Her soft, even breaths told him she was asleep. Peace, she seemed peaceful, and that's all he's ever really wanted for her. He stroked her arm, slung over him as her head rested on his shoulder, hair spilling over him in the warm lighting.

He kissed the top of her head and watched as nature unfolded the tempest outside.

He believed.

Now more than ever he believed the universe had conspired, it had always been their destiny to be together. Such a sense of relief, he could hardly catch his breath, could hardly believe his own heart, his own eyes.

He folded her hand in his on his chest and dared to allow himself to think about the plans he'd imagined in their future. Closed his eyes and dreamed.

oxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

She was so tired. Felt the light of day, the reprieve of the storm passing, before she could open her eyes. Her emotions, her heart, she didn't remember the last time she felt before she thought. But today, this day? Today she felt peaceful, warm, surrounded, loved.

She wanted it to last forever

Castle.

And then more thoughts came; Javi, Kevin, her mom, Gates.

The questions loomed, pulled her from her sweet space. Vacuumed out her heart.

Oh God. She swallowed hard, opened her eyes.

"Hi," his voice had that morning rich tenor, thick with love. She could almost forget. Almost.

"Hi."

Clouds threatened as she lifted her eyes.

He cupped her cheek. Smiled bright rays of sunshine at her.

She sat up, pulling away. Drew up her knees, crossed her arms. Said her next words carefully. Evenly.

"I turned in my badge and gun. I quit."

His face dropped, "Kate."

She looked away, stared blankly in front of her out the window, how could it be so bright outside when her world had shifted so drastically?

She felt him move behind her, smoothed her hair over her shoulder on one side to make a space for his head to rest against it, sitting behind her, turned so her forehead touched his while he gathered her up and surrounded her in the space between his legs.

"It doesn't matter . . . it doesn't matter, you're here, we'll get through this. I promise."

"I know," she whispered.

He reached around to put his hand on her scar, she covered his hand with both of hers.

She turned her head to kiss him, long and slow and sweet. It made her smile afterwards.

"Nice to know I don't have to bring you a cup of coffee to see you do that," he said, bringing his arms around her to squeeze her tight.

"I love you." She'd finally said it, firm and sure.

He wanted the world to end in that moment, there wasn't any greater high than this. To know and be loved and to know and love in return.

They sat that way for a long time, soaking it in.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

He brought her coffee and eggs, hustled to prepare. Didn't want to leave her for long. Didn't want to lose the feel of this morning. Didn't want her to leave the bed.

She was leaning against the headboard watching him when he came back. He sat by her hip, leaned on the bed over her legs. She was full of smiles this morning. The wide kind. The kind with teeth. The kind he adored. The kind he was pretty sure said she adored him.

"Alexis will be home at noon."

"You should spend time with her."

He was torn, no good answer.

"Stay Kate," he said simply, "stay so I know you're okay."

"I'm okay. I think it's better if I go, you don't have much time left with her and it's a special day."

His heart clenched at both thoughts.

"I don't want you to be alone."

She searched his eyes. She didn't want to be alone either.

"Come on, let's go get you some clothes, come stay for a while, if you need space you can sleep in the guest room."

She scooped up his hand in the hallway outside of his apartment, bit her lip but didn't let go until they were exiting the elevator at her apartment. She sensed a problem the moment they stepped out. She reached for her gun.

The gun that wasn't there.

Beckett pressed herself up against the wall, watched him do the same.

The door to her apartment was off its hinges.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

After a moment, when they heard nothing, she made her sweep. The apartment was in shambles, papers strewn everywhere, furniture upended, glass and books tossed everywhere.

Glass crunched under his feet as he followed her into the office.

The murder board was gone.

"Kate."

She took in a deep breath before facing him, and repeating his words to her from that morning, "it doesn't matter . . . it doesn't matter." She cupped his face, kissed him tenderly. He pulled her in, squeezed her, to look over her shoulder at Javier Esposito.

oxoxoxoxoxoxo

Javi had heard the call about the break-in over his police scanner, knew her address.

Javier Esposito had blind loyalty for Kate Beckett. She was certain he was devastated over yesterday's events.

"What did they get Beckett?"

"Everything."

"This took more than one person. They hauled out your computer." They exchanged glances.

She moved past them both to enter the bedroom. Stopped when she saw her back-up piece was not going to be found in the destroyed lockbox she normally stored it in. She leaned against the wall, put her head back, looked at the ceiling.

"They have my gun."

oxoxoxoxoxo

Captain Gates herself was on scene. Ryan followed behind.

"Beckett, what happened here?" The lack of the title 'Detective' held a weight in the room.

All eyes were on Beckett. "The man who shot me doesn't want to get caught," she said simply. Victoria Gates was no fool, her eyes narrowed, "whatever details you're not telling me Det- Beckett, they can only hurt you."

"No Sir, they can't hurt me if I don't pursue it."

Without turning to him she felt the radiation of emotion from Castle.

"You may not have a choice, Kate," Gates used her first name, that got her attention; "there's something you should see."

oxxoxoxxoxox

Kate was startled to see her own face staring back from the murder board. Now a crime-scene board. It was alongside others she recognized, and a startling new one for Castle.

"Kate," he squeezed her elbow, his expression needing to tell her something, not in front of Gates.

"William Smithson, found brutally tortured and murdered in his office this morning," Gates continued, "Your name, pictures, and information on your shooting was found at the scene. You want to tell me what the hell is going on?"

While Kate contemplated her answer, Castle spoke up, "He had information on someone, that's why he was killed."

Kate suddenly understood all of it. This was what he'd been talking about yesterday.

"Information on who Mr. Castle?"

"That's the big question. But there's another problem. If he's dead . . ."

"and he was the only one with the information . . ." she picked up his thought lines.

"Kate." He swallowed hard.

Kate rubbed her hands over her face, not meeting anyone's eyes.

"She needs protection." Javier said stoically to a confused Victoria Gates, eyeing Ryan for the first time.

oxoxoxoxoxoxo

"Let me get this straight," Gates was practically coming unglued, the audacity of this team, "This sniper shooting at Roy Montgomery's funeral was not a random act? You people have known for a year that someone had information on this crime and you allowed him to blackmail the perpetrators? What the hell kind of precinct do you think I'm running?"

"It wasn't just a sniper shooting," it was the first words anyone had heard from Ryan, "it was our friend, our colleague who was shot," his voice was escalating, "while at the funeral of another friend, our Captain. From the beginning there were cops involved, who the hell could we trust?"

His voice, his words settled over the room like an anvil.

"You people were over your heads, you've got to see that, you're no better off now in this investigation than you were a year ago, only now, I don't see any choices, you either solve this or Beckett is a target."

Gates looked around the room, "I appreciate loyalty, but I expect my detectives to report everything, by the book."

"With all due respect sir, two of us aren't reporting to you right now," Esposito glared as he spoke.

"And two of you still aren't," she replied harshly, "maybe it's a better use of your time not to be on the job right now. Makes it hard to go by the book. Detective Ryan is sole investigator of record on this case." They understood her meaning, pursue it off the record so she wasn't forced to answer for it.

"And Mr. Castle? We don't provide protection services for cops." She left the room.

They looked at each other.

"So what's our next move?" Castle said.

"Before we discuss that, perhaps one of us needs to leave the room, after all he will be reporting everything to Gates." Eposito eyed Ryan.

"Hey man, I was just trying to help," Ryan started.

"Yeah well, hell of a lot of good you did." Esposito stood cross armed.

"Hey, enough. Javi, if he hadn't done it, I'd be dead. He pulled me off that roof. And Ry, I still need you, you're our go-to guy. Javi, I need to borrow a piece from you."

When they wouldn't look at each other, Kate rolled her eyes and moved to stand between them.

She held out her hands, fingers pinched, "feed the damn birds."

All three men smiled at her and reluctantly came together to confirm their loyalty.

oxoxoxoxoxox

Where are you dad?, the text read. In all the events of this morning, he'd forgotten to meet Alexis.

He was torn, there was no way to leave Kate after this morning's news.

"I need to go with Espo to get a weapon," she could read what he was thinking, his concern was all over his face, "I'll be fine, Ryan's getting the crime report on Smithson, we'll meet you at your place when we're done."

"You throw that out there like you are the only factor Kate. They can come for you anywhere."

"One thing at a time, okay? We need to review those files. Just go meet Alexis."

He glanced over at Ryan and Esposito, if they hadn't been in the room, she was certain he would have kissed her.

oxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Castle was walking to his building when he stepped out of the shadows, gun drawn.

"You and I need to have a chat Mr. Castle."

A/N: whew, that was a stroke in the making. I now hold hostage the continuation of this story, you want it? Press the review button.