"No Kate, don't leave me, ok? Just hang on! Kate, please?" he begged quietly, as he stroked her hair, his eyes pleading with hers. "Kate you can't go!" He felt something inside of him crumbling. He needed to say something, anything to make her stay. He needed to tell her...to tell her the truth before it was too late. And then he did, because there simply was nothing else to do.

"Kate, Kate, I love you!" He said it like he was a sailor throwing a rope out to a drowning man. He wanted to give her this truth to hang onto, so she'd have a light when the darkness closed in, a night light to wave around when she could no longer stare it down.

He thought he saw her faintly smile through the tears and the pain just before...

He snapped awake in a cold sweat. He was having the dream again. Usually in the dream he didn't lose her, usually it ended with her waking up in the hospital and pinning him to his chair with her big brown gaze and saying in that breathy, scared, sometimes vulnerable tone that he swore she only let him hear, "You're here?"

And then he'd grab her hand and say "Always."

Sometimes he woke up whispering "always" with a slight smile on his lips. Alexis said that the only time he smiled these days was when he was asleep.

He cursed as he looked at the time on the clock that sat on the living room table. He'd fell asleep on the couch again. He moved slowly and heavily to a sitting position and looked around, the melancholy that had been sitting in his eyes for the past months once again settling back into it's old space. His mother and Alexis would have no doubt guessed where he was at this point. When he started to not come home at night they had questioned him at first and then stopped bothering him.

He knew where she'd hid her key. He always had had keen powers of observation.

The first night that he had come to her apartment he had been busted on a breaking and entering accusation, but once that patrol officers had taken him down to the precinct and gotten their behinds handed to them he never had a problem again.

He reached for a pillow and pressed it to his nose...it still smelled like her. The scent was faint now, like the way a dried rose smells after it has been pressed between the pages of a diary too long, but it still made Castle think of her long curling hair and how her smile knocked he wind out of him every time she turned it his way. He should have told her sooner...

He got up and went over to the drawer where he had found the box locked away. He gave a slight smile to the ghosts in the room...he should have always known Kate was a box person. She was sentimental, but she kept her momentos locked up, just like her feelings.

He took out the box and went through it again, pausing on the picture of her and her mother and then the newspaper clipping about the fundraiser he had held for her and then finally on a candid picture of the two of them together. Every time he saw it he had to smile through his tears. He looked like the cat that had just eaten the canary and she was letting out a huge, carefree full on laugh. Her head was tipped back and her eyes were closed. She was touching his arm.

What he would give to recapture a moment like that.

Under the picture, in her dainty little handwriting was one word-"Always." The first night he had found that he had almost had to curl up on the floor to fight the waves of anguish that had washed over him.

Slowly, he put the items back in the box and returned it to its dusty hiding spot in the drawer. He resumed his spot on the couch and took out the sheaf of paper that he almost always seemed to carry on him these days and the pen he had stolen his first day at the precinct.

He felt a letter coming on.

He had been writing her letters these past months and pouring his absolute heart out into them. As a writer it was the only coping mechanism he found appropriate. He wrote to her when he was missing her the most and now was one of those moments. He never failed to sign the letters "Always, Rick." Whenever Martha or Alexis saw him writing one they knew not to bother him and they also knew where they would find him the next morning-in the graveyard.

He left them propped up against the base of her tombstone. Every time he returned the previous letter would be gone and in a way he liked to think that had meant she had somehow gotten them, even though he knew that was impossible. He knew that groundskeeper probably removed them and threw them away. He didn't care. Something about the ritual of it made him feel better.

So there he was. Writing another letter.

If only Rick Castle had known the wild ride the universe had in store for him.