She wakes ten minutes before her alarm is set to go off, the sun just beginning to rise over the horizon and Castle peacefully asleep in bed next to her. She revels in the moment, the calm before the storm. Wishes that they could just stay here in this bed, in this room, and forget about everything else. She's not prepared to face the music and be told that they're too close to continue working as a team.

But she knows that they are. Knows that the bullet wound on his side she'd been extra careful with all night and the gash on her forehead are proof of that. That they won't hesitate to choose each other over the job again. And she knows that's not a good thing, knows that if he was actually NYPD, they would be reassigned to new partners in a heartbeat.

Kate looks over at him again, remembering everything about last night and the way that he - even if she doesn't have him as a partner anymore, she'll still have him like this. Right?

Her alarm goes off and she reaches over to silence it, listening as Castle starts to stir in bed beside her. He cracks one eye open to look for her and she can't help but smile at his true detest for the morning.

"Do you really go in this early every day?" he mumbles.

"If I don't get a call about a body sooner, I have to be in by 8:00. I've woken you up earlier than this before."

"Yeah and after those early calls I usually just roll over and go back to sleep, then come in later with coffee." Castle sighs and reaches out for her, guiding her up against his chest. "I don't suppose we could get away with that this morning?"

She skims her fingers over his bicep as she tucks her head into the crook of his neck. "You can stay, but I have to go."

"No, no, I need to come. Hear for myself what Hendrix has to say."

"Almost four years," Kate hums. "We had a good run."

"Hey now, no one has said that it's over yet."

She readjusts her head against him, her hair fanning out over her pillow. "Castle, think about what we both told Hendrix. You really think her outcome is going to be in our favor after that?"

"I think that I love being your partner. But if not being your partner means I get to wake up to this every morning after nights like last night, I'll be okay with it. More than okay actually."

"We're going to survive this, right?" she asks, pressing her nose against his neck.

"If we can survive everything else we've been through, we can most definitely survive this."

Hendrix sits in the conference room at the 12th precinct, reviewing her notes while she waits for all parties to arrive to announce her final decision. She's evaluated her fair share of partnerships in her day, but none quite as interesting as this pair. A homicide detective who willingly lets a mystery writer serve as her backup. A writer and his muse. She'd thought she'd seen it all.

She was wrong.

Their Captain walks in, hovering in the doorway for a moment. The woman is easier to read than she thinks she is. She acts indifferent towards the writer most of the time, maybe even detesting him on occasion. But Hendrix can tell she's developing a soft spot for the man. She'd be hard-pressed not to. Mr. Castle does posses a certain charm, even when one is trying to make him sweat.

"Dr. Hendrix, have you reached your decision?" Gates asks, stepping forward into the room.

"I have indeed," she replies, taking one more quick glance at her notes. "It is my professional opinion that Detective Beckett and Mr. Castle are too close."

Hendrix senses a change in the woman's demeanor, as though she struck a nerve where her soft spot for the writer is located.

"So you want me to split them up?" Gates asks. "Send Mr. Castle home?"

The psychiatrist taps her pen against her notepad. "Only if you want to lose your best team."

Her demeanor changes again, something akin to relieved confusion. "Come again?"

Hendrix gives her a stiff smile. "They are too close, yes. But I believe they are both well aware of the mistakes they made during this case and know what needs to be done to right them in the future. Your squad has an excellent case closure rate. And I'm not entirely sure what role the writer plays in all this, but he appears to be an important asset. I believe that taking him out now would have negative effects."

"So you think that they're closeness is actually beneficial?" Gates asks.

"I think it has its benefits, yes," Hendrix replies. "I also think this case served as a wakeup call for them and they know what needs to be done now. They're a good counterbalance, Captain Gates, one that appears to me to serve this squad very well."

Kate can't remember the last time she felt this nervous about anything. She knows how this is all slated to end, but there's still that glimmer of hope that things will work out. It's small, but it's there. She has to fight the urge to cling to Castle's hand for moral support as they step into Gates's office. They're trying to keep their personal relationship under wraps for now.

"Detective Beckett, Mr. Castle," Gates nods her head as they enter her office. "I just spoke with Dr. Hendrix regarding her evaluation of the two of you. She thinks that you're too close."

She knew it. This was it. No more shadow.

"Sir -" Kate starts.

"Let me finish," Gates interrupts. "She also believes that your closeness is beneficial to this team. And she thinks that breaking you up would be a mistake."

Castle's face lights up. "You mean, I get to stay?"

"Let this whole case and evaluation serve as your warning. But for now, Mr. Castle, you can stay."

Kate looks over at him, sharing the same wide grin as the one spread across his face. She's almost tempted to launch herself into his arms, but not here, not in front of Gates.

"Thank you," Castle says, extending his hand to shake hers. "I really appreciate it."

Gates shakes his hand. "Don't make me regret this decision."

"We won't, Sir," Castle tells her. "We'll continue to be beneficial to this team."

Kate almost wants to roll her eyes at his over eagerness. But she's just as relieved. All this worrying about the end of their partnership was for nothing. He gets to stay. Keep being hers.

They leave Gates's office and retreat to the break room, where she finally slips her arms around him in a hug. Castle breathes a sigh of relief into her hair while her fists tighten in his shirt.

"Guess this writer gets to keep fighting crime alongside his muse after all," he says with a small laugh.

"I wouldn't want it any other way," she says, placing a swift kiss to his cheek. "Now come on, I think we have a new case waiting for us."

"Better not be another serial killer," he mumbles, following her out into the bullpen.

"I don't know, the text I got from Esposito this morning said something about a dead Little Red Riding Hood."

"Oh! Someone's killing story book characters? Now this I have to see."

She smiles, watching him go to retrieve their coats from her desk. So yeah, maybe everything did work out after all.


Oliviet: This was my first time ever collaborating with another author on a fic, and Raina couldn't have provided me with a better experience! She's the absolute greatest and continued to amaze and surprise me with chapters, even when I knew exactly what was coming. She's also super supportive and great to brainstorm with. We're basically the best team since Castle and Beckett. ;) And a special thanks to SVU for lending us Dr. Hendrix and the episode "Fault" for its inspiration. Thank you so much to all of our readers! Reading your reactions have continuously made my day throughout our sharing this with you. Thank you for sticking with us and giving our little collab a chance!

bravevulnerability: After admiring Emily's talent for so long, having the opportunity to spin a story with her was a true privilege and honestly? Pretty magical. It's amazing to trust another writer without an ounce of hesitation, to know that the path of the story you're collaborating on is in good hands, and with Emily, I never had a single doubt. I cannot wait to work with you again and experience another fantastic journey with you, Em! In the meantime, I'm so happy our love (and anguish) where SVU is concerned came in great use. And to our readers, thank you. Every piece of feedback we've been lucky enough to receive has made the sharing of this story all the more fun.