I own nothing, except the words below. All credit goes to the geniuses behind Castle. I am eternally grateful you let me steal these characters for my own stories.

To Evan, who tirelessly gave me prompts which I have saved but totally went a different direction. I promise that one is next. And to Jen, who has become a constant in my life. This fic would not exist without you.

The taste of whiskey still lingers on Beckett's tongue as she steps into her quiet apartment. She's too alert for her early evening, the events of the day with Scotland Yard and Castle keeping her on edge.

She'd sent Colin to the airport with an apology and a hug, quietly admitting that her feelings for Castle were too deep to entertain the thought of a night with him. He accepted the turn down with a hug and a good luck wish, extending his hopes that she can fix things with her partner soon.

Her partner.

She contemplates the word as she tosses her coat aside, kicking off her heels as she moves further into the apartment. Could he even still be called that? Anger and confusion swirl in her veins as she hears his voice running through her head. Jacinda's double parked…she's fun and uncomplicated.

Beckett changes without conscious thought, slipping into a tee shirt and jeans, too focused on the disintegration of her friendship with Castle. Memories of a few short months ago torment Beckett as she wanders through her apartment.

When she had stayed at his apartment for hours after the bank robbery, when she thought she had lost him. The time she had regaled him with stories of previous cases where she'd put her life on the line, and he had gotten her to admit that it was nothing compared to the cases they seemed to attract now.

He'd asked about her mother the night she went to Martha's One Woman Show. He never pushed, accepting whatever morsels of her life she was willing to share. He was comforting when she needed, a shoulder when the weight was too much to bear. He was a friend. Her best friend even.

What you and I have is a friendship. What you and Castle have is a holding pattern. How long can you circle until the fuel runs out?

She finds herself unable to stand the quiet anymore. Grabbing the sneakers she keeps by the door and throwing her hair into a messy ponytail, she slams the door behind her, grateful for the noise. Tonight she needs loud. And a milkshake. The hustle and bustle of New York occupies her thoughts on her walk to Remy's. The 24 hour diner she and the boys frequently haunt is sure to be packed on a Friday night. Her phone feels heavy in her pocket as she wrestles with the prospect of calling Castle.

Her whiskey from earlier emboldens her, Beckett sliding her finger across the keypad and dialing Castle's number for memory. She can't stop the soft smile that blossoms on her face as his picture illuminates her background. A heavy sigh escapes as she presses her finger to the lock button, dropping the phone back into her pocket.

She's going to give him the space that he so clearly wants.

Still, she can't help but glance around the diner instinctively as she steps over the threshold; her hazel eyes searching for the clear blue that were so often reassuring her with just a soulful gaze. She wants to hate the flicker of hope she feels but lets herself feel it. Beckett stops suddenly when she finds a similar pair of eyes meeting hers, the accompanying red hair and pale features signifying Alexis' presence.

The two women stare at each other for a long minute before Castle's daughter waves her over, a hesitant smile growing on the young woman's face as Beckett approaches the well worn table. Kate feels the heat climb into her cheeks as she murmurs, drumming her finger along the wood tabletop.

"Hey, Alexis. What are you doing here?"
"Oh I needed to get out of the loft. It was a little too overwhelming, if you know what I mean."

The scoff and nod are immediate, Beckett agreeing with barely a murmur. She feels the strain of her relationship with Castle in the silence between Alexis and herself. She wonders momentarily what his daughter might know, the hurt she has let linger giving way to confusion at Alexis' patient gaze.

"I didn't expect to see anyone here. I was just … going to eat really fast."
"No, please stay."

Alexis gestures to the seat opposite her, her smile staying in place as Kate takes the seat and scoots further away from the crowd. Taking the moment to push her hair behind her ear, Kate starts the conversation with small talk by gesturing to the school supplies scattered across the table.

"How's school?"

Alexis glances down at the textbook and notepad spread in front of her, a faint blush painting her cheeks pink.

"I have a test tomorrow. I figured despite getting out of the loft I still should study some."
"What's the subject?"

She's a good kid, Kate thinks, as the waitress comes to take their order before Alexis can answer the detective's question. The two rattle off their order with ease, both seeking familiar comforts tonight. Burger and chocolate milkshake for Beckett and a strawberry milkshake with fries for Alexis has the waitress telling them their order will be up shortly. Turning her attention back to the youngest Castle, Kate is surprised to find Alexis shutting her textbooks and pushing them to the side.

"No more studying tonight. Tell me about the case you've been working on."

Beckett latches on to the secure topic, rambling animatedly about the trial she would soon start preparing for.

"We've been working on it for weeks. That's one of my favorite things about being a cop, seeing the justice system work. So much of it's about politics, but law is law and sometimes it's nice to see the good guys win."

Alexis grins as waitress sets their food in front of them, both momentarily distracted by the aroma of their snacks. Beckett runs her finger down the side of her glass as she says, not wanting to disrupt the girl's evening.

"If you need to get back to studying, please, don't let me keep you. I'm sorry to have interrupted."
"It's nice to have the company, Kate. It's good to see you."

Despite the crowd, the compliment rings out over the noise. Tears gather before Beckett can blink them back, the sudden distance from her partner piercing the part of her heart she had worked so hard to expose. She swipes futilely at the drops that slide down her cheeks as she holds Alexis' gaze, saying softly

"Sorry. I don't know why I'm…"

Beckett stops the lie short, the truth that Kate wanted to deny swimming in the crystal blue eyes Alexis had inherited from Castle. She did know. They both did.

"I just wish I knew what I did."

The thought squeaks out of her as she braces for the rebuttal she's not sure she's ready to hear. Alexis narrows her eyes as she contemplates Beckett's statement, leaving Kate gnawing on her bottom lip as the silence grows. She shouldn't be talking to his daughter. What the hell was she thinking?

"I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have said anything."
"You need to talk. And I'm here. My dad said you have this wall. Maybe it's time to knock down a few more bricks."

As Alexis throws her own words back at her, Kate wrestles with the guilt over finally admitting her fears to a teenager. But the words continue before she can consciously stop them now, the grief over her ruined partnership too much to carry on her own shoulders anymore.

"I'm sorry for all of it last summer, Alexis. I know I hurt him. And I know I hurt you. I know how scared you were, are. And I'm just sorry. I am so sorry."

The apology tumbles readily from Beckett even she leans in to take a sip of her milkshake. Alexis smartly takes a few minutes to look around the restaurant, averting her gaze from the disheartened detective. Grateful for the moment to compose herself, Beckett clears her throat and keeps her voice as even as possible when she admits

"I never meant to hurt him. I just…thought he deserved better than what I could give him 9 months ago. And now…I guess I made him wait too long."

She admits the only truth she has been able to acknowledge during Castle's absence. Alexis' hand covers hers as the red head finally interrupts, her voice cracking with her own emotions as she talks, her own sadness at the fractured relationship playing across her porcelain features.

"I love my dad. Very much. He's a constant for me. I only have a few of those. My dad, my Gram…and you. All of you have shaped my life, and I know I wouldn't be the person I am today without all of you."

Beckett returns the shy smile Alexis grants her with one of her own, the two tentatively admitting their love for the same person bonding them. Alexis pushes a fry around on her plate as she drops her voice, forcing Beckett to lean over the table to hear the words.

"I know things haven't been easy with you two. But nothing worthwhile is easy. And you're worth it, Kate. Even when you can't always see it. He knows it. Even when he doesn't always show it, he knows it. He loves you. That's what you need to know. It's been enough to make him walk through fire, jump in front of bullets. And he kept showing up. Even when he's had every reason to leave. He kept showing up. And it was enough, him loving you. But now he thinks you don't. And it's killing him."

Beckett takes the blow of Alexis' words as best she can, her eyes widening with surprise at the simple declaration of Castle's feelings and his own reaction to hers.

"Wait. I don't understand. He thinks I don't? Why? What happened?"
"You tell me. When did things change, Beckett?"

The girl knows her interrogation tactics, Beckett admits to herself as she leans away from Alexis' probing gaze. Alexis takes the silence in stride, patiently waiting for Kate's response. As she lets her eyes scan the room, mentally noting the officers in the room without really seeing them, Kate acknowledges the last time she truly felt things were normal with Castle.

"The bombing case. That's when things changed. But I don't know what happened. We were supposed to talk after the case but…"
"But he heard you. He heard you tell the suspect that you remember your shooting."

The sadness Kate has felt for weeks now reflects back at her across Alexis' countenance. She remembers with suddenly clarity as the truth stuns her into silence. Her heart hammers wildly against her ribs at the pieces slowly falling into place, completing the puzzle she had been trying to finish in her mind for weeks.

Anger at herself simmers in her veins as vivid images of Castle and Jacinda flash through her mind, Castle's own hurt suddenly obvious in every moment she had been replaying over and over. What had she done?

"Oh my god. I…I have to go. I have to find him. I have to fix this. Alexis, where is…"
"At the loft."

The surprise must show on Beckett's face at the admittance of her father's whereabouts. Alexis shrugs but admits, a deep frown tugging at Beckett's cracked heart.

"He's miserable, Kate. He's been putting on a front, but…he's miserable without you."

Beckett stands, pushing the food that is now cold completely across the table as she throws a few bills down and pulls the red head into a tight hug, whispering against her hair as Alexis returns the embrace.

"Thank you, Alexis. For everything."

She takes the extra squeeze from Alexis as silent encouragement with a soft smile.

"You're the best parts of your dad."
"The best compliment I've ever been given. Now go."

A deep breath has Kate pushing through the crowd out the door of their favorite restaurant, the warm May air encompassing her as she steps out into the street and works on closing the distance between herself and Castle . No turning back now.