Quick note: technically, this is meant to be part of the World Series (between California and Miami) but there's no real reference to either so you should be good to go. No spoilers either.

. . . . .

Talking to Dad

The ringing telephone doesn't surprise Rick.

The person on the other end does.

But since he's in the midst of a nasty bout of writer's block – well, lack of inspiration; no… something more positive because he does not have writer's block – he doesn't hesitate to agree to coffee with Jim Beckett.

He kind of saw it coming anyway.

He's been with Kate for months now and whether she actually knows it or not, he's in it for the long haul. So he's been waiting for her to mention her father, to bring up that she wants them to meet. She hasn't yet, but a lack of permission has never stopped him from doing things before.

So, he puts on his most arrogant stroll as he heads down the sidewalk, more because he knows that people will get out of his way rather than bother him, and because he needs the extra courage. He is, after all, still nervous. This is still Kate's father and though he's never told her, he sees forever with her.

Which means a forever-in-law with Jim.

So impressions matter, and Rick knows better than anyone how important impressions are. Hell, he'd initially screwed himself over with Kate because of her first impression. He still wonders, from time to time, if she sees that reputation in him. He's not an idiot; he knows she sees a different side. She sees the goofy one, the loyal one, the doting one, just as much and as often as she sees the persona he puts on. She understands, which still shocks him to no end, and lets him play his part while she plays hers.

And now, as a father himself, he knows he's going to have to find a way to explain all of that to Jim.

Richard Castle is not a stupid man. In any sense of the word. Sure, he plays it well, but he knows he's proven to the boys that while his theories may be insane, they have a thread of truth to them. More often, much, much more than just a thread. He knows he's proven to Kate that he's so much more perceptive than she thinks sometimes. But he knows that by playing the part, he corrals more people. They think they can play him, think they can evade. But he's just as slick.

He's a father too, so he can recognize this as a rite of passage. Jim has to do this, and he has to submit to it, because if it was Alexis, he'd want the same thing. Especially if the man was anything like the public thought of him.

And despite what Kate thinks, Rick knows that her father means the world to her. It must have taken forever to fix that relationship, or an understanding and compassion sometimes he only dreams she has. Either way, he knows their relationship is strong. He's dating Kate, for Pete's sake, and he knows they talk. Constantly. Mostly by e-mail, because she can cheat on her paperwork to reply, but he's been around for a handful of calls. And once a month, without fail, they have a meal.

It's that meal he's really waiting to be invited to.

For now, he'll settle with coffee.

It takes him a minute to spot Jim in the crowded shop. It's New York and though there's definitely serious rush times, he knows most coffee shops are pretty busy. But he realizes just how much of Johanna Kate must have in her that it takes him more than a split second to spot Jim. Jim and Johanna. A piece of him chuckles about it.

"Mr Beckett?" Though he's always referred to the man as Jim in his head, until he gets permission, he's going with the formal.

"Jim. You must be Rick."

There's something familiar in the name and he likes that Jim feels familiar enough to stop there. "That's what my mother tells me."

He gets a crack of a smile and waves at the barista. Jim's come to him, so she doesn't bother to ask, just sets about getting his coffee ready.

Jim doesn't hold back. "I hear you're dating my daughter."

"I am," Rick agrees. He wants to gush, but he's not sure how Jim will take it so he resolutely bites down on his tongue.

"I'm glad to hear it."

That startles him a little. "You knew?"

"About you? Only who you were. She talks about you. All the time. She has since the minute she arrested you."

And the fact that Jim knows that much proves how close they are.

"You keep track of her."

Rick isn't quite sure what Jim's getting at with that phrase, so he sits with surprising patience, pausing only long enough to accept and pay for his drink.

"Do you know why I called you here?"

"I can take a guess," Rick offers and Jim smiles slightly.

"That's right. You're a father." He squints for a minute. "Alexis, right?"

Rick is a little proud. The fact that Jim knows his daughter's name speaks to just how much of his life Kate has shared. Of course, the fact that Alexis and Kate get along is beside the point. "She's almost ready to graduate high school."

"I remember Katie at that age," Jim reveals with a small, sad smile. "She was happy then. Carefree."

And with startling clarity, Rick isn't sure if he's there as a boyfriend to be interrogated, or an ear for Jim's regrets. Then again, he realizes the two aren't mutually exclusive.

"Katie was devastated when we lost Johanna." He can tell by the look on Jim's face that it's a rhetorical statement. So he cups his hands around his mug and waits. "Katie was studying… literature at the time. She was bright – she is bright – and she had the world ahead of her. Then we lost Johanna."

Rick can guess where this is going. He's a writer, so he's got too much psychology in his head, even for his own liking, and Kate's already told him about the watch and ring. He knows most of the story.

"The minute she got her legs under her she applied to the Academy and hasn't looked back since. But I lost my little girl that day, Rick." Jim fiddles with the handle of his mug. "And for the first time in years I'm okay with that, because I can see it coming back."

The writer jolts. That wasn't what he was expecting. Not in the slightest. Because he assumed Jim would give him hell for his playboy ways, wring him limb from limb as to why he should trust his daughter in Rick's hands when he can't seem to stay loyal. This is something else.

"She's different now," Jim continues, staring down into his coffee. "She's got… More zest, I guess. She's still a cop, and I've come to the conclusion that nothing in the world will ever change that, but she's not as absorbed in the job. She's not as lost in it. And that's on your shoulders."

Okay, that's not new, nor is it news. He's had plenty of people tell him he's good for Kate and she's good for him. The way Jim says it though means just that little bit more. It's coming from a father to the man his daughter is dating. So Rick swallows.

"You can trust her with me," he tells Jim quietly. "I have a long list of past… transgressions, let's say, but your daughter… she is truly extraordinary. I can't find words, Jim. She scares the hell out of me, but there's no where else I'd rather be than by her side."

"You know exactly what a father wants to hear."

"He wants to hear the truth," Rick pushes. "He wants to hear that his daughter is the center of a man's world. He wants to hear that there's nothing better than seeing her, holding her, supporting her, helping her. He wants to know that his daughter isn't going to get hurt, isn't going to be broken. And I can promise you, the same way I've promised her, most of that."

"Most of that?"

And Rick sighs, because though he knew Jim would ask, this is the part of the conversation he's not at all confident in. "I told Kate I can't give her guarantees. I can't promise her I won't make her angry, I won't do stupid things to hurt her. But I can promise to fix it. I can promise that I will fix it. I have to fix it. I can't promise she won't break because there's so much that I can't protect her from. She's independent as all anything and won't ask for help. But if she breaks I will search heaven and earth for the right brand of superglue to put her together again."

"That's a strong promise to make," Jim says calmly, though his stomach is in knots. That is exactly what a father wants to hear, especially one with a daughter like his Katie. He's already lost Johanna. He refuses to lose his baby girl too. Though, if he 'lost' her to this man, Jim can't say he'd be at all upset.

Rick sighs heavily. His emotions run deep and he debates for a split second what to tell this man. "I don't know what I would do without her," he finally settles on, looking up to meet Jim's gaze.

And the older man knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that this man will marry his daughter. He will marry her, love her, treasure her, and protect her as best he can. He will pick her up when she falls, hold her under the arm when she sprains her ankle, and cater to her every whim if, heaven forbid, she does something worse. And though he knows there's still doubt in his Katie, there's no doubt for him.

"You know, she doesn't know I called."

"I figured," Rick revealed.

"She mentioned you were working, Insinuated you could probably use a break," Jim continued.

Rick rolled his eyes. "Sometimes I think she doesn't believe I work."

Jim laughed. Then sobered. Kate would have his head if she knew he'd done this without her permission. She'd flip if she found out he'd managed to get Rick's number from her phone the last time they had lunch and she had to step out to the little girls' room. And she'd definitely kill him for the conversation he'd just had. But Rick seemed unperturbed. She'll destroy him for not allowing her there to play referee. Not that they needed one.

Rick knows the thought processes going through Jim's head, so he leans forward. "When she finally decides she wants us to meet, this never happened."

Jim nods solemnly, because he too knows his Katie. She does things on her own time, when she's damned well ready.

And when it happens, an impromptu dinner, Jim breaks out the big guns, torturing Rick so much more than that day in the coffee shop, but telling his baby girl that this man, the one she's finally chosen right, is one he whole-heartedly approves of.

Apologies for typos and weird sentence structure. As usual, this is completely unbeta'ed and it's late. I'm going to sleep. But then this bit me and I couldn't let it go.

I'm thinking of doing a little series of these to post. Just while I hammer out the details of the next installment. And I've been meaning to write this since Miami and I'm seriously considering going back and revamping that chapter. I hadn't decided on what I wanted the father-daughter dynamic to be, but now that I know, I'm hoping I can do something with it. I feel like this Jim is more like the one I've got in New England than the Jim from Miami.

I do hope you enjoyed and you'll leave me some words as to what you thought.