Despite popular belief, she isn't blind.

Nor is she stupid.

She hears the whispers. She's a traitor, a snitch. She can't be trusted. She brushes them off, puts on her mask and carries on.

She doesn't show how it hurts.

Just as she doesn't do anything to dispel the rumours, after all, sometimes fear was better than love. But she's not cruel, and she protects her team.

She knows that Ryan sneaks off to phone his wife throughout the day, taking unsanctioned breaks and bunking off his work. But she stays quiet, because she remembers doing the same thing with her own husband when she was a rookie, taking any opportunity to call and chat, making plans and feeling like a giggly schoolgirl all over again.

Just as she knows Esposito sees Dr Parish on a regular basis, breaking departmental code. But she sees the smiles and glances, the secret touches and once again she's reminded of her and her husbands forbidden and secret romance, which they kept hidden for months before even her best friend found out. So she keeps quiet.

And of course, Beckett and Castle. She's not sure they could be more obvious. But the love in their eyes is clear. She knows, without a doubt, they would die for each other in a heartbeat. And they deserve it. She's read the file, heard the talk. They've survived more together than most, and just for that, she reflects, they deserve to be happy. As does Beckett alone- she's had more trauma in her relatively short life than anyone should.

She sees them, whispering as she watches from her office. She feels a spark of wistfulness, knowing she will never be part of that. But she ignores it, and observes more carefully. The pain on Beckett's face, the worry on Castles and concern on Ryan and Esposito's. Johanna Beckett's case, she realises, affects them all. They were more than a team... They were a family. She had no doubt that to break them up would be to destroy them.

She knows they cover for each other. She knows they lie, and bend the truth as well as the rules to protect each other. Secretly, she admires their loyalty. It would have been so easy for them to give up Montgomery, to sacrifice everything good he worked for. But they didn't. Sh'd meant what she said, that day, to Beckett. She did hope that one day they would show her that type of loyalty.

She was surprised to find that she was genuinely worried for the safety of Castle and Beckett when they went missing. Was just as surprised to find her heart beating slowly faster and her palms sweating when it was confirmed they hadn't just gone for a quick hookup. When she heard the call over the radio of 'tiger' she definitely hadn't had shaking hands and a heart threatening to rip out of her chest. She'd made the rule up on the spot, hing to protect them further. Of course, that hadn't worked.

The resignation had been a surprise. Then, when she thought about it, not so much. She should have seen it coming, and she cursed herself that she hadn't. She'd gone home that night, beating herself up and her husband had pointed out the blazing obvious.

Kate was just a little girl missing her mum.

So she hadn't handed in the paperwork, and had concealed the smile that threatened to break free when she asked for her job back. She laughed inwardly as they scrambled for excuses when she questioned them, never once losing her facade.

She'd originally read the books as research. Read them properly out of curiosity. Her husband had laughed and teased her as she sat curled up one night, losing track of time until she found him carrying her to bed after she'd fallen asleep. She'd refused to admit how they'd drawn her in, how she'd enjoyed the new perspective of her detectives.

She covered for them, when their actions were questioned by their superiors. Felt relief when Brackens case came up- this was their chance to prove themselves. But then that interview, the uncomfortable lie on Castles face as he told her that Beckett was 'just trying to connect'. And it had all slid into place.

So she watched, carefully, and listened. Throughout the case, she kept an extra eye on them, seeing more than they ever thought she would. When the request came through for the case to be handed off, she batted it away. She watched, concerned, through the security camera as Beckett walked out the senator. No audio, but she lip read the best she could, ready to raise the alarm if she thought her detective was in danger. She wasn't.

Not that she'd ever tell them how much she really cared. After all, she was Iron Gates.