Spoilers: Just general season 4 stuff, but this takes place sometime after "Kill Shot."

Castle sits in his office, his fingers tapping a staccato rhythm on the keys of his laptop, like a pianist composing on a baby grand. The words flow from him easily, a stream of consciousness, as he plays out the scene in his mind. It's like watching a movie of his own creation, the characters of Nikki and Rook dancing through the motions he's imagining.

There's a buzzing in the back of his brain, tickling against the story. The Elektra score from the Daredevil movie rings out, and his brows draw together. The vibrations aren't in his head; it's his phone on the desk beside him.


She's off today, not working, so why is she calling him? He hesitates, doesn't want to interrupt the words flying from his fingertips, but… it's Beckett. He sighs and reaches for his phone, abandoning his laptop.

"If I lose my place, Beckett, Nikki's going to find a stripper pole to dance on."

"Uhh," she breathes. He feels her hesitation and wants to smack himself on the forehead. If she's calling him on her day off, it's probably for a good reason. It's not something she generally makes a habit of doing.

"Sorry, sorry. I'm writing. It's kind of rolling out of me right now. I've got my groove going."

"Oh, it's… That's good, uhm, I'll just… I'll talk to you later."

"Hey, Beckett, it's fine. Really, I can use a break. I start writing like this and I get all caught up. I should probably have some water or something; make sure I don't get dehydrated." He grins and refocuses his attention to his partner. "So, what's up? Please tell me you didn't get called out to a body on your day off."

"No, it's nothing like that. Uhm…"

He frowns, finding himself perplexed by her inarticulacy. Twice now, in one conversation. That's not like her.

"Is everything okay?" he asks quietly, his voice soft, a reassurance in her ear.

"Yeah, no. No, there's no body. I just…" She clears her throat. "I was wondering if you'd go with me somewhere today, but if you're writing, I don't want to interrupt you. It's not a big deal, really. I'll just see you at work tomorrow," she rambles quickly, her voice wavering with nerves.

"Kate—what is it?"

He imagines her nibbling on her lower lip, worrying it between her teeth, her brows furrowed with indecision. He pushes back from the desk, away from the story. Something's on her mind.

"I wanted to take you… with me… today. I wasn't… I'm not going to tell you where, yet, but I wanted to see if you're free. But it honestly can wait, Castle—"

Her request intrigues him, draws him in like a moth to the flame of her. He can't resist her mysteries. "I'm in. What time?"

"You're writing," she protests.

"I'm a writer, it's what I do," he jokes. "It can wait. I've got the scene all set in my mind, I won't lose it if I get up for a couple hours. So, what time?"

"Three-thirty? If that's okay. I'll just pick you up outside your building."

"Sounds good. Three-thirty. Got it."

"Okay. See you then."

Castle grins. "Oh, and Beckett? I hope it's some place kinky." Then he hangs up the phone, laughing to himself. He glances at the clock on the small screen in his hand, and decides he has a little more time to write. He wonders briefly where she might be taking him, but his characters are calling to him, a siren song. He sets the alarm on his phone so he doesn't get sidetracked, and sits back down at his desk.

It only takes a moment for his brain to slide back into the scene, back into the world of Nikki and Rook, and he's once more typing at lightning speed.

God, he loves his job.

When Beckett pulls up in front of his building at three-twenty-nine, Castle jogs to the car quickly, partly so as not to annoy the other traffic-goers, and partly because he's curious. Excited. Has ants in his pants. Whatever.

He hops into the car, slamming the door shut behind him. "Jeez, it's cold out there." He shivers, rubs his hands together to warm them, and then smiles at his partner. "Hey Beckett." He holds his hands over the heating vents in front of him.

"Hi," she responds as she checks the traffic in her mirror. She glances at him, and then smiles tightly, her eyes darting back to the road.

He can read tension in the line of her jaw, the arch of her eyebrow. His stomach dips, and some of his excitement falls away. Okay. He can do this. He slips on his poker face, plays the hand she is dealing.

"So, Beckett, how kinky is this place we're going?"

Her lips quirk, and he throws up a high-five to himself in his imagination.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you this time, Castle. There's nothing kinky about where we're going."

His shoulders slump and he sighs loud and long. "Okay, Beckett. Another time?" He grins at her and tries to look hopeful.

She chuckles, and he basks in it. Score! Two points for Team Castle, he thinks.

"You seem to be forgetting about the time I took you to Lady Irena's House of Pain."

Castle shudders, curls in on himself. "Ugh, Beckett, don't remind me," he whines.

She laughs then, a full-blown Kate laugh, and he wants to die. Right then and there. Just lay down in the sound of sunshine and never wake up again.

He loves how she sounds a little nerdy when she laughs.

"Poor, poor Ricky," she murmurs playfully and reaches over to pat his hand.

He changes his mind. He can't die now; he'll never get enough of her.

His hand itches to turn over, twine with hers, but the moment's over before he can talk himself out of it and she pulls her hand away, a smile still on her lips. He wants to ask her again where they're going, but he won't be the one to erase that curve from her face. It doesn't come as often as he would like. Not since the sniper case.

"I'm sorry I interrupted your writing," Kate says.

He dips his head in acknowledgement. "It's fine. I got through the scene I was working on, and laid out my plans for the next one. It can wait until tonight."

"So how are Nikki and Rook?" she asks, and he realizes she's stalling. But there's a serious tone to her voice, and he knows she's curious—worried, maybe—about Rook. About what it all means.

"They're… working on Rook's recovery." He wishes she had asked him another question. He doesn't want to bring this up, doesn't want to talk about it when they are still so obviously in the middle of her own recovery.

She nods, and the nerves return to the angles and planes of her face. He sighs almost imperceptibly and glances out the window, knowing somehow that wherever she is taking him is going to be difficult.

She clears her throat. "You got this." Her words sound well-versed, like she's been practicing.

He turns back to her, confusion written in the lines around his eyes. The words feel familiar to him, and it makes his heart skip. "What?"

"My first case back… When I… When I froze. And then again during the Lee Travis case. You said that to me."

He remembers, and it closes his throat up, makes his chest ache. He can only nod in response.

"After that first case, I decided to go back to therapy. I'd been… before, after my mother was murdered. And then I had to go back before they would reinstate me after I was shot. When Landers pointed that gun at me, and I froze, I knew… I knew that I needed some help dealing with my shooting, so I went back to the doctor who cleared me for duty. Dr. Burke. He's a cop shrink. He handles other patients, but he also handles the department."

She pauses, taking a deep breath, so he interrupts her.

"Is that—"

"Let me finish?" Her voice is timid, nervous, like she isn't sure he'll stick around for this.

He wants to shake her, wonders when she'll realize he's stuck for good and not going anywhere. Instead he nods at her to continue.

"I've been going to him pretty much weekly since that first case. Sometimes bi-weekly, if I need it."

She nibbles on her lower lip and he wants to smooth it with his thumb. He slides his hand under his thigh, squishes it between his leg and the seat. Sometimes it's nearly impossible not to touch her, to give her the space she demands.

"Is he good? Does he help you?"

"Sometimes. Sometimes talking with him helps me work through my… issues, and other times it just… hurts."

A line appears between her brows and he has to press down hard on his hand. He's glad she's driving; he'd have wrecked the car by now.

"But I'm… I think it's getting better, that I'm… getting better." She chews on the inside of her cheek. "Dr. Burke said he would like for you to come to a session with me. He didn't say when it had to be, just to bring you when I was ready."

"And you're ready?"

She glances at him. Finally. "You got this," she repeats.

He shakes his head, confused again.

"You said that, Castle, you… stood by me, supported me. You've… been there through all of this with me, so yes, I think I'm ready."

He wants to gather her up in his arms, whisper every single word of love he can come up with, but instead he says just one. "Okay."

"Is it?" she asks. "Okay? Because if it's not, I'll turn around and drop you off. You don't have to come. I should have probably asked you, but I—"

"Kate." This time he reaches out, lets himself touch her, as he places a gentle hand in the crook of her elbow. "Of course it's okay. I'm… honored. And if you think it will help you… get better, then of course I'll come. I want to."

He does feel honored. He thinks about Ryan, and Esposito, and Lanie, and Kate's father. And he wonders if she's taken any of them to therapy. He doubts it, somehow. And the idea that she wants him to go, that she's talked to her therapist about him often enough that her therapist thinks he should come in… well, that says a lot. It gives him hope, fills him up, and he wants to do this, wants to be the man she needs him to be.

"I'm sorry I sprung this on you—"

"Beckett, I want to. Really."

Silence seeps into the car, carries them both away to drown in their own thoughts. Tension laps like waves around them, a ripple spreading out on the surface of a pond.

Castle clears his throat, fidgets his feet. His hand is going numb underneath him, so he pulls it out, sets it on his lap, fiddles with his fingers.

"You nervous?" she asks, her voice very near a whisper.

He turns to her, smiles. "Kind of. I… guess I just don't know what to expect." His voice is low, even with hers.

"Me neither," she replies.

He grins at her. "So we're in this together."

She nods. "Partners."

"Name please?"

"Kate Beckett. I have an appointment with Dr. Burke at four o'clock," Kate tells the receptionist behind the counter. The pretty blonde woman makes a note in her appointment book and smiles back at Kate, and then turns her smile towards Castle, who is hovering just behind her.

"Dr. Burke is finishing up with a patient. If you'll have a seat, he'll be with you in a few minutes."

"Thanks." Kate ignores the interested look the receptionist gives Castle, and walks to the waiting chairs, her hands tucked into her coat pockets.

She can't help but notice that Castle didn't appear to pay any attention to the receptionist. Not that she cares. She doesn't.

Oh, who is she kidding?

Kate takes a seat in a beige, nondescript chair, and waits for Castle to settle in next to her. He does, but he's not still. The fingers of the hand closest to her are thrumming a broken rhythm against his thigh, while he runs the fingers of his other hand over the slight grooves in the wooden arm rest.

His foot is bouncing next to hers, and she almost tells him to stop. Not because it's annoying her, but because she wants to pick up the same repetitive jostling with her own leg.

She feels nauseous. Maybe this is a bad idea.

Kate sits ramrod straight in her chair, her fingers clasped tightly together in her lap. She wants to nibble on her lip, but she won't, because it's a sign. Castle will know she's just as nervous as he is. And if they both go in there like this, someone is bound to break. Or throw up.

Either way, it wouldn't be pretty.

Her thoughts turn inward as she tries to determine why she's so nervous. Maybe it's his energy… or maybe it's fear. She's not sure how much of herself she wants to reveal to him, how much Dr. Burke will push her to reveal. But this was her decision, her choice, and she thinks she's ready. She's just not sure how much to be ready for, how much to expect. Dr. Burke always pushes her, and she has no doubt that he'll do it again during this session. She just hopes she can survive it; that Castle will survive it.

The door to Dr. Burke's office opens and a middle-aged balding man walks out with his rumpled coat thrown over his arm. His eyes look suspiciously red and he avoids eye contact with Beckett and Castle both as he darts past the receptionist and out the door.

Castle sighs next to her, and she feels his tension increase. She feels better, though, knowing the session before hers wasn't a cop. It's bad enough that she's taking Castle to therapy with her without having everyone in the precinct gossiping about them (more than they already do.)

Even as she thinks it, she knows she's being ridiculous. Partners go to therapy together all the time after particularly traumatizing events. Or just because. Being partners is a full-time relationship, practically a marriage, and when you're a cop, you have to be connected with your partner, trust them, or bad things can happen on the job.

No one would think twice about her taking Castle to therapy. Not after everything they've been through.

At that moment, the receptionist's voice wafts across the room. "Dr. Burke will see you now."

Kate stands, her knees cracking, and waits for Castle. He hesitates, slightly, but gets to his feet and comes to her side.

"You ready?" she asks, studying the worry lines around his mouth.

"As I'll ever be," he says, and tries to grin at her. He fails, a little, so she reaches out to squeeze his hand.

"C'mon, partner. He doesn't bite. Too hard." Her words help him along, and he finishes his grin, squeezing her hand back.

"Let's do this."

The first thing Kate notices when they walk into Dr. Burke's office is that another chair has materialized from some dark corner of the room. It's the same kind of black leather chair she usually sits in and it now resides beside hers.

The receptionist must have mentioned that she had company.

When they enter, Dr. Burke turns from his desk across the room, and walks towards them, his hand outstretched towards Castle.

"I'm Dr. Burke."

"Rick Castle," Castle replies and returns the doctor's handshake with a firm grip of his own.

"It's nice to meet you. I'm happy to see you here with Kate today."

Castle nods, then shuffles awkwardly, tucking his hands into his pockets. He turns toward Kate, watches her, waiting for her to make a move. She shrugs out of her coat and slips it over the back of her usual chair, then takes a seat.

Castle clears his throat, and then sits in the empty chair beside her, leaving his coat on. Kate isn't sure why, but that bothers her. Her throat tightens and she turns to look at Dr. Burke, tries not to let it show on her face.

The doctor is watching them, observing, as he settles into his normal spot across the room. He relaxes his hands on his thighs and waits.

Castle shifts in his seat, glancing at Kate and then back to the doctor. "So, uh, are you one of those doctors who just sit there and let your patients ramble on and on, without making too many observations?" His tone is light. Kate realizes he's trying to make a joke to fill the awkward silence.

She sighs, ducking her head and picking at her fingernails. Everything's going so well.

Dr. Burke smiles slightly. "No. I don't suppose that helps too many people. I believe that therapy works better when I talk to my patients, help them through their issues. Just listening helps to a degree, it allows a person to get their feelings out, off their chest, so to speak, but you have to lead your patient, guide them towards a place that will help them deal with their emotions."

Castle raises his eyebrows and nods. "Good to know. So…"

"Do you know why you're here today, Mr. Castle?"

"Call me Rick." He glances at Kate, hesitates. "Or Castle. Whatever."

"Which would you prefer?"

"Uhm… Well, Beckett calls me Castle, but you can… call me Rick, I guess." He's staring at Kate, waiting on a reaction from her.

Kate tilts her head at him, lets him know that it's fine. Dr. Burke can call him whatever he wants, but he'll always be Castle to her. It's just who they are… regardless of what happens… down the road.

"Why am I here?" Castle parrots the doctor's words as he scratches the back of his head. "Well, I guess because Beckett asked me to come. Actually, she didn't ask me to come here, she just asked me to go with her somewhere, and I said I would. And then—" Castle winces and then takes a deep breath before continuing. "Beckett said you wanted me to come in for a session, so… here I am."

"Yes, but… do you understand why?"

Kate can feel Castle's eyes on her, but she doesn't look at him, doesn't know what to do. She feels awkward, and nervous, and she doesn't like where this is headed already. And if she looks at Castle, those emotions are going to show all over her face.

Castle rubs his hand across his jaw, and then lets it drop into his lap. "I guess I think I'm here because… we're partners. And Beckett's been…" He frowns, like he doesn't have the words to express what he means.

She knows how much that frustrates him.

"Beckett's been having a hard time lately, since… since she was shot. And I don't know, maybe you want us to talk about it," Castle tells the doctor.

"This isn't about me, Rick. This is about Kate," Dr. Burke replies.

Kate's hands clench in her lap and she struggles to keep her breathing even.

"Okay…" Castle leans forward, unable to keep still. "Then I guess maybe I'm here because Beckett wants to talk about it… with me."

"Is that true, Kate?"

Kate swallows, looks up at her doctor. "Um. I… Yes. I guess that's true. I want him to… I want Castle to understand."

She doesn't like how she's feeling, doesn't like the tension she feels stretching between herself and her partner. She feels like it's her first session all over again. She misses the camaraderie she's developed with Dr. Burke in her recent sessions. They're not friends, no, but it's becoming easier and easier to talk to him, to rely on his advice. But now she doesn't feel free, open, like she usually does. Even when they're talking about something difficult, she is able to spit it out.

Not now.

Now she feels as if her mouth is full of cotton and her chest is weighted down with lead.

"Understand what?" Dr. Burke asks.

"What I'm going through. How I've been feeling." She picks at a loose thread on her jeans.


"Why what?" Kate asks as she looks up and meets the doctor's eyes, stalling.

"Why do you want him to know how you're feeling?"

Kate sighs, her lips pursing as she contemplates her answer. "Because he matters."

Castle makes a soft sound beside her, and she looks at him. His eyes are full, and she has to look away again, has to keep herself under control, otherwise her skin might split open and allow all of her emotions to seep out.

"Maybe you should talk to him instead of me, Kate."

Kate looks up again, swallows hard. Then she nods. Okay. She turns to Castle, even though she can't look at him. "You… matter, Castle." She licks her dry lips. "We've been through so much, and you… stay. You stay by my side, you support me, and you… let me do what I have to do. You don't push, you just… you're there for me."

Kate feels Castle's hand on hers as he reaches across their chairs for her. She looks up, finally meets his eyes, and she feels as if she could drown in the affection she sees there.

"Always," he murmurs, and she knows that was for her, not for Dr. Burke.

She smiles at him. "And then you say things like that." She squeezes his fingers.

"It's our thing."

She loves how his eyes crinkle when he grins, and she feels some of the tension draining out of her. They can do this; she can do this.

"Yeah. Yeah, it is." Her thumb strokes over his. "I just want you to know how much I appreciate you. Even if… I don't always show it."

She watches as Castle processes this, as he tries to find the words to respond to her. She waits.

"Why don't you show it, Kate?" Dr. Burke asks, filling the lull in their conversation.

Kate nearly startles. The few words Castle had spoken had sucked her in, much like when they spin theories. The way their minds worked together, it was like a vortex that picked her up and carried her along, until it finally spit her out – usually with a new idea or direction for a case.

She almost forgot where they were; that there was no case to solve.

"Why don't I show it?"

"Yes. You said you don't always show your appreciation for him. Why?"

Castle releases her and sits back in his chair. Kate feels the loss of his touch and tries not to reach out for him again, needing that anchor. It confuses her, that she is trying to tell him things, trying to spill her guts to him, yet he's the one she needs to support her through it.

Kate frowns as she mulls over her answer to the doctor's question.

"Because I don't know… how."

"You don't know how to show appreciation for someone?"

"Yes, I mean…" Kate sighs heavily. "I'm not very good with… relationships. I tend to be selfish and blind when it comes to other people."

"Kate, that's not true," Castle protests. "You're amazing with people, with the families of murder victims, with your friends, with—"

"No, Castle. I'm not. It's… Yes, I have friends… I've been in relationships. Most of which have failed… I can't even… I don't even communicate very well with my own father. I'm not good with people, Castle, not the people closest to me. I know what I should do, but I don't always do those things. Because… I don't want to."

"Why is that, Kate?" Dr. Burke asks, and she knows that he already understands this about her. He's not asking her why, he's asking her to tell Castle why.

"I don't want anyone to get too close."

Kate can see Castle frowning out of the corner of her eye. So she tries to explain herself better, tries to be better. Isn't that why she's here?

"I've told you this before," she says to Castle, turning to look at him. "When my mother died, I changed. I'm scared to get too close to anyone, scared of what will happen to me if I have to go through something like that again. So I push people away, I don't let them get too close. And now, it's like I've forgotten how to be a… human being. For the last thirteen years I've been walking around like a robot. And I'm… tired of it, Castle. God, I'm so tired of it."

Frustrated tears threaten her, and her throat tightens up. She swallows and stares down at her lap, unsure of what else to say, what else to do.

Her voice is small when she speaks. "I want to be more than this." She turns her head and looks at her partner. Sympathy shines from his face and she closes her eyes, tilts her head away.


"Don't, Castle. Don't look at me like that."

He leans towards her quickly, shaking his head. "No, Kate… God, I just..." He reaches for her, lays his hands on her forearm. "I just wish I knew what I could do to help. But I'm floundering here; I need you to tell me what to do. Whatever it takes, whatever it is you need, I'll do it."

Kate sighs and raises her leg up on the chair so she can wrap an arm around her calf and lean her cheek against her knee. She looks at her partner and smiles sadly.

"There's nothing you can do, Castle, except just keep doing what you've been doing. Just keep… staying. Just be there for me, like always."

"Of course," he murmurs. "I can do that. That's easy as pie," he says, and she knows he's trying to pull a grin out of her. So she gives him one while reaching across to squeeze his hand. It's the least she can do, all things considered.

Just telling Castle what he means to her and what she's trying to work through makes her feel better. It gives her hope. Maybe this session was a good idea.

Castle interrupts her reverie with sparkling eyes and a silly smile on his face. "Phew! That wasn't so bad." He turns his hand over in hers and squeezes. "Are we done?"

Her stomach plummets, because she realizes they're not finished. Here he is, this man, her partner, and she needs to tell him everything. She needs to be honest with him. She brought him here to work through things, and not everything has come to light. And she needs to get it out, needs to do it with Dr. Burke there to help her say the right thing. She wishes she were different, wishes she didn't need help, but in this instance, she'll take it. Because she needs to do this right. Needs to find a way to tell him without breaking his heart.

"No," she whispers, and turns to look at Dr. Burke, her chin resting on her knee. Her heart is skipping wildly in her chest as she bites her lip. "We're not done."

Castle moves back from her and straightens in his chair. She can see the tension returning to the set of his shoulders.

"Kate?" Dr. Burke says, a question in his voice and in the line of an arched eyebrow.

"There's one more thing I want to talk about," she murmurs.

"Are you sure?"

"Do you think it's a bad idea?" she asks. She feels, more than sees, Castle stiffen next to her.

"I think it's a good idea, but only if you're ready."

Kate turns her head and glances at Castle. "I think it's too late to back down now."

"You don't have to discuss anything you don't want to, Kate."

She doesn't look at the doctor, just continues focusing on her partner. Castle turns to her, his blue eyes filled with questions and worry. "You don't have to say anything, Kate," Castle murmurs, giving her an out if she wants it.

She does want out. She wants to run. But she owes him more than that.

Instead, she stands and walks to the window. The frosted glass obstructs her view of the world outside, but she watches the blurry shapes and shadows move like an abstract painting brought to life. Her fingers reach up, slide over one of the blinds. It sways under her touch, and she leans her head forward, closing her eyes.

"I have to," she murmurs, and turns back around, sliding her hands into her back pockets. "I don't want to, but I need to do this."

Dr. Burke nods slightly and lets her lead.

"I brought him—" She stops and looks at her partner. "I brought you here because I want you understand, Castle. I want you to know what I've been going through and what I still have to work through. And I can't… do that, if I continue to hide things from you. I want to be more than who I am. And I can only become who I want to be if I tell you the truth."

Castle tries to smile, tries to lighten the mood. "You're freaking me out, Beckett."

She winces, noticing he's switched back to her last name. She know he's doing it to put some distance between them, distance she's made him need. She sighs and looks away, chewing on the inside of her cheek. Her fingers tremble when she reaches up to brush some of her hair back.

And then she jumps.

"I remember everything."

Castle leans forward in his chair, rests his elbows on his knees. "Beckett?"

She can see the realization dawning on his face, and sickness slides through her guts when the lights go out in his eyes. His face goes blank.

"I remember Roy's funeral. I remember being shot." She hesitates then, so afraid to admit to him the secrets she's been keeping. "I remember what you said to me."

He nods once, and then lowers his head into his hands, facing the floor. Hiding. From her.

Her breathing increases, her chest rising and falling rapidly with panic. She turns to Dr. Burke, helpless. She needs this to be okay. This session was supposed to help, not drive a wedge into her relationship with Castle.

"Kate, tell Rick why you kept this from him. That might help him understand."

She nods and then returns to her chair. She pulls her legs up to her chest, cradles them against her, making herself as small as possible. A smaller target.

"I lied to you, that day in the hospital, because I didn't know how to deal with what you said. I was… God, Castle, I was so scared, and I was fighting that, trying not to completely freak out because there was a sniper on the loose gunning for me. If I let myself think about that, if I focused on that, that I almost died, that someone out there wanted to kill me, I would have been on the psych floor of the hospital in a medicated stupor. I was spiraling out of control and I had to find a way to keep my feet on solid ground. So I buried it. All of it."

Kate worries her bottom lip between her teeth. He still won't look at her.

"I demanded that you give me space, because you were a reminder. I went to my father's cabin and I hid away from everything for as long as I could. I pushed it all down, and I didn't deal with it. Obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn't have choked when Landers held the gun on me. I wouldn't have completely gone under on the Travis case."

She swallows hard, fights to get these next words out of her sticky throat. "I have PTSD, Castle."

He looks up at her then, and his eyes are red, though not wet. He looks resigned, not angry. That gives her hope.

"The way I dealt with my shooting is how I usually deal with things. I box things away, hide them from everyone, including myself. But it wasn't right, it wasn't good. And it's coming back now, and that's what Dr. Burke is helping me with. And it's what I really needed you to understand, what I wanted you to know today." Her voice wavers. "Because I am so afraid that I'm going to lose you during this process."


"Wait, please. If I don't finish this now, I won't be able to get the words out again."

Castle nods, giving her silent permission.

"I don't know how long it's going to take me to get over this. I don't know how long it will take for me to feel normal again, or at least as normal as I can ever get. I haven't felt even remotely normal for nearly thirteen years. But I need to know that you'll still be there, once I do."

"You heard what I said?" he asks.

She nods, watching him. Waiting.

"Then you know I'll still be here. Because I meant what I said that day." He pauses and reaches over to gently tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "I still do."

Kate's eyes fill with tears, and she reaches up to rub the corner of her eye, her vision so blurry she can barely see him. Castle makes a soft sound in the back of his throat and cups her cheek, swiping his thumb over the moisture below her eyes.

"I'm sorry I lied to you," she whispers.

"No harm done," he says.


"Okay. Minimal damage done. It's okay, Kate. I understand." He looks into her eyes as his knuckles drift across her jaw. "I'm not going anywhere."

She unfolds then, drops her legs to the floor and reaches out to him. She slides her arms around his shoulders, leans her wet cheek against his neck, and lets out a ragged breath. She licks her lips before speaking.

"Thank you."

"No, thank you. For bringing me here today." He rubs a line down her back and up again. "I think I needed this, even though I didn't realize it."

She huffs out a small laugh and pulls back to look at him, just as Dr. Burke speaks.

"I wanted to discuss something with the two of you."

They pull apart from each other, separating to their own chairs once more as they turn to look at Dr. Burke.

"I think this session was extremely beneficial for Kate, and I am hoping we can do this again."

Kate glances at her partner, somewhat startled. Dr. Burke hadn't mentioned that before. Castle quirks an eyebrow at her and then shrugs.

"I don't think you need to come in for every session, Rick, but if other things come up in my sessions with Kate, and I think it might be helpful for her to talk things through with you, I'll ask her to invite you back."

"Okay." Castle nods. "I can do that."

"You will?" Kate asks him.

He smiles at her. "If it will help you, of course I'll come back. Haven't you figured me out by now, Kate? You're my kryptonite."

She arches an eyebrow, and ignores the way his words skitter through her heart. "Really, Castle? Superman?"

"Hey! If you get to be Elektra, I can be Superman."

"I thought you were millionaire Bruce Wayne."

"Well, you know, it varies."

Dr. Burke clears his throat, and they turn back to him. Kate's cheeks burn slightly. She'd forgotten where they were again.

"If there's ever a time when either of you think a session would be helpful, if you have a rough case at work, or something else comes up, just come in together, and we'll talk." The doctor looks at his watch. "We have fifteen minutes left of your session, Kate. If you don't mind, I'd like to speak with you alone for the remaining time."

Castle nods, and then stands up. "I'll be in the waiting room."

"Are you sure?" Kate asks, looking up at him from her position in the chair.

"Yeah, Kate, it's fine. I'm good. I'll play Angry Birds," he says with a grin, and then turns to the door. He slips out, quietly shutting it behind him, and Kate turns back to Dr. Burke.

"Let's talk about what happened here today," Dr. Burke says, and Kate settles in, waiting for his questions.

When the door to Dr. Burke's office opens, Castle looks up from his game. Kate slips out, shutting the door behind her, her coat back on, and a tender smile on her face.

He stands, watches her as she heads towards him. He wants to ask her how the remaining fifteen minutes went, but he murmurs "Hey," instead.

She dips her head at him, and tucks her hands into her pockets. "Ready?"

"Like spaghetti," he rhymes.

She rolls her eyes and shakes her head at him, but her lips purse in that suppressed smile he's come to adore. He moves next to her, almost reaches for her elbow – but doesn't – and they walk to the car, side by side, and silent.

A million questions roll through his mind, but he doesn't ask them, doesn't want to push her any farther than she's gone already. He feels lucky to have gotten this much, to have come this far.

When the car doors close behind them, she puts the key in the ignition, but doesn't start it, despite the chill in the air. Instead, she turns to him and smiles softly.

"Thank you for coming with me today. It… means a lot to me."

His heart swells, crests on a wave of love, and he smiles. "Anytime, Kate." He hopes she knows he means it.

She nods, and then, "It's killing you, isn't it?" She grins at him.

"What?" he asks as his brows pinch together.

"Not asking me."

Oh. He swallows a smile and shakes his head, feigning confusion. He doesn't want to know… unless she wants to tell him. But he won't ask. "Asking you what?"

"C'mon, Castle, I know you want to know what Dr. Burke and I talked about after you left."

Castle shrugs his shoulder, glances out the window, watches the people coming and going. "Eh, I mean, if you want to tell me…" he trails off and turns back to her.

She laughs, throaty and amused. "You're full of it."

He can't help it, he lets his grin pop through. "Okay, yeah, yeah. I'm trying to be respectful here, you know?"

She snorts. "That's a first."

"Well, it's just… I feel like you…" He stops, unsure of how to continue. He wants to tell her, wants to open up, but he doesn't want her to run, doesn't want her to hide. Again.

He likes her out in the open. With him.

He blows out a frustrated breath. "You opened up to me today. I don't want to ruin that. I'm trying not to push."

The corners of Kate's lips turn down, and she doesn't speak. He wonders what is going through her mind, wonders if he's pushed her away, just by talking about it; like he's reminded her that she needs to step back. Away from him.

He bites back a groan and runs his hand through his hair, tugging slightly in annoyance.

"I'm sorry," she murmurs.

He whips his head around and stares at her. That's not what he was expecting. "What? Why?"

"For pushing you away. For making you give me space. For making you think you need to give me space."

"Don't I?"

She makes a face. "Yes. But… I wish you didn't. I wish I didn't."

"Kate, it's okay."

"No, it's not." She bites down on her lip and he has to look away. It's becoming a frequent occurrence with him – having to avoid looking at her – or else he'd crawl over the seat, the desk, a mountain, whatever might be in his way, and nibble on those lips himself. "Dr. Burke wanted to discuss what happened in our session."

"Oh." He waits. He won't ask, although the question and? is desperately trying to slip past his tongue.

"I told him that I thought it went really well." She pauses, and he continues to refuse to fill the silence. So she does instead. "That I found it… helpful to have you there. That I am glad I could tell you, help you understand what I am going through right now."

Castle nods, swallows hard. He wants to jump up and dance, wants to wiggle like an excited puppy ready for a walk, but he won't do that either. He's going to sit in his chair, and act like a big boy, and not sing her name from all the rooftops. Because that would be ridiculous.

"Dr. Burke was pleased with our session. He thinks you're… good… for me."

Castle's eyes widen as he looks at her. She chews on the inside of her cheek and struggles to keep her gaze on his.

"He said that I should lean on you more often, that I should talk to you about what I'm going through. Outside of therapy. Because it helps me, and because he thinks you can take it."

"I can," Castle breathes quickly, unable to contain the words. He wants to touch her so badly. His hands curl into fists.

"I know," she whispers. "So I'm going to try, Castle."

"Okay." He nods, and then smiles, his whole body relaxing. "Okay," he repeats. He could get used to this, to a new, open Beckett. He thinks he's going to like this. He hopes it lasts.

She smiles slightly and looks down for a moment, then back up at him from under her eyelashes. "Do you have time to get a coffee? I hear your partner owes you about a hundred."

He sighs happily and settles back in his seat. "That's an offer I can't refuse. To the coffee shop, Alfred."

Kate chuckles as she turns the car on and shifts into drive. "And you're back to Batman, Castle. I think it's time to make a choice."

"Hey now, this is all theoretical, Beckett. I can be whoever I want, whenever I want."

"That's not how this works. You pick one, or you don't. It's that simple."

"What if I combine the two into an amalgamation of one awesome superhero, with the best qualities of both, and the weaknesses of neither?"

"That's cheating."

"Beckett!" Castle whines.

He continues to banter with her all the way to the coffee shop, relieved that nothing seems to have changed between them, except that maybe – just maybe – their relationship is stronger than ever before.

End Note: As of right now, this story is complete. But I am going to leave it open-ended in case I ever get the urge to write them back in therapy together. So basically if we get another episode that calls for it, I just might send them back. I hope I did all right – I'm not a psychologist, and I don't pretend to be, so hopefully this was all realistic. Let me know what you thought!