The Most Powerful Two-Letter Word in the World, Part 2

Kate Beckett had always imagined that being in a relationship with Rick Castle would be a full-time job (and God help her, she'd imagined it plenty). As it turns out, their schedules are such that they see each other exactly twice in the week between their time in the Hamptons and her court date with internal affairs for the ill-fated Shavez case. The first time hardly counts, because technically, she doesn't even see him: he calls her the morning after they get back into the city, but she's already in the field, having been pulled from her bed at 4 am for what turns out to be a jumper. He can't talk either; he's been called into his publisher's office for a meeting with the supposed artist penning the Storm graphic novel (apparently the guy's been AWOL the last two months.)

The second time, he drops in at the 12th with her coffee per usual, only to be ushered right back out; until this Shavez thing is cleared, up, he's been benched. She doesn't hear from him all day, which she devotes almost entirely to worrying whether they can actually make this work, here amid the realism that is New York City. Perhaps what they had in the Hamptons was nothing more than a fluke...a spark of pent up somethingfueled only by escapism and too much fresh air. But when she turns the hall corner to her apartment door late that evening, he's waiting beside it, take-out boxes in hand, eyes twinkling. (She'd been starving, but interestingly enough, they don't get around to eating for over an hour.)

That night together in her bed is every bit as good (and is it ever) as either of the nights they'd spent together in the Hamptons, and Kate won't lie: she feels a little tendril of relief edge its way into her mind. She's no closer to figuring out how they're going to make this work, but at least she hasn't been imagining just how great it is.

Her hearing is two days spent in internal affairs hell, followed by a punishment of two weeks suspension, no pay. Castle takes it hard.

"What's wrongwith those assholes?" he vents around a mouthful Monte Cristo sandwich at a deli on the corner of 14th and 7th. "Nothing better to do than push paper around, blow whistles? Someone should tell them no one likes a tattle tale."

Kate shrugs, mostly just glad it's over. Plus, Royce had always said that no self-respecting cop finishes out their career without having their hand slapped by internal affairs at least once or twice. (Or three times. Or five.) And honestly, what has her worried far more than a mark on her record is the prospect of spending fourteen days stewing in her apartment.

"Just spend them at the Hamptons house," Castle says, as if this this is the most obvious solution ever. She notes the the, as opposed to the my. As if what's his is already hers. (Which is probably exactly what he'd say should she question it.)

"I don't know..." But to her surprise (life is full of surprises these days), the prospect sounds...nice. More than nice. "Won't you be taking Alexis to college next week?"

He nods, undeterred. "Key's under the mat," he says, then waves away her horrified expression. "Oh, not really! It's a figure of speech. Anyway, I'll only be away the first week, then we can spend the second together before you're expected back." His foot touches her leg under the table, and that feelsnice, too.

She finds herself smiling down at the table top like a teenager. "I'd like that."

Flying across the country with Alexis, Martha, and five of their biggest and costliest suitcases is one of the best times Castle's spent with the two of them, if emotionally exhausting. He gets Alexis set up in her dorm, meets her roommate (a perky volleyball player from Santa Barbara), pays off the boys on the floor below to steer clear of both of them, and then guides his mother out by one arm as she simultaneously blubbers on Alexis' shoulder and flirts with Perky Roomie's stockbroker dad. By the time they're flying back back home, he's in serious need of some R&R. Luckily for him, he knows just the place.

He'd worried that Kate would have trouble relaxing during her forced exile, but when he finds her at the Hamptons house, she's sprawled out on the sand on a beach blanket, the newest Gresham novel in one hand.

"I won't lie…the betrayal stings."

"Hey." She smiles up at him, squinting into the sun. "Betrayal?"

He indicates the book.

"Oh, it's terrible, actually. I keep telling myself I'm going to toss it right into the surf."

He might have believed her, but her eyes are already back on the page. "If only you could tear yourself away."

"Exactly." She grins guiltily. "Sorry, it's great."

Later, they're eating lobster tail and sipping a 1998 Riesling on the back deck while Castle fills her in on his week with Alexis.

"I've kept the fridge stocked," Kate says, "and had honorable intentions when the utility bill arrived in the mail, but decided, 'who was I kidding?' I just set it back on the front hall table."

"Kate. You're a guest here."

"I feel more like a squatter." She looks down at her glass, her finger absently toying with the rim. She lifts her gaze to the ocean and shifts gears: "It's so peaceful here. So far removed…like I'm in limbo."

"Do you feel that way?" If so, her inability to find her footing is a mutual thing. Considering their crazy schedules and external obligations, he wonders whether she's as unsure of where they are and where they're headed as he is. She doesn't answer right away, so he adds, "Do you wantit to be that way?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean what we can stay between us, if you'd like. Here. Your place. Not at the 12th."

She scoffs. "Because you're a model of discretion." But there's something else in her expression that's harder to read.

"I can be." It pains him to say it; he has no interest in keeping her a secret from anyone.

Her mouth is tightening into a line. "Is that what you want?"

"You know it isn't."

She stands. "Ok then."

"Ok...wait-what?" Her retreat seems imminent; he stands as well, reaching for her hand on the plate she's attempting to clear. "Kate. I pushed my way into yourlife, not the other way around. I just want to respect those boundaries."

She actually laughs.

"Belatedly. I belatedlywant to respect those boundaries."

"Well, stop it, alright? I've gotten used to you being my shadow."

They have a whole speech prepared, but as it turns out, no one at the precinct wants to hear it.

"About damn time," Esposito notes.

Ryan barely glances up from his phone. "You mean we may be subjected to some sexual tension around here? That'dbe a change."

"And flirtatious bickering and stolen glances and-"

"Fine!" Kate seems more peeved about it than Castle. He just grins. "You guys win. Consider it to be business as usual around here."

"With benefits," Esposito whispers.

Turns out, business as usual includes a double-homicide, a gang-related drive by, and an open-and-shut robbery-gone-south all within the first month. The paperwork alone is enough to keep Beckett's mind of anything-and anyone-else.

As a result, Beckett's relationship with Castle progresses with all the haste of midtown traffic at rush hour...and that suits her just fine. The man's been married twice before: someone has to be the one to show some restraint instead of jumping in with both feet, and it's obviously not going to be him.

"The heart wants what the heart wants," he tells her, to which she's quick to reply:

"And wants...and wants...and wants?"

He tells her it's different this time, that in his case anyway, he finally knows what he wants: has known, since he met her. And even though it sounds like a line-or perhaps because of it...Castle would never use one-she believes him. She knows their love has been hard-won, knows the getting herehas been test enough for both of them, and yet...the idea of going where other women have gone before-and failed-unnerves her more than she'd like to admit.

Perhaps because the stakes are so high.

Instead, she moves as cautiously as she would through a joint she's casing; each footfall measured, each move calculated. (And yes, she's been in enough relationships to know this isn't normal.) They date, but don't call it dating; they call it want-to-grab-something-to-eat-after-work, or how-about-I-buy-you-a-beer. She knows it drives Castle crazy-he's dying to call in a favor at whatever Zagat-rated bistro has the newest 'it' Manhattan chef-but she keeps circling, zagging when he zigs, ducking when he dives.

They spend weekends in the Hamptons when work permits, and weeknights at his place or her place-mostly his place-where they work side-by-side on laptops or in front of murder/characterization boards. The passion is there in spades, but it's tempered by a foundation of friendship and familiarity she's never experienced while dating a man before. She finds she likes it. It allows them to slide right past 'awkward first date' and 'will he call me' and 'I wish I knew what he was thinking' to some place much more comfortable, more secure, and more nurturing of a serious relationship.

Because she can tip-toe all she likes, but it isserious. As Nikki Heat would say, it's serious as hell.

Castle's been trying to get Kate to move into his loft for almost a month now. With Alexis at college and Martha-well, what does Martha care?-Kate's there nearly every night anyway. She won't admit to the Hypnos mattress or the Z Gallerie shower head or the Keurig coffee maker being superior, so he can only assume he'sthe draw. (Though if a French press would do the trick, he'd buy her one…and keep it at his place.) Still, every time he brings up the practicality of cutting her a key, she bristles.

"I have my own place, Castle."

"But my question is, why?"

She never has an answer, but always a look to give him: something between exasperation and panic. He doesn't like it.

"But we have different schedules. What if you want to come home, and I'm not around?"

She looks at him point blank. "Then I'll go home,, won't I?"

He frowns into his fair trade, organic, Blue Mountain blend. They've danced around this particular issue-and the larger one behind it-so many times, he could waltz with her in his sleep. He'd found it on the tip of his tongue to tell her that if he could erase the women of his past, he would, but that wasn't true, was it? Meredith had been all kinds of a mistake, but she'd given him Alexis. Gina was often a nightmare, but had chiseled away at many of the shaper edges of his personality that he'd not been proud of. As for the others...before, after, in-between...they were but dots on a map, points of interest that made him who he was once he met Detective Kate Beckett.

No other woman could-or ever had-held him like she did. No other woman would he be willing-eager!-to shadow, day after day, month after month. No other woman would he write for. No other woman would he be willing to die for.

It may be time to go over her head.

She's nearly made it to the end of a long day when her person of interest decides he'd rather be a person-in-lockup after assaulting her with a can of Diet Coke from the precinct vending machine. An open can of Diet Coke. That she'dpopped open and handed to him. It wouldn't have mattered-she has a spare shirt in her locker-except that she's supposed to go straight from work to an interview with a real estate mogul tangled up in a homicide in the Battery at six, and her retro Def Leppard tee is not the impression she wants to make.

She has exactly 45 minutes to make the meeting, and guess who's place is a) closer, and b) harboring the outfit she wants? Hint: it's not her own. She hails a cab which crawls toward SOHO while she and asks herself why she felt the need to move half her closet to the loft.

At the curb, she asks the cabbie to wait and crosses the sidewalk to the double glass doors of Castle's building. Bernie, the doorman, greets her with a wave and a "Good evening, Detective Beckett," as he opens the door. It's not until she's trotted halfway cross the lobby that she remembers Castle's not here: rather, he's about as far away as you can get, NYC-speaking, at a book signing in Brooklyn. She skids to a halt in front of the elevator bank, frozen in inaction.


She tries his cell, in hopes he can authorize Bernie to let her in, but is patched straight through to voice mail. She tries Martha next, but gets an automated message from Verizon. Either she hasn't paid her bill, or has lost her charger. Or both.

She makes her way back to Bernie.


She briefly considers flashing her badge, but seasoned doormen in Manhattan buildings like Castle's are not to be trifled with. Instead, she goes with charm. "I'm so sorry, I've got a cab waiting, and I'm hoping you can let me into the apartment." She smiled self-deprecatingly, indicating her stained shirt. "I'll only be a moment."

Bernie looked at her in confusion. "Have you lost your key, ma'am?"

"Oh I don't have one, I-"

"Yes you do." She frowns at him, but he's already turned toward his desk, where he's digging into a drawer. "Here it is."

Her knee-jerk reaction is to argue with him, an urge she quickly stifles in the name of self-preservation. Instead, she silently accepts it. "Mr. Castle had me make it weeks ago. Told me you'd be needing it eventually." His eyes crinkle as he smiles. "Said it was a waiting game."

She plans to give it back to him, but hadn't anticipated the satisfying sense of belonging turning the key in the lock later that night would garner. There was something about not knocking, not having to ask, that makes her wonder whether just maybe Castle had been right.

He smiles at her over the rim of his wine glass as she enters the kitchen. "How'd the interview go?" If he'd been surprised by her unaided entry, he doesn't show it.

She walks to the cabinet, grabs her own glass. "Fine. I had a crazy afternoon, though."


"Mmm." She's searching for something to eat in the fridge.

"Second shelf. Heat up the fettuccini."

She nods. "Perp tried to take me out with a soda. Had to come by and change." She grabs the leftovers, turns toward the microwave. "Interestingly, your man Burnie downstairs was able to help me out."

"How fortuitous. You know, I've always said he goes above and beyond-"

She turns to face him. "Rick?" Watches him swallow a gulp of wine, an argument clearly on the tip of his tongue. "Thank you."

She can practically see him shift mental gears. He smiles at her, and the warmth of it feels better than his glass-encased fireplace or his duel head massage shower. He tips his glass in her direction. "Welcome home."