To IMW, without whom this would only exist on LiveJournal. I owe you.


He'd been gone all summer.

They haven't been in contact and Kate has worked her murder cases and Castle… well, she has ideas of what he's been doing at his private house in the Hamptons with his ex-wife. But the summer's over now, and she knows that because Alexis called to say she was home. Over the summer, they talked because despite everything, despite whatever was going on with Demming and Gina, Alexis and Kate had grown closer after the explosion, after Alexis reached out because for a moment there… So they talked and Alexis turned to her with things she couldn't talk to her grandmother about and things she most definitely couldn't talk to her father about. Kate doesn't mind the relationship. It's kind of like having a younger sister.

So, she knows he's back, because Alexis let it slip in their conversation last night. The few times the teenager had tried to talk about her father, Kate had gone unresponsive and she knew it, but there was still a real and fresh pain that lanced through her when she thought about him. Which is why she's a little anxious when she walks into the precinct the Monday after Alexis' return. Even though she'd told him she'd see him in the fall, she's not quite sure she's actually ready for it.

She does paperwork all morning, jumping at little sounds, but he doesn't show. So she goes out for lunch with Lanie, because it's Monday and after Memorial Day Lanie's been a little more adamant and they go out for lunch every Monday now and when she returns, there's something on her desk. She stops when she notices it, then moves closer, slowly, dropping her purse on his chair. There's something there, and it's square and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it's Naked Heat. But that's not all. On top of the book – paperback, so she knows it's one of the advanced copies he's supposed to protect with his life – is an envelope and two white daffodils.

She picks up the flowers delicately and puts them aside with the envelope, picking up the book first and flipping through the publication information. After the last dedication, she wants to know who this is for and the traitorous part of her hopes to God her name is there.

To the 12th and all they've given me:
Friendship, loyalty, brotherhood, family.

She puts the book down, a little disappointed, and picks up the envelope instead. She opens it, her hands shaking and she's not sure why, pulling out a small card. Inside, is a folded piece of paper and she sets it beside the daffodils as she slides into her chair.

I didn't know if I was actually allowed to come back since I told you in the spring that the spy game was our last case. Either way, I wanted you to have this. I would have liked to give it to you in person, but maybe it's better this way.
I've learned a lot from you, Detective, and even if we aren't working together anymore, there is always going to be a part of me there with you.
Go drinks some really bad coffee and make sure to say hi to the boys for me.

Now her hands are really shaking and she's pretty sure there are tears in her eyes. His note is uncertain, but there's a big part of her that sees this as his goodbye and it hurts worse than she anticipated. Still, there's one last thing for her, and she picks up the folded piece of paper and opens it. It's another copy of the dedication page, but there's two things on it in bright blue ink, standing out in stark contrast to the black official type.

One is a simple four-letter word scrawled after "family", which he's crossed out, and it's enough to make her heart stutter. Her eyes follow the whole line: "friendship, loyalty, brotherhood, love" and now she knows there's tears in her eyes. She should have known he could read her, should have known he would have guessed what she was trying to tell him all those months ago. There's part of her that is distinctly angry with him, that doesn't understand, if he knew, why he didn't come back, why he didn't call her. She wants to know why he stayed away, but the other part of her is kind of thankful that he knows.

She takes a deep breath before reading the longer message:

Thank you, Kate. You've given me everything. The least I can do is let you have your happiness, but I couldn't let you go without telling you. You're an extraordinary woman and he's lucky to have you.

Okay, so maybe he doesn't know what she was trying to tell him. Maybe he thinks she was just going to say goodbye, try to iron out the tension that was hanging over their heads because of Demming. She chews her lip. Either way, she wants answers and she has the right to ask for them. He can't drop bombshells on her and think she's going to just walk away, especially after he'd walked away from her. If there's one thing Kate doesn't run from, it's confrontation.

Still, she waits out the day, looking like she's working when she's planning, thinking, trying to determine what strategy she wants to go with. She ignores Ryan and Esposito when they tease her about the flowers on her desk, though she notices the gleam in Esposito's eyes that tells her he has every idea about who they're from. She doesn't confirm anything and she's already tucked the book and the note safely into her purse before they return. When the day ends, she moves with an almost deliberate slowness, not because she doesn't want to confront him – she's a cop, confrontation is kind of her game – but because she's a little bit like a predator hunting her prey and, like a takedown, a little thrill runs through her because she knows her prey isn't expecting what comes next.

The doorman knows her from when she spent those couple of weeks with Rick after the explosion and is, admittedly, a little surprised to see her. Kate spends a few minutes talking to him, just because she can and because he's easy to talk to before heading up to his loft. She finds herself pulling the book and the note from her purse, one daffodil – the other is in a coffee cup on her desk because she really couldn't resist – already in her hand so it didn't get crushed. She wants to have all of the evidence with her. She knocks, because she's never ever used the buzzer and she hears a cheery 'coming' from inside.

Castle looks surprised to find her standing there, and he glances down at what's in her hands before swallowing thickly. "I see you got everything."

"I did," she replies and she's a little shocked to hear how absolutely steady her voice is. "But I think you're missing a few things."

His eyebrow arches upwards and she can't stop the thrill that runs through her body. He's confused and she knows how much fun she can have. He's not sure how to react to her, not sure if she's coming here to ream him out or to tell him goodbye. But he steps back and she walks into the loft, heading for the couch and dropping her purse, the book, the note and the flower on his coffee table, before turning to him, hands on hips.

"We've been working together for about a year and a half, right?"

He nods as he closes the door and starts towards her.

"And you'd say you know me pretty well, right?"

He nods again. She's confident and that scares him a little because it's not Kate in front of him, it's Detective Beckett with Kate undertones and he's never dealt with that before. Whatever she's here to tell him, she's treating it like an interrogation and he's been on the receiving end of enough of those and participated in enough of hers to know how dangerous she is.

"Then how the hell did we get here?"

Now he's really confused. "What?"

She sits down on the edge of the couch cushions, reaching for the flower and the note. She holds them up, one in each hand, her eyes fixed on the flower as she twirls it in her fingers. "You're making a lot of assumptions here."

He stops moving his feet stalling at the edge of the couch and she can almost see his face fall. He keeps a damned good poker face, but she's a detective and she's trained to read the smallest of expression changes. It can be the difference between an arrest and letting a suspect go. It can be the difference between life and death. His mouth opens, but she speaks first.

"And you're making them again."

Castle blows out a breath and now he's exasperated. Confused, and exasperated and that's exactly where she wants him. He says things when he's confused and exasperated that he'd never say if his walls were up and he was on the ball. It's why she enjoys keeping him on his toes so much. He puts on facades so often and she knows the only way to get him to admit something, the only way to ensure what he says is genuine, is to keep him off balance. The thrill of power doesn't hurt either.

"What are you talking about, Kate?"

She puts the note back on the table, but keeps the flower as she stands again. "Let's clarify a few things first," she responds and her eyes flash. "Why did you take Gina to the Hamptons?"

His eyes flash and she knows she's shown a part of her hand, but she also knows she's taken him off guard by doing it. "She's my publisher," he responds slowly. "I didn't want to be in the Hamptons alone and she wanted to be able to nag me about finishing the book."

"Which you did."

It's not a question, but he nods anyway. "Three weeks in. Manuscript in hand, she went home."

"And you stayed."

Now he looks away. "There was nothing for me here."

"But you came back," she counters, still spinning the flower between her fingers. It's the only indication that there's emotion simmering just under the surface of her cool face.

"Alexis came back," he responds, focusing on her face again.

She nods, acknowledging the point, but then nods towards the book and the note. "But you dropped those off."

"Like I said in my note, I wasn't totally sure if I'd be welcomed with open arms." He looks away again. "I missed something, Kate, just before I left and I'm not sure what it was but… I just didn't feel like I'd get a warm reception."

"And you're not the least bit curious about what you missed?" she asks, cocking her head to the side as she starts towards him.

His smile is wry. "I know how much it takes you to open up and, well, when Gina showed up… I just assumed my moment had passed."

"See, there's that word again. You need to stop making assumptions."

"What am I supposed to do?" he asks, irritation peaking through.

Kate stops right in front of him almost literally toe to toe, and her eyes lock on his. "Ask."

Something shifts in his eyes, like he realizes that he has, indeed, been given a second chance. "What were you going to tell me, Kate?"

She manages to hide her reaction to his quiet voice and keeps her eyes locked on his. "Tom and I broke up that day, just before I came into the conference room."

She would have missed Castle's eyes widening if she wasn't looking for it. "Why?"

"He's not what I'm looking for right now," she replies, parroting the words she told Demming.

Kate can see him putting the puzzle pieces together in his mind, dropping everything in place. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"I tried," she reminds him, cocking an eyebrow. Then, she shifts her eyes to focus on the daffodil. "I was going to tell you I wanted to spend the weekend in the Hamptons."

"But you didn't."

"No," she agrees. "Your publisher and ex-wife showed up and started talking about how you were going away for the whole summer so she could stay on top of your writing." She puts her hand up, knowing he's going to call her a hypocrite for making assumptions. "Either way, you had someone else to go with and I wasn't about to tear my heart out with your ex-wife in attendance."

He can't stop himself from stepping marginally closer, closing the space between them so she can feel his breath stirring her hair. "You had all summer."

She looks up at him. "So did you."

"God, we screwed this up," he says with a shaky laugh. "I… I was done," he admits. "You seemed happy with Demming and… I figured I'd lost my chance, that I'd never make you see that I was serious."

Now it's her turn to ask, "Why didn't you say anything?"

"Because you shot me down at every turn."

"I never thought you were serious."

It surprises her how calm they both are. Their relationship has always been volatile, always involved tension and intensity, but here, in this unvarnished honesty, they're calm. There's no accusations, just matter-of-fact statements and part of her can't believe that they're not screaming at each other.

He's the first one to break the stand-off, his hand coming up to her face. "From the moment I called the mayor to ask to shadow you, I was serious."

She appreciates that he doesn't tell her it was the moment they met because they both know that would be a lie. At that point, she was a conquest, someone he could bed and walk away from. Which was why she held him off. Kate Beckett isn't a notch in someone's bedpost, most especially not Rick Castle's.

She glances down at the flower again, and his hand falls to her shoulder. She holds it up slightly. "Do you know what a daffodil means?" she asks quietly.

"Many things," he answers and she can't tell by his deep breath if he's taking in her scent or gathering courage. "One means misfortune."

"Which is why you gave me two," she says with a little smile.

"Several is joy, or happiness."

"Which you wanted for me, however misguided."

He chuckles lightly. His hand comes up to fold over hers and the flower. "It means rebirth," he says, "New beginnings, unrequited love."

Then the nervousness hits her, despite the fact that she knows he won't turn her away. She looks up at him. "The last part isn't true." Her voice is a whisper and she can't make it any louder than that. He searches her eyes the hand resting on her shoulder skimming down her arm to rest at her hip.

"There's one more though…" Castle pauses, leaning down and she tilts her head up almost on instinct. "A daffodil means you're the only one."

Her eyes flit back and forth between his. "I like that one."

"Me too," he murmurs and his breath washes over her lips seconds before he's kissing her. It's a gentle brush, almost a test, but Kate leans into him slightly and the pressure increases. His hand releases the daffodil and comes up to slide down the side of her head. Hers wraps around his neck as she sighs and the other one curls around his waist. They part and his eyes lock on hers.

"I'm sorry," he says and she knows it's for the hurt he knows he now caused. She smiles, just a small one, one that is still trembling and nervous.

"I know," she replies. "Me too."

He kisses her again, still light, though there's nothing tentative about it. He cups the side of her face in his hand when she pulls away. "Does this mean I can come back?"

Her laugh is light and genuine, something she hasn't done since he left. Her forehead comes to rest against his. "I'll have to make a few phone calls," she admits and he knows it's to Ryan, Esposito, Lanie and the captain, to tell them all that she's okay with this and they don't have to kill him. "But your chair's been kind of empty all summer."

"Empty chair representative of an empty hole," he says still smiling. "Kind of poetic."

"Kind of corny," she replies shaking her head.

"You kind of like corny," he teases.

She smiles, but her eyes are serious. "I kind of like you."

His eyes are full of affection as they meet hers. "That's good," he murmurs against her mouth. "Because I kind of like you too."

So, I feel like there's a few things I need to explain here. Most specifically, Kate. There's no doubt in my mind that Kate was heartbroken with the results of the finale, and there's no doubt that she's going to go through hell for the 'summer'. At the same time, I didn't want to write about all that pain and heartache. There's a lot of that out there, and, really, you guys don't need my take on the aftermath of that final scene. Which is why this is taking place when he returns in the fall and Kate would have time to absorb it, work through it and, in this case, come to terms with it. That's why she's strong and rational about the whole thing. That, and I just really didn't want to write about the heartbroken Kate.

Thanks for reading.