he went off to find her."

"Wow, look at you..." Kate held her at arm's length. "Alexis Castle... Attorney at Law."

"Well, I still have to pass the bar, but yeah..." Alexis might be a grown woman, but at times her girlish smile still shone through. "It's pretty cool. Mostly I'm just in awe of the fact that I'm out of school after all these years."

"And headed home to New York we hope."

"Most definitely!" Alexis groaned. "I can't wait! I think I may gain ten pounds just hitting the old restaurants I remember out of nostalgia."

"Well, take me with you to a few and I'll sneak you in the NYPD's boxing gym for a workout afterwards. That is, if you're up to some sparring."

"Yes!" Alexis practically bounced on her heels. "I'm so glad I took your advice and added boxing and martial arts training to my studies. It's kept me in great shape and now I feel prepared to defend myself if, god forbid, something should happen."

"Being a prosecutor in New York's not the easiest job," Kate warned. "We should probably work next on getting you a gun and a carry permit."

Alexis stilled, sobering. "You're right. All the prosecutors I interviewed before I made my decision all carry for their protection and for their families. I don't like guns, but that's all the more reason to spend my career putting people who abuse them in jail."

Kate gave her arm a squeeze.

"I never thought I'd find myself saying this? But spoken like a true Castle."