Thanks again as always everyone. Hope you like this one, too. Might be the last for a while, unless I think of something else worth writing.

To FanficWriterGHC and Sandiane: still loving the stories, I've just been trying hard to get this done. :D

To Casketty: The pictures were the Beckett's modeling photos from S2, Ep3. :-)

Castle usually loved this part. Sitting beside Beckett at the interrogation room table, an uncomfortable killer sitting opposite, as they set out to draw a confession. Usually he and Beckett were of one mind about their bad guy. This case, however, found their opinions somewhat at odds. That said, she still wanted him on her side of the glass.

He'd play his angle, she'd play hers. At least they would cover their bases this way.

Castle started, telling the huddled man who wouldn't meet their eyes, "You stole your daughter's phone—"

"—texted Mark, pretended you were her, got him to come over, left the front door unlocked—" Then Beckett came in.

Back to him. "—waited in her room with that amazing mansion of a dollhouse you made for her, thinking about how she still kept it right there on the shelf, even though she'd outgrown it years ago. You probably still remember the smile on her face, don't you? How it made it all worth it."

To her again. "Building it after twelve-hour shifts on the docks, six days a week, sacrificing for her, so she'd have a, richer life than yours."

It wasn't just "good cop/bad cop" they were playing. Castle was giving him the benefit of the doubt, motivation-wise. He saw a man who acted out of love for his daughter, because he would have, if their places were reversed. Beckett just saw a man, selfish as any other.

"So you sat on her bed, just staring at that tangible memory of the little girl she used to be. Your little girl," Castle spoke with empathy. "Who grew up to be incredibly, unbelievably smart."

"More than smart enough to earn herself a full ride. She had everything ahead of her, and you saw it all long before she did, didn't ya, Carl?" Beckett's voice took on an accusatory edge.

"Everything you wanted her to be, everything you wanted her to that mansion. Bet you wanted it to be real someday. But then Mark came along." Castle knew what it was like when a boyfriend suddenly entered the picture, and knew the fears that came with it. For Carl, one of those fears had been well-founded. "And now? Rosie's life is five months away from becoming an entirely different type of real."

"He got her pregnant, and when she said she wasn't getting rid of their baby, he just..." Beckett's features hardened as she leaned closer in. "...cast her aside, like the damaged goods she is."

Castle was still taking the empathetic route. "As if destroying her future wasn't unforgivable enough. What father worthy of the title would stand for that? If it were my daughter? Know I wouldn't.

"He had to pay. Had to. Mean, c'mon, he certainly wasn't worthy. He didn't even want the title." And that was it for his version of the story.

Now it was time for Beckett to finish hers. "Guys like him, they'll move on to the next girl, then the one after that, and the one after that, not caring about who else might be getting screwed in their wake.

"So by the time Mark walked in, you knew there was no going back. You were seeing red. You started beating him to death before he could figure out what was happening. He couldn't defend himself. Never had a chance."

They both waited for Carl to say something, anything, but he remained mute. The only sound was his foot steadily tapping on the floor.

Writers' curiosity overtook Castle then, as he set aside his previous subjectivity. "I've gotta know...using that old, toy baton from her closet—thanks for not wearing gloves, by the way—symbolic? Or just convenient?"

"He's a writer. He likes symbolism," Beckett explained, leaning back.

He nodded. "She's right, I do. Almost as much as irony. And creating new onomatopoeia."

"Me, I don't really care about the possible, symbolic significance of murder weapons. What I do care about? Is that the object that did that," she pointed at the photos of the body she'd put out before they'd begun, "to my victim's face, more than proves you're guilty, and that we haven't been wasting our time, or the city's."

"Cops—all they read are Miranda rights," Castle shook his head, faux-pity in his words. "Talk about unimaginative prose."

"They get the point across. Which reminds me—"

Carl looked up all of a sudden, and his foot made no more noise. There was no remorse in his face, no sadness-simply anger. "Ya plan somethin' all out, bust your ass to make it happen, suck up to the right people, owe a few favors, thinkin', 'Just hang in a little longer. Kid'll be your ticket soon enough; she'll do right by you.' 'Til some smug, little piss-ant gets her to spread her legs."

Just like that, Carl proved Beckett right. He wasn't worthy of the title, either. The detective shot a fast, "sorry" look over to her partner.

"I'd kill him again."

As she rapped on the two-sided mirror behind her and Castle, Carl was realizing what he admitted. "I sincerely hope your grandson's lucky enough to never know who you are."

A pair of uniformed officers entered the room and pulled him out of the chair. One cuffed him.

"Carl Davies, you're under arrest for the murder of Kyle Simms," Beckett advised. "You have the right to remain-"

"I want a lawyer," Carl cut her off in a panic.

Castle brought a finger to his lips. "Ssh, she's getting to that part. Anyway, little late, isn't it?"

About a half-an-hour later, Beckett sat at her desk, crossing her "t's" and dotting her "i's" on the post-case paperwork. Castle sat with her, parked in his usual chair. She knew this one got to him and was getting to him still, as evidenced by the contemplative silence.

In the beginning, she knew it made him question how far he'd be capable of going, if Alexis were in the same situation as Rose Davies. Of course, that was when he was holding onto the belief that Carl was just a good father who'd snapped. Now that that wasn't it?

Beckett suspected her partner was lost in his thoughts, trying to understand how Carl could use his daughter so selfishly. How he could lie his way through a relationship that Castle cherished, for two decades. How he could have no emotional ties to his own flesh and blood.

She didn't know what to say. But she knew Castle always talked when he was ready. Maybe when he was, she'd come up with something.

Beckett happened to glance down at her father's watch just then, eyes panicking a bit upon seeing the time. "Castle, it's six o'clock."

Her voice brought him back to the world outside his head. She showed him her wrist.

"The big hand and the little hand do seem to think so, yes," he agreed, his trademark smile somewhat confused as to why that was important.

She answered his smile and light, smart-assed-ness with a, "I'm going to wipe that smile away" glare. "Any guesses what they'll think an hour from now?"

He hissed through his teeth, clamping shut his lids while it came back to him. When he spoke again, he slowly opened one eye. "That...I better be at that book signing, or my 'Emma Frost' of an ex-wife is going to castrate me? Slowly, painfully, skillfully?"

"You? Who cares about you?" She questioned dismissively. "Ever since we decided to let her and Paula in on everything, she's been waiting for the sky to fall. Like I'm going to slaughter her cash cow, her career..." She took a frustration-reducing breath. "If you don't make it to that bookstore, who do you think she's gonna blame?"

Beckett respected Gina, she did. And she was sure the respect was mutual. At least on a professional level. They were confident, committed women who'd managed to claim some measure of authority in their chosen fields. It was an accomplishment to be admired.

On a personal level? She wanted to have a perfectly legal reason to lay Gina out. All the tension came not from Gina being Castle's ex twice over, but from being his publisher. The former she could understand. The latter she just found cold. Like Carl Davies.

Gina worried that if the readers knew Castle was taken for good, they'd jump ship. A majority liked to believe that the single, commitment-phobic playboy could possibly, one day, if they were very, very lucky, sleep with them. But if he settled down, truly settled down, he'd become just another husband, and they already had one of those.

Gina even had figures worked out. It belittled his talent, and was based on a stereotype that the woman herself disproved. But the part where she more or less said Castle wasn't going anywhere anytime soon? Beckett didn't mind so much.

"I'm partial to 'golden goose,'" said Castle after her mini-rant, turning to face her more. "F.Y.I."

"What, you don't like the idea of going to 'Bovine University'?" She smirked, then pretended to think about it. "No...that's not it. You don't like the idea of being," In a lightning move, her hand reached for his chest, and pinched down on it over his shirt, "milked."

"OwOwOwOwOwOw! Tangerines! Pears! Watermelons! Pine...apples!"

She decided that didn't count as a safeword. Boy, for a man with no pain threshold whatsoever... "Some masochist."

"You-you can let go. Anytime now," he tried to smile while wincing. "Pretty please on top?"

Her vice grip immediately ended at the promise of cash. "There's the magic word." When she went to pat his cheek, out of fear, he covered the sensitive areas of his chest protectively. "We'll discuss how steep my mercy runs, another time. Wouldn't want you to be late."

"My nipples are already eternally grateful. Too grateful to haggle," he glowered as her grin broke. "Oh, Ultimately, without fail, Gina always blames me. It's her favorite pastime."

"Whaddaya know? It's also mine."

"Except when you do it, it's somehow endearing."

"Still, all this time, and Gina and I could've been bonding."

A chill went up both their spines at that statement.

Standing, Castle saw it as his duty to help them forget she'd ever said such a thing. "So! Later-your place? Little Chow-Fun, little wine, and watching the fifth season of a certain comedy goldmine, from a certain, underrated, basic cable network, 'til our sides hurt?"

Beckett stood as well, incredulous. "Are you kidding me right now? The DVD isn't even out yet."

"Beckett, Beckett, one watches DVDs anymore," he replied, ashamed for her. "We live in the 'Streaming Age.' Netflix, Vudu, Amazon-the choices are vast and many. Join me there."

"Not until you've earned your keep," she reminded him, linking their arms as she led him to elevator—to make sure he got there. "Remember to smile and look pretty."

"Remember something I just can't help? Why?" He asked her like he thought it would be a complete waste of time, smiling. "You aren't wrong, though. That's half my job."

His smile weakened. He was being pulled into his head again.

She noticed. "Hey, you okay?"

"Yeah, fine," he said, unable to suppress the sigh. "Just, trying to get in the mood to be me."

Beckett had always thought it was easy for him to switch gears from murder to frivolity. He made it seem that way so often. But in the almost two months they'd been together now, she saw the toll it took on him. Especially (like she'd figured) this case.

It was time to say something. He couldn't go to a signing with this weighing on him. As the new covers of Heat Wave proclaimed, he had a soon-to-be motion-picture to drum up interest for.

At the elevator, she told him, "If Davies was really the kind of father you told yourself he was? He wouldn't be headed for Sing-Sing in the morning. He'd be back home, helping Rosie get ready to be a mom. But he isn't, and she'll have to do it all on her own."

"I know," he nodded, "but part of me still thought..."

Some dark, fiercely protective, parental part, thought Carl had the right idea.

"Part of me did too, and I don't even have a kid," she admitted before quipping, "Some days it might feel like I do..."

"Is it a crime to be young at heart?" He asked, enjoying the lightness of the moment.

"If it is, then I'm a daily embarrassment to the force," For not arresting him, "only, miraculously, no one's noticed yet."

"They're living in blissful ignorance—go with it," he suggested. "And, personally? I prefer to think of you as the best accomplice a guy could ask for. You know half-full."

Saying that last part on a down note, the moment ended.

"It doesn't matter how many different ways you've dreamt up to bump off Ashley if he and Alexis..." She left the blank unfilled as he seemed to go a little green. "You'd never act on them. Because you wouldn't wanna leave her."

She firmly believed he could never be Carl. Not if his daughter was alive. Seeing him agree, she didn't follow her thoughts down the alternative, rabbit hole.

"Davies didn't commit murder for his daughter; he did it because he threw twenty years of his life away on an 'investment' that suddenly wasn't gonna pay off, and Kyle Simms was the reason why."

"How'd I manage to completely misread him? Motive is my thing," he insisted, disappointed in himself.

"Easy...'cause you wanted to. Because you can't imagine being anything other than a great dad," she said simply.

He was smiling again, grateful. "Thank you."

"It's just the truth. But you're welcome."

She pressed the elevator's down button. Confirming they were alone as the doors opened, he expressed his gratitude further with a kiss. He'd be okay.

Beckett was happy to reciprocate, but soon was pushing him into the elevator. "Now scram. Go give the lonely, desperate housewives of New York who aren't obnoxious enough for TV, something to fantasize about. Hell, if gravity cooperates? Sign whatever you want. Then, after your hands have been thoroughly bleached, we'll get on with our night."

"Our night which will include...?"

"Oh yeah. You know that's right."

They were both, obviously, referring to visiting the best, fictional psychic detective agency in Santa Barbara.

Around an hour into Castle's signing, Kate sipped a coffee downstairs at the very bookstore where he was contractually obligated to appear. From her table, she looked over and saw the sign directing people upstairs to the Children's Storytime area. The signing was set up there.

She knew it was probably chosen for size reasons, but Kate still laughed at the oddly appropriate setting. She was glad for the spur of the moment decision to drive here rather than to her apartment. She had to, not that she understood why yet.

Pulling out her phone, she sent two, quick texts:

~No wonder you're so in love with yourself~

~Had to flash my badge, or I never would've gotten through the door~

Several minutes later (despite his being busy), she received a trio back in return:

~Illegally and without probable cause? YOU?~

~insert shocked/appalled emoticon here~

~Detective Beckett, you've gone mad with power! Mad!~

Smiling, she finished off her beverage before replying:

~Yeah, well, you would have too~

~The 'woman' who was ahead of me?~

~Biggest Ascot I've ever seen~

~Took everything I had not to just...BAM~

His answer was instant:

~Said my 'Lady'~

Her smile grew as he texted again:

~Should've told me you were coming~

~Where are you?~

She answered:


~Didn't know I was til I was halfway here~


It was another couple minutes before she got:


~But if I didn't know better, I'd think you were checking up on me~

That invited her next text:

~Do I need to?~

Kate could picture his grin as she read:

~Only when we're playing Doctor~

She rolled her eyes, giving in to her inner-devil:

~I'm sure Lanie could spare some gloves...~

After five minutes of no response, she gave in again:

~Clenching only makes it worse, Castle~

After five minutes more passed, she tried:

~Aren't you gonna ask me why I came?~

He finally wrote back:

~Uh...being horrified by my own, traitorous imagination, atm~

She snickered to herself, telling him:

~You'll get used to it. I did~

Though she wasn't snickering when she said:

~If you need it, I have your back~

Typing it, she knew that was why she came. He was her partner in everything. Much as she valued a private life, she wanted to match that commitment. "They" were going to be public knowledge real soon, and she'd been coming to terms with what that entailed.

Eventually they'd go on a traditional date and dress nice and do things outside. She wanted to be able to; she wanted to meld intimate and big and not hide forever. Maybe this was a baby-step. A baby-step she wanted him to ask her to take, because he needed her to.

But, so he didn't get all emotional and look unhinged in front of his fan-base, she added:

~Plus, the coffee's fantastic~

His next written words were:

~Just knowing you're around is already helping~

~Lonelier up here than you'd think~

Then, somewhat unexpectedly, the same thought got expressed in synchronized texts:

~Screw the plan~ ~Screw the plan~

She felt the need to comment:


What was this Plan they'd been hatching? A story. A story that read more romantic on paper than a tossed off "love you" in a car, in a poorly-lit parking garage (you really kind of had to be there, anyway). A story that would fictionalize and embellish the details—but kept them on equal footing—so they could hoard reality for themselves.

It was an appealing idea they had fun fleshing out these past, few weeks. It would allow privacy, while putting a public face out there as a distraction. And for Castle specifically, it allowed him to counter Gina's reaction before Kate ever had to be subjected to it.

Everybody loved a good, "power couple" love story, and he wanted to convince Gina that his readers would forget about doing unspeakably naughty things to his person once they'd heard it. He had convinced her. And all signs indicated that the press would eat it up, and sell it with enthusiasm.

Yet here they were less than a week from implementing their plan, and wanting to scrap it completely.

He asked:

~Are you sure?~

She wanted him to go first, so:

~Are you?~

These were his answer:

~The sky isn't going to fall~

~If my career survived my marriage to Gina, it can survive anything~

~People, these people, plotted her death on the msgboards A LOT more than I have Ashleys~

~Some I had to try very hard not to 'borrow' for a book~

~So gruesome~

~You? They adore~

She cocked a dubious brow:

~Nikki maybe~

~Not me~

~They don't even know me~

He got to the heart of their abrupt, cold feet:

~So introduce yourself~

~Got an empty chair~

~I've invented 2/3 of my own name, and a fair bit of my bio~

~I don't wanna invent us~

She agreed:

~Me neither~

Fun as it was to write the story together, he didn't want their relationship, even a fictionalized version, to be a cog in Black Pawn's "Richard Castle" publicity machine. And Kate didn't want to lie about their relationship, or deceive anyone, harmless as it might seem now. If the truth made life more difficult, more exposed, so be it.

She was her mother's daughter that way. Whatever happened, they'd deal with it. Might as well start tonight.

Kate asked:

~Do you want me up there with you?~

She should've expected his initial reply:

~I always want you~

~...With me~

And became resolved at his follow-up:


~But if you're not sure, it's okay~

Grabbing her empty cup, she put her phone away and glanced at the stairs.

As the store employee led Kate through the crowd of women either giving her the stink eye for thinking she was cutting the line, or gasping as they recognized her, her cop, poker face stayed in place. Reaching Castle and his table, he stood to pull out the second chair for her. They smiled at each other.

"I'm sure," she whispered as she sat, placing a fresh coffee down for him.

"And I didn't even save the city this week," he whispered back in thanks, returning to his seat.

He brought their hands together under the table in private support.

Kate brought them onto the table for all to see. "Teach me how to do this?"

An awed hush resounded throughout the room.

Castle knew what was coming. "Let the learning commence in three, two, one..."

Here went everything.