Alexis Castle has been keeping a secret from her father for years... and if things had been different, she'd have been happy to go on keeping it indefinitely.
He's lived a full, mostly content life without ever knowing who his father is. There's a lot of risk involved in being a demigod, just by being born; all Alexis has to do is pick up Graves' Greek Myths, or talk to her recently discovered cousins, or hear about some of the hair-raising almost-disasters of her father's teen years, to know they're trouble magnets from the womb. And if her dad knew the truth? The risks would be so much worse. But everyone from those same cousins to Gram have assured Alexis that she's at much less risk; she's safe to interact on the fringes as long as she doesn't do anything to bring herself to the gods' direct attention.
Ha! It's the normal people she should have been watching out for. They've been back home from Europe for hours already, and she still can't shake the anger and sense of vulnerability that had choked her while she'd waited for another opportunity to try to get away from her kidnappers. The whole experience still doesn't seem real; the snatch off the street with her friend Sara, waking up in a small locked room, trying to escape, realizing she'd been taken to Paris...
...and most of all, meeting the gray-haired man who'd brought her dad safely to her, and then claimed Apollo's place in Richard Castle's life with every evidence of sincerity.
It makes no sense. Why would he say he's her grandfather, when she knows it isn't true? But if it isn't true, then... why the kidnapping? Why'd this 'Jackson Hunt' help them at all?
Alexis can't talk to her dad about it; how would she explain away everything the man had told him without revealing her information source? She can't talk to Gram; she's already tried that, and been met with a brick wall on the subject. Her favorite half-uncle isn't in town at the moment; something's up with the hush-hush agency he works for. And she can't talk to her college friends about it... the real ones at least, not the 'Greek cousins' she refers to that way in front of her father.
She bites her lip, thinking hard, then digs in her pocket for a drachma and turns to the little fountain splashing away on the corner of her desk. Speaking of those cousins, there is one person she could bug at this hour without worrying about interrupting something: one of the very few other mortals out there who can see through the Mist. It doesn't feel right to send an IM at her dad's place where someone might overhear, but he's probably still busy making it up to Beckett for taking off on his own, not that Alexis wants any details; and Gram's already in on the secret.
She turns on the lamp behind the fountain, then fiddles with the water flow setting to make sure there's plenty of fine mist above the tiered bowls, and flicks the drachma through the resulting rainbow. "O goddess, accept my offering," she whispers, then clears her throat. "Rachel Elizabeth Dare."
The face of a young woman with green eyes and frizzy reddish-brown hair appears through the mist. Rachel yawns, rubbing at her eyes, then squints out at Alexis. "Somebody better be dying," she mutters. "I just got to sleep after... oh, hey! Alexis! You're back!"
The Oracle cuts herself off with a blink, suddenly looking much more alert. "About time. You would not believe the number of people who've called me in the last couple of days asking if I knew what had happened to you. Have you called Annabeth yet?"
Alexis' mouth curves into a smile at her friend's blunt babble. "No; you're the first one I've tried. I didn't think you guys would have missed me yet."
Rachel rolls her eyes. "You forget some of us still live in the mortal world, and you were kind of in the news a lot. What happened? Did your dad ransom you free, or what?"
Alexis winces. "Ugh, I hardly know where to begin," she says, then launches into the tale.
She feels much better, several minutes later, when she's done; Rachel's eyes, on the other end of the connection, are very round. "Wow. On a scale of one to panty-wetting crazy, I think you actually managed to top the day I met my first demigod. One minute I'm blowing my nose on top of Hoover Dam, the next some strange kid is running me through with an intangible sword, and then a bunch of freaking skeletons show up looking for him-- and he bolts! Without explaining anything! I might like my life the way it is now, but I really could have done without the super-abrupt introduction."
"So that's why you call him Percy Gotta-go sometimes," Alexis chuckles.
"Yeah, it was months before I ran into him again and got his whole name, the jerk," Rachel replies, smiling back. "Water down the Lethe, though. So, what are you going to tell your dad?"
"That's what I wanted to ask you," Alexis sighed. "I mean, should I even say anything?"
Rachel's smile turns wry. "Considering I work for your actual granddad, the god of Truth?"
"...Right." Alexis drops her face into her hands. "It's just... Gram never told him. And how do I explain anything, without explaining that?"
"Without explaining what...?" a third voice interrupts from the doorway, distinctly unimpressed.
Alexis gulps, turning toward the sound. If the door isn't open all the way yet, she might be able to cut off the Iris message and grab her cell phone out of her pocket, pretend she's making a normal call; the Mist will cover any sketchy details.
But no: Beckett is already glancing between Alexis and the face in the mist, expression intent and questioning rather than confused. Crap. Of course she's clear-sighted, too.
Alexis gulps, then turns back to Rachel. "I guess I'll call you back?"
Rachel doesn't look alarmed, annoyingly. She just raises an eyebrow, smirking. "Maybe I should have said, what are you going to tell your dad's girlfriend? Good luck!"
Alexis scoffs and slashes a hand through the fountain's spray. There was no way Rachel hadn't seen the door opening before she had. So, what. Was she supposed to take that as a sign?
"So... that was my friend Rachel?" she begins, hesitantly. "The Oracle of Delphi?"
"I thought your friend Rachel was the daughter of a local land developer," Beckett replies, skeptically.
"That, too?" Alexis shrugs. "I just... may have lied a little about how I actually met her?"
"Maybe you should start at the beginning, then," Beckett says, then comes in and sits on Alexis' bed. Her posture gives the distinct impression that she plans to stay until she's satisfied. Alexis has no doubt that if there were a table in the room, Beckett would be in full interrogation mode, no less intimidating for wearing a nightgown and her dad's robe.
Alexis sinks down into her desk chair. "Just... don't interrupt me, okay? Or tell me I'm crazy? I know how it's going to sound, but...."
"Just be honest with me, sweetie, and I promise I'll keep an open mind." Beckett's expression softens at that, more Kate than cop. "Besides, if this is about the man your dad met over there... I have my own concerns. Maybe it'll help to compare notes."
Alexis is too old to need another mother, but Kate's actually worked at building a relationship with Alexis separate from the one with her dad, and mostly succeeded; one of the reasons Alexis approves of them as a couple. And she's kept secrets for Alexis, before. "Yes and no. It's sort of a long story...."
She condenses it as much as she can, but her mouth is dry by the time she finishes laying things out and answering side questions, and her posture has slumped with deferred sleep. "So," she finishes, wearily. "I don't know what to think. Percy says Apollo's done the incognito thing before-- so was it him in disguise? Or was it some other Olympian or demigod, setting the whole thing up as an elaborate in with my dad? Or does he just really, honestly think he's my grandfather?"
"Or was this... guy you believe to be Apollo... the one who lied?" Beckett adds, clearly having trouble believing her, but trying to keep her promise.
Alexis shakes her head jerkily. "He's the god of Truth. If I can't believe what he told me, then the whole last three years of my life just... no."
"Okay." Beckett holds her hands up. "We'll table that option for now. So let's take the other three in order, look at them logically. Could Apollo have disguised himself as Jackson Hunt?"
"Technically?" Alexis frowns. "Yeah. But why would he? I mean, to the extent of... Dad said he found him in the library when he was ten and gave him a book; and he had a whole stalker-wall full of images of me. Apollo's one of the more powerful Greek gods, and in some of his aspects he was known for wisdom and responsibility, but... historically, the Olympians are pretty fickle. To go to all that trouble, for so little payoff... it just doesn't make sense. And doesn't really explain the bad guys."
Becket nods. "Life doesn't wrap things up in a nice bow, even when you don't bring gods and monsters into it, but the best explanation is still usually the simplest. So what about the next option? Why would it make more sense for someone else to set it up, than for Apollo to do so?"
"Honestly?" Alexis screws her face up, embarrassed at the reply that comes first to mind. "It doesn't? The only reason I can think of is if they wanted future leverage, either for or against Apollo, through my dad. Except Dad doesn't know. And Apollo never claimed him. I mean, obviously he knows, but Dad never went to Camp, and he was way past the cutoff age when Percy made the gods promise to officially recognize their halfblood children from then on. So how would whoever it was know? And what could they possibly hope to gain? I mean, Dad's not even Apollo's most famous kid in New York."
Kate startles at that, a suddenly enlightened expression sweeping across her face. "No. Not... that really was him, wasn't it?" she asks, a little bit of fangirl enthusiasm infecting her voice at the tangent.
"Yeah... sorry I lied about it, but I couldn't think how to explain why I'm taking archery lessons from him, without all of the, you know." Alexis shrugs.
"I think that might be the most convincing argument you've made so far," Kate chuckles, shaking her head. "Do you think... no, no, that would be unprofessional of me."
Alexis rolls her eyes. "Yes, I'll get an autograph for you. No pictures, though, sorry. He's still supposed to be a spy, and people keep pinching his biceps."
Kate shouts in surprised laughter at that, then claps a hand over her mouth and tries to calm down, eyes dancing merrily over it at Alexis. "Sorry... sorry. I just... had to take a moment there. Where were we?"
Alexis holds up three fingers, wagging the third. "Wondering if he actually does believe he's my grandfather. For whatever reason."
"It would simplify things. But if the dates actually matched up, then...."
Alexis thinks about it a moment, then wrinkles her brow, considering. "You know, Dad said he asked him what Gram said about him. He said...."Alexis trails off, frowning, something tickling at the back of her thoughts. "He said... just that he told him the story, and Hunt said that he'd finished a job at the UN, but he found out the next day that things had gone south and had to leave suddenly."
Kate frowns as Alexis falters to a halt. "What? Something about that bothers you, doesn't it."
"It's just...." Alexis gets up and starts to pace around her bedroom. "He said he told him the story, but if Hunt was only with Gram for one night... that means he told him the One Night Stand Story. The public story, the one she tells everyone because it's a lot more dramatic and stars-crossed romantic than the whole theater student in love who got knocked up and dumped story."
"Student in love... I don't think I've even heard that one."
"No. So I get why Dad would default to the other one. Except Hunt corroborated it. But! He was totally out of the country when Dad was born; how would he know if Dad was early, or late, or whatever? All he'd have known was that the gap was about right. So if he was the last one night stand Gram had before she met Apollo. If she based the public story off that all these years, then...."
"Then I think we have a winner. He really does think he's Castle's dad. Though that makes the whole stalker wall, vengeance kidnapping thing bother me even more. He shouldn't get a free pass for that, just because he saved you in the end. And what if someone had thought to do a DNA test?" Kate shudders. "They'd have had no reason to keep you."
Alexis is still fixated on the fact that her Dad had told the wrong story. To possibly the one person he should have thought deserved to hear the right one. If he'd believed him.
Does he...? He can't, can he...? Alexis worries at her lip again.
"Alexis...?" Kate reaches out to grasp one of her hands as she paces by, pulling her to a halt. "Are you okay with this?"
"What? Yeah, I'm fine. It's just that...."
Kate draws her down on the bed next to her and wraps an arm around her. "Just remember, grandfather or not, whatever is or isn't going on there... you've been through a huge ordeal. Even if you didn't have this to fixate on, your mind would probably be going a mile a minute about something. I know, I've been there."
"Is that why you came to check on me?" Alexis finally settles a little, offering Kate a wry smile. "I thought you and Dad would be, um. Busy, for awhile."
Kate actually blushes. "Uh, yeah. I just. It was a long week for me too, you know? And I just had this sudden urge to see if you wanted to watch junk TV with me until our eyeballs dry out and we can't stay awake anymore."
Alexis grasps gratefully at the offer. The question of what her Dad might know, and since when, can wait for later.
"That actually sounds good," she says, leaning into Kate's shoulder with a tired sigh. "So, what show did you have in mind?"