She can't stop touching her wedding ring.

Beckett thumbs the silver band Castle slid on her finger merely months ago as she slips into the precinct, grateful for the silence that immediately surrounds her. The ring is warm to touch now as she unlocks her office door, a quick flick of the light switch illuminating the room in a soft glow.

Had it been only days ago when she'd been brimming with pride, eager to take on the challenge of running the precinct? She feels the tug of the gauze on her abdomen as she moves into the room, a painful memento of what the past few days had cost her. The wound will scar, a permanent reminder of the burden she chooses to bare alone. She defends her decision to leave within her mind, repeating the words she had thrown at Castle mere hours ago. I did all of this to protect you. The risks run through her head as she pulls her wedding ring off her finger, staring through the circle to the window.

I have to get my head right. I have to figure some things out.

She slides the precious memento back on her finger, the weight familiar and comforting as she turns a small circle in the confines of her office. It's too easy to say this is the wrong choice as the silence engulfs her now.

She's already choosing to chase one demon, knows from her father how easy it is to get lost in another, as she moves towards the scotch bottle on her desk. Lifting the lid of the glass container, the strong scent coaxing her frayed nerves to sip, she recognizing the weakness within herself. She'd lost herself to her mother's case more than once, only to be pulled back to dry land by Castle.

The oxymoron that she has to lose him to save him isn't lost on her as she closes the bottle, moving methodically towards her chair. She only stands looking at her mother's photo for so long before her gaze shifts focus, a snapshot of their wedding drawing a tight smile from her. Choking back the bile that threatens to rise, fear clutching at her nerves, she makes her choice even now. Planting her feet purposefully she resists the desire to run back to the loft. She craves crawling into bed, and sliding against her husband. She already misses the weight of Castle's arm draped across her stomach, his bright smile matching hers as they talk about the home they are creating together.

Home.

The word brings stinging tears to her eyes as she wrestles with the distinction she's created within herself. The precinct has been her home for so long. She's long accepted that vengeance and justice are a part of her armor that now protects her heart, the chinks having only been loosened by her partner's steadfastness. She's in awe of the personal home she has now, happiness and comfort unfamiliar to her until Castle.

When I was vulnerable, you were strong. She needs to be strong for him now nodding resolutely to no one, in order to calm her racing heart.

She could lose him anyway.

The elephants that once adorned her mother's desk now draw her touch, pulling her further into the emptiness. She skims her finger along the porcelain, gathering the thin layer of dust that had gathered in the short time she's called this office hers.

I actually like those elephants. They obviously have family values and this one's good with money.

The sob escapes before she can try to catch it as Castle's voice haunts her, tears spilling down her cheeks as the weight of her decision presses in on her. Anger thrums in her veins relentlessly, burning more fiercely than the newly stitched wound on her side.

How long would she have to fight for her life—how long would she have to sacrifice happiness to get it? Would it come at the expense of her life, or Castle's? The questions are unyielding as she stares out the window into pitch black. The emptiness is oppressive, barreling down on her as she wrestles with her guilt and terror.

"I want our happily ever after," she stutters around strangled breath, repeating the words that pushed her resolve to step out of the loft tonight. Away from him. From the life they have worked so desperately to have, the life that she won't fully have until she can truly find her justice.

God, how she wants that life with him.

"We can have it, you know."

Her relief is instantaneous as her husband's warm palm finds the small of her back. She leans into the comfort Castle provides, despite the anger she can feel rolling off him in waves. She's earned his rage, takes the blow in stride with a bowed head, as she whispers, "Castle, what are you doing here?"

"I need to give you something," he slips his arms around her, tugging Beckett into the strong wall of his chest. Without preamble, he shoves the thin material of her sleeve up her arm, the silver bracelet he'd given her on her first morning as captain dangling from the tips of his fingers.

His voice is soft in her ear as he works to slide the bracelet on her arm. "I'm angry. Kate. I'm your partner. I'm your husband. And we are stronger together." As the bracelet settles on her arm, his hands find hers as he laces their fingers together. She stares down at their wedding rings, a shining reminder of their partnership in crime and in life.

"I'm angry. But I love you." The words she had turned away from earlier now keep the blood flowing through her veins as he continues. "This is where I make my stand, Kate. With you. And I don't understand it. But I trust you, more than anything. And…I will try to respect this, as best I can. But I won't give up hope. I can't."

The weight she has decided to pick up and carry lessens in her chest at Castle's comforting words, always able to heal her heart. He's saving her, picking up the pieces of their relationship she's managed to break. His hands move back to the bracelet, fingers teasing along the inside of her wrist as he punctures the night with his promise.

"I can forgive you, Kate. It's going to take time. And we'll face it together. But I will forgive you."

She turns into his shoulder, her fresh tears wetting his shirt as he presses soft kisses to her hairline, imprinting the words on her skin and heart with a grace only her husband could possess. He holds her as she falls, her body wracked with sobs she can no longer contain. Need courses through her—need for him to be okay, need for her to protect him at all costs, need to see this thing through.

She's wrong to make this choice for him, forces herself to accept the responsibility for his tears that land on her fingers as she cups his face in her hands.

"I'm so sorry, Castle. I'm so sorry. I'm-"His lips steal the words from hers. Strong fingers press into her hips, keeping her flush against him as his tongue teases her lips apart. She surges into the kiss, begging him to understand her desperation with the connection that has always been theirs alone. Trust me, she breathes against his lips, knowing she now has to earn the vow she's asking him to make.

He's heaving when he breaks for air, pressing his forehead against hers tenderly as their breaths mingle in the little space between them.

"We'll figure this out, Beckett. And you'll come home to me," Castle's voice shakes with his grief, piercing her fractured heart. She settles her head against his chest, arms circling his waist. He's gentle in his touch, as if she'll break if he's keeping her too close. She's scared to admit that maybe she will.

Vivid memories from years ago torture her as his chin settles on the top of her head. An earlier hug that Beckett welcomed, wishing he could once again take her some place safe as she did the fateful night. I'll never be safe. She feels the weight of the bracelet he so lovingly gave her settle against her bone, echoing the word she prayed to God would come true.

"Always."


My eternal gratitude for the prompt, so thank you lovely ladies on twitter for planting the seed and your support. To those who yesterday diligently talked out every detail of this episode, my love for you knows no bounds. I am forever grateful to share this crazy ride of fandom with you. A special thanks to my friends for the quick read through and words of encouragement.

Kate's choices are hard to understand at times, but they are her choices. She's remarkable, maddening, challenging, frustrating and that's why we and Castle love her.