Disclaimer: I do not own any part of "Castle".

Author's Note: This is a piece that popped into my head after watching a rerun of 1x05 when Kate is grabbing her necklace and watch and gun to head to a crime scene, but it takes place sometime after "Killshot". It's a sort of commentary on all of the differenct layers that make up our favorite detective. Enjoy!


Layers

It was late when Kate got home. Much later than usual. They had all been pulling extra shifts this week trying to catch a serial killer. Esposito even spent one night on the couch in the breakroom because he was too tired to waste the time it would take him to drive home from the precinct and then back in the morning. But they had finally caught the guy, and it was all over. Maybe tonight she would actually get some decent sleep.

Kate set her keys on the counter and then headed into her bedroom. A shower could wait until the morning. Right now she was too exhausted to care.

She stood in front of her dresser and started to remove her badge, but something stopped her. As she and Castle were leaving the precinct that night he had made another comment about what he called "the Beckett onion." She had shrugged it off with a witty retort, but something about it had stuck in her mind. He was right. She was a woman of many layers. Now as she studied herself in the mirror above the dresser her eyes fell on the markers of the various layers. Such simple objects, and yet to her they were armor. Objects that both defined her and shielded her. And like all armor, they had to be removed one layer at a time. She had always removed and put on these objects in the same order, a sort of unconscious ritual. But tonight, the onion still in mind, she found herself watching the mirror as she did so, watching as one by one she peeled away the layers that made her who she was.

First she removed her badge and set it atop the dresser. That was the layer most people saw, the one that hid her best. That was Detective Beckett. It represented her duty both to the city and to herself. A duty to uphold the law and bring the guilty to justice. A duty she took very seriously.

That led to the second layer: justice. Kate unclipped the holster of her gun and set that atop the dresser as well. It was a layer that often mingled with the first. In fact, anyone who was with her for more than about five minutes when she was on a case could see how driven she was by a need for justice. Maybe it was because her own mother had been denied it and this was the only way she knew to cope. By making sure other people got theirs. Maybe somehow helping them gain closure would give her some small measure of her own.

The next thing she removed was her father's watch. It was true that she wore it for him. But it had also become a symbol of her own strength and will power. A constant reminder that a person could do anything, even help break their father's alcohol addiction, if they really tried. They just had to want it. Kate Beckett was known for being strong. She always had been. It was that strength that allowed her to take the sniper rifle from Esposito's hands that day in the evidence lock-up. It was that strength that had allowed her to walk away from her mother's case before she drowned in it, and it was that boundless determination that had kept her coming back to it years after everyone else involved had called it quits. Kate Beckett was not easily beaten. She had never even bothered trying to keep track of how many countless perps had underestimated her skills and would now spend the rest of their lives staring at barred windows.

There was one man, however, who had thus far managed to outsmart her. The man who had sent Dick Coonan after her mother. That was where the fourth layer came in. Very carefully Kate removed the chain with her mother's ring from around her neck and placed it reverently in the box atop her dresser. It was this layer that truly defined her. This was the one that drove all the others. So much so that sometimes she forgot there were any others. It was the strongest layer of all, the one no one ever got past. Her father could do it because he had watched it go up, and so he knew where to find the door. Lanie and Ryan and Esposito had come dangerously close on more than one occasion, but this final wall still kept them out. Captain Montgomery alone had managed to break through. And then she had lost him to the same men who had caused her to build that wall in the first place.

And then there was Castle. Somehow he always found the cracks in what she thought was flawless armor. Or maybe he was the one who put them there in the first place. All she knew was that he could dance circles around her wall like he hardly cared, and then suddenly she would blink and he would be inside it. He never stayed there long. He knew better than that. Just long enough to ask a question or two, to gain one more piece of the puzzle he saw her as, and then he would politely step back out. Maybe that was why she kept letting him do it. Because he didn't push her to tear the wall down. Because as much as she hated being vulnerable there was just something about Castle that made it so easy, so refreshing. Something that made her think that maybe one day she would be able to risk life outside the wall.

Now she studied herself in the mirror: no badge, no gun, no watch, no ring. Without those things she was no longer Detective Beckett, tough as nails and no nonsense. She was just Kate. A normal woman in civilian clothes. A woman who liked hot baths and mystery novels and going to a bar with her friends at the end of a hard week. A woman who got up early on Saturday mornings and made pancakes just because she liked the way it made her apartment smell. A woman who sometimes wore cherry perfume for no other reason than because she knew Castle liked it. A woman who was beginning to think Lanie might be right about her falling for her (secretly) favorite author.

But that was not the final layer. No, there was one more. As she stood there looking at herself in the mirror Kate was reminded that there was one more marker left, one she could never remove. She slowly pulled her shirt over her head, removing the final layer. Then she just stood in silence, staring at the scar on her chest. This was what lay at the core of the famous Beckett onion: scars. Here she was no longer Kate, but Katie, her mother's little Katie, a young woman who was broken in so many ways. This was the woman who dove for her gun when the backfiring of a car startled her awake in the middle of the night. This was the woman who still cried every time she watched the hunters shoot Bambi's mother, the woman who spent every Mother's Day on the couch with a blanket watching reruns of "Temptation Lane" not because she liked it but because it was the closest she could get to being with her mother. This was the part of her that cried silently every time she had to break the news to a victim's family, the part of her that still flinched sometimes when Ryan and Esposito pointed their finger guns at each other. This was the part of her that sometimes woke up in the middle of the night with tears on her face thinking she heard her mother's voice. This was the part of her that was terrified of loving Richard Castle because she didn't see how he could love someone so broken.

A car horn outside broke the moment. Kate shook her head, bringing herself back to reality. She quickly pulled on a T-shirt and switched into her sweat pants. Then she crawled into bed, pulling the blanket up around her. (She had often thought it odd how much safer something as flimsy as a blanket could make someone feel.) Time to finally get some sleep. Tomorrow would be there all too soon. At least she could count on Castle to bring her coffee. She was going to need it.


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