Summary: Spoilers for 5x24. As he watches, sees the hollow emptiness wash over her face, it all falls into place. She wants answers. She wants a reason to stay in the city. And she wants that reason to come from him.

Author's Note: I swore to myself that I wasn't going to write anything based off the promos. So, naturally, I ended up writing something.

Disclaimer: Nope. Though my birthday is soon(ish), so if you'd like to be my favorite person ever and get me partial ownership...


For What It's Worth

"This job, it's what I want."

The response is slow, delivered with that hint of I-think-you're-making-a-mistake tone of voice that only he can master. "Are you sure?"

She nods, but only because he knows her so well does he catch the slight hitch in her answer. "I am. It's...it's a great opportunity."

"And what about your life here?"

Kate shrugs, passing it off as no big deal. As though she has it all figured out and this decision isn't tearing her up inside.

"You're willing to leave the precinct?" he continues. "Your friends there?"

"They understand."

A raised eyebrow. "And Castle?"

Her mask slips, tears pricking the backs of her eyes at the mere mention of his name. She shakes her head, unable to speak. Unable to voice the words, because the minute she says them out loud, it's real. And she's not sure she can handle that.

"This job offer," he presses, "you're sure it will make you happy?"

Kate nods, blinks back the tears. "It's a chance to do more, Dad. To make a difference on a larger scale."

"That doesn't answer my question."

"It will..." she swallows. "It gives me so many more options. Better equipment and I'll be working with some of the top people in the field. I...I'd be stupid to turn it down."

Still not an answer, he notes.

"And in DC...you'd be happier than you are here? Because, Katie, I don't think I've ever seen you smile so much as I have this past year."

"Dad..."

"And I don't think it's work that's doing that to you."

"Dad, please..."

"Katie..."

"No, Dad." She interjects firmly. She refuses to allow herself to be convinced. She won't. It's taken all she has to reach this conclusion and she knows that if she allows him to weave his way between the cracks in her reasoning, she doesn't stand a chance. And she doesn't think she'll make it through having to break her own heart all over again. Or Castle's.

"I've made my decision."

"And you're happy with all that entails?"

She shrugs. "No, but..."

"Then I think you need to stop and reconsider," Jim continues, words firm, because he's not about to watch her walk away from the best thing that's ever happened to her.

"Dad..."

"Do you love him?"

She freezes.

"Do you love him, Katie?"

The dam breaks then, tears spilling out onto her cheeks, tracing damp trails over her skin. Smudges of mascara go with them, painting streaks of faded black beneath her eyes, and the fatherly side in him wants to reach out for her, hold her close, but the rational side knows that she needs to do this alone. Needs to feel the pain, really feel it, to fully understand what she stands to lose.

Instead, he takes her tears as the answer he was expecting.

"He loves you, you know."

She lifts watery eyes to her father's, swiping at the moisture that still taints her cheeks. "I know."

"He loves you the way I loved your mother."

That catches her attention. Her eyes widen and she feels her heart squeeze in her chest at the magnitude of what her father is implying.

"I'd give anything to have had more time with her," he admits now that he has her attention. "I wish I'd gathered up the courage to ask her out sooner, because what we had..." He trails off, overtaken by a wave of melancholy. "Believe me, Katie," he says eventually, words catching in his throat. "What we had...it was the kind of thing that lasts forever."

Forever.

The word plays over and over in her mind, an endless loop, and it taunts her, barrels straight through all the ways she justified her decision, leaving them as a pile of rubble at her feet. And without the wall she'd erected, without those reasons right there in front of her, the truth, the real truth, is staring her in the face.

Forever.

He loves you the way I loved your mother.

"I don't doubt that you would be fantastic at this new job," Jim continues after a moment, after he sees it all sink in, watches it play out across her face. "You'd meet people, make a difference. I don't doubt that at all. But what you leave behind here...Katie, that's not something you find just anywhere. And I'd hate to see you miss out on that because of a job."

"I..."

"It's your decision," he reiterates, reaching out to cover her hand with his own. "Ultimately, it's up to you. But just...think about it, okay?"

He drains the last swallow of coffee, stands and tosses a five dollar bill on the table.

He's turning his back, making his way out of the diner, before Kate finds her voice again.

"Dad?" Jim turns, eyes soft and compassionate. "Thank you."

He smiles faintly, nods once, before rounding the corner, disappearing from her sight.

Now alone at the table, Kate drops her head into her hands, sighs heavily. She was so sure. Or, at least, she'd convinced herself of that. Convinced herself that the definite prospects provided by this position outweighed the possible prospects that lay here in the city.

If she goes to DC, the position is hers. If she stays, she'd be doing the same thing she's been doing for years now.

If she goes to DC, the opportunities she'll be faced with won't even compare with what she has access to here at the NYPD.

If she goes to DC, she'd be leaving Castle behind. But even if she stays, there's always the possibility that they'll break up eventually.

DC is the safer option. She's liable to end up heartbroken either way, but at least with this, she'll be getting it out of the way now. And the sooner she breaks apart, the sooner she can begin to piece herself back together.

Forever.

The way I loved your mother.

Jim's words still echo in the back of her mind, unrelenting, unwilling to be silenced. Because his words, his message to her...they don't imply that her relationship with Castle is temporary. They imply...more.

Fresh tears spring to her eyes as realization dawns, her eyes opening to the whole set of possibilities she staunchly ignored in her initial internal debate. She sees a sparkling ring on her finger and a three-lettered answer spilling from her lips. She sees Castle in a tux, herself in a white dress, arm in arm with her father as she walks down the aisle. She sees a newborn baby with Castle's brilliant blue eyes blinking up at her. She sees nights spent in his arms, morning coffees while curled up in bed.

She sees everything she's always imagined but never thought she'd actually have.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Stack had asked her.

At the time, she didn't have an answer for him. But now it's coalescing, the images crystal clear behind her eyelids, and what was she even thinking, seriously considering this job?

Kate flings a few bucks down on the tabletop, dashes from the restaurant with newfound purpose and determination. Her hands are shaky as she struggles to insert the key into the ignition and she has to force herself to take a few deep breaths, to calm her racing heart before pulling out into traffic, turning sharply at the next intersection, the fastest way to the loft.

Her heart is racing, her whole body trembling as she arrives, feet coming to rest outside Castle's front door, so different from last time but yet so much the same. She runs a hand through her hair, wipes at her cheeks once more in a losing battle against her tears, and raises her fist to rap against the metal.


Thoughts?