Kate stepped off the elevator and entered the homicide division. The place was bustling as usual. A uniform was guiding a cuffed, loudly protesting suspect down the hall toward interrogation. Detectives were talking on their phones or writing on murder boards. There were 3 detectives standing together with their coffees laughing at some joke. It even smelled familiar – not a specific odor you could really describe. It was kind of a mixture of stale coffee and leftover take out foods, combined with other unique precinct smells. Kate felt a smile touch her lips. It felt like home.

She stopped short when she realized someone was sitting at her old desk. She frowned; of course someone had been assigned to her desk. After all she had resigned.

Just then Ryan looked up. Seeing Beckett he leaped to his feet almost knocking his chair over. Esposito followed his gaze then jumped up as well. They both hurried to Kate's side.

"Hey, Beckett," Ryan said in greeting, his blue eyes soft and welcoming.

"Yo," Espo said with a nod as he reached her side.

Kate smiled brightly at her boys. "Hey guys, how have you been?"

"Missing you," Javi replied.

"Yeah," Ryan echoed.

"Well, I'm here to try and fix that."

"You going to get your job back, Beckett?" Ryan asked eyes widening in delight.

Kate nodded, "I'm sure going to try." She glanced over at Gates' office suddenly getting very nervous.

"Beckett, don't worry about that guy at your desk. He's from Vice helping out on an overlapping case. Your desk is still free." Javi winked at her.

Kate grinned back, "Good to know. Well, wish me luck."

Kate felt like she was diving into a shark tank, but from the outside she looked totally composed as she knocked on Gates' door.

"Come in," came Captain Gates' voice.

"Sir, I was wondering if I could talk to you about my resignation."

Gates gave Beckett her normal stern look. "Shut the door. Come in and have a seat."

Beckett complied and as she sat down, Gates said, "Your resignation is all set. I don't think we have anything to discuss."

"Sir, I offered up my resignation in the heat of the moment. I've had time to reflect, and I regret my actions that day. I violated police procedure and put a fellow detective's life, as well as my own life in unnecessary danger. I'm truly sorry for my actions. I'd very much like to get my job back."

Gates' eyes narrowed as they bore holes through Beckett's skull. "Just how can I be sure that you wouldn't pull the same crap on your next case?"

"The only reason there was a problem to begin with is because I was blinded by wanting to get justice for my mother's murder. I've since realized that my mother wouldn't want me to throw away my life just to try to solve her murder. It won't bring her back. I'm still confident that someday her murder will be solved, but I've given up her case and won't be pursuing it anymore."

"Sir, I am a good detective. You know my work. I'm honest and hard-working and I want justice for the victims. No one has a better case closure rate than me and my team." Kate added knowing how important that was to Gates.

"Well, Miss Beckett," Kate almost winced at being called Miss instead of Detective. "You were certainly one of my best detectives, but your resignation has probably already been processed." Gates rummaged through her bottom file drawer and pulled out a folder labeled 'Beckett, Katherine'. She grabbed some papers out of it. Kate was hoping Gates would jump at the chance to get her back, but it didn't look like that was going to happen.

"Yes, these papers were filed almost a month ago," Gates waved the papers in the air for emphasis. Kate stayed silent feeling defeated not sure what else she could say. Gates scanned over the documents briefly. "Wait a minute. Oh my, it appears that I have made a terrible mistake. I must have accidentally grabbed the Personal Leave form instead of the Resignation form." Gates looked over her glasses at Beckett, a slight smirk on her face. "Well, Detective, it looks like you have to be back at work July 16."

Kate tried to smother the grin that threatened to take over her face. Gates didn't plan to let her go after all. Kate couldn't help but wonder if Gates would have come to her. OK, that seemed unlikely, but she was letting her back in. "Thank you, sir," Kate said trying not to gush as she stood up. "Uh, there is one more thing…"

"Mr. Castle can return as long as he continues to contribute to the investigations." Gates cut her off knowing full well what that one more thing was. She dismissed her with a wave of her hand.

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," Kate said as she backed out of Gates' office, her huge grin letting the boys know immediately how it went.

Kate sat on the deck at Castle's home in the Hamptons watching Castle and Alexis build something in the sand down on the beach. She was going to have to go in and get some binoculars so she could see exactly what they were building, but right now she was just too comfortable to move.

Kate had been blown away by the huge, beautiful house with its private beach. It seemed kind of funny that Castle's summer getaway was 3 or 4 times as big as his main home in the city. They'd already been here 3 days, and Kate felt totally at home. Martha was still here, and they had done a lot of things together as a family. It felt so normal. Martha and Alexis accepted her into their lives with no hesitation and couldn't have made her feel more welcome. Kate still occasionally needed some alone time, but she found that she really welcomed family time now instead of being overwhelmed by it.

Castle told Kate that he wanted to do something special with Alexis and had told her to pick whatever she wanted to do. They were both surprised when Alexis told them she wanted all of them to go to the Hamptons for a week. They all decided 4th of July week would be perfect. Alexis' only 'time with Dad' request was to build a sand sculpture with him like they did every year.

Kate lay back on her lounge chair. She closed her eyes and soaked in the sun's warm rays. The sun's radiance felt energizing. It was in the 80s. A nice breeze brushed over her skin helping to keep her cool. It was just so pleasant. Kate hadn't been much of a sunbather since she was a teenager, but she really enjoyed relaxing and soaking in the sun this week.

She smiled as she remembered the look on Castle's face when she came out in her new bikini. Maybe he would have looked at her like that even if she had worn an old bikini. He just couldn't help reacting to her scantily clad body in spite of the fact that he slept with her every night. She loved tantalizing him. It just made it more delicious when they were together at night.

After another 20 minutes, Kate sat up. She could see that Castle and Alexis were still hard at work down on the beach. She decided to go into the house for a while, get a drink, and maybe find the binoculars so she could figure out what Castle and his daughter were working on so diligently. Kate was really getting curious now, but she was not going to intrude on their time together. She knew it would be cheating to get binoculars since their sculpture was supposed to be a surprise. She decided to be good and wait until they unveiled it to Martha and her.

Kate had been reading a book on her Kindle earlier and grabbed it off the end table as she made her way to the kitchen. She poured herself a big glass of lemonade and sat on one of the barstools. Martha wasn't around but had left the radio on, and Kate appreciated the background noise as she started reading again.

Last night Castle and Alexis had disappeared into his study. "We must develop top secret plans for Operation Sand Storm!" Castle exclaimed in his best mad scientist voice.

"Sand Storm?" Alexis questioned making a face.

"I was just trying to make it sound cool. So do you have any ideas for this year's sand sculpture?"

Alexis thought for a minute. "Actually I thought it would be neat to make something that represented Kate or just something that she would like. I don't know what though. I don't want to do her gun or badge or anything." Alexis' brow was furrowed in thought.

"I've got it!" Castle said excitedly. "Kate loves elephants. She always had elephants on her desk at work. Let's do an elephant for her."

"That's a great idea, Dad," Alexis said, her face lit up with excitement.

Both Castles immediately started making plans and sketching out concepts until they had the perfect design sketched out on paper. This year's sculpture was going to be a baby elephant lying on the ground lifting his head up like he was looking at them. Alexis had printed a couple of pictures off the internet to help them get the sculpture just right. They wouldn't tell Kate or Martha what they were working on until they had it finished. After they emerged from the study, Alexis found that she was so excited about the sculpture that she was having trouble keeping her mouth shut. It was so unlike her. Her dad was the one that always struggled to keep a secret. She decided to turn in early so she wouldn't let it slip. She could only hope that her dad would be able to keep quiet as well.

Castle and Alexis had been working for over 2 hours on their sculpture. Castle's shoulders had gotten a little too much sun the past couple of days so he was wearing an unbuttoned short sleeve shirt over his swim trunks. Alexis was wearing a beach cover up in addition to her SPF 45 sunscreen to help protect her fair skin.

Castle was delighted to be building another sculpture with Alexis. It was a wonderful way to reconnect with his daughter. Alexis would often share her worries and dreams with her dad as they worked. Castle always made her laugh with his funny stories or silly antics. Just working together was great. They never got mad at each other even when one of them caused part of a sculpture to collapse. They always worked together to solve whatever problems they encountered. It was a great bonding experience.

They had done this every year since Alexis was old enough to walk. The first 3 or 4 years they had built simple little sand castles surrounded by moats. Almost as soon as they would get them done, Alexis would stomp and jump on them, laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world. Suddenly, one year she wanted the castle to be perfect and wanted it to last forever. She cried when the waves washed it away. That was the start of Castle Sand Builders Extraordinaire. Naturally, Castle had t-shirts made up.

Every year their castles got more elaborate as they became more creative and learned from trial and error what techniques worked and which ones didn't. When Alexis was about 9 or 10, they started doing sculptures instead of castles. There was always a theme based on a movie or a life event or even a whim. One year they did a Shrek head. The year Alexis got her first cell phone, they built a huge cell phone in the sand.

Castle was concerned that maybe this would be the last year they would be able to do this. Alexis might have a job next year or a boyfriend or might just finally outgrow it. It just felt like his little girl was slipping away into adulthood, and Castle was trying to savor every second he got to spend with her. He had already taken several pictures of Alexis as she was working until she finally gave him an exasperated, "Daaad!"

"Sorry, Pumpkin," he said with a grin, "but I've got to have my memories." They went back to work. The basic form was in place and a lot of the detail work was done but one of the baby elephant's legs was causing them problems requiring them to alter their design a little for it to work.

"Castle!" Rick stood up as he heard Kate yell his name. Kate was running across the deck to the stairs. "Castle!" she yelled again as she started down the steps. Her voice was urgent. Castle shot an anxious look at Alexis before he started to run toward Beckett. As she reached the beach she stumbled, but her hand barely touched the sand before she was running again. Castle's mind was racing with terrible things that could have happened from Martha having a stroke to the loft burning down.

"What is it, Kate?" Castle yelled when they were within 20 yards of each other. Kate barely slowed down before she slammed into Castle. He caught her in his arms.

"Castle," she said breathlessly. "They arrested Bracken. I…I just heard it on the news. They've arrested him for murder!" Castle was stunned but his eyes softened at the good news. He picked Beckett up and spun her around.

"It's finally over, Kate. They did it without us. We aren't targets anymore." There was no disguising the joy in his voice. Beckett's eyes were shiny with happy tears. Castle brushed a strand of hair behind her ear then leaned down to kiss her. Her lips were soft and responsive. Their tongues touched and intertwined. Castle's hand was at the side of her face, his fingers tangled in her hair and his thumb gently stroked her temple. Kate's hand was on Rick's chest, and she finally gently pushed him back.

Kate gave him a radiant smile. "I feel like a huge storm cloud has finally passed us by. Finish your sculpture, Castle, then come find me." Kate turned and walked back toward the house.

Castle shamelessly stared at her ass and the sway of her hips as she walked away. She owned him heart and soul, but he wouldn't have it any other way. Now that Bracken had been captured, he knew they could plan their future together without fear of assassins hiding in the shadows.

Kate had been able to get justice for so many others, but the case that mattered the most to her seemed unsolvable. She had been consumed with the need to solve her mother's murder, and she felt guilty for letting her mother down. Now Kate would be free of that horrible burden – the injustice that hung over her head for so many years. Getting justice for her mother would free her forever.

Castle realized that Bracken was still a powerful, influential man. He would have the best lawyers. It was possible that he could get off on a technicality, but Castle knew that they had done all they could do. The most important thing was that Kate was not involved in the investigation that led to his arrest. If Bracken wanted to get even with those responsible for his downfall, he would have no reason to go after Kate. Having Kate safe was the only thing that mattered to him.

Tomorrow was the 4th of July. They had a lot to celebrate this year. Castle couldn't imagine life being any better. His heart was full of love and joy and gratitude. He smiled as he turned back toward Alexis and their sculpture.

A/N You have my heartfelt thanks for sticking with this story - especially my faithful reviewers. Hope you enjoyed it!