A/N: There was a brief moment last night when I was admittedly terrified that my fic when the world dangles by a thread would prove to be prophetic. I've never been so thankful that I write fiction about fiction. :D

Anyhow, this short vignette is just my little offering to the cascade of "Always" fics out there. Enjoy!


Spoilers: "Always" 4x23. You haven't seen it yet? Why?


Disclaimer: Only Andrew Marlowe and his team of amazing writers could bring us the brilliance that is Castle. Time to renew, ABC.


41319


Kate Beckett was twenty-one years old when she graduated from Stanford with a degree in Criminal Justice and a belly filled with the zeal for truth. With her mother's murder still two years fresh, she was determined to get the answers she and her parents both deserved.

On her twenty-second birthday, she was learning how to shoot a gun. Enrolled in the Police Academy, she learned that chain of custody and due process were the skeleton upon which a DA's case lived or died. She vowed that she would do her very best to ensure that every case that passed through her desk would be thoroughly investigated and never be the means by which a criminal walked free.

By the time she turned twenty-three, she had graduated from the Academy and was in the midst of her in-the-field training with Royce. She never told him then, but he was the dry land that kept her afloat in the ever-strengthening siren's call of her mother's murder.

She made Detective Third-Grade when she was only twenty-four. (The youngest female to make detective, she was told, but she never cared for numbers—only justice.)

She transferred to Homicide at twenty-five, but by the end of the year, she had spiraled so deeply into the rabbit's hole of her mother's murder that she'd been issued an ultimatum: either turn in her badge, or get into therapy.

She chose therapy and spent most of the twenty-sixth year of her life learning to let go.

Twenty-seven and twenty-eight passed by with her mostly married to her badge.

41319.

To her, those were more than just five numbers. They represented justice, truth, a never-ending journey to bring the wicked to their knees, a chance to give victims the answers she never received herself. They defined her, made her into the woman she was today. They were her guiding light.

She was twenty-nine years old when Richard Castle crash-landed into her world and the direction of her life changed drastically, though she wouldn't realize (nor admit) it for another several years.

Midway through her thirtieth year, she made a conscious decision to commit herself to the man she terrifyingly realized was going to be her one-and-done. She watched him walk away with his ex-wife instead.

At thirty-one, a bullet tore through her body and stopped her heart long enough that all she could see in the midst of the bright white light was the image of him hovering over her and lips whispering words that she'd longed to hear for so long. I love you, Kate.

When she was thirty-two, she realized that her badge was no longer her life.

Her badge symbolized so much of who she was, so much of who she'd become in the last decade. For so long, there had been no Kate Beckett without the Detective.

But as she fingered the treasured metal set into well-worn leather, she knew that it was time to give it up.

Her life was him and his.

A smile flirted on her lips, and it was as if a great burden relieved itself from her shoulders when she tossed it carelessly onto Gates' desk.

"Keep it. I resign."