The thing was, she hadn't lost her job.

But it might be only a matter of time.

Kate Beckett had been put on a two-week suspension until further review. Richard Castle, however, took one look at her face as she came out of there and knew it was just as bad as getting fired. She stopped at Captain Montgomery, unclipped her badge, unholstered her gun, and handed both over to her boss even as a police officer tried to lurk inconspicuously in the background. She walked out. She didn't spare Castle a single glance.

He was pissed off and wounded, but he saw, a little bit, the wisdom of her request last Friday. She was not going to be an easy person to live with the next week or so, especially since she still didn't have a resolution. But he wanted the opportunity to decide for himself. And she had withheld that from him.

So he did some sulking; it was only natural. But his sulking alternated with a debilitating concern that kept him holed up in his office, not writing and not eating and not listening when Alexis asked him how he was doing.

"She hasn't called?"

"No," he sighed and finally looked up. In sweatpants, a tshirt he'd worn for the last three days (Saturday, Sunday, and now today, because it still smelled like her), and his laptop balanced on his knees, Castle looked wretched and he knew it.

Alexis sat down on his desk and watched him. He was in his leather writing chair, not the desk chair, and he'd pulled it up to the window to let the sunlight filter over him. "She texted me."

Castle jerked upright. "She did what?"

"She texted me back, I mean."

"You texted her?" He was amazed at how absolutely jealous he was of his own daughter.

"She said she was ok. She said-"

"Let me see. Please. Alexis."

Alexis dug her phone out of her pocket and pulled up the text, glancing at him suspiciously. Castle didn't care, didn't even matter; word from Kate, something from Kate, anything-

"Here, Dad." She handed it over; Rick cradled her phone like a gift, a treasure, and read the little green bubble on the screen. Two green, no wait, four green bubbles worth of text.

I'm ok. thanks. might see my dad tomorrow. speaking of, tell yours i'm sorry; i know i hurt his feelings.

Hurt his feelings? She had crushed him. She had stomped him. He had done exactly as she had asked all weekend long, and she had done exactly what she had warned him she was going to do. He'd actually expected his good behavior on Saturday and Sunday to earn him special privileges. He'd been wrong.

"You should text her," Alexis said.

"She doesn't want anything to do with me."

"I don't think that's true." She took her phone away from him; his fingers twitched around air, wanting it back, wanting to hold it a little longer. "You don't think that's true either. You're punishing her for needing to be alone because you almost never need to be alone."

"She couldn't even look at me when she left."

"She didn't *leave*, Dad." Alexis huffed into the empty desk chair and rolled it closer. "She told you exactly how she was going to handle this. Come on, stop pouting. Start letting her know you get it. You have two weeks to try to convince her she's better off with you than without you, that even if she wants to be alone, she doesn't really."

Alexis slapped his shoulder and stood up. Like that was supposed to be the end of some great, motivating conversation. Like she'd done her bit and was moving on.

He was pouting. It was Monday. . .no, it was now technically Tuesday morning. "Where've you been?" he asked finally.

"Out. With Ashley," she added hastily. "Not Lauren. I'm sorry. I told you earlier today, but I don't know that you heard me."

"Doing what with Ashley? on a Monday night."

"Dad," she rolled her eyes, but sat back down in the desk chair. "Hanging out. You know."

"I don't know. Hanging out where?"

"Does it matter?"

"Is it a secret?"

They faced off, Castle irritated and wounded and still a little bit scared about what might happen to Alexis if she wasn't being seriously honest with him about this Lauren stuff, and mostly a lot scared about what might happen to Kate if she wasn't also being seriously honest with him.

"We went to the library, the one on Fifth. Dylan's for chocolate covered Oreos. Back to his place because he wanted me to hear this old album he likes by the Flaming Lips-"

"Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots?"

She laughed. "That's the one. You have that?"

"Of course. It's so good. Did you listen to the whole thing?"

She nodded, and then got that sly look on her face which meant she an idea. "Hey, give me that." Alexis leaned over and grabbed the laptop, then spent an inordinate amount of time looking really pleased with herself. A song started playing that he remembered. "My favorite was this one, Fight Test. It's about this guy who regrets not standing up for himself, not fighting for what he wants-"

"All right. I got it. Don't need to beat me over the head with it-"

"And he says, 'I should have fought him but instead I let him take you.' And I just think-"

"I said I got it," Castle growled, getting up and grabbing his laptop back from her. But he wasn't mad, he was just exhausted. And it was only the first day. Weary with fighting himself, weary with wanting her, weary with not knowing what to do next. "I'll text Kate."

"Right now."

He sighed again and closed the laptop, pulled out his phone. "Right now."

Kate was curled up in bed trying to ignore the sunlight that flowed through her apartment like water, like clear and beautiful water. She wanted her mom. She wanted to feel her mom's fingertips against her temples, soothing the headache that came from tears she wouldn't cry. She wanted the press of her mom's lips against her forehead and the way her mom would've jerked back the covers and made her get out of bed.

Her eyes hurt. Her hip hurt on this side. Maybe she had been lying here too long. But if she rolled over, the sunlight would be right against her eyelids, like a finger pressing at her eyeballs.

She wanted her mom. She ached in every place.

Anger hadn't sustained her long. Anger had gotten her out of the review board and into the street without crying. Anger had gotten her a taxi to the gym, forget walking, and anger had propelled her through two hours of rigorous martial arts combat training. She drilled her opponents into the ground. She battered a medicine ball against the wall repeatedly. She perfected her left hook until she couldn't lift her arm, her shoulder numb and thick. She kicked the practice dummy in the face until her hip socket felt loose and rubbery, like it was elastic.

Then she ran for an hour, heading home supposedly, but taking the really long way. No headphones, wrong shoes, her jacket tied around her waist. Sweat poured off of her by the time she got home, ran sticky between her breasts and thighs, made her eyes burn so badly she was forced to keep her left one closed.

Too much effort to shower. She dropped into bed and slept for a long long time.

And when she woke up, she wasn't angry any more; she was just tired. Still tired. The morning sun was like a shimmering promise of things that didn't and wouldn't happen to her, not Kate Beckett. She had traded her old life of theatre productions and summer houses and French literature for the world of death and justice. She had made a deal; she had stuck to it.

Now it had been denied her as well. So what did she have left? This wasn't pity, wasn't anything. It was a cold analysis of what her life had been and now what it was not. No justice for her mother, and now, she no longer had the respite of achieving justice for the myriad others who fell victim to evil. If she was no longer the girl who spoke French and threw soirees, and now she was also not the girl who tracked killers and locked them away, then she was what?

She was tired. And she wanted to sleep but it wouldn't be given back to her today.

So Kate stayed curled in her bed, head and hip aching, ignoring whatever other bruises existed deeper down.

It was in this state that her phone vibrated noisily on the bedside table. Like a Mexican jumping bean. To turn it off, she reached out a hand and scooped it off the table.

But she made the mistake of looking.

Castle. And her heart, which she hadn't known still worked, thudded too painfully. Her fingers had minds of their own and she was reading the text before she could stop herself.

I love you.

And then she cried.