Notes: Spoilers through An Embarrassment of Bitches. Big, slobbery, disgusting kisses to Cora Clavia and Jill, both of whom are always there to scratch my head and rub my belly and convince me that, just maybe, I am not quite as ridiculous as I think I am.

He's only stopping by the Humane Society shelter to see if there's a dog like Royal, some adorably handsome Golden Retriever that will eat his steaks and snuggle endlessly with him on the couch, so of course he winds up with a gigantic, half-lame mutt.

"That's Kismet," the helpful teenager guiding him through the kennels tells him after he pauses for the second time outside her pen. "She's been here a couple months now."

The dog is black, long hair, a splash of white on her chest and nose. She stares at him soulfully though the lattice of her wire pen. He winces. "Is that –" He's not sure how to put it delicately. "How long do you usually keep them, here?"

The girl – Elise, he finally remembers – sighs. "She doesn't have a lot longer with us. The staff just adores her, but she's such a big dog for any place in Manhattan, and the vet thinks she might have an old ACL tear in her right knee that gives her a little limp."

He squats to eye level with the dog. "How old is she?" he asks. He should keep moving. Seriously, this dog probably weighs as much as Beckett.

Elise is far trickier than he'd originally given her credit for, because she's opening the cage and snapping her leash to Kismet's collar as she answers. "Only two, but, you know, she's not a puppy anymore, which also isn't in her favor."

He really wasn't planning on getting a dog, but he did have this hazy ideal in his mind – he would catch eyes with a gorgeous canine from across the room, someone would let the dog out, and the animal would bolt at him, bowl him over, burrow gratefully into his chest, and he would just simply have no choice but to take it home with him.

Kismet walks out of her cage, looks him up and down appraisingly, and apparently finds him somewhat lacking, since she turns and starts to walk quietly away, her gait just slightly lopsided.

Elise scrunches her nose. "She does take a while to warm up to you," she says, tugging on the leash. Kismet obediently turns and faces Castle.

He leans forward, reaches out and rests a hand on the dog's head. She tolerates it. "Does the leg hurt her?" he asks.

"Not really – the vet just said it's not always entirely comfortable." Elise informs him.

He reaches a hand out to touch Kismet's leg. The dog abruptly backs away. "I'm not sure she likes me much," he tells Elise.

He looks up. Elise swallows, shrugs, bites her lip in something like an apology. "Once you get to know her, it's not really that. When she came here she had a piece of glass in her left hind paw. Most dogs, you'd notice it right away - they'd be stopping every two feet to pick up the leg, lick at it, you know. Kismet just walked around, determined that we wouldn't see it."

His chest hurts, a hollow kind of pain that pushes up against his sternum. "I'll take her," he says, not even so much aware of the words as he is of the monumental, overwhelming feeling that he cannot let this dog spend another minute without a home, without someone always there to watch carefully enough to see when she has glass in her foot.

Elise smiles. Castle smiles. Kismet sits, stares up at him, and tilts her head, as if to say, what's the big deal?

"Why do you have a wildebeest?" Alexis asks when he walks in the door, dog in tow.

"This," Castle announces proudly, "Is Kismet. Kizzy, we decided on the way over."

Alexis stares blankly at him.

"She's your new dog!"

Kizzy blinks. Alexis continues to stare. "Dad," she says, slowly, "I thought we decided a dog was a silly idea."

He'd pictured Alexis beaming and flinging herself onto their new pet, but this was also back when he pictured a moderately-sized, perfectly-proportioned Golden Retriever.

"A normal dog, yes. Kismet, no," he says, trotting to the hall closet to get the bowls and food and toys from when Royal was in residence. He pauses, realizing his statement could have been offensive. "Not that you're not normal, Kizzy," he informs her. "It's just, you're better than normal. You're supernormal."

"Are you sure you have time to take care of her?" Alexis asks in a voice that implies that she is most certainly sure that he does not. "You spend so much time at the precinct."

He shrugs, filling up the water bowl and wrestling with the bag of food. "I don't mind getting a dog walker. Oh, or maybe she can come with me!"

"Really, Dad?"

"She could be an asset to the team. I can train her to sniff out murderers!"

"Detective Beckett would love that."

"This is what I like about Kismet. She doesn't even know what sarcasm is." Well. Except sometimes the way the dog stares at him, already he can swear she has an edgy sense of humor. He puts the food bowl and water dish on the floor next to the kitchen counter. Kizzy doesn't quite bound, but she does get up and walk over to inspect the offerings.

"Why is your dog limping," Alexis asks flatly in a tone that's not quite a question.

He's ready for this protest, at least. "She has a torn ACL, probably, but don't worry, I researched it on my phone as I was waiting for the paperwork to go through and in a lot of cases, surgery is a viable option, and Kizzy's young and healthy except for the knee."

"Surgery?" Alexis squeaks.

"It's only three or four thousand dollars, and obviously we'll have to watch her recovery, but that's such a small price to pay." He beams encouragingly as he squats and rests a hand on Kismet's back. She's eyeing the water and food skeptically, like perhaps she could be tempted to eat on her own time.

"Dad," Alexis says carefully. "Are you sure this is about the dog?"

"Of course it's about the dog," Castle replies. What else could it possibly be about?