Chapter 58 – Making Plans

Previously: Kate has been fully inducted into Taylor Matthews. In the meantime Martha has suggested they 'escape' to the Hamptons. A suggestion Rick and Kate plan to follow. Meanwhile plenty of others are making plans….

Disclaimer – Naturally I don't own Castle or any of the characters. All the other legal stuff applies too.


The Loft, Thursday morning.

When Kate woke up she found herself face to face with Richard Castle.

Not that was an unusual experience of late, but still it could give a girl a bit of a start. Especially a long term, incorrigible fan girl. Like her. You could say she was living her dream but it was so much more than she had ever dreamed possible.

Of course she had done her best not to share how much of a fan girl she is – or at least not too much - with him. Although she suspects he may have uncovered more than she wanted to share about that too. He always did. Yet now somehow he kept that too himself. Not like the early days. They had both changed – themselves and each other. For the better. For each other.

He was far more complicated than his one-dimensional playboy persona. How had she not seen through that façade earlier? There are some days she wants to kick herself for waiting so long to take a chance on them. But on the other hand as Lanie had pointed out after Kate had confessed all about finally starting a relationship with her man-child, it had been a four year long courtship just without the extra benefit. Mind you Lanie has finished with the assurance that 'there was no way smart people like you two could stay that dumb forever'.

But this morning her issues were more in line with a severe case of 'Castle scratch-my-itch.' After all it has been more than two weeks. The longest they had ever, well not had sex. Man, that sounded worse in her head that she imagined. But accurate.

Being naked didn't help either.

Having her unencumbered form moulded into his hot body was probably not ideal at all.

Except it was.

Still tired, she lets her eyes drift closed even as she focuses her thoughts.

Just his proximity is enough sometimes, but in their bed she's such a goner. His body heat should be cloying, driving her away, and instead it draws her in, seeking his heart and gentle bulk. She's never been with anyone like him. She doesn't believe there is anyone like him. Certainly not for her.

Her previous boyfriends – well since college and the academy - have all been very much of one type. Professionals, hard, fit, trained bodies, mostly-able lovers, or at the very least energetic enough to compensate – to a certain extent. But none of them even come close to this unique person she gets to lie in bed with, and sleep and be with in every meaning of the term.

He's not lean, even solid is a slight stretch these days but she finds she doesn't care. The fire within her comes from the entire person not just his outer shell. It's not to say he lacks a physical presence but despite his size - she internally rolls her eyes at her own unconscious double entendre - he rarely imposes it on others. But she remembers Lockwood and how Rick took him down unarmed. Espo, Ryan and Gates all attested to his physical prowess in disarming the suspect before he was shot.

More importantly he loves her with everything he has. He's considerate, goofy even, tender, passionate and on occasion extremely dirty. The last has her on edge today.

She's sudden conscious that her body is betraying her. Moving against him. Subtle for sure, but definitely in motion. Undulating even. She's she sure she is flushed but whether in embarrassment or desire, or both she's not certain.

She senses the change in his breathing and when she peaks one eye open to check sure enough there are two gorgeous blue ones, gleaming back at her.

He is close enough that when he murmurs 'Good morning Gorgeous' his breath gently tickles her face. What's especially disgusting is that he doesn't even have morning breath.

More than semi embarrassed by her lack of control and to cover her aroused state, she assumes her default defensive posture. Snark.

"What?! No creepy comment?" Damn her filter is completely off. He didn't deserve that.

She wonders if her desire is as apparent to him as it feels to her. She snakes her hips a little to disengage her legs and core from his heat, and instantly feels the loss.

He semi-shrugs – he's getting better with the fine motor skills and isolation so he is not using his dominate arm and recovering shoulder for the moment – but he still remains silent.

"No it's sweet really." She moves to apologise and reassure him. "Good Morning Sweetheart."

She is rewarded with a goofy grin and mischievous eyes before he speaks.

"Thanks. But….well…..I can't never complain finding you in our bed, plus you are naked too!"

She should roll her eyes again but her mood is too good.

"There is that." She conceded and then makes an exaggerated show of stretching, using her toes to push the covers down as she arches her back and reveals two nicely perky breasts and semi-tumescent nipples. Lovely if she does say so herself.

She can sense the impact upon her partner. He's drawn to her breasts but displays a remarkable calm reserving his worship merely to the heated brush of his eyes across her body.

"What would like to do this morning?" Oh he's playing cool.

Plus he probably thinks with the existing medical advice he doesn't stand a chance. He's so wrong. She always take a chance with him.

She could mess with him, and by default teasing is second nature to them both, but this morning she decides that total honesty is her first choice.

Rolling onto her right side, and closing back the small gap between them, she is leaning forward intruding into his space until her lips are hovering above his nose, and she whispers.

"Well how about we come up with a way to avoid raising you heart rate but still enjoy ourselves?"

"Really?"

"Yes, oh yes."

"What about Doctor's orders?"

"Doctors, Smoctors. Dated one, they know nothing." Whoops that slipped out.

He doesn't blink. Doesn't call her on it. Instead she gets sass.

"Rebel Becks? Is that you?"

She smacks his chest, more in relief that anything.

"Careful or you won't find out."

"Sorry" But the glint in those baby-blues says a lot more.

"No you're not. But get up."

He complies, strategically removing the bed cover and sheet as he gets up. He doesn't look sorry at all.

She makes no move to cover her nakedness. Instead grins at him and drops onto her back with her body flush against the sinfully smooth cotton and to cap it all stretches her limbs out and opens her legs for good measure.

She's not sure if she moans, but she swears he did.

Parts of him are stretching too, reacting very positively to this morning's developments.

She suddenly rolls upright and bolts from the bed, almost sprinting for the bathroom.

Over her shoulder she chucks what should be one final command.

"Shower time! Lose the clothes Bigboy."

"Bossy, but I like it." She can hear him. Still sassing her as he watches her naked derrière disappear through the doorway to the en suite.

She stops just inside the door.

"Why are you still over there? Shower. Now!"

With that she disappears into his cavernous bathroom and the shower with more jets that the Air Force and a nice solid seat.

Perfect.


They emerged from the study both freshly scrubbed and holding hands, sharing ridiculously wide grins.

"Oh good morning you two."

"Crap Mother!" Rick starts at the surprising presence of his mother downstairs at this early hour. Moreover she's dressed, although at first glance the bright assault on their eyes could be mistaken for some pyjamas.

They both want to turn tail but the diva has them in her sights. All too surprised to completely wipe the satisfied grins from their faces. All it would take is for a knowing glance from her to have them both blushing deeply.

Kate recovers first.

"Good Morning Martha."

"Well look at you. Don't you both positively look glowing this morning?" The arched eyebrow says it all. And here comes the blush reflex. For both of them.

"Shit!" He's muttered it under his breath but she can hear it. If Martha heard it she's at least being diplomatic about that.

"So Martha what has got you up so early?"

"Well I came down from some tea and I could hear the shower running. Richard, you really should get that pipe fixed. It still knocks when the shower is in use. Especially for long periods of time."

Mortified would be one word Kate could pick for that moment. If only it was the first – and last – time Martha has 'busted' them having sex. Well at least they were in the privacy of their bathroom this time.

"Anyway Dears, I shall be leaving shortly. I shall be going to Hampton's house to check on progress with the little renovations. I plan to stay overnight and return tomorrow."

"And the fact it's Thursday and it's Ladies Night at Julian's has nothing to do with it Mother?" Rick finally finds his voice.

"Don't ask unless you want to know." She says as she ambles over and pats his cheek with a mother's touch, and aims a sly wink at Kate who can't help but smirk a little as Rick pales at his mother's insinuation.

Letting go of each other they head into the kitchen to fix breakfast. Martha has resumed her place at the breakfast bar, sipping her tea.

Shortly Rick and Kate have finished preparations for their oats and fruit along with the oh-so-necessary caffeine, and join his mother at the breakfast bar. Once they have sat down the Diva resumes.

"Well I must go finish getting ready. The driver will be here shortly." Martha pauses clearly considering something before she asks. "So have you two had a pleasant morning so far? What else do you have planned for the day?"

Kate responds for them.

"Oh Yes!"

There is a slightly breathy element to her voice.

"We plan to finish packing and organising a few things. The press outside seem to have dropped to single figures but we'll stay home if possible.

"But in answer to your first question Martha yes we've had a very pleasant morning. Haven't we Rick?"

She seriously doesn't expect him to answer that?! Does she?

"Well morning sex will do that for you Martha. As we didn't want to mess the sheets we had a very lovely time in the shower. Didn't we Rick?"

Crap why does she keep asking me these questions?

Kate has kept her eyes on Martha all the time and she can swear the woman just turned about five shades paler as she retreats at pace, speechless for once. She can almost hear Rick's jaw bounce of the kitchen bench beside her.

As his Mother concludes her hasty retreat upstairs, a rapidly recovering Rick raises a hand for a high-five from Kate and can't help himself from joining in.

"Don't ask if you don't want to know, Mother!"

Kate knows she should be perhaps a little horrified but has to actually fight back the laughter.

Rick is looking at her with gleaming eyes.

"You know it never occurred to me. Rather than cringe, simply give her more information that she needs."

"God, whatever you do, don't tell Alexis or you'll never hear the end of it."

"True. Plus I'm really sure I don't want to know."

"That too Lover Man."


Less than an hour later a still somewhat subdued Martha departs the Loft with minimal fuss and a mere two suitcases for her overnight stay at the Hamptons.

But not without Kate catching the woman for a quiet word before she departs. Rick is hiding in his office still not quite brave enough to face his mother again just yet. So with the words just between the two ladies, Martha listens intently and promises Kate that she will take care of her request.


Ninety minutes later and they're not laughing anymore.

Ryan and Esposito are sat at the breakfast bar, cooling coffee cups marking their spots.

Kate still has trouble adjusting to the fact that this is her home, their home. It's not that her own apartment wasn't great, the money from her trust fund and her own bohemian style had seen to that, but here was an intangible but apparent bonhomie, a joie de vivre that fed from the creative spirits of its inhabitants as evidenced by the countless, meaningful knick-knacks scattered around the Loft, including her own merging into the diaspora of their lives together.

Also having their friends visit helps.

Especially now she's on leave from the NYPD.

Even if this morning was mostly in their professional capacity. Of course given the recent events this wasn't really a social call.

Their presence helps centres her and distracts her from the temptation of mental gymnastics and an inclination to review her life and second guess her choices. In short how she'd spent too much of her life long before Richard Castle burst into what she had considered her carefully controlled and measured existence and turned it upside down and inside out.

Since she and Rick had got together they hadn't spent too much time outside of work with their colleagues. She missed it a little but she was too focused on their precious time together, ideally alone. Something she hoped the time away in the Hamptons would be.

It had been Ryan who told them. She always knows when it is going to bad, or at the least the Boys think it is. Espo clams up, and leaves Ryan to do the talking. She doesn't know if it is because they think she'll go easier on him, or simply that the he is best of the two of them with words, explanations, excuses, apologies, and puppy dog looks.

Rick is looking at her with those blue eyes wide in surprise. They knew that Gates knew about Montgomery. One of the secrets that has bound them closer as a team isn't anymore. The Boy's had given them a heads up earlier but today they get the detail of what she knows, or at least what the Captain had chosen to share with them.

Apparently it never really was just their secret. Because Captain Victoria Gates of the NYPD knew most of Roy Montgomery's tragic burdens. Long before their team did. As did a small number of other NYPD members including the Chief of D's, and the Assistant Commissioner who were both inaugural members of an anti-corruption operation that ran for almost a decade.

Captain Gates had described Roy how had been set up with the John Raglan and Gary McCallister as part of his assignment until that fateful night in the alleyway outside the Italian Club. He hadn't shot Bob Armen, the FBI agent but it had been his gun and the others had basically threatened pin it on him. Roy had been adamant that he would report it but before he could do anything the local ADA had intervened and flipped McCallister to betray the team and demand the money from them. Without Gates naming the ADA the entire team knew who was behind the blackmailing of the kidnap gang, and taking pretty much all the ransom money in return for the freedom of the implicated cops.

Roy's handlers took the opportunity to break him loose of his criminal partners, and from there on his role in the anti-corruption operation was inactive. However, as they all now knew the ripples from the events in that alley way had devastating consequences. Even without speaking about it, Kate needs to retreat to a corner of the Loft for a few moments to compose herself before returning to take Rick's hand. Her partners, both cops and her writer waited patiently for her return before resuming.

The anti-corruption operation had never been able to discover any usable evidence about who was behind the blackmail that relieved the kidnappers of the money. Nor did they realise at the time that both the other kidnapper cops were turned. McCallister was fully involved in the criminal enterprises for the Dragon and Raglan severely compromised to the extent that he hushed up the murders of Johanna Beckett and three others years later.

As the two detectives repeat their conversations with the Captain, Kate finds herself expressing considerable surprise and responding with questions or exclamations. For his part Rick is especially quiet. His respect for Montgomery is boundless despite, or perhaps, because of the man's mistakes. Kate knows he still grieves for the man and his family, and his inability to help prevent Roy's sacrifice, along with his guilt for triggering the events that led to this. His dedication in the book that followed that fractured, broken summer was telling. Even more so the trust fund he established for Evelyn and the Montgomery children.

They'll talk about it later. Then it will be her turn to provide comfort and reassurance. This relationship is like nothing she ever experienced or dreamed she would. There are elements of her parents in there, and her grandparents, and yet it is unique what lies between them and binds them. She wouldn't have it any other way.

So for the moment she again takes his hands in hers and squeezes gently and despite being in full view of Esposito and Ryan she lifts his hands up and dips her mouth to kiss his knuckles. It is so certain and without reproach that there is no teasing response from the wide-eyed men across from them.

It is moments like this that make the two cops more than certain that what they have been witnessing for years has blossomed into a lifelong partnership beyond all rational explanation.


Strangely for the next part of the story, it is Esposito who fills them in on the how Gates knows. Their new Captain hasn't shared too much outside of her own and Roy's roles but it is enough for Espo to outline 'Project Integrity'. How it started life as a covert anti-corruption program operated off-the-books by a number of concerned NYPD commanders and assorted civilians.

The genius has been to disguise it as part of affirmative action for encouraging minority groups to serve in the NYPD, Project Integration. Integrity's actual purpose was to prevent organised crime gaining further footholds in NYPD senior hierarchy, and where possibly rolling back the existing corruption.

Predating the rise of gansta culture it centred heavily on Black and to a lesser extent Hispanic officers. It was felt that the Anglo-Saxon ranks, especially Irish, and Italian, had been excessively compromised by the Irish and Italian mob. Hence the presence of Montgomery and the recently graduated Victoria Gates amongst the small pool of recruits.

Montgomery had been an obvious selection, a former Army MP with a tough but easy demeanour. Gates was one of the few females in her graduating class and the best scoring in all assessments.

Roy was assigned to infiltrating a posse of corrupt cops that were enabling drug dealing and other crimes in the Washington Heights. For her part Gates had not been deeply involved in undercover work for the program. Her time in Vice had been comparatively short – Rick had somehow managed to almost keep his disbelief about the Captain's time in that division under control. But this still prompted Kate to intervene.

"Castle, you know not every female in vice dressed up as a prostitute? Plus real hookers aren't supermodel hot, while at least not the ones on the street."

"But you…."

"Castle!" Kate needs to shut him down before. She's reaching for his ear and gets the response she needs before her hand completed its journey.

"Shutting up now."

Too late the Boys both look interested. However, they are professional enough to leave the revelation alone as they continue with the new information. Plus even without her badge Kate Beckett is still scary.

Ryan explained that they thought that Gates had experienced a near-miss and although only alluded to by her, and had then stepped out of field work into a different role. Then she had been placed into IA and what was another very close call which apparently involved politics as well. The team speculate whether Bracken or any of his cohorts might be involved but without more information from Gates they're blind on that matter.

The final piece of information is the slim lead Ryan has with the name of a hacker with a similar MO to the one that stole the NYPD backup tapes. Tori Ellis and the rest of the NYPD's computer crimes team are investigating but the individual appears to have covered his tracks well.

As they are wrapping up, Kate fixes the two with a flat stare.

"Oh and Boys, I may not be active at the moment, but I have a long memory. So any photos of undercover ops from back-in-the-day stay locked away." She's well aware that Rick is mouthing 'call me' and making the phone action behind her.

"Yes Beckett."

Both answer together prompting Rick to observe. "You know it's kinda creepy when they do that."

"Oh don't think I don't know what you were trying to do too Mister. Don't for one minute think you'll stand a chance."

Despite the serious nature of their earlier conversations both cops leave their friends with a chuckle and a promise to keep them up to date.


Secure office, Federal Building, Manhattan. Sometime after midday.

Will Sorenson was still hung over.

McCord had been slightly sympathetic for the first quarter of an hour but since then had driven him hard with no allowance for extra coffee or fresh air. Even the early lunch break hadn't brought much relief.

Last night had seemed like a good idea. Catch up with the old gang, many of whom were now back in New York.

It had been good to see them and exchange tales. Except most of them were married now. Which in itself was depressing especially when coupled with him being the only singleton there.

Of course the last time he had caught up with so many of them at one event he was still dating Kate Beckett. In fact the prevailing opinion had been that Will was about to make a profound decision concerning the relationship with the young detective. He did, but his was unexpected by most as he went to Boston instead of moving in or planning an engagement. Of course some of them knew this. Some kept their consul and some didn't. And so the evening had taken a bit of a turn for the worse, hence the hangover when a few beers became more beers.

He had also taken the opportunity to chat with Mark Kudowski, his old partner and now an Agent in Charge for the Bureau's Financial Crimes unit in New York. Unlike him, Mark had managed to break through and get the promotion.

Unlike some of the other attendees, Roberta, Mark's wife, had been very sweet about his failed romantic life. Although intensely curious. As she and Mark didn't have kids and were the gathering's hosts, she took every opportunity to gently probe him about dating 'Nikki Heat' through the evening and then when he and they were the only ones left.

Of course Will had very little he could say about Kate Beckett as Nikki Heat because he no longer recognised large elements of this new Kate Beckett. She had told him about her Mother's murder after two months. She had been just out of therapy when they met and after telling him, she made him swear to stop her if he found her looking into it. They were much alike and things were very straightforward, and pretty easy but he could never escape feeling of the darkness that lurked beneath her. It helped that they were both in law enforcement so the understanding about the job was mutual, until he decided to go to Boston, and she didn't. He had been sad, disappointed and just a little relieved. Kate had been getting antsy whenever he had tried to raise their future, and he had wondered if she was going to break up with him. He also had doubts about whether he wanted to shoulder the responsibility of a lifetime commitment to someone as potentially damaged as Kate no matter how much he liked her. Even now Boston feels like the convenient, cowards way out.

Eventually the beers took their toll, and he had crashed in their spare bedroom, waking early enough to apologise and manager a last minute dash back to his hotel to shower and a high-speed change that had left him only twenty minutes late that morning.

He did wonder if he should try and contact Kate especially since the negative press coverage at the start of the week. But he had to admit he had no reason other than their past and as she made clear four years ago, that she had moved on. And so had he. Except she had now someone and he had a seemingly becalmed job, and no personal life.

Then there was something about this case that was nagging him. There had been since he first met Senator William Bracken. Admittedly the man was a politician but it had taken every ounce of his experience to maintain a diplomatic and concerned stance around the obnoxious egotist and wannabe despot in his unguarded moments. Man voters were dumb.


They had been relocated to a bigger secure office to accommodate the growing evidence they were logging as well as the coming and goings of another Task Force team led by a Jared Stark who made McCord appear like a bubbly airline hostess. Not that he'd share that observation with either.

After four days they did have a pretty through picture now of multiple criminal acts performed by the now Senator William H Bracken or his agents starting from before he ran for District Attorney in the late nineties.

Their financial team back in DC was putting together a very convincing evidence trail. Guided by their initial detective work, the electronic analysis had picked up further significant finds. Investigations had now spread to thirteen US banks and more than twenty overseas financial institutions were on the target list. For the moment most of those were out of bounds for fear of alerting the now multiple suspects.

Everyone working on the investigation was staggered.

The off-shoring was two way. Both were more than technical breaches of the laws and they had five distinct instances of inbound transactions being funnelled to Bracken's campaign funds via multiple accounts. A single count would be enough to terminate most political careers, five would nail anyone especially a potential candidate for the highest office. Acceptance of 'foreign' money was illegal and anathema with US politics. Bracken would be ostracised by his own party once news broke. Of course that would be the least of his problems.

Then there was the sum of money. Estimates had it at more than a billion dollars. A number that raised so many red flags that had McCord talking to Chief Carl Villante the head of the Task Force.

More concerning was news that morning from a second team lead by Stark that was now also in New York, that had uncovered evidence of ties to more than one criminal organisation. Ties that also began in the nineties and apparently continued to this day. The initial links were to a small Italian crime family, the Silva's but towards the end of the nineties had blossomed into connections to some big time drug syndicates including more than with one extra-territorial elements. Also the investigators had discovered disconcerting evidence of links to multiple corrupt or suspected corrupt NYPD offices as well at least one member of the state judiciary.

Sorenson was at first surprised by these new discoveries. Well that was definitely understated, more than that he was disturbed. During the bombing campaign just months ago they had investigated all the potential targets thoroughly and found absolutely no hint of any maleficence higher than ignored parking tickets. Were his investigative skills so lacking that the he and other FBI agents missed information discovered in days by the task force? Or something more sinister at work?

But once McCord has explained about the other shadow team operated he had to concede there may well be a lot more, as well as being more comfortable about his previous efforts.

Jared Stark's team walked right along the tightrope. Their investigation methods were certainly not in the FBI's field manual, nor the Justice Department's. They were a results orientated strike force and rarely did their missions require or result in prosecution. Very much the eponymous Men in Black. Starks team were as close to black ops as they could legally be. Their role was to secure critical evidence and if that meant invalidating lesser charges or even lower value targets due to breaches of law then so be it.

Of course all their discoveries don't come without their own issues.

This was BIG. Probably larger than that. A serving US senator, potential POTUS candidate, illegal campaign funds, money laundering, links to one or more criminal organisations, corrupt law enforcement. Who knows what else? Multiple agencies would be involved. Just as many would want in regardless of their jurisdiction.

That was the next thing. Once back they were back in DC and the finding left the AG's task force it was only a matter of time, possibly hours before it would be leaked. Despite whatever secrecy level it was assigned.

Leaving aside the issue of why the data had been restored, they focused on the information they could gather and collate. They were aware any defence would pick up and attack that angle – who would have motive for restoration of the 'evidence'? Hint at the less than stellar chain of evidence, possible record tampering.

Regardless of any potential future legal objections, they were currently almost overwhelmed with data. Much more than they initially needed but they continued to extract and log it. Back in DC, Agent Richmond had an extra team of experts working under his supervision and was regularly performing small wonders with the data retrievals.

Then there were the possible CIA links as well. One name more common than before. Orantis Solutions. Hints of links to the illegal rendition of suspects and potentially worse. Villante had kicked that upstairs and the team was forbidden from following any trial there.


McCord has been off with him since well before lunch time. At first he thought it was because of his hangover but it wasn't that. Eventually she pushed her chair back with a scrape on the floor. Looking up, Will quickly recognised the moment was here.

"Look Will I'll be upfront with you."

"Time to make the decision?" He didn't mean to interrupt her but he blurts it out.

There was a lot going on, and even with his hangover he could sense the pressure coming down on them. He could feel the tension rising yesterday. McCord was getting updates from her superiors but stepping out for privacy, at least from his ears. Whatever this was it was bigger than campaign funding irregularities or criminal acts associated with that. He hadn't ever thought that any of the calls could be about him.

"Yeah." There is resignation and frustration in her voice. She drops into a nearer chair beside him. Her faces relaxes.

"I didn't want it to be like this. I wanted to do it properly but we're out of time."

"Time?"

"Afraid so. Things have escalated massively and accelerated. We can't keep a lid on this. So if you don't want join us then we'll have to drop you out of the investigation. We need to compartmentalize this as long as we can. Your current security clearance doesn't get you in. Hell I'll be blunt, if you're not a member of two of the Task Force's teams you're out. Worse you'll get sequestered and held in isolation until it goes public or the AG decides otherwise. Sorry it really is that big."

He nods. Still after his initial outburst he'll hold his tongue for the moment longer.

"Will, this one is off the charts. I've never worked anything like this before. We don't have a handbook for how to handle this. We normally work tight cases that can be handled discreetly. This one won't be. There is also the risk of retaliation. It looks like Bracken has all sorts of dirty shit going on. It could prompt attacks against us. Normally our reputation is enough to safeguard us but this….."

She doesn't finish the sentence. Instead purses her lips for a moment, a frown on concentration apparent. Then taking a breath she resumes.

"Will, if you choose to join the Attorney General's Task Force, you can stay on the case. Help us get him and his associates. It's big case. Massive. The downside is that outside of the Task Force and a few select officials you'll never get credit for helping break one of the biggest political corruption and worse cases for decades."

"I'm in." His mind was made up last night. He really has nothing left for himself in New York or anywhere else, and the FBI was road to nowhere. He had made the choices that led him to this point, and he took full responsibility for the consequences. Maybe this time it might work out a bit better. Perhaps it was time he had a better plan.

"Okay." He reaches his right hand forward and for the second time this week, McCord shakes it but this time with a degree of enthusiasm.

"Welcome on board Agent Sorenson." She actually smiled.

"Oh by the way the paperwork's a killer. Way worse that regular FBI or police."

"Great, now you tell me! Thanks McCord."


Aunt Molly's Kitchen, Boston, Ma.

The remnants of his late lunch pushed aside he looked like any other geek on a lunch break. Computer in front of him, scanning his smart phone. At least the corner booth in the noisy restaurant gave him a measure of privacy.

He was planning to return to New York tomorrow.

His employers had called the new burner phone number. Exchanging the new numbers was done via small ads on Craig's List. He sometimes wondered what percentage of adverts were fraudulent. Probably pretty high.

Unlike the usual short, terse exchange of messages this had been an extended conversation. Not of his choice.

During the call he had learnt that they knew his real name and all relevant details including his family and friends. Ex-girlfriends, not that there had been too many of those. Regardless of the expectation that he might be identified it was something he had been dreading. Especially by those well outside of the legal authorities.

The anonymous voice on the other end of the call stressed that there were 'quite satisfied' with the results of the engagement. However, final payment would be withheld until decisive action was taken that resulted in the desired outcome.

He knew better than to protest the change in agreement.

Secretly he was pretty damn sure and confident that ultimately he would receive full payment. What he had managed to learn about the Attorney General's Task Force was sufficient to give him that confidence. They wouldn't let the damning evidence go astray.

However, any relief at not being under immediate threat from a mafia family was tempered by the concern that his cover was blown. All it took was one careless person and he would be in even greater danger, or being pursued by the Federal authorities. Although what he knew of Senator Bracken's nefarious activities he certainly didn't want attention from the man, or worse his agents either.

Pulling the Sim card out of the phone, he replaced it with another data only card and then put into router mode using a mini-USB cable to tether his laptop.

Using the sandbox on his laptop he quickly access one of his hidden sites located on the TOR network. He wasn't foolish enough to believe it was secure or safe but with him ghosting behind numerous hops and through countries that didn't share their information with US, well at least not willingly or knowingly, he was satisfied that brief connections were low enough risk.

Running through the report output his heart sinks. The report compiled the results of Internet searches for specific keywords including his aliases along with thousands of innocuous words to help disguise his own fingerprint searches.

Shit! At least three firm hits on his Nimrod alias in the last twenty-four hours. Two coming from IP addresses belonging to the City of New York. That would be the NYPD's Computer Crimes unit. The other IP address came up unknown except for a North-Eastern Internet Service Provider block.

Fuck! He really should vary his methodology more often. The NYPD had obviously determined the similarity in techniques when he used the backup tape trick to expose that savings and loan fraud two years ago. Damn his ego. He had clearly tagged that one Nomad. Whether they had any more than identified him was the question. Probably not, but he was going to need to go dark for a while.

Now that he had a heads up that the NYPD is looking for him, he needs to make a decision and update his plans. Should he return to New York, remain in Boston or go elsewhere?

He has to. Return to New York. He needs to report back to work on Monday. He has community college to teach. Any sudden absence could trigger suspicions.

He was going home.


The Hamptons, early afternoon.

The town car service had Martha in the Hamptons in just over two and a bit hours. She had stopped for a light lunch before continuing on to the house. Regardless there was definitely something to be said for coming here off-season, well very off-season and not travelling on a Friday or Sunday. Much faster journey times.

Exiting the car, Martha pulled her coat tighter around her in response to the biting chill of the ocean breeze, as she approached the entrance to the house. There were two trucks in the drive way. Both with signs for the Richardson Construction. How apt she thought.

Unlocking the door, Martha was grateful to at least be out of the cold wind. Dean, the driver, delivered her bags to just inside the door.

"Do you need me to take them up Missus Rodgers?"

"Oh no thank you Dean. I'm sure I can find some to assist me." She nodded down the hall-way with the noise of multiple men and thuds could be heard.

"Very good. What time should I pick you up tomorrow?"

"Let's make it six o'clock provisionally but I'll confirm by lunchtime. Is that alright?"

"Perfectly."

Martha knows better than to try and tip. The Time and Motion drivers won't accept it. Richard takes care of the account and throws a Christmas party for the company in gratitude.


She picks up the lighter of the two cases, which contains all she actually needs and carries it upstairs to her bedroom. They – as in the Castle/Rodgers clan - didn't often come here outside of the warmer months. The house itself wasn't particularly well insulated and with lots of glass, and big open spaces designed for cooling in the heat of summer, it was clearly not intended as an-all-year-round property. That said there were fireplaces in maybe half the rooms and a couple of the smaller bedrooms heated up quite nicely unlike the ostentatious master bedroom with its free standing bed. The only saving grace for that particular room was the large fireplace, and she tried not to think about other ways her son would find to keep warm in there.

Returning downstairs she heads down the corridor towards the sounds of men working. Entering the doorway she finds the renovations of this sun room well under way.

She doesn't need to introduce herself as the foreman spots her.

"Missus Rodgers?"

"Please call me Martha."

The handshake is firm and polite as is the middle aged man in overalls and blue fleece jacket in front of her.

"Well Martha, I'm Tom Richardson, foreman of this crew. My Dad, Henry owns the firm.

"Please to meet you Tom. How are things progressing?"

"Pretty good. Your maintenance guy met us here at seven and let us in. It helped that the room was empty so were able to start straight away. The machines were delivered just a couple of hours ago and we have two new circuits to power the equipment going in now.

"Now Martha you called late this morning. Some amendments to the plans?

"Yes. But more like additions." She reaches into her hand bag and extracts the paper Katherine passed to her along with the verbal instructions.

"My daughter-in-law, well future daughter-in-law" she self-corrects. "Wants some floor mats in place but it needs to be a reasonable surface area. Say at least sixty or so feet square. More if possible."

The man looks round the room. The logical place would be the centre area, free of the support beams and other fittings. However, there are already exercise machines in place there. Pursing his lips he makes a snap decision.

"Hmm…we've use the main area already for the machines, but what about we relocate them to two sides?"

Martha nods, wordlessly encouraging the man to continue.

"So if we move the machines along the wall, the rewiring is minimal and actually easier, and that frees up that center area for the floor mats. Should be able to get a ten by ten surface in there. The only thing is we don't have the matting material."

"Excellent. I believe that is being sorted by Katherine, she has put the number of the firm on this paper. I believe if you call before five with the measurements, they can deliver tomorrow."

"Sounds good. We can accommodate all that."


Beesley, Wax and Drummond Lawyers

Jeff Beesley had been tempted to ring in sick. But unable to stomach the idea of the insinuations his absence would create he had literally limped in late that morning and retreated to his office. And remained there.

Last night
He was out and enjoying a drink with friends when the hot red head came on to him. He suspected she was a pro but he didn't care. He was happy to pay, even more opportunity to get exactly what he wanted, instead of pathetic compromises or worse rejection.

Sure enough it takes less than twenty minutes and he's heading out with her. He had followed her to her room at a nearby hotel, further confirming his suspicions. They were shedding out layers coming through the door, and fuck she was hot kisser. She pulled away and then came the punch line.

Not at all abashed he had fished the five hundred out and then stripped off. She followed suit down to her lingerie. Turns out she was well half-way. He didn't particularly mind. A hole was a hole as his father had said. And it wouldn't be his first time.

But first he wanted her mouth on him. He had barely had time to kiss her and then push her down his body.

Well that was the last thing he remembers before he woke up in his own apartment in his underwear.

Still groggy he was thinking clearly enough to recognise that his drink had been spiked. That also wasn't the first time for him. But what sort of criminal returned their mark back to their apartment?

He hurt all over. He needed some painkillers and some water. Then he'd deal with the missing cash and any compromised cards. As he sat up and swung his feet round to the floor he had pulled his right foot back in agony.

Looking down he had nearly fainted there and then. Swallowing back the bile that had suddenly appeared in his throat, burning his taste buds, he forced himself to remain looking at the ruin of his right foot.

The middle three toe nails from his right foot were missing. In their place bloody mess and pulped remains of the flesh where the toe nails had been yanked away.

At that point he had vomited over the bed covers.

He obviously hadn't been conscious for their removal but regardless they fucking hurt now.

Then his phone had rung.

Blocked number.

"Good morning Jeff. My employer would like to remind you to please remember your professional ethics." The voice is smooth, well-spoken but the next words are brutally frank. "Or if not that, focus your own fucking self-preservation. Silence is golden and circumspection is your key to survival. Breach our client's trust again and it will be more severely punished in future. Tread carefully. Well if you can."

Whoever it was they had done this to him.

"Now clean up your mess. It really isn't becoming for a grown man to sit in his own vomit." CLICK.

Fuck! They can see him.

Somehow he made it in. Doped up on painkillers. So he hid in his office, having his PA bring him lunch, nursing his injuries and fighting a growing sense of panic.

Whatever else he was Jeff Beesley was no fool.

Whoever he was working for was powerful, and ruthless. He wasn't surprised by that but their almost arbitrary actions had caught him off guard. Obviously he did something to rile them up. But what? And this was obviously meant as a warning. He certainly didn't want an escalation.

Almost as crucially, he was under observation. Whoever they were, they ran a very tight ship. And brooked no deviation or risk. Something they had all too brutally emphasised to him last night. He was going to have to be very careful.

But the rewards on offer were simply too much to pass up. The forecast was at least two point eight billion through the accounts over the lifetime of the deal.

A small but significant percentage of that almost three billion would go to the firm and he would take both his rightful cut as COO and also the finder fee for bringing in the new business. By his calculation he would get around hundred million dollars.

More than that it would raise the profile of his firm up from another middle tier Manhattan law-shop into something more. This was his plan. So long as he lived. Feeling the continuing pain radiating from his right foot, he acknowledged he might need a better plan.


Silva Family Estate, Long Island.

Despite the geography, it was not a stereotypical mafia fortress, having once been owned by a senior movie producer who got a better offer to move out West.

Francisco Silva had lived since the mid-eighties, after they had established themselves in the New World. Of course he was a lonely man since the passing of his wife. Their only child, Sophia, was dutiful certainly. She was ran the business day-to-day. She lived here in the other house with her second husband and two teenage children.

She was here today along with their key staff. Harrison Williams, fully Italian despite the name, but simply known as 'Roma' who ran the operations. Mario Stanza their chief enforcer and Paul Denosta their legal guy. This was the command structure for the Silva family.

Their home was their fortress. It hadn't always been so, but now they had technology as well as muscle protecting them now. Thanks to the work of the hacker they recruited. 'Nimrod' such a childish name. Still he had made them secure against electronic eavesdropping.

Accordingly the discussion this day was open and honest. But respectful. Always respectful. They may be a small organisation that specialised in other matters but at their core they did things just the same way as the other families.

"Will he move against us?" The man's question was valid. Roma's foot soldiers and team were bearing the brunt of their current issues.

"Of course." The person answering was old, frail, more possibly. The strength of his voice belied his physical fragility. Francisco Silva was almost ninety years old. His body was failing him, but his mind remained alert.

"He is impatient. Arrogant. Untrustworthy. It is a blight on this family that we ever chose to become involved."

The others all nod.

"He was beneficial to us for many years. But now he is a threat, or rather more of a threat. However he will be difficult to harm." This from Mario Stanza.

"But we don't need to attack him. His own hubris will be his downfall. His secrets will drag him down." The female voice interjects.

"Si, the seeds of his doom were sown long ago. All we need is time." Her father agrees.

"Agreed. It is right that it was his own actions that will be his doom." Mario again.

"His father was wise man in comparison." Francisco remembers the senior Bracken, bloodied but not broken by his bankruptcy and fall from social status. A reasonable man to do business with. Unlike his son.

Still the decision to do business with William Bracken had been taken by himself and others.

"It was a foolish thing I did to align with him."

The woman who had been sitting respectfully in the corner leans forward so that her head is near the much older man's shoulder. She reaches forward to touch his right hand.

"Papa, it was the only thing you could do. It saved us. You think the other families would have shown mercy?"

The shake of the old man's head is enough to confirm that as he grips his daughter's hand.

The woman continues warming to her topic.

"Would they have even allowed us to continue? We are no threat to them, but it is not right that they give us no respect."

Another firmer shake this time. The woman continues, the ire in her tone biting.

"If we were lucky then you might have lived, I would have been married off, the schism with the motherland broken for good."

Now her father speaks again.

"None of that is acceptable. Not then. Not now. It is why we did business with that man. But no more. I regret ever accommodating his father and rescuing William Bracken from the mess he made.

"He is building a dangerous empire. His mercenaries are clumsy, and soulless. And that mulignane he is the worst!" The last epithet is spat from the mouth. The offensive street slang strangely not out of place even from the old man.

"Yes, Vulcan Simmons. I don't think we should worry too much about him Papa. I think he is as dangerous to our enemy as us. I am sure that he will not survive.

"Sophia I don't like it. He acts with impunity and hurts us with no cause. He kills without reason. At least Bracken's mercenaries have an objective."

Roma joins in. "Si patron. They attack us, but then claim it was the gangstas. We do not believe their lies but they have too much influence." Too much power, money and firepower too.

"They have so much money Papa. It can't all be drugs. Can it?"

"Not directly. They are money laundering for many groups including some families and drug cartels. The operation is massive. Far beyond what should be safe."

"How?"

"Orantis Solutions have some sort of contract with the US military or perhaps CIA for prisoner transfer and more distasteful things. Because of this they have some form of immunity or exemption from certain oversights.

"Surely they will not allow this to continue."

"The son is clever, he traps and then turns people, uses them for his own advantage. Unlike his father he has no conscience and is ruthless in eliminating threats."

"Well he won't trap us." His daughter is adamant about protecting her family.

"Yes, but I don't want us to be sucked down when he falls. It will make a very big impact and hurt lots of people."

"We have set things in motion. I'm sure even now the Federal Government is finally preparing to do something about the corruption in its ranks.


The Loft

"Rick, what are we doing?"

"What now? For lunch?"

Kate slowly closed the gap with fire in her eyes.

"Okay." Slow and careful from her man.

"We're going to Hamptons." He answers and then continues.

"Well I think we deserve some time alone. Extended time. Quality time."

She arches her eyebrow at the last cliché.

"Not just for that!" The protest is automatic. But then he corrects himself. "Yes that too. God you don't know how intensely erotic it is when you let go. You're loud. But it's more than that. You're free. You can be Kate. Just Kate. My Kate."

She relents at his sweetness.

"There are so many things I want to talk to you about. To explore how we feel about them. Together. To understand and map our way forward as a couple. That talk we had after Gates gave us the ultimatum and the secrets we shared in hospital, they're all good but it only makes me want to know more of you. To better understand you.

"I also want to resume those serious discussions about marriage and children."

"I think I'd like that too Rick."

"Kate it been bouncing around in my skull since I was conscious and able to remember was day it was. Facing your mortality does things to you. Forced me to look at what I want."

"I know." She's so quiet he almost doesn't hear her. But he does and he blanches, suddenly aware of the implications of his words.

"Oh God, I didn't mean it like that Kate. Please."

"S'okay Rick. I know you didn't. But I do understand. Last year I had too much time alone and I thought about a lot of things but was too much of a coward to make many decisions, barely any actually."

"So I think that if we had time to share our thoughts, and understand more, then perhaps we'd be even better."

"Hey, I think we're pretty good at the moment."

"I think so too, but I also think we can be better. Be more. Don't you."

"I do. But I've never made it this far before. It's more than a little scary."

"Kate, it equally scary for me. I've done this twice and failed. I can't do that to you."

"I trust you Babe. I'm so looking forward to marrying you Rick. One and done remember. So I just need you to be sure."

"I've never been surer of anything in my life. God Kate, I wish I had never married. So I could be your equal in this."

"Shhh Babe. You have Alexis."

"Still I didn't need to marry her mother."

"I think you did. Would Meredith have kept her if you didn't propose?"

"God No. She wouldn't."

"So there you are."

"There's still Gina."

"I'll give you a pass for that one. We're all entitled to mistakes and she's not all bad."

"Really?"

"Well in small doses on the end of a phone line."

"I'll remind you of that when she's chasing chapters."

"Fair enough."

"I want us to be Rick and Kate. I used to doubt if there was such a person. That all there was behind Detective Beckett was a closed book. Slowly I began to see a different person.

"Rick, I know I'll never be the person I could potentially have been before my Mom died, but I have you to thank for allowing me in and for making me this person. And I have you to reward for scaling those walls and finding me Rick."

Rick's phone pings.

"It's a message from Alexis. She wants to pop round tonight. That's good. We will tell her tonight right?"

"Yes. Martha knows. I'll speak to my Dad today as well. I'll have to at least let Gates know out of courtesy."

"What about the Lanie and the Boys?"

"I want to keep our departure as low key as possible. I'll message them tomorrow."

"Sure I just think we should let them know before we go. CBR has been wanting to borrow the Ferrari anyway. So he can nip by and pick up the keys."

"Sorry, who wanted to borrow the Ferrari?"

"Umm, Ryan."

"That's not what you said."

"Wasn't it? I'm sure that's what I meant."

She's up in his face, prodding a finger into his good shoulder. "Spill Ricky."

"Well about that…" He realises he isn't going to escape.

And then she laughs.

Oh crap she knows.

"Rick, after the Boys found out about us, do you remember that night at the Old Haunt?"

He narrowed his eyes.

"The 'I have never….' night? Karaoke? Or trivia night?"

"Trivia."

"What about it?"

"Well Ryan was really drunk."

"I know his answers were actually better than mine."

"And still completely wrong. But that's the not the point Rick. The fact is that when like that Ryan has no filter. Worse than you."

"So?" His gut is sinking.

"He told me about you nickname for him."

"Oh?"

"C. B. R. ring a bell?"

"Of course. 'Castle's Buddy Ryan'."

"Bzzzt! Wrong answer!" She stared him down. Satisfied he was suitably intimidated she asked. "Want to try again?"

"You got me."

"And?" Hands on hips time. Head tilted. Slight frown.

"Do I have-ta?"

"No whining Rick."

"It's short for 'Cock Blocker Ryan'."

"And you named him this when?"

"Well it's just every time we were on the cusp of communicating better it seemed like one or both of them would interrupt. Ryan was the worst."

"When."

"Umm almost two years ago, in fact."

"So I was with Josh then."

"Um yes. So?"

"She huffs. So does this mean they've know about your…." She's stuck for the correct word.

"Infatuation is a good word." Rick offers helpfully.

"Creepy is more appropriate."

"Creepy Infatuation."

"Stop trying to win brownie points. But really Cock Blocker Ryan. What the hell did you call Espo?"

"Anything he wanted me to. The dude is scary."

Kate laughs again and all is right with the world.


The Hamptons. Early Evening.

The black delivery van with the gold lettering had pulled up outside. And the lean mid-forties occupant struts up to the already open door.

"Hello Marcus."

"Good evening Martha. It is a pleasure to see you again."

"Well young man, what have you got for me?"

"Well in the van I have a wide assortment of breads and meats, along with lots of garnishes as well as soft drinks, and a sandwich press."

"Well I didn't know what the young gentlemen would want."

"Martha, I'm sure there will be something in there they'll like. Then looking at the nearest truck, he laughs. Plus I know Tom and his boys. They come into the deli regularly. I'm sure they'll all be very happy."

"Excellent, please get set up in the kitchen and I'll go send them through."


Martha swans into the Sunroom to interrupt the still busy workcrew.

"Gentlemen. Marcus from the Ambrosia Deli is here. He's going to make you all some supper. Please consider it thank you for you all staying back late to continue working on this project. Especially as you are doing it at such short notice."


The kitchen was cleaned and the materials returned to the deli van.

"Thank you Marcus."

"My pleasure. Martha. Do you mind if I ask how your son is? I saw on the news."

"He's making a good recovery."

"So he's coming here for a bit?"

"Yes – to have some time away from the city and complete his rehabilitation without interruption."

"Well I hope he wraps up warm, a lot of these Hampton homes are meant as summer houses and can be a bit chilly in winter. Though this one's not too bad but some of the rooms are pretty big and airy."

"I'm sure he'll cope." And he has someone to help keep him warm.

"Oh I almost forgot. Can you please deliver this tomorrow afternoon – say around Four pm." Martha says whilst handing over a shopping list.

"Absolutely."

"Thank you Marcus. Please say hello to your sisters."

"Will do Missus Rodgers. Goodnight."


Martha wandered into the sunroom where the workmen were clearing up for the night.

The room looked good. The machines were off to two sides of the room and connected to the power. The space for the new floor mat as requested by Katherine was there in the center of the room.

The mat itself would be delivered tomorrow. Made up on individual tiles it would be somewhere to exercise.

"Hello Martha. Wow the food was great stuff. Thank you for organising it."

"Tom, there is absolutely no problem. I am grateful you have all been so dedicated.

"Anyway, I am off to visit my friend. You remember Louis?"

"Oh yes. I was so sorry to hear about Miss Frankie."

"I saw that you sent flowers and made a donation to her charity. Thank you."

"She was a lovely lady. It was nothing really."

"Yes she was. Anyway, you'll lock up and I'll see you in the morning?"

"We'll be here about seven am again. I'll let Chief Brady know you're in town and that the house will be occupied from the weekend."

"That's very kind of you. Good night Tom. Boys!"

With that Martha departed the room in search of her coat just as her phone chimed with a message from the taxi to say it was outside. She was so looking forward to spending some time with Louis.


The Loft.

It's well past early evening when Alexis makes an appearance. She's not alone. Jane, her bodyguard/cum new bestie is right beside her.

Alexis bounces through the door looking entirely chipper and happy. Hugging both her father and Kate in short order.

Jane hangs back and then introduces herself.

"Hi you must be Detective Beckett."

"Just Kate will do fine. I'm on extended leave from the NYPD."

"Well then Agent Beckett."

Kate's eyebrow twitches, and she recovers from her surprise to fix her best detective stare on the younger woman.

Grinning, the Protective Duties Operative beats the question framing on Kate's tongue.

"My employer works closely with Taylor Matthews. So I am aware of your change of status."

"I'd still prefer Kate if you would please. Also the position is on a need to know basis so we're not advertising it."

"Sure. That's no problem."

"Hi Rick Castle. Alexis' Dad." Someone's feeling a little left out.

"Jane." The handshakes are honest and not testing. The younger lady smiles.

"Well personally I'm impressed." Rick is almost gushing.

"Why is that Mister Castle?"

"Firstly please call me Rick. Mister Castle has unfortunate connotations." Kate snorts.

"Sure Rick."

"Well it's simple. Alexis is letting you do your job. She's always had issues with security and the few other times we've engaged bodyguards have been exercises in frustration bar one."

"Clare?"

"You know her?"

"Yes – she did much of my training. Kind of my hero. Everyone is in awe of her."

"Well that's easy to understand."

With that they settle into an easy conversation with Alexis chipping in.

Xxx

Kate had left them to it so she could go back to their bedroom to finish packing. She was completing her task of sorting through a few more warm things to take with them when she heard the rap on the door frame.

Looking up she finds that it is Alexis who has knocked. "Excuse me."

"Oh Alexis." Kate clearly looked uncomfortable but swiftly moves to explain herself.

"Look Alexis it's still you home, you don't have to knock to come in here."

"Actually I do. Dad's rules. Everyone knocks before entering a bedroom. Knocks and waits for permission, especially for explicit approval if the door is closed."

"Sensible rule." Why hadn't she heard this? Another thing to discuss with Rick.

"No it's not that at all."

"What then?"

"Are you okay? All that terrible stuff in the press. Especially the Internet. Dad's said how much you hate the press and being exposed by that."

"It does hurt. But it is transitory. Your father and family and our friends get us through it. Plus I do need to get used to it. Being with your father has a certain degree of exposure."

"Do we know why there has been all this negative coverage? Dad said it wasn't just the press being feral to sell copies." Alexis certainly can drill directly to the point.

"Alexis, we're not sure. But your Father thinks it might be some form of distraction or misdirection. For what we don't know. But both your dad and I are outside the investigation at the moment, so it's not easy to keep up."

Alexis decides to change the subject.

"So where's Grams?"

"Martha has gone up to the Hamptons."

"In winter?" Alexis doesn't hide the surprise. "That house style is not particularly well…..warm. Especially for the winter winds off the sea."

"Oh. I didn't know that. It's not too cold is it?" Shit I never thought about that.

"More that it has a lot of open space. Difficult to heat. We've been there before when it's cold. Just stay close to the fireplaces or rugged up."

"Okay. Sounds like a workable plan." She knows just the person with excess body heat.

There is a small frown of puzzlement on the girl's face. "Kate are you and Dad thinking of going up there?"

"Yes. Martha suggested it. Get away from the city and the attention. Your Father can do his rehab there. We've checked with the hospital and they've recommended someone in the Hamptons to supervise and do the check-ups."

Fighting the urge to bite her cheek or worse call Rick in here, Kate continues. "It is a really good idea for us. We're hoping that the time together will help us be better. I'm sorry we haven't discussed with you. We were going to tell before we left. Tonight."

"No that's alright. I'm an adult and you shouldn't have to organise your life around me. Plus I don't live here anymore."

"Alexis, we don't want you to feel like that. You certainly shouldn't feel you have to stay away because of me. I'd like to think that you'll always have a place here if you want it or need it."

"It's not that. It is actually nice that you think of me, and are so considerate."

"So why has Grams gone up? Other than it's Ladies Night at Julian's."

Kate shakes her head. "Someone is going to have to explain that one to me."

"I can't. Apparently it has to be seen and experienced. Plus I'm not old enough." She's smiling.

"Perhaps I should go investigate myself." Kate pops both eyebrows in a manner which provokes an even bigger smile from the girl.

"God. Well if you do, don't tell Dad it will stress him out."

"Well clearly you know more than you are telling."

"I know."

"But you're not telling? Again."

Alexis remains silent. There is a firm, short headshake, then a smile. Just for good measure she bats her eyes at her father's more than girlfriend.

Kate laughs.

"Martha has gone to supervise some workmen put in some exercise equipment."

But Kate decides it is time see on how Alexis is really doing.

"So how are you Alexis? Really?"

"Good, I think. Better certainly."

She scrunches her eyes as if mentally reviewing something.

"Actually I am. Now that Dad is recovering and he's got you. Everything is less scary. It is good being back in college the study is helping distract me.

"Also I've found out who my friends are. Who can be trusted. It hurts that he ….."

As Alexis trailed off. Kate didn't need to know who he was.

"I'll let you in on secret Alexis. It's not just males who can let you down. Although, young men, boys really, can be especially bad.

"I think I understand. But I don't just put out. I want sex to be special. I'm not a virgin but I don't want to be disrespected or worse."

Kate nods and then speaks.

"That wasn't solely what I was talking about. The person you need most to be honest with is yourself. I am truly happy here, but I lied to myself and others, especially your father, for a long time. We lost a lot of time, missed opportunities, and almost completely lost each other.

"I know you're not me, but anyone can make the mistakes. Not the exact same ones, but same difference." Kate pauses for a second. "Look I'm not doing a very good job of this. Kinda new to it if you know what I mean."

"Kate, it's okay. I think I understand." Alexis takes her own moment and then continues.

"The second night back, Friday, Max came round. It didn't feel right but I convinced myself that it was what I wanted. Then the next day I find out he's had sex with another girl from the same dorm whilst I was with Dad. From the girl herself. God I was mortified. But only briefly. It was the betrayal that hurt. I thought he was different."

"Are you alright?"

"I'm getting there. I broke up with him that night. I wanted to punch and scream at him and I did nothing except tell him I didn't want to see him again.

Then when he turned up the other night, I was lost for words until Jane laid some impressive moves on him when he got too close. After that I didn't have any trouble making clear my displeasure. And Clare may have intimidated him a lot. All-in-all I think he finally got the message."

"So how are you coping with the bodyguard? Your Dad was pretty uncertain about how you would react."

"Previous experiences haven't been fun. Even that time with Clare in California. But Jane? She's cool. She totally handed Max his arse and she's not an encumbrance. I mean previous security was in the way. This isn't. Plus I think all my friends are jealous or maybe scared. Or perhaps both."

Alexis closed what was left of the distance between them and envelopes Kate in a firm hug catching her by surprise. The steps back and Kate flops back onto the bed partially in surprise.

"I just wanted to say thank you for looking after my Dad. For loving him. For being there for him. Any remaining doubts I have are gone. And I'm sorry for having those, but I know now I can trust you with him."

"I know. I please don't think for a minute that your doubt are a negative factor for me. If anything they make me respect you more."

"So Dad told you?"

"Of course. We're promised not to keep secrets unless they directly hurt someone else and they don't impact our relationship."

"Oh. Look Kate that's great. I need to explain something.

"Since Mom left, and when I was old enough and probably before, well Dad has always had this policy of being as honest as possible with me. Doesn't mean he didn't make up stories to entertain me, naturally he's good at those, but about the real things he kept it honest."

Kate mentally berated herself. She should have realised just how deep and strong this was. This explains so much about the relationship between the two. Something so strong and natural they it was one of the first things that clued her in that there was more to Richard Castle than his public persona. They are a small family but have total faith in each other. She realises too that she too is part of that family.

Kate suddenly rises and takes a surprised Alexis in her arms and hugs her tightly.

"Thank you."

"Sorry. For what exactly?"

"For letting me in. Allowing me to be part of your small family."

You don't have to. Anyway, I think Grams has wanted to adopt you right from the beginning."

"No. How would you know that? Did she tell you?"

"No Kate she showed us.

"Do you remember almost the first case you worked together? Dad got you that gorgeous red dress for that charity auction. Do you think Grams loans genuine diamond and ruby necklaces to any of my Dad's dates or girlfriends?"

Shit that was genuine. I mean it felt genuine. But really, it was REAL!

"None of them. Even Gina never got to borrow it. Or any of the other pieces. When they were married nor later."

"Grams has such a strong connection to that jewellery. It was about the only things her last husband didn't steal. They were in a bank vault and needed Grams and Dad's signature to access. So they mean even more to Grams than their monetary value. Which means it's a lot."

Shit! And Martha still lent it to me.

"I mean when the second time just before they broke up, one of the last arguments was about you and the necklace. Well that and me."

"What about you?"

"Dad made you an emergency contact for us. And a while later I got hurt at school. Just some abrasions but it needed the nurse and parental notification.

"Gina turned up for a date that night and noticed the bandage. She asked what happened. Of course it came out that neither you nor Dad answered your phones – Dad says you were in interrogation – and Grams can and got me. Gina asked why she wasn't a contact. Well she was the first time when they were married. But after no. Not at all. Dad didn't say anything. She just took all the implications from his silence. They still went out but he came home alone that night. Early.

"A few weeks later, Grams was going to gala. She had the ruby necklace on and Gina remarked on it. Then asked why she was never able to borrow it when you had. We were all surprised she remembered that from a few years before. Clearly she did. Grams replied that she trusted you. Gina wasn't happy. That was the night of Gina's fight with Dad at the Le Circe that made Page Six. They broke up shortly afterwards.

Oh crap. She was – admittedly indirectly – responsible for the breakup of that relationship.


Their bedroom

Kate is reading in bed when Rick comes in having seen Alexis and Jane off.

"How did your conversation with Alexis go?" Rick asks.

"She told you about that?"

"Yes. But you didn't have to do that."

"But I wanted to Rick.

"After my Mom was gone, I didn't have anyone to discuss those things and give them perspective. I mean I had Lanie but I didn't have my Mom. I just missed her so much. Alexis shouldn't have to miss out on that advice and support. A mother's wisdom."

Then her face fell.

"Oh my God, I didn't mean it that way Rick."

"Kate. Kate! KATE." Rick eventually gets her attention.

"Look at me. I entirely understand. I do. It was the same for me without a dad.

"But that fact that you want to help, so you obviously care but you're not imposing yourself."

"I just worry. I mean she's so polite. What if she's just putting up with me?"

"You're right. She is polite but she is also unfailingly honest. If she had an issue she would tell you or one of us."

"Okay."

"Good but thank you again for talking to her. We all appreciate it."

"Okay but now I have a different question.

"Rick how are getting up to the Hamptons?"

"You know I hadn't actually thought about it. We could use the car service.

Kate shook her head.

"So we drive up ourselves?"

Kate nods, breaking into a smile. "Yeah Babe, but I'll do it. Too much, too soon for you."

"The Ferrari is not really practical. Not with all the gear we're taking." He noted as he glanced over at the accumulating pile of bags before continuing. Kate looked almost embarrassed at her own accumulating pile of possessions.

"Plus Ryan wanted to borrow it to woo his wife."

"That's a good idea. Remember that one for later Ricky, I could stand a fair degree of wooing in that car, especially if I can drive." She just purrs that whole sentence out, and it is a few seconds before Rick can respond.

"Duly noted.

"Kate, I can rent an SUV. You know like that Jeep we had for the trip to your Dad's cabin. Should be enough room for everything."

"That sounds like a good idea. Can we get one in time for tomorrow?"

"Not a problem. Anyway, we'll be coming back to the city every so often. You've got your course work and I'll have business meetings, plus we'll want to meet up with everyone, so we don't need to haul everything up there."

"We could get the others to come to us up in the Hamptons."

Kate actually looked nervous at making the suggestion and Rick fought to suppress any reaction. Secretly he was ecstatic that Kate was wanting to treat what he already consider their homes as if she had a right to offer their hospitality to their friends, which of course she did. Or rather she legally would have after tomorrow. But that was a surprise for tomorrow.

"Sweetheart, I know we could but the travel time is a lot for them as they have jobs plus I want to try and keep the place for just us and our family at least for a little while. Perhaps in summer when it is more suited for visitors anyway." Rick couldn't believe she let him get away with the endearment.

"Okay." Secretly Kate was relieved. She was really looking forward to getting away with only Rick for company.

"Rick, when are we planning on heading up there tomorrow?"

"I was thinking mid-afternoon, we should still be ahead of any peak hour traffic. Mother has arranged for some of the local stores to deliver supplies to the house, so we won't need to venture out for a few days."

Also I've got a few business things to take care of before we can go. That can all be done from the Loft. And we can have that conversation about guns and weapon safes."

"Good. I am very curious since Clare told me about things I had no idea my boyfriend was keeping from me."

She gets the result she was hoping for when Rick winces in anticipation.

"Anyway, I'm beat. I'm going to crash. Goodnight Babe." She kisses his cheek and brushes past his lips.

"Me too Kate. Goodnight. I love you. I'm looking forward to spending time alone with you."

"Me too. Love you."


Author's Note

So I learnt an important thing last week. Don't post 2 chapters in the same day, as the update mechanism for Fan Fiction only shows one update. Apologies to anyone who missed the chapters.

I can't believe that no one picked up on my reference in the last chapter to one Nathan Fillion's first movie roles. The World War 2 Colt 45 belonged to 'Minnesota Ryan' from the movie 'Saving Private Ryan.' Oh well that will teach me for trying to be clever.

As ever thank you for all the reviews, follows and favourites.