"If you get injured, you cannot sue the city. If you get shot, you cannot sue the city. If you get killed..."

"My lifeless remains can not sue the city..." Castle interrupts.

"Your heirs, Mr. Castle."

Kate gets up from where she's been leaning against the wall, behind the humorless NYPD lawyer who continues to walk Castle through his paperwork. Castle's treating the whole thing rather flippantly, but it's starting to terrify her, what she's letting him sign up for.

She's had boyfriends in danger before - hell, her last one was an FBI agent - but this is different. Maybe it's because he's not her boyfriend, not really, not yet, or because he's not trained. Or maybe it's because she knows what's at stake. Whatever it is, she's starting to have misgivings about this whole shadowing thing that he's talked her into. She decides to stop paying attention to the conversation, just for her own sanity and to keep the sinking feeling in her stomach at bay.

She had left the loft that night after only a few kisses, rationalizing that they, if they wanted, had a lifetime together. They didn't need to rush. But it had also been because she is worried, a little bit, that seeing the end might cause them to skip to the end. She is committed to getting the moments they deserve.

Plus, the whole idea of having met the love of her life scares the shit out of her, just a little. The idea that he might die following her around scares her nearly as much.

Shouldn't it scare her more?

Dispatch calls, and she takes the relief from her thoughts. She hangs up, heads for the door.

"We have a case?" he asks.

"I have a case. You have paperwork," she says, and runs out the door.

On the way to the crime scene, she starts to regret her actions. He's supposed to come along. A part of her wants him to come along, since he proved to be helpful with their last case. But a part of her is back in the alley where he almost got himself killed two weeks ago. They haven't even slept together yet. They've really only had a single night of talking in his loft, a few phone calls. And yet, she knows what she loses him, if something happens to him.

So she ran away. She does that. She knows herself well enough to know that's a habit, even if she hasn't fully found a way to control it yet.

By the time she's finished at the crime scene and riding the elevator up to 12-F, she's almost worked out what she'll say when she inevitably calls him. Almost.

However, it doesn't matter, because the door opens and he's standing there.

"You ditched me at the precinct," Castle says as the door almost closes on her.

"Didn't you hear the lawyer, Castle? Injured, shot, killed... I'm not sure this is the best idea."

"I doubt whoever killed Nanny McDead and shoved her in a dryer is going to come after me."

"Castle," she admonishes, turning to head down the hall. He clears his throat, and when she turns, he points the other direction.

"I'm not going to get dead, Kate. I have you to protect me. Unless you run away and abandon me."

Point taken, she thinks, but she keeps her mouth shut. Instead she just gives him the smallest of nods. I'll work on that, she thinks. She hopes he gets it.

"How long does this shadowing last, typically?" she asks.

"Depends on how long I take to get inspired," he says with an eye waggle.

She wants to comment on that, flirt back with him a little or shut him down, she's not sure. If she has to worry about the him getting hurt here, at least she can some fun with him being here too. But then they are at 12-F's door and it's back to business.

After questioning the boyfriend, they head to the park to find the victim's friend Chloe. Castle's starting to get the feel of this case, the general shape and weight, if not the details. He can tell she is too. That part is fun, having someone to bounce the plot off of, back and forth, until they get to the heart of it. He'd thought once he could manufacture that with Gina, and failed. Now he doesn't seem to be trying. It just seems natural.

Not that it makes the case less weird. They are, after all, headed to a part to talk to one nanny about finding another nanny shoved into a dryer.

"Reminds me of when I used to take Alexis to the park," he says.

"You used to take Alexis to the park? Must've been fun."

"Spring, Summer, Fall, we were here every day. Alexis' mom was doing community theater, so she was on the road a lot, and I had custody... what?"

He watches as a cute little smile comes over her face. He's been able to gather that she's still not used to dropping her guard around him, despite their new understanding. He likes it though, this sense of discovery. It reminds him of rereading a favorite book, getting to enjoy the language and the rhythms the author uses, rather than focusing on the plot.

"Nothing, I just never figured you for Mr. Mom."

"Some of the best days of my life," he says honestly. He remembers the time well, after Meredith and before Gina, how the women would hit on him, day after day. He has to admit his ego needed it, after Meredith cheated on him, and for a few years, random dating kept the demons at bay.

"That's kinda nice," she says.

"Well, I was between marriages and ..." he stops himself. Bragging about other women isn't going to help him in the least with Kate Beckett. He actually sort of likes that about her, but he's still got some habits to break.

She doesn't seem to notice his abrupt stop. "How many times have you been married?" she asks, and he can feel the edge of worry in her voice.

"Twice. You?"

"Not yet."

"Well, I think you should be. You'll enjoy it," he says, and he can tell she's picturing what he's picturing, but he doesn't push anymore. They'll get there, eventually, even though he can see her biting back some sort of comment. She has her own habits to break.

But then they spot the girl in the red vest, and it is back to work...

After they take Chloe into custody, she needs to get out onto the street, get some fresh air. She's keyed up from everything, from negotiating with Chloe to watching her cut herself, to knowing that Castle was there, in the room, to Castle's own ability to put his foot in his mouth.

"See, I managed to make it through the case without getting injured, shot, or killed," he says to her.


"You shouldn't have come in the room. I asked you not to."

"I know, but ... I really liked that solidarity thing you ran in there."

"I wasn't running anything," she says, angry. This isn't part of his bravado, he's just actually clueless here. Somehow that makes it worse. She has to get away from him. She walks away, ignoring as he yells out to her.

Okay, so he's not a playboy. But he's still privileged, clueless, crude, cute, insightful, coarse... she tries, and fails, to stop thinking about him after she grabs a cab and heads home. She's not terribly successful, even as she gets to her apartment, changes, opens a bottle of wine.

She's worked two cases with him, and while she has to admit he's been helpful both times, she's also wanted to kill him twice. Though mostly she's wanted to kill him because he seems determined to kill himself.

She needs more wine.

Instead she gets a knock on the door.

She knows it's him before she answers.

"So is a thing you do?" he asks as soon as she opens the door.

"What thing?"

"This running away thing," Castle says, pushing past Kate into her apartment.

"How do you know where I live?"

"Google. Don't change the subject. Is this going to happen every time I piss you off? I'll have to go hunt you down?"

"I didn't..."

She watches as he walks into her kitchen, examines the empty bottle of wine on the counter. He frowns and throws it in the garbage. "I'm glad I brought this," he says, holding a bottle of wine over his shoulder so she can see.

"...I'm not hiding."

"No, you just tore away from our crime scene like your hair was on fire. And I was going to ask you to dinner, too."

He hands her a glass of whatever wine he's brought. She takes a sip. Of course it's better than hers. Damn him.

"So you want to tell me why?"

She's not going to get rid of him, she sees, as he sits down on her couch, and sips his wine. She could just walk into her bedroom, close the door, but what would that solve?

"This isn't a game," she says.

"I know it's not."

"Do you?"

He comes and sits next to her, but doesn't turn to face her. They both stare off into her apartment.

"I don't think it's a game, Kate."

"I need you to act like it. I asked you to stay out of the room."

"But you went in anyway."

"It's my job."

"And I need to understand it."

"You don't have to put yourself in danger to do it."

"I was worried about you."

Kate sighs. She turns to him then, letting herself look at him, really look at him, for the first time since he entered her apartment. She sees it then, for a second, how charm is his only armor in the world, and he doesn't know how to adapt to that not being enough. It doesn't fit in her world, makes him seem flippant. A jerk. So she'll have to be his armor. But he has to let her.

"It get easier?"


"Worrying about your partner?"

She laughs, feeling just a bit free for the first time in two days.


"Debonair shadow, in your case. Beautiful guide to the ways of justice, in mine."

"Too thick, Castle."

"Too thick?"

"Just a tad," she says, but she leans against his shoulder anyway.

"We okay, or you gonna bolt on me again?"

She couldn't promise him anything yet, not all the things she knew she'd promise, eventually. But she bumps him in the shoulder anyway.

"Just please learn to let me keep you safe, and we'll be good. Okay?"

He gives her a small smile, and taps her glass with his.


A/N: I got a lot of support to continue this (thank you thank you!). I have a basic idea plotted out now. It will drift farther away from the main show as things go on...