"Why, Castle?" She's nearly screaming now, pain and fury racing through her veins like fire. "Why would you keep this from me, go behind my back like this? I thought you said you loved me!"
She realizes as soon as those last words are out that she could have said nothing worse. He's silent for a moment, and so is she. When he does speak, his words are choked and disbelieving.
She can only nod, still struck dumb by her own unintentional confession. Gone is the pleading in his eyes for her to understand, to let him explain his actions. It's replaced with hurt and distrust, the wary look of a wounded animal just waiting to be put out of its misery.
"How long, Kate?" he asks, voice low and scratchy. "How long have you been lying to me?"
Her own sense of betrayal fades when faced with his. She owes him this much, owes him the truth. She can see that now.
"Since I woke up in the hospital. I never forgot."
He reels back as if shot, stumbling for a moment and then sinking into his chair. His eyes close as his head drops into his hands, elbows braced on the desktop.
She can barely make it out when he speaks again, a single devastating word.
And that's the question, isn't it?
He's been unfailingly patient with her, ready to help when asked, willing to step aside when needed. He hasn't pushed. She told him there was a wall, and he has stayed on his side of it, even when opportunities to cross have presented themselves. Would he have acted differently if he knew that she remembered?
"I...I don't know."
The anguish written in every line of his face when he raises it from his hands makes him look older. She's had a hard time believing before that he has an eighteen-year-old daughter. But now...now she sees his age. This is what working with her - loving her - has done to him. Peter Pan has grown up.
"I wouldn't have left," he says softly.
It's not what she expected to hear. She expected rage and accusations of cowardice. Not this quiet resignation that seems to have overtaken him.
"I wouldn't have left," he repeats. "I assume that's the reason you didn't tell me. Because you don't feel the same way but you liked working with me and didn't want me to leave the precinct. We do make a good team."
It's not an unreasonable assumption, but it's wrong. Dead wrong, and she needs to correct it.
"As long as you're alive and happy, I can deal," he says, his eyes radiating sincerity now along with the hurt. "I just wish you'd told me so I could move on."
Her heart skips a beat.
"Move on?" she whispers. "But..."
He pushes a hand in front of him before she can finish, a gesture of 'hear me out.'
"Not in the professional sense. Just the personal. I'll stick around the precinct if you want."
A lump rises in her throat as she looks at him, and she can barely speak.
"Castle, I don't..."
He cuts her off again, standing from behind his desk and lifting a hand to her shoulder.
"No, I'm sure you don't. Not anymore. But Kate? Can you just...just forgive me for this?"
He gestures behind him at his storyboard. The storyboard that no longer maps one of his books but her mother's case and her own shooting instead.
It had been nearing ten o'clock when she'd shown up at his door, eager to discuss a theory on their current case. He had done it to her often enough, and she'd figured it was time to return the favor. Alexis had let her in, telling the detective that Castle was in his office before disappearing up the stairs.
She'd expected him to be writing, or even dozing in his chair. She hadn't expected to find him staring intently at a giant screen with her picture in the center.
"Kate, please," he says, breaking her from her contemplations. "I never meant to hurt you. I just wanted to keep you safe."
"Safe?" she echoes, feeling more lost than she's felt since she discovered that her mentor was the third cop.
"A man called me. He told me the captain had sent him some files, files that would damage important people. They were meant to keep Montgomery's family safe, along with you. But only if you backed off from the case. So I pushed you to let it go, at least for a bit. But I kept searching."
She's horrified, and she knows it shows on her face when he cringes and begins apologizing again.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I should have just told you. I was just so terrified that you'd run at it headlong and get yourself killed, and I couldn't bear the thought of that."
"Castle, you can't..."
He cuts her off again, and she feels her ire rising. Why won't he just shut up and listen for once?
"I can't make those decisions for you, I know. But I couldn't just stand by and let them kill you."
The sheer volume of his name silences him.
"You should have told me," she says, more quietly now, holding up a hand to stall his continued explanations and apologies.
"But you," she starts and has to swallow past the tightness in her throat. "You can't chase this either. Your family...Alexis..."
The eyes that dropped while she spoke jump back to meet hers at his daughter's name.
"If they find out you're looking into the case, even if I'm not, do you honestly think they'll hesitate to kill you?"
His eyes harden.
"Do you honestly think I haven't considered that?"
That - that more than anything else - is what scares her. She knows that he is devoted to his daughter. It's one of the few things that softened her toward him in the beginning.
He's been pacing for the last minute or two, but now he stops in front of her, his voice resolute when he speaks.
"We can't live with the shadow of this thing hanging over us. Any of us. It has to end."
She's the one pleading now, reaching out to grip his bicep, to still him before he resumes his pacing.
"Not with you dead, Castle. Not with Alexis having to deal with the grief I know so well."
He glances down at her hand, and she releases his arm, only to bring her fingers up to brush his jaw.
"Not," she whispers hoarsely, "not with me losing someone else I love."
If you let your feelings go, dear
It'll scare you what you'll find
I find them on your street, dear
And you're always on my mind
No one needs to know
That you let me in tonight
That you let me see the world behind your eyes
-Jon Foreman, "Behind Your Eyes"