Title: The World You Love
Category: TV Shows » Castle
Author: caskettinacastle
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Genre: Drama

Disclaimer: Castle belongs to Andrew Marlowe. This is just me writing for the heck of it. (I'm not making any profit from it. I promise!)

Spoilers: Through part of Season 4

Rating: (Not really sure what its going to be. For now, I'll rate it T!)

A/N: So this chapter is me putting my feelers out there. I have no idea how this will be received, but I seemed to be possessed and hashed this all out over the last few days. Seriously, this scenario would not get out of my head until I put it down on paper. This probably has been done before, and will be done again, but whatever... I figured it couldn't hurt anything to post it. A lot of the stuff that has been posted involves Kate's trials and tribulations (probably because she's such an awesome character in general). I wanted to try and change it up. This seems like a pretty cool place to share stories. Anyhow, I hope you like it. I'm working on chapter 2 because I know people don't like to wait too long for updates. It might be obvious, but I just want to take a moment to say that it will be Caskett, and even though there isn't much Ryan and Esposito in the first chapter, they will definitely play a big part in the story later on (So will Lanie, Martha, and Alexis). Without further ado, I'll let you get to the good stuff. If you could take a minute at the end to leave a review, I'd appreciate it. I'd really like to know whether people are interested.

It was a warm summer's day as Castle crouched down next to Kate while Lanie showed them a few peculiar, but undoubtedly very important inconsistencies about their young murder victim. Lanie walked them through everything she'd found during her brief examination of the body, starting with the most important facts first before moving onto other minute details that might factor into their case. She typically did this for Castle's benefit, due to the fact that he really did seem have the attention span of a five year old. It was tragic, Castle thought as he looked at the tiny lifeless body sprawled over the concrete in a pool of dried up viscous blood. His throat felt uncomfortably tight, and it was hard to swallow. Castle squinted as he stared at the defensive marks on the girl's arms and hands. She had fought back, struggled for survival, but had ultimately lost. Castle squeezed his eyes shut. He knew that he would never be able to get the image out of his head. Her body was particularly battered. As he stared at the young girl, with so many thoughts whizzing through his head, he caught about every other word that came from Lanie's lips. Sometimes he was lucky enough to catch two. Massive Contusion. Hairline fracture. Abdominal Distension. Petechiae. Baseball bat. Castle studied the areas Lanie pointed to with her gloved fingers, and cringed. Whoever it was that had murdered this girl, had been ruthless. It was clearly a crime of passion, and of rage. Perhaps it was even committed without premeditation. But those things that mattered. All that Castle knew was, whoever it was deserved to go to prison for the rest of their lives. He struggled not to look away, despite how hard it was to take in.

Often, the bodies he saw haunted him for a long time. The girl would be no exception. Castle swallowed again. And although he was trying desperately not to think about it, the girl with strawberry blonde hair looked so much like Alexis it was hard not to think about his own daughter. Through his own estimation, there couldn't be more than a year or two differentiation between the two women.

Castle's hand darted to his midsection as he fought against his gag reflex. His stomach was churning and seemed to be tying itself into knots, causing him to feel like he might get sick at any moment. Castle was used to feeling a little nauseous at crime scenes. In fact, he had never really gotten used to the smell and the gruesomeness of crime scenes. Castle was left swallowing repeatedly as he fought his body's very visceral reaction to the body and the crime scene around him. The sun was high in the sky at the peak of the afternoon and he could practically smell the iron, as the blood baked in the intense heat of the afternoon. Castle gagged again, earning a curious glance from Kate, who looked concerned.

"You okay?" she asked, meeting his eyes. Castle slowly lifted his hand to his mouth, taking a few deep breaths through his mouth and letting it out of his nose. Usually, it helped with the nausea. This time, however, it wasn't helping much.

"Y-Yeah," Castle gulped, forcing himself to swallow again. "I… For some reason the smell is kind of making me sick. I'm…umm… I'm just going to go over there." Kate's expression faltered and he could see that she cared. She nodded in his direction before turning back around to address one of Lanie's comments.

He could feel the warm rays of the sun across his face, and the heat diffusing from the pavement into the air around his body. Sweat pooled at the base of his back and slowly slipped down, causing a shudder to shoot up his spine. It was hot, humid, and Castle, felt suddenly as if he were suffocating. He took a deep breath through his mouth, hoping to avoid the smell, and stood. He stole another quick glance at Kate before taking a few steps away from the body. With a sigh, he wiped the sweat from his brow using the back of his sleeve He blinked away the salt from the sweat that was currently stinging his eyes and looked around.

He walked in a small circle, as he lifted his arms above his head to stretch out his back. His legs were also still cramped from crouching for an extended period, and he wanted to stretch out the uncomfortable kinks, and their stiffness. It was a typical day in late July; only, it was extremely hot for the time of year. The sky above them was a radiant sapphire blue, with only a few clouds dotting the horizon. It was a beautiful day, the sort of day he could imagine would be a perfect day for the ocean. He thought briefly of his place in the Hamptons; of the warm sand between his toes, and the soft sound of waves crashing on the beach. He raked in a large breath. And in his mind he could practically smell the ocean wafting around him and the warm breeze gathering around him. He sighed wistfully. It would be absolutely wonderful to just take a long weekend and do absolutely nothing but enjoy the sun and the water. The truth was, he had been contemplating asking Kate to join him for a little weekend getaway. However, it seemed that, at least for the time being, that life had other plans. Kate was working harder than ever. And in all truth and honesty? So was he. 'We'll go sometime soon,' Castle resolved silently. Castle took another deep breath, and coughed slightly as he tasted the stale and suffocating mixture of air from the city.

Unfortunately, the air in New York City was thick with smog, making Castle feel as if he were suffocating. Subconsciously he reached up to loosen his tie and the collar around his neck. The fabric felt as if it were growing tighter and tighter around his neck with each passing minute that he spent in the stiffling heat. Castle closed his eyes again, taking another deep breath as his stomach lurched again. His stomach still felt like it could betray him at any given moment. Castle had no desire to get sick in front of Kate, Lanie, and the others, and so he fought it with everything that he had.

Castle swallowed as he let his eyes linger on the body. Despite his best efforts to repress it, he gagged again, and very nearly became sick. He felt people look at him with curious glances, and he imagined that they took him for an outsider. Castle tried to ignore the looks and forced himself to look away before he truly became ill. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see Lanie drape a blanket over the body, concealing the young girl and freeing her from the prying eyes all around them.

"Well, that's all I can tell you guys for now," Lanie announced as she stood up. "Or rather, that's all I can say until I can get her back to the ME's office to perform the autopsy." Kate's voice droned on in the background as she and Lanie shared some sort of verbal exchange about time of death. He jumped slightly as his phone started buzzing in his pocket. With another deep breath he reached into his suit pocket and pulled out his phone. He paused to check its display, only to realize that he didn't recognize the number.

"This is Castle," he answered as he lifted the phone to his ears. He felt curious eyes on him as he accepted the call.

"Richard Castle?" the voice on the other end of his phone was one he recognized instantly. Castle's stomach lurched slightly. Perhaps it was like a sort of sixth sense, but Castle immediately knew that something was wrong. It was too soon.

"Uh," Castle cut in. "Just a minute."

"Excuse me," Castle mumbled to Kate as he sought to get away. "I have to take this." Kate's brow furrowed, and Castle could only surmise that his expression had betrayed his own discontent. He quickly slipped away from Kate and the others and ducked under the yellow police tape, seeking to find somewhere a little more private. The small crowd that had gathered to witness the excitement parted and let him through. He could feel eyes linger on his back as he walked briskly down the sidewalk. It took a little while before he ultimately found an empty stoop to sit down on. When he found one, he gratefully plopped down onto the bottom step, leaning forward as he propped his elbows on his knees.

"Sorry about that," he quickly apologized. "I needed to find somewhere a little more quiet."

"It's no problem," the voice on the other end replied.

He reached up to prod at the muscles in his forehead with his fingers. He started kneading at the muscles in a vain effort to release the tension in them. Then he squeezed his eyes shut and let out a deep quavering breath.

"I'm guessing you already know by now," the man spoke. "But in any case, this is Dr. Reynolds." Castle's heart was pounding furiously. The biopsy had been only two days ago, and from what Castle understood, he wasn't supposed to hear back from his doctor for another few days. Castle knew that hearing back from his doctor this soon couldn't be a good sign.

Castle suddenly felt incredibly restless and jumped back up, starting to pace back and forth on the sidewalk in front of an old brick building. His mind was reeling, and he couldn't be still. Castle let out another ragged breath, as sweat continued to streak down his face in the warm sunlight. Castle let out a low humorless laugh, as his emotions start to get the better of him.

"Yeah," Castle swallowed, "I umm... I recognized your voice." Castle cleared his throat. Castle had to remind himself to be polite. "I just have to say that I uh... I wasn't really expecting your call for another couple of days yet." Castle admitted as he looked around, observing the people walking up and down the street. "Usually it takes a lot longer for you to get back to me." He held the phone to his ear as he continued to walk back and forth.

"I know," Dr. Reynolds replied calmly. "I'm sorry to bother you so soon, but…"

"It's bad news, isn't it?" Castle inquired, beating him to the punch. Castle closed his eyes for a moment.

"Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to come in to the office, so we can talk," Jake suggested. Castle stopped breathing.

"N-No," Castle whined. "It's okay. Just give it to me straight." Castle nearly choked on his own saliva. "Is it the results? Did they come back already?"

"Yes," he conceded, "And they… they came back positive, Rick." A beat. Castle ceased breathing again, and time seemed to stop altogether. "There was an extremely high number of immature white band cells in the bone marrow. Most of them have mutated. I'm so sorry." Castle's lungs started to burn, and he was forced to take a breath. The deafening whooshing of Castle's blood in his ears quickly drowned out and overshadowed the doctor's words. Castle's mouth was suddenly as dry as the desert. Everything came rushing back at once. He didn't know how to process it all. The fact was, he couldn't. Castle staggered over to the steps, and sank back down onto them. He no longer trusted his legs to support him.

This conversation was definitely not one he was ever prepared to have. His eyes started to burn as tears threatened to seep from his eyes. He felt shocked. "Richard? Are... Are you still there? Can you hear me?" Castle clenched his jaw and squeezed his eyes shut before managing to choke out a few words.

"Yeah," Castle's voice cracked roughly, "I... I'm here." He let out a deep shattered breath. "Sorry. What is it you were saying?"

"Your biopsy results were positive," he repeated slowly. Castle shook his head in denial. There had to be some sort of mistake. There just had to be.

Flashes of what Castle had imagined to be his future started racing through his mind at an overwhelming rate. He often dreamed about waking up next to the love of his life, of raising another daughter with beautiful green eyes and wavy brown hair.

"Richard?" the voice on the other end of his phone brought him back to the present. Again, Castle tried to swallow, only to find his throat was excruciatingly dry. He looked up from where he had been staring at the stained white concrete of the sidewalk.

"I'm sorry," Rick managed to choke out finally as he rubbed at his jaw with his hand. "I...I just don't understand," he whispered as his jaw clenched and unclenched repeatedly. He was struggling for words. "There has to be some sort of mistake, Dr. I mean…I'm 38 years old. I'm healthy. And I feel fine."

"Rick," Jake sounded surprisingly sympathetic. It was always hard to explain it to his patients. The fact is, that most of the patients that he diagnosed were asymptomatic at the time. "There's no mistake," he sighed, feeling Castle's pain. "I'm so sorry. I really am. But the results don't lie." Castle's face scrunched up in anguish as it became harder to hold back the tears.

Castle lifted his head and looked up, his eyes darting around. His world felt like it was collapsing around him. Silence reigned between the two men as Castle took to observing all of those around him that seemed so completely oblivious to the world around them. He envied them so. Castle had just gotten what could only be described as life altering news. His life was falling apart at the seams, and not a single soul around him knew. They were blissfully ignorant. They all had their own agenda, places to visit, and people to see. They went to and fro, waking past him without so much as a curious glance. He felt like he was about to be sick.

He raked a hand furiously through his hair. Castle felt like he just wanted to disappear, to run as far from his problems as he could. He was desperate for a small break from his own life. Unfortunately, there was no running from it anymore. Whether he wanted to acknowledge it or not, he was now in the throes of an epic battle, a fight for his life.

Castle flashed back to a week ago, when it had all started. It had been time for his yearly physical and he went in for the routine check-up. As a part of that, he'd taken a trip to the lab and had had some blood drawn. The examination went well. His doctor said that everything seemed fine. There had been no reason to be worried. That is... Until a couple of days later, when Castle had gotten the first phone call. Even then, it hadn't been a big deal. Sure, his blood counts had been abnormal, but from what his doctor told him, it happened quite frequently and was nothing to worry about. In fact, the bone marrow biopsy had been more of a necessary precaution than everything else. And now? Now everything seemed to be falling out from right beneath him. He had cancer.

"Rick?" Dr. Reynolds sounded worried, his voice a bit higher than the last time he had spoken. "Are you there?"

"Y-Yeah," Castle clenched his jaw before managing to choke out a few words. "Yeah I'm here."

"You have Acute Myeloid Leukemia," Dr. Reynolds said slowly, hoping that Castle could handle hearing the words out loud.

"Okay," Castle breathed, repeating the word over and over as he tried to process the diagnosis.

It was cancer. Leukemia.

"Look, Rick," Jake spoke in a soothing voice, "I know that getting news like this is frightening, and that you probably feel like everything is falling apart right now, but I want to be clear about something. We're going to figure this out. I promise you. I know a really great hematologist and oncologist. Dr. Anders. He's the best in the field." Castle swallowed, struggling to keep his breathing normal. "I really think it would be a good idea for you to come into the office so we can run some more tests and we can talk about treatment options. Do you think you can come in tomorrow so that we can do that?"

"Uh…tomorrow," Castle whispered, as he wracked his brain for any conflicts. He couldn't come up with any. "Tomorrow? Uhh…sure, I think I can come by tomorrow."

"Good. How about we plan on 3:00 tomorrow afternoon?" Dr. Reynolds replied. "I'll call Dr. Anders and see if he can make it over to my office."

"That sounds like a plan," Castle replied numbly.

"Good," Jake replied. "Okay then."

"Sorry, Dr. Reynolds, but I have to go," Castle breathed as he reached down to run his fingers over a depression in the concrete at his side. "I'll be by tomorrow afternoon after I get out of work."

"Okay, take care, Rick," the voice was cut off as Rick pulled the phone away from his ear. He was tempted to hurl it across the street, but knew that would only earn him unwanted attention. Tears threatened to spill from his eyes, but he held them back. The pain was so raw, and it made him want to scream. He felt so devastated. He knew how much this would affect his family. God, how on earth was he supposed to tell his Mother and Alexis? How on earth was he supposed to tell Kate and the others? It felt like a nightmare. His head ached as he cradled it in his hands. He slumped down further, and couldn't bring himself to move.

'I'm fine," he tried to tell himself. 'I'm fine.'

Castle's stomach, as if it had a mind of its own, protested violently. He felt it as it clenched painfully, and then rumbled, reminding him that he hadn't been able to eat anything the past couple of days. He was starting to wonder if the nausea was part of it. Sipping on ginger ale had hardly helped with the upset he'd been having.

Another buzz of his cell phone had Castle letting out another groan, as he lifted his head and looked at the display. 'We still on for lunch?' Castle breathed out harshly as he inwardly kicked himself. He swore silently as he realized that he had promised Alexis he would take her to lunch. And he had completely forgotten. Castle quickly unlocked the display of his phone and opened the texting app.

'Raincheck?' he texted back, hoping that she would understand. 'Beckett and I caught a murder case.' Castle hit send and then waited. With shaking hands he clutched the phone, and waited some more. Finally after about a minute or so, he got a reply.

'Sure. No problem,' Alexis replied. 'See you later?' Castle let out a sigh of relief, but the feeling was very short lived. Because he quickly remembered that he was going to have to tell his little girl he had cancer.

'Yeah,' he typed with agile fingers. 'Love you!'

Castle let out a deep anxious breath as he slipped his phone back into his pocket. His heartbeat pounded in his ears. And despite his best efforts not to go to that dark place in his mind where he often dwelled on all of his own faults, he found himself drowning in them. Castle shook his head resolutely, trying to calm himself down before he made a scene. He figured that if he didn't head back soon, Kate might just leave without him (though in the past four years, she had never done that). Castle rubbed furiously at his face, trying to hide the pain that he was so sure was etched there. He needed to be professional and get back to work. He needed to steal his expression, to guard himself against the emotions building inside him. He felt devastated, but most of all, he was incredulous. It all felt like it was some sort of sick joke. The fact was that Castle didn't get sick. He just didn't. In fact, in some ways he prided himself on that. Castle struggled not to imagine what things would be like once he started treatment. At this point, he didn't even know what his odds were exactly. Were they 50/50? Better? Worse? Everyone knew that the worse part about cancer wasn't the disease itself really, but rather, the chemotherapy. He knew the treatments would ravage his body and leave him a shell of who he was physically, but he had no choice. After all, the alternative was death and he didn't want to die.

Castle closed his eyes, and let out another deep quavering breath. How could he hide something like that from the others? It was awful that he even thought about it in the first place, but he just wasn't sure he could tell them, especially Kate. Whether it was an awful notion or not, maybe he didn't need to tell them. Chances are that in time, his body would give him away. Once he started chemo, he knew his hair would fall out. He would probably lose weight.

"You have to tell her, you idiot," Castle groaned softly, as he ran his hands over the back of his neck. "You love her. She's more than a friend and a partner to you, and she deserves to know." He warred with himself, going back and forth between whether he should conceal it, or tell her outright.

But just how on earth could he tell Kate? She was the one person he immediately thought of, when it came down to it. She was the one person he would have picked to fight alongside him. She was strong, fearless, and he knew that she could help him through the worst of it. What's more is that he knew that she would never think less of him, even when he was at his absolute worst. Over the past few years, they'd had ample opportunities to see each other at their worst. And all those times, they'd always been there for each other. Castle knew that she would never forsake or abandon him.

But telling her… asking her to hold his hand while he waned away? It felt like it would be crossing some sort of boundary to ask such a thing of her. She had already faced too many horrors in her lifetime. It wasn't fair for him to ask her to face his too. It was his battle to fight, not hers, and Castle figured that Kate would probably be better off not knowing. He loved her, and a part of him was sure that maybe…just maybe she loved him too.

The problem was that she still wasn't ready to commit to him in the way that something like this would entail. He was fortunate enough just to have a relationship with her at all. Kate had told him, implicitly, more than a year and a half ago, that she wouldn't be able to have the sort of relationship that she wanted to have with him until she got the closure she needed.

Castle knew he was lucky to have her, and he frequently thanked his lucky stars that he even got the change to be with her at all. However, there were still a lot of things to overcome. Even now, Castle knew that Kate still had a lot of impenetrable walls built up around her, walls that even he can't bring down. Sure, things had changed, but he almost wondered if she'd ever be able to take them down. One of the things that had opened Castle's eyes up to just how much she cared, had been Kate's decision to stop pursuing her mother's murder case. She had decided that she wanted Castle more than anything else in her life and he took everything she was willing to give him. Castle knew that he didn't have all of her, that perhaps she would never let him into her heart completely. But he was willing to take what she would give him. Hell, he was willing to wait forever to be with her if he had to. Luckily, she had come around. She had come back to him, heart in hand, and he took it. He loved her. And he had to believe that she loved him to. Now, It was all about overcoming the obstacles between them.

Initially, Castle had been incredibly optimistic that things would work out for them. But now? Now he wasn't so sure. Now he felt like maybe fate, destiny, or whatever the hell you'd like to call it wasn't on their side at all. Because as much as he hated to admit, it seemed like the pile of obstacles between them only seemed to be getting bigger.

For the past year or so, Castle's gift to Kate had been time. He knew how important it was to be patient. And so, he'd given her space when she'd asked for space, support when she asked for support. She'd asked him to keep their relationship under wraps. And he'd given her everything. And when she finally wised up and went back to work (after temporarily resigning), he'd been genuinely happy for her. The universe just didn't seem right when Kate wasn't doing what she was meant to do, which in Castle's opinion, was be a detective. It wasn't that he thought she couldn't be anything else, but it just didn't seem right, if you know what I mean. Kate's passion and dedication for her job seemed like the one thing that was right to him. She was just so good at what she did, that sometimes he wondered if she took it for granted.

When Kate had finally gone back, Castle had given her all of the time she needed to get back into the swing of things at work before resuming his role as her (his words) plucky sidekick or (her words) partner.

There had been so many times over the last few months where Castle had just wanted to tell the world he was with Kate Beckett. But every time he so much as thought about it, he quickly pushed it back down. He didn't want to change things, mainly because he was so afraid that doing anything might upset the status quo. The truth was, she might not be ready to be anything more. She might not be ready to tell the world. And he was still so afraid that one day she might change her mind about him, and start to push him away. And if she did, he wasn't sure that they couldn't make it back from that.

Now Castle was starting to feel like time was the one thing he didn't have to give.

Castle swallowed, rubbing at his eyes with his thumb and forefinger as his own words echoed around in his head. The big question was, 'Does she care about me enough to stick around?' Castle just didn't know. She still hadn't said the three words he most longed to hear. They certainly cared about one another, but Castle was really the only one who had put his feelings into a verbal context. He wanted to know if she loved him, but once again, they had always made a point of actively avoiding that particular subject. Now, more than ever, Castle thought he needed to know. Because this was the sort of thing that broke a relationship. She'd have to love him a hell of a lot to stick around.

"Hey," Kate's voice had him breaking out of his thoughts and jumping slightly as she suddenly appeared in front of him. Slowly, he retracted his hand from his face and looked up, hoping that his expression didn't betray his thoughts. "I was wondering where on earth you'd disappeared off to." She looked around them, quickly taking in their surroundings. "If you're ready to go, it looks like we're done here." He must have looked like he was feeling ill because she took one look at the expression on his face and quickly asked him. "Hey, is something wrong? Are you okay?" Castle opened his mouth to speak as he reached up to run his hand over his face again. He exhaled as he struggled to keep himself composed.

"Y-yeah," Castle managed to get out after a great effort. "Yeah. I-I'm fine." Kate looked unconvinced, but she bit down on her tongue. "Let's get out of here," Castle spoke as he stood up on wobbling legs. Kate nodded. Together they walked back to Kate's unmarked cruiser without exchanging more than a couple of words. Castle slipped into the passenger seat, and was already staring out the window as Kate started up the car. He could feel her eyes on him periodically as she drove back to the precinct.

"So…" she tried finally, after the silence started to get on her nerves, "Who was on the phone?"

"Nobody important," Castle lied, his voice was hardly a whisper.

"Really?" Kate's brows rose on her forehead as she chanced a glance his way. "Huh." She breathed out as she quickly looked back to the windshield, studying the old beat up car in front of her. "Why don't I believe you?"

"Don't know," Castle replied reservedly. "I think the real question is... Why would I lie to you?" Kate sighed again. Something in the way he was acting just didn't settle right with her.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Kate asked sadly. Castle was clearly upset about something.

"Hey, you know I'm here to talk, if you ever need it, right?" Castle nodded wordlessly, trailing his finger up and down on the windowpane absentmindedly. Kate kept a close watch on him for rest of the drive, trying to figure out what had caused her usually annoying partner to become so silent. She tried to press him for ideas or theories regarding their new case, and even then, he hardly said a word.

She asked him to head down to the morgue with her so they could get more details from Lanie. Kate hoped that it would give them a place to start. Within minutes of their arrival, they finished going over all of the forensics involving their victim and all of the abnormalities or anomalies that Lanie had expertly picked up on. They finally had a name to go with a face. Apparently one of the officers had pulled the victim's wallet out of a dumpster only a couple of blocks away from the crime scene. Castle swallowed as his eyes skimmed over the driver's license. God, she was so young. Castle had been right in his earlier estimations. She was only seventeen.

They were riding the elevator back up to the fourth floor when Castle felt Kate's eyes on him again. What surprised him was that she wasn't even trying to be subtle about it. Castle closed his eyes and leant back against the back of the box, gripping the railing with his hands on either side of him. He was completely exhausted, and wanted nothing more than to go home. He couldn't even think straight. It seemed like all of his thoughts were in such disarray. And It was no wonder that Kate was worried about him. After all, by this point in the case, Castle had usually spouted off countless theories in regards to the motive and the murder weapon, no matter how ridiculous they were. Now, she couldn't even get him to mutter a coherent sentence.

The roller coaster of emotions Castle had been experiencing since the phone call, coupled with the energy he'd spent running back and forth to various places with Kate, had left him physically and emotionally drained. He took a deep breath and expelled it slowly, struggling to focus on the task at hand. Castle jumped when Kate's hand jumped out to hit the emergency stop button and the elevator lurched to an unexpected stop between floors. Castle's eyes sprung open to find Kate staring him down, a torn expression on her features.

"Okay, look, I've been trying to give you the benefit of the doubt all afternoon, but something is obviously wrong. So… what the hell is up with you today?" she asked, trying to look intimidating. "What's got you so distracted?"

"Nothing," Castle spoke weakly. Immediately he could tell that it wasn't convincing enough so he tried again "Really, Kate," he asserted emphatically, "It's nothing…"

"Really?" Kate hissed, her eyes flashing skeptically. "That's what you're going to go with? Do you honestly expect me to believe that?" He went for the, let's answer a question with a question approach.

"Why should you have any reason to doubt me?" Castle asked frustratedly.

"Look," Kate threw her hands up in exasperation, "Castle, I know you better than that. So please…" Kate pleaded. "Something is obviously wrong with you, and it's not nothing. I mean… you've hardly said a word to me all afternoon. So tell me. What's wrong? What can I do to help?"

"You can't," Castle growled out finally, letting his hurt and anger get the better of him. "You can't help, okay?" He burst out, "So just drop it!" Castle stepped around her and hit the button, starting the elevator's ascent again.

"Castle...Rick," Kate tried again, reaching for his arm. She also hoped that using his first name, would identify with him on some level. It was much more personal than his nickname. Kate could see the pain in his eyes as he looked at her and shook his head. "Whatever it is… What you're feeling right now? It's… It's probably only going to get worse if you can't talk about it."

"Kate," Castle breathed as his eyes shimmered. "I can't," he nearly whispered. "I just can't."

"Rick," Kate tried again. Her hand running down his arm in a gesture that was meant to be comforting. Instead, it made him feel even worse. She wouldn't be touching him like that once she knew. She'd be too busy running away. NO. The voice in his head won. He couldn't tell her. He could never tell her.

"Stop!" Castle nearly yelled as he pulled away. Kate looked at him as if she'd been slapped. "Just stop it, okay?" Then. "I don't want to talk about it. And i really need you to believe me when I say that I really don't want to talk about it."

"Okay," Kate conceded.

"The fact is, that I'm not ready to talk about it. Not right now," Castle paused to take a calming breath. "Look. When I am ready to talk about it? I promise that you'll be one of the first people that I talk to. But until then?… Please just respect my privacy and back off!" Castle pushed his way off the elevator as soon as the parting doors would allow, leaving a very stunned and bewildered looking Kate Beckett standing in his wake . When she finally gathered up her wits enough to walk to her desk, she found Castle slipping his coat over his arm. Her heart dropped into her stomach.

"Cas…Rick," she said reaching out to gently grasp his arm, "Wait! Where are you going?"

"Home," Castle replied in a sort of clipped voice as he pulled away from her yet again. His heart squeezed painfully in his chest as he saw the look of hurt and rejection that flashed across Kate's face. He let a deep calming breath. "Look, Kate, I'm tired, and clearly not in the best of moods. I think that it would probably be a good idea that I get out of here before I say something or do something that I regret." Kate felt like everything was falling apart. It felt like a chasm had suddenly grown between them and she was left standing on the other side. The worst part about it all, was that she had no idea what she'd done wrong.

"Castle," Kate reached out for him before he could get too far. "Wait! Please don't shut me out like this. Please," she pleaded. "What's wrong?"

"I...," Castle searched frantically for the right words. She deserved sort of explanation, at the very least. Castle swallowed painfully. "Look, I just…. Something happened today, and I just need a few days to clear my head. Okay?" Now she knew how it felt. He was asking her for space. Kate could only hope that he didn't shut her out completely.

"What about the case?" Kate couldn't keep the sound of hurt from her voice.

"Kate," he sighed, his expression apologetic, "Let's be honest for a minute. Do you ever really need my help?"

"Sure I do," Kate argued. "Look, I… I really don't know what I did to upset you, but whatever it is, I'm really sorry."

"Kate," Castle shook his head, suddenly feeling like a complete jerk. "You didn't..." He cut himself off for a moment as he realized just how awful he had been to her. He was taking out all of his pain on her when she hadn't done anything wrong. He took a calming breath, realizing the need to make sure that Kate knew it wasn't her fault. How he could ruin this situation any further at this point, he didn't know. But he had to do a little damage control before he ruined everything beyond the point salvation. "You didn't do anything wrong, Kate. And It's… It's not you, okay? Honestly… it's not." Kate stared back at him, looking as if she were about to cry. "Look, if anyone should be sorry, it should be me. And I…I am. I'm really sorry, okay?" Castle's voice craked with emotion, and if it were possible, Kate looked even more torn up before. Because now she knew something was ripping him apart. "But I really… really need some time to get my head on straight, and there's some important stuff that I have to take care of. Stuff that can't wait." Like telling Alexis and Mother that I have cancer… "You guys will do just fine without me. I know it." Deciding that he owed her some comfort, he pulled her in for a quick hug. The embrace, which was only meant to be fleeting, lasted a lot longer. Kate wanted nothing more than to hang on for dear life and never let go. Castle squeezed his eyes shut. God, it felt so good to feel her arms around him. He breathed in the sweet scent of cherries, his breathing gradually leveling out. "And hey… If you really need my help, you know how to reach me."

"Okay," Kate whispered quietly as she finally pulled away. "I… I guess I'll talk to later?" Castle nodded, heading for the elevator. "Hey, Castle?" He stopped and swiveled around, his eyes warm and expressive. Kate found a little hope in the way that he still looked at her with love in his eyes.

"Yeah?" he asked, his tone a lot more patient than it had been only a minute ago.

"Just… Just feel better, okay?" Kate said in a meek voice. Castle nodded, incredibly grateful for her kindness. Slowly, he turned around and headed for the elevators. She watched him step in, hit the button, and sighed as the doors slowly slid shut. She waited for a long moment, wishing that they would part again and that he would come back. But he didn't.

"Hey," a voice spoke quietly from behind her, causing her to jump a little as she was broken out of her thoughts. "Where's Castle off to?"

"He's…umm… heading home," Kate replied, slowly turning around to face an expectant looking Esposito and Ryan. Their eyes turned sympathetic immediately after seeing the sadness in her eyes.

"He cutting out this early?" Ryan's brow furrowed as he looked down at the face of his watch, "That's not like him."

"No. No it's not," Kate replied evenly, "But I think that he wasn't feeling too well. He thought that he should go home and get some rest." Kate felt bad for lying, but the truth was that she didn't know what was wrong and she didn't want Esposito and Ryan to worry too.

"Oh, okay," Esposito muttered. "Well, umm...Lily's parents are here. They're waiting for you in the interview room."

"Alright. Thanks, guys," Kate smiled as she headed to her desk to grab her legal pad and headed off to find out more about their victim. Work would help her take her mind off things. (At least she hoped.)

Kate spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to let herself get too distracted. After all, she had a job to do. It's just that she couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. Castle had always been able to talk to her about anything. Now he was shutting her out, and Kate silently resolved to figure out what it was.

A/N: Kay. That's it for now! Take a minute to hit the review button to let me know what you think! Love it? Hate it? I won't know if you don't tell me! Thanks again for reading!