Kate Beckett decided that Remy's might be okay. She was starving and movie theatre popcorn wouldn't hold her until tomorrow morning anyway. So when the lights went up and Castle's exuberant face beamed at her, she rolled her eyes at him and sighed.

"All right, Castle. Remy's for burgers."

"Yes! I'm starved," he whined and hopped out of his chair, darting for the aisle.

Kate followed his bouncy gait back to the lobby of the old theatre, taking in a last, deep breath of stale popcorn, butter grease, and damp red velvet curtains. Castle turned back to her with that trailer-sized grin (extra wide), and struggled with his coat as he chattered about the movie.

"I mean, think about. You're Altaira, you're a 19 year old girl (I know it's been awhile but use your imagination), and you've only got your father and Robby the Robot for company. Of course, finding three strange men is going to be like discovering another planet to you, like discovering three new planets, really. So it's just as much a case of Forbidden Men as it is Forbidden Planet, right?"

Kate spared him a glance as she put on her leather jacket, shrugging her shoulders into place, scraping her hair off her back. She wrapped a rubber band around the mass of it twice and watched his eagerness with suspicion, but warming up her own arguments.

"I think it's more about the Forbidden places in men's minds," Kate said, shoving her hands into her pockets and preparing for the cold air waiting for them outside. "Dr Mobius brought the monster on himself, on his own people, because he couldn't bear to face reality. But faced with the death of his daughter, himself, and he accepts that this creature is a piece of him, it kills him. The forbidden places in our minds. . ."

"Yeah, but wasn't Leslie Nielsen hot?" Castle grinned and took her elbow as he wound his scarf around his neck, then pushed open the door for them both.

With a huff of surprise, Kate startled in the relatively warm night air. She withdrew her hands from her pockets, causing Castle's hold on her arm to slip, his fingers tangling in hers. She squeezed his hand and held it, keeping him in place even as he began to walk off into the night, heading for Remy's.

"He had some appeal. I'll give you that." She waited a beat, waited until he had turned back around and stilled somewhat. "You'd already seen it."

He gave her a well-rehearsed innocent look, a hand to his chest in polite disavowal. Kate scowled at him, and he crumbled.

"Okay, yes. Actually, I wanted to take-"

Kate hitched in a breath-

"Alexis, but she bailed on me. Mother is totally over my fascination with this movie and threatens bodily harm or damaging shopping sprees whenever I bring it up."

And let out a sigh. "You could've just told me, Castle."

"Would you have insisted I come? Dragged me out here? Paid for my popcorn?"


"There you go." He raised both eyebrows and brought their hands up between them, squeezing. "Now, Remy's. I can spring for dinner, and you can scold me when we're well-fed."

Sitting down to a turkey burger with guacamole and organic swiss cheese, and sweet potato fries fresh from the deep frier, Kate took a deep breath of her better-late-than-never dinner and smiled like an angel at Rick Castle. The writer smiled back, probably less than saintly in appearance due to the five o'clock stubble now working on its sixth hour, and thanked the waitress for them both. His own meal, a black bean and beef burger with a wedge of pepper jack cheese pushed into the middle of the patty, a basket of seasoned fries, and a beer was already sending up signals of its own to his half-full stomach.

He'd had popcorn and M&Ms during the movie, offering to share with Beckett but not actually sharing much. Kate had a handful and nothing more. As she used a thumb to swipe guacamole from the corner of her mouth, Castle remembered her comment on the forbidden places of men's minds.

There was something to that. And speaking of-

"Hey, I have a hypothetical for you, as a police officer."

"Detective," she insisted, and took another mouthful.

"Detective," he submitted and watched her throat work, the long, tall pillar of her throat.

Castle shook his head. "Okay, so here's my hypothetical. Say a 17 year old girl is out with her group of friends at a trendy boutique in Brooklyn. The friends all decide to shoplift, even though the 17 year old girl does not-"

He paused, watched her swallow hard and wipe her mouth. Kate's face had gone from thoroughly satisfied to stark and uncomfortable by the time he had managed to set the stage.

"Castle, as an officer of the law, I am sworn to uphold the law."

He nodded. "I know, that's why I'm asking you this."

She frowned at him, the furrow between her eyebrows deepening with every second. "Castle. If I hear of a crime being committed, a crime having been committed, or a crime about to be committed, I am sworn to uphold the law. I don't get a choice in that. Do you understand me?"

Castle blinked, digesting both the black bean burger and her sudden, deadly stillness. "Yes?"

"I don't think you do."

"I do. I'm just saying, this is hypothetical. A for instance."

"I saw Alexis talking with you in the hallway earlier."

Castle frowned and tilted his head, leaning back in their booth to reevaluate. "Just a for instance. Nothing to do with Alexis."

She frowned back and looked down at her plate. "Castle-"

"I need your help on this, Kate. I just want some advice. On a hypothetical. Just-you know-what if. Say it's for a book."

She didn't say go ahead, but she wasn't stopping him either.

"Okay, so the friends have shoplifted, but the 17 year old takes money from her savings account and comes back to the store some time later. She leaves it on the counter with a note explaining what happened."

"With a note?" Kate's face was still that bleached, uncomfortable white.


"If this hypothetical store owner chooses to press charges, the note is an admission of guilt. It will be entered as evidence. It will have fingerprints, Castle."

"No, no, no. This isn't what I'm asking."

"What *are* you asking?" Kate lifted her head up to glare at him.

Castle was miffed at her attitude, but plowed through. "This hypothetical girl says it'll never happen again. But she won't tell me which friends she was with, who did it. And I don't want her hanging out with those girls anymore, but how can I enforce that when I don't know who they are? On one hand, I'm really proud of her for taking responsibility for actions that weren't even her fault to begin with-"

"Castle," Kate barked. Her right hand slid out of sight for a moment, then reappeared with her shield resting in her palm, both laid out on the table like an offering. Kate's thumb covered part of the shield so the light wouldn't glint off it and draw attention. "Castle, look at this. I am a police officer. I arrest criminals."

"Alexis is NOT a criminal," he hissed, leaning in close to her. "She didn't do the stealing; those girls did."

"While she stood there! Accessory." Kate clenched a fist around her shield and shoved it brutally back into her pocket. "You can't tell me this. I don't get to make a choice on this one, Castle. What happened to hypothetical?"

Castle leaned into her space, defensive of his daughter, a little bit scared for his daughter too. "Back off, Beckett. I'm just asking your advice. I just wanted to know what I should do about her not being willing to narc on her friends. I mean, I'm *glad* she didn't squeal on them."

"This system is about punishing crime. When you do something wrong, something bad happens to you. It doesn't work without squealers, Castle, and you know it. Without witnesses, without tipoffs, without snitches-"

"I'm not looking for a police state here." Castle huffed at her and leaned back against the booth again, conscious of a great and grief-filled anger rising up in her, helpless to understand it. "I'm not the Gestappo. Or, how about this, Minority Report? We don't arrest people just in case they might commit a crime. These girls were wrong, but Alexis-"

"Castle, dammit, not another word!" Kate sprang up from the booth, her face flushed. She grabbed her wallet and yanked out a twenty dollar bill, throwing it on the table.

Furious himself now, feeling wounded as well, Castle grabbed her wrist and held her there (though she could have broken every bone in his left arm if she'd really wanted to get away). "Kate," he insisted, incredulity in his voice warring with exasperation.

When she met his eyes, there were glimmers of angry and frustrated tears that made him drop her wrist, lean away from her.

"You don't get it Castle. Every word that comes out of your mouth, every detail of this supposed story-it compromises my integrity. I won't do that for Alexis; I won't do that for you. With this job, sometimes my integrity all I have left."