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"There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love."

~ John Lennon

She heads to the loft after she gets the call. Her heart still pounds wildly in her chest and she just needs - She needs to be in his home. Needs to be surrounded by him. His things. His scent. His life.

His mother.

Martha greets her with a smile and hug, her silver bracelets jingling merrily around her thin forearms. She's the very picture of relief and good cheer with her loud clothes and perfect hair but Kate can see it. Can see the weariness in the slope of her shoulders, the worry in the well hidden bags under her eyes.

Kate takes a seat at the bar, smiling softly as she watches Martha hurry the FBI agents out of the loft. Her appreciation for their work is effusive, full of theatrics and dramatic proclamations that they all should be give medals of commendation for their hard work and dedication. Kate smothers a laugh when she hears Martha mutter under her breath that none of them actually did a damn thing. She gets a wink in return as Martha ushers the last straggler out before shutting the door.

"Finally," she sighs, her body sinking back into the door.

Kate watches her. Really sees her for the first time. Martha has always been this larger than life figure. A woman existing on an entirely different plane than the rest of them. She lives her life boldly. In Technicolor; seemingly without fear or reservations. But now, watching her slumped against the wide door, her eyes closed and a trembling hand held to her lips - Now she sees. Understands.

Martha is just as human, just as breakable, as the rest of them.

Sliding off the stool, Kate moves around to the other side of the bar, picking up half-empty coffee cups and disposable plates of partially eaten food as she goes. The dishes pile up next to the sink and she wonders how it is that things managed to get so terribly messy in just a few days. Rolling up her sleeves, she turns on the water and starts washing.

"You don't have to do that," Martha says, the words barely audible over the surge of hot water.

"I want to. I need to do something."

"At least use the dishwasher, dear."

Kate laughs, a shaky sound that rattles around behind her teeth before breaking apart on her tongue. "That would defeat the purpose. I need to -" She sucks in a deep breath, picking up another cup and dunking it into the soapy water. The adrenaline has finally started to fade and she can feel herself shaking, can hear the rough scrape of her joints as her body slowly falls apart.

"You need to keep moving so you don't drown," Martha finishes.

Kate nods, eyes trained on the sink. "Something like that."

The heady scent of Martha's perfume hits her nose as the older woman steps up beside her, swiping the dish towel of the counter.

"Alright then. You wash, I'll dry." Martha holds her hand out, palm up and fingers spread wide.

"I can do it, Martha. You've had a stressful couple of days. Why don't you go sit down and rest."

Martha laughs, forced and brittle. "When was the last time you rested? Or slept?"

Kate doesn't answer, just runs the mug under the scalding water before placing it in Martha's waiting hand.

They work together quietly, the rush of water and clatter of porcelain and cutlery filling the spaces where all the things they need to say aren't. Kate washes the last mug and shuts off the faucet, the sudden silence deafening. Closing her eyes, she leans forward, fingers wrapped tightly around the edge of the sink.

"I was so scared, Martha," she whispers, her voice weak and jagged. "I still am."

She jumps when Martha's cool fingers wrap around her wrist. "Come on, darling." She tugs Kate's arm and peels her away from the sink, guiding her smoothly out of the kitchen and over to the couch. They sink down next to each other, Martha's fingers still gripping Kate's arm.

"I didn't think I'd ever see either of them again. When I realized what he'd done, how impulsive and reckless he was being - Oh, I could have killed him." Martha chuckles darkly, her hand slipping down to cover Kate's as she turns to face her. "I know why he did it. As do you." Kate nods. "But I still wanted to throttle him. I haven't been so worried since the time he ran away to join the circus when he was ten."

Kate lets out a breathy laugh, her fingers curling around Martha's. Holding on. "Somehow that doesn't surprise me. What happened?"

"I was offered a role in a touring production of A Streetcar Named Desire. It was an eight month contract and I knew I couldn't take Richard with me so I enrolled him in boarding school. He ran away during the first week. Left a note on his bed saying that he was going to be part of a better show than mine, the greatest show on earth, and that no one, especially me, should come looking for him." Martha shakes her head, eyes slipping closed. "He was missing for two days. They found him sleeping under a bench in a train station, using a bag full of magic tricks and comic books for a pillow. I'd never been so relieved in my life." Martha breathes out a shaky sigh, her shoulders rising and falling dramatically. "Not until tonight when I heard his voice on the phone."

"How did he sound?" She tries to mask the pain in her voice. Her phone call was from the FBI, not Castle. "Did he – Is he okay?"

"He fine, darling." Martha pats Kate's knee with her free hand. "He's tired and wrung out but he's fine. He wanted to call you himself but had to be debriefed."

"I bet he loved that," Kate scoffs, the tension slowly releasing.

Martha bobs her head in agreement, curls bouncing. "I did detect a note of glee in his voice."

A comfortable silence falls over the room. Kate lets herself sink further into the couch, her muscles going slack but her grip on Martha strong. She hasn't has this is so long. Someone to lean on, to offer guidance and support. She has Castle, of course, but it's not the same. The comfort is different. Amazing but different. She doesn't allow herself to think about it much, tries not to dwell on the things she'll never have. Someone to talk her down when Castle drives her crazy. To help her pick out a wedding dress and give advice when she's pregnant. Someone to hold her hand when she's tied herself in knots worrying about the man she loves.

"You should get some sleep. You're about to fall over."

Kate shakes her head. "I want to be awake when they get here."

"They're still in France. It will be morning before they're home." Martha jostles their joined hands. "You need rest. You'll be no good to him if you're dead on your feet."

Reluctantly, she nods and pushes herself up off the couch. "Is it okay if I sleep here?"

"Don't be ridiculous, darling. Richard would have my head if I didn't insist that you stay." Martha rises and steps forward, wrapping her arms around Kate in a hug so fierce that she loses her breath for a moment. "Thank you, Kate."

"For what?"

"For everything you did to get her back and keep him calm."

"I wasn't successful in either of those efforts."

"Maybe not. But you tried your damndest. You gave it all you had and then gave it a little bit more. And that, my dear, is what matters." Martha takes a step back, lifting a shaky had to swipe at the tear trailing over her cheek. "Now go get some sleep."

"What time will they land?"

"Around nine, I believe. What do you say we have some breakfast waiting for them? Though you'll have to cook. Richard claimed I tried to kill him the last time I did."

Kate laughs brightly, the ice in her chest finally cracking. "Sounds like a plan," she says before turning toward Castle's bedroom.

"Kate?" Martha's voice, quiet and serious, stops her at the threshold of the office. She turns around, finds the older woman standing at the bottom of the stairs. Kate doesn't speak, just tilts her head in question.

"Richard – He's not an easy man to love. That, I fear, is mostly my fault. I didn't set the best example for him. He's guarded; fiercely protective of his heart and his family. He's a kind and generous man but he doesn't let people in easily. Trust is a priceless commodity that he doesn't trade in often. He's not an easy man to love," Martha repeats, looking at Kate with shimmering eyes, "but, I promise you, he's more than worth the effort."

The words come without hesitation. "I know."

Martha appraises her a moment longer and then nods. "Good night, darling," she offers, making her way up the stairs.

"Night, Martha."

Kate watches her go, her thin frame looking fragile, the bright colors of her clothes dull in the dim light. She turns when she hears the distant snick of a door, heading into Castle's bedroom.

She showers quickly, fatigue hitting her hard and fast as the water pounds over her aching muscles. Forgoing her hair, she lathers her body with his soap, breathing deeply, filling her lungs with the ghost of him. The tears she's refused to let fall press against the backs of her eyes as she pulls on her underwear and one of his shirts, the soft cotton swallowing her.

Crawling into the bed, she settles herself on his side, her body wrapped around one of his pillows. Sleep comes suddenly, pulling her under without warning, his name her last conscious thought.

Kate wakes to the smell of coffee and the sound of Martha's whispered curses. Hissing when her feet hit the cold hardwood, she shimmies into a pair of yoga pants and slips on a bra before making her way out into the living room.

"Martha!" She stumbles across the room, arms held out to catch the woman teetering on the back of the couch, hands stretched high overhead. "What are you doing?"

"I woke up with the most wonderful idea. I remembered we had this," she shakes the large banner clutched in her right hand, "and thought it'd be nice to have it hanging up when they got home."

"You should have woken me," Kate admonishes, holding Martha by the hand as she climbs down off the couch. "The last thing we need is for them to come home and find you in the hospital with a broken hip."

Martha drops the banner, eyebrow lifting as she plants her hands on her waist. "And what exactly are you implying, Kate Beckett? That I'm old? That broken hips and dementia are just around the corner?"

"That's not – No. That's not what –" Kate stutters, her face flushing. "That's not what I meant. It's just that if you were to fall from that height - if anyone were to fall from that height – the odds are that you would break something. But I didn't –"

"Relax, kiddo," Martha cuts her off, laughing. "I'm just yanking your chain. Now, come on. Let's get this up. I believe Richard keeps a step ladder in the laundry room."

Kate finds the ladder tucked between the washing machine and the wall and totes it back to the living room, popping it open and placing a careful foot on the bottom rung to test its stability. "Why do you have a welcome home banner anyway?"

"Richard bought it when Alexis went to her first slumber party when she was seven. He made a huge fuss about being relieved that she came home. Told her he was afraid that she was going to decide that she liked the other family better and go live with them." Martha rolls her eyes, a smile pulling at her lips. "He put it up every time she went somewhere overnight for the next two years. I think he would have carried on indefinitely had Alexis not put her little foot down."

Kate's heart stumbles as she climbs up the ladder. Oh, how she loves him, this ridiculous man.

They hang the banner in front of the door; Martha directing from the ground, head tilting back and forth as she tries to decide whether or not she likes the placement. After the fifth move, she's finally satisfied and Kate climbs down, putting up the ladder and heading to the kitchen.

Martha helps her cook, cutting up fruit and frying bacon, chattering non-stop while Kate makes smiley face pancakes. She tells Kate about Castle's childhood exploits, filling in the blanks about all those boarding school expulsions, and keeps them both laughing with stories about his teenage romantic mishaps; leaving a girl at a movie theater because he didn't like the film, sneaking himself onto a school trip in order to follow another to Italy. Martha shares anecdotes about Castle as a young father; dressing himself and Alexis up as Holmes and Watson for one Halloween and R2D2 and C3PO for another, trying his hardest to be everything she needed. They finish cooking just as Martha's phone chimes with a text from Castle.

They've landed. They're on the way.

A hot wave of anxious anticipation washes over Kate as she rushes to get dressed, pulling on the first complete outfit she finds in Castle's closet. Her heels clatter loudly on the living room floor as she paces, fingers twisted into a tight knot over her stomach. The doorbell rings and she nearly jumps out of her skin, heart lodged in her throat. Martha answers and accepts the package addressed to Castle as Kate resumes pacing. Of course it wasn't him. It's his house. He wouldn't ring the bell.

"You're going to ruin those lovely heels if you don't stop that," Martha says, approaching her with a cup of coffee clutch in her outstretched hand. "Pacing isn't going to hasten their arrival. Sit and have some coffee. They'll be here soon enough."

Kate takes the mug and perches on the side table, her toes tapping nervously.

"How on earth did you manage to become a detective with nerves like that?" Martha asks drolly, taking a sip from her own cup.

"I want to see them," Kate says, long past the point of being embarrassed about it. "I need to know they're really okay."

"Kate, darling -"

The creak of hinges cuts Martha off.

It's all a blur after that. She sees Alexis, feels Martha breeze by to pull the girl into a hug, their joyous reunion ringing through the air. Putting down her cup, she rushes toward Castle, her eyes raking over him as she gets closer. He looks apprehensive, unsure of the reception he's facing. She can't really blame him. There will be a discussion later. A very stern discussion. But right now –

Right now all she wants is to touch him. To put her arms around him and make it real.

She hits him full force, her arms wrapping firmly around his chest. "I'm so glad you're okay." It's only been three days but, god, it feels like forever. Kate leans back, meets his gaze. He has to know. Has to understand. "Please don't do anything like that again without me."

In an instant, his eyes change, the uncertainty replaced with understanding and so much love. "I won't."

Relief flooding through her veins, she kisses him. It's too brief and chaste, not at all what she wants. But there will be time for that later. Time to take him to bed and show him how she missed him. How worried she was. How much she needs him.

Loves him.

Right now, though, this is what he needs. What they all need.

Each other.

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